Saturday, March 31, 2007

Loopholes in the Law?

Loopholes were added to castle walls sometime around the end of the 12th century. They were placed there so that someone could shoot from behind the walls without being exposed to enemy fire.

Well, it's April tomorrow, and those who haven't done their taxes will be hunting for the loopholes to hide behind as the IRS begins to storm our personal castles.

I've been teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, and I came to Mattthew 5:21-26, and began to study this passage which initiates 5 straight sections which begin with the words, “You have heard that it was said,” and responsively continues with, “But I say to you.” What is it that Jesus is teaching us as He recites the law, and then goes on to assert even stronger commands? Could it be that He has seen men use the law like rich men using loopholes in the tax codes? Could it be that they kept the law, but missed the point?

Did the religious leaders of Jesus day use the law for personal gain, and find loopholes to keep the letter of the law, meanwhile shooting through those same loopholes to wound the weak? When Jesus tells us that righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, and scribes is He seeing those religious leaders as wicked oppressors who keep the letter of the law, but miss the heart of that matter?

This makes me view this section of the Sermon on the Mount differently. No longer do I see it simply as an impossible, and insurmountable righteousness which causes me to run to Christ for redemption (Yes, I still see that in this teaching), but now I also see Jesus assailing the castle walls of corrupt religion in His day, and He felt the bite of the arrows which flew through those cross-shaped holes in religion's defenses.

What corruption might He assail today? What corporate structure defends men's vices, and allows them to still look good? Are there loopholes in our religion? Are there loopholes in our occupations? Are there loopholes in our lives? I can think of some in my life. How about you?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

God Bless Brother Maynard (Whoever the heck Brother Maynard is)

So here I was minding my own business, having a bit more of the Jobian experience the last few years have brought. I was dealing with a couple funerals - one in the family, one of a friend, and then coming down with this nasty sickness which is beginning to feel like pneumonia.

There was a break in the trouble with a really great show at the church which I played the other night. People actually showed up, and we raised some fair money for The Vault, despite not being able to do the publicity, or the practice I needed to do for the two week's previous. But it worked out great.

So I did everthing possible during that time to make sure my blog would receive fewer hits, and drop in the technorati ratings. I ignored the blog and posted nothing for a week. I anticipated 20% fewer hits, and my technorati rating droping from 70,000 to about 90,000. Instead upon my return yesterday, what did I discover? My hits were up, and my technorati rating went up to 55,000. What the heck happened?!

What happened was some guy named Brother Maynard. He was working hard to ruin my plans for obscurity. This guy Brother Maynard came along with some idea calling attention to under-rated, under-priviledged emergent church bloggers. Now ol' Brother Maynard did not put me on his short list of the under-rated group, but shortly after someone did. I am not sure who yet, I think it might have been Webb ol' buddy ol' pal.

So here's my list, and I'm still sick, and sweating a bit right now, so I will add just one to the bottom, and maybe come back later. But I had to get Johnny Beloved in there.

So here's to Brother Maynard. Whoever the heck Brother Maynard is - God bless you Brother Maynard. I am picturing you wearing monk robes.

Oh, and I got my list from Emerging in Ludlow.

The Blind Beggar
Emerging Grace
Nathan Colquhoun
John Smulo
Todd Hiestand
Chuck Warnock
John Lunt
Webb Kline
Mark Wilson
Rick Meigs
Brother Maynard
Glenn Hager
Paul Mayers
Jamie Swann
Paul Walker
Jerry Frear
Phil Wyman
Matt Stone
Erika Haub
John Santic
Colin Lamm
Julie Clawson
Phil Johnson
Andii Bowsher
John Moorehead
Paul Fromont & Alan Jamieson
Tom Allen
Karen Ward
Malcolm Chamberlain
Adam Moore
Cheryl Lawrie
Mark Berry
Brushed Blog (Andy)
Emerging in Ludlow (David Bole)
hold : this space
Jim Palmer
Andrew Dowsett
Justin Groves
Zach at Johnny Beloved

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Separate Bedrooms - I don't get it.

Maybe Bev and I don't snore loud enough, but this piece of news, also here is slightly outside my reference point. I know Lucy and Ricky had separate beds - but separate bedrooms?

Okay maybe you have separate bedrooms, and it makes sense. If so, tell me how it works?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

First day of Spring in Salem, MA

Well, this is what the first day of Spring looks like in my yard here in Salem, MA.

A few weeks ago in mid-February the daffodils were poking their green heads above the ground, and teasing us with a promise of an early Spring. The neighbors suggested that perhaps we we were going to have a short winter. Yeah right.

What's your first day of Spring (or Fall for you at the bottom side of the world) look like?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shawn Poirier, March 18th 2007 - Updated with Funeral Arrangements

Arrangements or Shawn's Funeral are these:

Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home - in New Bedford, MA
495 Park Street
New Bedford, MA 02740

Wake: Wednesday, March 21st 6pm-8pm for Salem residents, and friends
Funeral: Thursday, March 22nd 10am at the Saunders Funeral Home, and then going from there to the Cemetary for a graveside service.

Directions click here

Hi friends,

Early this morning a friend of mine died. He was quite influential in the Witchcraft Circles here in Salem, and will be missed sorely by many people. Shawn Poirier passed on early in the AM hours today - Sunday the 18th of March. He and Christian Day worked together on the Witches of Salem, and Festival of the Dead events here in our city. Christian who is a part of our Circle and Cross Talk list is away in New Orleans right now, and certainly could use your prayers and thoughts. Please consider his close friend Leanne, and Shawn's mother Joanne as well.

He and I got to know each other fairly well over the last 8 years I've lived here in Salem, and I will miss some of those late night phone calls, and spontaneous meetings we had.

Trusting in Goodness, Living in Grace, Thankful for You,
Pastor Phil

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Black Elk, John, and Phil Speak: Shamanic and Apocalyptic Vision

Having just finished the book "Black Elk Speaks," and coming to this 4th SynchroBlog covering the subject of "Alternate Consciousness from a Christian Perspective," are fine coincidences in this anarchic dance we call life, or perhaps they are no coincidence at all, and it is not an anarchic dance.

Franko, who says he is not a Christian gave me the book, and I knew this subject was coming up, so I considered it an interesting coalescence of events.

In my own life, I have experienced a number of events which I can relate to as alternate consciousness experiences. I will describe just two, and place these next to both Christian apocalyptic literature, and Native American visions.

In my first experience which came to me the year before I believed in Jesus as Redeemer of my Soul, and attributed the forgiveness of my sins to His efforts upon the cross I had a spiritual experience which came to me twice. Fully aware and awake - the first time driving and the second time sitting in a concert I experienced a large invisible hand coming toward me. I had no visual experience, it was simply sensation of an inner knowing followed by a physical sensation of touch. Twice this invisible hand came towards my face, and upon reaching me my head snapped to the side as I felt as though I had been slapped.

The first slap came with the single word "God." The second came more dramatically with the phrase "Jesus died for you," repeating many times, and running through my ears like ticker tape.

These experiences were instrumental in my coming to view Jesus as the goal of my search for absolute truth, and caused me to call out for forgiveness of my sins.

The second experience involved waking up from sleep. From a deep sleep I suddenly awoke, if awake it was, in a trance-like state. The phrase "One must go about speaking in the churches before the ministry begins," played in my head, and began to toss and turn and pondered out loud what these words meant. After perhaps 5 minutes of repeating this phrase, and scratching my head in confusion, asking myself what this meant, a paraphrase from a verse of scripture came to my mind - "Judgment must first begin in the house of God." I said out loud, "That's what it means," and promptly fell back asleep. In the morning I woke, leapt out of bed, and shouted with great exhuberance, "Judgment must first begin in the house of God!" If any interpreters of divine experiences can explain that for me, I'd be greatly appreciative.

One of these events led me to follow Christ, the other carries a touch of confusion, but perhaps a promise, or hope (maybe a warning?) for the future.

Black Elk was a Medicine Man for the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota. He lived through the battle of Little Big Horn, and the massacre at Wounded Knee. He told the story of a famous Lakota Indian holy man named Drinks Water, who had visions of the four legged creatures going down to the earth, of a strange race of humans who wove a web around the Indian peoples, he said "When this happens you shall live in square grey houses, in a barren land, and next to these small grey houses you shall starve." This was many years before the white man came to nearly exterminate the bison, and destroy the way of life of the Native Americans.

As he began to speak to John Neihardt about his story he lit the peace pipe as an offering and presented this thought, and prayer,

"Now I light the pipe, and after I have offered it to the powers that are one Power, and sent forth a voice to them, we shall smoke together. Offering the mouthpiece first of all to the One above--so--I send a voice:

Hey hey! hey hey! hey hey! hey hey!

Grandfather, Great Spirit, you have been always, and before you no one has been. There is no other one to pray to but you. You yourself, everything that you see, everything has been made by you. The star nations all over the universe you have finished. The four quarters of the earth you have finished. The day, and in that day, everything you have finished. Grandfather, Great Spirit, lean close to the earth that you may hear the voice I send. You towards where the sun goes down, behold me; Thunder Beings, behold me! You where the White Giant lives in power, behold me! You where the sun shines continually, whence come the day-break star and the day, behold me! You where the summer lives, behold me! You in the depths of the heavens, an eagle of power, behold! And you, Mother Earth, the only Mother, you who have shown mercy to your children!"

Black Elk goes on to share a "great vision which he received at a young age. In it he was carried away, and shown many things. Over the course of 12 days, he laid sick in his parents' tepee, and when he returned to consciousness, he was significantly changed, and this vision would drive his life for the next 60+ years. Those who saw him following his recovery saw changes in him.

"That evening of the day when I came back, Whirlwind Chaser, who had got a great name and a good horse for curing me, came over to our tepee. He sat down and looked at me a long time in a strange way, and then he said to my father: "Your boy there is sitting in a sacred manner. I do not know what it is, but there is something special for him to do, for just as I came in I could see a power like a light all through his body.""

His friend who was older by four years remarked about his demeanor after his recovery, "I said to him: "How, younger brother! You got well after all!" And he said: "How! Yes, I am not sick at all now!" But as we rode along together and talked, he was not like a boy. He was more like an old man."

The Great Vision of Black Elk reads like a Native American version of the book of Revelation at times. His prayers, and sayings reference multiple spirits, but always return to One Great Spirit who alone is to be prayed to. His Great Vision would become a guide through his life, and appeared to have prophetic elements which would come to pass. At some points his vision takes on Messianic proportions, with a holy tree for the nation, and a healing herb which is given for the health of the people.

Black Elk went on to be involved in the Ghost Dancing movement (also called the Messiah Movement) which hoped for and dreamed of a day in which the way of life they had lost might return. For many of the Ghost Dancers they viewed this return as something which would occur in the afterlife.

John, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joseph, Peter, Paul, and Zechariah all speak of dreams, visions, or trance-like states in which they experienced revelatory knowledge from God. Nebuchadnezzar, and the Pharoah during Joseph's life had visions which came from God.

Dreams, visions, and trances leading to a fuller vision of God, or giving warning of the future appear to be common themes in apocalyptic literature of scripture, and can be found in the visions of the Native American culture. My comparatively mild experiences both before my relationship with Christ, and after seem to further evidence that God can, and does speak not only to Christians, but people of all cultures for redemptive purposes, and for guidance to help and save people through oncoming struggles.

Should we as Christians look for the voice of God speaking in other cultures, even if those cultures are not followers of Jesus? The Biblical record, the story of Black Elk, and my own experiences say yes.

The SynchroBlogger List for March 14th

Seek God: Avoid Prelest at Hand Maid Leah
Can prayer be an example of Alternate Conciousness? at Eternal Echoes
Better Than I Was [at times], Not Better Than You Are by Mike of Earthsea
Stone's Pentecost at Adam Gonnerman's Igneous Quill
Consciousness of the absurd and the absurdity of
at Steve's Notes from the Underground
The Unconscious Christian by Matt Stone
Hypnochristians at Jamie's More Than Stone
The extreme consciousness of the Spirit by Les Chatwin
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me at Mike's Musings
The Truth About Reality by David Fisher at Be the Revolution
Trying to play along here at Cindy's Tracking the Edge

Monday, March 12, 2007

SynchroBlog on Alternate Consciousness from a Christian Perspective

We are releasing SynchroBlog #4 in two days. Americans - post it Tuesday Evening if you can. The Subject is Alternate Consciousness from a Christian Perspective. There will be a blog on sleep, another on the absurdity of Consciousness, one from down under on Unconscious Christians, and one on Extreme Consciousness.

I will be blogging on visions given to non-Christian Native Americans, and the similarity they hold to the Apocalyptic literature of scripture, and in this challenge the typical ideas of meditation from an evangelical perspective.

So hold on to your seats, and get ready for Tuesday evening/Wednesday's release of SynchroBlog #4. SynchroBloggers - if you have not sent me a title, and the blog site you will be posting on, send it before Tuesday night. I will send the code to post on your site with links to all the other SynchroBloggers.

To see previous SynchroBlogs click here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Burqini? Wow! this is Cool.

Having read this story I just could not pass up saying I think this is a great example of people breaking outside the box of cultural perceptions about them. Check out this story of Australian Muslim young women joining the volunteer lifesaving forces on the beach - still committed to wearing their burqas - albeit modified.

This ties into my post on sexuality, and the observations on virginity as a ritual lifestyle as a pattern of modeling faithfulness to God. I am amazed that the burqa wearing young women in Australia are finding ways to live their ritual lifestyles, and still integrate into society at this level. Perhaps we have something to learn from them about being "in the world, but not of it."

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Little Prayer Would be Appreciated

Hi Friends of Square No More,

Bev (my wife) is headed to San Diego tomorrow morning. Her mom had a stroke, and is not given any chance of survival at this point. So Bev will fly out tomorrow (on her Birthday) to spend the week with her mom, and her brothers in Poway. For those of you from North County, you may get a chance to see her. She's not been to California since we moved out here 7 years ago, and this certainly isn't a vacation. So, your prayers are appreciated.

Since the original posting of this Bev's mom has passed away. She died Wednesday morning at about 1:30am PST. Thanks for your continued prayers.