Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just finished a mildly depressing WWII/Holocaust sort of novel (Heidegger's Glasses), directly after (finally) finishing "The Foolishness of God" (Siegbert Becker) a book about the place of reason in the Theology of Martin Luther (fyi, it's not a very high place, he called reason a whore). Both have the brain swimming in an existential stew...nooooo, stew's too substantial, more like a thin soup where infrequent encounters with puzzling cubes of potato leave one with a sense of the nostalgia that accompanies impermanence.

Or something like that.

So now I'm dosing with Shaeffer's "The God Who is There". The Heidegger's Glasses had an achingly sad and unresolved love-story thread in it that made it necessary to call Brandy and tell her how very much I love her. I just finished Philippians on a work break and now out to check buildings in the dripping shadows of the witching hours.

In reaction to which I hold tight to the rifle of Phil. 4:6,7.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Got to teach at Ruslan's Ukranian/Russian youth service again. They call the church "Skinnia" church, which sounded funny to me so I looked it up. Apparently it means "tent", like a stretched skin tent. Neat name if you think about it, it has a very "Sojourner and traveler in this world" feeling to it.

This time I taught from Hebrews 11:1 on Faith. That verse reads as follows:

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

I confess that this verse has historically been one of those "Abide in the Vine" kind of verses for me. By that I mean one of those passages of scripture that have striking language but obscure metaphors, and which tend to be recited to a far greater degree than they are understood. And then when some people take it upon themselves to crack the nut they reveal more nuttiness than truth. One of my disturbing associations with this verse was a conversation I had with an individual who'd just read through Hebrews, and in the course of an overlong conversation fixed me with what was meant to be a profound and mystical gaze and proclaimed: "You know what faith is? a substance!" (from the context of the conversation I believe he meant that it's a substance in the same sense as mayonnaise, but on a grander scale)

Teaching is a high pressure thing. It's not like normal public speaking where as long as you've amused people you feel that it wasn't a complete failure. Teaching God's word to people is like operating the big red nuke button when the world's watching you - you feel very motivated to NOT screw up, to make sure you're handling it rightly.

So my discomfort with this verse had to go. I did my word studies and true to my training read through the scripture itself over and over again trying to understand the wording. When I was done, I remembered what I'd read in a book that said you should be able to distill your message into a sentence. So what I distilled was as follows:

"Faith is the perceptive faculty of the heart as sight is to the eye, activated by the Word of Christ, by which we perceive invisible realities, either past, future, or unseen."

I was surprised that it came out so clearly, and thankful. I know it's not nearly all that the verse means or what can be gotten out of it, but as far as the question of a "definition" of Scriptural faith I was happy with it. But just to make sure I wasn't radically misinterpreting the verse, I looked at what some other guys had to say. Tozer said it's misleading to try and use the verse as a definition, but he ended up describing it as something akin to what I'd written. Then I checked out Andrew Murray's commentary on Hebrews, which is titled "The Holiest of All". He said, in reference to Hebrews 11:1

"Faith is the spiritual faculty of the soul which deals with the spiritual realities of the future and the unseen. Just as we have our senses, through which we hold communication with the physical universe, so faith is the spiritual sense or organ through which the soul comes into contact with and is affected by the spiritual world."

So, I think I like how Andrew Murray worded it a little bit better, but I was excited when I read it to have evidence in the similarities that "No prophecy is of any private interpretation", and that God speaks the same word to His people even if they're separated by time and space.

After the service, Ruslan invited me to his house for tea. It was about 10:30 pm, but I didn't have to be anywhere the next morning so I took him up on it. He explained to me that about 12 people (all family) live in their house. As we went in only two sisters and one brother were awake and present, and they already had the hot water on and more goodies than I could eat in a week on the table. I was surprised as they got the tea things out and set everything else up, and asked if they do this often. Ruslan's sister explained that as they rarely see one another since they all work or go to school, they do this as a time to get together. They all watched me curiously as I poured milk in my tea and asked me how that tasted. (Apparently Ukranians don't put milk in tea). Ruslan tried it and pronounced a favorable verdict. So we all sat around and chatted til about 11:30, when Ruslan's parents came in and his mom insisted I eat a second dinner. So I proceeded to eat a big bowl of homemade borscht and explain that no, I am not Ukranian, I go to school with Ruslan, yes, I am a christian...etc... They were really neat and hospitable people, and told me next time I should bring my wife and kids. Then Ruslan showed me his book collection and told his little brother he'd have to wait til tomorrow for help with his biology, and I thanked them for the wonderful tea and left, since by that time it was after midnight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I may be inviting a burning at the stake, but here's a blog post I did for school in response to reading Augustine's account of his mother's death.


" brother said something to the effect that he wished for her sake that she would die in her own country, not abroad. When she heard this, she looked at him anxiously and her eyes reproached him for his worldly thoughts. She turned to me and she said, "see how he talks", and then, speaking to both of us, she went on, "It doesn't matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you! All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.""-Augustine

Monica's death, like her life, was one of no-nonsense faith. She spent her entire life living in a way that would leave most people of modern-day America shaking their heads at what they'd most likely see as her crazy fundamentalism and naïveté (i.e. living with an unfaithful and bad-tempered man, persevering through initial mother-in-law problems, praying fervently for her children). According to Augustine, she went to her death full of confidence in her bodily resurrection, of God's power to find and restore her, and of her immediate presence with the Lord after death. She felt that her mission on earth, the salvation of her husband and children, was complete, and she had no reason to be detained her longer. No dreams of "self-realization", no pangs of regret for not having traveled the empire or not having any romances once her husband passed - she wanted to be "with the Lord". The only request she seemed to have was that her children would pray for her. Augustine ends book nine with the hope that those who read his Confessions would join him in praying for his mother (and father).

That's where my question is. Did you pray for Monica? Do you ever pray for those who are presently 'with the Lord'? Years ago I never would have dreamed of praying for anyone who'd died. I would have thought it was on the verge of sin, 'cause "It is given to man to die once, and then the judgement" - so what would be the point of praying for a dead person? That book's done been closed, right? Since then I'm not so sure. I still believe that when we're dead we're dead, there's no purgatory to make amends for past wrongs through indulgences of friends on earth or anything like that. I do, however, think that I have no problem praying for people presently on the earth, that God would remember their good rather than their bad, and have mercy on them and forgive their sins; so I ask myself, why not pray these things for those who are with the Lord? They're still alive, they're not outside of God's action, they've not yet been resurrected or received the full 'reward for the deeds done in the body' that comes at the final judgement, so It can't hurt to let our common Father know how much we've been blessed by their lives and ask God to remember them for good. I've prayed for dead believers before, guys who've blessed me by their writings but whom I've never had the chance of meeting, like John Wesley, Justin Martyr, Richard Baxter, Francis Schaeffer - so why not Monica? I've been very blessed by her son's writings, which are in large part thanks to what the Lord did through her. Why not let our God hear it from me, and ask Him to remember her for good in accordance with her & Augustine's wishes?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

rarely notice that I'm breathing
but I'm breathing anyhow
I rarely notice that you're with me
You're still with me, even now.

The sky is blue behind the grey clouds
I swear it's blue, though I can't see
and while the rain brings down its gray emotions
I swear you're clear as skies inside of me

Monday, November 22, 2010

Judah Ivy
Prof Brian Bantum
Nov. 21, 2010
Christology in Thomas Eakins’ “Crucifixion”
Thomas Eakins’ “Crucifixion” was completed in 1880, when artistic Realism as a movement was at its zenith. Eakins in particular was a man who fully embraced the scientific age, and attempted in all his work to appropriate as much as possible of the science of perspective, mathematics, and anatomy. He lived in a time when science and reason were hailed as the real approach to truth, and faith was looked at as the irrational impulse of a more primitive age. 1880, the year Eakins' “Crucifixion” was completed, was itself a symbolic landmark for positivism. Thomas Edison patented the incandescent light bulb that year and the first town Wabash, Indiana was completely lit up with his new innovation. Eakins contact with the burgeoning scientific movement was not that of a bystander; as a young man he studied to become a surgeon (his hometown of Philadelphia was a hot spot for what was then considered “modern” surgery) before ultimately choosing the life of an artist.
The choice of Eakins to portray Jesus is in itself puzzling. He was (as far as any surviving testimony indicates) not a religious man in any sense of the word. His biographers and friends claim that he was an agnostic. It was the only “religious” piece that he ever painted. The rest of Eakins’ subjects were in line with realism’s standard, depicting scenes of contemporary everyday American life; usually with some person of societal standing such as a scientist, athlete, or doctor as one of the main subjects. Most of his later paintings were of people he was personally acquainted with. This oddity of subject matter isn’t the only thing that makes the “Crucifixion” stand out in his corpus of work; it was also the largest of Eakins’ “narrative” paintings, in it the figure of Jesus is life size.
The shadow-shrouded face of Jesus in the painting suggests to me the artist’s sense of distance from the man Jesus, the fact that though he could parse the physical aspects of Jesus’ historical life, the Man himself was an enigma to Eakins. People are known by their faces, and our personality is largely communicated to the people around us by our facial expressions. We recognize this easily enough in conversation: it is considered impersonal and rude to speak to someone without looking them in the face. We’ve all seen lovers stare into one another’s eyes in an attempt to communicate and enjoy one another’s personhood when words fail. To look someone in the face while making a statement is tantamount to swearing: “look me in the face and tell me that”. In scripture, for God to “turn His face toward you” is a sign of nearness, communication, and blessing. The face is the conduit of personality and the primary contact point of all human relationship. And to Eakins, Jesus’ face is in shadow, because Jesus is to him a mystery.
The difference between knowing particularities and knowing a person is precisely the sort of gap that science itself still, over a century after Eakins’ painting, cannot bridge. Without faith it is impossible to know God, and Eakins is honest enough to represent his own personal darkness concerning the person of Jesus. Eakins as an artist spent his talents in the quest to show things in scientific realism, to unite the disciplines of investigative science and to shine their collective light on his subjects with confidence that the result would be a “true” portrayal. He went as far as having his students take gross anatomy so they could more realistically render the human body (in imitation of his own prior experience with surgery), and used mathematics and the study of optics extensively to obtain the proper angles of shadows and reflections in his painting. He did this in reaction to the more mythological and “academic/classical” schools of realism which used their technical skill to represent the human form in idealized or otherwise unrealistic ways. It is easy to see his toolbox at work in his painting of the Lord’s crucifixion. The hands and fingers are twisted in rigor-mortis like fashion. The tendons in the wrists stand out as if they are actually bearing a substantial amount of the body’s weight. The bone in the hip, the knees, and the ribs, everything in the painting makes it clear that this is really a man’s body. There is no question that Jesus Christ is a man here, with a real body of flesh and blood. It is apparent that the difficult dimension for Eakins to portray is not the humanity of Jesus, but His oneness with the Father.
Then there is the setting. A majority of paintings of the crucifixion include other characters, Mary and John at the base of the cross, other disciples or perhaps patrons of the painting looking on in reverence. In this painting no one looks on but the viewer, and particularly, Eakins. Jesus Christ came to give us real union, through his flesh and blood, to the Father and through the Spirit, to one another. Even in His death, our Lord took the time to speak to his beloved disciple and arrange for the care of his mother. We know from the gospel accounts that there were people present at his crucifixion. But Eakins doesn’t show us this, for Eakins couldn’t see it. Just as the face of Jesus is a riddle to Eakins, so is the family of Jesus.
Another significant element is the titulus, the written notice above Jesus’ head. Crumpled and blurred, one can still make out “IESUS NASARENUS REX IUDAEO…”. This is not just any crucified man. If the subtly rendered crown of thorns doesn’t make it clear, the notice gives us particularity in a name: Jesus, of Nazareth. Further, it gives us the charge: the King of the Jews. He is not divorced from humanity but belongs to a people. Eakins includes this information intentionally as an acknowledgement of the gospel accounts, yet even here it seems to be more of a label than a meditation on the Jewishness of Jesus. It’s listed as a blunt statement of fact. The main focus is always the Man on the cross.
The artist has chosen to portray Jesus as just far away enough so we could not reach out and touch him, yet the painting is framed in such a way that His figure dominates our field of vision. Here might be an emphasis on the immanence of Jesus; however it’s not necessarily the immanence of God, since Eakins doesn’t know Jesus as God incarnate. It’s the immanence of a character that cannot be escaped. It’s not a soothing image, it’s disturbing and uncomfortable. Eakins knew this and still sent it to exhibits of his work even though it consistently got negative reviews. Here is an example of the typical reaction to the “Crucifixion”:
“Thomas Eakins’ ‘Crucifixion’ is a large canvas representing a horrible form of death in a most ghastly and horrible manner, and it may well be doubted whether such a picture serves any good purpose outside of the classroom of an art school. The only emotion inspired is one of horror at so grim and pitiless a representation of torture and death. Whether the work is well done technically or not is hardly worth considering; one does not care to examine it closely enough to find out”. (‘Art at the Exposition, This Year’s Display of Pictures,’ The Chicago Tribune, 6 September 1882)
Considering the overall harshness of the image, there is one feature that stands out by virtue of its minimalization – blood. The token amount of blood at the hands and feet, the apparent absence of blood from the crown of thorns, and the total absence of blood from scourging or the spear-wound in the side seem odd in what otherwise is such a stark portrayal of death by crucifixion. The absence of the spear wound might well be explained by this being a portrayal of Christ at the point of death, before the soldier pierced his side, yet even the choice to portray that segment of time is significant in its avoidance of the Blood of Jesus, since that is the one place in the accounts of the crucifixion where great significance is given to Christ’s bleeding. Why then the neglect of blood in the representation? I would venture to guess that it has to do with Atonement. Jesus’ blood has a central place in our faith, we are told in scripture that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22, ESV). Jesus said of his blood that it was “of the new Covenant” “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. In fact, the blood of Christ is the most mentioned feature of His death in the New Testament, as a sacrificial satisfaction, as the means by which our sins are taken away, and we are bought for God. Understanding this, it is easy to see why Eakins’ portrayal minimizes the blood that would normally result from wounds like Jesus suffered at the crucifixion. Eakins doesn’t depend on Jesus of Nazareth’s blood for atonement; the death itself is the puzzle that confronts our artist. We might expect a quite different representation of Christ’s wounds If Eakins’ scientific means of perception were able to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ death as an atonement for his sins and ours - but they cannot.
What can we learn from Eakins’ “Crucifixion”? For one, we can learn honesty. It’s far too easy, in art and in words, to get lost in good intentions and warm sentiments. There is a strong tendency to merely repeat comfortable descriptions which –however true- are not our own and which we don’t recognize as descriptions of something –or someone- actually there. It’s near impossible to look at Eakins’ painting and talk glibly about the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as if it were a theory rather than a historical event. For us as believers, hopefully we’re shocked into some understanding of the reality of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of God. Hopefully we will be struck with the realization that the atonement isn’t just a theory, it was something accomplished through Jesus’ fully human body hanging on a cross some 2000 years ago in Jerusalem.
Secondly, we can glean a lesson concerning the use and limitations of Science. Eakins’ knowledge of anatomy, mathematics and history reports, but it’s blind to meaning. It can see, but it cannot understand. Science amplifies the clarity of our vision, and this is an extremely useful thing. It tells us that Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross. He really died. However Science cannot go beyond this; it takes the “imago dei” - that capacity for relationship, the spirit’s capacity to hear God’s Spirit, the freedom to commit oneself – to understand that Jesus Christ died for me. This is something that Science is not meant to stand in for.
Thirdly, we can recognize the power of Jesus Christ’s historic act in submitting himself to death. I don’t claim omniscience, but it occurs to me that there was more than academic interest for Eakins in this painting. For a man who was so fully sold on the positivist vision of the perfection of mankind and of human knowledge through Science, such a portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth’s death comes out like a screaming question. What is this man on the cross for? Why Him? If we can be saved by our own creations, then how is it that this Man and His cross will not go away? This is what makes Eakins’ work so powerful for me. For the Agnostic, for the Atheist, for the Believer and for the Apathetically undecided, Eakins’ painting is a testament that none of us can escape the confrontation inherent in the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Opened my email this morning and read an email from a ministry called "Messianic Prophecy Bible Project". They're creating a bible to be used in outreach to Jewish people & to counter "counter-missionary" orthodox Jewish groups. It made me remember my time in Israel talking to orthodox Jews and reading through the OT a couple times. I recall there was a point where I was wondering if Torah observance was really necessary and to what degree, and what the exact relationship of the New Covenant to the old was. I remember talks with gentile believers in Israel that left me disturbed at their take on the New Covenant and the place of the Old, and wondering how different my own was, and if they were right that meant that Jesus really did mean to "start a new religion" that only borrowed a few concepts from Judaism.
I worked through most of those issues with the help of God, some, like the place of Torah observance in the life of a Jewish believer, I don't have completely cleared up yet. I can't imagine how confusing it would all be if I was an observant Jew who heard and wanted to believe the Gospel but was under the barrage of all the counter-missionary arguments.
I then went to Google videos and viewed some of the debates between believers and anti-messianic Rabbis, and the anti-messianic Rabbis in general seemed to have a more solid grasp on scripture than the believers. It was a little disheartening, and I prayed and went to my bible for some encouragement. I flipped straight open to Matthew 22-23, starting out with the portion describing Jesus' encounter with the Sadducees about the resurrection. The first verse I spied was . That struck me and I read on through the part where Jesus in his encounter with the Pharisees told them that the point of the law, the hinge and goal, was Love of God and Neighbor. Then on to the condemnation of them and their entire system, pointing out all their inconsistencies and the way they failed to read and apply the law correctly in accordance with the Great Commandment. He exposes them as the ones who were responsible for the murder of the OT prophets and who would be responsible for the persecution and murder of the NT prophets/scribes and wise men, ending with his loving plea over Jerusalem as the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her.

That was reassuring, to say the least. I can't think of a single scripture that would have been more so right then. So I popped in Switchfoot's "Hello Hurricane" & listened to the title track, drank a half gallon of tea, and went on a run through Discovery Park, where I took the above photo with my cellphone.

On other notes, Brandy is pregnant! we just found out last week. I'm always paranoid whenever she's pregnant that something will go wrong with the pregnancy/baby, so pray for me. That's part of my fear of having more children, I feel like all the ones so far have five fingers and toes, and we should quit while we're ahead. But God has spoken, and the due date is projected for July 22nd of next year. I'll publish the names but you have to promise you won't steal them. If it's a boy (which so far all the unofficial prophecies have pointed towards) we'll name him Elias Orion. If it's a girl, Ethne Evangeline.

We had our second Home Fellowship last night, TJ & Destiny came (of course) as well as Will from School. Sunday the church is going to have a big push to get people in home fellowships after the big Harvest Crusade that just came through town.

I registered for Winter classes the other day, Prayed and then wigged out after the bad-christmas-esque experience of hoping for and getting excited about particular classes which end up being full by the time I get a chance to register. I got stuck (I thought) with some lame classes that have nothing to do with my major, but after talking to my advisor I found out that the classes I really need aren't in the online catalog and all I had to do was fill out a couple of independent study forms (which I did).

"Do not let your hearts be troubled" - we have one instructor, the Christ. Now if only I could get consistent in following His instructions!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

OK, so after a day at TJ's disassembling the car I determined that it wasn't the ball joints, and had to take it in to the shop where they told me it was the wheel bearings. And it was expensive. Thankfully we had enough to scrape together to pay for the fix and we have great family that helped out too.

I'm registering for classes tonight, Latin II, Belief Morality and the Modern Mind, and either Independent readings in Classical Greek, Medieval Philosophy, or History of Post-Reformation Christianity.

Yet more tests tomorrow, seems like we've got one every week.
Thanksgiving's fast approaching! It's my favorite "Get together" holiday. It's got a good premise, low commercialism, and it's to the point: friends, family, food, fun. No mandatory present buying, no mandatory decoration, no covetous insanity pulling at the national heartstrings. Thank God for Thanksgiving. We're planning on going down to my granny's/aunt's place in Centralia to celebrate, they're out in the quasi-boonies, far out enough for woodsmoke to be a common smell. Centralia also had a 3.9 earthquake today.

You know, I'm sure there are all sorts of interesting things to post, but very little's coming to mind right now....let's see.... we've started a home group, so far it's just TJ & Destiny coming, though I've invited some more ppl who've expressed interest. We still don't really have anything in the way of worship. Trying to make my way through Siegbert Becker's "The Foolishness of God" on the relationship of reason to faith in Jesus Christ in Martin Luther's writing.

Oh, yes, there is some massively large news (that at the moment is very small) but I'm not at liberty to divulge it yet.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Headed over to TJ's tomorrow to attempt to replace one of the Minivan's ball joints. The obscure little part went bad about three quarters of the way through California on our way back, and the wheel started making a rhythmic 'pthbbbt, pthbbbt' sound as if it were going flat. I pulled over at a gas station where a few homeless people tried to make conversation with me in an attempt to ask for change, but I wasn't in a charitable mood and was on the ground checking the lug nuts and feeling back behind the wheels to make sure the control arms weren't bent on any of them so they eventually got the hint. Then a military looking guy pulled up towing a Jeep on a trailer in a big manly truck so I asked him if he knew anything about ball-joints. He confirmed my diagnosis and told me we'd be all right driving the van back to Washington on a bad ball joint. I was very relieved as it was about 2am by that point and Brandy couldn't find any of the information for the Triple-A membership she'd bought for the trip.

So now I've gotta try and fix it, Lord willing, it sounds pretty do-able and cheap. I've done it before in another life - with Tim Lemoine back in MN - on another vehicle, but memory's pretty hazy.

Just finished having sabbath with the family, It makes me very thankful that I've been able to continue this family tradition with my family, and that the kids have come to look forward to it every week. We turn out all the lights, light a few candles and the menorah as we sing the shema, and then have communion before (sometimes after) we eat dinner. We then generally sing "See ye first" and I'll read Josiah's picture bible to the kids.

Today, since I thought I'd be going over to TJ's tonight to try and fix the van, Brandy had ran out to the store to shop and I was home alone with the kids, something that doesn't happen very often. So I watched them dance and danced with them to some of the "Putomayo Presents" music on my computer, and noticed that Jaelle has a mean salsa step! I took some pictures and wrestled with them all, and then dug out the little Westminster Shorter Catechism and went over two questions with them, "What is the Chief End of Man? (Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever) and "What is God?" (Answer: "God is a Spirit, Infinite, Eternal, Unchangeable, In His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness, and Truth") Josiah has both of them pretty much down, and Jaelle got close, I was satisfied with Enoch's mumbling attempts to repeat after me. I really like some of the question and answer stuff from that little book, it's edifying for me, and I can't think of a much better definition of "God"

God is a Spirit, Infinite, Eternal, Unchangeable, In His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness, and TRUTH!

The kids just finished cleaning their room with a little help and a few spankings from mommy, and Josiah had me read to them from his picture bible, we got up til the Judges. Now Brandy will be reading Narnia to them - they're on the Last Battle, not sure what we'll read them next, I'm thinking the "Tower of Geburah" series by John White, I remember how much I loved those when I was little.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

what could I miss
in the crust of false bliss
blinking visions
fast flickering
Oh God, true God,
meat and milk,
blood and bone,
the dead and the Raised,
the one on the throne;
what could I miss
that could call for regret
in a world that's all paper
hollow fame, a plastic threat?
Babylon's wine,
precious blood of your saints
I have sipped from her hands
made a whore of myself
How could I
a man of twenty and nine
ten years in your service
lose sight of your mind?
Walk, walk in the light
while you have the true light
before that darkness curls in
with its roundabout sin
then how will you know
which way you should go?
Believe in the Light!
It's thicker than sin
and richer than the opulence
that thrusts its wares
from every screen
Christ touch my eyes
to see it's rotten
turned to dust and blown away
let your hands be strong upon me
peel the leeches off my skin
you are God
then what is money?
what are things?
and what is ease?
the droppings of the clinging bats
on which swarming roaches feed.
get me out of this decaying cave
be the sun, the warmth inside my blood
beat your flaming wings inside me
raise me up above the flood.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can a new birth grow old
if it steps too far from the draught
of the old-growth tree
-from the fountain,
from it's knees?

the skin is tough
the heart's gone sour
an ulcered tomato
in a bitter stew

Bring me back,
give me a Word,
re-cord me to the New.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I feel like I'm being given a raw deal at work,
as if my failings are magnified and others' overlooked
but what can I do?
compare myself to other men?
and expect justice on the earth?
If I have wronged, however small,
let me bare my back for beating
as my earthly masters see fit
and God help me to know
from the blood in my bones
that even this
is not to my credit.

If there is injustice
in unequal measures
of bureaucratic wrath
then let it be
for my True Master
to search out.

Let your blows inside the blows of men
and purge my inmost heart
to serve you in all things
with a clean conscience
and a pure will.

God, I entrust myself to your judgement
and I trust fully in your mercy
if there is vindication
to be had
from the scars and twistings
received from little kings,
then let it be
for you to raise up
and cast down.
Until then,
I'll wait.

Why this urge to justify?
An unrighteous thread in a tapestry of rebellion
what is it in me
that cries out for a verdict
that my fibers are not as soiled
as the surrounding warp and weft?
The only outside eye can see
more clearly than I
and if I call for a premature
appearance of the Judge of all the earth
who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can stand when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner's fire!
But I will call out for cleansing of
what is unclean in me
and let him be to me not a judge of others,
but for me, a launderer's soap.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We have the van back!

Its Babylonian captivity is over. I went to write a review of "Premier Transmission" and found quite a few scathing reviews from the past month or so written by other customers/victims. After having read some of the reviews I became much more certain that our situation wasn't a fluke, and felt a lot better about writing a "never go here" review.

Thankfully, TJ & Destiny (friends from work) have been kind enough to lend us their Toyota 4runner (nice car by the way) for the past two weeks, so we've at least been able to get around.

Still trying to get a home fellowship off the ground. The meeting time for HF 'leader training' is Sundays, (2 in a row) 12-4pm. If I were to go, I'd be going to work Sat. night at 9pm, getting off at 7:30am, going to church, staying til 4pm, and going back to work for another 10hr grave shift at 9pm Sun, and starting classes as soon as I got out of work at 7:30am Monday morning. Sooooooo, I don't think I'll be doing that. Lord willing it'll work out so I don't have to, I spoke to Pastor Jack down here at the Wallingford campus and he sympathized with my situation. If they end up not letting us do the HF for that reason, I figure I'll just start a bible study out of the house and start inviting ppl from school/work/apartment.

Pastor Wayne spoke out of Luke today, where Jesus says "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" and goes on to tell the parable about the rich man who wanted to build bigger barns. I felt convicted about that, as I've been developing a buyer's impulse with my student account. It gives me free two-day shipping, and that's been such an incentive that I've found myself searching Amazon for "needs" that qualify for the aforementioned free shipping.

So, instead of being given to Gospel for Asia or needy acquaintances to 'make friends that will welcome me into eternal dwellings', my filthy lucre's been poured out in sacrifice to the inflamed lust aroused by free shipping. Lord forgive me.

I almost went down to the front for prayer after service, but there was only one guy praying and a man who looked even needier than I was in the process of voicing his requests, so I went out and helped Brandy herd the monkeys instead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just watched "The Fountain" with Brandy, and am struck
1.) With Eve's name "Chavvah" meaning "Life", "Living"
2.) With Oswald Chambers' definition of Love: "We have defined love, in its highest sense, as being the sovereign preference of my person for another person."

He develops this saying:
"The surest sign that God has done a work of grace in my heart is that I love Jesus Christ best, not weakly and faintly, not intellectually, but passionately, personally and devotedly, overwhelming every other love of my life."

Love is the sovereign preference of my person for another person, and we may be astonished to realise that love springs from a voluntary choice. Love for God does not spring naturally out of the human heart; but it is open to us to choose whether we will have the love of God imparted to us by the Holy Spirit. “. . . the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5; see also Luke 11:13). We are emphasising just now the need of voluntary choice. It is of no use to pray, “O Lord, for more love! give me love like Thine; I do want to love Thee better,” if we have not begun at the first place, and that is to choose to receive the Holy Spirit Who will shed abroad the love of God in our hearts.
Beware of the tendency of trying to do what God alone can do, and of blaming God for not doing what we alone can do. We try to save ourselves, but God only can do that; and we try to sanctify ourselves, but God only can do that. After God has done these sovereign works of grace in our hearts, we have to work them out in our lives. “. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
The love of God is the great mainspring, and by our voluntary choice we can have that love shed abroad in our hearts, then unless hindered by disobedience, it will go on to develop into the perfect love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
We have, then, to make the voluntary choice of receiving the Holy Spirit Who will shed abroad in our hearts the love of God, and when we have that wonderful love in our hearts, the sovereign preference for Jesus Christ, our love for others will be relative to this central love. “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

What's up with customer service in this country? I bought a copy of N.T. Wright's "New Testament and the People of God" and it took them three weeks to send me the wrong book. Then there's our van which has been in the shop for a month and a half, the half is because they put a bad transmission in it to begin with, and I had to take it back after it crapped out on me during the drive home. Ever since they've been stringing me along with promises that it'll be ready "In two days, maybe tomorrow" for the last couple of weeks. Their "call center" consists of one guy that treats you like a pest whenever you call in, and it seems like his job description is to keep you from learning anything about the status of your repair and to deter you from ever calling again. When I did pick it up after the initial (faulty) 'repair' I noticed a chip in the windshield that wasn't there before. I asked about it and they suggested that I go to a glass repair place that would fix it for free with most insurance.
The booksellers let me keep the book, and are issuing a refund. I'm more than satisfied with that. I've tried multiple times to get in contact with the manager at the Auto place and have yet to receive a reply.

I keep thinking of proverbs 24:29: Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

But man, "the man" sure has been ripping us off! I think I at least need to leave them some reviews letting other customers know what they did so that they won't be screwed over in the same way. Is it possible to do that out of concern for their potential customers without it being mixed with a desire to hurt their business in retribution for how badly they've treated us?

I guess that's what I'll need to aim for, but it'll take the Holy Spirit & conscious effort.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Conversations in the Car.

Josiah: (as we pass a Burger King) "Oh, Burger King, I love Burger King!"

Me: He loves Burger King hon.

Brandy: Yes, he loved it. (Burger King disappears in the rearview mirror.)

Me: "Josiah, it's better to have loved and lost that to have never loved at all!"

Josiah: "What does that mean?"

Me: "It's a saying, people say it 'cause they believe it's better to love something or someone, even if you end up losing them."

Jaelle: (incredulous) "That's NOT true!"

Josiah: "WHOA! That car could've killed us!"

Jaelle: "Mom, we should go to McDonalds, 'cause there's so many delicious things there."

Enoch: "I'm hungry and thursty, I'm hungry thursty too!"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

T.J.: "You have children, I have animals."

Me: "What about "animals are people too"?"

T.J. "That's debatable."

I think if you've been up for 23 hours you should qualify as a "vulnerable adult", at least until you've had a solid six hours of sleep.

The spiders have had a population explosion this year. I can't walk across campus at night without getting outfitted with a web-beard form all the little spider shanties that've been strewn thickly across every path.

There have always been spiders on campus but this year It's begun to feel more like an invasion, like Starship Troopers or something.

The spiders are thick and juicy, obviously the result of some spider-vitamin a robber-baron chemical factory has dumped into the canal on the north side of campus. They crawl around everywhere like a festering mess of mini-Shelobs from Lord of the Rings, as I hold out my flashlight like the star-glass light to fend them off, or at least to warn me before I walk face-first into another web and am forced to spend the next five minutes brushing myself off in paranoia and peeling the remnants of spider silly-string off my arms and eyebrows. They've only gotten larger as the year's progressed, right now the average one could pose a danger to small dogs and children. If the raccoons around here weren't so low to the ground I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of them sucked dry and left hanging in some grand specimen's web.

But it's finally getting Autumn chilly, and I think that's killing them off.
The brain. Feels like it's frozen, fuzzy-frozen like something left too long in the freezer, so long that it's responded by a winter coat of frost.
Not sleeping, staying up all night walking around in the dark through empty buildings and driving through empty streets. Sometimes my job feels like a post-apocalyptic novel. All I need is the zombies.
Sometimes I think I see one in the theater building but then realize it's only a mirror, one of those full-length ones that the resident thespians use to check their outfits before entering stage left.
That zombie stares dully back at me with his tired brown eyes before using his expandable baton to poke at the enormous spiders infesting the corner of the stairwell.

The moon is spectacular tonight. Or, this morning. It's 5:54 and the moon just rose an hour or so ago. It's a waning crescent that has the subdued light to the rest of it, just enough so you can still see that it's a round thing, not just a hanging scythe. It looks like a black-brown velvet against the blue-black sky.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Tis the season when the blogs lose posts like trees gone autumn streaking, when the cold demands of academia force expression back into hiding.

But I'm gonna try to go for evergreen.

After approaching a friend with an old grievance, which no matter how hard I'd tried I couldn't just remit as a better man might, we got reconciliation. Insert something about Olive oil dribbling on a Hight Priest's facial hair here. I've felt so freed, the skies have opened up, and thoughts for the future have been making their way up through the crust like crocuses.

Emailed our pastor re. Pastoring, planting a church, being sent, and was told to serve or go to CCBC. CCBC I believe would be super-duperfluous, but we're already in the works for hosting a HF.

Along those lines, began reading a book "Love Acceptance and Forgiveness". VERY good book thus far, but I first tried to read it in the tired times after getting off grave shift and after the subsequent church service. I'd been up for 24 hours and the opening story about a pastor who had an affair and was then welcomed back into fellowship and "restored to ministry" proved too much for me and I threw it over to the nightstand and rolled over into sleep.
The rest of the book thus far is all clean water, fast flowing. But the first part really got my noggin & soul in a twist.

I need to figure out for myself for sure what God says about remarriage after divorce. I've for a long time believed from my reading of scripture that there's nothing but celibacy, lifelong celibacy for anyone divorced. But since I've yet to meet anyone in the nowadays church who agrees with me, I suppose I need to go over it again. Considering the condition of christianity in America, if I do eventually become a pastor that particular issue will likely be a common one, and I'll need to have some sort of solid answer.

Taking Latin, Ancient Civ, and Christian Theology this quarter. As of now I tend to agree in general with the author of "Love Acceptance & Forgiveness" that ppl who've grown up in the church should go to secular colleges, in part 'cause these theology classes don't really teach me much. We're reading through Augustine's "Confessions" (which I've read twice already on my own). Not that I don't like the Confessions, it's actually a very edifying and well-written book, but it seems silly to take a class to read it again. (Okay, that's not the only book we're reading but I'm just saying.)
Yet I go to a Christian College. But I think I have a specific mission here, and it's not just to enjoy the nice "christian" environment, so I think my presence here is legit.
Plus, the guy who wrote "Love Acceptance and Forgiveness" graduated from Seattle Pacific University too, so I think I'm OK.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Rabbi talks about Avatar.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Was reading psalms today, & in more than one of the psalms I read through there was a call to "praise the Lord for his works" or to "remember what the Lord has done for us".

So, I thought, I can remember that once upon a time the Lord did things for Israel, & leave it at that, or I could remind myself of all the answers to prayer and God's interventions in our lives.
So I found an empty journal and began thinking about the first entry. So far I've put down my answered childhood prayer to grow an inch or two over 6 foot, so that when I'm old I don't shrink too much below 6' even. I figure we'll write down all the major ones we can remember in rough chronological order up to the present, and record more as they happen. Then we can make a point of reading it on a specific day, like Passover or something.

I think Brandy & I have talked about doing this before, because when I mentioned it she smiled & said we'd talked about doing it before. I'm pretty sure that's true, there's always the hefty pile of forgotten resolutions, but then again, there are some traditions we've kept, like Wednesday's family sabbath/communion.

That Bwessed Awwangement

From a letter by Tertullian, an Early Church Father, to his wife, ca. 202 AD (written in Brandy' birthday card)

"...How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.

They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.

They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.

Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another.

Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not."

And then Bonhoeffer:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's an insult to the Lord Jesus Christ to be afraid of the demonic.
Jesus' foot even now presses down on satan's neck,
however he might twist and squirm,
our deliverance is sure and complete
all that satan had in us was purged on the cross
so we can now say with our Lord
"he has nothing in me".
If we are to believe the report we have received,
the one brought by the magi of the age,
then we must concede that as well as our loss of God
(by which I mean the opening of our eyes to see He was all along
merely a story of our own making) we have suffered the loss of ourselves.
We have awoken to find that we are not-in terms that would have been acceptable
to thinkers of the past-real, but only an accidental eddy of particle physics,
with said physics being merely the flickering of a holograph without a projector.

This vision itself is the projection of the collective minds of the seers
whose guild has risen to prominence in the past few centuries.
Based on the circumcision of all testimony from the past,
allowing only the bare hands of the present to chip away
at the stone of understanding with the chisel of falsification
and the razor of Ockham.

But then, there are the words of Jesus Christ,
before whom the judges of the earth are exposed as chaff,
as the archon beholds the accused, and will not, cannot see the answer
to the question "what is.......truth..."
When He who came fulfills his purpose as he is raised up
as all those on the side of truth gather round in answer
to His call, a call which made of such power
in word and deed
that those who recognize it
crash through the peer-reviewed walls constructed
by the clerics of the present covenant
to respond
and join the Man
on the cross,
and in Him
become real.

Monday, September 13, 2010

String theory.

Is it possible that beautiful creations could be the manifestation of strings?


Brandy knits. And in this knitting, following a plan and pattern, a plan that was brought into being from non-being by desire, by a will (which in the language of the bible are the same thing) a string is knotted in on itself, pulled, pushed, wrapped, until a picture that exists only in the mind of the Maker takes shape in the material world.

A long, thin, uniform thing becomes by artistry a three-dimensional object, a curved and purposed thing, a rug for feet, a hat to cover a head, a pair of pants for an infant, or a scarf to shelter a human neck from the elements. And all from a string, the base element which when bent to the will of a thinker, becomes a solid, useful, and beautiful thing, which before the act, did not exist.

String theory - by Brandy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's Brandy's Birthday!

The van's broken down, so all I could do was order her something off Amazon, and make her a card.
Then, after the shop tows the car this morning, we'll be off to the Value Village for a thriftshop extravaganza. Nothing says Ivy family birthday like a trip to the thriftstore!

And Brandy doesn't look a day older than 26.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take heart
the world's been overcome
Yggdrasil's held the holy one
cold iron fixed the maker's son
twixt earth and heaven,
bloody, hung.
the winds of evil
tore and rang
his path held fast
his silence sang
hot blood struck dirt
up new worlds sprung
while the hanging one
with mighty hands
from the cursed earth
the sin has wrung.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading an article or two about the extermination of Christians in Japan in the 1600s. Sad stuff, especially since there has never been any significant number of christians in Japan since that time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dropped sudden in these seething earths
bubbles dimmed in twists of foam
side to side or single sway
drink water from the passing waves
til the skin is torn
the air escapes
and look,
new bubbles
swell to fill the gape
the churning of
a living grave.

Monday, August 16, 2010

You who answer desperate prayers, to you all flesh will come!
Even those desperate enough to play bible roulette,
and find that in order to "watch ourselves"
we must rebuke our brother who sins
and wait for a chance to forgive
on the grounds of repentance
and if not to that end
than at least, hopefully,
it was all a mistake.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God"
Is what kept running through my mind
as I was running with someone faster than me
through Discovery Park
and trying to maintain a conversation of sorts
about Jesus.
It's easy to be a good listener
when you're out of breath.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shot across infinite spaces
mouth open
not to speak
words have left
and the cords between life and limb
have grown threadbare.
mouth open
an escape hatch of the soul
the roar of dimensions
at the doorway that's distance
cannot be measured in seconds
or metric length
through and outside
to where the winds rage cold
in the absence of skin,
who wouldn't want
to be clothed.

"...neither death"
-without skin
does not mean
without God.

And in a moment
that shaper's voice
who's tight embrace has held you waiting
shall call you out
into light, love,
and the clothing
of indestructable Life

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Took Josiah out running today.
He's been at me every time I go running with friends to come with us, and I've tried over and over again to explain to him that he's just not going to be able to keep up and that it would result in no exercise for me and no fun for him. But he has persisted til I decided to take him out on a run to show him what I mean.

So we went on a run down to Discovery Park, which is about a quarter mile from our house. I kept a slow pace so we would stay together, just enough so he would be running at a speed proportionate to my normal running speed. I expected him to putter out after the first couple blocks, but he didn't.
Then I expected him to ask if we could stop when we hit the big hill that leads up into the park, and he didn't. He made it all the way up into the park, and around one of the wooded trails without stopping once.
When we'd been gone for about 20 minutes, I asked if he was ready to head back, he said once more around the trail, so around we went. Then he said he was ready to go back home. About an eighth of a mile from the house he got a couple cramps but ran through them, and sprinted with me up the hill and into the house.

I was very impressed, & told him so. He looked up at me with his tomato-red face and beamed a big smile, and said he was impressed too.

He's still not running with me when I'm going for exercise, but I'm definitely going to keep taking him out after this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just finished Jung's "Psychology and Religion".

On the whole, it was an enjoyable book to read. I believe that it was based on lectures...yup, just looked inside the cover, it was based on the "Terry Lectures" given at Yale in 1937. This gives the book a nice conversational feel, even when Jung lapses into obscure vocabulary. The lectures are delivered in three sections, "The Autonomy of the Unconscious Mind", "Dogma and Natural Symbols" and "The History and Psychology of a Natural Symbol"

I can definitely see the usefulness of a book club or some sort of corporate reading when it comes to books with substance, because it's easy to zip through them without getting the framework down of what the author's saying, and just coming away with a feeling or impression from the book. My first impressions without going back through it were that he had some insightful things to say about religion in general, that he's a mystic philosopher at heart (he reads like a Tozer without Christ), and that even though his scope and view is much broader and far-reaching than the materialist psychologists of today, he still seems very much in love with his method, to the point of "leading the witness" in the last section, (which I'll try to explain when I get to it), and he's very good at adapting his language to whatever point of view he's discussing to the point of sounding like an insider, even if he doesn't ultimately accept that point of view.

Having gone back over the book, and looked at my margin notes, I'll cover each section.

"Autonomy of the Unconscious Mind"

He opens by maintaining that he's not a philosopher but rather an empiricist, concerned with observable phenomena, in this case, psychological events. As an example, he gives the virgin birth and says
"...psychology is only concerned with the fact that there is such an
idea, but it is not concerned with the question whether such an idea is true or
false in any other sense. It is psychologically true in as much as it exists.
Psychological experience is subjective in so far as an idea occurs in obnly one
individual. But it is objective in so far as it is established by a society - by
a consensus gentium."
(that's Latin for "Agreement of the peoples", I had to look that one up.)
"Psychology deals with ideas and other mental contents as Zoology deals with

So we know where he's coming from.

He explains what he means by religion next, with a quote from another German guy named Rudolph Otto (who I think C.S. Lewis also references).
"religion is the careful and scrupulous observation of...the 'numinosum' that is, a dynamic existence or effect , not caused by an
arbitrary act or will."
- this, Jung says, is caused by either the influence of an invisible presence (say, Job 4:15), or a quality in something that is seen (say, seeing someone walk on water or raise the dead with a word); either of which changes your consciousness. (examples provided by me, not Jung)
In short, religion is the careful consideration of that thing that gives you the willies independent of your will. He actually refines and redefines his definition, ending up calling religion the attitude of someone who's had his consciousness changes by said willies. (he actually uses the term "numinous" again, which I recall C.S. Lewis as describing as the kind of fear/feeling one would get from being told there was a ghost in the next room, as opposed to the kind of feeling/fear of being told there's a tiger in the next room, so I don't think my use of "willies" is too far off).
Jung does give the benefit of the doubt to the religious, and seems with his definitions to agree that religion isn't just something people make up, it's based on something outside of us that works on us.
He then distinguishes religion from "creeds", Creeds being
"...codified and dogmatized forms of original religious experience"
Again, fair enough. I haven't seen Jesus raise the dead in person, or rise from the dead, yet having heard, I believe. Yet I would say that a "creed" should point you towards your own experience of the "numinosum" by directing you to seek out God in a specific way ("And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.")

Interestingly enough, Jung says
"...even Protestantism is bound at least to be Christian and to express itself within the frame of the conviction that God has revealed himself in Christ, who suffered for mankind. This is a definite frame, with definite contents, that cannot be coupled with or amplified by Buddhistic or Islamic ideas and emotions."
Someone should tell that to Brian McLaren.
He then goes on to talk about Psychology's concern with religious ideas, especially when it comes to "neuroses". He makes a really insighful and telling comment in this section criticizing the mindset that has become the medication culture of psychiatry today:
"Our usual materialistic conception of the psyche is, I am afraid, not
particularly helpful in neurotic cases...medicine therefore feels a strong
dislike toward anything of a psychical nature-either the body is ill or there is
nothing the matter. And if you cannot prove that the body is really diseased,
that is because our present means do not enable the physician to find the true
nature of the undoubtably organic trouble"
OK. If I listed all the great quotes in the first section, this blog would quickly become a book in its own right, so I'll refrain. Except for these two:
(regarding the mindset that would tell a patient that he/she is the origin of their own neurosis)
"Such a suggestion would instantly paralyze his fighting spirit, and he would
get demoralized. It is much better if he understands that his complex is an
autonomous power directed against his conscious personality."
(He basically describes most complexes as if they're possession)
Regarding the brain/mind/soul question:
"But what is the psyche after all? A materialistic prejudice explains it as a
merely epiphenomenal by-product of organic processes in the brain...The
undeniable connection between psyche and brain gives this point of view a
certain strength, but not enough to make it an unshakeable truth...if there are
disorders of an endocrine nature it is impossible to say whether they are not
effects rather than causes."
To which I say "Amen!"
Okay, from there he goes on to say that dreams are the sort of shore of the unconscious, where the numinous and unconscious whatever-it-is can talk to us.
"Dogma and Natural Symbols"
In this section he starts giving examples from one case of his, which becomes increasingly suspect (to me) as he goes on into the next section. He talks a lot about different symbols in dreams, especially the significance of the number 4, and the square and circle and reveals his own "religious" sentiments through a few telling statements.
"What one could almost call a systematic blindness is simply the effect of the
prejudice that the deity is outside man. Although this prejudice is not solely
Christian, there are certain religions which do not share it at all. On the
contrary they insist, as do certain Christian mystics, upon the essential
identity of God and man, either in the form of an a priori identity, or of a
goal to be attained by certain practices or initiations..."
(in which he mentions yoga as one). So basically, Jung's running up the gnostic flag.
Amidst his loooong chatter linking all sorts of obscure references to a myriad of alchemical/pythagorean symbologies & symbols (so you know what I'm talking about, I'll give you a sample:
"... This image of the Deity, dormant and concealed in matter, was what the alchemists called the original chaos, or the earth of paradise, or the round fish in the sea, or merely the rotundum or the eggt. That round thing was in possession of the key which unlocked the closed doors of matter."
- at this point, I tend to think Jung's listened to one too many dreams) as I was saying, amidst all that, he makes a really interesting observation of a symbol very pertinent for anyone who likes the movie "The Fifth Element":
"As it is said in Timaeus, only the demiurge, the perfect being, was capable of
dissolving the tetraktys, the embrace of the four elements, that is, the four
constituents of the round world."
From which he goes on about squaring the circle and such like. Okay, I'll move on to the 3rd section in brief.
The History and Psychology of a Natural Symbol
In which he continues with more of the same observations about series of four, the colors blue and brown, the use of mary as the fourth psychological person of the trinity, etc, etc... All this stems from a his case-in-point, where he says he had an well-educated relapsed catholic man 'o the world write down -get this- a series of over four hundred dreams! This, he says, was done to get the context of the guy's subconscious, and the dreams he details are full of blue floating clocks withing clocks that have divisions divisible by four, and series of four pyramids of candles and much, much more. Not to say that it couldn't happen, but it seems that this guy's dreams were remarkably fecund with the sort of symbolic whatnot that Jung was looking for.
He finishes with the observation that though the religious experience along the line of "I know Jesus lives, because he lives in my heart" is very valuable in that it gives you faith and peace,
"Is there, as a matter of fact, any better truth about ultimate things than the
one that helps you to live?"
He then says that such reasons are not very convincing for the critical mind of modern people, and only work for the person with the experience, which is why he catalogs symbols produced by the unconscious mind, to document their "simply overwhelming"-ness in order to convince the critical mind of its (the thing that causes religious experiences') existence, for the practical purpose that "The thing that cures a neurosis must be as convincing as the neurosis". He ends on a feel-good note, which would be ultimately unsatisfactory, except that he warned me from the get-go that he's not interested in whether any statements of faith are true in any sense but psychologically.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Four Quartets #2

the final section, "Little Gidding,” was apparently named after a 17th-century Anglican monastery renowned for its devotion. Eliot uses it as a connecting place between the worlds, the timeless and that in time, the spiritual and temporal: a place to meet God:

"If you came this way...
...You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying."

Then he goes on to talk about death again, the death of our body, the death of toil, the death of our works & monuments. He follows this with a narrative section where he meets someone (possibly Dante?) in a setting a lot like the purgatory of C.S. Lewis' "Great Divorce". The man talks to him about the ephemerality of their life's work, and the need for purification of their motives, which have been revealed as ill done and to others' harm, even if considered in earthly life as virtues. He says that this cycle will proceed unless "Restored by that refining fire"

I would say that the two main motifs of "Little Gidding" are fire and roses, & I'll focus on them.

The meaning of the Rose I believe to be the bloom of created life, es. natural, bodily life. In vs. 55 he says

"Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave"

He makes it more plain what kind of dust he was talking about in line 58:

"Dust inbreathed was a house"

Another place where I believe he's referring to human life as the "rose" is in vss. 180-184

"Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose."

The image of Flame he uses as the holy spirit ("Pentecostal Fire", that stirs the dumb spirit) And of the purification or Judgement from God in section IV:

"The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire."

Or in other words, it's through the "Consuming Fire" having his way with us through an appropriation of Jesus Christ's death (the gospel, which the tongues declare, that one discharge from sin and error) that we are redeemed from the fires of judgment.

With these two images, roses and flame, he points towards the end and the purposes of God in the chaos and seeming meaninlessness of life and death, using several times the words of Julian of Norwich "And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well", especially in the last line, which is to my mind the best:

"And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."

Which I take to be his vision of the second coming of Christ, the gathering of the Saints into Christ, the Head, and the resurrection and "renewal of all things" when the rose (The equinox of bodily life) and the fire (the Holy Spirit of God) are one-a parallel might be when Paul Speaks of the resurrection: "...while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." under the kingship of Jesus Christ, and in Him, under God. Read Ephesians 1 and Hebrews 2 and Romans 8 and you'll see what I mean.

"making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." -Paul to the Ephesians.

The use of fire and roses really reminded me of George Macdonald's "Princess & The Goblin/Curdie" books, where the "Grandmother" (God) has a fire of roses that she uses to heal (though it hurts), and in which Lena, a character who had once been human and was turned into a beast, passes through in a metaphor of resurrection. In the end of the story the grandmother ultimately makes a great fire of roses for Lena to run into and so (it's implied) to be refined and resurrected as a human.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Not in ignorance, no, though all are thy vessels
I warm to thy will and recognize
the press of thy print upon my small part of action
and in this love, moved by love,
lies the difference.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Was in the Ballard neighborhood today, mainly to ship off some books that I sold on, but I also strolled through the artsy district and stopped off in a coffeeshop. There I finished "Four Quartets" and got through the first chapter of Jung's "The Psychology of Religion", as well as the third chapter of 1 John. More on those later, but for now, here's some snazzy pics of the Ballard Bell, a standalone bell tower in the middle of Old Ballard that I strolled by. Shots courtesy of my cellphone.
To Luke:
Neat! I had no idea you'd had a copy of P.D. - I'd be very interested to know what you get out of it; It definitely got me running down all sorts of new thought-trails. As far as its effect on my poetry, I think the main practical point he made which altered my judgment would be his distinction between "Poetic Diction" and "Verse". Persevere! I tried to read "Goodreads" and Amazon reviews for it and about half the ones I came across were people saying they didn't make it all the way through. He waits til the end to make his main point.

Monday, July 05, 2010

that augur's function fulfilled in poet's scrawl
has leapt to the lips of bards on charts
pages have since blown away
since the flower children won the day,
the skalds have risen up to play.

Who examines now poets' printed thoughts
now, when set to tune
in digital seas
pop prophets
sing to please?

Sung tongues like rudders
set the course
and curdle culture
while the critics man the com.

feathers. fire. towards the sun
no icarus fall,
we're invited one
and all.

Phoenix. 500 years
a death in flames
sans fear

Ashes, ashes. We all fall down
from the ashes, rising
with morning crowned.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


There are fireworks pounding off outside. I'm a scrooge when it comes to these things though.


I'm also at work. I must admit it's impressive feeling the shockwaves through the walls though. My coworker just left for Ashton, the dorm on the hill, for a better view. Such is the weakness of man.

The book I'm currently reading is "Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot. It's poetry. Dense poetry. I've attempted to read it about three times before, and the last time I made it all the way through; but came out on the other end none the wiser. This time, I'm getting a little more out of it. A little.

I wouldn't normally bother, but T.S. Eliot is just about the most highly recommended poet of the last century, and I've heard "Four Quartets" is a christian work of sorts.

It's divided into four sections ('quartets'): Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding.

Burnt Norton still eludes me. East Coker I belueve to be about the vanity of things under the sun and about the lives that pass into and out of it. It begins:
"In my beginning is my end..." - and goes on to paint an evening pagan flavor (fertility, dancing, death) on the way all living things are made of the previously dead "Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,//old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth//Which is already flesh, fur and faeces...". It made me think of the part in 1 Cor. where Paul says, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." - in our beginning, is our end. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, and Spirit gives birth to Spirit." Insofar as our beginning is dirt, that's where we'll end up. Insofar as we're "Born from above", we'll end up in the image of the Man from Heaven.

East Coker develops until he begins talking about the nature of death, and how it's only at death that we're freed from the 'distempered part': Our only health is the be restored, our sickness must grow worse"
it ends:

"Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning."

So, he ends with the reversal of the first line, but this time with a different meaning - that in death we've finally begun. I could take this as "If anyone loses his life for my sake and the gospels he will find it" or "To be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord." I'm pretty sure Eliot means something like the latter, especially with all his talk of mortality and dying.

In between the beginning and the end were some choice verses, my favorites below:

"That was a way of putting it - not very satifactory:
a periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter
It was not (to start again) what one had expected."

(reminds me of Francis Schaeffer's critique of the state of things, where people aren't sure they're really communicating, and listen to "the poet" simply in a vague
mystical hope that some meaning will break through. Francis would say that the Christian doesn't-or shouldn't-have that problem, since we know that God made language, and that we can truly-though not exhaustively-know our fellow men, since they are what we are: men made in the image of God, and communicators, as God is a communicator.)

"At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been"

Which I take to be a critique of the statistical way we look at everything, using the past's statistics to decide what we'll expect from the future, which leaves us open to the surprise (or shock) of the new.

"Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless"

(Stock Socrates stuff, but sound.)

"In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not."

(In other words: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.")

"So here I am...having had twenty years-
...Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Becuase one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it..."

(More of the difficulty of communication. It helps if you only have one thing to say :-))

So, that's where I'm at so far.

Poetic Diction

Owen Barfield, friend of C.S. Lewis & Anthroposophist, proposes that poetic diction is about gain of consciousness. He believes early languages carried more meaning-per-word than current ones, since people hadn't yet made as many distinctions. (I'll give an example: the words for "hat, hood, and hut all come from the same old word meaning a shelter/covering, and later they were separated to mean more specific things.) and that as language progresses with human development, words become more specialized. In the process, they also lose meaning, and the men who use them lose the awareness of connections that have been lost in the splitting of words. the poet's task is to produce this felt change by uniting words that have a connected meaning to reawaken the consciousness of these unities. Barfield claims that "Language is fossil poetry" (meaning, all the words we use now are poetic and/or metaphors, e.g. "purchase" now means to buy, but comes from old english "to pursue, seek")
Therefore, poetry is a constant process of reminding mankind of meanings that have been lost.

The process never ends, but humanity has reached a point where the rational mind is much more dominant now. Words have lost their intrinsic native poetry, but sice we're more conscious, with poetry we can reclaim our lost perceptions of reality in a more conscious way now.

He also says that poetic diction isn't the same thing as "verse" (rhyming, meter, stanzas) but can be used in what we call "prose" as well. It's any use of language that produces that "felt change of consciousness".

I liked it, It's taken me quite a while to get through the whole thing, and it's the kind of book you know you'll have to read a couple more times to really "get" it.

He's not a reductionist, and believes that words really mean something, and that there are realities out there that we're trying to capture and communicate when we speak. Meaning, his "gain of consciousness" is a real gain, we're understanding more about the real world. He also went into "meaning" at the end where he challenged the "subject object" (subject=the conscious observer, object=the thing observed) way of looking at things, saying that it's not "subjective" to make a connection between a concept and a perceived object-as most modern people would say-since it's thought, not the subject, that makes the connection. In fact, we only recognize ourselves as 'subjects' by the 'grace of thought'.

Basically, that we percieve ourselves as distinct people because of "thought". He almost makes it sound like we "participate" in thought, rather than producing it autonomously. I wondered about the implications of that take on first it sounded heretical, but then I thought about how in John 1 it says that "The true life that gives light to all men was coming into the world". If Jesus gives and gave light to "all men" and light is usually used in scripture to mean "perception", then that would basically mean what Barfield says it means, that Jesus is the one upholding our thought process moment by moment - "In Him we live and move and have our being". I vaguely remembered Job says something about thought and wisdom, and found the spot where Elihu says "It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, tha makes him understand".


I guess, if I believe that Jesus holds all material things together moment by moment (In him all things hold together-Colossians) It's not too much of a stretch to say that He does the same thing with thought.

Anyhow, Barfield's main deal is that poetry is a means of acquiring real consciousness & meaning.

Of course, we'd have to go back to Galatea 2.2 and say that sure, this may be so, but all the poetry and gain in consciousness in the world isn't going to keep us from dying or "doing ourselves in with tire irons". Like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: "Then I saw that there was more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than darkness. The wise has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet, I perceived that the same event [death] happens to all of them."

The fool "walks in darkness", Solomon says. Now, we know that, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Like Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light...of life." the light that comes from Jesus, as we follow him, is the remedy that Solomon sought. The light of human wisdom frustrated Solomon because it left the wise man dead in the end, just as dead as any fool. But the Light of God, in Jesus, is the light (understanding/wisdom) of life. Not the kind that leaves you cold in the end, but the kind that initiates you into the life without end.