Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So have you heard of Matisyahu? He's an ethnic Reformed Jew turned Hasidic Jew who also happens to be a hip-hop/reggae/rapper. I was introduced to him through Relevant magazine who featured him on the cover of their most recent issue. I'm hooked.

What I love is that God's truth is so powerfully and wonderfully expressed in this song & video. Talk about uplifting! A modern-day psalm of Davidic caliber!


King Without A Crown Lyrics

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

dogma, dharma, and desire

OK, so if you read my profile or spend any time with me, you'll know I'm a LOST geek. (And thanks to Donald Miller, I am now a shameless TV watcher!) So last week's episode had a young Benry arriving on the island with his dad, Roger Workman. Ah, yes - we see Benry is a liar. He was NOT born on the island...wait, let me get back to my point...As they walked up the pier to the beach, they were greeted with the word "Namaste". "Hmm," thought I to my self, "what does that mean? Have I heard that before?"

And then today, in a serendipitous moment, as I sat waiting for Ray to arrive for lunch at Exotic India I notice a small banner on the wall behind the cash register - "Namaste - the divine greeting...Namaste" (I couldn't read it all because I'm in need of an upgrade on my current vision prescription...) There it was in my real life - my LOST world colliding with my Iowa City world!

Being curious, I went to the definitive source of all knowledge - Wikipedia - and found this -

"The gesture used when bowing in Namaste or Gassho is the bringing of both hands together, palms touching, in front of the person -- usually at the chest, or a higher level such as below the chin, below the nose, or above the head.

This gesture is a mudra; a well-recognized symbolic hand position in eastern religions. One hand represents the higher, spiritual nature, while the other represents the worldly self. By combining the two, the person making the gesture is attempting to rise above their differences with others, and connect themself [sic] to the person they bow to. The bow is a symbolic bow of love and respect.

Particularly in Hinduism, when one worships or bows in reverence, the symbolism of the two palms touching is of great significance. It is the joining together of two extremities -- the feet of the Divine, with the head of the devotee. The right palm denotes the feet of the Divine and the left palm denotes the head of the devotee. The Divine feet constitute the ultimate solace for all sorrows -- this is a time-honoured thought that runs through the entire religious ethos."

A month or so ago, I listened to a podcast called "Finding Our God in the Other" by Samir Selmanovic. One of his points was that as Christians we arrogantly presume that God is at work only through "us" "His people" "the Church". Our idolatrous ownership of God and the work of God's Spirit is confronted when, among other questions, Samir asks something like this "If God can speak to us through 'The Matrix' then why not through Hinduism or Islam?"

I have to admit - His question first encounters my fundamentalist Christian layer of "we have the truth". I'm a bit uncomfortable with his question, but more uncomfortable with my defensive reaction to it. For so many years, I have held to a narrow understanding that other religions are false and contain no truth - their tenets are in opposition to Christian belief - they mislead and are man's inventions or even worse, lies of Satan.

But, it is exactly this kind of belief that has made me feel incompetent to genuinely engage in conversation about spiritual matters with people who are not Christians but who are spiritual. You have those people in your life, don't you? They are the people who in many ways make the bumper sticker "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" seem like a lame excuse for Christians to be selfish, judgmental, abusive, arrogant..blah, blah, blah... because as "non-Christians" (noun) who are loving, gracious, peaceful and forgiving (yet imperfect and not forgiven?) they seem more Christian (adjective).

That was an awkward sentence - sorry. But I hope you understand. Right there, staring me in the face (as I look in the mirror!) is a "born-again Christian" who looks and sounds little like Jesus and right beside, a Hindu/Pagan/spiritual person who looks and sounds a lot like Jesus. How do I make sense of this?

Somewhere I've had to hold onto my "exclusive truth" belief, thinking it represents Christian orthodoxy. But somewhere it also has felt shabby, vulnerable, a thin tissue paper belief - susceptible to being easily poked through.

When I read about "Namaste" (admittedly a very superficial explanation in Wikipedia - hardly a worthy source!) I am struck by the beauty of it. Something rings true in it for me. Honoring one another deeply - image bearers of the divine, temples of the Holy Spirit.

Too often my Christian world view has reduced people into us/them, lost/saved, sinners/Christians. Too often that world view has left me feeling not human in a way - disconnected from people who aren't like me in belief. I admit this with a bit of a blush at first. But the blush wanes and I'm left admitting this with a sorrowful, repentant heart.

I who want to love others, who preach about loving others - I am afraid of others. What am I afraid of? Afraid of being out thought? Afraid that their lives make more sense, hold more water, are more solid than mine? Afraid that if we start to talk, I will really have to wrestle with a lot of holes poked in my shabby tissue paper dogmatic religion?

I want to be fearless when it comes to poking holes in my religion. Maybe ripping down some of my beliefs will get me closer to Jesus. I want to learn to love as Jesus loved. Somehow "Namaste" teaches me to do that - to love humbly, openly, and connected to others - not above them - one of the humans who get it wrong, but want to get it right - one who needs divine solace, comfort, forgiveness, hope - needs Divine Love in me and needs to be bathed in and transformed by Divine Love.

PS - I know that I am prone to making connections via superficial generalizations (a blessing and a curse). I admit I haven't read a lot about Hinduism or this element of it. I suspect that both Hindus (possibly) and Christians (probably) might point out distinctions that make the beliefs contradictory - places where I'm overlooking the real meaning, etc. But does that mean the superficial parallels are completely useless? I don't think so...but this is fodder for another post, right?

* Speaking of superficial parallels..."the worlds largest praying hands" pictured here stand at the entry of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I think I'm going to have to explore the universality of prayer postures and gestures. (more fodder...another post)

And I was taught that good little Christians folded their hands for prayer so they wouldn't be tempted to poke the other kids in the back of the neck...hmm...I think I may have to go with the Hindus on this one!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

everybody meet at Juliet's

It's official. We're going to read a book together and discuss it. And the winner is ..."Blue Like Jazz". Next Wednesday meet at 7 pm at the Weikal's - 185 Columbia Dr. for discussion of chapter ONE. If you can't join us for group, feel free to leave a comment here.

Here's a brief description from the author's website. "When I started writing this book I just wanted to end up with something like Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, because in Traveling Mercies it felt like she was free, free to be herself, to tell her story, to just vent, to rant, to speak as if she were talking to a friend. Traveling Mercies helped me write this book, and in a way, for a while, Anne will be "The Beatles" of spiritual writers, because she has influenced so many of us. I definitely feel as though I got permission from Anne Lamott, permission to be human and to interact with God without all of the mind-melt that comes with growing up in a religious family. I never believed it would be published, and so I was pretty open in this book. My career was dead when I started this thing, so I felt like I was just talking to myself, or to the little reading group that met at my house.

Sting has this song where he says that he is alone on an island and puts a message in a bottle and throws it into the ocean, only to wake the next morning and have a hundred million bottles washed upon his shore. He sings "I guess I'm not alone at being alone," and I think that sums up how I feel about Blue Like Jazz. It feels like I thought I was alone but woke up one morning to discover nothing could be further from the truth. And people have been incredibly kind."

I've linked the pic of the book cover if you want to read more.

Monday, April 30, 2007

the miracle happens again

Quentin Patrick Brenneman was born Sunday April 29th at 9:28 am - 6 lbs. 4 oz. to a proud and beautiful couple - Jeremy & Tina. Q is doing great, especially considering he made his debut into the world five weeks before curtain time.

We want to bless Tina, Jeremy & Q during this time. A baby shower is in the works so stay tuned for details.

They are scheduled to come home from the hospital on Wednesday, so we want to make the transition a little easier with daily meals. Leave a comment as to when you'll take a meal. They live off of Lakeside in the apartments behind T & M Mini-mart. Here's their phone number if you want to give them a call. 887-6883.

Wednesday Nancy & Ray Roast Chicken w/veggies & potatoes
Thursday Marcy something healthy & yummy
Friday Ginny & Paul Chicken Something Else/rolls/dessert
Saturday Teresa good food
Tuesday Velma & Bob something yummy
Wednesday Christy & Peter tacos

*The statue pictured is from Gustav Vigeland's work located in Oslo, Norway.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

a people's tragedy

My husband reads books. I read them too, of course. But I read books. He reads BOOKS. You know, the big thick history books about English kings and Russia. He reads them over and again until the binding breaks and chunks fall out like first graders' teeth.

One of those chunks has been migrating around our house lately, moving from kitchen table to bathroom, bedroom to living room floor. Pages 363 through 452, if you care.

"Listen to this," Ray called from the other room. He began to read.

"There was also a new stress on the workers' own sense of dignity...and they were no longer willing to be treated with any disrespect by either foremen or managers...Domestic servants marched to demand that they should be addressed with the formal 'you', as opposed to the familiar 'you', previously used to address the serfs. Yardmen demanded that their degrading title should now be changed to 'house director'. Women workers demanded equal pay to men, an end to 'degrading body searches', fully paid maternity leave and the abolition of child labour. As the workers saw it, these were basic issues of morality...Many workers spoke of founding a 'new moral life', based on law and individual rights, in which there would be no more drunkenness, swearing, gambling or wife-beating."

"Do you get it?" He asked. "I know exactly what you're thinking. I got it in about the second sentence." (Married people are like that sometimes) "Sounds a lot like the Kingdom, huh?"

I find it interesting that God's kingdom rises up in unlikely places at times. That was Russia in 1917 - around the time Americans were fighting for suffrage and prohibition. About the time that our denomination was gaining legs. Here's my question. Does God's kingdom rely on religious people to cause it to happen or could it possibly move at Divine impulse through means the religious do not sanction or call their own?

* the painting is titled "Revolution" by Marc Chagall

Friday, April 13, 2007

sweet music

So tonight, on a two-day spur of the moment (if there can be such a thing), a bunch of reverb musicians and friends got together to jam. I haven't seen my hubby so happy in a long time. Isn't it funny how doing the things we love makes us feel alive? Like maybe we're somehow worshiping God when we do what we love and use our natural giftedness?

I know this isn't spiritual in the fundamentalist sort of way, but I do think something God-pleasing was happening. A bunch of friends creating music, enjoying the beauty of sound, being in the moment - oh it felt so good.

Well, we're going to do this more often. I know a lot of us want community. And I say, what better way to do it than hangin' out making or just listening to some good sounds. Thanks Aaron, Brent, Cody, Mark, and made my night.

If you're interested, join us at the CoffeeCan @ 1035 Wade St. We're going to have more jams and schedule some local bands for more polished gigs too...

life is good.