Incline your ears: Psalms 1

Why do I see those who disregard your way, your law, to be those who others see as “blessed?”

They do what as they please, and reap up all the wealth. And what they have are more than one can hold, but those who have none, they are the scorned, cursed as they’ve been told.

Why do they, whom the poor taunt as wicked but far be it for them to utter this on their lips, for many would shut their mouths, “Be Silent! You shall not speak this way again!”

And so for hope in what but wait? And so have faith in what but words? When will your hands stretch and mend what have stains made living filth? Are you not strong as that what have been mentioned from footprints of those who have walked by your side? Will your ears not hear the cries of those who wallow in their tears?

Incline your ears, for in this gravel, filled with mud from my own fears, though in darkened paved down paths where light is dim to guide my feet for them to tread, do not leave me, for in my pain I have in your words, inclined my mortal ears to hear.

Psalms 1-A response  

Friday, a book, thinking and coffee…stuff that only a nerd would find as bliss

I recently bought a book yesterday called “From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002” edited by Ismael Reed. I just did some quick read through the introduction, parts of in on a moving train and a few hours ago in my room, and think this is cool.

This anthology of poems collected by Reed promises to be diverse. By diversity meaning, different ethnics, beliefs, political affiliations and etc. There is also hip-hop in the mix. Well I haven’t gotten that far but managed to read a poem by Marry Tallmountains called “O Dark Sister,” and another one titled “A Lost Memory of Delhi.”

Poems in the book are placed under headings; Nature and Place (like the two above); Men and Women; Family; Politics, Heroes and Sheroes, Anti and Otherwise; and lastly Manifestos. I guess this is gonna be a treat. I initially saw another book on the theme of finding hope amid darkness/ survival, themes which would definitely interest me but I wanted something wider and diverse. So, as someone who doesn’t have a plant or tree which bear the green stuff called money, I had to make choices rather than just buy the whole stack of books under the poetry section!

There were of course other anthologies but they would contribute to me finding another way back other than using the train. That would take forever to make it home so again I had to choose. Not that I’m saying I made the right choice but variety, affordability and something like an introductory level book, was what defined what I would choose.

I guess I’m gonna read this book slowly because one can’t read poems like one read textbooks. Or you don’t ride a horse like you drive a car (I never rode a horse in my life but i’m pretty sure the way one rides them is not the same).

I guess i’m trying to immerse myself in the art of poetry, something I find exhilarating. At times I find the experience in writing, moments where I hit a brick wall or walls depending on how it affects me. But it’s a good time for exploration and trying to think up new ideas. I try to be diverse but lets see how that goes.

I’m not really planning on writing a review of this anthology but if there is something to post about I might write something up. So just thinking through the first two poems, the one about the whale might be trying to talk about the whales being extinct (i guess) and the one on Delhi, i’m still not sure. I still might be wrong about the first one but i love trying to figure out what these people are really writing about. The thing about dissecting ideas and interpreting them is something I love to do, which I think i try to incorporate in some of my poems.

Anyway, here’s to reading on a Friday night, thinking about writing ideas and drinking gallons of coffee.

,said the shotgun to the head

I write poems, but the funny thing is I don’t have books by poets sitting on my shelf. Well, I’m doing something about it now. I’m starting with a contemporary poet by the name of Saul Williams. Just managed to brows through, a little. Once I finish it I guess I’ll offer some reflections on it if I can. I don’t think I have the skills when it comes to reviewing poems. Do you know of any other poets or books that I should read? Just drop me a comment so I can build my library. Thanks a bunch!

something about Medium being the Message

Coptic Icon in Jerusalem
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Just some thoughts reflecting on a post by James K.A. Smith entitled “The Medium is the Message.”

The medium is the message. But often times we think what we ‘tag’ with the medium is the real message we are promoting. So the question we need to ask is “What influences our medium?” (To simply tag somethng with a medium is to add something we think of enhancing our medium). Whatever influences our medium will eventually become the message we bring.

So we might wanna ask ourselves, if we wanted to express love (message) to someone what is the influence behind the medium of our expression? It’s the same with Christian Worship (Smith’s book entitled Desiring the Kingdom is an exposition of this very idea “medium is message”). Taking a quote from the blog post by Smith he states that,

“The Gospel is not a “content” that can be distilled and just dropped into any old “form” that seems hip or relevant or attractive. You can’t distill Jesus from Christian worship and then just drop him into the mall or the coffee shop or the concert: while you might think you’re “Jesu-fying” this medium, in fact you just end up commodifying Jesus.”

It’s worth reconsidering how we do worship taking Smith’s proposal. Or any medium we use to relay a message because in the end “the medium becomes the message.”


Wright’s Translation of the New Testament

First page of the Gospel of Saint John, from t...
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Over at Euangelion, Michael Bird blogged about the recent New Testament translation “The New Testament For Everyone” by N. T. Wright.  In the preface of the the translation, Bird states that Wright is not doing a paraphrase. Some might jump into the critical band wagon here by giving critiques if a translation tends to go into that direction. The Message falls into that category of critique as I hear people saying it is not reliable. But I don’t see why these sort of bickering happens when they don’t read the original Greek or Hebrew texts. I’m quite happy if a translation is readable.

Wright aims for ““a less formal and academic, and a more deliberately energetic, style”.  Thumbs up for that! And yes, like all of Wright’s writings, you will find in there his NPP leanings in his translation which, if you lean on the more Reformed camp, might not like it.

Bird was kind enough to give some samples of what to expect from the translation. Click here to read them.

Here are two samples for your perusal:

 “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was close beside God, and the Word was God. In the beginning, he was close beside God.” (John 1:1-2).

“The jailer called for the lights and rushed in. Trembling all over, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘will you please tell me how I can get out of this mess?’ ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus,’ they replied, ‘and you will be rescued – you and your household.’” (Acts 16:29-31).

H/T Euangelion

Reflections on “Screwtape Letters” 3

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This is the third installment of my reflections on C. S. Lewis‘ classic book. On his third letter uncle Screwtape writes four things that his devilish nephew should work on in his quest to mangle (in a slow and unassuming way) his patient.

His first suggestion is to his nephew is to encourage him to instill only a spiritual outlook importance on his patient. Screwtape says “Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones.” we do tend to do as such as what Screwtape encourages here. We tend to only take the spiritual practices as the most important while relegating the normative life to the corner. Eugene Peterson in his book “Christ plays in ten thousand places” seeks to redeem our perspective to see all of life as spiritual instead of only some. We have to redeem back this picture that all of life is spiritual. Paul the apostle also tells us that, in whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Second, Screwtape tells his nephew to direct the attention of his patient on just the spiritual state of his mother who suffers rheumatism. To just focus on the state of her soul (although I’m not a fan of this designation). According to Screwtape this will instill in his nephew’s mind to pray for someone who becomes more and more not his mother. This is some wonderful insight. In our presumably concern for those we hope to come into the knowledge of Jesus, our tendency is to focus on just one side of the person, which we might call the spiritual state. We somehow degrade the person we presumably care about into something immaterial.

The third suggestion is to use normal expressions that irritate the patient and the mother to springboard some sort of conflict that comes between them. Allow for these things to irritate and make both sensitive to the slightest bit of tone and gesture one has. And on top of that let them only focus on the other and not themselves. Our pride is spoken of here where our focus most of the time is on how right we are and how wrong the other person is. This is the sort of attitude that can somewhat slowly kill relationships.

The last one is on having an oversensitive feel of reading between the lines of every conversation that takes place. Something like what is suggested above. We can always read something that was not meant to mean what we think it means by having a preconceived notion that has judged the other person. Even before a sentence is spoken out in full, our mind sometimes prejudge everything the other person says.

Charles Taylor Made Me Broke

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When it comes to bookstores and me entering it, it almost always that I have to come out of the store with a book in my hand. It’s like they have this power that sucks money from my thin wallet. And this is one that made me broke, “A Secular Age” by Charles Taylor. Cost me RM 207.85 (would cost 70 bucks if it were in USD). I tell you, this is not a steal when it comes to that hefty price tag! Oh well, I have to skip meals now. I mean REALLY skip them.


Reflections on “Screwtape Letters” 2

All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor.” p.25

“Work hard, then, on the disappointment of anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman…In any department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspirations to laborious doing.” p.26-27

As Christians, saints as we are, we still have the notion that we are still very much under the influence of sin. That is why saint Paul calls for us to put off the old self and pun on the new, which is Christ.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I am somewhat amused with the talk about the victorious Christian life perspective. They take a stance which is all too narrow in a sense. The implication that we are to put off and put on talks about discipline. And with all talk about discipline it then implies that there is the notion of struggle happening in the process. Walking daily putting on Christ is not something that comes naturally. It is a constant daily decision that we undertake. There is no talk of shallow romanticism here. What it does tell us is that commitment is not the byproduct of sweeping emotional highs but rather, hard tireless work. Commitment is love coming full circle.

So, do you struggle in putting on Christ? Do not despair if you fail sometimes. If you do have that sense that you struggle, and your consciousness is tearing you in your mind, it might be the indication that your love is budding into what it is supposed to be; commitment. Something that has substance and not shallow. If on the other hand you are not tormented with the feeling of struggle, then I think your contentment is leading your love has all turned stale.

Reflections on “Screwtape Letters” 1

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I’m reading through C. S. Lewis‘ “Screwtape Letters.” This will be a series of reflections following the chronology of the letters found in the book.

“Remember, he is not like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (oh that obnomible advantage of the Enemy’s!) you don’t realize how enslaved they are to the pressures of the ordinary.” p.20

At times, we get absorbed with our eyes stuck only in the things we can see. The ordinary, in this sense does not mean that life is just mundane, although that is the true in some cases. Our visions of life, sometimes gets stuck when our focus is entirely on what we can conceive and touch. This sometimes numbs our senses to the spiritual, a life that is sometimes hidden.

With that prayers can be taken up in a rather cynical stance. Because our sight are too caught up in the ordinary, prayers sometimes become useless. We pray but we know we can do something about it, and with that the sense of mystery of another dimension of life seems utterly useless. Everything that is real are the things that we can see and make good reason about.

To be stuck in this hub, stunts our vision of God. I guess, that is why Lewis once stated that pain is God’s megaphone to awaken our slumber to the spiritual; to him.

Have you struggled with this? Getting too caught up in the ordinary, being caught up with work, partying, enjoyment, social activities, your personal life and friends that you’ve found yourself unable to find appreciation in the mystery of God or for that matter a life that is other than the ordinary?

A Christian Definition on Work

Ben Witherington’s definition of work:

“…any necessary and meaningful task that God calls and gifts a person to do and can be undertaken to the glory of God and for the edification and aid of human beings, being inspired by the Spirit and foreshadowing the realities of the new creation.” (p. xii adapted from “Work: A Christian Perspective on Labor” by Ben Witherington III)

Some notes:
-Here the notion of calling or vocation is evident
-Work is undertaken for the glory of God
-Not just in the scope of edification of our Christian community, although this is emphasized, but takes on the larger scope of humanity, where Witherington mentions for the “aid of human beings.”
-The part where he mentions “being inspired by the Spirit” exhibits the implication of emphasis that there is an ethical perspective to work. Not all work has this ethical perspective in mind, e.g. creating pornography or war for that matter.
-This definition also takes into account an eschatological vision, which we call the new creation. There will be no ceasing of work in the new creation.