17.11.14

A Pastor's Word: Silence

Silence. 

I think of the servant watching Rebekah intently, waiting to see if his mission is a success. 

I think of the darkness of the ninth plague; I wonder if there was silence.

I think of the Canaanite woman crying for help and Jesus not saying a word. 

I think of the disciples in the storm as they find that Jesus is asleep. Were they speechless?

I think of Jesus in the Garden, his friends all asleep, his prayers rising as his sweat falls. 

Or the three hours of darkness while Jesus hung on the cross. Was there silence then?

I think of the silences I have experienced. 

The brief pause, the in-drawn breathe, that stretches into an imaginary eternity, when I asked the woman I love to marry me and she had yet to answer. 

That moment of silence before our baby cried for the first time. 

The first rays of sun hitting the side of the mountain, when I realized I couldn't hear the highway anymore. The pause in the wind at the peak.

The silence a loved one leaves when they are gone. 

The silence we give every year to the brave fallen. 

It becomes clearer to me why silence is more easily avoided. Why noise is comforting. Silence can be many things but it always seems full. It is easier to rest in the emptiness of noise. 

And right then I remember the still small voice. The soul waiting in silence. And I push in once again, struggling to rest in the silence of God. 


 

11.11.14

A Universal History of Iniquity by Jorge Luis Borges



Jorge Luis Borges, A Universal History of Iniquity. Penguin Classics, 2004. Translator: Andrew Hurley. 

A long time ago a good friend of mine recommend Borges to me. At the time I read Fictions and quite enjoyed his short stories. I remember them being strange, thought-provoking, and genre bending. Somehow I never gave Borges another thought. Never, that is, until I came across this book and, stirred by the distant association of the name "Borges" with enjoyable reading, started reading. I was not disappointed. 

This is Borges first book and it is a kind of non-fiction. I am fairly certain the stories are embellished, but this only makes them better. What you have here are short stories from the old west, medieval Islam, ancient Asia, and more, each focused on the highly colorful life of one individual. These stories are crafted with genius and very enjoyable to read. 

Borges is a master writer. I regularly sat back from reading this book just to marvel. I used the word crafted above because that is the sense I got in reading: that I was holding the highly polished result of long hours of careful crafting. His words become images and dance in the mind. His biting wit, displayed as it is in such tragic tales, drew me through each page with delight and horror.

My two favorite stories were "The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell", which tells of Morrel's many crimes in the American south during the time of slavery, and "The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kotsuke no Suke", which is a sparse retelling of the tale of the 47 Ronin. 

Conclusion: 5 Stars. It should be obvious, but I highly recommend this book. 

9.11.14

A Pastor's Word: Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
Blessed is the man. I want to be blessed. I know that true blessing does not come in the abundance of our possessions but in the abundance of our God. And so it almost goes without saying that this rules out walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of mockers. 
I find the progression instructive. From walking, to standing, sitting. From being a person who is walking with God, moving forward in the mission and calling God has given to a person who is sitting on the sidelines, mocking those who try. From taking the advice of the wicked to actively hindering those who attempt to do better. 
I also find this progression harrowing. It is the picture of deep and disturbing transformation which I have seen in others and see the potential for in myself. 
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

To delight in the law is only possible because it is the law of the Lord. The one who has given and gifted this law creates the possibility for delight. We can delight in the law of the Lord because we know that the Lord is the giver of life, the one whose presence is full of joy, the one who blesses. Meditation is an act of devotion and response to our Lord. 
This is the path of blessing: to delight, in the full sense of that word, in God and to devote ourselves to Him in all that He has given to us. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

This is the result. The image of blessing. 
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

And this is the other option. Life or death. Fullness or emptiness. Lush or dry. Why would anyone choose the latter? But we do. It is easy to do something which satisfies momentarily but only dries you out. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

How could the wicked stand? Chaff is without strength. A tree, beside streams of water, this can stand. But chaff? Once one has gone down the path of the wicked one has lost substance; when judgment comes, when the truth is revealed, standing is out of the question. 
In Christ we can be renewed - our dry bones can be clothed in flesh and He will send the Spirit who is the breathe of new life in us - but absent his intercession we are lost, tossed, and empty. 
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

And this is no accident. The Lord sees. 
I read this Psalm and I know that it is an introduction to the book of Psalms as a whole, an invitation to delight in and meditate on these words. And I can't help hearing Deuteronomy 30:19-20a:
call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.