Monday, April 08, 2013
Clothing Myself With Christ
Recently, I was helping a very good friend move some furniture. As we were driving around town, we got to talking about one particular mutual friend of ours. We were trying to figure her out. He suggested that her rants and over-reactions are essentially a learned and habitual way of getting attention. I think he might be right. I suggested, as well, that there might be an element of self-righteousness in her rants. As a general rule, she wants people to know her side of the story, why her side of the story is such, and that she makes no apologies for it. She was being a "know it all" by letting everyone know it all. Somehow, however, in her open, profane confession of one-night sexual relations with someone for everyone to hear about on Facebook, something remained hidden. That which remains hidden, however, is difficult to put your finger on. I could sense that she might have been hurt that the man left it as a one night encounter, but I think she had also caught wind that friends had apparently noted that she had been taken advantage of. You come away from such experiences knowing something is in the shadows, but you just don't know what it is.
Soon after that, I was having a conversation with another good friend of mine, which threaded back to her comment that all women are insecure. She said that those who are more open about their insecurity are actually more secure than those who hide it (and hide from it). She was saying that there is something powerful in being raw, vulnerable, and open. And again, there was mystery in what she was talking about. She kept noting how she couldn't quite put into words what she was trying to say. It should be noted that this woman has a reputation for setting and keeping firm boundaries with men, where appropriate; she seems convinced that she is worth being treated with respect, honor, and love. It should also be noted that this woman, as a general rule, is generally quick to apologize and take her share of the responsibility when conflict arises.
Just now, I read the following, from Smith Wigglesworth's On the Anointing: "Now I want to take you to the thirteenth verse: 'There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4: 13).' 'No creature [is] hidden from His sight'; all are naked before Him. Now, when God speaks of nakedness, He does not mean that He looks at flesh without clothing. God said, 'That you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed' (Rev. 3: 18). The nakedness referred to in this verse does not mean bodily but spiritual nakedness; but when Christ clothes you within, you have no spot (Eph. 5: 27).' He looks at your nakedness, at your weakness, at your sorrow of heart. He is looking into you right now, and what does He see?"
As I read Wigglesworth's musings on scripture, my eyes were opened to what remains hidden in those opaque situations in which the truth seems hidden as if on the other side of a mirror in which you see a perfectly clear image. In reading Wigglesworth's words, I was reminded of Romans 3: 14: "...clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." I have often wondered how we clothe ourselves with christ; that always struck me as something only Christ can do. Suddenly, I understood what Paul meant! Beyond that, however, my eyes were opened again to something in the scriptures that has been a repeated source of both mystery and clarification to me in the past. It was one of those envigorating moments when you realize that the scriptures are both referencing and fulfilling themselves and actually refer to the real world. Lets go back to Genesis 3.
"4 'You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman. 5 'For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'
10 He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'
11 And he said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?'
In the past, these scriptures have been a source of confusion for me, because I've wondered, "Why did they not die? God told them they would die, and then they didn't die." And although I accept the interpretation that a spiritual death occurs, I've never been fully satisfied with that. Genesis 3 seems to gloss over the issue. This time, a re-reading of Genesis 3 was enlightening. Because the fruit was in the center of the garden, next to the tree of life, I know that eating the fruit is taking control of life from God and becoming self-righteous. I never understood, however, why the fruit is described as pleasing to the eye or that it gives wisdom. Now, in this moment of enlightenment, I realize that the temptation of the fruit is the same as the temptation of the one night's stand; it is pleasing to the eye. And the fruit's wisdom is a false one, again born of temptation. The wisdom offered by the fruit is a misnomer; it would more accurately be described playing the know-it-all. Interestingly, my (very intelligent) chaste friend is quick to claim she doesn't know it all, whereas my know-it-all friend is easily offended if someone knows something that she doesn't.
Her offense takes me back to Smith Wigglesworth: "He looks at your nakedness, at your weakness, at your sorrow of heart. He is looking into you right now, and what does He see?"
I would like to let a few quotes from Brennan Manning answer for me. “When a man or woman is truly honest, it is virtually impossible to insult them personally.” Who can offend us when we are already aware of how depraved we are and regularly confess it to others so that we may be healed? What power does the opinion of others have over me when the Holy Spirit, who gives me life, has convicted me of my sin? “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” These quotes, in answering the question of what He sees, speak to our self-image. But, perhaps more important is how our self-image effects others. “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
In the past, I thought that clothing myself with Christ essentially meant being a good person, doing the right thing. The context around "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" in Romans 3 supports this idea. I realize, now, however, that clothing myself with Christ is so much more than that. IF I AM HONEST anyway, doing the right thing is impossible without being vulnerable and raw about what lies (pun intended) in my shadows. When I reference my self-righteous, know-it-all friend who likes to give into temptation and then justify and rationalize it after the fact, I am not just talking about my friend. I am making friends with myself by being honest with myself and confessing it when and where apprpriate; that is a choice that I make. The baptism of Jesus was a foreshadowing of when, in his perfection, he would take my sin on himself and die (see Genesis 3 again) on the cross. Truly "doing the truth" (“Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.” - Brennan Manning) requires enlightenment of God into our shadows and power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them. I don't say this is a dilutedly general way, but to say, simply, that I need that.
Thursday, January 03, 2013
WHY I LIKE CONCRETE
PLASTICITY – The French word is “plastique”, meaning “form.” Form work. TO form. It implies that things are not frozen objects in space and time. Living beings are not Gnostic prisoners. With poured-in-place concrete, you can see the form work, as if it wants to brim over from the other side. From the beyond. From the other side of the veil. It is the re-veillation of what is hidden. But what is hidden remains so. It is probably even burnt, if it was wooden form-work. But it is a 2 way streak. The form-work makes an impression, it leaves a mark. “What you loose here is loosed in heaven, what you bound here is bound in heaven.” It leaves a mark in your memory; it leaves an impression. It has staying power, but it implies motion.
The first image of this blog was a photo taken near the entrance to a monastery in Northern France by a famous modern architect. It is a purposefully comedic but sort of iconic pointer to-er of what is going on. It is an "image" of Prime Matter....its just a big lump of left over concrete, like a big rock emerging from the ground or over top of which the humanly-leveled ground of the building is laid. I say comedic because by the arrival of such a time in history, Le Corbusier had to make such an obvious (and obscene) sign appear in actual reality for the audience to be able to track the meaning of his artifice, which is less comedic and less obscene.
SUBTLETY - I detest things that are loud. For all their striving toward neutrality, contemporary buildings and houses still manage to be very loud, very cocophonious. This third and last image of this blog, an image of the chapel at Abbey du Thoronet, is of a Romanesque monastery, also in France. Concrete is meant to imitate natural stone from the earth. Look at all the subtle colors...all the subtle life in this dull, neutral stone.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The Music Of The Heart
My Anatomy and Physiology book uses 75 BPM as the average baseline at rest for a healthy adult. I think that corresponds to an interval of about .8 seconds between each heart beat. The approximate interval between the "lub" and the "dub" sounds is .3 seconds, which is measured according to approximately where they fall in an ECG reading.
If you look at the third picture down, which is a visual explanation of a typical ECG, the "lub" occurs just after the S (called the QRS complex, at about the 0.25 mark second), and the "dub" occurs toward the end of the "T wave" (at about the 0.55 second mark). 0.55 - 0.25 = 0.3. And the difference between the lub/dub interval and the interval of the overall heartbeat is 0.5 seconds. Mathematically and musically, this sets up a very interesting relationship among the intervals.
0.3 + 0.5 = 0.8. This sounds like basic math, but that is the beginnings of not only a Fibonacci series but a Fibonacci series governed by the golden ratio. 0.5 divided by .3 equals approximately 1.618. This is a commonly used practical approximation in architecture. 0.8 divided by 0.5 also = (approximately) 1.618, which is the golden number.
I wonder if, when we meditate, our heart rate decreases in such a way that the interval between each beat is about 1.3 seconds (which would be next in the Fibonacci sequence after 0.8)! For anyone keeping track, that would be about 46 beats per minute.
Also, my Anatomy and Physiology book talks about a sort of ideal blood pressure of 120/80. this is SENSED as a pulse pressure of 40; it makes a ratio of 2:3. When converted into musical notation, this ratio is a harmonic fifth. This ratio is,in practical application, also often commonly used as a visual or sensible approximation of the golden ratio.
It appears as though beautiful artifacts and pieces of music appear as such because they resonate with our heart, quite literally!
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Figuring: The VW Bug As Representative of the General Trend of De-figuring Through the Course of Our History
I was riding in the car recently with a very good friend of mine when a particular car caught my attention. I don't remember what car it was, exactly, but I remarked on how stupid it looked to me. My friend asked what I meant. I said I didn't like it because it wasn't figurative at all; it was like a bubble car. I also talked about how cars, and made things in general, have been getting less and less figurative over time. That turned into a bit of a conversation, but I ended up saying I would try to write out my thoughts to explain in more depth what I meant, and also to show it in pictures. Hence this blog post.
I would say that this difference between the old and new bugs is representative of a general trend found both in man and the things he made and makes. This historical trend has underground roots in two places, I think. One of those places is in man himself. For at least 800 years, man and the things he makes have been becoming more and more cerebral, coming closer and closer to Nothing. In addition, there is a long and ongoing argument, both explicit in words and text and implicit in the work of various artists and worshipers, over the appropriateness of making or configuring representations of man or animals. At one time this discourse manifested itself as an argument over the use of icons in worship. More recently it became a philosophical discourse on the problem of representation, with roots in Plato and Aristotle. Most recently, people just make cars like the new VW Beetle, and don't really seem to have a clue what's going on.
He was offering what the people needed, rearranging mind and sense to try and help us re-encounter reality after modernity taught us to perceive it from such a distance. Do note that the word azure is a reference to the blue of the sky. Clearly, Miro is digging up what lies hidden beneath the foundations of things. And when you see his works in person, figures very clearly re-appear from behind his dis-figuring. In photos you can see traces of this. There is nothing remotely resembling any of this, however, in the de-figuration of the new VW Bug. The new VW Bug simply maintains the distance of modernity from the body and reality. Although worship, like an icon, points beyond, such a distance from the start in the made artifice renders worship impossible (just as Christ's sacrifice makes true worship POSSIBLE).
Libeskind's Jewish museum (pictured above) has no "windows." What would be the windows are really "cuts" in the body, which both divide and join together. We feel the incision as it is made in our own flesh. It divides flesh from flesh, and inside from outside. And the very act of perceiving the division separates our seeing from the act of cutting; it separates mind and body, physical and metaphysical. The cut, however, also lets light inside the building. And in our seeing the cutting, from which the blood of life flows, we are filled; we participate. Again, however, the new VW Bug participates in none of this seeing of what is broken in the world and thus reconciling with the One through whom wholeness is returning. Where figures often bring us into encounters with our own bodies and sensory reality, here the covenant does the same.
Seeing the de-figured new VW Bug, by this analogy of the covenant, however, would be like watching a surgery through a glass window. If you do happen to be aware of what's happening when something appears in the world, there is little or nothing about that made thing that reveals it to you.
There is much more to be said about this topic in relation to the history of man and why his artifacts, as extensions of himself, have become defigured over time as he has come closer both to Nothing and to closing the infinite gap between Nothing and Something. It cannot, however all be stated in one blog post, in which I am at least trying to be short and concise.
If interested, here are two other sites that better dig into the original Hebrew word for covenant, which might also, then, slightly altar your perception of sensory reality :)
Thursday, August 04, 2011
A Reply To My Dear Engineer Friend On Art :)
Me: "I think art should try to be about more than just what meets the EYE."
My Dear Engineer Friend Who Enjoys Art:
“This is where I think we disagree -
if I want to be challenged in the way I think, I'll read a book.
if I want to be entertained through my ears, I'll go to a concert
There are different types of art for different senses.
But if visual art is not visually appealing - then is it art?”
I have decided to respond to my Dear Engineer Friend more formally in this more public forum, because I think the conversation he and I are having speaks to much more than just the conversation he and I are having. So my response to him ensues. Now that the scene has been set, I’ll just jump into it:
I'm not saying the visual arts shouldn't be visually appealing. They have another name, you know. The PLASTIC arts. We think of plastic as a material used to make contemporary crap. But that speaks to my point....
From dictionary.com, on “plastic”:
6. capable of being molded or of receiving form: clay and other plastic substances.
7. produced by molding: plastic figures.
1625–35; 1900–10 for def. 1; < Latin plasticus that may be molded < Greek plastikós. See -plast, -ic
4. easily influenced; impressionable: the plastic minds of children
5. capable of being moulded or formed
6. fine arts
a. of or relating to moulding or modelling: the plastic arts
b. produced or apparently produced by moulding: the plastic draperies of Giotto's figures
7. having the power to form or influence: the plastic forces of the imagination
8. biology of or relating to any formative process; able to change, develop, or grow: plastic tissues
9. of or relating to plastic surgery
[C17: from Latin plasticus relating to moulding, from Greek plastikos, from plassein to form]
In fact, prior to modernity, the plastic arts were more often referred to as such. Only after modernity did they come to be thought of as the visual arts. And in fact, with the idea of what plastic really means, music would actually also be a plastic art. Although it wasn't referred to as such, at least not as often, so far as I know. The end product isn't something that the body or senses can grasp in the same way as a painting, building or sculpture. You can't walk around it, take it in, think about it, ect. Music leaves its traces on your memory and mind in a much different way, and you approach it differently. It is, however, still "plastic," in the sense described above. In terms of giving form to the formless. Of molding and modelling. Of giving order. The maker still has an image, a model, in mind, to which he is trying to give representation with the end product.
All of that is background information necessary before I can even begin to frame my response or answer. The framing of my response, then, is made of what will, I think, in the context of this conversation, become a re-contextualization of art, or a re-imaging of what art is and how it is “experienced.” The framing of my answer is also partially made of the history of western art.
A piece of art is a made thing or, rather, a thing being made. Its really that simple, and yet it gets quite complex. No thing is ever made without the mind. As mentioned, the one who gives order or form to something has an image or model in his mind to which he is giving representation with the end product. In turn, the end product then shapes the mind of one who experiences the piece of art. It gives form to the audience’s image of the world. You could also say, however, that the end product doesn’t stop being formed when the original maker puts it into the world as a made thing. Every time the audience experiences it, it is interpreted, and thus is reshaped, reformed, given meaning. The audience becomes a participant in the becoming of that product. The audience participates in what the made thing becomes in the world.
All this is to say two things. For one, art is PLASTIC. Two, you can’t really separate “art” from “reading a book,” categorizing “art” as stimulating the senses, while the “reading a book” stimulates the mind. They are both inherently intertwined. Art and the mind were just discussed. And your intellectual experience of reading a book would have no meaning or message to you without a whole system of signs that were given meaning by experiences in the sensible world. On top of that, a book, too, is a made thing. Someone shaped it, gave form and order to it as something that would have coherent meaning to others in the world. It becomes a body of thought and enters the realm of textual discourse that – hey, shapes – the world.
You also really can’t separately categorize arts that stimulate the eye, ear, or mind. In which category does architecture belong? Or film!? Ballet: Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”? John Cage’s “In a Landscape” is a piece of music! Similarly, any piece of “visual” art (painting or sculpture) that doesn’t have good RHYTHM or HARMONY (attributes usually given to musical works) not only won’t hold together well as a work of art (that has been given form, shape and order) but it will be downright ugly. The same goes for film, actually!
Now, to speak more specifically to a question of VISUAL art, I need to address the history of Western art. I defer here to Marshall McLuhan:
The dominant organ of sensory and social orientation in pre-alphabet societies was the ear – ‘hearing was believing.’ The phonetic alphabet forced the magic world of the ear to yield to the neutral world of the eye. Man was given an eye for an ear.
Western history as shaped for some three thousand years by the introduction of the phonetic alephbet, a medium that depends solely on the eye for comprehension. The alphabet is a construct of fragmented bits and parts which have no semantic meaning in themselves, and which must be strung together in a line, bead-like, and in a prescribed order. Its use fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms – particularly in terms of a space and of a time that are uniform,
The line, the continuum
-this sentence is a prime example-
became the organizing principle of life….
Visual space is uniform, continuous, and connected. The rational man in our Western culture is a visual man. The fact that most conscious experience has little ‘visuality’ in it is lost on him…
Until writing was invented, man lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion, by primordial intuition, by terror. Speech is a social chart of this bog…
Whence did the wond’rous mystic art arise,
Of painting SPEECH, and of speaking to the eyes?
That we by tracing magic lines are taught,
How to embody, and to color THOUGHT?
Printing, a ditto device confirmed and extended the new visual stress. It provided the first uniformly repeatable ‘commodity,’ the first assembly line – mass production. It created the portable book, which men could read in privacy and in isolation from others. Man could now inspire – and conspire.
Like easel painting, the printed book added much to the new cult of individualism. The private, fixed point of view became possible and literacy conferred the power of detachment, non-involvement.
The Renaissance Legacy.
The Vanishing Point = Self-effacement,
The Detached Observer.
The viewer of Renaissance art is systematically placed outside the frame of experience. A piazza for everything and everything in a piazza.
The instantaneous world of electric informational media involves all of us, all at once. No detachment or frame is possible.
Art, or the graphic translation of a culture, is shaped by the way space is perceived. Since the Renaissance the Western artist perceived the environment primarily in terms of the visual. Everything was dominated by the eye of the beholder. His conception of space was in terms of a perspective projection upon a plane surface consisting of formal units of special measurement. He accepted the dominance of the vertical and the horizontal – of symmetry – as an absolute condition of order. This view is deeply embedded in the consciousness of Western art.
Primitive art and pre-alphabet people integrate time and space as one and live in an acoustic, horizonless, boundless, olfactory space, rather than in visual space. Their graphic presentation is like an x-ray. Thay put in everything they know, rather than only what they see. A drawing of a manmn hunting a seal on an ice floe will show not only what is on top of the ice, but what lies underneath as well. The primitive artist twists and tilts the various possible visual aspects until they fully explain what he wishes to represent….
Electronic circuitry is recreating in us the multidimensional space orientation of the ‘primitive.’
Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. ‘Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished. We now live in a global village…a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.
- From the medium is the MASSAGE, by marshall McLuhan (pp. 44-63)
A couple of things to take from that:
Yes, to some degree, there are different kinds of art for different senses. But its not like painting is for the eyes and music the ears, and since in a piece of architecture you can touch it, see it and hear things, its for the nose, eyes and ears. As McLuhan reveals, the question is more complex than that. As McLuhan says elsewhere, technologies (made things!) are extensions of man. He shapes his tools, and they, in turn, shape him. The art of each age, almost regardless of the medium, will reveal a man who is primarily visual, acoustic, or what have you.
Corbusier spoke of “visual acoustics” when making sense of the relationship between his architecture and his painting. The difference between Gregorian chant and Bach reveals the difference between an acoustic man and a visual man. Synthetic cubism is a bit more acoustic than analytic cubism, which is more visual.
Something else. My dear engineer friend said the following: “if I want to be entertained through my ears, I'll go to a concert…But if visual art is not visually appealing - then is it art?” But Marshall McLuhan rebuts him with this: “Art, or the graphic translation of a culture…” A background piece of factual information to McLuhan’s spiel on the detached observer being born in the Renaissance is that perspective was actually invented in the early Renaissance in Florence, in 1404, by an architect named Brunelleschi. There was no such thing as “entertainment,” even then, but “perspective” set the stage for it. McLuhan says that acoustic space is participatory, but, just the same, it takes a detached, visual man to make detached, visual art. Art is not framed and hung on a wall; art is the embodiment of its culture.
The idea of subjective aesthetic judgment, in contrast to objective truth, also seems to be implied by “if I want to be entertained through my ears, I'll go to a concert…But if visual art is not visually appealing - then is it art?” This is already very long, and can easily be a while other topic. But for this purpose, I will just say that subjective aesthetic judgment would not be possible without disembodied visual observation. Embodied truth is “objective.” The same mathematics that govern the human body give order and beauty to a work of art (again, technologies are the extensions of man).
That is all, then, for the framing of my answer. To actually, then, give my answer, which was partially given in the framing of it:
A book is a piece of art, too. A painting not only stimulates the mind but would be utterly meaningless without it.
The different crafts can’t really be categorically broken up in accordance with a rule that says particular ones belong to particular senses (or faculties).
Art is not detached entertainment, but an embodiment of its culture and a reflection and extension of the man who made it (your house is a work of art just as much as the Van Goh print that hangs on its wall).
The beauty of art lies in the beauty of man and the world, not in “the eye of the beholder” (see the highlighted link).
When art DOES become categorically broken up between the senses, detached entertainment, judged according to subjective aesthetic opinion and devoid of “objective” truth, and primarily visually appealing, then you end up with McArthur Mall (again, see highlighted link).
Monday, November 15, 2010
I want to speak of tithing in a particular order of things. I want to put it in its place, in its context of the overall story of what God has done and is doing on earth, of God’s love, and of our response to that love. Of God’s kingdom coming to rise up on earth and obliterate all the sickness and perversity and power plays that work to bring everything and everyone down. I don’t think I can just start blabbing away about tithing as if it is disconnected from a larger reality. So….
That larger reality starts with the overwhelming, unconditional, unstoppable and forever love of God...for YOU. When I went to the prayer vigil on Saturday that pretty much marked the end of my [church-wide 40 day] fast [not from food, for most members, including myself], I walked into the sanctuary, and was immediately overwhelmed. I had tears in my eyes before I uttered a single word of prayer in my mind, on my heart or through my mouth. I was wondering what was going on, and, still before I said one word of prayer, God spoke directly to me (this doesn’t happen too often), saying: “I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you. I can never not love you, because I am God.” One of the names for God is Jehovah Jireh, which is typically translated as “The Lord will provide”, or “Lord Provider”, or something of the sort. God’s provision for us can never be separated from his abundant and never ending love that could never run out.
The story from which that name for God originates is that of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his only son Isaac. Keep in mind that God had promised, through a sacred covenant, to bless Abraham as a FATEHR OF NATIONS. And yet Abraham was like 100 years old or something crazy, with no kids. Then Abraham finally has his one and only young son (who was supposed to be near the head of the genetic line of MANY NATIONS), and God tells him to go to a particular mountain to sacrifice this precious boy. Abraham actually listens – out of pure and simple obedience!
Here are Abraham and his son trekking on up the mountainside with firewood, fuel to light the fire, ect, and do you think Isaac was wondering where the sacrifice was? Just as Abraham was about to bring the knife down on the boy, who at this point was tied to a stone altar that he had probably helped his dad build, and an angel stops Abraham, and tells him that now he knows he “fears” God. Keep in mind that in the Bible “fear of God” doesn’t mean “fear.” It means something like “silent wonder”, “radical amazement” and “affectionate awe.”
Just then Abraham SEES a ram caught by the thorns in the thicket that can be sacrificed in the place of his son Isaac. What “Jehovah Jireh” actually means in Hebrew isn’t so much “provider” as “The Lord Who Sees,” or “The Lord Who Will See To It.” In other words, the Lord is always with us, always here to care for us and our DEEPEST needs, no matter the circumstances – OUT OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US. The master of the universe watches over us in care. WE ARE NOT ALONE.
What God said to Moses in appointing him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt was: “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance….I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them.” 2,000 years later God’s one and only begotten son was sacrificed in my place to bring me out of my slavery to my uncontrollable and destructive life of sin and into a land of freedom and opportunity, where I am now in a place of greater freedom and joy than I have ever been.
Which brings me to the idea of OUR RESPONSE to this incredible love of God, who wants to be ever closer to us and will never let go. The way that Jesus most often referred to God in speaking about Him and praying to Him is typically translated as “Father.” But that is utterly misleading. This was the same word in their native Aramaic that a 2 year old toddler used when he was about to jump into the arms of his “DADDY” at dinner time with a huge smile on his face and a look of utter trust and delight in his eyes. Out of this simple trust in the One who created….everything, lol….the obvious response is simply to love Him back. To listen to what he says, and do it – just like that 2 year old. And trust that it is for the best. “Let the little ones come to me.” Obviously, for a long time when I was aware of God’s love, I did not do that.
What God wants is our HEART. What else can we give to God Himself? He just wants to be close to us, and He has done everything to get our attention, to woo us.
From Mark, Ch. 12: “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”
What she gave was her heart, and God in the flesh was impressed, and very happy! I can hear the excitement in his voice! So then on a practical level, he also said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He did not say that your heart gets all ushy mushy and full of joy and generosity, and then you give out of such a spirit. He said to simply put your money in the hands of God, and that’s where your heart, your trust, your mind and your strength will be also. The command in the Old Testament for tithing was that the Israelites give their first fruits. We give to God from the top of the harvest for a reason.
So all in all, the reason to give a tenth of our income to God right off the top is that it is a humble, awe inspired, small and utterly pitiful return on God’s investment in His very Life of love for you and me (most primarily demonstrated in the death and resurrection of His Son on the cross). But there is a little bit more reason, too, which is sort of an added bonus :D Luke 6: 38: “Give, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands – more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.” I’m not an expert on this one, because I’m too much of a saver still at this point in my life, I guess. But my pastor and his wife have literally given EVERYTHING away three times now, in an effort to out-give God, and they have failed miserably, lol. He now drives a corvette.
From Malichi, Ch. 6: “’I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
‘But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
‘But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
The other thing God said to me directly, this one once I was already in prayer during the prayer vigil on Saturday? “Turn to me, and I will heal your land. Rather than be angry and bitter at the world’s sickness, turn to me, and I will heal your land. Turn to me, and you will see that I will not fail you."
Interestingly, after Malichi wrote the above about “testing God in this” (the only place the Bible says to test God), the Israealites actually listened to Malichi, lol. So then the storehouses for overflowing when a great famine came through the land. And guess who was feeding who at that point? Yes, Egypt, formerly Israel’s slave driver, was coming to get the crumbs off their table.
As one of my best friends in Los Angels said (with whom I ran the coolest open mic in LA, by many accounts): “You get what you give.” Its like a fundamental universal law or something, lol. As an example unrelated to money in particular, I wrote this in my journal as a realization I had during that prayer vigil: “Before the 40 day fast, I didn’t really think it was possible for my needs for intimacy with that special someone to be met [at least, that is much of my history] Just as I didn’t think purity was possible. God changed my heart, my faith, and my very view of what sexuality and intimacy is about, bringing an order. I gave sex its proper place in relation to God and intimacy (basically), and now it all seems possible together.”
Then of course there’s the idea of tithing as a kind of spiritual discipline of “character formation”, as some folks in Christian circles call it. Basically for me this simply means that I am aware that at any moment I could or am prone to becoming a greedy douche bag who wants to hoard all my money and resources for myself, whether monetary resources, emotional resources, spiritual resources (in prayer, for example) or my time. Giving helps me to be more generous with all of those things, and just more generous and free spirited and joyful in general.
So yeah I think I’m done with my passionate rant now lol.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
How Tears Came To Be
Then suddenly this day, with this poem and architect in the background, drawing geometric configurations of how things come to be in the world (I realized as I was drawing them), it all clicked. I was filled with exhilaration and excitement, and was covered in goose bumps. I was so excited I was jumping up and down, and everyone around me (the late stragglers in our 3 hour studio class, who were having some typical deeply intellectual conversation with my professor and hadn't yet gone to dinner) was wondering what on earth was going on, lol. It wasn't the kind of thing you keep to yourself, so I had to go over to them and share. I felt a kind of high for the next day or so.
Well today something happened to me that reminded me of that experience. I had what has been for me lately an unusual period of almost two hours to sit, relax, read, and spend time with God as best you can in the middle of Starbucks. I have been reading Every Man's Battle (which I finished a little while ago) and Every Man's Marriage (even though I'm single), and I have gotten to the end of the Marriage one, where he starts to talk about sex. I am toward the end of the book, so I was expecting to finish with time to spare before I had to be at work. But he kept saying such simple things that were so profound and hit me so deeply that I found myself stopping, thinking and praying often (subtly, since I was in Starbucks).
I guess my heart must have softened, because the next thing I knew my life was flashing before my eyes, I was having a deep moment of repentance at the core of my soul, and I had tears streaming down my cheeks - right there in the middle of Starbucks. Just from reading the following rather simple few of sentences: "God knew our desire for intimacy - and how we could attain it - from the beginning. He knew that women give and receive intimacy through sharing, talking, hugging, and touching. After all, He created her so that men might not be lonely. These traits are perfectly fitted to that purpose."
The train of the authors thoughts were obviously heading somewhere, but he blew me right off his tracks with that, lol. I felt the same kind of exhilaration I felt that day in the middle of studio while drawing geometric forms, as well as the same desire to share with others this seemingly universal and powerful truth that had just hit me so squarely between the eyes!
So I had to stop reading, because "it all came together" for me! Just as I put so much energy in college into trying to figure out what my professor was saying, I have spent similar amounts of time, energy, and willpower lately trying to piece my sexuality back together after a lifetime of brokenness. I had mentioned that I was moping around campus that year, but recently I've been on this journey full of hope and joy, deeply moved by a new found faith in myself, in God, and in God's plan for my life. Suddenly lately, life-long purity seems possible, so its obviously an occasion for joy. And just as I couldn't quite grasp what my college professor was saying but had enough intuition to know he was correct, I knew the author of this Every Man series was onto something.
I was excited and inspired by everything he said about purity in Battle, and about how service, sacrifice and (mutual) submission edifies your wife (and the husband) in Marriage and tends to give her a feeling of intimacy, thus bringing life to the marriage bed (which is such a stronger and more central desire for the husband)....but....there was something more. Simply, why? Why was all of this so true? Architecturally, when I find myself asking why questions, I know enough by now to know that they are usually a clue to look back to the beginnings of whatever it is I'm asking about. But in the area of my sexuality, my weakness, my blindness, I couldn't see clearly enough to even think to look back to the beginning. Nor even to consciously ask "why?" And yet here was some relatively simple-minded macho-manly almost-anti-intellectual author - with a core theological notion about some funny "sin nature" and a thoroughly modern anthropology I don't enjoy or agree with - answering a profoundly simple question that I hadn't even thought to ask!! And in such a powerful way, with utter nonchalance, that he left me in tears. How humbling, lol.
And of course, because "it all came together" I saw ever so clearly how I had been tearing it apart for my entire life! In the presence of God, and with no thoughts of beating myself up over it, I was in full realization of just how in the wrong I'd been my whole life! I saw just how utterly blind and selfish I have always been. God set it up PERFECTLY - not only "IN MY FAVOR", but as a kind of "favor" to me ("God saw that it was not good for man to be alone") - and up until recently I have been doing EVERYTHING I POSSIBLY CAN to obliterate the fragile picture of unity, wholeness and intimacy that God painted on the souls of a man and a woman - FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
God took her from man's rib. Woman CAME FROM MAN to be his companion. This is a rather deep and profound truth that I had intuited enough to ponder, but never really understand. This is another dose of "it all coming together" after my spending so much time, energy and willpower seeking after an amazing realization that included the simple fact that God made woman from man as his companion and then gave her all the most perfect gifts and desires for relationship at the core of her soul (such as being hospitable, sympathetic, caring, nurturing and a good judge of character) to meet that purpose and reflecting that origin. And lets not forget the never ending and amazing mystery of her beauty that draws us as well, and gives us all the more extra reason to cherish her and build her up! How amazingly magnificent for both the man and the woman!!
I mean, there it is right there in the script for the universe from the beginning, in plain English, ever so simple, and I not only missed it, but I trampled all over it with the way I constantly objectified women sexually (I mean in general, but not in every instance, of course, but you get the point). I ran hard after sexuality to find intimacy, while God, from the very beginning, had ALREADY SET IT UP for me to have the intimacy I was looking for, out of which sexuality arises!! How foolish could could I have been!? I could have said whatever I wanted about the value of woman and her gifts and tried to understand and listen to her as best I could, but my actions told the truth. I was being a selfish pig, and my selfishness blinded me to a reality not only of who Woman is, but to an ever so much greater general reality in harmony with how the universe came to be.
"Male and female He made them in his image." I guess there is a reason why marriage is depicted in the Bible as being analogical to worship. The joy of such a realization, combined all in the same moment with being impressed by the Holy Spirit to the point of such conviction of how wrong I have always been in my actions, thoughts and attitude - and in such a gentle and non-violent way - was overwhelming to me. So there I was, crying cleansing tears of joy and repentance all in one in the middle of Starbucks, lol. And I have felt high ever since.
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