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a violently gargled grace

chetThis letter encompassing struggle, this violent gargling and gurgling letter chet

…is the first letter of the key Hebrew word for grace.

Chesed.

It’s a word of zeal, passion, and ardor; a word filled with desire to embrace, to protect, not for a moment but for a lifetime. It’s frequently called “covenant love.”

Just don’t sterilize it into a legal transaction.hebrew-mercy-grace

Don’t forget to gargle violently when you say it.

For the first sound of grace is the sound of struggle – and the first sound is the one that’s stressed.
What’s the struggle?
I see mercy and justice squaring off, hands raised in a test of strength.
Which will prevail?
Which will win out?
James answers for us: “Justice will be without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy, but mercy triumphs over justice.”

Mercy wins.

Though I prefer to see this not as a smackdown with justice tapping out.
I hear the violent gargling, the clash of the bottom and top of the Divine throat in conflict, until the clash, making a thorny passage, leads to an open door where mercy and justice kiss, and thus begins the great Divine dance.

And all this, before we even realized it was happening.
Before we were even a breath or a sigh.

Chesed ultimately has everything to do with the triune essence embedded in all of reality, little to do with us, nothing to do with any sensed suitability within or without.

Yes, mercy wins.

Just don’t forget to gargle.

hesed

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in haverings, Uncategorized

 

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chai there

Chai.

Say it like a guttural “hi.”
In fact, “guttural high” isn’t a bad definition for life.

The letter chet is the agony of a soul torn apart from itself pronounced by a violent gargling at the back of your throat. This is how life starts and how it rolls, this violent gargle of a word. We’d much prefer the smooth, flowing “L” at the beginning of our English equivalent. Our worship tends to be filled with liquid consonants that roll right off the tongue, which is understandable. The violent gargling sounds are barred from our language and our liturgy, typically. We save them for the misery of illness in private. Which leads to a truncated, edited, only partially shared life.

The fully shared life is always a chai life.

And if life in this world is a chai life, then what must eternal life be but an even more deep, more profound violent gargling?

Evangelical culture can be so coy with chai. Just a simple, easy-peasy decision made in a comfortable worshipping womb. Conception, maybe, but not chai.

There’s not nearly enough gargling and gurgling. Not nearly enough mess and blood and cords to be cut.

We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom, says the Apostle. Many pressings. Depressings. Compressings. This, in fact, was his fundamental message to newly conceived souls.

Ah, but that sells so poorly. That’s far too violently guttural for us.

Just give us the easy conception and that liquid “L” that flows ever so effortlessly…

chaimazing

“chaimazing.” found this at teamofmonkeys.com. hoping it’s okay to use, for in picture form it catches what I’m seeing in chai. 

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in haverings, Uncategorized

 

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from wail to wall

I’ve fallen in love again.
With the Hebrew letter Chet (say “hate” with a guttural “ch”).

One of my favs, Lawrence Kushner, observes in his Book of Letters about the letter Chet:

In the Torah, the Chet is written with a sharp jagged notch on its chetforehead.

It is almost as if there were two separate letters barely joined together.
They need each other to stand.
But they wish they did not.
So they barely
touch.

Chet
is the agony of a soul torn apart from itself.

The top of your throat and the bottom of your throat fighting against one another (pronouncing Chet is like violently gargling at the back of your throat.)

Create the sound of the Chet. This is the reason why the Chet yields so many strange and conflicted word pairs.

___________

To this I would add that Chet was originally the picture of a wall. It pictures division, separation, someone on the outside and someone on the inside.

And so, this week some of those strange and conflicted words – the first being the most chaifoundational. Chai (not chai as in chai tea; gargle it. Get all you can out of that guttural Chet). Life.

Yes, life starts with a letter filled with violent gargling. Turbulent vocal chords clashing at the back of the throat, a sound struggling to get out. Life starts with a wail and leads to a wall. But on the other side of it is a hand reaching out. Yes. This is life. Something I can chet to say with guttural passion at times. But there is always a hand reaching out. Reaching forward.

From the wall.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in haverings, Uncategorized

 

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i get questions…

Hey Mike,

I love you brother.  And in love I must tell you.   You are wrong when you say:

Salvation is not a personal decision for Jesus but a community endeavor of faith and love rooted together in Christ. 

Salvation IS a personal decision for Jesus.  Period.  Full Stop.

Living out that salvation can be manifest in community faith and love—and should be. But living in community of faith and love does not save us.

I welcome your comments.

Your Spirit Sis

L_____________

 

* * * * * * *

 

L_______________, I love you too. And that’s probably one of the few things I can know for sure I’m not wrong about! Yes, I am without question wrong about many things, and may be wrong about this too.

But here’s my thinking.

First, there’s a big difference between the prepositions “by” and “in.” We are saved by Christ, by grace, by faith. And that reconciliation is experienced in one body – which is the “church.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

First of all, don’t hear “church” as any institution which we build and whose activities we attend. See the organic, living connection with believers, living and dead (we traditionally call this the “universal church”) experienced practically in any gathering of two or more in his name (we call this the “local church”). So don’t confuse the two prepositions, first of all.

I’m glad the statement arrested you, made you stop, made you type a query that had first rebounded round your soul a bit. That’s the point of the statement.

We are a highly individualized culture with salvation and God being a personal commodity that I can buy and use at my own discretion in this or that body, or in no body at all but my own, if I get ticked off enough at people and “church”! I love my personal savior who answers to me alone! Ha! But it is the “communion of the saints” that historic Christianity confesses and that Scripture commends, not the autonomous, self-motivated, self-contained individual. This autonomous mentality, which results in much toxicity that masquerades as Christianity is what I’m throwing a wee snowball at in the statement.

Sure, I could have inserted the word “merely” and eliminated most of the objection. “Salvation is not merely a personal decision et al…” For it is certainly both my decision and inner movement of faith (at divine instigation, to be sure!) in the context of the one body of Christ (the “church”). So, yes, merely would smooth things out a bit – but where’s the fun in that? I’m simply exercising the prerogative of Christ who challenged his hungry hearers, “Labor not for the food that perishes, but for that which endures to eternal life.” Surely it is both – we are commanded to work for our daily bread, after all! (Eph 4:28) But how much less impacting to say, “Don’t just work for food you can eat, work also for the spiritual food that sustains you for eternity.” I’m exercising the prerogative of Paul when he affirmed to the Corinthians boasting about their baptisms, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” – when he most certainly did send him to baptize too (Matt 28:19), thank you very much! But he seeks to stop them in their boasting tracks by the sharper contrast.

That’s all I would seek to do here in such a statement:

To arrest us, stop us in our individualistic, Western, self-sufficient tracks by saying just as emphatically that we are not rescued, reconciled, or redeemed all by our onesies as we sort everything out and cast our personal vote in our private salvation cubicle, but rather salvation is experienced in the context of the believing community we know as the “church.”

Hope this helps bring the needed clarity you seek.

If it doesn’t, well, then all I can say is let it rattle around a bit more and see if it doesn’t seem clearer after a bit, for I think there’s precious little more I have to offer on the matter at present!

Richest blessings to you, dearest L___________!

 

beermat_apologetics.012-300x225
 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Questions, Uncategorized

 

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in the heart’s own wax

One book, printed in the heart’s own wax
Is worth a thousand in the stacks.

~ Jan Luyken (Dutch poet)

 

O heart, too much like stone, you,
and chisel dulled;
or, better, a hard drive,
overloaded
with too many hurried bytes.

A tablet of wax
ever-expanding
ever-lengthening
ever-impressionable
beckoning the fresh
imprint
of lettered treasures old and new…

Too many in the stacks;
Move, O bookish stylus, to the wax!

stylus on wax

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2015 in Poetry, Quotes, Uncategorized

 

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what I’m reading: Moonwalking with Einstein

Once upon a time, memory was at the root of all culture, but over the last thirty millennia since humans began painting their memories on cave walls, we’ve gradually supplanted our own natural memory with a vast superstructure of external memory aids – a process that has sped up exponentially in recent years. 

Imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that all the world’s ink had become invisible and all our bytes had disappeared. Our world would immediately crumble. Literature, music, law, politics, science, math:
Our culture is an edifice built of externalized memories.

So good, this.

O for the rebuilding of the internalized palace of living, breathing memory! Before the bytes disappear…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Books, Quotes, Uncategorized

 

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a single brushstroke down

Light dawns, and any talk of proof
resembles a blind man’s cane at sunrise.

Remember the passage,
We are with you wherever you are.

Come back to that.
When did we ever leave it?

No matter we’re in a prison of forgetting
or enjoying the banquet of wisdom,
we are always inside presence.

Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake,
clouded with grief, laughing like lightning,
angry at war, quiet with gratitude, we are nothing
in this many-mooded world of weather
but a single brushstroke down,
speaking of presence.

*The word Allah in Arabic begins with a strong downward mark.

Excerpt From: Coleman Barks. “A Year with Rumi.”

This is what Proverbs calls “a word on its wheels” – what we call a “timely word.” I simply can’t quite get enough of it.

All talk of proof is like a blind man’s cane at sunrise. Positively exquisite.

Always inside presence in this many-mooded world of weather. Yes.

How desperately we need this truth as an ice pick when heart and hearth freeze. Where are those Ezekiel eyes? Those roomy eyes that can see through our barren Chebar landscape to the whirling of the Wheels, to the indescribable presence we thought reserved for holier, happier climes.

And the single brushstroke down speaking of presence. Exquisite doesn’t even begin to capture how it fires my soul to know that the Muslim word for “the God” begins with a single brushstroke down. Some see only sword, but it’s Immanuel hidden in a stroke. Immanuel everywhere.

In this many-mooded world…

Allah-Final551-300x203

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Poetry, Uncategorized

 

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