You can almost guess which one I resemble..!
One of the ‘leftovers’ of religious holidays often carries into adaptation of a thought or concentration on an attitude which can help clarify things that are unresolved. Man, did I ever get an eye-opener…
Dabble with me for a moment in a part of Scripture that the faithful react with shudder: Ecclesiastes. It’s no secret that good sermons are almost absent within this part of the Good Book, mainly because at times the writer (King David’s son and heir, Solomon) pontificates the hardest questions only to come out with nothing significant at all on all that heavy thinking. And yet, I was about to arrive at a place where questions finally gave me answers on a topic I didn’t expect to tackle this day.
Recently it be came apparent to my sister that on a particular day last week when we needed to finalize plans for a working document to an upcoming endeavor were being delayed, her husband and I needed time to catch up. We’re both spiritually attuned, and have learned long ago that interruptions off the script can be opportunities, it all somehow depends on the subject matter. Ken and I were discussing guitars (of which he has several dozen he resells for profit) and musicianship (of which he is published and talented far greater than myself). He educated me on his performance style of recent Blues tunes he’s crafted ‘with a twist’: a strong classical component that is making the art of Blues…artful. To hear it is a joy; no strumming, just intricate fingering and direction which ‘swims’ the bluesy notes and classical hints of his many years of musicianship together to make a performance that I dig like crazy and come back wanting more. When he showed me his intricate progressions revealing how he does it, the confirmation was so exciting I stated before them: ‘you know, there could be $1000 sitting on a table right next to me and Ken sharing just what makes his music come alive, and I would ignore the money completely.’ That’s when my sister Leslie chimed in: ‘Information is more important to you.’ Bingo. I find greater worth, longer lasting joy, and accomplishment potential in understanding and answers. It’s also a Biblical mindset:
How much better than gold it is to gain wisdom!
Yes, rather than money, choose to gain understanding. (Proverbs 16:16, CJB)
Yes, I would run straight past the cash and veer off to the answer on the ‘bent’ path.
And, from the words of King Shlomo (Solomon), the dabbling begins.
Gained through a deep study of Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 I have been reflecting back to the Jewish New Year and Passover while preparing for the season of the Omer. It’s a 50-day span from Passover to Shavu’ot, the moment in Jewish history when G-d gave Moshe (Moses) His 10 Commands (aka, ‘the tablets’) in stone as a direction for the people to follow so they could live harmoniously with Adonai (the Lord) and one another, In a very brief statement these 50 days are meant for the following reason:
The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the month of Sivan, around the same time as the holiday of Shavuot. The Sefer HaChinuch (published anonymously in 13th century Spain) states that the Hebrew people were only freed from Egypt at Passover in order to receive the Torah at Sinai, an event which is now celebrated on Shavuot, and to fulfill its laws. Thus the Counting of the Omer demonstrates how much a Hebrew desires to accept the Torah in his own life. [ Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counting_of_the_Omer ]
Enlightenment took hold not from the traditions of this ‘Omer Count’ which is often a prescribed set of Scriptures to read and reflect upon; this year, I’ve been guided by something far deeper. One’s ability to transcend thoughts, feelings, emotions, quirks and so on often runs into roadblocks – whether they be imposed lines not to cross, or discomfort in subjective assessments, or – Heaven forbid! – some deep dark place too scary to enter, the barricaded door that must never be opened.
Clearly we cannot grow past our limitations, right? I have been on a forever quest to be as limitless as can be achieved. It is the reason my life and history are rich with wonderful moments, tremendous hardship, dedication and determination. It is also to understand just where boundaries cannot be crossed ‘because’. You know that place: the child you always are wants that answer to the burning question and all that you hear in response is ‘trust me’. Some answer. Clear as mud. My dilemma: follow a prescribed Omer path or get down to a burning need to understand how Solomon could make a bold statement like –
Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? [Ecc. 7:13, CJB]
Having a faith dating back to my first understanding of God as a 4 year old boy has been a source of comfort – if not a bit of bragging – in my later years. I’ve pondered, battled and jousted my way to hold onto perceptions that tried to support my position as ‘straight’ (meaning, upright). This verse made the challenge stick: Trust God to see yourself as crooked (meaning, bent or leaning).
Trust the unknown, and this bizarre concept? Am I nuts? Time and reflection have proven that unknowns are paths to enlightenment, growth and a ‘best asset’ for determining where I stand – not just with the Almighty, but in all things. The prescribed path in religious study is a very typical and helpful way to remember key points about what thoughts, concepts and other duties and realities should help a believer conduct life; but after awhile, just like any prescription, one finds the prescribed and familiar eventually ineffective.
When things are going well, enjoy yourself; but when things are going badly, consider that God made the one alongside the other, so that people would learn nothing of their fortunes. [Ecc. 7:14, CJB]
The Almighty’s built-in gatekeeper that says Trust has absolutely nothing to do with knowing. Throw comfort out the window; reason hasn’t got a chance; intuition and expectancy are shaky as well. What is this blockade’s purpose? It’s not a comfortable answer, but a sound one: when we believe we have the mind of God to the point of being on level footing, we have become most deceived and wicked; it is our danger zone – the place where God will have no equal to Himself. Case in point, Lucifer: most beloved of sound, the most melodious of all created beings, rose within his own being to believe he attained God-status, and was cast out before the true Supreme being.
Embracing this difficult but essential fact about spiritual life will lead to the very nature His requirements intend. Determination: the upright (straight) is possible as a cause/effect, but the crooked (bent, leaning) is constant to keep us in mind that we are mere mortals.
Faithful followers long for deeper meaning. They who seek crave a nearness; they need a connection which does more than teach – it must ‘live’ within to have presence and relation. This living merge of body, soul and spirit has a scope which can now take in a place of belonging to moments – past, present and future – and a destiny.
Reflection time: how has my crooked existence added or taken away from life? I’m constantly measuring performance, hoping to see improvement which better reflects the ‘standard’ set forth in my chosen value system, Scripture. With all good achievements and all failing moments and all in-between weighed, there is no question my own effort falls short – but, coupled with faith – there has been a hand moving my limitations higher and farther.
Guidance at this stage is largely dependent on the relation of one’s higher power (God) in and through those who are among us. It is not hard to gauge how well or strange things get at this level of achievement, simply because one is being continually guided to understand that although there are benchmarks, the pathway is anything but absolute.
Since the Creator purposed the Straight and Crooked, promised very similar outcomes, and did so wisely to keep humanity at bay from forgetting the created will never be as supreme as the Creator, it revived the purpose for understanding: grace, in faith, through effort, maintains guidance, and thereby helps me calm ego, seek answers outside my own ration, take risk for what matters so as to trust the One who guides, and accept with joy the fact that I am indeed crooked. Imperfect. Not like all the others. Unique. Strange, yet unafraid of my off-centered strangeness, for He made that, and He made the upright to co-exist with, and measures how we get along.
Breaks in our striving are certain in the typical, mundane and predictable result; it is all too easy to apply standard answers to undefined, confusing, or shadowy questions; the rise in doubt will keep nagging to find comfort zones unless you have an inner challenge to allow trust its rightful place in completing a new and teachable spiritual journey.
In my pointless life, I’ve seen everything – from the righteous person perishing in his uprightness to the wicked one who lives a long life and keeps on doing wrong. So don’t be overly righteous or overly wise; why should you disappoint yourself? But don’t be overly wicked, and don’t be foolish; why should you die before your time? [Ecc. 7:15-17. CJB]
- My pointless life was believing I was upright. My admission as one who is ‘bent’ does bear some evidence. Over the years back and leg issues have caused me to lean, and there’s constant work in adjusting to fix this. In fact, a condition I’ve had for decades demands I stretch or face being crippled. All that stretching has me bent at angles heretofore deemed non-achievable. Now, digging deeper, my ‘bend’ is a hard spot: there are ways I am, things I carry, lines I draw that have been developing from decades of experience.
- There are experiences that harden you, others that convince you, and still others that reveal you. There’s the part that knows who I am by profession and the level of professionalism achieved yet some of the evidence shows that best achievements in accomplishments came from the unexpected, mishap and unscripted.
- Had to tackle the angst with Germans because of WW II, even though I am German on both family histories, and have done enough talk, study and listening to others who convinced me their love (as a Jew) for Germany brought them willingly to their final resting places there; all my collective gathering of news reels and accounts made me realize how many were duped by a masterful and cunning deceiver, and that if I look beyond there, how other places in the world have been through the same deception. Some were never snowed, fighting to save and preserve at every turn. We must accept that total hate for a group cannot be, for examples are glaring that amplify our own biases.
- Then there’s image – mine – which is and has been one who conforms to what he knows and believes. I’m clearly aligned with more of the hippie tribe and the beard brotherhood than any other assemblage. I’m libertarian-leaning, but hold fast to history and its tested memory for helping us learn from past and avoid future failures. There’s a very strong faith contained, a Judeo-Christian deep root that only gets stronger, and yet, I am unaffiliated with any organized group – seemingly against some of Scripture’s urging to not forsake assembly and so on, yet not at all finding understanding and mutual respect in their midst. It’s hard to support what you can’t trust. Of late the admission of being the ‘man with the silver lining’ has resurfaced in the ability to find good in the midst of ugly, confusing, bad; that’s the Yin/Yang nature of who I’ve become so as to force others to see all sides before forming opinions, hoping judgments will at least bear some reasonable truth when assertions rise. And I know, intrinsically, this is who I am – deliberately – before the One who is Lord and Savior.
- Living my ‘me’ is existing in the understanding of His hands guiding; making restoration, restitution and reservation for what I’ve lost, what’s been stolen and what is to be my portion now and in the future. The hard places bent me, but it was God who brought that on to develop what He needs for others to realize and to show me where blessings and goodness thrive. They’re not in the typical, not at all in the predictable and so far from the standards being upheld; they are in the journeys, the discoveries, the testings and trials, and the arrivals.
- Love, too, has been transformed: it’s not a sentence fragment tying in feelings, it is action plus heart plus dedication plus sacrifice plus devotion…sprinkled with joy, mirth, intimacy, grace and lavished with care, prayer and ‘being there’. It is a total place, it is shared surrender and the biggest ‘gimme’ at the same time. It makes pieces of two into one whole, willingly, the wonton merge that makes the union a living entity. Love is the strongest revolution, the deepest commitment, the richest gift. Anything else is trying to be love…and trying is at least attempting, but one must keep moving toward ‘one.’
Hidden along the way are uncomfortable situations, betrayals, misgivings, stray thoughts, cloudy perceptions. The unclear gets a huge chunk of blame for cutting our egos down to size, and it’s needful. Trust includes the fact that our own leading is not the standard-bearer of reality; elements may be there, but challenge requires a rethink in perception to help refine reality.
Don’t grasp just one of these rules; take hold of the other as well; for he who is in fear of God will live by both of them. [Ecc. 7:18, CJB]
Answers! The place of arrival. Strange though: a journey to the unknown (or even the known without a road map to get there) ends up an adventure, formulated and explained in a story, which is now a part of history, and becomes a place of remembrance.
To a wise man wisdom is better protection than ten rulers in a city. For there isn’t a righteous person on earth who does [only] good and never sins. [Ecc. 7:19-20, CJB]
Did you ever arrive at an answer and feel betrayed or cheated? Solomon asserts just where his thoughts led him on the quest to understand: “All this I have put to the test of Wisdom; I said, I will acquire Wisdom; but wisdom remained far away from me. That which exists is far away and deep, so deep that it can’t be discovered.” [Ecc. 7:23-24, CJB]
So now the head is spiraling and that sense of ‘why did we go here?’ is screaming. It really shouldn’t be so tough, and the reason why it’s less tough for me to understand thanks to a cerebral and honest journey Solomon took is spelled out boldly:
One Dabble Recently Gained Enlightenment; Clearly Trust!
The Almighty’s Faithful Guidance Breaks Hidden Answers!
The difference between faith and conjuring is that one knows not the destination sometimes or the journey most times yet anticipates the arrival with desire and liberating understanding, but the conjurer never learns from the destination because he need not journey – the outcome has been planned and fate often interrupts with jarring blows, revealing all absence of desire as the conjurer is reduced to enslaved taskmaster.
Thoughts from this entry keep building which will be added as chapters.