Monday, August 29, 2005

Fingers, Scissors, & Paste

Wash & roll
Rock & tumble
Freely formed
Freshly torn

Lacking any of the stability I've ever known or desired

But as
I look around
I feel around
I'm tossed around

I realize what's really gone -- my ideas & my ideals

I find that this spontenaity that swirls around me is
the you I've never known before
the you I've never lived with before
the you in my life that has never been there before

It's there now

Copyright 08/15/2005


Fields of stone
Hear the lightning roar
Thoughts disturbed
My peace is gone

Ocean swells
Salted crashes abound
My hope is dashed

Hunger pangs
Acidic growls inside
Deeply starved
My bread is stolen

Hardened words
Misunderstood intent
Gazes iced
My love is absent

Copyright 08/21/2005

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Circles & Spirals

I wonder which is better. I wonder if I should even compare them. They possess many of the same attributes, but one implies a certain completion and the other has this perpetual incompletion, a perpetual progression. What I shall attempt to process through here is a comparison of two types of movement, two types of development, two types of growth in an attempt to determine which would be a preferable metaphor

Circles, in a metaphorical sense, transmit a sense of completion, of wholeness, of togetherness. A perfect circle (is there any other kind?) is one in which all of the pieces feel connected, all of the parts are intact, and peace can be achieved out of the disparity that often reigns in lives that are chock-full of disparate pieces. That's actually a really good means by which to envision a circle -- Peace out of the Pieces. One can find rest within a circle. You can drawn inward upon yourself or with a small group to form a protective bond amongst similar souls in order to resist what's going on outside that might & are disruptive forces.

But is that really a good thing in the long term? Is living in your circle really that beneficial? I fully acknowledge the benefits of such a mentality and the various metaphorical projections of circles. But my question is -- Can circles turn into self-defense mechanisms that seek to keep things outside through fear? Are really supposed to live in our circle full-time or are we supposed to use that circle selectively?

If, by living in circle, we keep the foreign objects out, are we really living fully & engaging the world as a transformative force? If I feel that I have something beneficial to contribute to the world in which I live, can I really & truly contribute to that world if I'm never in contact with it? If my circle defines my world and how I see any kind of "outside" world, do I have even have a voice/life by which I can affect any type of restorative change upon the world around me? If I'm complete in my circle, am I really allowing myself to bring others into that same completion for themselves?

Is my circle really that large? Does it need to be that large? Do I set up series of concentric circles in which to live & dwell? Should I be circling the wagons about me & mine? Is the circle open & affirming or does it really present an image of being closed-off, or being stand-offish, or saying that "we have it right and you don't"? What is it about circles that keeps people out? And if you say that your circle is always open to others, by definition, it's not really a circle -- it's some non-shape that resembles a circle, but looks broken. Can a open "circle" really be a circle?

But then there's a spiral. Visually, a spiral implies a progression, a path, movement. Metaphorically, a spiral allows us to move forward while being able to look back. Moreover, a spiral revisits places in the past, but from a higher plane in hopes that the traveler learned something on their journey. A spiral also implies openness in that it is the opposite of the closed in circle; its ending is not defined whatsoever. With a spiral, no matter how many rotations it might be outward of its origin, it's incomplete by nature. It seeks new definitions and new horizons, all while keeping the lessons of the past within reach.

A circle says, "I've been this way before, I'll visit it again, and I'm happy doing the same things over and over again."

A spiral says, "I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been. And since my path behind me is marked, I can choose to revisit, relearn, or invite people with me along this path."

I think I'll be a spiral....

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Large Men and Their Much-Larger Thoughts

I have taken up reading Orthodoxy from G.K. Chesterton as of late, and I thought that I'd share a bit with you as I read through each chapter. With some sections, I'll probably do some commentary of my own and some days, I'll let G.K. speak for himself. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

From Chapter 1, pgs 32-34 -- "The Maniac"

"As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed forever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox at its cetre it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

Symbols alone are of even a cloudy value in speaking of this deep matter; and another symbol from physical nature will express sufficiently well the real place of mysticism before mankind. The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing. Of necessary dogmas and a special creed I shall speak later. But that transcendentalism by which all men live has primarily much the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name."

Comparing Notes & Thoughts with Rilke

Du dunkelnder Grund, geduldig ertragst du die Mauern

Dear darkening ground,
you've endured so patiently the walls we've built,
perhaps you'll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor -- maybe you'll let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and
widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they're real and ripe and worthy of you.

I want only seven days, seven
on which no one has ever written himself --
seven pages of solitude.

There will be a book that includes these pages,
and she who takes it in her hands
will sit staring at it a long time.

until she feels that she is being held
and you are writing.

Ranier Maria Rilke,
The Book of a Monastic Life, 61

Fractured Realizations

My definitions aren't worth all that much.
My understandings are full of fallacies.
Run away,
Far, far away

My presentation is a failure, a sham.
My preparations incomplete, broken up.
Run away,
Far, far away.

And it's not that I've got it all wrong,
But I certainly don't have it all right.
And though I try to realize
I need to keep off my disguise,
I seem to forget,
I try to forget,
I cannot forget all my lies.

Copyright 08/13/2005


A way to know
A means to knowing
How one can be
How we can become

A way to grow
A means for growing
How one starts to live
How we keep on with our living

A way to move
A means for moving
How one can go beyond
How we can go beyond just going

Copyright, 08/12/2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Comfort -- It's more than in a zone; it's a way of life

Have you ever experienced something that just throws you for a loop? Seriously now, I'm not talking about catching the red light at the wrong time, setting your schedule back 2 or 3 minutes. I'm talking about experiencing something that makes you totally reorganize your way of thinking, your way of acting, & your way of living. Something that makes you stop in your tracks and actively seek a way out of your thoroughly miserable existence.

If you're like me, and, judging by many of your posts on my blog, many of you are, you tend to seek out the immediate quick fix. You look for a way to relieve the pain or fix the broken in the simplest way possible. No long-term, possibly even MORE painful solutions for me -- I want it fixed NOW! In fact, I want the problem fixed yesterday. My physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual comfort in the immediate here and now are much more important than some ridulous process-oriented solution. I mean, if I have to work for it, I might actually LEARN something.

I mean, who really wants to learn? My brain capacity is just fine, thank-you-very-much. My ability to cope with spiritual and emotional upheaveal are par-for-the-course, even above average sometimes. Do I really want to struggle through something just so I can learn or grow from it?

No, not really. That's painful, and I really don't like pain that much. Pain hurts.

And to top it off, when I have to go through something and actually have it last awhile, there's all this messy residue that I have to deal with from people and situations. I want my solutions to be quick, painless, thoughtless, yet effective. I want it given to me now and my life fixed now.

I don't really want to have bad things happen to me. I want to reap blessings, live safely & comfortably, and keep a tight rein on what's going on in the little world I've created. When I have to experience something that stretches my limits, fences, & borders, I have to deal with the consequences of my actions. And I just rather do NOT want to do that.

Do you?

In fact, I really don't want problems. They're a hassle and they make me actually deal with my life, my soul, and the rest of the people in this world around me. I mean, that "love your neighbor as yourself" business was just a grand suggestion, wasn't it? I have trouble dealing with my next-door neighbors, my parents, my siblings, and the crap in my past to worry about my global neighbors.

And besides, ignorance is bliss -- if I really HAD to consider the plight of the rest of God's creation, I might actually feel like I was morally and spiritually responsible to do something about it. And who wants to deal with that everyday? I'm much more concerned with the fact that oil costs over $60 a barrel and the national average per gallon of gas is about $2.55 - $2.60 than the fact that much of the world doesn't have their own car, doesn't make as much money as I do, and has a lower life expectancy than I do.

SEE?!?! See what happens when I actually start to step out of sync with living a comfortable, blessed life here as an American Christian? I actually start thinking about people besides myself, people who aren't like me, and people I'll probably never even meet. I don't want that kind of responsibility lingering over my head & heart. I'd much rather shrink back into myself and concern myself with my comfort zone.

Besides, I've got to find ways to avoid my own problems -- problems that I don't want, problems that I really don't want to deal with. Or if I do ever have to face my problems, I want ones that I can control. My comfort zone is just large enough for me -- any disruptions to that zone causes me to lose all the control I try to keep over my life. I like things done my way -- for me & by me.

Isn't that the way things are supposed to be?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Such a blur....

Well, it's happened. As of Monday, August 22nd, I will have a new place of employment.

Yes, you read right.

No, I am not mistaken.

And no, you can't even imagine how excited I am at this juncture in my life.

All of this has happened in the past 10 days or so. I can think of a whole host of adjectives to describe the process -- ridiculous, serendipitous, and blessed, amongst others. But all I can really say is this -- it is right and it is good. I have a peace that could only come from God concerning all that has happened, right down to the fact that I might even have a room in a house to move into that should be rent-free (or very close to it).

I could hold out for some professional position with a bank, staffing company, or human resources firm, and I think that I would do very well in such a place. I'm good with people and I like helping those same people. However, I also feel that, by entering into such a job, it would be just that: a job. Not a place of being, belonging, and growing, but a place where I'd simply be making a buck or two more than I'm making now. And if that's the only reason I'd jump into a new job, that's the WRONG reason. I've never been driven by money -- why else would I have stayed where I'm at now if I had truly been driven by the almighty dollar?

I feel that I've stepped into a new stage in my life -- one where I can develop my vocation on so many levels. Not only will I be teaching, but the school actively encourages teachers to engage in their artistic endeavors in their off-time. Why is this? Because they feel that a teacher best regenerates their spirits, brain, & internal battery by developing their art in their off-time.


You heard me right.

These people WANT me to work on my writing, my screenplay, my whatever. I've had several friends tell me (upon hearing my good news) that I HAVE to get busy writing more since I'll have more time to develop my craft. People (whom I love and who love me) are openly telling me & wanting me to write more. How humbling is that?

Here's this! The second-grade teacher even told me that the area orchestra in which she is involved is looking for a Tuba player. When I told her that I don't own my own (since a decent used Tuba costs as much as a decent used car), she told me that the conductor is a Tuba player and would definitely have one. How crazy is that??

I say all that to say this. I thank you God for your blessings. I thank you God for doing things in your time. I thank you God for allowing me to experience this very dry, Paul-in-Arabia time in my life -- I might not understand it, but I know it's been for a wonderful reason. I thank you for teaching me, molding me, shaping me, and showing me that you do have my best interests in mind, at all times. I thank you for loving me through my doubts and through my bouts of intense insecurity. I thank you for the support of my friends throughout the past 6 months. I thank you for bringing them into my life -- I couldn't have made it without you using those people is such beautiful ways in my life.

Anyway, I'll be one of the 3-day-a-week Kindergarten teachers at The Harvest. Go visit their site, as I should have a biography up there soon.


Teach Peace.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but I might be getting close

I was conversing with my friend Provoked today at work about life, work, vocation, purpose, plan, etc. Those kinds of things. You know the kinds of talks of which I speak. You discourse upon how things will be better if you knew just what to do with your life. Or you might discuss the chance that you missed awhile back. Or one of you might start doing if you could do anything at all. Those kinds of talks.

And yes, I'm sure that you all have "that friend" with whom you can have those "what does it all mean?" kind of conversations. I have a couple of them and one came by the store today for a couple of hours. Granted, we didn't talk non-stop, since I did help customers as needed. I'm not that much of a slacker. I'm not sure I could be -- it's not in my nature. No matter how much I might not like what I'm doing, I feel that I have too much character not to do a job to the best of my ability.

All that being said, there is somethings truly and really at stake here with conversations of this nature. What am I looking for in this life? When everything is boiled away from the discussion and the issues, what is it that I want to center the course of my life around?

Are those naive questions?

Are those narcissistic questions?

Are those selfish questions?

Are those self-serving questions?

Are those silly questions?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. But they are still worth something, no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

Why? Because we've all asked them. We're all asking them. And someone in the future will ask them. We need these questions. We need to feel that we have the permission to ask those questions. What we do not need is to feel chastised, disdained, childish, and faithless when we ask those questions.

Oh, I know that my worth is in Jesus. My hope is in Jesus. My salvation is in Jesus. My example for the living of this life IS Jesus. But if I ever begin to think that I have it all figured out, that I know what I'm looking for, or that I think that I've arrived, I will have most likely kicked Jesus off of the seat of headship upon which he sits in my life.

And I think that tends to be my problem. I tend to be so focused upon doing what Jesus wants me to do in my life that I forget about Jesus. I get so wrapped up in trying to work/live for Jesus that I forget that my life is/should be Jesus, if I'd just let him....

What am I looking for? I'm not really sure some days, and I'm OK with that. My identity is not in what I do, but should be in Jesus. Oh, he might help me discover that ideal vocation or magnum opus in my life, but my goal should never be what I can achieve, but what he can achieve in me.

Granted, life isn't about unmitigated, unparalleled success, but it certainly does feel good to accomplish something of worth & value. I just need to remember that if I seek to accomplish something, no matter what the cost, I'm probably going to stretch myself in so many directions that I won't find fulfillment in anything at all. Success isn't about what we do, but how we do it. The ends are made infinitely better because of the means. Thus, Jesus is my means and he'll help me define those ends, if I just let him.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Three Words

Go read this now.

I mean it.

Go read this little paragraph.

I'm not joking.

This woman is more open with her hurts, questions, thoughts, doubts, beliefs, feelings, and heart than I even allow myself to be in my personal journal in my bag.

Please read and be blessed.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"How long, O Lord?" Or, Why do I put myself through such stuff?

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendence above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!'

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a paior of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: 'Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.'

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here I am; send me!'

And he said, 'Go and say this to the people:
Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.'

Then I said, 'How long, O Lord?'

And he said,
'Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst
of the land.
Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.'

The holy seed is its stump."

Isaiah 6:1-13 (NRSV)

Commentary from The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible
"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne. This chapter offers a report of Isaiah's 'call' describing how he was commissioned into prophetic ministry. Isaiah's vision of God, articulated in a great panorama of the heavenly court where God is ministered to by angels, is summed up in 'Holy, holy, holy,' the song sung by the angels (v 3). Isaiah's response to that vision of God's holiness is his awareness of his uncleanness, lack of qualification, and inadequacy. Before the awesome holiness of God, we all stand incompetent and unqualified to serve. In Isaiah's vision, the Lord asks the assembly of the heavenly court whom to send; the prophet answers immediately, 'Here am I; send me!' (v 8). God is Isaiah's competence. And here he models now men and women of faith are called into ministry. This is spiritual formation in action."

OK people, first off, I do want to give credit where credit is due. My thoughts first began to germinate about a week or so ago when my great friend Rick composed this thought-provoking post (Of course, most of his posts make me think. I like that about him.).

Recently, I've been reading a work of fiction entitled The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. In this work, a Mexican priest weaves a tale of self-inflicted betrayal & bitterness as he attempts to evade the state police who are seeking to eliminate all of the priests from their region of Mexico. This "whiskey priest" endures more punishment at his own mental & spiritual hand than he does from the state, all because he knows/feels that he has failed, cannot be redeemed, and is too guilty to ever be of any worth again.

Thus, in the context of the prophet Isaiah, whose book I've been reading through an studying recently, I find myself wondering how adequate I am or could ever be. Yes, I do realize that God does make me competent, since I am a fallen sinful creature. However, that really doesn't help me with my guilt and grief about how "little" I do for God compared to how "much" I feel that He's leading me to do. How do I reconcile such self-effacing thoughts and actions with the promises, injunctions, and instructions given by the loving God of whom I read throughout the words of the Bible?? What do I do when I really don't feel that capable, though I know that God has typically used people who didn't feel capable themselves? What do I do when I feel like I'm failing God through my inaction, though I have learned that I can't do anything to earn God's love, grace & mercy? What do I do when I know that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, yet I don't have the faith in God enough to do those things?


A bit of indulgence....

Reflections Upon John 17

Healer of my hurts,
Binder of my wounds,
Calmer of my stress,
Hold me close, closer than I hold you.

Watcher of my steps,
Saviour of my soul,
Redeemer of my life,
Help me to see, see through the lull.

Lover of my life,
Forgiver of my sins,
Exposer of my failings,
Please love, love what's deep within.

Thank you for my life, for your love,
and thank you for giving me a love for life.

Might that I live forth your love
to those to all who might see.

((Copyright: Me -- July 31, 2005))

Rilke on James 2

Well, technically, the following poems I've typed here are composed by Rainer Maria Rilke, culled from his The Book of Hours, and they aren't his reflections upon James 2. However, as I was meditating & praying in preparation for small group last evening, I was reading through both James 2 and the poetry of Rilke. Thus, these poems are my reflections upon James 2 through the eyes of Rilke. I do hope that you enjoy them as they provided me much to think about, absorb, and center my prayers around as I read through James.

((And if those last 4 sentences didn't make much sense, that's OK too. Just ignore my introduction and read the poetry.))

Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug

I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing --
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones --
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

Book I, 13

Du wirst nur mit der Tat erfafst

Only in our doing can we grasp you.
Only with our hands can we illumine you.
The mind is but a visitor:
it thinks us out of our world.

Each mind fabricates itself.
We sense its limits, for we have made them.
And just when we would flee them, you come
and make of yourself an offering.

I don't want to think a place for you.
Speak to me from everywhere.
Your Gospel can be comprehended
without looking for its source.

When I go toward you
it is with my whole life.

Book I, 51

Gott spricht zu jedem nur, eh er ihn macht

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Book I, 59