Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesus, Language, and house of Being

Martin Heidegger famously called language the house of being. Meaning that language is how we shape being. The danger with this thought is the same as with some of the New Age thinking, or in the Word of Faith theology. If language shapes being, the thinking goes, then if we learn to speak the right way, we control life. The silliness of The Secret takes this concept to its limit. It takes a truth and fashion it into magical thinking. Yet, reality is beyond us to create.

Language does call forth the world out of the vastness of experience and creation. It does not create being but shapes being. It makes a container for reality. Naked reality remains untamed by language. As such, language begins as a response to reality. I understand this better as Baby Tito is starting to learn language. He learning to shape his experience, and the shape of the experience then creates his world. Mama means love. The raw experience of Lace feeding him and caring for him precedes his word Mama.

In the old debate about essence and existence, it came to shaped by a chicken and egg problem. Plato framed it with his love of abstraction and claimed the forms proceeded reality. The Early church took on the Platonic categories and made essence come before existence. They then made the Platonic essences of ideal forms in the mind of God. By taking such a stance, it only was a matter of time before the Church view this world with suspicion. The irony of many who attack the church for being other worldly as opposed to Hellenistic world is that the Church became Hellenistic in its outlook. The church ran away from life becuase of Greek thinking. Jesus rush toward life, and since he is with us until the end of the age, still rushes toward us in this life.

Mount Olympus were filled with Gods who only dealt with the world through their own desires and the Fates were indifferent. Judasim on the other hand always had God deeply concern and engaging man, calling to a better place. For Christians, God is both beyond the workd and intimately with the world. This is unique.

Not a year goes by where there is some pseudo scholar say the Jesus was nothing new. Osiris offered his blood to give life to Isis is one popular claims the Jesus is made up. But Osiris gave his life for another God and not humans. Jesus gave his blood for new life to humans, and the verticality of the Divine-Human is unique. Jesus precedes our words to shape the world, much like Lace's action for Baby Tito shape his understand of Mama and love. God became incarnate and as such touched existence. Existence, indeed, precedes essence, and it is the existence of Jesus. Jesus reveals the sturcture of life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baby Tito and his upcoming trip to Seattle and Prayer

I have been trying to get the fact of our coming trip to Seattle' Childrens Hospital out of my mind. I know sooner or later Tito will have surgery on his brain. I don't want to think about it. I have been praying about it. At night, my pray keeps me up. In moments of silence, prayer bubbles up. When I see the smile of my son, prayer moves like a storm system.

Yesterday, I received a call from a friend whose husband is in the hospital. We talk. We sense each others' fear. We played the stoic game. Then we prayed. I know Jesus is real, because prayer is real, because the grace of God is real. I don't know what will happen with Baby Tito, but I know God is in the middle of his life.

God,

Thank you for my son, for my wife,
for all the gifts small and large.
I ask for wisdom with the doctors,
and healing for my son. I ask in the name
of Jesus, who came and lived with us, calling
us toward peace, and who we strung up a tree,
only to have Jesus resurrect to new life and power.
I pray that this new life and power
be with my son, myself
my wife, my church, the world,
and all who have the breath of live.

Amen

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is Football Evil?

Is football evil? Recently, I have given up support football for the reason that I became convinced that the sport cannot be played without brain damage to the players. I wrote about it for Sojourners.

Reading Malcom Gladwell's essay Offensive Play made me question supporting a sport that leads to so much pain and suffering. I kept thinking if baby Tito grew up and played football, would it be worth it? and "Can a Christian support the sport, morally, once they understand the costs?"

I have always said the faith in Jesus means confronting sin in your own life. Jesus has an annoying habit of revealing where you fall short. Then he gives you the strength to transcend your weakness. So, when I learn about the problems associated with football, I went into prayer. I found myself arguing with what I knew was right. NFL players get paid great to play. They love the game and it is their choice if they want to play. The question that kept nagging me was ..is this the way Jesus wants us to love one another, asking health men to hurt each other for my entertainment? So, I quit cold turkey.

Now, the problem is that I was a football fan. I found myself having to disciple myself from checking the scores, following the stories and hearing the talk at work. I want to check how UTEP, my alma mater did? I want to check on how favorite players are doing. In short, I am going through withdrawals gitters. I am learning how much my mind and its justification works, as the arguments about why football is okay come back with a vengence. I find it has drawn me back into prayer. I have learn agian about my weakness, as I needed another reminder. In prayer I find myself praying for the families of Mike Webster, (the deceased former Pittsburg Steeler center) and Andre Waters, (the deceased former Philidelphia safety) and all who now suffer after their playing days.

I do share as to why I no longer watch or support football, but I try not to sound superior. After all I did support football for over twenty-five years. I know I now have less to connect with other males, as football is an easy connection. "What is your team?" is a question I have to learn to navigate without sound self righteous. Faith becomes a rock in transformation, and I am led back to Jesus.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Candle poem, Advent poem

Here is a poem that I just finished revising.

Ode to Man Controlled Light
I.
Sitting upon the altar, visible even within
the pulse of electrified light, this season’s
advent candles sway as if moving to a quick
mambo. Where was the primal candle first lit? Home?
Temple? Court? Wheels moved our goods
around on roads of our making, but
was not the harnessing of light,
the leverage and axis point of the imagination
fueling the creating of cities, nations and worlds?
Look into the crevices of collected memory,
where does the one who originally took flame
and touched string embedded in wax and let light
be into the darkness of human night live?

Wonder. Candles are controlled fires. Wax slowing
down the burning making light last for hours.
Where the heat of burning string meets the wax,
the very being of wax changes from solid to liquid.
Playing with the balls of cooling liquid wax coats
the thumb white, making the underlining skin
smooth. The flame opens out onto the demanding
surroundings of the indoors. Seldom do candles live
outside. A flame flickers with slightest shaking
of breath. With too much air passing over,
and the candle dies—the darkness returns. Perplexing?
The Buddha used this black metaphor to explain enlightenment:
Two damp fingers pressed together, then a sizzle
sound and the trembling yellow light departs. Advent,
menorah, unity—candles make people dream
dreams of the bliss. A product of the inventiveness
of the human mind, wax, sting and fire create
contemplation of what lies beyond us. At Christmas eve,
a glimmer of flame passes from neighbor to neighbor
signifying the living light coming in the world. The ancient
miracle of candles burning for days longer than reason
allowed in old Jerusalem’s temple to the Holy One under attack
by Alexander the Great’s rational descendants, a time
remembered to our day by the symbol of the sacred
candle holder, menorah. A man and woman holding
hands in front of family and friends transfer a small blaze
together as a sign of their lasting love. Found among
all the longing corners of earth, they have given the light
to read at night. Candles oppose the violence
of the common world, even as they are now
used simply a backup in case of a blackout,
or as an accent to add romance to any room.

II.
Light bulbs are also controlled fire. Electrified wires
set filaments ablaze. Enclosed in glass, they venture
out into sunny days, wind, and can even conquer
the darkness of the deep oceans. They have walk
on the moon. Library stay open longer
under their power. We have wired homes, cities,
regions, countries, and continents into a great
cable mesh engulfing our the whole of our small
planet, lighting the darkest corners with man’s little
torches. So concentrated our tiny beans that the Milky Way’s
bright burning masses are invisible to eyes living
in our cities. The enlightenment of our day,
optic beams carry our knowledge across the globe,
making us think the world smaller. We realize
through our gather light instruments, telescopes,
radar dishes, and X-ray detector that our universe is vaster
than our ancestors imagined, and expands larger and larger
with each moment. Our night skies only speak
of an unimagined past, stars older than our galaxy.

Yet, the light bulb remains. The reality of the darkness
disappearing with a flick of a button, while still burns
in the heart of the modern ones. The man made
light blazes on screens, phones, landscapes as our sun
slowly burns out. Once lit, we will not return to string and wax.
How can we learn humility, while gazing into the light
of our making? The poor, the rich, the artisans all can see
even when sunlight is on the other side of the world.
Light bulbs when dead jingle to the hand’s shaking.
What effect upon the imagination this force-fed
light? Lazy, we move with readymade photons
and seldom pause to wonder at the live
around us.

III
With candles, torches, flashlights, light bulbs,
penlights, computer screens and so many
more of our controlling photons, what are to make
as we move through the darkness of space?
Joy to our illusions—our light blinds us,
unable to see the certainty our lives—death
can be forgotten by the shining display of neon
until the very last moment of breath. Blinking
lights of holiday lights, of respirators, of shopping
windows, and of planes landing, build a tower
of beams, making the heavens dimmer within
our poetry, minds and thoughts—what joy?
Let us leave the lights on as we leave the room,
Lets learn to sleep with all the lamps on bright,
Let us leave the headlights to drain the batteries.
Let us fill the night like a million Las Vegas strips,
Let us gamble away reds, greens, yellows, and the gaudy
light of our desert fears, When the light of the sun
drowns out our lights, let us forget to pay the bill.
Let our imagination be again be small as our electric
enlightenment. Peculiar—enlightenment—a candle out
and a stream of smoke rising. What can it touch?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two or More Gathered

Throughout Baby Tito's recent trials I have been meditating on my relationship to my wife. A good marriage must be continuous unfolding revelation. Separate stories merge into one. But like how a two legged stool can not stand, our marriage needs the presence of Jesus. Love becomes incarnate.

Yes. Our love reveals Jesus presence and I understand our love is a small reflection of Jesus' love for us.

A deeper marriage creates a place of revelation where the other reveals themselves and the divine. My wife continues to unfold before my being drawing me to blossom within her gaze and we become one in story and life. Then we see our story as part of the larger story of God.

In our relationship, Jesus has presented himself, becasue of the truth of "when two or more are gathered" in his name, he is present.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Tears of God

I listen to a conversation, while waiting for a bus. Two people, mostly strangers, shared their hatred of the people they were living with. The point was to bond by hating the other, the other being the person not to long ago they loved. The point was judgment separated from love. Their sharing would lead to the destruction not only to their current relationship, but sow the seeds for a fragmented life.

Why do destroy our selves?

Hostility draws attention. When fragmented, we become hostile and only share our misery. The pain of life shatters the love, and we settle for an ear to listen to our self made tragedy. Fragmented life draws us to death. What is the being of human judgment? Human judgment draws force and yet it has no power. It builds walls. God always offers an open hand, and we, in anger, attack it with a rusty nail. Why? God's judgment is the cross of Jesus. Love affirms life, and draws life into to itself. Fragmented life draws us to death. We try to kill love, because we are afraid of life, and this fear fragments us. Yet, Love always resurrects.

God's judgment has at its very core being love, while mistrust is the backbone of human judgment. Faith for a newborn arises out of birth and if answered with love, becomes faith. Faith answers our first cries for milk, for touch, and for comfort.

If not true, then why would we cry? Doubt pops up long our first taste of air. It chokes our wonder and replaces it with judgment. For unwanted and unloved children, tears dry up quickly from abandonment. Others, the well dries up in a cauldron of manipulating human rain. Some mistrust their tears, and like a boy pretending to fake manhood, bottle up faith and clench their teeth. Their muscles tense and they no longer discover the world; they protect themselves from others. Another human meets their fate, and faith has his life shatter. The salty water of our eyes transcends human judgment in the blood and tears of Jesus; we find a place peices gather back to a whole.

Love is that which was separated becomes whole.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lessons I learn from my son.

The first task God gives us is naming.
Baby Tito is starting that grand adventure of naming the world.
Prayer needs names.
I have been contemplating this in regards to Baby Tito.
Baby Tito does have medical issues, but this weekend brought up home much joy he brings to those around him.
One of the challenges my wife and I face is not to let him simply be defined by the name "sick" child.
Already, he is so much more.
I was afraid that he would have trouble on the airplane.
He was great, not a whimper or a cry. He dazzled those around us, as other baby and small children were crying, he smiled or slept.
My family was great, not harping or even focusing on his conditions, but on how happy he is, and he is so very happy.
He loved to charm my aunts.
He went to wedding and was happy bouncing on his bouncer.
He smiled.
He was curious about the world around him.
He became my teacher, accepting the gifts presented to him with a grateful heart.
Jesus became a baby.
He then called us to be more child like.
I am still on the grand adventure of naming the world.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prayer, attention, life, and the incarnation

We are going to a wedding in the Bay Area this weekend. It will the first time most of my family gets to meet Baby Tito. There is excitement. Those who knew me as a baby will see my baby. There is fear. Traveling with a six month old will be an adventure to say the least. In the background, we wait for what the doctors will say about Baby Tito's surgery. My cousin is getting married. His friends are coming from around the country. Ours will not be the only story.

We think life as a linear structure, while it maybe more of a vector force.
A vector force is the direction of a force when all of the other forces from all directions is added together. So many stories, each with their own force, makes the whole present less a line and more of an ever changing diamond. Facets appear and glimmer onto other facets, light appearing to illuminate other story lines, seem to be a better model to give to life.

There will be one wedding, multitude of stories and each driving the narrative structure. For me as a Christian, the underlining narrative force is the divine that is the ground of Being, from which the rest of the other stories arise.

Simone Weil thought of Prayer as a learning to pay attention to God. Prayer maybe learning to pay attention to the underlining force of the narrative, God. The incarnate Jesus will be present at the wedding, as he always is, providing light that shines on all of the stories, making life a brilliant shimmering gem.

It is the risen Jesus I encounter through the stories about my son, my wife, my family, my church, my fellow humans alive now in and in the past. Prayer time is not a time wrenched away from the rest of our lives in order to pay attention to God, but a time that we practice to pay attention to God and take it to the rest of our lifes. Hopefully, we learn to see God in all aspects of our lives. God slowly fashioning our petty distractions into living prayers in the midst of life, for all life can be prayer. Such focused attention can only be a gracious gift from God.

I have tasted this deep prayer a few times in my life, and it is good.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lessons of Life from a Balloon.

It started to descend after five and half months.
"It's a boy." the balloon says and was presented to my wife in one of the many baby showers for Baby Tito. Expressing joy that accompanies the birth of a baby, the balloon shines wonder onto his future. A baby becoming a boy becoming a man becoming a father becoming a grandfather. The river of life flows on with new stories.


We are in Seattle to know the next stage of Baby Tito's story. Baby Tito has medical issues and like a Hollywood movie, we want the quick easy answer, but we live in life and not in simple film narratives. What we got from the doctor at Childrens' Hospital is reassurance, hope and more questions. My son has NF1 and we are busy learning about what that means for the rest of his life. We again play the waiting game as we will learn more after the doctor presents my son's case to his colleagues next Wednesday. Isn't a large part of being a parent playing the waiting game?

And Baby Tito? He is happy even after a six hour plus car ride, a miracle in itself. Love never seems to be a simple story no matter how we try to force it into that cake mold. He charms friends and strangers alike. He lives beyond any tale, fable, or story we want to put him in. He is a river into himself.

I am a poet always hunting for the right metaphor like a college coach courting the star athlete. So what to make of slow leaking balloon in my son's room? What surprised my about the balloon is how long it has taken to deflate. It has gone past what I could have expected for a balloon. It has delighted my son for months. Like baby Tito, the balloon has astonished me.