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Vision and Revelation

January 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Just a reminder – These are rough notes and subject to critique and refinement.

Revelation and Vision
By discussing stories, memory, songs, dance and art, I am both developing the roots of vision and the idea that the world we live in is an outward expression of a symbolic center. In the center of the world is an idea about what constitutes the world and the destiny/purpose of that world. No one symbolic center can fully express the depths of our lives on this planet, so symbols may change and develop over time as new depths are revealed the rooted of our purpose.

“Revealed” is the key. We do not simply make up a purpose or a vision or a history. It is a calling. We are called out of the darkness into the light. N.T. Wright suggests that conversion and calling are one and the same movement of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit penetrates our heart with the Word of God. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.)

While Paul was a master of the Torah as a Pharisees, he actually “hears” the Word on the road to Damascus. At first, he doesn’t even recognize the Word until the Lord of the Word reveals Himself. This encounter, this calling is the unfolding of Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus Christ. This faith continues to unfold and open by the Spirit of God, bringing revelation to Paul, which becomes the driving vision of his life.

Revelation might be understood as the Spirit of God unfolding the call of God in our lives through the Word of God. The Spirit of God is revealing the Word of God. As we behold Him, we are changed into His likeness. As He transforms in loving relationship, He gives us vision and purpose, a realization that like Paul we are called to reconcile the world to Christ.

Divine Revelation is the Father sending the Spirit to reveal the Son, changing us into His people, His family, His called out ones. As we meditate upon revelation and vision, we may begin to see this as part of the larger call and response between the Father and His people that spans time and space.

As Dmitrue Staniloae says, time and space give us two realms for movement toward love. All of history is the story of movement toward love. At the beginning of time, the Father’s call of love goes forth and the echo of God’s people returns that call back from the end of time. When Jesus goes to the cross and passes through death to life, He is answering the call of love from the end of time.

And now that call is being unfolded in His people and will be fully unfolded in the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the people of God who join Jesus at the Marriage feast, returning the call of Love.

Crossing Time and Space Through Story

July 21, 2008 Leave a comment

Storytelling allows me to moves across time and space. The grand story provides a foundation for movement across all stories. When I move through stories, I am entering the world of other people. I am entering their time (memories and vision) and their space (body and place).

I can move through stories (worlds) on multiple pivots points. Think of the elements of story: setting, dialogue, character, plot, symbols, mood, and pace. I can connect stories at one or multiple points. So I might move back through in the characters of stories. Take the king or ruler. I can read and experience the many variations of rulers across time through stories written in and about differing time periods.

The rulers make differing decisions, the rulers may be good or evil, the rulers may be young or old. In spite of their differences, they play the same characters. They are rulers because they rule. So I watch and experience their rule in different settings, times, and world. As I watch and listen and experience their worlds, I might see glimpses of my own world. I might gain insight into the rulers of my world or my own ruling decisions.

I can start with setting working our from my home to a variety of domestic dwellings revealed in stories from mud huts to castles. Each setting creates a place where relationships happen. So each setting speaks something of how place influences relationship and how relationships define space.

I might look at symbolic colors of red or white or black. Or I might consider the changing pace in stories from my world to ancient worlds. I might see how the same plot is replayed and repeated in different ages.

Each element of a story can be thought of like a jazz standard. Just as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock might play the same song or standard, they’ll interpret it in light of their own world. Their perspective will highlight unique nuances of the song and capture different experiences based on the time and place of the recording. Thus stories and story elements might be like jazz standards that are reworked in various ways across time and space. If I choose to explore these shifting expressions, I will take an element and watch how it is reworked in various times and places.

So I might learn to listen to other stories. First, I might learn to listen to the stories of the people around me, paying attention to all the elements. Then I might also pay attention or listen to the stories of my culture, other cultures and other times. Each of these elements and stories will shine new light into my own story.

Then I might work through these many stories to the grand story. The Christian story provides a fundamental influence on people born in the Western world. Even though many people see this narrative as a shackle from which they desire to be free, they still require a story to make sense of the world. The West has been so deeply shaped by this story, it is difficult to shake free from it.

They may curse the story but even their curses comes from the power of this narrative which affirms the individual human as distinct (with the ability to curse and bless). As opposed to narratives which deny our individuality and see that individuality as an illusion. In those worldviews, the curse that I utter is still an illusion of my own independence.

So for my reflections, I’ll try to consciously think and talk about how the Christian story provides a narrative that connects all stories. Back to my example of stories about rulers: I can work through all the various stories on leaders and kings and managers and people who rule. Then I can encounter the Biblical narrative.

In this narrative, Jesus is presented is the “ideal ruler” against the backdrop of other rulers such as Herod and Caesar. The sharp contrast of Jesus with other kings in his story and the stories throughout Scripture raises challenging questions about what it means to rule and how a ruler behaves.

I picked an obvious archetype of ruler. But how do I deal with lawyer or plumber or other character? What about mom or sister or friend? If I move beyond characters can I root setting or symbol or dialogue in a grand story? The particularities can be challenging and may not be as obvious as ruler.

But if G.K. Chesterton is correct and Jesus is the story in which all stories intersect, then I can work through each particular story element and find the roots in His story. This may require a deeper understanding of how I encounter Jesus in the story of Scripture. I think most people start with the gospels and try to think of the events of his life.

But actually the Emmaus road story (Luke 24:13-35) indicates that all of Scripture is witnessing to the story of Jesus. So I need eyes to learn how to read this grand narrative and begin to hear and see how His story is unfolded in the midst of stories about Abraham, Moses, David and so on. This is not something I do overnight, but rather I gradually work through this grand narrative, learning slowly and by God’s grace how to see the points of intersection and how to see the light of grace shining deep into the recess of my own story that is filled with pain, struggle, darkness and loss.

Patterns, Progress, and Lifespans

June 19, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve written before about the idea of how each of our lives represents a span of time that we called a Lifetime or Lifespan. In one sense, each of us live within a particular time because we have particular memories and particular visions. We move in time between memory and vision. This particular movement between memory and vision unfolds in our language, our responses, our actions in the world around us.

If I remember being bit by dogs in the past and I expect that encounters with dogs in the future could result in being bit, then I will have specific responses to the dog in front of me right now that will be different from someone with a differnt timespan of memory and vision in relation to dogs.

But our lifetime is not determined in this sense because surprises can happen. One friend told me that she had a fear of dogs her whole life. While visiting family, she was sitting a bed when the family dog slipped and started to fall from the bed. She instantly responded by catching the dog to break the fall. This act changed her response to dogs. In a single action, she changed and became someone else.

We live within one time, but some-times we can step out of time and change, entering a new time (new memory and vision).

With that said, I do think that there are patterns common to all lifetimes (or most lifetimes). James Jordan suggests that we move in patterns between faith, hope and love. This is a pattern that also appears in Scripture as the movement between Priest, King and Prophet. While I will touch of some of his ideas in the posts about this theme, I will not attempt to develop his idea completely, but will explore some aspects. If you want to see his full thoughts, read From Bread to Wine (see the catalog on Biblical Horizons).

Now to consider patterns think of childhood. There are phases of dependence and trust, growth and exploration, and times of expressing self and defining relation. These phases may not be as clear cut as I lay out here but they do happen and there is a bit of repitition at different ages.

The newborn is totally dependent for clothing, food, care and so on. This is a phase of absolute dependence; an initial phase of trust or faith. While a child is dependent through adulthood, there are some points of particular dependence such as when their first born. Another time of intense dependence is when they first do away to school.

They leave home and now must trust a figure outside the home to function as a surrogate parent. Just of their dependence on the parent helped shaped their identity, this dependence on the surrogate (such as Kindergarten teacher) will also impact their identity. Rules of the classroom and rules in grammar, math and so on become foundational for them to make sense of this new world.

Newborns grow into a toddler phase characterized by growth and exploration. They discover their fingers and toes. They move from sitting/rocking to crawling to walking. They grow from making noises to forming initial words. Some early development is taking place in their body and mind. They are learning and a very early form of reasoning is displayed.

This season of growth and exploration will happen again around 9-14. This is when they shift from being a boy to being a young man and from a girl to a young lady. They become aware of differences and constrasts between family, the sexes, the neighbors and us, the kids at school and our family. Using their developing reasoning skills, they are more willing to argue with other kids (and with parents).

Another phase can be seen in the 3-4 year old as they tell mommy again and again how much they love her. They may become clingy to one or both parents. They start asking “why” hundreds of times a day (which prepares them for the rules phase).

When a child moves into teenage years, the “why” question becomes more pronounced. Their asking harder questions and getting ready to do more reasoning, but their also extremely emotional. They may begin flirt with the opposite sex. They move between highs and lows with sudden emotional outburts. They’ve experienced similar passions at a younger age but these were directed to parents. Now their emotions are directed outwards to friends and potential loves (as well as enemies).

While the phases may not be so clear cut, there repeated seasons where children are totally dependent, form identities in relation to authority figures (and eventually in relation to peers), experience dramatic growth and development, ask questions, shift from thinking to feeling, learn new rules, apply old rules in new ways, break rules. And so on.

The child is growing and repeating patterns again and again–developing their lifetime (memory and vision) which will shape their ongoing formation in adult years. At the same time, there are always possiblities along the way for dramatic invasions from outside their memory and vision that will shape their lifetime for both good and bad.

These pattern of rules, relationships, reason, emotions, growth and so on occur over and over throughout our lives. So in one sense, our lifetime is similar to the circular motion on a clock. Repeating hour after hour. At the same time, unexpected events can alter the cycle or challenge us to step outside one cycle and enter a new rhthym. An retired widower may suddenly decide to learn the the blues and travel around the world.

We are free to change within our lifetime. This freedom to step out of one cycle and into another is part of what makes us human. And yet, even as we step between cycles, we will still face internal and external periods focused on identity, relationships, rules, growth, questioning, stories, and so on.

Time as Memory and Vision

May 1, 2008 2 comments

Now to continue with the idea of time in our life.

Each person is born on a specific day at a specific time. Additionally, each person has a unique body and lives in the same body until the day she dies. Thus each of us lives in a particular space and a particular time.

When a person dies, we will speak of his lifetime: life-time. No two people share the same lifetime. So we all have a unique time associated with our life.

Now think of a child. The child experiences the world around him through his specific body. At the earliest stages, he’ll experience the care and nurture from his mother, the voice of his mother, the smell of his mother and so on. As his brain develops, he begins to make sense of the world through these experiences.

These experiences become the foundation of memories. By looking backward, we form certain expectations of the present and future. At her first birthday, a child has no expectation or understanding of what is happening. Each year the ritual is repeated. Additionally, the child experiences a repetition of the birthday ritual at birthday’s from other member’s of the family.

Over the years, the child begins to expect a birthday party, a cake, presents and all the other associations of the birthday. In fact, the child will look to the future at an upcoming birthday, anticipating the festivities to come. As the child looks back to past birthdays and forward to a future birthday, the child will ask her parents for a gift. The child will ask her parents for a party. The child may say things like, “I’m four-and-a-half.”

By looking back and looking forward, the child responds by speaking and acting in certain ways. Thus time (the child’s time that includes both past and future) gives birth to thoughts and actions in space. Another way we might speak of the past and future for a child or any specific person is to speak of memory (past) and vision (future).

All of us move between memory and vision. Memory and vision defines the time of each particular person. As we look back and look forward, we make sense of the world. Because we each have a different set of experiences and expectations, we make sense of the world in different ways, or we live in different times.

Compare a young man and an older man. The young man has fewer memories, fewer disappointments, fewer failures. He is more flexible both in mind and body. In this sense, the young man has more energy for ideas and action. Thus he is an idealist. He lives in “ideal times.”

The older man has known crisis. He has watched dreams die and expectations go awry. He has seen friends make wrong choices or he himself has made poor choices. While he may understand the world better than the young man and he may have learned great lessons from his mistakes, he is not as flexible as the young (not in mind or body). He lives in “experienced times.”

The young man and the older man may have difficulty communicating or even speaking the same language (using the same words to mean different things). The young man may say, “I am always going to have passion and I am not ever going to compromise.” The older man may say, “You simply don’t understand the ways of the world.” They are living in different times.

Now I multiply this small picture across a community, a nation, a world of people. People live in different times. As a result, they understand and act on symbols (words and more) in different ways. While each person lives in a unique time, they may share enough similarities with other people to be put into a group.

We might speak of the group in terms of nationality (American, German, Chinese) or we might group by economic class (poor, middle class, rich). Each grouping implies a degree of shared times that allows people within the group to communicate and cooperate in specific ways.

More later.

Relationships, Houses and the Tabernacle

April 29, 2008 Leave a comment

doug and kelly house

We can begin to think more about how space and time intersect by considering the Tabernacle.

There are three areas related to the tabernacle: outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The Israelites can come to the outer court, but only priests can enter the Holy Place. And only the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies at specific times and according to specific rules. The Holy Place is veiled from the eyes of those who are not priests, and the Holy of Holies is veiled from everyone except the High Priest.

Now consider a house. We build walls around a set a relationships we call family. Family members can freely come and go from the house, but the house may be locked to those outside the family. We put a solid veil or a door between the outside world and the inhabitants of the home.

The door represents more than a physical barrier. The relationships within the home are veiled to the outside world. Within the sacredness of family, there are guarded memories, conversations, and stories. The space of the house represents a sacred placed for shared relationships or shared time. Inviting someone to pass through the outer veil is an honor. By inviting them into our space, we are inviting them at one level into our shared time.

The dinner table might be likened to the Holy Place. At the dinner table, we eat (break bread) and drink (pour wine). The bread and the wine (or whatever the meal) becomes a point of contact for sharing space and time together.

As we eat and drink in the presence of one another, we begin to discard veils. If wine is present, it can help accentuate the removing of veils/inhibitions. As we let down our guard (our veils), we begin to speak.

Around the meal, we tell stories. We share the highlights of our day. We recall memories. We dream together. We think out loud. The dinner table is place of the gathered tribe where people (both in the ancient past and in our current world), learn identity, connect to a family, learn proper social behavior, learn patterns and rituals that will shape their memories and dreams for the rest of their lives.

The dinner table extends beyond the family (tribe) and is a place of forming treaties between tribes. Thus the dinner table has been a place for negotiating great decisions like marriage, peace, business and friendship.

Beyond the dinner table, there is one other room that bears an even weightier sense of the sacred: the bedroom. The bedroom is an exclusive place of protection for only the husband and the wife. Behind the veil of the bedroom door, the couple removes all veils (both physical and emotional).

The physical veil is easy to remove and comes off on the wedding night. But the emotional veils guard such precious secrets that they take years to removed. And unfortunately, some couples never develop the trust of vulnerability required to begin remove these inner emotional veils.

Removing a veil leaves a person naked and completely vulnerable. Isaiah experiences the intensity of such exposure in his vision of the Holy God. A similar (though much less invasive) exposure happens between a husband and a wife.

This removing of veils binds memories and dreams together in a way that makes the couple both physically and emotionally one. The bedroom can be a great gift of healing and transformation when properly guarded, allowing for deep vulnerability, deep trust and deep shared time.

The husband and wife relationship gives a glimpse of the relation between the person and God. By the Spirit (through Jesus), the veils are removed one-by-one as we grow from glory-to-glory. Eventually we will truly behold Him with unveiled face—and we will be changed, glorified in the light of His love.

Without the Spirit’s grace of gently unveiling, exposing and transforming, the glory of the unveiled soul would be painful and terrifying much like Isaiah’s encounter and the encounter of the Israelites on the side of Mt. Sinai. This unveiling exposes our weaknesses, our sins, our absolute need for mercy and grace. Without mercy and grace, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.

Thus the gift of a home begins to help us understand how space becomes a place which serves time: the sharing of memories and dreams and the essential mystery that forms us as unique persons.

Relationship Requires Space and Time

April 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Relationship with another human being does not exist in abstraction. It requires space and time. By reflecting on relationship, we may begin to better understand our relation to space and time.

Think of a marriage. The relationship begins and is cultivated in specific places and specific times. There are times and places where an intimate relationship bonds, and these might be thought of as sacred space and sacred time.

Sacred time might include a family meal, soft conversations in the bedroom, and even sleeping together (resting unguarded in one another’s presence). These sacred times occur in specific places like the dinner table and the bedroom. In a house, some rooms carry more weightiness due to history of cultivating relationships in these rooms.

The same activity may or may not enhance intimacy, depending on the participation of the people. Sometimes when my wife and I watch a movie, I sit on my recliner and she lays on the couch. During the film, I may also divert attention to my laptop to check my email. Or we might watch the film sitting together on the couch, sharing the experience in a more intentional way. The dynamic of shared time and space changes based on how we participate.

I would suggest that the element of intentional intimacy is located within time. Dumitru Stăniloa suggested that time is the interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation of that offer. Intimacy is not something that exists within a space but rather it is something that the people choose to do within that space. They choose to spend time together. We don’t speak of “spending space together” but “spending time together.” (I’ll share more on time and intimacy later.)

By choosing to use a space in a way that enhances our time together, we invest that space with greater significance. A house should be built in a way that accentuates the time we spend together. If we choose to use large spaces within our houses for private experiences such as bathrooms and walk-in closets, we may be suggesting by our use of space that our personal space is more valuable than our relational space. The shape and size of the spaces/rooms within a home and the objects within those rooms (furniture and decor) can all communicate stories or ideas that reflect the values of those who occupy those rooms.

So the content of our spaces and the uses of our spaces reflect the value we place on the times or shared relationships within those spaces. We’ve heard the saying, “A house does not make a home.” This statement reinforces that idea that a place to live, eat, and sleep may not always be a place where people forge intimate relationships.

On my next post, I’ll try to consider “How is a home like a tabernacle?”

Mosaics – Mashing up cultures across space (and time)

February 13, 2007 1 comment

Strawberry Frog offers some interesting ideas on the notion of the Global Soul. How we’re influencing one another:

From Mono- to Multi- to Transculturalism.  First, it takes the form of exposure to another culture. Then, a ‘tossed salad.’ From there, multiculturalism evolves. From a Canadian’s perspective who has lived during the melting pot era of politics in that country, the melting pot simply assumes too much.  A mosaic is a better metaphor, but only a snapshot in time, which ultimately led to the Benetton cliché—assimilated transculture.  An ‘active mosaic’ best explains the phenomenon. Existing culture meets emerging culture,  they exchange and mutate characteristics – creating an ever-evolving mosaic of global, organic living culture.  Some examples of this are Remixes and hybrids: design, arts, media, social. Musical genre-blending. Film allusion and homage. TV remakes and exports. Food and drink fusions.

Great thoughts. Take time to read the whole thing. While I think it is the West primarily mashing into smaller weaker cultures, there is a coming shift and mosaic will probably take on more shades of Indian, African, Latin and Asian cultures in the years to come. He seems to be envisioning a mashup across space, but there is also a mashup across time taking place, and a new world is being formed in our midst (but that’s another post for another day).

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