Sunday, October 25, 2009

Swirling golden leaves, wet earth, blue sky.

Bicycling one evening after deep dusk
yellow light from a window spreads itself on the ground
silhouetting a young deer
caught in a fine moment of grace –
and my wheels carry me on.

In the morning I tread on fragile icy grass-sheaths,
in the evening I kick through the leaves
between the bus stop and my door,
wondering at the other moments missed in the relentless pace of day–
and my feet carry me forward

I only noticed on the first snow that summer had come and gone,
tripping along from cherry blossoms to fallen leaves,
and I was strangely sad for canoe paddles that never reached cool lake water
and paints and paper smelling of city and not pine –
and time carries me onward.

I grasp at ideas while thoughts run circles in my head
hopelessly curious of the most insignificant insight
until I take a moment to really stop
and then the thinking is terrifying –
unless it carries me away from self.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

some days

Today I will post two completely unrelated (but hopefully interesting) things I happened to come across.

This too shall pass (something wikipedia taught me today when I curiously looked up the origin of the phrase):

"This too shall pass" (Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎, gam zeh yaavor) is a phrase occurring in a Jewish wisdom folktale involving King Solomon. The phrase is commonly engraved on silver rings.

Many versions of the folktale have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa. Heda Jason recorded this version told by David Franko from Turkey:

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it." "If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?" "It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah. He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass." At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

The phrase "This too shall pass" and the associated ring story were made popular by Abraham Lincoln in his 'Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin' on September 30, 1859:

What Goes on Inside My Head
(subconsciously, most of the time)
I saw this comic online and just had to post it :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Tonight I will simply quote a few excerpts from The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, which I am still reading (and enjoying!). These are from chapter 8, On Being a Student, or Disciple, of Jesus.

It is with this entire context [all of our life in apprenticeship to Jesus] that we most richly and accurately speak of "learning from him how to lead my life as he would lead my life if he were I." (p285)

Once you stop to think about it, you can see that not to find your job to be a primary place of discipleship is to automatically exclude a major part, if not most, of your waking hours from life with him. (p285)
And to repeat the crucial point, if we restrict our discipleship to special religious times, the majority of our waking hours will be isolated from the manifest presence of the kingdom in our lives. (287)

Eternity is not something waiting to happen, something that will commence later. It is now here. Time runs its course within eternity. (288)

Practically speaking...
... practical, experimental steps seem to be lacking... [discipleship] remains only a distant, if beautiful, ideal. (291)
... what exactly would one do who didn't intend to go into "full-time Christian service" but still wanted to be a disciple...?

"Clarity about the bargain" - to paraphrase: we "count the cost" and realize that we have found an incredible bargain in this kingdom! (293)

"What we should do":
"Ask "
The rule of the kingdom is to ask (295)
"Dwell, reside, in His Words"
He always sees clearly what is at issue. We rarely do (297)
"Now Decide: The power of Decision and Intention"
Here Willard quotes William Law:
"It was this general intention that made the primitive Christians such eminent instances of piety... And if you will here stop and ask yourself why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Morning in an Abbey

Today I attended mass at the Abbey of the Genesee. The life of the Cistercian, or Trappist, monks intrigues me and causes me to reflect on the nature of the church and individual callings.

I spent some time on their website, trying to understand a bit about them. They are a "a monastic institute wholly ordered to contemplation". To this end they devote themselves to silence, solitude, prayer, etc. Entry into the community is note something to be taken lightly, and the process takes years. Near the end of a description of this process, the site notes that
The primary responsibility of the newly professed monk is to love with all his heart. The vows presuppose this love and express it exteriorly by incorporating him into a state of life which has no other reason for existence than the love of Christ and all that implies.
This is in many ways an attractive way of life to those who strive daily to turn all the loves of our heart toward Christ, amidst the noisy and busy world of ordinary life.

Yet... I am still left with some questions, which I will note here before ending this brief post:
  • What is the role of these communities within the church?
  • All followers of Christ are his disciples in different ways. However, do those who choose such a specific vocation find themselves limited in the ways they can obey and imitate Christ? For example, how do they share the good news when they are so hidden from the world?
  • Are there certain times in the cultural and historical climate for which this way of following Christ is more or less appropriate?