Friday, May 18, 2018

The Pain of Being God

The pain of being God.

It terrifies me, at 4:37 AM. I wake up crying because I gave up so much for them that I will never get back, because I wanted that love so badly in my loneliness, because they are still in my dreams and I will never have them again, because I loved somebody more than they loved me and received rejection, and God says, "now you know what it is like."

I'm scared by the picture I see.

He loves every single one of you, every single one of us, much, much more than we love Him. That ache of inequality will never be filled by billions of people loving Him, because He will always have the ache of those He lost. His love, from the beginning, formed your details and created all the pleasure you have ever experienced. Every moment of serendipity and goodness, he carefully wove for you through a complex genetic and physics-based scheme of history.

You will never, ever love him back that much.

The guy who wrote the book "A Lament for a Son", the book I read to understand Jonathan's death while I was hospitalized last month, says that through the pain of his son's death he sees "a much more disturbing picture," the picture of God deciding, instead of magically erasing pain, to hang bloodied and beaten and naked on a rough wooden torture stake. To engage in our suffering.

One of my friends from high school, another one I loved more than loved me, used to call God a masochist.

It's deeper than that, though.

"Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross..."

He knows a joy that motivates him through all eternity. (For, that moment is eternal for him--he is outside of time, so as Lewis says, "all times are the present" to him. He is always on the cross, and always in glory) It's a joy greater than you or I will ever know, so he engages in suffering greater than you or I will ever know in order to achieve that.

Because, as it says in the Count of Monte Christo, you cannot know how to feel joy until you deeply feel pain.

Oh, the joy of being God...

"I fill up in my body what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ." One of the most confusing things Paul ever wrote.

He enters into our suffering to be bound together with us in substance. "The firstborn must suffer" Hebrews says, so that we have a High Priest who can comfort us and understand our suffering, and, if you read Hebrews again, for a deeper, more mystical reason. The Lament guy puts it somewhat like, "By coming down to relieve our suffering, he relieves some of his" and then something like when we suffer, aching (because all aching is just a longing for the heaven we know is RIGHT--blessed are those who mourn, he says!)...

"When we suffer, we are relieving the suffering of God."

By living, and suffering, we take on some of his suffering.

Maybe that's why he made so many of us.

I am comforted, in my sorrow, by this purpose given to my ache. To know, in a tiny way, what it is like to have unrequited AGAPE-style love (I emphasize this for I know some of you Christians will take this some weird erotic way, as you are wont to do)...

To know in a tiny way, unrequited love, is to relieve a tiny bit of his suffering from unrequited love.

Oh Father, let me cause you less pain. Or don't, and let me then cause you more joy? Maybe this Paradox is why "those forgiven much, love much"--why he spurns the righteous Pharisees and seeks out sinners, who will hurt him the most.

Because then he can have the most Fatherly joy in their feeble attempts to love him back.

Oh, the terror and beauty of this God I love.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meditation on the Cat/Cow/Child's Pose Yoga Flow, from a Christian/Messianic/Follower of the Way perspective

I recently learned the flow from child's pose to cow to cat Yoga stretch positions, and because we are called to take every thought captive for Christ I meditated on these three positions this morning--you can find them online if you're curious about them--and came up with this worship.

Is there a meaning behind the poses, for myself? 

The "Child's Pose" seems so Biblical, since it's a prostrate form almost of worship, and Yeshua (Jesus) said that people like little children inherit the kingdom of heaven. You could meditate for hours on becoming the child Yeshua wants, and whether it's trust, innocence, or freedom he's asking for, or you could just do the pose and ask God to make you like the child he wants.

For the cat, I found there is no cat except a lion in the Hebrew scriptures, since Judea was outside of its geographic range at the time, so to me I thought of the Cat as the roof of the Temple, or a young lion. "The lions roar and seek their food from God..." (Tehillim/Psalm 104) Even here, at the apex of power, there's a full reliance on Hashem. This domed pose could represent glory (Temple roof) and vitality and self-defense, since it is a position of cat protection, and cats are known for their survival and preservation.

The cow is such an easy one, such a useful animal, sustaining people, and it's one of the ceremonially clean animals Noah took on his ark in sevens instead of twos. 

With the correct order of the flowing child's pose/cat/cow, to me, my meditations come out to this order to life: 

worship (child's pose), 
service (cow), 
power (lion or cat or temple)

That seems to me to be a lovely order in which to live the heart. Since we know everything in life is somehow a little bit cyclical, it makes sense that these continue to cycle in to each other: when we are powerful, we thank God and worship, which inspires us to do service for others, which gives us power...this is really the root of the philosophy of Karma, isn't it? 

Of course with mercy, and grace, this formula becomes more complicated, just as Einstein's theories included Newton's but expanded them, just as the Brit Chadasha (NT) expands our understanding of the Torah (OT), but I think this is a beautiful place to start. You cannot have mercy without an understanding of justice, of the right and wrong flow...of what some call Karma.

Take every thought captive, God.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Meditation on the Cow

Why is it that the children of Israel kept turning aside from the living Elohim to worship...cows? From Aharon at the foot of Mt. Sinai, to the sin of Jeroboam, there's a long history of cows serving as a temptation to the people of Israel, to the great displeasure of Hashem (G-d).

Why is that? What is it about a cow? Why would we, as Israel, keep trying to worship cows?

Several thoughts.

We know a red heifer, and indeed any unblemished cow, mattered a lot for sacrifice under God's provisions for spiritual reconciliation between people and the Divine. These things were important, because "remission of sins is only possible with the shedding of blood." Hebrews tells us that the sacrifice of bulls and rams provided a temporary relief from sin and separation from God. Because of their temporary nature, those sacrifices had to happen again and again until the Messiah finally came, when he could die once and for all. The cow was only a shadow of the final sacrifice, a part of ritual designed to mimic, not replace relationship with God. Could the cow-worship have foreshadowed our human desire to always seek ritual over relationship? Our spiritual autism, as it were...

I notice that of the idols in the Old Testament, we never saw a lamb. It's cows, poles (considered phallic by their worshippers), alters, dudes, but not lambs. Why is that? Strength, are we looking for something with strength, which causes us to reject the gentle, meek Messiah when he finally shows up?

Another thought: in Hinduism, the cow is not worshipped, but revered for its gentle nature, its strength, and the milk/butter it provides (according to the Hinduism's past, in ritual that echoes Judaism, bulls were sacrificed, but over the evolution of the religion that practice fell away). As I'm meditating on the cow, this seems to be a lead: the cow represents earthly provision that we can control. 

Think about it. Every year human society controls and slaughters hundreds of thousands of these animals, and they don't start an uprising or anything. They provide food, milk, and today, and to a greater extent back during Israel's pastoral period, they're a symbol of wealth. They're dumb and easily controlled.

And now you can see why we worshipped the cow at the foot of Sinai. We still worship the cow today, every time we choose wealth over the lamb's kindness and self sacrifice, every time we decide we want to control our future, instead of letting the lion lead us. Every time we choose ritual over relationship with the Messiah.

Oh Lord, save your Israel from idolatry to the cow. Help us put the cow in her proper place, as a gift to you...not as our escape from you.

Reading inspired by Shemot 32 (Exodus 32)

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Quick Share: Meditations on the Almond Tree and the Olive Tree

Beautiful meditation on the Almond Tree and the Olive Tree linked here.

I would go a step further and say these plants demonstrate the symbiosis between Judaism and Gentile/Goy faith: the Almond Tree, first to bloom, is Israel, the first nation to awaken in the winter while other trees slumber; the Olive Tree is mentioned in the Brit Chadashah in Romans 11:11-31, and is the union between Israel and those who are grafted in to her later through the work of the Messiah.

It is when the almond tree blooms that you know to prune the olive tree, it is through the blooms of Judaism and the Torah that we know how to create and care for the olive tree as we graft in the new branches.

As the almond tree of the menorah upholds the olive oil, so there is no fuel, no light, no salvation outside of the Judaic path; Jewish thought is the base of all the world's light, and the Jewish history upholds and culminates in the suffering prayer that bursts into flame in the olive grove of Matthias 26 and Lucas 22. The almond tree in the Torah grew from Aaron's dead staff, resurrected, like the resurrected light of the world...(Tu B'Shevat, and Numbers 17:8; Hebrews 9:4; Yeremiyah or Jeremiah 1:11)

I don't know, I like thinking about these things.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Live Your Life Like a Video Game

Talking about video games with my Mom really made me consider how we misuse the past.

You know that game Robot Unicorn that was popular a year or two ago? Or that game Extreme Pamplona? They're flash games in the style of 2d platformers, where you run forward trying to escape or chase things. If you miss an obstacle or a jump in Robot Unicorn you die in a splash of unicorn blood. In Extreme Pamplona they're not quite that harsh, but you know what both games have in common? You never retrace your steps. If you missed it, you missed it. If you made it, you don't spend a whole bunch of time saying, “man, that sucked that they had an obstacle there.”

Actually when you play any fast-paced video game you don't spend your time on the past. That guy trying to snipe you from over the hill? You don't sit there whining that he shot at you—you go take him out! If you take the time to stand there and feel sad and text your bff about it you're giving away a free headshot, and who does that? And if you lose a majorly important unit early on in your Starcraft match, you're either going to switch your strategy elsewhere or GG and hop into the next match. You're not going to sit there and just watch for the next ten minutes while the Zerg swarm devours you.

In video games, you live in the present and face the task at hand. Period.

Maybe I need to live life more like I play video games. It's not “no regrets”--Mamma Mia, Mario and I totally regret losing that fire-flower. But we can't stop to worry about it. That girl who rejected you? That job offer you missed out on? That really dumb thing you said to your boss on the way out of the bathroom on Friday? Sorry. It'll affect the game.

But it shouldn't affect the player.

“But real life isn't a video game, Jen.”

It is in the way that matters. You know what? The designers didn't make an impossible game. Their game might challenge you, frustrate you, and even hurt your feelings or frighten you, but in the end they made a game to excite, entertain, and—if it's an indie designer—maybe even inspire you. They get value out of giving you value, and you know that when you approach the game. You trust that. One might even say that if you finish a challenging game, it's your inherent faith in the designer that drives you on—you know the game's beatable, even if it's a new game and none of your friends have beaten it. In fact, you have so much faith that you don't even think twice about it! You just play! So, while you may occasionally curse the designer for that particularly unsolvable RPG dungeon, you're not going to take your hands away from the keyboard to sit there moaning in front of the computer screen about giant ant that just killed Ness for the billionth time. Nah, you know what you do then?

You go to google and you pull out a walk-through and you cheat.

In real life, God designed the levels. And they are really, really hard, because he knows you're worth your salt as a gamer. (Dude, he even calls you salt in the book of Matthew.) But they're beatable. They've been beaten before.

There is nothing new under the sun,” says Ecclesiastes: When you're at your wit's end, you've got walkthroughs. I'm not just talking about the Bible—it absolutely is a fantastic strategy guide—I'm talking about Jesus walking through the game with you just like that insane college kid with the squeaky voice you watch on youtube. The Bible promises that every single temptation or trial you've gone through he actually gets. “Tempted in every way as we are...” it says. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man,” it says. “Do not be surprised when all kinds of trials face you,” it says, “for in this way they persecuted the prophets before you.” The book of Hebrews spends a whole bunch of chapters explaining how Jesus gathered his XP so he can help you get yours. And unlike that squeaky youtuber you follow, Jesus knows who you are, and he cares whether or not you win.

So maybe today, try living life like it's a video game. Don't stop. Don't obsess. Don't do that unforgiving bitterness thing.

Just play.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poseidon...and My Prometheus

Mighty Poseidon, rising above the waves, trident flashing in the lightning and muscles rippling in silhouette against the red sky--the Greeks told of three brothers, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon who divvied up creation, and this Water-God almost has a moral "middle" position, since Hades/death is traditionally bad and Zeus is good. Of course, you should know that Zeus is not good--he's a human-hating rapist jerkwad--but that's besides the point. The point, right now, is the story of the water-bending master, saved at birth by his mother from becoming the devouring delight of Cronus.

Cronus wanted to eat Poseidon, but Rhea, his mother, swapped him out for a colt and hid him among a flock of sheep. Cronus ate the colt, thinking she'd given birth to it, and Poseidon survived to become the Earth-shaker and Tsunami-maker of the Greek pantheon. As an adult, Poseidon spent most of his life punishing mortals who'd either cheated him (like the king of Troy, who got a multi-headed sea monster in return for refusing to pay Poseidon for the walls the god built) or simply ignored him (like the Athenians, who chose Athena as their patron god instead of Poseidon, who in return flooded them). When he wasn't punishing people, he was sleeping with his male or female lovers.

Yet despite Poseidon's sordid story, there's something so charming, thrilling, terrifying about the sea that the ancient Greeks flocked to worship and honor its patron god. A man-shaped being who can calm the sea--

Wait, I've heard this before. But my man-shaped being who calms the sea doesn't just take the shape of a man--he is a man. He, too, has many lovers, but lovers of his soul, bonded at heart and united with him in faith. He, too, was saved from the ravages of time (Cron means time), for his body never saw decay, and at birth all the best-laid plans of men couldn't kill him--but instead of sacrificing a colt to save him among the sheep, his mother saw him lay down his life as a sacrificial lamb to save the world.

This is my Jesus, who calms the sea. When he stands, hands outstretched, to order about the sea--the scariest part of all Jewish history, the terrible dark force of water and Leviathans and nature so frightening that Revelation comforts Jews by saying "there will be no more sea" in the new heaven and new earth--when my mild-mannered lover orders the sea he is protecting his people. His is gentle power, gentle fingers, the rippling muscles of a carpenter in silhouette against the stormy sky while the disciples panic in the boat besides him. "A bruised reed he will not break"--he is like the Ying in Daoist ideology, the gentle river that bends around the mountain, submits meekly, washes feet, and yet conquers the world and wears away rock. My sea-god is kind, and what Poseidon's tale teaches me, by example, is the sublime attraction and power of my Messiah's gentleness and, if I will follow in his footsteps, my own.

Teach me, Jesus, to calm the winds and waves with love like you do.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vector Physics and Self-Determination

You know the whole "don't make plans because God's gonna change them" thing? I hate it when people say that to my dreams or when they excuse their past inability to try with a "God closed that door." All they're really saying is that fate and destiny is inevitable, so we really shouldn't try to rock the boat, and our failures aren't our own responsibilities.

Well earthlings, I am here to rock the boat.

Gladys Aylward had merely heard about China, but she spent all her time slaving to earn enough to get there. She didn't believe God was "changing" the plan for her or "closing a door" when she found herself in Russia with no train forward. And thousands of orphans were glad she didn't. Can you imagine if she had been a modern American Christian? "I wanted to be a missionary to China, but God closed that door." Amy Carmicheal broke British Law in India and went through closed temple doors to kidnap the young temple slaves. Unloved orphans received homes and young girls were saved from the unspeakable. I'm sure they were glad Amy didn't give a rat's tail about 'closed doors.'

Sometimes God does close doors. But not getting into a certain school, not having money or transportation, your family saying 'no,' where a mission organization wants you, violence, what your church says, what your government says--all these things are not closed doors. Breaking a promise or throwing away a dream for an inconvenience or a calling--which for most Christians is just a feeling that you'll like something else better--is not God's closed door. It's weakness. Break down that door, soldiers!*

Let me illustrate with a common vector physics problem.

This is a river                         
__D_*\*/*____________ _B_/\_boatman's house__________Z_

<--------------   <------------ The river's got a strong current (Vector C)

____________________A<--->_this is the boatman's boat________
      The boatman wants to get to his house. Which way should he go?

You may think he should aim straight for his house.  But physicists will often ask their students to calculate by vectors. And when you add the Vector line from AB together with Vector C, and you find the line that's Vector AD. The boatman would end up at Point D! That's not his house! There are spikey things there!

That's how it is often if we follow the most obvious (and easiest) plan. We end up somewhere entirely wrong. And sometimes that's what God wanted, and he'll make us drag our boat up the river bank back to point B to teach us something important along the way. But say I want to get to point B, and I trust God to get me there in the end--'cuz he gave me the desire to get there! I will keep my eye on point B, even though God asks me to aim for point Z, and the current and my effort will together bring me to point B. God will never tell me just to put my boat on the river and float off into oblivion while people suffer on the riverbanks. Either way, I will get to point B.

Read the promises of Revelations 2:17, 2:25-29, 3:5, 3:11-13, and 3:21. They speak about the one who overcomes, who conquers. This isn't someone who just holds on to their faith, enduring while God tosses them along the rivers of life. This is someone who prays, like Jabez, that God will "expand my territory" 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Yes, Jabez wants to be kept from pain, but not because he's sitting around waiting for fulfillment of his "calling." He wants protection from pain 'cuz he's goin' out there to cause some!**

So please, people, stop telling us that God might change our plans, that we shouldn't want so badly to marry a certain person or do mission work in a certain place. God knows what he's doing with our dreams and he doesn't need your help: you're honestly just being like the dream killer in the movie Tooth Fairy, and it's really annoying. Tell me instead to love God with such an enduring passion that I will give anything and everything for his kingdom. Tell me to overcome my pride, my financial obstacles, my stubbornness--whatever might stop me from goin' up in flames for his cause. You either feed this fire, or step aside to watch the fireworks. You don't cast doubt on a phoenix.

*When your action will harm someone else--for example, if your mission to China will sacrifice healthcare for your handicapped child--then we can talk about closed doors. But even then, remember that David Livingstone buried two wives and several children on his mission to save Africans from slave traders. If the person affected by your choice is willing and able to sacrifice, then so, too, should you. If not--then sure, you may have a closed door. Then again, William Carey had a wife who went insane because she couldn't handle his mission work in India. He stayed in India anyway, translated the Bible to several languages, and began the movement ending the practice of sati, or widow burning. Was it worth it? He thought so. Women saved from sati thought so. "Whoever does not hate his father and mother for my sake is not worthy of me," Jesus said, not to say that we ought to hate our families, but to say that our love for Him should so far exceed anything else that all other emotions seem base in comparison. A calling should not revolve around what we like or don't like. It should revolve around meeting other peoples' need.

**Please understand this sentence in light of "for our battle is not against flesh and blood..."