18 April 2014

stones (israel-palestine chronicles - 2009)

it began early in the morning, ascending the Mount of Olives.
it ended late in the evening, descending to the Western 'Wailing' Wall.
in between, there were many steps and stories, silences and shouts, sights and sighs...we experienced beauty and busyness, contemplation and commerce, sanctity and sacrilegiousness, temptations and trials, glory and gluttony, tears and tumultuousness, awe and agony, love and lamentation...we were curious and cautious, fascinated and flustered, amazed and appalled, illuminated and unnerved, underfed and overwhelmed, enraptured and exhausted.
it was quite a day.
and in the midst of it all...there were stones.

08 April 2014

names (israel-palestine chronicles - 2012)

His mama named him Simon.

He didn’t like to do ‘drawerings’. But he did learn to catch fish. Enough to start his own business and become a pillar of the community.

Out in his docked boat one day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum, he heard someone shout out his name. It wasn’t a voice he had heard in his neighborhood. But it came from a person he and his neighborhood had certainly heard about. The stories were astounding. The rumours spread like wildfire. The mysterious man from Nazareth had done and said things so shocking and amazing, people all over the region were fishing for the right words to describe him.

And there he stood on the rocky shoreline, yelling out to him something indecipherable. Something about following him somewhere. Something about catching something much more interesting than fish.

The man named Jesus. Not named by his mama, but supposedly by God.

Simon had a family. A home just a stone’s throw from the synagogue and the center of town. A successful business that provided for his loved ones and others. A settled and satisfying life.

And a stranger invites him to drop his life as he knew it like the nets in his hands. And follow him.

And he does.

Granted, as Simon and the ragtag bunch that also decided to heed the stranger’s call began journeying from town to town, they always somehow made their way back to Capernaum. Back to their families and homes. Back to where things were familiar. Back to where they took their first breaths of life and received their names.

But the call was always away from what was old and familiar, and towards what was new and unexpected.

Their winding journey made its way up into the Golan Heights, north of Galilee, to the place known as Caesarea Philippi. A place named (like many in the day) in honour of the Roman emperor Caesar, who was considered by many (most notably himself) to be a god. A place known for a stone cave temple to the pagan god Pan, and a natural spring flowing out of the cave.

In this majestic and mystical setting, Jesus asks his weary followers what the word was on the streets and pathways regarding who people thought he was. A magician or a madman? A rabbi or a rebel? A pauper or a prophet? And they respond with some of the buzzwords and names they had heard…the second coming of Moses or Elijah or John the Baptizer, or one of the other prophets.

But like the masterful teacher he is, Jesus then takes his question to the next level. ‘Rumours around the region are one thing…but what about you all sitting right here…you who have been slogging around this region with me for months now…what do YOU think?

Who do YOU say I am?’

And Simon, the one who always blurted out the answers ever since Hebrew class, even if he was wrong, responded true to form.

‘You are the One our people – God’s people – and our world have been waiting for. The One who will finally bring the Caesars down from their self-made pedestals and self-delusional images of themselves as gods. The One who will expose the Pans of the world as the pretenders that they really are.

You are Mesiach.

You are Cristos.

You are the Chosen, Anointed One of God.’

And for once in his life, Simon blurted out the right answer.

Jesus turned his face towards him in astonishment and awe. He indeed was that One that Simon had proclaimed him to be. And he was so impressed by Simon’s wisdom in that moment that he actually changed his name to Peter.


The Rock.

From rocks in his head to the Rock of the emergent community.

But Jesus had some further explaining to do. He had not come to fulfill all those expectations that the people of God had built up in their minds and clung to in their hearts for so many centuries. Expectations that had grown so compelling over so many generations of subjugation to the Romans and consternation over all the human-made gods and goddesses that had emerged in their midst and their homeland.

He had come not to live up to these expectations, but to tear them down.

He had come not drive out the Romans with strength and sword, but to usher in the shalom, the profound and powerful peace of God in wisdom and wonder.

He had come not to slaughter, but to surrender.

He had come not to take up the throne of political power and authority, but to lay down his life in the weakness that embodies supernatural spiritual power and the humility that incarnates ultimate, universal authority.

Simon Peter had his moment to astound.

Now Jesus had his moment to confound.

And S.P. didn’t get it.

And didn’t like it.

One bit.

So he did what any good friend would do when he senses that his friend has just publicly snapped his cap. He took him aside and began to remind him of who he is. Who he REALLY is. At least who he is supposed to be.

And then Jesus REALLY snapped his cap. Right back in the Rock’s face. Cristos reminded Petros of who he is.

Who he REALLY is.

NOT who others think he is supposed to be.

And the Rock was silent.

The question is ages old, but remains as powerfully and profoundly new today as it was back in the days of crazy Caesars and pretentious Pans and petulant Peters.

The One asks, ‘Who do YOU say I am?’

And the answers over centuries are as varied and numerous as Solomon’s wives or (fill-in-the-blank-name-of-politician's) positions on political issues.




The names all are different. But if you look closely, they all eventually spell the same thing.

Who have I said that he is?

Who do I say now?

I’ve spent more years of my life now telling people about who Jesus is than not. And as I reflect back on my vocation of the past 27 years or so, the question that yells out to me more loudly and profoundly than any other is this:

When did I start spending less time telling OTHERS about who Jesus is, and more time telling JESUS himself who I think he is?

How often have I pulled him aside in my mind to remind him of who he is…who he REALLY is? Or who I think he’s SUPPOSED to be…which so often I believe to be one and the same with who he REALLY is?

In the light of these questions…and in the face, the panim, the prosopon, the presence of the One to whom these questions point…like Petros standing behind Cristos, the one called to be the Rock of the community who’s pontificating more like someone with rocks in his head…there is only one real, honest and true way I can respond.


(17 Jan 12 - Capernaum, Banias/Caesarea Philippi) 

05 April 2014

*NEW GUEST POST on Reyes-Chow.com :)

hi again!

my colleague and friend (and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA), Bruce Reyes-Chow, recently asked this question on his blogsite: 'Why do you choose to stay in the Presbyterian Church (USA)?'

i sent in a response.

and Bruce decided to post it. :)

here it is: Why Do You Choose To Stay In The Presbyterian Church (USA)?

click on the question above to link to my response on Bruce's site.

and read some of his great writings while you're there. :)

thanks, Bruce!


04 April 2014

from prodigy to persona to person

another couple of hours spent at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

another several months of inspiration as a result.

(hence, this blog completed in 2014 about a film i saw at the 2013 Festival.)

the source of spiritual stimulus arrived in the form of 'I Am Not A Rock Star' by filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart.

in the film, Hart creatively chronicles the adolescence and young adulthood of Marika Bournaki, a French-Canadian classical piano prodigy. an 8-year journey (ages 12-20) is faithfully and fondly fashioned into an 86-minute meditation on the magic and mystery of music, the conundrums of the creative life, the subtle yet strong pressures of preparation and performance, and the universally unique and unimaginable voyage of the human being into the inmost interior of identity and the sacred centre of the self and soul.

18 March 2014

NEW ON MakeItMissoula.com! 'Disconnecting to Reconnect'

greetings, fellow travelers and faithful readers (shall i call you 'apocalypsians'?)

it has been about SIX MONTHS since i have written a piece for Make It Missoula…and today, that 'streak' of non-prolificness has ended!

a new blog from yours truly is featured there starting today…a reflection for the Lenten season about an  experience of turning off my gadgets and turning on to grandeur, unplugging from distractions and plugging in to the Divine…

Disconnecting to Reconnect (click on the title to read the blog)

thanks for your encouragement and support, for clicking and reading and sharing, and for your friendship (near and far)!


10 March 2014

the dreaming is real

'The dream is a lie,
but the dreaming is real.'
(Bob Weir)

'I have a dream…'

'I'm livin' the dream!'

'This is a dream come true!'

this past weekend, i had the pleasure and privilege of being a part of an experience that was 'a dream come true' (at least for the couple getting married).

05 March 2014

be still (ash wednesday)

Be still…
and know that God is God
Be still…
upon this holy sod

Be still…
awaken to what's real
Be still…
and go with what you feel
Be still…
and let go of your health
Be still…
and let go of your wealth

Be still…
and let go of your role
Be still…
and let go of your soul
Be still…
let go of all the budgets
Be still…
let go of raging puppets
Be still…
let go of institution
Be still…
and welcome revolution

Be still…
let go of all your stress
Be still…
let go of all the mess
Be still…
let go of all the shit
Be still…
let go of all of it
Be still…
and let go of your strife
Be still…
and let go of your life

Be still…
and do not walk by sight
Be still…
and let your faith take flight
Be still…
let go of wrong or right
Be still…
and walk in marvelous Light
Be still…
and let your tears fall free
Be still…
and water hopes to be

Be still…
and laugh and dance and sing
Be still…
and take in everything
Be still…
remember as you roam
Be still…
your heart is truly home

Be still…
upon this holy sod
Be still…
and know that God is God

Be still…
and know that you are God's

(Tiberias, 12 Jan 2012, sojourning in Israel-Palestine…a 'Call to Worship'…of sorts ;)