20 November 2015

Day 4—Second Week #7 Exercises

Today’s a repetition of Day 2 where we discussed the schema that Ignatius supplied. The idea is, basically, to see that the things God’s given us can be used against us if we’re not careful. Most notably are seeking after riches than can lead to seeking after honor (or human approval) , which, in turn, leads to a false sense of pride. And If pride goes unchecked, it could lead to all vices.

That’s the story Ignatius tells anyway.

And I can kind of see the point. “Paul” wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). So I think that’s what Ignatius is referring to—not the money itself but an unhealthy desire for more wealth. If one is solely focused on obtaining wealth one begins to look at scrupulous ways to get it. At the beginning, one might be hesitant, but if one doesn’t get caught stealing, and doesn’t for a long time, then one begins to think one can get away with a lot more. But it all starts from “the love of money.”

Now, this doesn’t have to be money, necessarily, because what we’re really talking about is greed. Greed can take on many forms—wealth, sex, power, food, drugs, etc. Whatever one has too much of and will stop at nothing to obtain more of, I would place under greed.

Ignatius believes that the counterpoint here is poverty, both spiritually and, if God wills, physically. And while that may be one solution, I don't think it’s the full solution. In other words, it’s not the “root” of the counterpoint. For me, that’d be intention and presence.

In Buddhism, intention and presence are two very big ideas. Keeping the money motif, intention is just what it says—what does one intend by obtaining money? Not motivation; that’s something else, but what’s intended? My intention could be to make a nice dinner for my wife. My motivation could be because it’s her birthday. Two different things.

My intention for obtaining more wealth could be security in the future, helping those with less, etc. All noble ideas. But if my intention is to buy myself more stuff, well, I’m on the road to “all vices”, as Ignatius put it.

Being present, though, is something else. It’s “being in the moment”; being aware of what’s going on around me; not getting caught up in thinking about the future and missing out on the present. Jesus said, “Stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6.34). In other words, be present. Be in the moment for that’s all we have. If we’re scheming how to get more, we’re not in the moment.

But make no mistake, being in the moment is one of the hardest things to do. That is, to truly be present—to be open to the experience, to see and hear God in the midst of the moment, to be aware of my feelings and thoughts and senses—is something we must practice daily. And that’s what the examen is all about. The examen helps us, teaches us, to be present by reflecting on the previous moments. The point of this exercise is to cultivate a life of presence. To realize that there is no other moment, that this is it. For me, that’s the tool to root out the vices.

Be present, my friends.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

16 November 2015

Day 3—Second Week #1 Exercises

As I stated previously, I’ve been quite busy with the second year of Spiritual Director training. And because of that, I’m not able to update this blog as much as I’d like. However, the last few days of class have been the exception to the rule.

Last time, we talked about God’s Dream. Today, we’ll focus on Jesus and his cause. The prayer texts for this are:



Just like the other day, I’d add some other texts, specifically to Jesus’ cause: Mark 1.15; 10.35-45; Luke 4.16-21; etc.

To put it bluntly, the Gospels seem compelled to say that Jesus did and said the things that only Yahweh was supposed to do and say (see Wright’s book How God Became King). His main cause, therefore, was to usher in God’s Realm (or Kingdom). As he said in Mark 1.15, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” And just like we saw from Luke 4, the fulfillment of those promises—the preaching of God’s Realm to the poor, the releasing of prisoners, healing the blind, liberating the oppressed, and proclaiming Yahweh’s Jubilee—is not sometime in the distant future. No. Jesus said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled” (v. 21). All of the passages above are sub-points to the establishment of God’s Realm. In other words, it’s because of God’s realm that all of those other things happen.

Another way of saying this is that there’s an eschatological emphasis with Jesus. He’s the final chapter, if you will, of Israel’s story. St. Paul wrote that Jesus is the “goal of the Law” (Romans 10.4). That is to say, everything was leading up to Jesus. He’s the hinge upon which the whole story turns. All of God’s promises find their fulfillment in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1.20). Because of Jesus, the “old creation” came to an end. That is, the Old Covenant System—with its sacrifices, laws, etc.—were only a temporary system put in place until Jesus (Galatians 3.23-25). That system, however, wouldn’t be completely finished until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Hebrews 8.7-13; note the present tense verbs in verse 13).

Furthermore, somehow, through Jesus, God’s Dream would begin. The seeds would be planted during his ministry, the crops would grow (from his ascension to the beginning of the war), and then the harvest would occur at the end of the Old Covenant age (Matthew 13.36-43; 24.1ff). Ultimately then, God’s Dream (i.e., Jesus’ main cause) is the complete restoration of all creation (Colossians 1.15-20). From then to now and into the future, God’s Dream is continuing to spread throughout creation and will finally be capped off with a fresh surge of Grace when God’s Realm and our realm fully and finally become one (Revelation 21.1-5; cf. John 17.11; 20-23).



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

13 November 2015

Day 2—Second Week #1 Exercises

I apologize for not keeping up this blog like I normally do. I’ve been deep in my Spiritual Direction class and part of our “homework” is to keep a spiritual journal. At first, I was just going to post my journal entries but then I realized that there would need to be a lot of back story for you, the reader, to know what the heck I’m talking about! So I canned that idea.

But this last week we actually tackled something I want to share. It was about God’s Dream. These were our prayer texts: Isaiah 65.17-25; Ezekiel 26.22-38; Hebrews 2.5-13; Hebrews 8.6-13; Revelation 21.1-7.

I’ve adopted God’s dream as my own dream a number of years ago. I’d add a few other passages to the above, though: Isaiah 2.1-4; 55.1-13; 66.22-23; Ezekiel 47.1-12; Revelation 22.1-5. And many more besides. Take some time to read both of these sets of passages and then come back here. Go on. I’ll wait.

Back? Good!

In Proverbs, it says, “When there’s no vision, the people get out of control” (29.18). As followers of Jesus, we must reclaim God’s dream! This is where creation is heading, not with God destroying this world and starting over. The vision presented in the New Testament (especially from Peter and John) is that God’s not destroying everything and starting over creating all new things but God’s taking all the current things and “making [them] new” (Revelation 21.5). In other words, God’s dream is to renew creation! The kingdom stories of Jesus bear this out.

Think of the story about the yeast in the dough (Matthew 13.33). The yeast is added in the middle of the process of making bread; not at the end! The first batch isn’t discarded and a new batch is made. No. The yeast (representing God’s Realm—the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God) is added to the existing dough (creation) and the yeast keeps spreading until the whole dough has been transformed.

That’s the meaning behind Jesus’ resurrection, too. God didn’t discard his physical body and create a new one but transformed it into a transphysical body; a physical body that was more than physical. In that one event, we see God’s dream—the entire story of New Creation—unfold; a pattern for the rest of creation.

Jesus said in the same way that God sent him into the world, he sent his people into the world (John 20.21). And Jesus’ vocation was to usher in God’s Realm (Mark 1.15); to add the yeast to the dough, if you will. Our job is to continue that work; to knead the dough, if you will, and see to it that the yeast continues to spread. That’s why Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus at Corinth to “stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15.58).

Again, as followers of Jesus, we must recapture God’s dream. We’re God’s co-workers (1 Corinthians 3.9; cf. Mark 16.20; Acts 14.27; 15.4; 2 Corinthians 6.1) and our vocation is to help bring about this transformation in our world. Not some day in the remote future but now. Jesus said, “Now is the time” for God’s Realm to come (Mark 1.15). When should we transform our weapons into farming tools? Now.

When should we stop making wars? Now.

When should we stop violence of every kind? Now.

When should we forgive each other? Now.

When should we seek reconciliation between each other and nations? Now.

When should we forgive the debts of the world? Now.

When should we end poverty? Now.

When should we see each other as sisters and brothers? Now.

When should we “turn to the other cheek; go the extra mile”? Now.

When should we “work to live in peace with everyone”? Now.

When should “do justice”? Now.

When should we “love kindness”? Now.

When should we “walk humbly before God”? Now.

Now is the time for us to enact the dream of God.

Now.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

24 October 2015

It’s a Maggard Kind of Day

It’s been over a year since I wrote about shaving. And some people might be thinking, “Yea!” But, I find it very calming. Especially since I use a double edge (or DE) safety razor. My shaves have been very smooth—no irritation, bumps, or cuts (well, a couple of nicks but nothing serious).

As with most things one picks up, one starts to seek out other techniques or supplies. And wet shaving (as it’s sometimes called) is no different. I’ve tried various blades and soaps and I even purchased a couple of inexpensive razors at flea markets—one’s even a nice twist-to-open (TTO) or “butterfly” razor .  But one thing that I wanted to try was an “open comb” razor.

A lot of DE safety razors have a bar that runs the entire length of the under side of the blade. This leads to less exposed blade, thus making it much safer than a straight razor, especially in inexperienced hands. But an open comb razor has notches or openings in the safety bar, giving it the look of a comb. While this is still safer than a straight razor, it does expose more of the razor blade than the straight bar (or “closed comb,” as it’s sometimes called).

Anyway, as I said, I wanted to try one. But I just couldn’t see myself buying a new razor just for the head and most places don’t sell their razors in parts.

The other day, however, I went over to Maggard Razors, which I do at least once a week. I normally don’t buy anything (most of the supplies one uses in wet shaving will last for months), but just browse around to see what’s new. Maggard Razors was where I purchased my first razor and supplies.

Well, last week I spied their custom open comb razor heads! As they were only $7 (!), I added one to my shopping cart along with a couple of bottles of sample aftershave from Captain’s Choice (Bay Rum and Sandalwood). With speedy shipping the whole purchase was less than $20, and you just can’t beat that.

My shipment arrived on Friday afternoon and I couldn’t wait to try out the new razor head. But I did.

Until today.

I just finished my first shave with my Maggard Razors open comb razor head on my Maggard Razors MR1 stainless steel handle. My blade of choice is the Feather blade (this was my fifth shave with this blade). These blades are made in Japan and are some of the sharpest around. For my soap, I used the Maggard Razors unscented soap and my brush is an Omega Hi-Performance Synthetic Bristle Brush.

First I have to say how much I really like Maggard’s unscented soap. My skin’s sensitive and fragranced soaps burn my skin and irritate it for hours. So I really appreciate that Maggard makes a soap without fragrances. And let me tell you, their unscented soap just explodes whenever I start loading it into the bush! Seriously. I just wet the brush (since it’s synthetic I don’t have to soak it like one would do a boar hair or badger hair brush), squeeze out the excess water and, after a couple of passes, the foam just erupts inside the container! All in all, it only took a few seconds and I had a nice, rich lather.

After dampening my face, I built a face lather until I got a nice even layer on my face. I then wet the razor in hot tap water and started my shave.

Wow.

I could feel the blade on my face in a more direct way that I normally do, which is to be expected. It’s not a lot different that the closed comb head, but it was enough for me to notice it.

If I’d been in a rush, I could’ve stopped after that first pass—my face was so smooth! But I lathered up again and proceeded with my second and final pass. (The first pass is always with the grain; the second is “cross-grained”.)

Wow!

Seriously. I said, “wow” outloud. That was one of the smoothest shave I’ve ever had. I just can’t believe the difference. Normally, I have to do a “touch-up” pass where I feel around for any places that could be a little closer, but not this time. It was just so close and smooth.

I finished up with some splashes of cold water (to tighten the skin back up), Thayers original witch hazel with organic aloe vera, and then splashed on some Captain’s Choice Sandalwood aftershave.

All in all, it was a great shave and I’ll be using this open comb razor for a long, long time.

If you have the mind to, I highly recommend checking out Maggard Razors for all of your shaving needs. They’re great people to work with, speedy on their processing and delivery, and have fantastic customer service.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

05 October 2015

I'm Guilty!

For a long time now, I’ve been writing the word God as G-d. I explained that there are two reasons for this, one being that some people find the name of God so holy, that one shouldn’t take a chance of defacing it or deleting it. So, they substitute the “o” with a hyphen or underscore. And so, not wanting to offend such people, I hyphenated the word God. But I was enlightened to something yesterday.

While we were listening to Matisyahu on the way home from a long day of traveling, I realized that I have been guilty of dualism. For those of you who don’t know Matis, he’s a musician who mixes Orthodox Jewish themes into reggae, rap, beatbox, and hip-hop, though some of his latest music embraces different musical styles.

A few times in Matis’ music, he uses variois Hebrew words for God. Sometimes he uses Adonai, a Hebrew word meaning, “My Lord” and sometimes he’ll use HaShem, a Hebrew word meaning, “The Name”. Both of these words have replaced the Hebrew word YHWH (יהוה), the name of God (Exodus 3.14), in formal and casual use, respectively. The most widely held pronunciation of YHWH by Hebrew scholars is Yahweh (yaw-way). In Greek this is called the Tetragrammaton, meaning “Four-letter-word”.

For some odd reason, I looked up the word HaShem. It’s not like I didn’t know what it meant, but here we are. During my reading about the different names of God, I ran across this quote regarding Shalom:

Talmudic authors, ruling on the basis of Gideon’s name for an altar (“YHVH-Shalom”, according to Judges 6:24), write that “the name of God is ‘Peace’” (Pereq ha-Shalom, Shab. 10b); consequently, a Talmudic opinion (Shabbat, 10b) asserts that one would greet another with the word shalom in order for the word to not be forgotten in the exile. But one is not permitted to greet another with the word shalom in unholy places such as a bathroom, because of holiness of the name (emphasis added).

And that last sentence got me thinking.

All of these terms are used because people—honest, God-loving people—want to somehow maintain the holiness of God’s name. So, to separate the holiness of God from the profaneness of creation, some people have chosen to use different words or spell the word “God” differently. I completely get that. And, as I stated above, I’ve done that for years out of respect for those people who might be reading my blog.

But that last sentence really convicted me. You see, my personal view is that there’s no division between the sacred and the secular in our world. Certainly, we may deem something or someplace or even someone more “holy” than some other thing or some other place or even some other person. But that’s not how I see the world. And, I don’t think that’s how God or the Bible sees it either.

In Celtic Christianity from the 4th-12th centuries, the sacred and the secular were close together. The sacred was immersed into the “secular” at almost every turn. There are prayers for milking cows, stoking fires, baking bread, etc. This is because the ancient Celts understood that the world God made is “supremely good.”

In the Bible the world is so good that God (somehow) became a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. From Jesus forward, God’s Realm is continuing to grow and grow. And, in the final chapter of God’s dream (Revelation 21-22), God’s dimension (“heaven”) and our dimension (“earth”) are fully joined together.

So, while I still don’t want to offend others, I have to be true to my own convictions. Therefore, from now on, I’m no longer hyphenating the word “God” in my writings. I see God in the face of every person I meet; every bird song I hear; every breeze that I feel; in the smile of my wife.

God is here and here is “supremely good.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC