Silence and stillness and stuff

When I read this verse “He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic…'” (Luke 9:3) I think I’m doing retreats entirely wrong. I take a lot of “stuff” so I won’t get bored. Perhaps it isn’t the silence that is the issue – but the fear of really being alone with God. Making art, writing, reading books – all of that can be noise. Maybe “silence” for me is more about “stillness”.

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The rock garden at St. Meinrad used to be my favorite place. Now it is full of “stuff”

I feel that the garden needs some editing. Like the “stuff” needs to be rotated out, like an art display. How much is “whimsy” and how much is “crazy”?

Yes – you need to slow down and really look here. That is part of the point. To get you to see things that are small or hidden.

You will never see this rock unless you crouch down.  It is at most five inches high.

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How are you to hear God’s voice amidst a lot of noise?  Noise isn’t just sound – it can also be visual clutter, or too many things to do.

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God didn’t start speaking to Moses from the bush until Moses stopped – turned around – and came back to look at it. He almost walked by. He almost didn’t get the order to lead Israel out of slavery.  What are we missing being freed from – and leading others out of their slavery (to false gods, to addiction, to worry) by failing to take the time to really notice God’s messages to us?

This was in another courtyard, but I have seen the same thing in the rock garden.

This is a daylily –

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While this is a seed pod – brown and decaying.

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There is a lot of this decay in the garden.  And yet – this is beautiful.  I’d never see this shape if it had been taken away in a need to keep everything tidy.  Sometimes “clutter” is helpful.

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Tuesday at the cemetery

11/14/17 Tuesday morning before work.  9:45 to 10:40 am.  50 degrees, sunny.  Calvary Cemetery.  More leaves on the ground than on the trees.

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Pictures taken on site –

The mausoleum is at the center of the first picture and sketch.  I walked to it and sketched it as well.  Basic colors and shapes done on site, more color added at home from the reference pictures.

Sketch from the grave of Oliver A. Bland

Calvary Cemetery, 12:45 pm, 58 degrees, sunny, Friday 11/17/17.



Original sketch on site.  The quote is from a different grave  – a classic message to the visitor.

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More color added, water added.  This is a scan, so the colors are brighter than they really are.

Oliver Bland
Sketch was done while sitting on the edge of the ledger of Oliver A. Bland – 1854 + 1940.  All that space on the marker and there is just his name and birth/death years. There is room for plenty more information.  But, to be honest, in 50 years it will have worn away or gotten covered in lichen.


More views from that area.

 

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Info from Find A Grave website –

“Oliver Arthur Bland was born on October 18, 1854 in Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of Joseph Bland (ca 1832- ) and his wife Henrietta (Hughes) Bland (ca 1837- ).

He was married 1st on September 21, 1879 in Sumner County to Minerva L Hutchins (c Sep 1862- ). He was married 2nd to the much younger Sydney Crawford, who was born about 1905. Oliver had no known children.

A retired banker and lumberman living at 1903 Cedar Lane, Nashville, he was 86 years old and married when he died at home of cancer of the tongue on October 27, 1940. Burial was the next day in Calvary Cemetery, Nashville.

Most of the above is from his Death Certificate, with Sydney Crawford Bland of 1903 Cedar Lane as the informant.”

To celebrate Halloween or not?

Several years ago I had to make a choice between following God and celebrating Halloween. I had an opportunity to go to Cursillo, but it was the same weekend as the annual Halloween party.  I chose Cursillo, and it made a huge difference in my life.  While I have been to subsequent parties, I really am wondering about it this year.

I am part of a social group that really likes Halloween. And when I say really like it, I mean that they decorate their homes for Halloween every day of the year. They eat sleep and breathe Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong – I like October and the crisp fall air the same as anyone else. I love free candy and I love the idea of costumes. But every year I have to start thinking to myself is this really the best way to show that I am a Christ follower?

Some of the people in the group are starting to discover the darker side of their hobby. They’re constantly getting sick and having to go to the emergency room. The husband is constantly being attacked by wasps. He could lose his life because of these little tiny things because he is so allergic. I think the same thing is true of his love for Halloween. Something that he sees as small and innocuous is leading towards death. The wife is now having nightmares and believes there is a poltergeist in their home.

The devil can’t bite you if you’re not playing with his tail.

The Bible tells us that every day we have a choice between life and death. We are asked to choose life, but it is a choice.

In the Hebrew scriptures God tells Israel repeatedly to make themselves holy because he is holy. They must purge the iniquity for among them. They must separate themselves out in order to remain a distinct and distinguished people. They are not to take up the habits or worship the idols or follow the traditions of the communities that they stay in. Then Jesus comes along and associates with the outcasts. Jesus does not advocate that we spend our lives separate from everyone else.  Jesus identifies with those who are lost or broken, those who are unable to connect. Jesus touches lepers and heals them. He heals people by including them.

So as Christians can we go to Halloween parties or not? Will it be an opportunity to minister to people who are lost?  Or will we “catch” their sickness?

The apostle Paul says that there is no harm to us in eating food sacrificed to idols.  But he does point out that it might cause harm to new believers.  They might get the wrong impression from our actions.

The party this year was called “Doc Satan’s Halloween Hoedown”.  That alone made me think twice.  Is that something I should associate myself with? Jesus can return at any time.  I like to think of this as a very serious version of “Musical Chairs”.  When the music stops – what are you doing?

I have gone to their Halloween parties in the past, and I thought of that group as my friends, but then I realized that they don’t invite me to their dinner parties on their trips.  They never comment or even “like” my Facebook posts.

I kind of feel like I’m getting sober, and seeing who my friends really are. I’m also feeling like it is time to stand up for what I believe in.

I thought about the bare minimum idea of how to celebrate Halloween – that giving candy out is symbolic of appeasing the evil spirits. And yet, to even do that is to say they have power, when the only Power that exists is God.

I appreciate Dia de los Muertos and All Saint’s day. I like what they stand for – of remembering loved ones who have died.  These celebrations are about remembering a life, rather than celebrating death.  They are more like a family reunion.

I decided not to go to the party, and when I saw the pictures of the male host dressed as Baphomet, I knew I had made the right decision.  It isn’t a fun little costume party when you dress up as a demon.

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This decoration was at the party.  Is this healthy to associate with?

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This Scripture is important – “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When you know better, do better.

On Jews and Jesus

There are several reasons that Jews do not claim Jesus as the Messiah.

One reason is that Jews say it is sacrilegious for a person to claim to be God.  It is a violation of the first three Commandments for God to be depicted, so a person could not be God.

Exodus 20:1-6

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.

However, Jesus never said he was God.  He said he was the Son of God – and also said that we all are if we do God’s will.  More often, he referred to himself as the Son of Man.

Now, Christianity says that Jesus is God, but Jesus himself never said this.  Jesus prayed to God all the time. This would be pointless if he was God.  However, he is united with God. The next point will illustrate this.

Another issue is that Jews deny the Trinity of God.

Let’s look at some points in Genesis that prove that God is more than we think.

Genesis 1:26

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

Who is God talking to when God says “in Our image”?

And here, God appears as three men in Genesis 18:1-2

“Then the Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. 2 He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed to the ground.”

Even the name “Elohim”, a word commonly used in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to God, is a plural word.

Essential to the belief of every Jew is the idea that God is one – and this is true.  At least twice a day observant Jews say the Shema, which proclaims that God is one.  However – the word “one” that is used in the Shema is “echad” – which is a composite unity.  An indivisible unity is “achid”.   “Echad” would be used to describe a bunch of grapes.  It is one thing, made up of different parts.  “Echad” would be used to describe how all of Israel was united around Mount Sinai when they received the Torah.

Yes, God is One, but that One is composed of many parts.  Essentially, God is everything, as everything came from God.

Another example of this is in Genesis 2:24

24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

“Echad” is used in the original in this verse, to mean “one”.  They are two people, but they are united.

Jews say that Jesus violated the commandments by working on the Sabbath and saying that people could eat food that wasn’t kosher. The Messiah would never break the commandments, so Jesus can’t be the Messiah. But God said through the prophet Jeremiah that a new covenant was to come.  The old ways weren’t going to stay that way forever.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

More importantly, the original message of the commandments had gotten watered down.  There is nothing in the Ten Commandments about keeping kosher, or any of the other 600-plus “commandments” that Orthodox Jews honor.  These extra “commandments” came from interpretations of the Torah by rabbis – and not from God.

Jesus wanted people to focus on what was important – loving God, and treating everyone with kindness.  Everything else was extra – and it was following people, not God.  That way leads to trouble.  Jesus wants to redirect our attention to what matters.

Jews say that one of the hallmarks of the Messiah is that he would be king. 

Look at John 6:14-15 which took place after Jesus fed 5,000 people:

14 When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

Why did he refuse to be King?  Because only the immortal God is their King – not a fallible human.

Jesus knew what was in their hearts, and wanted them to search for the right things.  He wanted them to put their faith in God. He wanted them to redirect their love to God, instead of putting their trust in a person.

John 6:26-27

26 Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”

Note that God never wanted Israel to have a human king over them.  Here is the prophet Samuel speaking to the nation:

1 Samuel 12:8-15

“When Jacob went to Egypt, your ancestors cried out to the Lord, and He sent them Moses and Aaron, who led your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God, so He handed them over to Sisera commander of the army of Hazor, to the Philistines, and to the king of Moab. These enemies fought against them. 10 Then they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned the Lord and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now deliver us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11 So the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. He rescued you from the power of the enemies around you, and you lived securely. 12 But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we must have a king rule over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king.13 “Now here is the king you’ve chosen, the one you requested. Look, this is the king the Lord has placed over you. 14 If you fear the Lord, worship and obey Him, and if you don’t rebel against the Lord’s command, then both you and the king who rules over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 However, if you disobey the Lord and rebel against His command, the Lord’s hand will be against you and against your ancestors.

When the people called to God for help, he sent them leaders and prophets, but not a king.  But then they saw that other nations had kings, and wanted one – even though God was their king.  The Jews were special, unlike other nations, but wanted to be the same.  Then they chose a king to rule over them.  God did not choose the king.  God told them that if both they and the king follow God, then all will go well.  God didn’t tell them to follow the king. God wanted his people to follow God.

Jesus also told them to follow God.  He drew attention away from himself –

Luke 18:18-19

18 A ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 20 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Jesus was king, but not of this world. Read what happened in his trial before Pilate:

John 18:33-37

33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?” 35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?” 36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.” 37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

Jews say that it is not acceptable for a human to be sacrificed, yet they do not include the prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah in their readings in synagogue.

Isaiah 53:1-6 is talking about Jesus.

Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

However, it is important to note that Jesus himself never said that he died for other people’s sins.  That is something that the Christian church says.  What we can learn from what Jesus did was to show complete unwavering loyalty to God.  God asked him to be crucified, and he obeyed.  His resurrection then proves the grace of God, and that even death has no power.  God is powerful over everything.  Jesus proves that if we trust in God and do his will, we have nothing to be afraid of.  A life without trusting in God isn’t a life, after all.

 Jews also say that another reason that Jesus cannot be the Messiah is that he didn’t rebuild the Temple.  It is essential to realize that God never wanted a permanent physical building.  God had them build a travelling tabernacle when the Jews were in the desert.  All of Israel was there, together.

Exodus 25:8

“They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.”

Exodus 29:45

“I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”

God wants to dwell among us – to be where we are.  How can God dwell among us if we are scattered all over the world?  One building won’t do.

Later, in Leviticus 26:11

“I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you.”

Jesus speaks about the need to NOT have one place to worship God –

Matthew 6:19-20

19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It is dangerous to give so much attention to any physical thing.  It becomes an idol.  Instead, Jesus knew that people need to focus on God, and to make a dwelling place for God in our hearts.  That is the true tabernacle – our own selves.

 

Jews are also concerned that they are being misled – that they are being told to worship another god.

Deuteronomy 12:1-6

“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let us follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us worship them,’ do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. You must follow the Lord your God and fear Him. You must keep His commands and listen to His voice; you must worship Him and remain faithful to Him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”

However, Jesus consistently said to worship God – the God of Abraham.  Not him.  Jesus never told anyone to worship him.

 

Pilgrimage, wander

“A pilgrimage is not a journey toward transformation…but a transforming journey.” – Jonathan Omer-Man

Solvitur ambulando /ˈsɒlvɪtər ˌæmbjʊˈlændoʊ/ is a Latin term which means: It is solved by walking.

Sometimes, the journey itself is the destination. It doesn’t matter where you go – just that you go. Get moving. Get going. Moving at all is healthy, for body, mind, and soul.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” – Bruce Lee

Stomach distress?

I’m noticing that many people right now are experiencing stomach distress.  They believe they have the flu or some virus.  I believe that their distress is unprocessed emotions related to the current political climate in the United States, which isn’t very “united” right now.

Many people were very surprised by the results of the election, and held out hopes that something unusual would happen to change it.  They waited until after the Electoral College voted to admit that their fears had been realized.  Now they are protesting everything that they are learning about.  People who were politically inactive before are now glued to whatever news they can get.

What you focus on expands.  What you think about, you are. If all you focus on is bad, that is all you will see.  Anger and fear leads to more of the same.

Life is all about choice.  You have a choice as to what you read or do or think, but first you must become aware.  You must become mindful of what is going on at the deepest level.

The stomach processes some of our most basic emotions – fear, anger, grief.  We feel things “at a gut level”.  We are “gutted” when something terrible happens.  Our stomach not just processes food, but feelings.  Our entire body is a sensory organ, and each unique organ receives and processes external stimuli in unique ways.  We accept that we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but few people are yet able to understand that we have many other senses that are registered throughout the amazing gift of our corporeal forms.

When we are unable or unwilling to accept the reality of the messages that our bodies are sending us, we start to think that the messages ARE us.  We are able to understand that what we see through our eyes is simply a vision.  It is an observed phenomenon.  If we see a bird in flight, it does not mean that we are a bird.  Likewise, it is important to separate the sensations we experience through our other body parts from our selves, our being.  We do not have to be angry when we feel anger.  It is just a feeling, a sensation.

The purpose of being awakened isn’t to feel joyful all the time.  The purpose is to feel – everything – in a mindful and detached way.  You are not the feeling – you are feeling the feeling, just like you are seeing the birds fly above you.

It helps to be rooted in a faith that there is a guiding force that is over all things.  Having faith that the political leaders are not the true leaders is healthy and healing.

You must take care of your body in order to take care of your spirit.  There is nothing new here – diet and exercise count now more than ever.  Make healthy food choices.  Stress eating, eating “comfort food”, will bring your body and spirit down. Get regular exercise.  Just going for a short walk every day is excellent.  More is better.  Don’t overdo it, though, because that becomes a distraction.  It is important to be present.

Learn to be OK with sitting still in silence.  The need to constantly be busy is an addictive behavior the same as smoking cigarettes or drinking. Substance abuse isn’t just about drugs, but anything and everything. Doing anything mindlessly can be harmful to your body and spirit.

Having to check social media, read a book, or do chores can all be distractions.  Balance is what is necessary here. It is good to read a book – but if you feel anxiety if you are without one, then it is time to sit with that feeling and listen to it.  It is a sign that you feel a need to escape.  Use your feelings, regardless of what they are, to learn.  Do not run from “bad” feelings – they are trying to teach you that something is out of balance in your life.

Instead of protesting – of saying what you are against, spend your energy on building up.  What are you for?  What will bring healing to your community?  Who is hurting? Who is marginalized?  Go help them.  Go be a force for good.  Do what you can with what you have.  Your little efforts count.  Join with others to do more.  Don’t wait for the government to help – those times are over.  Be the change you wish to see.  Teach an immigrant child how to read and write.  Learn a foreign language.  Build a home for a homeless person. Teach a class on money management. Learn nonviolent conflict resolution.

Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.  Spend more time on figuring out how you can do something instead of coming up with excuses for why you can’t.  Don’t blame others for your own choices.