Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Whole In One



None can pledge real allegiance to the Lord Jesus,
Unless the Spirit within them works to make it so.

There is a great diversity of gifts activated by the Spirit,
Yet they are all blessings of One Spirit - Whole in One.
There is a great diversity of ways to serve other people,
Yet they are all graces from One Lord - Whole in One.
There is a great diversity of good deeds to be doing,
Yet they are all done through One God - Whole in One.

Why is every living human being uniquely gifted, unusually talented, differently impassioned, strangely warmed? To be better "people"? To be better "subjects"? To gain the golden ticket - to pass through the pearly gates? Paul believed that each and every one of us has been imbued our own personal "manifestation" of the Spirit. I like that word, "manifestation". A manifestation can be an event or a thing which embodies (incarnates) an abstract idea. It can be a sign or a symptom. Most importantly, it is manifestare - to make public.

Paul likened us to human anatomy - each a different body part with discrete yet overlapping and inter-related functions, yet all One whole, complete, functioning being. Each part integral for working together towards the common good of one body. A body animated by spirit / a Body animated by Spirit - a Community.


There is a great diversity of organs in a living organism,
Yet they all give vitality to the Body - Whole in One.
There is a great diversity of beings in the Living Spirit,
Yet we all drink from the same font - Whole in One.

Let the thirsty come forward.
Let the believer drink deeply;
Rivers of Living Water shall flow,
 From within each believer's heart.
All drink from the same font -
All made Whole in One.




1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 and John 7:37-39


(poetry and photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

God's Selfie


"Dear Lord, we know that your creation is a picture of who you are. Show us your glory in the world around us. Let the earth be a means for us to draw closer to you as we recognize the wonders of your creation in the air around us, in the water that sustains us, and in the vast resources your earth provides us."





(photography by tiwago)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Manifold Destiny

Meditation upon Psalm 104:24 (et al.)


"O LORD, how manifold are your works of creativity!"

Manifold: many, numerous, multitudinous, myriad, innumerable, varied, diversified, diverse, complex, multifarious...

It it not just the number of species made manifest that causes us awe, it is the diversity of life that lift some up by the largeness of Life, but causes others to fearfully feel small and insignificant. 


"In wisdom you have made it all; the Earth is full of your creativity."

Full: filled, replete, abounding, sated, surfeited, complete, whole, intact, perfect, all-inclusive, rich, resonant...

The cup of Creation was intended not to be viewed as half-full or half-empty, but as a whole, vessel and contents as one - a glass sufficient for our thirsts. Yet greed has made us rabid.


Yonder
The Sea
Wide and deep
Full of Life
Large and small
Man and beast
At play

All look to you
Needs fulfilled
Needs satisfied
Your open hands
It is good
Without you
It is bad

You breathe Life
We inhale Life
And so we live
Day by holy day
Earth is refreshed
A planet alive
Glory of your face

May your glory always endure
May you rejoice in your works
Like the wild mare's high withers
The Earth trembles at your glance
Like the lowly puffball in my yard
Mountains smoke under your touch

My heart will sing to you
Long as it in rhythm beats
My mind will sing of you
Long as it knows your face
In every flower
In every creature
In every person 
Infinite is your face
May I cherish each
Manifold manifestation

May my meditations
On grace's wholeness
Be pleasing to you
For I rejoice in it

Bless the Creator
O my soul
O my mind
O my heart
Praise the Maker


                                     Tiwago




Synonyms from: Family Word Finder, Reader's Digest; 1975
(photography by tiwago)






Friday, May 26, 2017

To: My UMC; Some See...


some see weeds
in every field
some see brave
new pioneers

some see weeds
in tended gardens
some see free
spirits and will

some see weeds
in native habitats
some see colonizers
some see immigrants

some see weeds
some see flowers
some see tares
some see people
some see one way
some see another

how can i presume
to weed out weeds
if weeds are any
other plant to me
unless of course
thistles

i hate thistles...


tiwago



(photography by tiwago)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Braidwood Dunes

God said, let it be so, and it was;
And God saw that it was good,
and it was very very good.







Wild Thing


to many
(too many)
the Spirit is a wildflower
joyous and surprising
free
growing where it will
but unrefined
but unrestrained
but uncontrolled
Jesus, spitting
Jesus, making saliva mud
Jesus, healing on the wrong day
not a proper flower
in a proper place
wild
wild
wild

to many
(too many)
the Church is a rose
by any other name

Tiwago


(Image: Hoary Puccoon; photography by tiwago)


Monday, May 22, 2017

Selah


What is a wildflower, if not a psalm sung by Creation?
Dependent upon both fire and water - each in measure.
Dancing with the fickle wind, while kissing the light.
Growing from out of fertile death and decay's remains.
Chancing discovery and consumption; a revelation of glory.
What a weak and mighty entity, that works such miracles;
Bringing me forgotten hope and joy, out of my long winter.

Selah!

Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Valerian


To some, a noble nobleman in an ignoble world - a Caesar;
Defender of Empire, a legislator passing laws, executing Christians.

A flower, a European colonial, invading our native woodlands;
Sometimes called Jacob's Ladder, connector of heaven and earth;
Pretty flower of many false hopes: healer of the trots and syphilis;
And of some toothy things: toothaches - animal bites - rabies.

In the good, there is always bad.
In the bad, there is often some good.
In the bad, there is the false promise of good,
And in the bad there is a true promise of good.
Maybe I, should then judge less -
Am I not Valerian too?


(image and poetry by tiwago)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Testify in the Court of Life - Being a Better Witness

Lectionary reading reflection - 1 Peter 3:1-22


No one is going to bother someone with a reputation for being eager to good things for others. But if they do harm you for doing the right thing, you are really lucky! (Great salesmanship Pete.)

"Don't fear what 'they' fear..." Now we're talking! Don't fear what bad people fear (God, judgment, public opinion, your parents, paternity tests, etc.) because you don't need to fear if you've not done fearful things. Don't fear as your enemy fears - if you recognize that many bad things are done by good people out of fear, and if you don't fear the dark like fearful people, yours will be the advantage. Do not live life in fear as the world does; do not allow it to control your life as the nations do.

"...and don't let them intimidate you." Resist! Persist! Bad people will always try to get you to backdown, and make you question your values - question yourself. If you have sacrificed your chains of fear and destroyed your idols of security and comfort, they can't harm you in any way that truly matters; your spirit, your soul, your mind.

"Be constantly prepared to testify in a Court of peers as to what 
 you witnessed that gave you hope within all this hopelessness..." Why do I believe in God? Why do I follow Jesus? Why should I be a good person in a world where it sometimes seems like only bad people get ahead? Though it may feel like a trap, or that 100% of your grade depends on a pop-quiz, it more likely is that they are secretly hoping that you have some hope to share with them. Some days, hope is more rare than diamonds. Be woke - witness suffering! Be prophetic - testify hope!

"...yet do it in gentleness and reverence." Sadly, "witnessing" and "testifying" have become bad words, as more and more people see them as the weapons of bullies. When we try to share, we often forget to share the good news of our hopefulness. We share rules. We share fear of a god of wrath. We share our own fears and limitations wrapped up in dogma. Many a mother tried to tell us that we could capture more flies with honey than with vinegar (but Mom, I don't want to catch flies!). In politics and religion, as in life these days, we have lost the humanizing art of gentleness and the humbling skill of reverence. 

Then Peter said: "Live your life as though you will one day run for public office, and that all acts are public acts. Don't give your enemies a reason to ignore you, leverage to take you down, or an excuse to minimize you." In these dark times though, this may no longer apply to those who seek election. If I am seen as a stand-up person in these many small areas, then my position on some larger thing will have a greater chance of being heard, and have more weight.

Let's be realistic here folks - we will all suffer sometime or other! That being said, wouldn't it be better to suffer for being good than for being bad? Why do we try to provide company for our suffering? Wouldn't my suffering become a lighter burden knowing that I lightened someone else's too heavy load? If you have to suffer, suffer well.

Jesus took this a step further. He suffered so that we wouldn't be nailed to our suffering. When we grasp this, we become a new person with a clean slate. The bad is put aside and left behind as we learn the discipline of suffering like Christ.



(photography by tiwago)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How to Disagree


One of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter is Acts 17:22-31; but the reading as presented leaves out a preface and a postscript that are important to me personally. I was made fun of for being intellectual (aka nerdy geek, pencil-neck...), and American society seems to respect intelligence less and less all the time. Politicians and religious leaders strive to sow discord by creating a false dichotomy between faith and reason. When I read the chosen excerpt of the text, I at first see yet another "religious" person making fun of intellectuals.

"You are soooo religious. You even worship an Unknown God (just to be safe?). Well, you're in luck! I'm here to make the unknown known to you." (verse 23)

Now, if you wanted a law-and-order, don't-ask-questions, don't-trust-educated-people society, you didn't need to look any further than the Roman Empire. But this was Greece, where people actually could make a living thinking. Was Paul so dismissive of Greek intellectuals because at his core he was a citizen of Rome? In theory, he would have more in common with the thinking Greeks than the doing Romans intellectually. So why the sarcasm? Was it an act?

In the omitted preface, we learn that they asked him to speak to them! "May we hear this new teaching you have been sharing around Athens? It sounds strange to us, so we would like to find out more." (verses 19&20) With open-minds, they sought intellectual discourse, but got Paul instead. They were looking for areas of agreement, and Paul was being disagreeable. Paul liked to pretend he was just a simple tentmaker, a Joe the Plumber kind of schmuck, but we all know that he was a highly educated Pharisee, was a fluent speaker of classical Greek, and was well-versed in Greek rhetoric and in the Stoic philosophy of his hometown Tarsus. Peter was the mook - Paul was the egghead. So to me, this was not really faith versus reason, or dumb versus smart, or educated versus uneducated, or emotional versus logical; it was intellectual brand A versus intellectual brand B.

On the heals of his snark, it is easy to miss the revolutionary statement Paul made: "God made a diversity of people and nations so that they would have to search for God, to grope for God, so that they could find him." (verse 27) This is a pro-intellectual statement by Paul, who now shucks the good ol' boy country-bumpkin con to show his true Grecian colors. And, it is consistent with my Methodist method of reflection: scripture; tradition; experience; and reason. Like other intellectuals, I was not a tell-me-the-answer student - I wanted to figure it out myself. I understood better, retained it better, took ownership of it that way. Just as Bonhoeffer suspected cheap grace, I suspect easy faith.

Did Paul's audience close their ears and shut down their minds just because Paul did not agree with them? In the postscript we read: "Some scoffed, but others wanted to hear more from him later." (verse 32)

We have a lot to learn from Paul's speech in Athens, but I think the lesson we need most today is the openness, receptiveness, and courtesy of the Athenians in our bookends; verses 19&20 and 32. 


(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Love Actually


Love is...

What happens when we take "Love" out of its context? It too easily becomes worldly greed and fleshy lust. We lose our way. yet, it is written that Love is a "more excellent way".

“But earnestly desire and strive for the greater gifts [if acquiring them is going to be your goal]. And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one of the choicest graces and the highest of them all: unselfish love].

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all. 

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 

Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 

And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love."  

(1 CORINTHIANS 12:31-13:13 AMP)


Love is the most excellent way! To Paul, Love was the one critical spiritual gift which allowed a soft, short-sighted, selfish, jealous, stiff-necked species to live together in a semblance of peace. Only by loving each other can we be mutually dependent and live together commensally as a Body - as intended.

As our politics divide us - where is Love? 

As our denominationalism fragments us - where is Love? 

As our nationalistic, economic, racial, sexual, ethnic, linguistic (etc., etc., etc...) tribalism isolates us - where is Love? 

As our individualism-idolatry imprisons us - where is Love?

     Where? 

          Is? 

               Love? 

EVERYWHERE!


“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. 

This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. 

God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 

We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.”

1 John 4:7-21 CEB



(Image from YouVersion Bible app)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Keep Calm, and Believe (or Not)

(The Narrow Way by Tiwago)

Chill...

"Take it easy on your hearts," Jesus told them. Fear-related bpm. Anger-induced BP. Stuff like that will kill you.

"Believe in God."

"Believe in me."

"I'm going to go open the house up for you. There is plenty of room for everyone; even you. I'll get your rooms ready for you. I will come and get you - gather you into me. Wherever I AM, you will be too. You know the Way!"

"Huh?" said Tom, "Show us the Way."

Jesus clarified: "I AM, the Way. I AM, the Truth. I AM, the Life. You can only approach Abba through His Son. If you know me, then you know Him. From this point forward, you do know and you do see."

"Huh?" asked Phil, "Show us the Father."

"It's clear as day, Phil. After all this time Phil, you still don't know me? You've seen me for a while - what do you mean 'show us'?

"Huh?" I say. Jesus tried again.

"Tim, I AM in Abba."

"I AM is in me, Tim."

Lord, forgive my thickness, but this is clear as mud...

So the Lord granted me grace and mercy: "Believe in me. But if you can't believe the bio I have shared with you, believe the vitae that I have showed you. If you but believe, your vitae will be even greater. Because, I'm going home to Abba."

I hear him remind me of his great works, and that, I too, have great works ahead of me. Surely, these greater works are far beyond weak me? So, he told me to bring up his name when I ask Father for help doing these things. "Whatever helpful thing you ask for in my name, I will help you do, for God's glory. If, you ask for any good thing for someone, I will do it. So chill, Tim, chill..."

From John 14

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

But, Filled With the Holy Spirit


But, filled with the Holy Spirit... Jesus had told his followers that the Spirit would breathe the words they needed upon their crosses. So, through Stephen, the Spirit spoke of the Father and the Son to those who were killing him.

But, they covered their ears.

But, they shouted to drown out the voice.

But, they rushed to get it over with; before anyone could change their minds.

There is no one as a deaf as one who will not listen. And yet, the Spirit spoke. The Spirit can be ignored with effort, but it can not be silenced.

As Stephen was being stoned, Saul (who will be Paul) was watching over people's clothes. In the past, I read it as though those who were throwing the stones were shucking their clothes so they could throw harder; but I noticed this time that it was the "witnesses" who laid their garments before him. I don't know what difference it makes. I don't know what it means that he watched the stuff for the watchers. I envision a party atmosphere like a hanging in the old west, or a lynching in the south; or was it more of an Orwellian Two Minutes Hate - public venting and conformity?

Luke tells us that Stephen died in the manner of Jesus; just as he had briefly lived like Jesus. Stephen: "Lord Jesus, accept my life." (v. 59 CEB). Jesus: "Father, into your hands I entrust my life." (Luke 23:46 CEB)

Jesus had made another promise to his followers, that they would do "greater" things. Again, Luke seems to be intentionally comparing deaths. Jesus: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 CEB) Stephen: "Lord, don't hold this sin against them!" (v. 60 CEB) Stephen leaves out the conditional "for they". 

When the Spirit was done breathing Truth in grace and mercy, breathing life into a moment of death, Stephen died.

(Acts 7:55-60)



(photography by tiwago)


Saturday, May 6, 2017

How Can I Recognize Jesus?


The couple from Emmaus returned to their small group in Jerusalem and shared what had happened to them. They only recognized Jesus because he became their host: he  blessed the bread; he broke the bread; and he served the bread. 

At this point, Jesus appeared in the room with them - with the two. with the eleven, with the friends and families of the eleven. And his first words? "Shalom aleichem" (Peace be upon you)!

I personally love verse 41 which says that they did not believe Jesus was really there because they were so full of joy and amazement! They did not trust their own eyes, they did not trust that they were not seeing what they wanted to see. They were wise! Such wishful seeing is a trap all of us fall into, once in a while. Did Jesus make fun of them or chastise them for their lack of faith?

No. He joined them and ate some fish. Then they recognized him. Because he ate with them.

Where do you see Jesus in your life?

Where do you see Jesus within yourself?

Friday, May 5, 2017

ONE



One.


One.


One.


One.


One.

The LORD,
My GOD,
He is
ONE.

In mystery,
Three;
In heart,
One.

The LORD, my GOD,
Has One
Body,
But many
Faces

The LORD,
My GOD,
She is
INFINITE.


~ Tiwago





(photography by tiwago)

Snow


Every snowflake was created unique.
Every snowflake was modified by time and circumstances uniquely.
Every snowflake looks fragile and weak.
Every snowflake is beautiful.

A fellowship of snowflakes is a blessing to some, but a curse to others.
A fellowship of snowflakes is a protective mantle.
A fellowship of snowflakes is a blizzard.
A fellowship of snowflakes levels the field.

                                                 ~ Tiwago

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Things Built





Things by the mind desired -
Things built by human hands,
Last but just an earthly while.

Things by the Spirit inspired -
Things built by human souls.
Abide for a heavenly while.

And the Maker of the cosmos
All the while, all the while, 
All the while...

                          Tiwago




(photography by tiwago)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Twenty-third Psalm


Jesus is my pastor;
my vessel is full.

He created a pasture,
and guides me over rapids.

He restores me wholly;  
He leads me faithfully -
for he is holy!

Tho I struggle in the night,
I am not terrified -
my shepherd is with me;
urging and comforting me.

He prepared a bounty for me.
He served it for all to see.
He anointed me to a ministry.
My cup is overflowing!

Certainly, goodness and mercy,
will always be with me,
As I live in my Abba's house.

                  
                        Tiwago



(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Life Is an Endurance Sport


It is to your credit if you endure unjustified abuse. So what if you can tough-it out to get through pain caused by your own actions, any thug can do that. - but, if you do what is good and right, and suffer unfairly as a result, the Father sees the Son in you! 

You have been called to a beatitudinal life, as was Christ. He allowed himself to be abused and murdered not as a victim, but as a condemnation of evil. He did not threaten revenge or curse his circumstances. He embraced the opportunity to do something pure and good, and he left you an example to help you along the Way.

Innocent, but treated as a criminal.
Violated, though he violated no one.
Tortured, he blessed and he forgave.
He surrendered himself to judgment;
Knowing who the only true Judge is.
He accepted the cruel cross to free us,
That we may live on as hope-bearers.

By his taking on our brokenness, we have been made whole. The sheep have been returned to the Shepherd.


(photography by tiwago)

First Church



Churching 101:

They persevered by devoting themselves to:
     1. listening to, learning from, being with, and emulating the Witnesses;
     2. breaking real bread together in agape, and sharing Living Bread together in communion; and
     3. praying together.

Think of it - the Apostle Witnesses were right there with them. If the Apostles played Kevin Bacon, they were just one degree separated from Christ! They were the Patient Zeros from which the Movement of the Way would spread across the globe. Is it any wonder that First Church lived in AWE (not just awe, but AWE)? How does one respond to AWE via living?

"All who relied upon Christ were together and had all things in common." Srsly?

How do you do "together"? They first cut their anchors, exorcized their demons, and threw off the chains of their idols by selling their real-estate, their inheritances, their stuff. Then, they pooled together the proceeds of the sales. The scripture does not say that the money was divided up according to merit or importance. It does not say that it was divvied up equally or "fairly". We are told that it was distributed according to need, justly.

This freed them. It allowed them the time and opportunity to worship together daily. They were able to eat together in agape fellowship with "glad and generous hearts" because they were free of the fear of scarcity and no longer possessed by evil spirits of possession. They praised God continuously, and demonstrated his goodness by doing good to all.

All? They were not of the world, seeking only to benefit themselves or their own comfort. They were not separate from the world, avoiding temptation, living in fear. They were in the world, working to make it better. All!

They are not said to have advertised, marketed, or otherwise solicited. Nor is it written that they developed programs, fun activities, or had entertaining services. They did not do anything we think we have to do to attain church growth. They did not do anything, but visibly love God and love others by their actions. They did not have to tell people over and over again how good they were; people saw them being good and doing good - and day by day Luke tells us, God added to their number.

Some say that they were communists. Some say it was easy for them to surrender their need for things because they thought the world would end any day. The Earth did not end, but the world as they knew it did. Generation upon generation we have learned the mystery of faith: we are all still just one degree separated from Christ, we are the Witnesses. The Kingdom will fully come maybe, when we all realize that there is zero degree of separation. Maybe, someday?

Acts 2:42-47

Jonah's Whale of a Tantrum (Warning: "Adult" Language)

When the Renewing God of Ongoing Creation saw that the lost sheep (Nineveh, Rome, Germany, Japan, _______?) had turned from the path of co...