I found myself feeling a bit out-of-sorts, disgruntled, unsettled this morning. Maybe it’s cabin fever after eleven days at home trying to do my part to “flatten the curve” on this COVID-19. Perhaps it’s the general uncertainty and angst surrounding this public health crisis, or it could be my incredulity regarding the remarks made yesterday by one of our state leaders. My plans were to clean out the pantry closet. Nah! It’s a pretty day outside, so I opted for yard work. Nope! The wind is blowing the pollen around like crazy – an allergy/sinus event just waiting to happen – and the ground is very wet. I wanted to work in the yard not play in the mud and get sick. So back inside. Maybe I just need to be still and quiet!
I did just that, closed my door and settled into my comfy reading chair. After some quite, focused breathing, and meditation I picked up A Year with Thomas Merton. Turning to my marked spot, I read:
“Silence, then, is the adoration of His truth, Work is the expression of our humility, and suffering is born of the love that seeks one thing alone: that God’s will be done.”
This was in the chapter entitled “Truth is Formed in Silence, Work, and Suffering” written in Merton’s journal on November 12, 1952. I suppose I needed that reminder in these uncertain times. Now on to my humble work. The sun has come out so perhaps the ground is dryer and more amenable to the spade.
I don’t know if it classifies as binge watching, but I watched all ten episodes of Netflix’s new series, “Messiah,” in four days. Pretty much a record for me! I have been mulling over various aspects of the program since then (over a week) and can’t seem to clear my mind of it so I just need to say what I think.
I have read several reviews of the program and most of them pan the series citing numerous flaws from ambiguity,poor story lines and character development, to “no deep theological grounding or specificity.” Some of these I agree with and some I do not even while acknowledging that I am by no means schooled as a cinema critic or theologian. I do believe that the program made some salient points regarding the coming of the Messiah – both first and/or second – and our receptivity – historical and/or future – of the Messiah.
The overbearing question throughout the series seems to be, “Who is he? Is the stranger, dubbed Al-Masih (the Messiah) by his followers, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, returned?” “Who is he,” is a centuries old question beginning when Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 16:15). Folks through the ages have answered that question in a variety of ways and will continue to do so. With regard to Netflix’s “Messiah,” I believe perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the more relative question is, “Who are we; who am I?” Can we see ourselves in the characters portrayed in “Messiah?”
Are we the prostitute, paid by a high-level government official to seduce Al-Masih as a means to discredit him, who upon experiencing his gentle confrontation of her life, “How can you be the person God intended if you are not honest about who you are?” and hearing, even in the wake of her deception, the truth of God’s love for her walks away repentant and changed. Are we the agent who deceptively witnesses this encounter and walks away changed – to the point of quitting his job. Are we, am I, like these two — truly changed when touched by the love of God?
Are we Jabril, the young Al-Masih follower who stays true to his belief in Al-Masih even as Al-Masih has seemingly abandoned them in the desert at the Israeli border? Through injury, thirst, and hunger Jabril is sustained by his belief and the dreamy appearances of his deceased mother who had told him, “God has a different plan for you.” It is Jabril who courageously leads the remnant of followers into Israel, and some critics speculate that he is the real Messiah. Did Jabril’s touch revive the apparently deceased Qamar? Or, perhaps Jabril is not the Messiah but simply a true disciple and as Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” (John 14:12 New Living Translation). In all our claims to be Christian, are we, am I, like Jabril, a true follower of Christ?
Are we Pastor Felix Iguera who was disillusioned with church and ministry to the point of dousing his church with gasoline before it was miraculously saved from a tornado? Iguera experiences a roller coaster of despair, confusion, doubt, and hope only to succumb to his own weaknesses and family frailties. Claiming to be a humble servant and wanting only what God wants, he takes the reins and arranges for AL-Masih to appear on his millionaire, televangelist father-in-law’s show claiming “this is what God wants” Al-Masih agrees, but when he walks away from the appearance Iguera is again in confusion and despair.
When the story breaks that Al-Masih, by his own admission and hard evidence, is a mortal man, Iguera returns to his church and in what seems to be an act of lost faith he does indeed burn it down. This brings me to a question of our faith. If the true Messiah, Jesus, is not the literal Son of God, does that negate his message to the world? Does that mean Jesus was not God’s anointed? Is our belief in Jesus as God’s Word to the world based solely on our belief that he is the literal Son of God? Are we, am I, Pastor Iguera?
Are we Aviram, a hard-nosed, tormented, vengeful, often brutal Israeli agent, who is intent on catching Al-Masih and exposing him as a fraud? Aviram is unwavering in his purpose even as he is shaken by Al-Masih’s knowledge of his past bad acts. He flirts with belief yet remains hard-hearted. Not until he is facing imminent death and tormented by his sin, his “failure to choose goodness,” does Aviram say, “I’m sorry,” as the plane crashes. Are we Aviram — tormented with shame, hardened, and unable to accept God’s love?
Are we Eva Geller, the CIA agent, sparing with Aviram, and equally determined to debunk Al-Masih and uncover his real intent? Eva has issues. Her identity is in her work. She has a strained relationship with her father, grief and guilt over her late husband, is distraught over not being able to have children, and is sensitive about her mother and her Jewish heritage. In her own words to Aviram, “I am as messed up as you.” She too is shaken by Al-Masih’s knowledge of her past which further solidifies her efforts to find “the truth.” Even as she finds evidence of “the truth” of Al-Masih’s identity and suspects that the U. S. government shot down the plane carrying him back to Israel, she appears to continue to run from the truths of her personal life and emotional distress – she remains a lost soul. Are we Eva?
Yes, “Messiah” has spawned questions and controversy among viewers and critics. Of course, Christ, the Messiah, has stirred questions and controversy for centuries. Ultimately the question “Who is He?” is only answered by each of us individually in our own unique way based on our beliefs. In regard to the question, “Who are you/Who am I?” I am drawn to Al-Masih’s words, “How can you be the person God intended if you are not honest about who you are?” Honestly, answering that question is not easy. “Messiah” offers numerous character mirrors. Do we see ourselves in them, and what can we learn from them?
Scupper plugs! Must get scupper plugs, as my bottom is wet! One of the perils, or lessons learned, I suppose, on a first outing in a new kayak. The lighter weight craft proves much easier on my back and shoulders as I carry, load, and unload it. However, the lighter weight results in a lighter load capacity. Thus, when I sat my bottom in the cockpit, the deck went down and water came in through the scupper holes. With my older, larger kayak I never used scupper plugs, and I never got wet. Well, at least I wasn’t heavy enough to sink the craft. I made sure of that before I headed out into the lake.
The wind was up a bit when I first launched so I retreated to paddle along the shoreline as opposed to bucking the wind and risking more water in the craft. I enjoy the shoreline more than the open water anyway. The shoreline offers more to see and discover as I move quietly in the water and peer into the grasses, the bushes and at times the shallower water depths. I sometimes feel like I am playing “cat and mouse” with the water creatures. It is a challenge to see how close I can get to the turtles on the logs before they “plop” off into the water? Or, how long can I float alongside the ducks before they sense my presence and flap away?
I started out this morning thinking I would paddle around the entire perimeter of the lake. However, as I made my way around the lake – almost halfway – I decided, “No, I don’t want to do that.” This change of intention was not due to my limited time on the water this morning, but more from my need to just “be” and not to be “doing.” So I paddled into a small cove, found respite from the wind and sun, and here I sit, maybe somewhat
reclining in the kayak. The silence and solitude is welcome and restful. The occasional bird song breaks the silence. There have been two “plops” behind me, but I have seen no turtles since I stopped paddling. As I came into the cove there was a small turtle on a stump out in the water. I think it might have been a musk (stinkpot) turtle given its size and high dome. But, alas, it “plopped” into the water before I could snap a picture!
Dragonflies are fluttering all around me. In this cove I float on a mirror, flawed only by a wee bump. Wait! That’s a tiny little head. How close can I get? I move in silence and stealth. Ooops! There he goes into the deep – a large round body for such a wee little head. It is my friend — the turtle. Now, to just sit back and “be” on this delightful sunny and warm day. Warm, mmmm! Except my wet bottom! Yes, definitely scupper plugs!!
Yesterday, Tuesday 9/16, as we left Abilene State Park and headed north, we literally took the road less traveled. The marvels of the GPS and GoogleMaps are not lost on us as we use both as needed while on the road. We find the GPS helpful in getting from point A to point B. Once in a given area we resort to GoogleMaps, mostly me, as I tend to be the “navigator,” to actually see the map of the area and the street layout. At any rate, with both devices on and laying out a course for the day, they were “at odds.” We opted for the GPS version and headed out on what seemed the most logical and straight line of direction. I realized that the other route, though longer and more circuitous , followed the better main highway. But, the die was cast, and we went via Highways 89 and 126.
As went the road became a bit narrower and, thankfully, still paved and wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic with absolutely no shoulder. It would have been a thoroughly modern highway in the 1950’s. At times it felt as if we were riding a bucking bronc. Of course, pulling the travel trailer accentuates the bucking motion! Did I mention the curves? Fairly frequently the road made 90 degree curves — first to the left and then back to the right. Between those we stayed alert to the “S” highway markers. This continued for miles. When not watching the road, I was able to enjoy the country side. Lou Anne was driving. She is a “confident” driver, and I have the utmost of confidence in her driving.
Initially the landscape was washed and gullied and covered with scrub brush and miniature (by East Texas standards), gnarled oak trees. Gradually, the land began to flatten and precise rows of cotton and grains whizzed by us. Then we were into another type of farm — a wind farm. Huge wind turbines dotted the land as far as we could see. The winding road brought us “up close and personal” to the giant windmills of technology. Oh, and beneath the gleaming white of the turning windmills, the green of the cotton fields was broken by the black pumpjacks of the oil wells. rhythmically moving down and up — down to bring the black crude up. All and all, it was a conglomerate of motion — straight line, round and round, and up and down!
As I thought about all that I was seeing, I was struck with just how incredible our earth is! Within this small area the land is providing, at the very least, raw products for food and clothing. The wind is generating power for all sorts of purposes, and oil used in products to numerous to mention is being pumped from beneath the earth’s surface. Incredible indeed! Can we not say that we do live in the Garden! Regardless of one’s beliefs, thoughts, or opinions about the various creation theories — and there happens to be at least ten of them — I, for one, am of the opinion that there was, and IS, an intelligent, creative Higher Power behind it all — be it Big Bang, Creationism, Intelligent Design, etc. Again, JUST MY THOUGHTS! PS
Note: We are traveling. So here are my thoughts and travelog!
We are in Abilene State Park. As we have traveled today I have been overwhelmed with the knowledge and feeling that I am extremely blessed. After months of planning and preparations, we are finally on the road. Six weeks of touring in Arizona mostly — seeing some of the sights and speaking at PFLAG — Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — as well as other gatherings. We kept looking at each other and saying, “We are actually on the road and going!”
Being humbled with gratitude leads me to an attitude of prayer. Amidst the gratitude today, I found myself “voicing” prayers in my heart. We had voiced a spoken prayer this morning before leaving, thanking God for this opportunity to travel and speak and asking His blessings and safety in our travels.
Oh, my goodness! Three deer- a doe, a young fawn, and a spike buck have walked up throught the woods and are grazing about twenty yards from where I sit. Thank you, God! Oh, that we might be more atune and thankful for the moments of awe and wonder that come our way at unexpected times and places. We had an armadillo join us for dinner earlier. Certainly not as graceful and lovely a creature as the deer, but one of God’s creatures none the less. We also had several squirrels scampering from tree to tree. Now as the dusk deepens there is a chorus of cicadas in the air. Moments of Wonder and Awe! I am thankful!
Now, back to the discussion of gratitude prior to the arrival of the deer. There was a time today in my thankfulness that this thought fluttered across my consciousness, “Maybe God will bless us on this trip because I am grateful and praying?” I am appalled at times by the thoughts that sometimes flutter across my mind! And this was just such a thought and time. I believe and know that there is neither bargaining nor negotiating with God. God blesses me, all of us, in His wisdom and mercy when and how He sees fit. I am thankful for those blessings. Period! And when life is rolling along and things do not seem so blessed, I will be thankful IN, not for all things. I believe that concept is expressed in I Thessalonians 5:18.
This reminds me of something that I learned many years ago. It is true that we all have random sometimes disgusting, appalling, and unwanted thoughts to flutter across our gray matter. What matters is not that we had the thought, but what we do with it after we have it. Do we dismiss it as a random, unwanted thought and move on to more acceptable thoughts, or do we dwell on it, allow it to loom large and influence all of our thoughts and actions? This is where the important choice must be made. I like to use this analagy: Thoughts can be like the birds. We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we certainly do have a choice in whether we allow them to build a nest in our hair! Think about that!Sp