Archive for the ‘Larry Gillick’ Tag

Hostility: Out of Plagues to Exodus

No one is a born story-teller. With words, in translations, there is such a long learning curve that cut into you.  In words and borders and getting across time.  With power and dominion.  And BONDS which came from stories.

I am this descendant of island people. People who lived in one place, mostly in rural areas, for hundreds and hundreds of years. My blood is all Irish.  I am reading Richard White’s book, Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories.  White explains in this book what a homeland means, when you burnt the peat and ate only local produce.  And saved the produce.  For hundreds of years, before refrigeration and before imports.  He is the son of an Irish mother and a Jewish father, after exodus.

Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, as your own world was coming to an end, in exodus.  After all the lateral moves, but still the connections.  Settling down, marrying outside the tribe.

When you are born into something: what had a homeland meant as a place you burnt the peat and ate only local produce?  And, living within the tribe, learning the mystery, you had to save something.

In exodus.  The movement in the stories was not so much to change the world, but only the people in it.  Note the outsiders, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own.  In immigration, like Jacob’s.

In exodus. Like Rebekah’s. Jacob’s mother, living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider.  Did you feel a hostility as an outsider?  The holiness, either within or not.  Crime and punishment, and stolen birthright.  It is the outsider in the story – Rebekah – who was involved in the stolen birthright (but a birthright from only one side of the family) which would so much involve the future.  What had been the birthright from Rebekah’s family?  What she had been born into? She was the sister of hoodwinking Laban, the ultimate of hoodwinkers. So what had been this inheritance from Rebekah who was from a family of hoodwinkers, which Jacob would later come to so intimately know.  So was it Rebekah who wondered what could be wrong with stealing a misunderstood birthright?

Note the future in the story, in this marriage, arranged by Abraham. Like the project of becoming a wife, there was the known and the unknown; the visible and invisible; the practical and the impractical. Speaking of choosing and of the chosen. There was a theme of “knowing” or not knowing, the birthright. One oh so very personal experience, about the right way, like in any relationship. Living in captivity, in an arrangement of the times, what had been Rebekah’s experience of the God of Isaac, before any idea about how to raise two kids? What was her personal experience of – based upon scarcity, limits, and human needs — sacrifice. When you lived under a dominant culture, like Rebekah.  From one side of the family, would there have been some lingering hostility to the special attention given to the God of Abraham, with Isaac’s post traumatic stress since the moment on Mount Moriah? Rebekah, coming from a different family, with a different concrete examples of marriage — one visible, the other invisible. And her fertility as the outsider was what needed by all the descendants of Abraham.

 Private and public lives: the inheritance of Jacob from his mother was as the outsider — after his forced immigration to just survive? Just as Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, so the stories of people to whom I was related – or maybe over what it meant to be chosen, and to live with birth right. If you had figured out what Isaac’s birthright had been, which would be passed on to Jacob.

 Stories of drought and birthright and barren women, after the flood, as outsiders in the world. Like from the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days. The movement in the stories: Exodus. Freedom. Numbers. Like the twenty years that Jacob had gone away — if it had been twenty years, living in a different culture with his stolen birthright? And in these stories about the book of numbers, there was always the threat of outsiders to Chosen People, if not the earth. So in stories about insiders and outsiders, as a descendant of immigrants, I was so much like Rebekah or Jacob. When the twenty years signified the years of Jacob’s fertility which had come to an end. And then the movement in the story, again, long after mother and son collaborated over this stolen birthright.

 From the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days, note the forty in the story. Or the twenty years that Jacob spent with Rachel’s father, living in another culture, with a climate change. Did he feel a hostility as an outsider? Would there be a loss of spiritual power learned by marrying into an outside culture? Jacob, circumcised as his father, living away from the kosher type-rules? Living as outsiders, living with birthright, which of his own sons had been circumcised? How, if circumcised, had these boys felt living in a world of public baths? Would they always feel to be outsiders? Were the two sons of Rachel better than the sons of the other women whom Jacob fathered children with? And which of the twelve tribes of Israel was most pure, most really Jewish?

Chosen? Jacob with this undeserved birthright. Trying to hang on to an undeserved birthright. In words and borders and getting across time, with power and dominion, and BONDS which came from stories. With favored sons, if not real favorites. With the strangeness in this Living God of Abraham. Did Jacob think in only one dimension, with his multiple wives, about the meaning of his birthright every day? Over his different way of life, when his grandfather was still alive?

Insider or outsider? The gestation period of forty. Darkness and light. When did Rebekah feel used over her forty weeks of gestation, living amid the strangeness of the family of Abraham, with his God? The pride in fertility: like Rebekah’s in the story, there was the deep emotion in the story for every woman on earth, when my God is perceived to be threatened, along with the excitement when God is with us – now.

So which of her two twin sons was most like Rebekah? And is not a mother allowed to have favorites, and bestow a birthright? In the outside world, feeling so shut out -– maybe feeling so much like Cain had?  Did you feel a hostility which grew from the pride of either outsiders or insiders?

Inheritance. Chosen. Feel the hostility as an outsider, to the holiness -– either within or not -–so much like fertility. Crime and punishment, and stolen birthrights. When mothers had favorite sons, before fathers had favorites, like Joseph. With a shame in these stories. Learning the mystery, as outsiders. Feel the hostility as an outsider, learning the mystery only at home.

Chosen? Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. There is this spatial change, in the size of things, as a child grew, in the perspective about size, in both public and private lives. So what was the change in the spiritual direction in the dénouement of the story of Rebekah, in the movement in the story of outsider, as her younger son married into her very same family? What was her shame after her son left with the stolen birthright? And did you recall why Rebekah with Isaac did not like the women that her older twin was bringing home?  So how many years did it take Jacob to discover the meaning in the birthright?

From living outside his tribe, somehow learning the mystery, to ever so slowly discover the shame in this story.  Abraham had married his father’s—but not his mother’s —daughter. Sarah. Oh, those crazy biblical relationships. And Jacob had then married into Rebekah’s family in the same way in a largely pagan world, with nomads migrating in large numbers. In his lateral moves, in exodus. But still somehow connected, settling down, marrying outside his father’s tribe.

Those crazy relationships. And you wanted others to have the same experience. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories, did you notice the same perceived threat of outsiders to the free worship by Israelite slaves, with a missing hope in the world, when Moses was born. Moses, the descendant of Jacob -– the grandson of Levi? The perceived threat was proved true, generation after generation, leaderless, powerless in the outside world, unless somehow united in belief which came out of stories, in a passed on perspective of spatial change.

So compare the life of Moses to the life of Jacob.  After he had grown, from living outside his tribe, somehow Moses had come to learn the mystery. Children gradually learning to recognize a shame in living unquestioning lives. Like for Isaac, after what had once happened on Mount Moriah to Isaac, or after killing an Egyptian. Truth is not a property of thought which guarantees validity to my thinking, in either politics or religion. In the outside world. As proven, as, one by one, these great prophets had violated the Ten Commandments, before the Ten Commandments were placed on stone.  In words.  In stories about a powerless people.  But since the beginning, in all of human history there were people who felt that they could annihilate other tribes.  Like Abraham thought he could sacrifice his own sons.  And a wife who came from the outside must have had some inner feelings about getting out.  About escape.  In explaining a motivation to write, to “cover” events through people, in stories about leaders, note the fear and anxiety over which human will lead us, or save us, next?  Like Moses.  Jut like Rebekah tried to save her one son?  In stories about powerless people, Moses like Joseph somehow had come to know the Pharaoh.

So what had Moses come to know with his time in the Egyptian world, growing up so close to the Pharaoh, in a world of power, after facing his own extinction, until he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter.  So, in a story about human power structure, what had ever been passed on to Moses of his own culture?  Had Moses even been circumcised?  And what had happened to the birth right by now?

There is holiness which come from story-telling. In the realness of the mystery stories of people to whom I am related even in exile, like in Irish fertility, as written about in Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories.  Movement.  The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world.  And the anger and blame which went towards those who left you.

Who could, who would ever believe in Moses – like on one dark Egyptian night when so suddenly the Israelites picked up and left? Like Jacob. All of them this time, to the Promise Land. Who would ever believe so strongly in the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob?  Who would ever so strongly believe in such a Living God?

Truth and story-telling, with words. Feel the BONDS which came from stories. Did you ever realize how personal this all had been -– maybe a lot like the act of reading is -– or even worshiping can be?  Power.  Restlessness.  Shame.  The visible and the invisible.  To take something so private public, in a world of power.  Was that the lesson of the invisible birthright, passed on in the family? From a new inner shame over letting Jacob go?  Everyone’s anger at Jacob, not so much for stealing the birthright as much leaving across the desert – this dry bowl of never ending bitter tears – with the birthright.

There was the personal transformations in the movement in the story, reduplicating Truth, in the dénouement of the story. In the shame of Rebekah, over the lost power at home? The innocent in the story was in Esau, who is lost sight of for twenty years.  How did Rebekah ever reconcile with Esau over what she had done to him, with her collaborations?  Rebekah who had not liked the women that Esau brought home, which resulted in a favoritism toward Jacob.  Or had it been about the gods of the women who Esau had brought home?

Chosen, for the next generation. Note the outsiders in the story. Note the fertility of all the barren women of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Truth and reconciliation: shame could not be inherited -– neither Rebekah’s shame, nor Abraham’s shame, nor the shame of the twelve tribes of Israel could be passed on; nor could the transformation from guilt. There was such emotion which come from collisions of public and private lives, in dealing with life and death and goodness, when you lived under a dominant culture. So was it the genes from Rebekah that allowed Moses, that had allowed Jacob, to sense the hostility either at home or in Egypt, over who was really chosen? Sensing the frozen hostility as an outsider, in the wrongful detention, and asking the others: “Are you ever gonna go?”

Note the movement in the “Let my people go”story.   The  movement in the story is in the power passed on in stories in the long learning curve -– visible and invisible -– about “where are you taking us?” About Who really chose whom.  With a vision of prayer and a better life.  A people set apart, with the first idea of an afterlife. In a Promise Land.  For a place to freely pray.  And to somehow, with a spiritual dimension, with a bond, to just survive.

 


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Widow’s Peak

War. War widows, facing impositions and hardships, post-war. There are something like 2.2 million refugees who left Iraq since 2003; these refugees are in addition to the 1.4 million refugees who left from Iraq who had taken asylum in Iran in the Gulf War. There are something like 400,000 registered refugees who have fled Syria this year. There are more than two million refugees who constitute the diaspora from Iran since 1979. And today there is a fresh story of war in Gaza, of a people whose history is replete with threats; it might be a good day to reflect on the two million to three-and-a-half million war widows who live in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Plagiarism: to use another’s production without crediting the source. Like a definition to explain yourself. Or how to explain all of this recurring war?

”Whether you believe in the tempting-devil or not, I know through my own experiences the power of temptation. Simply, temptation always is about something good in us. Christian Theology holds that all good gifts come from God and lead back to God the Gift-Giver.” –Larry Gillick

(There is no discussion today about shame.)

The self-doubt about gifts: that I have gifts that might change the world, over time. Or not, as the past is so often repeated.

To reduce to utter non-existence, in a world where so many humans are reduced to non-existence. “A rather self-revealing exercise is to imagine being a Tempter. If I were to be a Tempter to you, I would attract you to doubt your gifts of singing, writing, or even parenting. On one hand, I might attempt to get you to sing so that you do this extensively and grow tired (addiction), or just discouraged by not doing things as well as ‘those’ others. On the other hand, I might joke about, compare you to others, be sarcastic, or just not respond positively at all. So just how would I go about tempting myself? Mainly, I would try to find out how you doubt yourself, and your gifts. This being true, then under-use or over-use of gifts hinders being lead back to God. Watch your temptations and hold on to what good God has given you.” – Larry Gillick

In a world where so many are reduced to non-existence, feel all the doubts in times of annihilation: again and again the stories of the past. “God has told Elijah the prophet, who has predicted a drought which is fulfilled, to hide out in the desert near a flowing stream which by this time has dried up. Elijah has heard that he is to go to one more place – a city – where he will find a widow in need.” In what becomes a familiar theme in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, there is drought. And there is the accompanying drama about survival. Writes Larry Gillick, “In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks.” So again, a drought, a widow, a prophet, with this widow having so little, in deep need, with a word-promise now from an invisible God through the words of a holy man, as the elements.

“ ‘Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.”

“Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.’ “

In a story of a widow dealing with what she has already lost in her world – her husband – is the prophet with the word-promise, too demanding? A widow becomes a central character, with all she has left – a son – facing not a future but an ending, with what should be palpable fear. When you have lost everything. “The various conditions of poverty or need form the context for God’s faithful love to be described.” So will God, Larry Gillick asks, be faithful?

The theme again and again of annihilation, with the stated condition of poverty/need which form the context meeting the theme of doubt when the waters dry up, about even this God, in a rather Self-revealing exercise. And the supporting characters of a son, in times of drought, with always the accompanying theme in drought stories thus about endings, about fertility. “If I were to be the Tempter, I would attract you to doubt your gifts” as being Chosen? There is little doubt, writes Larry Gillick, what the drought is doing. The real Jewish theme, again and again in the Hebrew Bible, is one of annihilation, with drought forming the context as God’s faithful love to Chosen People seems threatened? When not the widow but her son’s future is on the line, and Elijah is asking her to feed him? So this God Who has attracted her, now challenging what gifts that she has left, even as a parent? “So will,” Larry Gillick asks, “the woman trust?”

She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.”

There is an inner confidence that over-comes the doubt within, even on issues of annihilation. History is replete with events that would cause any Jew to doubt the theology which has come from the papacy which does make claim to the inheritance of Abraham. Doubts about human kindness. Why, based upon the “Fair Use” rule of intellectual property, had not the Christian world responded when Hitler’s accomplices annihilated, one by one, European Jews? Had it been, it was wondered at the time, just more propaganda that came out of war, about human evil? When so much doubt about humanity led to doubts about God?

“So just how would I go about tempting myself?” Larry Gillick asks. “Mainly, I would try to find out how you doubt yourself, and your gifts.”

Like the gift of belief, when facing annihilation? When you felt so powerless, as a widow. And you turned to God.

So was there irony of intellectual property law that is based upon previous case law? Or like war is always based? Is war just another form of plagiarism, maybe like Christianity and Islam seemed to be from the religion of Sarah’s son? Would Abraham feel shame over all that transpired from his progeny? Over another brewing war over Jerusalem?

Fidelity meeting the theme of doubt in the story, about even this God, in a rather self-revealing exercise – when the waters dry up – about the widow.
What gets revealed as the waters of life dry up? Does an inner confidence ever over-come the doubt within, allowing that fidelity to be real – either God’s, or the widow’s faithful love which came out of belief –in each other? “There of course has to be some human response” – like to feed the prophet.” On in the accompanying reading, about another poor widow who came to temple and put in two small coins worth a few cents: in some kind of human response, to initiate God’s love in the community, to allow that fidelity to be real – of God’s love. The inner confidence within that over-comes any doubt within about the outside world.

She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well.”

In the aftermath of war effort and all of the expenditures, I wondered how much was being spent on the refugees facing the so real issues of issues of annihilation. Lyric Thompson has written a piece about International War Widow’s Day making mention that sixty-nine percent of widows in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been dispossessed of their property following their husband’s death. But there is something that you could do about those reduced to utter non-existence,in their new reduced set of circumstances, with all the profane sacrifices of war which reduce a people to utter non-existence –left so invisible.

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donate, if you ever in your life felt chosen.
Copyright © 2012.
PHOTO by Steve McCurry of Sharbat Gula COURTESY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

LINK http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text

 

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Facing Another End of a Year

I speak at 130 word a minute, with a 60,000 words in a vocabulary. In a recognizable way. It is said that if a child did not speak by age 5, it was unlikely the child would ever speak. Therapists focus on speech which maybe would work, including physical activities, with music.

And did you have some kind of spiritual vocabulary? A recognizable spiritual vocabulary, in a more and more spiritual but not religious world?

As another church year ends. Today. The Christian world does not hear the same story each year, as the world of Judaism does when their year comes to a close. Like the reading of the Akedah.

In the way of religion, if you did not know God by the age of seven, did it ever seem unfair? Since my graduation from Creighton University, it was not quite the world that I had expected. Lately, it was not quite the church I had expected. And I have come to believe that creation was not the world that God quite expected either. The old neighborhood had changed. It was not so much one ethnic group. Kids no longer were immersed in one culture, or even seemed to be interested in one culture. Or in just one tradition.

Creighton was a Catholic Jesuit University. The Jesuits make a pretty good attempt to pass on the tradition of what it truly means to be Catholic. A short time after I graduated, a more than a half-blind Jesuit had come to town.

As another church year ends, what Larry Gillick calls “God’s continuation syndrome,” David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote about in his introduction of his book Reporting, “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over.”

Stories based upon relationships, weddings, and religion. Relationships which are always a struggle. And God, Larry Gillick the half-blind Jesuit says from Omaha, is “always beginning over and over again to share over and over divine love” with you and me.

Once and for all. For all time. Through a human person. In stories. And what these stories meant to me.

What had Abraham been trying to do? What was it like to face the end? Once and for all. For all time. In the Akedah? What was it like facing your own ending? When there was Isaac. And the stories thereof: Of Abraham and Isaac, seeming facing their end. On Mount Moriah. When that euphoric feeling of love will only take you so far when it comes to enduring the ups and downs of a relationship. When, if someone is forced into a relationship, there is a natural resulting anger. Anger mostly over what is expected of them. In a religion or in a marriage. A forced relationship, when you were immersed, not at all unlike an arranged marriage.

So there was Isaac, forced into a relationship — first of all as a son. And then by his father into a relationship with Abraham’s God. Not unlike a relationship which ultimately involved the risky business of marriage. For the future, where humans were to train yourself to embrace a daily routine that mirrors eternity in its changelessness. When, at least men get bored, if not women. In daily routine, with relationship as a daily way of life. Unable to shake boredom. As that euphoric feeling of love gives way to acedia, best described as the absence of care. That euphoric feeling of love — when your father was ready to kill you in the name of religion — would only take you so far. Isaac, enduring the ups and downs of relationship with the Creator, who called for his murder. Isaac, like anyone forced into a relationship, had to have had a natural resulting anger. To his father. To his God. Anger, like a girl in an arranged marriage, mostly over what is expected of her. Anger from a concept of God, or from a religion, in a what sure looked to be a lot like a form of arranged relationship.

A forced relationship not at all unlike an arranged marriage. “I think there is something to be said for arranged marriages, overall, with lower divorce rates, and more stable,” wrote a woman married to a man from India. “When we date, am I not looking for someone who shares the same values as I do? An Indian American woman, who was torn between love and family wishes and values, having been involved in a relationship for the last five years, is contemplating with an American male making another step forward. It is difficult when I have been ingrained in a culture that believes marriage is about two families coming together over similar values, lifestyles, and histories. And that love is unstable and unreliable, something that will not be able to hold us together.”

“The thinking behind arranged marriages is IF all parties involved are on board with the process, marriage is about shared values. However, that is not to say that love is not important and does not have its place but I believe it is important to share ingrained values in the way of approaching life. I believe the intentions with the ideals of an arranged marriage are good, until a point when people impose their ways upon someone else,” she writes.

Stories from the beginning. Once and for all. For all time. Stories of The Messiah. The love lesson. Almost silently, God had visited. To pass on a way of life. To all of us humans with “civil rights” and free will. It was a struggle to pass on to those made in the image and likeness of God – Me, You — a way of life. ‘Everlasting life.’ Amidst all of life’s pain, amidst all of the change. Whether you were born in India, in Israel, or Indiana, the question was always about how to pass on another form of life. What had the Messiah been trying to do? In his own arranged relationship which he had to figure out for himself.

It was the end of another church year. And there was the celebration of The Messiah. Facing once more, Larry Gillick writes, the call of God “to allow ourselves to be loved, and still do something about this world. Facing the end, like Abraham and Isaac. Or facing the end like Jesus of Nazareth.

God in His incredible subtleness, day in and day out. And so another church year ends. Those feelings of always being unworthy. Until you eventually figured some things out. About the tradition that love is available if you believed in the stories. These end of life stories. On National Day of Listening. Bring in the great teachers, at universities like in Omaha, with a meaningful systems of communications for those of us through no fault of their own who needed a shared vocabulary. In a recognizable way, including physical activities, with music.

A lesson of awareness with so many people struggling to find answers, desiring to have children who might mirror their own tradition, thrilled to find someone who mirrors themselves. Thrilled to be in an authentic relationship that is blessed. The same stories, over and over. A story that ends in a recognizable way, in love, as well as ‘Everlasting Life.’ The story of The Messiah.

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After Applegate

Words. Fellowship. Relationship. Dealing with words. In leaving a homeland.

Fellowship. Relationship. Words. Dealing with waste. Wasted words. Wasted money. In a homeland. Away from a homeland. Without a common currency. Or without a common recognized one God.

One. The unity of fellowship. The image of union, with unity. Sharing. A homeland. In relationship.

The slowly developing themes. Trying to capture the feeling. To stay. To go. In search of a homeland. To defend a homeland.

Giving everything away. The produce from homeland. The slowly developing themes over time. With the image of union, deciding. To go. To stay.

Trying to capture the feeling. About the fellowship which came out of the search. With God. With each other. Trying to convey what happened, to the next generation. About the past. About fertility. In fellowship. In relationship.

Word choice. The reaching out in fellowship to those who have nothing. Hoping to resolve the hunger of a shared humanity. Praying others will help those who hunger.

The blessings. The sharing. Of money and fellowship. In thanksgiving. In a world losing the currency to transact fellowship. When you lost your currency or homeland, or everything.

Loss. Dealing with loss. Imposed self-exile. Or in diaspora. When you were scattered. As tightknit families become unbound, there was a stated general unease. When children never came to know their past well enough to miss it. When you were scattered and the common currency was rejected. The one which had provided unity.

The feelings starting all over again. Of love and fear and anger. The true every day fear while living in exile. The fear when dealing with loss in exile. The fear when scattered. About loss of currency value and fellowship. Living in an unrecognized world. The loss of trust without a common currency, without a common recognized one God. And the resulting unrecognized image of myself.

Thanksgiving. Forgiveness. Thinking somehow forgiveness was lost. In a diaspora, in exile. When there was so little you could do after you said, “I’m sorry.”

Dealing with words. Wasted words. The aimlessness living scattered in exile. The outside fear about losing everything. And the fear within. In dealing with loss, thinking somehow forgiveness was also lost. In exile. Amidst the anguish of loss and horrors of history; of birthrights and inheritance. And wanting to be reconciled, after the forgiveness. Learning of the ongoing process of reconciliation. The movement in the story of Exodus, with the slowly developing themes of love, of forgiveness, and of an ongoing reconciliation.

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Opening Doors

Thomas Merton related that a Tibet monk is to have replied to the question about how they train and form their novices in contemplative prayer that for the first year they are taught how to close doors. Those 365 days seemed a long time to learn all about closing doors, writes Larry Gillick this week.

Contemplative prayer. I continue to read this month that story of Abraham and Isaac. Over and over. The same biblical account that is read at the start of the Jewish High Holy Days. Year in and year out. As God wanted a stake in His Chosen People, in the human race, so Jews needed a stake in the world and all of its problems.

Wanting a stake. Have you ever had to tell a girl you loved her? And in a case when there was a darn good chance she did not believe you. And to tell a lover like God that you loved Him? I always expected the same response. From God. From the girl. And if by some miracle you feel like you have developed some knowledge of this God, or the girl…well, I still did not feel real confident in my profession of love. I somehow always feel like I have fallen short. In what I have done and what I should have done. That was the human condition. That was the male condition in any relationship. To feel you have come up short. And say some pretty dumb things.

When there was pain in sacrifice. Made in seeking a stake in the world, through a girl. The girl seemed more interested in seeing something. Maybe with little real understanding how hard the business world was. The hours that went into buying a diamond. And having to listen to all of her small complaints?

What a struggle of every young guy, trying to communicate something. The ongoing struggle to profess an authentic love. And then to have your credibility judged.

Those professions of love. Like the struggle of every young guy, trying to communicate something, God seemed to have His own doubts. It seemed part of the struggle every person, guys from Mars any way, has with belief in each other. Doubts about the love professed.

Those professions of love at the end of life, to God, to loved ones. Abraham, the farmer. The nomadic farmer. In the pain of old age. Approaching a major sacrifice. If the theme of my life, like Abraham’s life, was all along all about passing on a way of life. In sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice. The little real notice of sacrifice along the way…but one ultimate sacrifice like the great fireworks display, like a diamond, as the ultimate profession of love. In appreciation for the revelations of the mystery, about the unseen. Over what seemed to be, in my perspective, the Truth. The little really noticed mystery. By the secular world.

Doors. Opening and closing doors for contemplative prayer. For these times. Opening and closing doors to focus on meaning in our lives, With training to form the next generation in contemplative prayer “With a little more attentiveness to what we are shutting in and shutting out…a little more open to surprises and also the unsurprising,” writes Lary Gillick.

Of the two parts of being a rabbi, a Tibet monk, or a priest, there was the caring and comforting people, and shaking them up and moving them to another place. The prophet role. When the experience of young people form their ideas. In schools where they share experiences with strangers and become bound. When those ideas which nourish then sustain an identity.

So what had I set out to say in this piece of art called life? Who was going to try to interpret my work of art? How would I be judged?

Rabbi Max Shapiro, the senior rabbi from 1963 through 1985 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, the 10th largest Reform congregation in the world who, within as well as outside his congregation, challenged people to fight anti-Semitism, racism and poverty, died on October 16, 2009 at his Minnetonka home. The obituary of Max Shapiro states that he was a lifelong member of the NAACP, and he served on a city civil rights council and the Urban Coalition. Under his leadership, the social action committee at Temple Israel sent a delegate to walk with Martin Luther King, Jr., resolved not to trade with any business with discriminatory hiring practices, and became the first in the area to teach a black history course. In a 1964 sermon, he explained his philosophy of religion and civic duty, of staking a claim in a city through professions of love: “It is not enough for us to applaud or even support civil rights legislation. Judaism instructs us to do more. It tells us to take the needy into our employ! It tells us to train him for a job! … It is a religious duty! And it is imperative! For no community, no city, no nation can long endure so divided — half affluent, half despairing.”

Those professions of love. So who was worthy of this inheritance? Of his religious tradition? In old age. Of those living in the harsh godless profane pagan world? In the present moment? With different degrees of hunger, in this secular world?

The Akedah story. Sacrifice. God. A spouse. And feeling so unworthy.

When life was a profession of love? Wanting a stake. To feel needed. Trying to tell God you loved Him? That feeling, somehow always that feeling, like I have fallen short. In what was the human condition. Feeling no confidence in a profession of love through your spouse and kids. That was the male condition in any relationship. The relationship. Wanting a stake in someone. Over and over trying to say in a new way, with some degree of confidence about my own profession of love, after contemplation, what exactly this love was. The relationship chosen, with some consequential movement in the story. The ONE relationship chosen. That same accounting, year in and year out. On anniversaries. On Valentine’s Day. At year’s end. I expect that even at an old age, there was a good chance, a darn good chance, if life was a profession of love that Abraham did not believe God believed him. Even after all the things that they had shared. To feel you have come up short. On the anniversary date, with those performance reviews. Having done some pretty dumb things. Was the Akedah story really about Abraham’s feeling of always feeling unworthy? In the Akedah story.

When life was a profession of God’s love? So who was worthy of this inheritance? When asked to sacrifice Sarah’s son, in the Akedah story, was the actual mystery about Abraham in a sense a Last Judgment scene? In the Akedah story was Abraham really asking God “Why did I have all this? And why was I losing it?” It was the “Why me?” question. Had he really been “chosen?” Was Abraham really asking God in the Akedah if he really had all along been chosen? By asking him to sacrifice the son of the women he most truly loved? Was this question challenging the meaning of his life—the meaning of his love—or challenging God for all that He had given to him? And had slowly been taking away? Slowly taking away all of these blessings—this was a profession of God’s love?

The Akedah story. Challenging the depth of belief? With the pain of old age, did God truly love Abraham? Was this Abraham challenging the meaning of his life, challenging God through the sacrifice of an animal, for all that He had given to him? Professions of love once made, in seeking a stake in the world, through the blood of the best animal. Professions of love now made through the sacrifice of the son of a woman he most loved? Or was the actual mystery in this Akedah story about God challenging Abraham about the depth of belief?

Abraham. All that time spent. Reflecting on the meaning of making some kind of an offering to God, when your relationships, based so much in sacrifice, with God, with your lover, with your kin, involved not only blood, but these strange profession of love. Professions made in seeking a stake in the world, through a woman. When the woman, the son, seemed more interested in seeing something—than hearing something. About belief.

Had Abraham in the first place ever been worthy? As Isaac might have finally wondered, might have asked his father about himself. The same question. And with the strange professions of love by Abraham, Isaac might have finally wondered —about his father’s witness or his own, in this Akedah story— ‘Who in the name of God do you think you are?’

These strange professions of love. Over and over. I continue to read the same biblical accounts. Over and over. Religion was not just a recognition of, an awareness, about God, man, woman, and the universe. It was about everything. Religion was about bindings. It was more about action than words. It was about ritual. And as was said of Rabbi Max Shapiro, in passing on a way of life, “He created the most wonderful community.”

Those courtships. Training and forming their Tibet novices in contemplative prayer, with those 365 days spent learning all about closing doors. Over and over. But wanting a stake in the outside world. Contemplative prayer, and looking for meaning, in the age old stories. Those strange professions of love at the end of life. To God, to loved ones. As God wanted a stake in His Chosen People. Being moved towards opening doors. Being moved to sacrifice. And trying to work on becoming more worthy. In sacrifice. In kinship to the God, and passing on that kinship. In these strange professions of love. By these religious nuts. Let loose once again in the outside world.

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