in praise of slow

A friend shared this from Rabbi David Wolpe (and I do believe I have a crush on the rabbi) on the Jewish holiday Sukkot:

All of us acknowledge how we rush the moments. If the computer lags for seconds, it feels endless as an insomniac waiting vainly for sleep. If our flight, traversing thousands and thousands of miles, is an hour late, we complain as if the sun refused to rise. We are not even minute men, but nanosecond men and women, splitting the day into innumerable microdrops of time. We do not merely fail to look at things under the aspect of eternity, we can rarely stretch our vision past the next moment.

Thankfully, there is Sukkot. During this holiday we read the book of Kohelet, Ecclesiastes. Kohelet reminds us that there is a “time for everything under heaven.” In the famous third chapter we are told that there is a time for living, for dying, for laughing, for weeping. We think ourselves masters of time but the true artistry of life is to live fully in time’s passing.

You would do well to read the whole article.
I was struck by two things.
First, that a Jewish rabbi gets it.
Okay, it shouldn’t be an epiphany that a Jewish rabbi gets it, especially when it comes to getting his own holiday. It’s just that the contrast with so much of the hysteria in Christian circles with the convergence of Sukkot, blood moons, and papal visits has been astounding. A holiday that leads too many to frenzied fears of what might happen at any moment as they look away to the uncertain future leads another to an embracing of the simple rhythms of life in which we find the “true artistry of living fully in time’s passing.”

It makes me want to convert to Judaism. Oy!

Second. The dovetailing of this article with the book I’m   s l o w l y   reading: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré. The book was written ten years ago, but is more relevant than ever. Honoré observes:US-cover-200x300

As we go on accelerating, our relationship with time grows ever more fraught and dysfunctional. Any medical textbook will tell you that a microscopic obsession with detail is a classic symptom of neurosis. The relentless drive to shave time into ever smaller pieces – it takes five hundred nanoseconds to snap your fingers, by the way – makes us more aware of its passage, more eager to make the most of it, more neurotic.

The very nature of time seems to have changed, too. In the old days, the Bible taught that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” – a time to be born, to die, to heal, to weep, to laugh, to love and so on. In Don Quixote, Cervantes noted that “Que no son todos los tiempos unos” – not all times are the same. In a 24/7 world, however, all time is the same; we pay bills on Saturday, shop on Sunday, take the laptop to bed, work through the night, tuck into all-day breakfasts. We mock the seasons by eating imported strawberries in the middle of winter and hot cross buns, once an Easter treat, all year round. With cellphones, Blackberrys, pagers, and the Internet, everyone and everything is now permanently available.

Honoré’s evaluation of Christianity’s effect on us, our time, and our acceleration?

“Christianity piles on pressure to put every moment to good use.”

How sad.

Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of a counterculture “in praise of slowness,” but all we seem to manage to do is to spin the not-so-merry-go-round that everyone else is riding, pushing faster and faster. Time is short, after all. Behold the blood moons…

But maybe, just maybe, this is not what “redeem the time” means.

“Make it your ambition to be quiet,” says Paul.
Quiet = sedate, tranquil, restful – used of those not running hither and thither.

Methinks we have some rethinking to do…

Courtesy fatboyke (Luc)

Courtesy fatboyke (Luc)

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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Books, haverings


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artist heart

It was a simple discovery.

jessie's heart

a work in progress by one of my wise of heart friends

My friend Matthew handed me a rather long list of English words for which he sought the Hebrew equivalents. Reading, rather than conversing, in Hebrew, my main recourse is to search through the Hebrew Scriptures, looking for that English word, or something close to it, and finding an appropriate Hebrew counterpart.

Simple, for the most part. Earth. Sky. Water. Gold. Silver. Red. Sword.
Some are more challenging. Adventure. Destiny. Game. Anti-Hero.

I put off ploughing through the list for a long time, just because of its forbidding length. But then I dove in.

And then I came to the word “artist.”

Did an “artist” word search in the KJV.
Not once. Not even a form of it.
Did the same with the ESV.
Two hits for “artistic” in Exodus 31 and 35. Bezalel and Oholiab. Of course. Yes. The craftsmen/artists who did all that artistic work on the tabernacle. I search for “craftsman” looking for something that could work for “artist.”

And it was a total “whoa” moment.
Literally. Audibly.
Two words in the Hebrew text.
“Cha-kham leiv” (with the “ch” and “kh” being “ch” as in Bach rather than “ch” in choose; make it nice and guttural at the back of the throat, folks. You should be coughing up some phlegm if you’re doing it right, people; and come to think of it, the same is true of art).

Meaning: wise of heart.

That’s how the King James translates it; modern translations go for “craftsman.” But I dub it “artist.”
An artist is one who is wise of heart.
And what is wisdom?
Taking in the big picture of reality and knowing how to interact with it, the ability to see it and then the ability to step into it, to realize it, embrace it, live it.


So there you are…


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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in haverings


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faith in two tenses


So just how do you pronounce the Greek word for “faith”?

It ends up being an example each time I teach the Greek alphabet to a new bunch of eager young minds. The Erasmian Pronunciation of Koine Greek technically provides two options for voicing the letter iota. The “i” sound as in “pick” or “wick” (technically the short sound of iota) or the “i” sound as in “peek” or “week” (which would be the long iota sound).

Choose the latter pronunciation and we have “peace-tiss” (or perhaps “peace-tease” –for some reason, I find myself really liking that option).

Choose the former pronunciation and we have “piss-tiss.”

It always gets a laugh.

It strikes me that these aren’t just two alternative ways of pronouncing πίστις.
They are two different tenses of faith.

Sometimes life is good.
Sometimes the pieces come together.
Sometimes we see promises fulfilled, prayers answered, dreams realized, visions fulfilled, purposes accomplished, desires blossom, and goals achieved.
πίστις. Peace-tiss.
Though perhaps it is more peace-tease for the simple reason that life turns, and often the turns are hair pins. And suddenly…
Life sucks.
There are more pieces missing than fitting.
Promises tease us like a vanishing rainbow; prayers return like Noah’s first dove – with nothing in hand and no place to rest their feet; dreams turn to nightmares, visions are blurry at best, purposes wither, desires shrivel, and goals become cruel jokes.
And all we’re left with is πίστις – of the piss-tiss variety.

Sometimes see our reflection in Teresa of Avila, traveling through the Spanish countryside with her mule, reforming Carmelite monasteries, doing God’s work. Upon finding herself thrown on the side of the road, covered in mud, she stood, pointing her accusing finger at heaven. “God, if this is how you treat your friends,
it’s no wonder that you have so few of them!”

There it is. Piss-tiss.

Piss-tiss or peace-tease.

πίστις is still spelled the same way, but it sounds and feels so very different. But it’s still faith. What a shame we’re generally only taught the more pleasing, happy pronunciation peace-tease, with short, vulgar sounding piss-tiss rejected, hidden away like an illegitimate child, sub-par and sub-spiritual. What a shame when both tenses of faith, both pronunciations of πίστις aren’t embraced, as James does in his wisdom:

“Is anyone among you cheerful? Let him sing songs (peace-tease).
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray (piss-tiss).”

Both are legitimate tenses, tones, modes. lenses of faith.
Both are crucial to spiritual life.
Both involve finding traction in life – in the good and in the not-so-good, on the uphill and on the downhill slopes of life, when you’re king of the hill and when you’re down in the dungheap.

Remarkable, how much can hinge on the sounding of a mere iota…


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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in haverings


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O, Pain

What do I do with thee?
I can
and generally,
scorn thee, O Pain.

But then what would I be?

Little more than a limpid,
pissed off puddle.

Such waste of space,

So how about
I welcome you,
I, your reluctant,
often resentful,
and kiss your brow
as the brow of
my Christ come to
teach me

courtesy of Anna Shukeylo

“First Embrace” courtesy of Anna Shukeylo

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Posted by on September 9, 2015 in Poetry


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What a remarkable thing.Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 9.54.05 AM
Thankful for a shard.
Feeling them all week in these
neuropathic chemo
Invisible shards

sleep stealing
walk stopping

So how surprisingly marvelous

to step
to feel one
but to actually see
O exquisite pleasure!
Finally here be one

Neuropathic chemo
grappling with a shard
that can finally be
to the sounds of reverberating

Never thought I’d be so
for a shard.



Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Poetry


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Lincoln on friendship

I’ve felt the call to spend more time with a long-term mentor for me: 2

I found a used book of his letters and speeches between 1832 and 1858. Unfiltered delight. I’m downright giddy.

I was struck by a letter he wrote to a certain Robert Allen on June 21, 1836. Lincoln would have been 27 at the time. Allen was evidently a friend in times past, and an officer.

Here’s the note – it’s worth a few moments to read and ingest
(I find it helpful to hear Daniel Day-Lewis’ voice when reading Lincoln; or Walter Brennan)

Dear Col.

I am told that during my absence last week, you passed through this place, and stated publicly, that you were in possession of a fact or facts, which, if known to the public, would entirely destroy the prospects of N.W. Edwards and myself at the ensuing election; but that, through favour to us, you should forbear to divulge them.


We have too many such “friends.” Without wishing to press to severely, such is truly a diabolical friendship that insinuates that there is or are fact or facts – that there is a “real story” of what has happened here or there – but that, well, out of respect just can’t be fully divulged or put on the table. Just know that it is there under the table, somewhere, this thing that I really can’t talk about. Diabolical. Devil’s work. A diabolos in the Greek language is one who insinuates, who throws a thought, a doubt, an accusation out there, but not explicitly or openly. It’s left in the shadows for the imagination to work out. Notice that in this case, the devil work is done in public in the absence of his “friend.” Who says we need Facebook to do this! God save us from such devil friends – and save us from being one.

Now watch Lincoln’s response:

No one has needed favors more than I, and generally, few have been less unwilling to accept them; but in this case, favour to me would be injustice to the public, and therefore I must beg your pardon for declining it. That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is sufficiently evident, and if I have since done anything, either by design or misadventure, which if known, would subject me to forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor to his country’s interests.

150308-true-friendshipSecond pause.

Allen insinuated without coming right out and saying what was on his mind, and he did so in public in the absence of his friend. Lincoln responds to such public insinuation by private letter (I don’t think Lincoln would have blogged this – and I imagine he’d be somewhat miffed that I’m blogging it 179 years later). Though I discern tactful grace here, Lincoln holds no punches. “Traitor.” Them be fightin’ words! But Lincoln says it. Let us resume and conclude:

I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact or facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your veracity, will not permit me, for a moment, to doubt, that you at least believed what you said.

I am flattered with the personal regard you manifested for me, but I do hope that, on more mature reflection, you will view the public interest as a paramount consideration, and, therefore, determine to let the worst come.

I here assure you, that the candid statement of facts, on your part, however low it may sink me, shall never break the tie of personal friendship between us.

I wish and answer to this, and you are at liberty to publish both if you choose.

Verry (sic) Respectfully,

Lincoln on friendship:

  • Don’t make insinuations about one you claim as friend in their absence.
    Especially in a public forum.
  • If a friend blows it in public, respond directly to that friend, rather than fanning the flames of public controversy. Message. Don’t post. It is also pertinent to note here that Lincoln wrote such letters and held on to them overnight. He had a whole archive of letters marked “never sent.” That’s not just wisdom. Those are the rhythms of a friend.
  • Call forth the best while not hesitating to directly say the worst. Nearly within the same breath Lincoln utters the word “traitor” (though not to him personally but to the country – there’s a lesson embedded there too) and “veracity.” Selah, people. Selah.
  • Friends call forth and give “mature reflection” for one another and offer “candid statements” to one another.
  • Friends know how to write short, well-thought-out notes on weighty matters.
  • Personal ties of friendship should be mighty cables, not fragile spinnings and they should be able to bear the weight of even the most public misunderstandings.

Such was the wisdom of a twenty-seven year old young man named Lincoln.
I suspect we can all learn a thing or two here…


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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in haverings


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full of goodness

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness.”

What we look for, we see. What we expect, we tend to find.
It’s a rule.

Expect the worst in people, we tend to find it.
Anticipate the best, we tend to evoke it.

“I am fully convinced that you are full of goodness.”

The statement floors me.
And I even perceive myself as being fairly optimistic about life, about people.
Some would quickly qualify the statement by pointing out that it’s Paul’s “brothers and sisters” he’s referring to – Christians. lens-of-nuremberg
Now the statement really floors me!
Too often I have seen followers of Christ excel in the art of shredding others – especially one another.
So yes, this floors me. Still.

“To the pure all things are pure, but to the defiled and disbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and conscience are filthy,” Paul intones in another place.

Filthy filters produce filthy images of others, images that are anything but full of goodness.

So how are those “people filters” through which I gaze at the world?
What is my basic assumption about that person driving in front of me – or riding way too close behind me?
How do I see that soul sitting across from me?
And even more foundationally, what basic assumptions do I carry about the face staring back at me in the mirror – for that reflection is perhaps the most revealing gauge for the filter of my gaze.

If the world stinks, just where do you think the stink starts?

Brant Hansen relates in his book Unoffendable (get it. read it. live it.) –

Some people are artists. They just see things better. When they look at something, they see potential Unoffendableoutcomes. They see what could be. Like my friend Chris.

Chris was elated at his find one time, and he enthusiastically showed it to me. It was a pile of flattened cardboard boxes he’d gotten from a dumpster. Seriously, he was overjoyed.

“This is the good stuff, my friend!” he told me. “Look at this!”

The good stuff?

I guess it was. Weeks later, he showed me a crèche he’d made, life-size: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It was painted with small flags from around the world, to demonstrate the relevance of Christ to the modern world in the midst of nations and wars.

When he told me it was made out of cardboard, I couldn’t believe it. It looked as though it were chiseled from white stone. He’d made it from the “good stuff” – you know, from the dumpster.

Chris is an artist. He just sees things.

Give us more artist eyes that can gaze upon dumpster discards and see crèches.
Eyes that are convinced you are full of goodness just waiting to be evoked, empowered, released, unleashed.

If you see beauty in the world, just where do you think that beauty starts?

the lens

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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in haverings


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