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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Note scribbled on the back of a birthday card

Jesus returns every time a lost soul drinks of the living water, is born again: with new eyes opened, sees; with new heart beating, understands; with new life purpose, acts. "I tell you the truth, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Wonder Inciting World

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
--Shakespeare (Macbeth V.v)  

I awake each morning and upon opening my eyes, I’m amazed and astonished and marvel at the wonder inciting world that I wake to, my first thought urges me to thank my Creator, and this I do, for the gift of life, and I do believe it a gift, is far more than my mind can fully grasp. To actually believe and feel that we are but poor players on the stage of life in some sort of shoddy charade is beyond my reality. For those who think this, I can only think that poor health or an illness could bring one to such a state, for I understand that illness can deliver a punch that can knock the wind from one’s soul. But if one is in reasonable health, and still is of this existential nature, then I think one either knowingly or unknowingly has turned from God, for when one seeks not God, then more often than not, one seeks self, or unwittingly, dwells on self. When brain chemistry is not an issue and one is losing grip on life, then turning oneself around and facing the Creator can be the most important act of one’s life. Seeking God will change a life of nothingness to a life of gratefulness, a life of waking each morning to wonder inciting life! And you’ll need an instruction manual. The instruction manual I always recommend is the “red letter” Bible. Go to a book store and find a Bible with all of Jesus’ quotes printed in red ink, then take it home and begin your new life, and at first, don’t dwell on the black text, just spend your time taking in all that is red.

Shalom,
Bro. Bartleby

Notes on another napkin

Hamlet: “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.

Only humans live in a world of 'appearances' because 'thinking' stands between reality and perceiving reality.

The question becomes, can one attune one's thinking in a way to allow reality in? And secondly, if so, can we handle reality?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Notes on a napkin

Humans seek their origins.
Some deny or are blind to this and simply seek pleasure and comfort in life for as long as possible.
Some utilize the scientific method and spend their life attempting to reconstruct a bit of the 'crime scene' in hopes their findings will be 'life by natural causes' and their end 'death by natural causes'.
But the theist accepts meaning for the universe and spend their life using their minds to discern the meaning so that they can make themselves in accord with the meaning.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What makes a good point?

A good 'point' is like a cacti needle that pricks the skin unnoticed until much later when the 'point' begins to throb for attention.

Friday, August 25, 2006

God, Joshua, and Tegeticula yuccasella

Here in the desert a most interesting relationship exists between Joshua tree and moth, so striking that science calls it coevolution, for Joshua tree (a type of yucca) is dependent on moth, likewise moth is dependent on Joshua tree. Bro. Clarence, with his ever ready field guides, sought to explain this relationship, or more properly 'mutualism,' as we ate our noontime meal. Of course many insects pollinate flowers, yet most are sort of accidental pollinators, a bee seeks nectar and in the process, and with no intent on the bee's part, the bee comes into contact with pollen and the pollen sticks to the bee and the bee moves to another blossom and pollen is transferred. This as Bro. Clarence says is a sort of accidental, yet beneficial, happenstance to both the bee and the plant. But with the Joshua tree, neither accident nor happenstance takes place. In the still of the desert night the white female yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) seeks the Joshua tree and enters a white flower and gathers the sticky pollen (a pollen that cannot be broadcast by wind or bee). To gather the sticky pollen, the moth has a pair of long, curved, prehensile appendages near the mouth, specialized tools to collect and form the sticky pollen into a ball, of which is held 'under the chin' so to speak. And off the moth goes to another Joshua tree, where she enters a flower and uses her specialized egg-laying device (called an ovipositor), inserting it through the ovary wall and depositing an egg into the ovule chamber. Next comes pollination, the moth moves to the top of the ovary and still carrying the sticky pollen ball from the previous Joshua tree, she presses the pollen into the ovary, thus completing the fertilization of the flower. Now, as the seeds develop inside this particular ovary, they will provide future food for the hungry moth larva. And so it goes, without the Joshua tree flower, yucca moths would die off in one generation; without the moth, the Joshua tree would never be pollinated, for no other moth, bee, insect, or even wind, seek out the sticky Joshua tree pollen.

This provoked Bro. Simon to question if God has a blueprint for all these minute details of creation, a kind of grand master blueprint of all creation, a blueprint so grand that included would be details of the yucca moth's 'prehensile appendages' and programming for the yucca moth's tiny brain with not only instructions for identifying Joshua trees, but where exactly to insert 'ovipositor' and on and on and on. Bro. Clarence thinks otherwise, he imagines that God has blueprints for all the 'laws of nature' yet God delights in setting things in motion, and within some sort of unknown to us boundaries, allows life to blossom within these boundaries -- perhaps even boundaries withing boundaries within boundaries. Bro. Sedwick thinks not, for God is timeless, exists (if that word can be used in this instance) outside of time, so God views our universe as past and present and future, all at once. Of course this brought protest from Bro. Juniper, he thinking that even though God be outside of time, but when interacting with His Creation, God chooses to enter our time/space, for this would be the only way a relationship with humans could be possible. Bro. Sedwick thinks all this speculation far too simplistic, for a Creator of the Universe has far more tools in His toolbox than our tiny minds can ever imagine.

With that I excused myself in order to gather my rucksack, I want to pay a visit to a certain Joshua tree tonight, and perhaps, I too may witness a miracle.

Joshua 23:14
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Desert on Fire

A blazing summer night
sky filled Milky Way
below Joshua trees burst
into flames and overhead
seven forty sevens glide
while a thousand eyes
gather with awe
at the sight
below the Mojave
in flames

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The tallest sunflower

After much climbing up and down a step-ladder, yesterday I determined that Bro. Clarence's sunflower was indeed the tallest at 14 feet 7 inches, which beat out Bro. Juniper's rather spindly, yet tall sunflower, by three inches. I should note that the growing techniques were completely opposite, Bro. Juniper never seemed to do anything after planting the seed, of course besides watering, yet Bro. Clarence can always be found at or near his sunflowers, and as our deadline neared, he has set up a chair and umbrella near his sunflowers. And we still have a few weeks before we will be measuring the sunflower heads, so no doubt he will continue his vigil.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Midnight ramblings

Biologist understand that in nature change (or evolution) is moved forward by strategies, how organisms 'work together' to survive. Let's look at two strategies, TFT and WSLS. TFT (tit-for-tat) is a strategy within a group (be that group humans, or that group animals, or plants, or even a group of microorganisms), when individuals of the group treat one another in a like manner -- tit-for-tat. When successful, a sort of cooperation is maintained, say in a flock of chickens, for when one chicken 'acts up' then the others will too act up and turn against that one chicken and soon that one chicken will either flee, or will get with the program. Tit-for-Tat is alive and well in many office environments, of course its major drawback is that it can degrade into perpetual warfare. The second strategy is the Win-Stay, Lose-Shift (WSLS), which means that the group will all work together as long as they are 'winning' but once their behavior creates a 'lose' situation, then they shift their strategy until they begin 'winning' again. Virus love this strategy, once humans concoct a vaccine, the virus find they are losing, they 'shift' or evolve a bit to render the vaccine impotent, then are once again on the 'winning' path. Of course winning and losing in evolution is the difference between a life-forms' survival or not. I think that God has built these 'strategies' into all living forms, and that is what keeps life going, what keeps life becoming ever more diverse, what keeps life ever dynamic. And my point? Too many Christians believe that God has only one strategy when it comes to 'awakening' humans. They believe that God does things only one way. Of course they will flip through the Bible and piece together that 'prescribed way.' Well, I think God has more strategies than any one of us can ever imagine (just look at His creations!). I can't help but think that some isolated soul in the Amazon jungles may be speaking daily with God. And God responding. Have you ever wondered why Jesus, when speaking with the Roman soldier, the centurion, that he didn't try to convert him? In fact, he used the soldier's great faith as an example for the crowd: "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." And then again, when the rich young man comes to Jesus and asks how he can inherit eternal life, Jesus ministers to the rich man, yet the rich young man wants to be perfect, and with that Jesus gives the price for those who demand perfection -- they must give all. So, in just two examples, Jesus interacts differently, Jesus is flexible, in fact he was his most vocal when it came to the rigidity of the then Temple leaders. And the Temple leaders, perhaps like most leaders, were stuck playing tit-for-tat even when it devolved into a downward spiral.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I am dead to the world

Bro. Chris, aka Desert Pastor, got me to thinking about what Paul is saying in Galatians 6:14:

"As for me, however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world." (TEV)

Bro. Bartleby:
First and foremost I think crucified and cross mean death. Death of what? For Paul (and us?), Jesus' death/cross/crucifixion is the righting of the God-man separation that took place in Eden, that the final sacrifice has taken place, no longer must any living creature need be sacrificed to appease God (or our human thought that God need be appeased?). So it is the death of 'living separated from God' that opens the door for a return to God, and for us, Jesus is that door. Jesus is that which makes the unknowable God knowable, Jesus makes the invisible God visible. We follow/emulate/model Jesus in order to make right our own likeness in the image of God. Paul can no longer follow his old desires -- the desires of the world -- they are dead (cross), and so too, the worldly folks see Paul as dead, for he has none of their interests, none of their desires, so for them, Paul is dead -- "I am dead to the world."


Bro. Chris:
So... Paul has none of the world's interests or desires, but that doesn't keep him from drawing upon their customs or beliefs when it comes to sharing the gospel (e.g. Acts 17:16-34), right? Because being "versed" in the world and it's ways is not what's at stake here. It's the values we live by and the allegiance we profess (in our case, to God's kingdom) -- it's in things such as these that we are dead to the world and it to us, yes?

Bro. Bartleby:
I would think Paul had none of the world's "perverse" interests or desires, it is as though one day you are tempted my many tempters and temptations, yet the next day "all that" tempts you not. What can cause such a dramatic change in how one perceives and experiences life and the world? Of course for Christians it is making that great turn-around, that being born again -- Christ replaces all former worldly standards -- Christ is your carpenter's level and plumb-line to measure yourself against. In my youthful folly, my standards were cool movie actors and fast hot rods and sexy girls, and if I could only emulate a cool actor, own a muscle car, date a sexy girl, then all would be right in the world, for I would have heaven on earth! Yet a seemingly simply altar call transformed me overnight, all the former standards were reduced to what they were and are, actors are actors, they act; hot rods are shiny machines that entice and transport, nothing more; sexy girls are females not taken seriously. The next day friends are heading to the drag races while I head to the mountains to meditate and pray ... their world dead to me, my "new" world dead to them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A mind of its own

Family, community, society, all fill and form the developing mind of the young, that is, until that mind 'takes on a mind of its own' and temperament mixed with personality mixed with education mixed with all that other stuff that was stuffed into our skull forms our person, and that person can be new and free and developing, or it may be locked into its youthful formation. So too our spiritual development, for some that youthful development is it, locked into place, development or change doesn't seem to be an option. Why? Usually because those who were feeding stuff into our youthful minds did it in a way that made freedom and freethinking a negative trait that should be shunned. The glue that holds family, community, society together is tradition. Tradition places great value on the past, as it should in most instances, yet tradition by its nature 'wants you' to keep all that was put into your youthful mind as well enough, and warns that further free thoughts could be not only damaging to your well being, but to your eternal future. That is why Jesus said that if you follow Him, you may very well be separated from family, from tradition. To follow Jesus, one may very well have to break with tradition, and for the apostles, it was a break with traditional Judaism, for you and I, it may mean a break from all that stuff that formed our youthful minds. I shudder to think of the state of the minds of all those North Koreans that have been brainwashed from birth ... yes, the extreme example, yet it is easy for us on the outside to see that for them to cut from their tradition is the only way, but for them, a thought such as that is unthinkable.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Uncle Max and Standards

Since I completed the new cross in the chapel, I have received some comments as well as one complaint, that being that I was 'fooling around with' the true cross, yet I will not name names, for the dear brother refused to engage in a discussion about his dislike of the "carpenter's level and plumb-line" cross, so I don't know exactly what his objections are. Bro. Simon was delighted with the new cross, this morning at break fast he was discussing the symbolism of "Jesus' tools of his trade" as they relate to Amos 7:8.

"And the LORD said unto me: 'Amos, what seest thou?' And I said: 'A plumb-line.' Then said the Lord: Behold, I will set a plumb-line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not again pardon them any more..."

And Bro. Simon went on about how this new cross reminds us that Jesus is the standard to which we measure ourselves, for without a standard, folks could become so 'crooked' that no one would even notice, for everyone would be 'crooked,' but with Jesus, like the perfectly straight plumb-line, we can stand next to the plumb-line to see just how 'crooked' we have become. And Bro. Simon went on about the carpenter level, and how a tilted foundation produces a tilted abode.

It was then that Abbot Eastley raised his fork toward Bro. Simon, then with a gentle smile he related this story, the origins of both the carpenter's level and plumb-bob that were used in the new cross.

When John Eastley was about 12 years of age, he spent a summer week with his uncle, Uncle Max, who was a carpenter, not just a common carpenter, but one possessing the craftsman's tradition. It was then that the young John learned the value of the indispensable carpenter's level when he watched in awe as Uncle Max supervised a crew of carpenters constructing a wood-frame Cape Cod style house. The very carpenter’s level used for the cross was then used by Uncle Max to keep his carpenters "working on the level," and the young John recalls "playing" with the plumb-line, climbing atop a ladder and then lowering the brass cone-shaped plumb-bob down until the pointed tip touched the floor, then he would hold the string out, next to a newly nailed stud, and with one eye closed and the opened eye squinting, the stud and the plumb-line would be parallel, both perpendicular to the flat level of the earth, and the floor, made level by Uncle Max using the floating bubble of the carpenter's level.

With that he arose from his chair, then with a twinkle in his eyes, and a wave of the fork still in his hand, said that when Uncle Max died, the toolbox was left to him. And they were with him on his cross-country journey, in the back of the Volkswagen microbus, and that summer of '69, he visited several communes, out of both curiosity and a want to explore a different lifestyle. At several of the communes folks were building structures, and out of curiosity, he used Uncle Max's carpenter's level to check out these rising frames of 2 by 4s, and more often than not he noted the studs were not vertical, or at least to the vertical standards of Uncle Max, and further, he did not once find a level foundation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Behold, I will set a plumbline

The desert heat is nothing less than blazingly brutal in July and August, so days and nights go by slowly and we move about even slower, and that has given me a change to construct a new cross. I should mention that for the past several years I have been permitted to construct the cross that is in the small devotional chapel, and it is sort of a work in progress, for several times a year I will imagine a new cross and then attempt to bring that imagination to fruition. I have just completed a new cross yesterday and already I have noticed some muttering among the brothers, which I always consider a good sign, for as Bro. Sedwick always says, "Some may attempt to empty their minds while in prayer or meditation, but that is a mistake, an empty mind is a vacuum that begs to be filled with whatever debris that happens to be floating about." Or words to that effect. So, when I attempt to create a new cross, it is with the thought that the cross will be a point of focus, not on the object itself, the material cross, but the essence of the cross. With this focus, I feel, one can then empty the mind of the hither and dither without emptying to a dangerous vacuum, thereby keeping the essense of Godness within, or as I sometimes call it, to be Christ focused.

The cross that I dismantled (wearing leather gloves) was one that I constructed a few months ago from dried ocotillo. After a long search, I found two ocotillo branches that were both sturdy and somewhat straight. I used some yucca rope (courtesy of Bro. Clarence) to tie the horizontal to the vertical, then using fishing line (nearly transparent monofilament) I hung the cross from the ceiling, so that it was suspended about a foot from the white plaster wall. If you have ever seen an ocotillo, you can imagine that the thorny branches gave the brothers much to meditate upon. Well, that cross came down and in its place I sought to come up with something very sparse, or I should say, minimal. Minimal in appearance, yet maximal in thought.

Okay, let me describe the new cross. Simply, the horizontal is the abbot's carpenter's level, actually an antique level, constructed of what appears to be cherry wood, showing wear and tear with a brass plate on top protecting the enclosed glass tube filled with oil and the air bubble. I think it is four foot in length, and this I suspended from the ceiling with the same fishing line that held up the ocotillo cross. Okay, you get the picture, a four foot carpenter's level suspended at about eye-level, about one foot in front of the white plaster wall. Next I used the abbot's brass plumb-bob, this I hung from the ceiling with a heavy string so that the string bisects the carpenter's level, thus creating the cross. Because the white plaster wall is aged to pale yellow, I coated the plumb-line string with blue chalk, thereby producing a rather pleasing effect, with the somewhat complimentary colors of pale yellow and blue. And that is it. Well, I should mention the shadows on the plaster wall, which slowly change during the day, because of a small window on the opposite side of the chapel. Okay, I will leave the rest to your imagination, and to the meditations of the brothers. Hopefully some maximal will come from the minimal.

Amo 7:7-8
Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall [made] by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more...