Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kings Will Be Kings: Law, Order, and the Normalizing of Oppression

I have often written and preached upon Matthew 2, that horrifying story of King Herod and his act of political expediency in having the police slay all male infants in powerless little backwoods Bethlehem. I have thought out load about:
     How power, control, and safety can become false idols;
     How omens and prophesy can be self-fulfilling traps;
     How Herod could justify his act as being in the name of the "public-good";   
     How the Old Testament left us images of God killing other infants, or commanding us to do likewise;
     How Herod was a human-being, made in God's likeness;
     How three pagan astrologers saved the infant Jesus while dooming all the other baby boys...

Herod was a scion of wealth and unearned privilege, an icon of oligarchy. He was placed upon the throne by an outside power, and was supported by organized religion. He promised prosperity, progress, and a temple of shiny-things. We see infanticide as business as usual for kings and conquerors throughout history, as a normal part of the dirty business of "securing the throne".

The destruction of Alderaan by the Empire.


But now, when I read the story anew, I wonder: what happened next for those left behind? Did the religious leaders speak up against this abuse of power? Did the civic leaders complain through proper channels? Did the mourning parents protest in the streets, and if so, who joined them? The Bible and history tells us that whenever the sanctity of the Temple was impacted, the people rose up - but what about the sanctity of human life?

Jesus brought a revolution of sword and fire, not against the Empire, but against our sin of self-deluded complacency in the perceived short-term safety brought by power instead of trusting in true Power. We were given a Birth Star of Hope, but time and again we choose the Death Star of Despair.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dance of Koi




Thursday, December 22, 2016

Words on Word



WORD

Not the words, symbols, and mental images that we have codified and entrapped in a black leather binding that we anoint as THE sacred Word of God.

Not the Word of God, but the WORD, God.
The WORD before words before Word.
The creating WORD of breath and life.
The life-giving WORD of living Light:
     Light for Creation;
     Light for Humanity;
     Light for the Darkness.

A man, wild and unworldly, came telling us about a dawning Light that he could see over the horizon. An enlightening Light was near us.

He was in the World - through him, the World was; but the World knew not the WORD!

Through him, we were, but we did not know the WORD! Some accepted him, but most did not. Some believed that as a name is an attributing word, then God is WORD.

We are Children of the Light,
Born not from the lust of the Flesh,
But born by the will of the Lord.
And the WORD became Flesh,
Born not from the lust of the Flesh,
But born by the will of the Lord.
And we have seen the Light in him;
WORD of grace and Light of Truth.

~ Tiwago




(from John 1:1-14)
(photography by tiwago)


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Right Here in a Manger



I know as Truth that a special babe was humbly born in a stable. Now, I've heard some say that the stable was a cave, a shepherd's cote outside of Bethlehem; womb/tomb - amniotic semiotics. The farmer in my past wonders, what bedding did the sheep share? Could it have been fronds from local palms? Hosanna to the King?

Others have said that the animals were kept in the house as was common at the time, sharing safety and comfort and warmth with their people. The anthropologist in my past thinks this to be true. No paying room available in the Inn, but room was made within a home, just as I strive to make room within. But my heart is not in this truth either.

I had a mean pony.
Then I had a sweet small horse.
Then I was raised by a massive gelding named Peanuts; my mentor; my companion; my strength; my caretaker; my confidant.
Then we had a wagon-team of contrary garden-invading pony-mules.
Then finally, my dad had wool-of-many-colors sheep for those allergic to dyes.
Too small to be dignified with a name like "barn", we had what we called the "stable" that we had dragged down the road from my Grandfather's farm behind the car, then a larger one that my father built as I kept an eagle-eye out for fallen nails, far back in the southeast corner of the small pasture.

I heard the Nativity in our stable. The crunk-crunk of equine molars grinding grain from the trough, intermixed with wicker and whinnies and neighs and sporadicly nickered exclamations. Hooves stomped and plodded, and occasionally cracked against a stall. Two cats meowed. Sheep muttered and mumbled and nervously stirred. When it rained or stormed, I'd run to the stable to listen to the metal roof.

I smelled the Nativity in our stable. Dusty smell of old wheat-stubble straw, and the sweet pungent smell of alfalfa hay. The comforting smells of old leather in the tack-room mixed with horse-lather. The fecund earthy smell of horse-manure as I mucked the stall, or the fetid smell of millions of sheep-droppings. The rank lanolin smell of wet sheep. The smell of rain outside.

I saw the Nativity in our stable. The labor of spring lambing-time. Field-mice pinks hidden in a straw nest in the hayloft. A dead cat, and lambs that did not thrive. Life and death I learned in our stable.

Though I only sense it now, Christ was born in my warm and homey stable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hark!


Ethereal beauty, ephemeral yet eternal;
The Herald Angels sing softly, echoing;
Touching lightly upon the World below -
Such beauty that brings an annunciation: 
Of Peace;
Of Comfort;
Of Rescue and Redemption;
Of a Present God Proximate and Incarnate.

Earthly beauty, eternal yet ephemeral;
The Shepherds of the Night-Watch sing;
The sight before them fills them with Joy -
Such beauty that brings an exclamation:
Of Peace;
Of Comfort;
Of Rescue and Redemption;
Of a Present God Proximate and Incarnate.

Explode in song you Broken and Forgotten!
The Lord is collecting His Little Lost Ones;
The Lord is paying off all your old Debts;
The Lord has rolled up His sleeves to work -
So the world'll know Restoration and Re-Creation.

~ Tiwago






(from Isaiah 52)

(photography by tiwago)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Advent, Cold, and the Fall


An odd Advent in the north this year -
It is Autumn, yet the Fall has fallen
     To Winter... 
(Humanity fell and still falls;
And I wrap myself up in my snowy mantle of fallenness.) 
Short, dark light, and prairie-howl nights,
Winter's wolves prowl and prey all
Around me, visions of mortality abound -
The appearance of death and desiccation.

The Wind wails for the children of Aleppo;
Dear Bana, do you still live, there in the dark?
The Moon mourns with sharp argent tears,
And stabs me in the dark - WHO cries the owl:
Who did I kill this day with my indifference?
Who did I hurt today by withholding kindness?
Who did I ignore in my ongoing self-absorption? 
(Are these questions yet more selfishness?)

I tire of abiding; just "hanging-on"!
The Winter-of-Fallen-Fall brings me down, like
A deer in deep snow; the wolves trail behind.
Yet, I love wolves as well as deer 
     - Life is.
I need to reimagine summer, before Winter 
Swallows me in its maw of frigid despair. 
I need to meditate upon Spring and Summer dreams.
I need a tactile reminder that Winter is but a brief interlude -
     A summoning prelude.
I need to remember that Hope dwells with me.
I need to encompass and embrace Advent time.

~ Tiwago





(photography by tiwago)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nativity


Listen to the story - the birth of the baby happened like this:

Mary was very young, and had been given to the builder Joseph by her family to be his wife; but they hadn't slept together yet. She hadn't told him at first that she was pregnant, even though she'd already confided with her cousin. When he did find out, he decided to get an annulment quietly - he was a kind and gentle man and didn't want his family or the community to stone her to death for her adultery. But that night, he had a dream.

An angel appeared to him. Being a dream, he did not question if it was an angel from God, or the Angel-of-God - it was enough that it was a Holy Messenger. "Don't be afraid to keep Mary as your wife. The child she carries is the seed of the Spirit of the Lord! She will give birth to a son, and as his abba, you will give him the name Joshua (Jehovah is Generous, Yahweh is Salvation); for the Lord, full of grace,  is saving His people from their own sins by being your baby to raise among them."

Joseph awoke thinking that this was just as the Prophet had said long long ago: "A virgin will give birth to God Incarnate, Emanuel." He named his little boy "Jesus", and consummated his marriage with Mary. They were a family.

(Matthew 1:18-25)


(Painting - The Adoration of the Shepherds by Hugo van der Goes)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent Sign

The Virgin Nursing the Infant, by Lucas Cranach the Elder


Sometimes,
God asks us
To ask Him
For a sign.

Sometimes,
God tells us
To not ask
For a sign.

Sometimes, 
God shows
Us a sign
Anyway.

A girl -
A young woman,
Pregnant!
With child?
With Immanuel?
With God?

A baby -
Vulnerable;
God -
Vulnerable!
Too young to choose!
Too young to refuse!
Too young to eat
From the Tree;
The Tree of Knowledge,
Knowledge of Good,
Knowledge of Evil.
Too young!
Vulnerable God,
Depending upon
A young woman -
A girl.

Sometimes,
God makes us
To be a sign.


~ Tiwago




(from Isaiah 7)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Abide Until



James 5:7-10

Abide my love
Abide until

The farmer abides
The farmer is patient
Preparing
Planting
Waiting
Abiding until

Abide my love
Be patient dear-one until
Abide and be nice until
Abide and don't judge until

He's coming
He's near
He's just outside the door

The Prophets abided until
The Prophets suffered until
The Prophets were patient until
Until


~ Tiwago



(photography by tiwago)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Emanuel



Happy are y'all
with Emanuel-help
with Emanuel-hope

He who made
Heaven and Earth
Water and Matter 
Life

Forever faithful
Champion of the weak
Cook for the hungry

The Lord
Frees us from our jails
The Lord
Removes the scabs from our eyes
The Lord
Picks us back up again and kisses our booboos
The Lord
Loves it when we imitate him
The Lord
Cares for the aliens 
The Lord
Loves the 
Lost

The Lord hates injustice, meanness, and selfishness.
The Lord always was, is, and shall be here.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

~ Tiwago

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent Flowers


"The wasteland shall rejoice and blossom;
like  the crocus it shall bloom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing."

Isaiah 35:1-2



Glory returns?
Majesty returns?
     Glory and majesty!

Strength for your weakness. 
     Stability for your wobbling. 
          Encouragement for your hopelessness.

Be strong?
Fear not?
     Immanuel!
          See again.
          Hear again.
          Move again.
          Sing again.

Flowing water:
     Quenching water;
     Healing water;
     Nurturing water;
     Growing water -
Living water!

Wondrous Way!
     Perfecting Path!
          Fool's Freeway!
               Highway Home!

Joyous singing;
     No more sighing!
Joyous gladness;
     No more crying!

~ Tiwago





(photography by tiwago)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

#noDAPL - Why It Matters to Me Personally

I am but an old leaf,
but I come from
a mighty tree.


Why do I care? The pipeline does not go through my backyard. I am not of the First Nations. I do not myself drink of the river's water. Why do I care? 

I was an Archaeologist for over a decade. I have knowledge of the efforts to exterminate or forcefully enculturate those who lived here first because they were in the way of "progress". With greater knowledge comes greater responsibility - I may not keep silent without becoming even more complicit than my comfortable position of white privilege already makes me. How can I lie by omission? 

I was a Planner for over two decades. Repeatedly, I saw gray infrastructure projects located away from affluent subdivisions and forced through "vacant" farmland or "unused" open-space. Now that I am retired I am free to speak out, therefor, I am honor-bound to do so. How can I judge people as being more disposable for having less money, power, and influence? 

I was a Preservationist too. I saw an ever-increasing number of new pipelines cross through my county for the "public weal". Private pipelines bringing foreign products through our land to ports for shipping overseas to foreign customers. "It's the economy stupid!" they say. How can I not speak to power, calling them to claim their lies of prosperity for all?

I have been a Christian for just a short while. How can I not be against social and environmental injustice whenever and wherever I see it and still call myself a follower of Jesus Christ? The God of Amos and Micah and Malachi drives me to prophesy! How can I ignore the Spirit's breath within me?

I am a Grandfather, a Father, a Husband, a Child, a Preacher, a Poet, a Photographer, a Human-being - how can I do anything but shout and scream and rage in the Wilderness; even if my words are lost and carried off by the wind?

I am an old man, but do I not come from a mighty Tree?


Friday, December 2, 2016

Let There be Hope on Earth



Remember, scripture was written in love to instruct and inform us, to give us strength, encouragement, and hope. May this strengthening, encouraging, source-of-hope God grant that you may live in hope-filled harmony with each other. Together, may your hope, your words, and your deeds glorify They who created you, He who died for you, She who dwells within you.

Remember that Christ came for believers and unbelievers.
Remember that Christ died for both saints and for sinners. 
Remember that Christ is with our nation as with all nations.
Remember that Christ is neither Republican nor Democrat.
Remember that Christ is both a Democrat and a Republican.
Remember, Christ was with us; is with us; is coming to us.

May the God of Hope fill you with His shalom inside, and fill you with true peace between you through the works of the Prince of Peace, and the hope of the Spirit within us and through us. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Psalm for POTUS



Lord, give our President Your wisdom and discernment, that he may govern the people with righteousness and grace, and that he may grant justice and mercy to those without lobbyists. May Your natural resources be equitably accessible and sustainable. May he defend and deliver us from corporate and financial abuse, and from external and internal foes - our enemies now being his enemies.

Lord, give our President success, that we may know a world of shalom and fellowship. May he be a gentle rain that brings forth goodness and peace. May he be the President of all, from coast to coast, from south to north. May our allies respect him and may our enemies fear him, for he shall deliver the powerless and help the helpless. May he always know empathy and act thereof. From up out of violence and oppression, may he raise up the youth of our inner-cities and redeem their lives, for precious is their blood.

Lord, give our President success, that we may all succeed together. May we pray for and bless him without ceasing, and for our nation that no one know hunger or deprivation, war or injustice. May history remember his name with warmth and fondness, and may the world remember him as a benefactor and champion. 

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who alone can do these wondrous things. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who blesses all creation.