Pondering While Having My Head Under the Faucet

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My senses are coming alive. The warm water pouring over my head is refreshing to my winter-dry skin and hair. Scrubbing, sudsing, rinsing, my hands work through, around, front and back. I become present to the moment.

An attitude of gratitude wells up within me. I can do this seemingly simple task which when you look at it is more complex than first appears. My science-trained mind begins to check off the many steps involved: first, go get a towel; second, get out the shampoo and conditioner; third, adjust the water flow and temperature – and that is just the beginning of what I calculate to be a 14 step regimen.

Yes, I can do this without having to have it done for me as it had been during a previous three month stay in a rehab center.

Other body care processes come to mind then in quick succession. From head to toe each of us needs personal care. As momma cats teach their little ones grooming  by their constant licking, we hopefully learn from our parents from the very first “wash behind your ears” and “have you brushed your teeth?”

There are those who, having learned well, center their lives around the washing, waxing, grooming, creaming and polishing of their personal machinery. Their identity rests on externals, but my, those externals are well cared for. Some, sadly, missed those lessons and become social outcasts as result. There are others whose life focus seems to be their mind. They develop their soul through endless reading, philosophical discussions on weighty matters, or politics and government. Here again a neglect of the basics as being trivial and inconsequential will lead to isolation because no one wants to come close, no matter how keen the mind and ideas that arise.

But we are designed to be relational – connected to one another, close. Hence the essential activity of personal body care. As tripartite beings, we need to find a balance in caring for each part. It is no good being so spiritual that you neglect the physical part of you. For to be truly spiritual requires being in fellowship with others, close – and no one will come close to the one who neglects or is unable to do the basic upkeep all bodies require.

About step 12 in my hair washing process, I realize that a true gift of God is the ability to care for oneself top to bottom, crown to foot, and that it is part of our equipping to experience a spiritual life, a life well lived in these temporal bodies. As I towel off, I give thanks to God.  “I can do this!”

So come on, world. It’s safe now to come close. Let the relationships flourish!

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The Open Door

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Jan 1, 2014  The year of Ayin Daleth, or the Open Door.

Reading this morning the Sermon on the Mount. I began by thinking that Jesus did three things in his ministry: teach on the Kingdom of God, drive out demons and heal people’s physical bodies. Nowhere could I think of a place where he was concerned about who they were to marry, or where they would get a job, or any of the other issues we often put on prayer lists.

The Kingdom of God is not only about the great news that God the Father wants to be reconciled to his people, and is not mad at us. Rather, He is providing a way to escape his wrath.
But I also knew it incorporated more than healing the body and bringing freedom from outside pressure.

So I began in Matthew chapter 6. At the end of chapter 5 there is a brief account of his first ministry after the time of his temptation. People flocked to him because of the physical healings; his emphasis was on the good news from heaven about the Kingdom of God.

All the way through the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is emphasizing the importance of attitude, heart and mind as contrasted to the outward observance of religious law and custom. It is a complete shift in the way of looking at and understanding God’s expectations and requirements. As such, it is revolutionary. One of the most difficult tasks is to get people (including me) to see things in a different light than what we ‘know’ to be true. Belief systems get well locked into place and often require an equivalent of dynamite to change them. What He is saying cuts across the grain of our well-established ‘truth.’ It is not just the religious Jews of 2000 years ago, but the solid, God-acknowledging person of today who has beliefs which need changing. The church of today honors outward righteousness, good little worker bees, high achievers, charitable givers. In so doing, people pick up the unspoken idea that their salvation is secure based on their good works or long service in the church. This may not be the church’s intent, of course, but many pick up that belief anyway.

In the middle of talking about storing treasure and looking for security, are two verses which stand out as off-topic inclusions.
Mat 6:22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
           :23  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how     great is that darkness!
It was here that I turned to the commentaries for better understanding. I can’t say it better than this from the Believer’s Bible Commentary:
“Instead of light, there is darkness.
The application is this: The good eye belongs to the person whose motives are pure, who has a single desire for God’s    interests, and who is willing to accept Christ’s teachings literally. His whole life is flooded with light. He believes Jesus’ words, he forsakes earthly riches, he lays up treasures in heaven, and he knows that this is the only true security. On the other hand, the bad eye belongs to the person who is trying to live for two worlds. He doesn’t want to let go of his earthly treasures, yet he wants treasures in heaven too. The teachings of Jesus seems impractical and impossible to him. He lacks clear guidance since he is full of darkness.
Jesus adds the statement that if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! In other words, if you know that Christ forbids trusting earthly treasures for security, yet you do it anyway, then the teaching you have failed to obey becomes darkness—a very intense form of spiritual blindness. You cannot see riches in their true perspective.”

This is of particular interest today because Ayin in Hebrew means ‘eye’ or way of seeing, and Daleth represents ‘door.’

Seeing things in a new light then is of utmost importance. The door is open to walk into new insights and away from some dearly held, yet untrue “truths.” Do we have the courage to ask to have our beliefs examined? To discover where we have been deceived? To change our thinking? I submit that is as exciting an adventure as exploring the far reaches of Patagonia. This year of Two Thousand Ayin Daleth the open door awaits .

The Gathering Place

Have you heard about thin places? These are not diet farms where overstuffed people go to trim down. They are not rows of narrow houses built to accommodate more people per acre. I first heard of thin places a few years ago when a visitor said he thought my home was such a place.

As I researched, I discovered the term is known in some circles of the spiritually discerning. The ancient Celts found that there are places on earth where God’s Spirit is more easily accessible… They called these places “Thin places” because the distance between God and man seemed somehow thinner there and it was easier to pray.

Who is there that does not want to have a shorter distance between themselves and God? To have an easier time praying? Spiritually inclined people travel miles to seek out such places. Where there has been a history of “something happening” people will be drawn by their hunger, need or curiosity. They want a touch from outside themselves, a connection with that “otherness” which is known intuitively. As word of the extraordinary is spread, pilgrimages are made and crowds gather. They bring an openness to things spiritual so that often something does happen.  The burdens of life are lifted; healings occur; prayers are heard.

When there has been a continual seeking after, and finding God in a place, it seems that the Spirit of God remains in a fuller measure than in other places. Those who visit sites of earlier revivals or action of the Spirit can still sense His presence there centuries later.This opens up all kinds of theological questions, of course. Isn’t it a given doctrine that God is omnipresent?  Always the same? How is it that He is more notably one place than another? Are some places “more equal than others?”

St. Patrick is renowned as a holy man of God, a life-changer in Ireland centuries ago. To this day, the little stone church where he preached carries a strong sense of the Spirit, which cannot be said for the large cathedral bearing his name, built years later nearby. Those who visit the site of the Cane Ridge Revival in Kentucky have reported sensing the Spirit strongly there. There are dozens of sites around the world which have become  and remained holy places as earnest seekers gather. Lourdes Shrine in France has a large collection of canes, crutches and wheel chairs from the sick and infirm who made the trek there seeking healing.  Scoffers and doubters raise the point that perhaps they were healed by their expectations, that it is a psychological rather than spiritual phenomenon after all. But the pilgrims to Lourdes declare otherwise. To them it is a “thin place” well worth the effort to reach.

2 Kings 13:21  Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb.  When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

This one verse is tucked in the ongoing account of Israel’s oppression by her enemies. Elisha had received the double anointing he had asked for, had served as a mighty prophet, and eventually sickened and died. In this account, he had been dead long enough to be reduced to bones, but his very bones still retained something of that touch of God, enough to raise a dead man to life. Can you picture the shock of that revived man, and those who were burying him?  I can imagine the whooping and hollering that went on. This could not be interpreted as a feel good, subjective sense of Spirit; this was a presence with power to restore to life. Nothing vague or abstract about it. There was a corpse; now there is a man on his feet, undoubtedly dazed and wondering what happened.

In other places in Scripture, God commands his people to gather at certain prescribed places. He is particular about it. “You shall worship me here, not there.” He called the Hebrews out of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness.  It was necessary to leave Egypt because the large amount of worship given to other gods had defiled the land spiritually, in effect making it a very thick place.  He desired to have them experience him, worshiping him and being aware of his presence on a daily basis. For that reason his commands were clear: This is the way; this is the place.

There are several accounts of the Ark of His Presence in the Old Testament which clearly show how an object (the Ark, in this case) carries a residual power and presence. When the Philistines captured it and placed it in their shrine next to Dagon, old Dagon was knocked off his pedestal where he was found the next morning lying face down before the Ark. The bewildered Philistines set him back up, but the next day Dagon was broken to pieces, with his head and hands lying on the doorstep. It is interesting to note that the first night the idol was prostrate before the Ark, giving clear demonstration of “Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10,11. The second night the idol lost both head and hands, declaring the complete powerlessness of any entity that sets itself up against the power and presence of the one true God. The local priests quickly concluded the Ark should be sent somewhere else; it was shipped to a succession of towns and villages where people immediately became ill with tumors. Some even died.That was enough for the Philistines. There was something about that box which was good for the Israelites, and very bad for them.

After they put it on a cart and sent it homeward, the Ark continued to carry a particular presence. While it remained with Obed-Edom for three months, everything in and around his household prospered.  As a God-fearing Israelite, he experienced blessing upon blessing, unlike the idol-worshiping Philistines. The presence of blessing was so attractive that when the Ark was moved to Jerusalem, Obed-Edom went along to become a doorkeeper. He had tasted the Presence; he had to go where it went.

So it is with thin places. Wherever God’s presence is experienced or “felt,” is where people will gather.

No one can prescribe the conditions for creating such a place, but there are a few hindrances or blockages to God’s manifest presence. One, already mentioned, is idolatry.  Any focus on or worship of another deity will bring contamination and defilement of the building and the land on which it stands. Another serious cause of defilement is violence and bloodshed. Where blood has been shed the land cries out. Beginning with Cain’s murder of his brother in Genesis 4:10, God has talked about blood crying from the land.  “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” Numbers 35:33

Other sins such as prostitution, greed and dishonesty can and do pollute the land which prevents it from becoming a “thin place.”  God is holy, which means He is set apart from all sin. There is no sin in heaven; there is no sin in His presence. Therefore, if we desire that thin place where earth and heaven meet, it is necessary to deal with all the unconfessed sin in our lives, striving to follow His command: “Be holy, for the LORD your God is Holy.”

“But,” people say, “isn’t it impossible to be holy?  Isn’t such a life like living in a convent, a boring life totally devoid of interest?”  For those who have never experienced any God encounter, this may be an understandable response. But once you become spiritually awakened to His reality, there is nothing more desirable than to be in His presence. Like Obed-Edom, you will go anywhere, giving up your familiar ways just to be where He is. That includes leaving the sin which we all secretly enjoy. Choosing to keep our old ways, habits and sins in preference to living in a “thin place” is like trading a valuable birthright for a bowl of lentils. Far better to listen and follow “Be holy, for the LORD your God is holy.”

An important caveat here.  Yes, it is true that God’s holiness and sin are far apart. However, He is found in the worst imaginable places when someone cries out to Him. Then He is close as the sinner’s breath. “There is more rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents than over the ninety nine who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 His very reason for the Incarnation and the Cross was to defeat sin and its damage to the people He loves. He came to rescue mankind from the morass we were in, setting our feet on solid ground.

Once rescued, set free from the unholy, man is then able to approach God unencumbered by sin. He can begin to live life righteously, in a new dimension as it were. It is in that new condition of holiness, or set-apartness that we seek out those “thin places” to be wherever He is.

Do Extra-dimensional Beings Exist? Nature of God

This is a great article for those who live in a world of science, faith in God, stretching ideas, and above all, a world of wonder.

If you spend your time thinking of theology, poetry and space-time dimensions, you may find this a good read. If you are enthralled by the beauty of the star-filled cosmos above,image

 

image     down to the Cosmos flower in the garden, welcome to my world.

Do Extra-dimensional Beings Exist? Nature of God.

To God Be the Glory

Yesterday I was bathed in Bach. For two glorious hours a Bach Organ Marathon was held in a local church built much like a mini cathedral. Structured to direct one’s vision upward to lofty ceilings (I know there is a better word for this) of deep coral traced with gold, the nave conveyed the grandeur of God. On either side of the center aisle, flanking the altar, stood banks of pipes waiting to be given voice by the Moller organ console placed between them for this event.

Seasoned organists, and those in training–nine in all–participated. One of them called the organ the king of instruments, and as the afternoon progressed, there could be no disputing that statement. The intricacies of note, tone, color, depth, breadth, vibration, thunder and wonder poured out from the chancel to the pews. Completely surrounded and penetrated by the weavings and inter-weavings of Bach’s music I soared and dove, losing my earth-bound self to his musical genius.

At one point, (was it the Prelude and Fugue in C minor?) thoughts and ideas came so fast I had to jot them hurriedly on my purse note pad….

As patterns of sound weave and interweave throughout my being, they expand my very core and essence. All sound derives from God who is Himself “The Word.” There can be nothing outside of God and therefore this music as written for His glory is in some way an expression of Him, as is all nature. The unique patterns of notes are a particular expression of God — as is each flower, each person.
There is no arrangement of sound/music/notes which can be outside of God. There can be, however, a contamination and distortion introduced which defiles rather than enlarge and bless the soul.

Then I began to ponder about sound being a slowed down form of light and God’s self description of being Light and the source of light. Physicists tell us that light is unique in that the speed is constant, always and ever constant, the one unchangeable factor in all creation. Hmm, God is unchanging. Scientists also say that another distinctive of light is that it is both wave, and particle. It is always in motion (the wave) and can be measured in one segment (the particle.) Hmm. God is in constant motion, everywhere at once, and at the same time is particular to each part, each person of His creation. Staggering!

So enveloped in a cascade of melody, point and counterpoint, I was experiencing a
a different and freah expression of God himself.
As Bach wrote at the bottom of each of his compositions, Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone