Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Vulgar Translation

I read a news story today that both thrilled and boggled my mind.
The Jamaican people speak a creole language called Jamaican patois. 
For the first time,
the Word of God will be coming to them in their native tongue.
And they are overjoyed.

But not everyone is happy.
There are those who who call it a vulgar translation.
Some English-speakers object to it,
because 'creole is no substitute for English',
and 'it has to resort to coarse expressions to make its meaning clear'.

"Even those (Patois) words 
that we would want to use to fully explain what was in the original, 
are words that are vulgar."

I guess that bishop must not have read Ezekiel very closely.
Even in English, that pure and holy language,
Ezekiel translates pretty coarsely.

The same objections were raised when God's Word was translated
into... um, English.
And German.
And any number of coarse, vile, low-born languages.

We are people, down here on earth.
People made of dirt.
And God in His mercy translated the Word Himself 
into the vulgar dirt of a human body.

I've birthed four children, and it was not immaculate.
God sent His Son into our world the same way I came in --
pushed out in a mess of vile fluids,
and put to the breast of a woman
who surely needed a bath after birthing in an animal shed.
He touched contagious lepers, and His feet needed washing.

It is odd to me that anyone is concerned
about the dirt of our language touching His word,
when He came -- the Word made flesh -- and touched the dirt of our sin.
He cooked breakfast for His disciples,
and stripped off His clothes to wash their dirty feet,
and offered His wounds to their probing fingers.
He, in His righteousness,
was sentenced to death and tortured by sinners.
That's pretty vulgar.
But it's true.
And that Truth sets those who believe it free.

Come to think of it, it is true:
creole is no substitute for English --
to an English-speaker.
And English is no substitute for creole to a creole-speaker.

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, 
and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, 
devout men, from every nation under heaven. 
Now when this was noised abroad, 
the multitude came together, and were confounded, 
because every man heard them speak in his own language. 
And they were all amazed, and marveled, saying one to another, 
Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? 
And how do we hear every man in our own language, 
wherein we were born? 
...We hear them speak in our languages 
the wonderful works of God."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Before the Face of the Lord

"Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit,
and prophesied, saying:
'Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people, 
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David...
That we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us,
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember His holy covenant,
the oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to His people
by the remission of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.'"
~ From Luke 1

Personally, I love to read the prophecies spoken of His work,
of the Father's heart of mercy
and peace
and salvation
and love
and reconciliation
and good will toward men.
Oh, how it moves me.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
And we mark our history by it.
All  the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwelling in Him.

How could He contain His glory in a dirt-body?
To be ministered to by sinners?
To be the visible show of God's requirements fulfilled,
the voice of His love to us,
the touch of the Father to the poor.
To the sinner.
To the leper.
To the lame and blind and to the women.
To the 'racially impure' Samaritans.
A friend to fishermen.
To tax collectors and zealots.
The political radicals and the cautious theologians.
The ruined whores of society.
He restored them all.
He put His calloused hands on the contagious outcasts,
and He stretched them out Himself on the cross.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He Never Deprives Me

"But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Corinthians 6:17)

This falls in the middle of a passage about the Christian and his sex life.
It goes on to say, "Flee sexual immorality."
I've known that for a long time.

But the other day, I started thinking about this,
which is just a few more verses in:
"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her,
and likewise also the wife to her husband.
The wife does not have authority over her own body,
but the husband does.
And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body,
but the wife does.
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time,
that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer;
and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control...
Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord:
A wife is not to depart from her husband...
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife,
and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband,
otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."

The material part of this passage
has always seemed simple enough to understand to me.
But as I thought it over the other day, something else began to be clear.

In Ephesians 5 it says,
"Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies.
He that loveth his own wife loveth himself:
for no man ever hated his own flesh;
but nourisheth and cherisheth it,
even as Christ also the church;
because we are members of his body.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife;
and the two shall become one flesh.
This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 
Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself;
and let the wife see that she fear her husband."

When the mystery is brought into it,
the rendering of affection takes on a whole new meaning.
How He ought to be adored is far more than I have ever given Him.
But Christ has given Himself body and soul to me.
To be joined in one spirit with me.
And He never fails to render affection to me, though it is certainly not my due.
But it is His due, with all certainty.
And how often I am cold and unresponsive to Him.
And oh, how to even think of the authority He allows me with Him --
and my failure to reciprocate.

He gives Himself to me to withstand temptation,
knowing my lack of self-control --
and He never deprives me of Himself.
He makes Himself provision for my failure.
How stupid for me to depart from Him,
seeing He is my sanctification.
I am the 'unbelieving wife' in this little life-picture.
He is the one who makes my fruit holy, my 'children', in a sense.
In departing from Him, they're all unclean.

In loving me, Christ loves Himself,
because He has permanently joined me to Himself.
And He ministers to my needs as though they were His.
He cleaves to me.
And shall I not worship Him?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


"My days are like a shadow that lengthens,
and I wither away like grass.
But You, O Lord, shall endure forever,
and the remembrance of Your name to all generations...
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
and Your years will have no end.
The children of Your servants will continue,
and their descendants will be established before You."
~From Psalm 102

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me.
And I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;
no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.
I and My Father are one."
~From John 10

"Fight the good fight of faith,
lay hold on eternal life,
to which you were called...
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things...
who alone has immortality,
dwelling in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see,
to whom be honor and everlasting power."
~From 1 Timothy 6

"That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon,
and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--
the life was manifested,
and we have seen, and bear witness,
and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father
and was manifested to us--
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you,
that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ."
~From 1 John 1

"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,
and He will dwell with them,
and they shall be His people.
God Himself will be with them and be their God.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain,
for the former things have passed away.'
Then He who sat on the throne said,
'Behold, I make all things new...'"
~From Revelation 21

Sometimes I read one place in the Word,
and the connections form,
and it all grows clearer.
And brighter.
Even so, Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Geometry of Sound

My husband and I took my ten-year-old and his cousin
to the Boston Museum of Science over the weekend.
I took a lot of pictures,
but failed to take a picture of the thing that most captured me.

I came around a corner and saw (and heard) my husband using a bow
to stroke the side of a metal square with sand scattered over the top of it.
There was a round disk next to it for the same purpose.
I had no idea what he was doing, and stood and watched.
There was a video playing next to it, demonstrating what to do.
Basically, when you struck the right tone using the bow,
and the sound vibration was pure,
the sand formed a geometric pattern on the square.

Before my eyes I watched the chaos of the sand etch an x across the square.
Perfectly straight lines from corner to corner.
"Do the other one!" I said.
When the sound rang out, the sand obeyed it
and organized itself into six perfect spokes.

I have heard people talk about the relationship
between math and music and art before.
I'm not very mathematically-minded.
And I love and appreciate music, but am not at all a creator of it.
I like to dabble with different forms of art.
But the whole relationship between them had never been so clear in my mind.

I watched in wonder as the sound -- the tone  --
(dare I say 'the word'?) made music and math visible.
I don't understand it at all.
But it stuns me.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
The earth was without form and void; 
and darkness was on the face of the deep. 
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 
Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light..." 
~Genesis 1

"For by Him all things were created 
that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, 
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. 
All things were created through Him and for Him. 
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."
~Colossians 1:16,17

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, 
being understood by the things that are made, 
even His eternal power and Godhead, 
so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, 
they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, 
but became futile in their thoughts..."
~Romans 1:20,21

 You can watch a Youtube video of a cymatic experiment here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Meditation of Bread

A few weeks ago I was given a different brand of whole wheat flour
than I have been using.
Suddenly my bread recipe,
which I had tweaked for some time to get right, failed me.
I wasn't doing anything different other than using another brand.
I have to think about bread again.

Since I began making the bread we eat, I think about bread often.
Is there any bread?
Is there enough bread?
I had better make bread.
Will the bread rise?
Are the ratios right?
Bread is a daily thought.

But then recently, I decided to give a sourdough starter a try --
one I started myself, and didn't receive as a ready gift.
Now bread is an always thought.

I peer into the bowl.
Is it alive yet?
Any signs of life at all?
I smell it.
I watch it.
I feed it.
I wait for it.
I read for hours about it.
I study different schools of thought about it,
and make decisions about which care it will receive.
I plan ahead for its future.
I have hopes for this bread.
For a future of bread and more bread from it.
For pancakes
and cinnamon rolls
and boules
and rolls.
If I can only tell if it's healthy.

Last night I researched signs of health for my bread.
And I discovered I was starving it.
So I fed it an appropriate amount, and it liked it!
Oh, the joy.
I have been feeding it and watching it all day,
and I think it might be on the verge of being perfect --
for a young sourdough starter.
It doubled today.

So I researched 'proofing the sponge'.
Now I watch again anxiously.
Is it working?
Will it rise?
I smell it.
I wait for it.
I think about it while I do the dishes,
washing all the doughy mess from my bowls and utensils.
I wonder if I understand the Bible passages about leaven.
I wonder if in our buy-ten-loaves-of-bread-
and-stick-them-in-our-freezers culture
if I've understood at all.
I think about the feast of unleavened bread,
and I wonder what it means.
What it really means.
And about the purging out of old leaven,
and if it's what I just did when I dumped half the starter down the sink.

And I think about the kingdom of heaven,
and the womanly tasks He described it with.
About leaven, and about lost money,
and the thorough sweeping she did when she lost it.
I think about my Mom and the sometimes days
when she lost money in her checkbook,
and sent us all away so she could balance months' worth of transactions,
'thoroughly sweeping' until she found it.
Or when she maybe lost a check,
and how the entire office had to be ransacked
and set back in order until it was found.
And my mind goes back to the bread.

He put it into His teaching to His disciples on how to pray.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...

And it makes me smile as I realize
that the meditation of the bread
has brought me full circle to His kingdom.
To His care for me and my bread.
To His holiness.
To the hope of justice and the concern for His will.
To forgiveness.
The asking for it.
The giving of it.
Because man shall not live on bread alone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Commending Ourselves To God

"Now concerning things offered to idols:
We know that we have all knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
And if anyone thinks that he knows anything,
he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God,
this one is known by Him."

It was an interesting approach to the discussion
about the eating of spiritually contaminated foods.
He goes on to say in a few verses,
"Food does not commend us to God;
for neither if we eat are we the better,
nor if we do not eat are we the worse."

But what gave me pause this morning
were the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 8.
Our knowledge is no way to come to God.
It is our love for Him that commends us to Him.
So that the heady apologist nitpicking doctrine
is not the one taken note of in heaven.
The woman with her broken inheritance
and the perfume in her hair has a name with Him.

Our knowledge falls short of what it should know,
and will as long as we inhabit these bodies.
But love never falls short with Him.
Knowledge will be humbled,
but Love is already prostrate at His feet,
forgiven, defended, and first to witness new life.

I want to increase in my love of Him.
Not to sit at the table disdaining Him and disdaining Love:
If He was really a prophet, 
He would know what manner of woman was touching Him, 
that she is a sinner.
There sits Knowledge,
judging the Judge and the recipient of His mercy:
a friend of God.
The greater of these is love.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All Are Yours

"Therefore let no one boast in men.
For all things are yours:
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world
or life
or death
or things present
or things to come --
all are yours.
And you are Christ's,
and Christ is God's."
~1 Corinthians 3:21,22

I read this the other morning, and it stopped me short.
Death belongs to us?
It's been something to ponder.
Death is mine.
I own it.