Monday, March 31, 2008

Speech

So yesterday, I was preparing for my faith group lesson. We have currently been going through Titus, generally taking a section as broken down in the MacArthur Study Bible. Originally, I was going to do Titus 3:1-8.

Then, that whole thing about the Word of God being sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing between the soul and the spirit, came to light.

The verses we actually got to were verses 1 and 2: "Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no-one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all meekness to all men".

In doing this study, I consulted Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Here's a sample of where we ended up - for me, the most condemning part, the question of speaking evil of no-one:

“To speak evil of none, unjustly and falsely, or unnecessarily, without call, and when it may do hurt but no good to the person himself or to any other. If no good can be spoken, rather than speak evil unnecessarily, say nothing. We must never take pleasure in speaking ill of others, nor make the worst of any thing, but the best we can. We must not go up and down as tale-bearers, carrying ill-natured stories, to the prejudice of our neighbour’s good name the destruction of brotherly love. Misrepresentations, or insinuations of bad intention, or of hypocrisy in what is known, things out of our reach or cognizance, these come with reach of this prohibition. As this evil is too common, so it is of great malignity.” (p. 2373).

Talk about being hit between the eyes. Yes, perhaps I don't engage in directly saying evil about others, but how often to I insinuate, say something when I should say nothing, read into circumstances that which is not there, give interpretations when I don't know.

The thing which I think bothers me more is how often I try to conceal it from myself by couching it in terms of being informed, or honest, or "getting a complaint off my chest." To read Henry, I'm just fooling myself.

But isn't that the nature of so much of our ingrained sin - that we conceal it from ourselves by the excuses that we make? As the Apostle Paul said, "But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged" (I Corinthians 11:31) (Although interestingly enough, the Greek is more to "If we discerned ourselves/judged ourselves correctly, we would not be discerned/judged). Did I judge myself honestly today -or hide my sin under a layer of intentional ignorance?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Roots

Today, as I was mowing and edging my lawn, I got to looking at the joint at the bottom of my driveway, the connection between it and the sidewalk. When it was built, they laid down this sort of brown filler, semipermeable, which occasionally picks up weeds which grow out of it. As I was in the pulling mood anyway, down I went.

Imagine my surprise when, in pulling out these seedlings, I pulled a root as long or longer than the plant itself! The other version was the root ball, where again the bulk of the roots were bigger than the plant itself.

Do I have that kind of tenacity? When the going gets tough, do my roots go down deep, perhaps deeper than myself? Or am I just on the surface, waiting for the next blade shovel to lop me off at the top and then I'm done?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Common Sense

Job security is a funny thing - especially in the industry I work in. It' s a well conceded fact that, unless you move around every 3-5 years, you are perceived to be in a position too long (unless you're senior management, of course). Companies rise and fall on the basis of their products, either succeeding (and often getting purchased) or failing (and falling apart), with employees wandering and reforming into new configurations.

I had had moderate faith until today that my company's leadership had sound decision making capacities. They had a game plan, they were following it up, and this hoped to turn the corner with a new avenue of business.

Until today, when I and my manager are arguing about something that seems so basic to understanding of how this industry works. The response we got was essentially "We're willing to take the business risk (based on what is in my opinion a silly philosophy) just so we can get it done. We'll deal with the consequences later - and besides, there are other checks in place to prevent bad things from happening".

And then you start running out the options: If this fails, it's likely the board would not endorse further actions in this direction, which would change the direction of the company. We would fall back on our primary business which, though profitable, definitely is not a real revenue generating tool. Not much revenue, not lots of perks - not lots of employees either, possibly.

It alarms me (and I don't really know why it should) that so often people whom I believe have the experience to know better, don't. It is a constant reminder that common sense is not all that common.

I've often said that operating at risk means that sometimes you fail. It surprises me how few individuals really believe that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Home Closet

So I reorganized my home corner last night. It was something that I had needed to do, and I finally had some time.

My home corner, for those that don't know, is the office that I had always wanted to have. Our fourth bedroom was already converted to an enlarged family room, and we did not buy in time to expand the single car portion of our garage into a room...so I have the back end of our walk in closet.

It has a desk that fits right in the slot (oddly enough, the desk I have had since the fourth grade) which gives me a work surface, and the three surrounding walls, which give me a place to hang things. Part of my frustration was that I was buried in clothes and general clutter - but that has been taken care of.

I need a work space, a work environment conducive to thinking and writing (and harp playing, as it turns out), and this is the option I have.

But having it clean and organized does give me a sense of both victory as well as of order. I have reclaimed my little corner of the house.

Now to use it.

Fog

In the after night
morning fog hems in the town's light,
lighting another dawn.

Mirror of my soul,
Fog floats across the moon's face
as thoughts crowd my heart.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A long motion in the same direction

There are moments in life where one pops up for air, looks around, and is suddenly overwhelmed by the sameness of the landscape. It's like driving on Interstate 80 through Nevada: Hills, scrub brush, a half dozen trailer parks with tumbleweed in their yard - look, a town! - hills, more scrub brush, how long until we get there...

It's a damnable, dull gnawing thing. One has much to be thankful for - far more blessed than one could have ever hoped - but yet there is a nagging feeling of the sameness of it all, a sameness in all one does and all one's relationships: I get up at the same time, I read the same things, I go to work the same way, I do the same thing, I come home in the same traffic, I go through the same routine at home, I wash the same dishes, do the same pre-bed activities, and off to bed I go.

Look it's another day.

It's at moments like these that I struggle to find God in my circumstances. I feel not so much abandoned as ignored, as if I've been put on cruise control. Moments of supernatural are few and far between, crushed out between the deadly dull realities like a daisy smashed between two paving stones.

It's also at moments like these that I find myself more and more wanting to throw it all away, to hit the road, to do the anti-dull routine thing, to be zany and crazy and wild and passionate and exciting - all the things that it feels like I'm missing. But then I get caught, thinking "But who will pay for, and what will be done about, and what will this look like...."

How does one resolve the incongruity of the swiftness of time and the slowness of living through it?

Morning Mist

Fog rolls off farm pond:
How hot must the moonlight be
to make it do thus?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Spring Haikus

Flags rustle gently
as the wind makes the trees roar
through which the birds sing.

Floating above death,
A spider constructs her web
As the spring rill flows.

As the sun sinks low,
A lone bee buzzes slowly,
Making its way home.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Communion Meditation

This is the Easter Communion Meditation I will be presenting this Sunday, March 23.

If you would turn with me to Luke 22:14 – 20. Luke 22: 14-20. This represents one of the three gospel accounts we have of the institution of the last supper.

Read Luke 22: 14-20

I would draw your attention to verse 15. In the Greek, the words “With fervent desire I have desired” is only two words, Epithumia Epithumesa. The first word – Epithumia – is a word used to indicate a burning passion or desire. The same word is used to describe lusts or sinful desires, used by the Apostle John in 1 John 2:16 to refer to “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh”, an overwhelming burning desire. The second word – Epithumesa – is the verb, indicated again a fervent desire – literally the two words mean “With fervent desire I have fervently desired”.

Think of it. For Christ, the end of His time on earth is here. He is on the precipice of suffering both physically through death and spiritually through separation from God. He will be beaten, mocked, spit on, lashed until He is a bleeding wreck, crucified, and die. He, the Sinless One, will suffer the consequences of the sins of all believers.

And yet, as the Apostle John writes, “Having loved His own, He loved them to the end.” He loves them so much that in spite of what is coming, He wants to share the founding of the new covenant first with them – it was burning desire within Him.

He no less fervently desires to share the New Covenant with us– the prospect of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life with Him, salvation instead of eternal wrath.

He gives them bread, symbolizing His broken body and juice, symbolizing His blood shed for New Covenant. He gives them the physical representation of what will spiritually be accomplished in less than a day.

On Easter Sunday, we commemorate the resurrection of Our Lord, and what was accomplished by His sacrifice and death on the cross. A brutal, painful, disgraceful punishment Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, bore for us, who could not pay the debt of sin nor merited His favour by any good that we possess.

Take the bread and the juice thoughtfully. Take them reverently. Is there a sin you need to confess? Is there some issue you need to work out before God? Do it before partaking.

Are you not a believer? If so, we ask you not to partake but to reflect upon what the sacrifice of the Son of God should mean for you.

Christ is risen – but in partaking of communion, let us not forget the sacrifice He has made on our behalf.

Let us pray.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What the market will bear

It was brought to my attention recently that perhaps I am expecting too much out of the relationships in my life. Part of it, to be sure, is my innate sense of fantasy and imagination, the wanting (in some cases, envisioning in my mind with no foothold in the real) of the very best, the most desirable.

But is this reality? Do I expect too much of friends, family, loved ones? Do I seek to place on them the weight of needs and expectations that truly only belongs on God?

If yes, then this is somewhat freeing - nay, is freeing. This should, in theory, mean that I can accept others for what they are and what they demonstrate they are capable of giving, not necessarily what I expect of them.

On the other hand, it is depressing and frightening. Those things which I imagined would improve might very well not. Those burdens that I bear that I thought would be lightened may not only not lighten, but increase.

Or is part of the issue as well those imaginings? From youth, I have had daydreams or fantasies (no, not of the sexual kind) of circumstances in which I am my best, I rise to the forefront, I am the conquering hero. As I have come to see, those do have a place - provided you use them as a point of reference and basis of achievement instead of just continuing to dwell in a sort of dream world. But have these things come to taint my ability to accept folks as they are (which I like to think I generally do) and dream of what they could - or should be? I know this is not true of all I have relationships with - but is it true of more than I realize?

Haikus

In the Spring pre-dawn
The chill breath of winter lies
atop a warm breeze.

River fog billows,
A translucent dark curtain
as orange moon smiles down.

People you don't expect in dreams

There is nothing more confusing or disconcerting than dreams in which unexpected people show up for reasons not clear to you when you wake up.

For example: Last night, I had a dream where someone whom I did not expect appeared in my dream. For some reason I was supposed to meet this person. We had a conversation, as I was apparently trying to convince them to come with me somewhere, which they acquiesced to. We drove in separate cars. When we arrived, the person got out of the car, and was apparently on the phone with some country leader - a prime minister, I believe - and was talking with them on the phone as I was walking with them, trying to have a conversation. The individual hangs up, we start to go around the side of the house, and a family member calls me about meeting for lunch. I speak with this person, who again seems somewhat reluctant to go to that restaurant.

And then I woke up.

The two things that nag me are: 1) What was the person doing there? It was not someone I would have expected; and 2) What was it about them that so made me desire to get their attention?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Awareness

There are those moments that overwhelm us, that lay our pettiness and our fears bare. They are not always well controlled - sometimes, they come unbidden of ourselves, but of conversations we have with others, the flicker of a petal on a flower, the off-taste broccoli that suddenly brings us back to food we were eating.

In some cases, it is a denial of what we perhaps know in our heart of hearts, but are afraid to admit in in the light of day.

In other cases, it is a willing admission of that which perhaps we should in fact keep hidden, but blurt out into the hidden darkness of others' souls.

How is it that such things rest so lightly with us, seeing that they have such power to harm or help? How is it that such pettiness, fears, and wrath lie within us, ready to spring forth only to work harm on ourselves or others? And how strange it is that all around us, others bear the same pockets within them?

Spring Moon

Buttery yellow,
The moon melts, gently sliding
across the March hills.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reminders of Answered Prayer

So yesterday, the Ravishing Mrs. TB calls me over and says "Listen to the van when it starts." Sure enough, there's a sound, like something hitting something right when it starts. Ironically, I had received my bonus on Friday. Grumbling about expenses rising to meet income, we set up to drop the car off at our mechanic's today.

Which we did - after adding in a brake check, oil rotation, and tire change. I was muttering to myself as I drove everyone home in the Escort about how there was little enough for my own wants, but enough to cover these "emergencies".

And then it hit me tonight - a great deal hit me tonight:
1) The bonus came just in time to deal with this (along with our tax refund) - besides which we had the money to pay off one card and make a significant payment on the other.
2) It also gave us the funds to do things like fix the sewing machine, fix the Ravishing Mrs. TB's bike, and buy a new printer.
3) We also have a third car - The Fabulous Ford F250 - that we have as a backup instead of having to shuffle with one car.
4) Most amazing to me was the sudden realization that we had prayed for the Ravishing Mrs. TB to be able to quit the job she was doing last year to spend more time with the family. She did, on faith - and we have made more than we did with her working.

Who am I to complain about a little thing like a noisy van?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shortcuts Make Long Delays

I had a dream last night which has started a rather reflective (and potentially depressing) thought process for a Palm Sunday.

In this dream, I was visiting someone I knew in grade school, someone that I have not seen for 25 years. Apparently, as part of my visit, we were reviewing a scrapbook he had made. His comment to me was "This is a look over the last 20 years of my life."

I woke up, but being that I had not slept well anyway, began to lay there in the early morning dark and began to make a mental comparison of the last 20 years. Let's see: 20 years ago (1988), I was in my second full semester at Humboldt State. My process of wandering had not started yet, but was about to accelerate.

Looking back over the intervening period of time was not much better. Yes, I know that 0430 is not the time to be thinking about anything of import (at least, not while you have had no sleep) because one magnifies the errors and minimizes the positives, but I am still hard pressed to explain all the things I did. In some cases, the errors of yesterday are finally being worked out and made right today (I'm a believer in the theory that in order to advance, you've first got to stop your direction, make a U-turn, and get back to point where you made the detour. Shortcuts across country to make up time lead to long delays.). But still, what might have been accomplished had those journeys which I took been replaced by things of greater worth (As Aslan says to a character in The Silver Chair in response to the question "May I know what would have happened if I obeyed?", "What would have happened? Child, no-one is ever permitted to to know that."

The good points and good impacts I've made are there as well, and I'm neither so foolish nor so arrogant to suppose that there are none. But I feel like Robert Murry McCheyne saying "Not a trait worth remembering! And yet these four and twenty hours must be accounted for." Time is going forward, not backwards - may the next 20 years leave me with less to regret and more to look forward to.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Growing Up

Nighean gheal and I had an interesting conversation on the drive up to The Ranch yesterday. It started by her asking why older girls didn't play with toys so much. I responded that I wasn't sure, but it was not as if they didn't play - they played sports, which was a form of game. She agreed, then asked why grownups didn't play and why some got serious and boring when they grew up.

I didn't have a really good answer to that - and I don't know that I do.

Why do we not play as adults? Why are we - let's be specific, I - so much like what my daughter points out, serious and boring?

I could make the argument that one has to be serious and "boring" as an adult, because of the responsibilities that one must undertake. But do responsibilities means a lack of fun and play?

I suppose I could also point out that I have "lost" that point of view as a result of life - but again, much of that loss was by my own choice. I craved to be thought of as an "adult" without thinking as to what all that entailed.

Christ Himself encouraged us to be "Wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:17), and Pauls himself notes we are to use the time we are provided with wisely (Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 4:5). But wisdom is not the same as serious, and innocence in no was implies boring.

For those who say, "Well, if we were are all playful and not serious, what shape would the world be in?", the answer (not original to myself) is "What shape is the world in now?"

Is play, fun, and a zest for living in opposition to serious and responsible? Or is this a construct of my own mind? Perhaps the place to start is to determine what we take seriously, and why - or what will truly matter five years hence, ten years hence - indeed, eternity hence - and what is merely paper mache, which will have no impact beyond that of making us feel important rather than being of import.

Bees and Weather

I am always set at ease when I come up to the Ranch, a sense of sloughing off my concerns and problems to be surrounded by nature and thought. This time, beyond the anticipated green of oncoming spring, I had a second goal - check the bees.

The weather was not co-operative. Ideally, one wants a warm day, one in which the bees will be out and active (thus less in the hive). I hemmed and hawed as the cloudy day gradually overtook the sun, then broke down and took my chance.

The bees are fine. I only did the upper deep, as in removing frame I broke some of the burr comb which had larvae. The bees were active, larvae were present (indicating the queen was there at least five days ago), and honey and pollen were present. No sense in stirring things up more than necessary. I sealed them back in, their little black eyes and heads staring at me from between the frames.

And good thing that I did check them then. After that, the weather turned no better: it hailed, snowed, and rained, the sun never making more than a brief appearance, the blue sky currently just appearing as a bold blue slash among the gray clouds.

But even in this otherwise winter day, looking out over the upper meadow, I see a cheery patch of yellow daffodils peering through the bare branches of an oak, a single dead brown leaf waving back and forth, slightly blocking them then bringing them into sight.

Even as winter slowly goes, spring breaks through the background in glorious color.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sunset at the Divide

Pink streaks amidst gray:
Orange and yellow embers shine
on brush green canyons.

Tilting at Windmills

Tilting at windmills,
My gift of spring is overcome
By commercial blooms.

Tilting at windmills,
My gift of commerical blooms
Is overcome by food

Good Morning!

Above grey cloud's head,
A morning star sings its song
As dark blue dawn waits.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pink petals are out, white petals are in

In the gradual moving of the season, most of the pink petals - fruitless plums, I believe -are quickly blowing away in the wind. They are now being vividly replaced by white blossoms from other trees (of what kind, I have no idea). They have a characteristic odor of themselves, but are different in that they are mixed in among the leaves.

Spring is well nigh upon us - good from my point of view, as I am looking forward to the bees harvesting their nectar and pollen. Another fine example of a hobby changing how one views life: I cannot think of paying more than a passing attention to such things before, but now I notice them everywhere: the brilliance of the yellow wild mustard (it is everywhere on my commute now), the gentle pre-burst of the ornamental manzinita at our office park (which is good, as there is more manizinita at the Ranch, which makes for good honey - although I have always viewed the stuff as a fire hazard!), the brilliant green of the grass. It is especially scenic driving home from work (when it's actually light), seeing the yellow mustard swaying in the afternoon sun, framed against the emerald green grass amidst the brown trunks of grape vines, preparing their spring burst even now.

It is one of those moments where the entire creation sings in one glorious opening chorus to it's Creator - a strangely appropriate and moving thing in this Easter season, when we celebrate the victory of Christ over death and sin. It's as if, this year, creation raises up the reminder of new life after death even as it prepares for another year of fruitful living.

A Quick Morning Thought

How does one decide what one wants to be out of the plethora of possiblities of what could be?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Silence

A silent moment - one child in bed, two away, and the Ravishing Mrs. TB off at a class. It's unusual to have this during the evening. The only sounds I hear are the muted sound of traffic, the low buzz of my laptop as it operates, and an occassional bubble from the fish tank.

I like silence - actually prefer it, in many cases. It's good for thinking. It's also good for praying, reading, and simply being. It' s an overused cliche to say that we live in a noise filled society, but in some cases they are cliches simply because they reflect reality. From my car's road noise, even if the radio is off, to the din of an office, to the noises of a typical house with children, my day is filled with noise. And that doesn't include the things that we often add as background noise just to fill the silence: music, TV, even listening to the mindless blather of others simply to fill the void.

Perhaps we don't like silence because, deeply felt, it reminds us of the fears of dying - or perhaps it reminds us of the emptiness we have in ourselves. It just strikes me as odd that something so seemingly useful is abhorred by so many.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sauerkraut and Lemonade

This weekend was one of those that involved working with the world: mowing and edging (my lawn as well as Nighean Dhonn's preschool), overseeding, and using some of what we grew: cutting cabbage for sauerkraut, making lemonade and orange juice from my in-laws lemons and oranges, shelling our corn from last year for culling, saving and planting (and cornbread).

There is something subtle yet satisfying - I don't know what - about using foods that you know were they came from, especially those that were grown by you. It is the satisfaction that, at some level, every gardener, livestock owner, farmer, or brewer/viticulturalist feels when eating their own food. It is the full end of the cycle: you, in concert with nature, helped to grow and raise this food. You known what went into it. You know where it came from. It is like earning a salary at the end of a pay period, but better - you can't directly eat a salary (but you can eat a celery purchased with your salary).

It is, I suppose, what calls people to garden or farm or raise grapes or rabbits or whatever: that call that I can work with nature and produce something of use.

Spring Haze

Under icy wisps
White puffs float above green wheat:
Snow on Sierras.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Two Haikus

Thinking to hear snaps
Pink petals feel damp and cool:
My dreams float in wind.

In spring time runoff,
White Heron stately searches
for lunch in brown lake.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Chasing DT

You do not know me,
nor would I wish you too,
as there is a certain joy in anonymity.
You are what I perceive as desirable,
or are you?
Do I mistake you for the thing that you represent,
the thing that I truly desire?
In seeking passion, do I confuse it with and settle for desire?

You do not know me,
but perhaps,
I do not know myself.

Spring

Pink snow waits, then moves,
as brown spindly clouds make more.
Look: Spring has Arrived

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Agape

One thing that I have always found difficult about the concept of agape love is how does one keep it from becoming a duty, something one must do?

Agape, if you're not familiar, is the love that we as Christians are called to express to one another. It's the love Christ has for us. It represents a commitment of the will to do the best for the other person, regardless of how one feels. This is in contrast to the other 3 words for love in Greek - Phileo (affection), Storge (Easiest definition is the kind of love friends share), and Eros (Sexual love).

Agape, as the Bible defines it, is the love which is represented by Christ's love towards us: committed to sacrificing Himself on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins. He counted the cost - and went forward.

The struggle I have is that so often agape becomes like a duty. We do things because we made a commitment, because we are committed to the best for others, no matter the cost to ourselves. The point that always breaks over my head is "This is will - but where is emotion?"

At one time I used to be the proverbial "Hopeless Romantic" - at least until I was 23. Then, I had a really bad relational experience, one that left me personally embarrassed and heart. It's odd, but I time out my loss of "emotional romantic love" - that kind of gooey, breathless feeling - to that date. Doesn't mean I haven't had emotion, doesn't mean that I don't love the Ravishing Mrs. TB and the children - but it makes me I've lost something from time to time.

This plays into my first thought, as what at one time might have been done for emotion is now done as a choice of the will. The genesis may be very well different as well - wanting the good for the other, rather than how it makes one feel. The rub comes in that with the second kind, the payback is generally self evident in the process i.e. I give flowers, my wife responds, we have a pleasant evening. In the other place, one may well do something that it a good, and it goes unnoticed or unappreciated - yet in the benefit to the other, one chooses to do the loving thing. Yet without the immediate emotional payback, and continuing to do it, it becomes much more like something which must be done.

I don't have an answer - but sometimes I wonder, where that emotional romantic chap went to...

Thoughts on a Tree by the Road

On a gnarled branch
White blossoms float in sunrise:
Springtime in darkness.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Old Friends

Last night I had one of the pleasures that only comes occassionally in this life: introducing my good friends to each other.

We had a Leap Day Party yesterday. Amongst the participants were Uisdean Ruadh and Bogha Frois (As an added benefit, Bogha Frois brought L'Acadien with her). Bogha Frois actually arrived as most of the people were leaving, so we had another good two hours together.

There is simply nothing more delightful than introducing old friends to one another. You get to relive the stories of years and years and actually have someone that hasn't heard them. Generally, if they are your friends, you all have the similar tastes, so you can all laugh together. And as everyone knows, the old stories really are the best stories.

Is this a foretaste of Heaven? Will meeting those that have gone on in victory be the same, sharing stories of our Lord on the battlefield, all united in the love for and mercy of Him?

If it is this pleasurable on earth, what will Heaven be like?