Response to the New Year

garage_door

I’ve a taken a break from theological stuff and have following a “deep” and “profound” (wink-wink) haiku on my thoughts heading into the New Year. I call it: The Clash of Idealism with Reality.

 

2017…

…rich with promises. But first—

Tidy the garage!

 

I know, I have a weird sense of humor! But our garage, probably like yours, was the repository for all the package remains and present remnants in need of recycling. Now our recycle bin is packed full and we have 10 days to go until pick up!

That’s post-Christmas life in suburban America.

A Vacation Learned

Sunset_2016

Sunset from the Inn at Spanish Head

Like most people, I love the idea of a vacation. It’s a time to get away, do some out-of-the-ordinary things and to…relax. Just the thought of relaxing spurred the following thought:

 

We’re on vacation,

still safe away from home…so…

lower those shoulders!

 

Most of my life I’ve heard that I’m either wound a bit tight or just too intense. I honestly don’t see it, but even my doc told me I need to learn to relax. So this vacation I wanted to relax a bit. But how do you relax when there’s so much packing, unpacking, packing again; traveling; food stuff; and all those activities? Plus I wanted to have some stellar alone-times with God; just me, God and prayer. Then I could really hear his voice.

But I’ve learned a few things along the way and finally applied that learning this last two weeks.

 

Applied Learning

If I am so focused on the next task, then the current moment slips away. How many “slipped-away moments” need to occur before the vacation itself actually comes to an end? Also, if I’m expecting to hear from God only in special, contrived moments; it’s most likely that I’ll miss His voice altogether. How is this overcome?

Francis Schaffer states that “growth…like all things in our life, [is] a moment-by-moment process” (True Spirituality, 2001, p. 157). Overcoming the inability to relax boils down to the intentionality of living in the moment. Where’s God? In the moment. What matters most now? That which is in the moment.

For instance, hiking is more enjoyable when I am taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the moment. Plus I can better enjoy the physical effort of my body working hard to carry me to the next step, then the next, then the next. Rather than being solely focused on getting enough steps on my pedometer, or reaching a specific mile marker; the hike is more enjoyable when I stop to watch a honey bee working on a purple lupine. Or when I ask the fly fisher if he’s caught anything or simply feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays radiating on my chest. Before I know it my mind is relaxed, work worries have dissipated as the morning mist on the river and suddenly I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’m in the moment and God is with me…in the moment. Jesus even lived in the moment and taught His followers not to worry but to trust God instead (see Matthew 6:25-34).

Then there’s the time around the campfire with Grandpa and Caleb. We’re all in the moment just chatting about whatever strikes our fancy. Or the moment right before we mash through a Class 4 rapid at Box Springs on the Deschutes River; we’re all looking at each other with smiles mixed with thrill and fear. We’re all thinking the same thing, “I’m not falling out!” Then there’s flying a kite on the sands of Lincoln City. The family is together, each taking turns flying our multi-colored kite.

What do these moments have in common? They are shared moments. We’re not all sitting

BB_Simmit

The Three Sisters seen from the summit of Black Butte

around fretting about packing or about what’s for dinner; we are instead enjoying a campfire, or a white-water raft trip or family time at the beach. These are the moments that make a vacation. And these are the vacations that build memories, happy memories. Like climbing the summit of Black Butte with my ten-year-old and drinking in the spectacular view together. Or watching the humpback whales feeding just off the coast line while we’re having dinner. Or watching the sun setting in the Pacific Ocean, hoping to see the green flash. Or listening to Grandpa telling us stories from his past.

 

I’m Just Starting to Get It!

I’m still learning of course, but at least I’m finally beginning to understand how to “do” vacation. It all rests in the moment. And it’s funny, when I live more and more in the moment, I fret less over the future, I actually feel relaxed…and, yes…my shoulders do finally lower!

The Atonement in Epic Haiku

Recently I had an assignment in my last theology class that was to be a creative project depicting the atonement. Well, I’m not a painter or sculptor, but I do like to write. So I chose to do what I am referring to as an Epic Haiku.

A Little Haiku History

Originally, what we know as haiku today were once known as hokku. These hokku were 17 syllables long in three lines with the following syllable-per line structure: 5-7-5. The hokku was part of a longer work known as a renga, with the hokku serving “as the most significant part of the renga[1] because it established the setting and season for the remaining work. Then the remaining work progressed through a series of what was in the Heian period (794-1185) known as haiku. The haiku of this era was 31-syllables with the per-line syllable structure of 5-7-5-7-7.

Through the centuries, luminaries such as Matsuo Busho (1644-94), Taniguchi Buson (1715-83) and Kobayashi Issa (1762-1826) morphed the literary art form of renga into what is now commonly referred to as haiku but their poems had the hokku structure. In other words, they were producing short poems in what we know in Western culture as the modern day haiku format. However, it was Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) that actually first described haiku as an “independent three-line poem”[2]; the form that was originally referred to as hokku.

All of this to say that I have been writing our current understanding of haiku for years. I appreciate the art form because a properly constructed haiku can pack quit a punch in only seventeen syllables. One of the aspects I enjoy so much about haiku is the third line is usually a bit of a twist from the two preceding lines. For example, Shuoshi Mizuhara’s Solitude:

Closing gate

alone with the stones

on this beautiful night[3]

While the Japanese syllables do not align with our syllables, the point is the reader is thinking this is going to be sad because a gate is closing and the person is alone with stones. Instead, it ends with a person enjoying the solitude of the moment. In my treatment that follows, I tried to capture that third-line sense with an image that sets up the next stanza or leaves the reader concerned for what is coming next. I have also toyed with formatting in an attempt to direct the eye to either sweeping across the page or to plummeting down into the next stanza.

 

“Epic Haiku”

Another reason I like haiku is that, even though they look short and quick to compose, they can actually take a lot of time in working to capture just the right words in the correct syllable structure that properly captures the artist’s intent. But once complete, a well-constructed haiku can be easily memorized for later recall; not unlike memorizing Scripture.

All of this to say that I have taken a typically short Japanese art form and expanded it into a much longer one. My work is several haiku put together; hence, it is an epic haiku. Also, most haiku are about seasons, human emotions or something from an Eastern religion mind-set. I have taken the haiku, expanded it into an epic format, and turned its application to Jesus and His atonement. My prayer and hope is it brings joy and thankfulness to the reader, but I also hope and pray it brings a smile my Father’s face and honor to Jesus Christ.

[1] Tom Lowenstein, Haiku inspirations: Poems and meditations on nature and beauty. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2006, p. 8.

[2] Ibid., p. 9.

[3] Quoted from Patricia Donegan, Haiku mind: 108 poems to cultivate awareness & open your heart. Boston: Shambhala, 2010, p. 151.

Atonement

The Journey of the Atonement in Epic Haiku

 

In the beginning

all was well in the Garden.

Walking, talking and tilling.

 

The trees were nice there,

especially Knowledge tree!

We could look – not eat.

 

Temptation and lies

enticing to disobey.

“Come quick, let us…….hide!”

 

Our hearts darkening,

serpent slithers silently.

Emptiness inside.

 

Coolness of evening,

Footsteps on the Garden path,

“Come now, where are you?”

 

 Talking, blame, banished;

  It all ended suddenly.

   Flaming swords, closed gate.

 

Heel to head doom,

humanity wandering.

Redeemer coming.

 

Years and years and years.

Temporary sacrifice;

still distant from God.

 

Justice demanded,

necessary sacrifice.

The once and for all.

 

The Word became flesh;

Son of Man sent from Heaven—

dwelling among us.

 

Sinless, righteous power.

Fully God and Fully man

the deliverer.

 

Healing, releasing,

even nature obeys Him.

But…then scorned and scourged.

 

Crucified for sin,

replacing mankind on the cross;

paying debt in full.

 

Breathing His last breath—

then darkness upon the earth.

Had sin, Satan—won?

 

Third day, morning light.

Stone rolled away, men in white,

“Not here, He’s risen!”

 

Then appearing, “Peace.”

The redeeming Messiah.

Savior of the world!

 

Standing in our place,

completely paying the price—

bridging the chasm.

 

Born from above,

God and man reunited—

And…it is finished!

Observations from the Backyard

Backyard observations

I haven’t blogged for a while. I’ve been adjusting to lots of changes. Adjusting to a new home in a new part of the city, increased (but very fun) responsibilities with my new position, and slogging through the second-to-last semester of grad school; all while trying to maintain a balance with the rest of life. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to just sit still and quiet the mind. This morning was just such a time as I sat on our bench in the backyard. It had recently rained so the air was freshly moist, the raindrops were rolling off leaves with a distinctive liquid-y plop onto other leaves or the ground, and the birds were out in force as the land drank in the refreshing after a summer of being parched. Here are just a few simple observations from this time of

quietness.

Initial Sense

The peaceful breeze,

fresh with moisture and fragrance;

Bringing season’s change.

Floating Thought

Cars rumble away,

destinations and errands.

But birdsong remains.

Almost Over

Beckoning silence.

To-do lists and checkboxes.

The tensions of life.