Haiku: The Breeze….

Common Dandelion; Seed head; Taraxacum officinale; macro; close up;

the breeze makes me smile
gentle reminder of grace
eternity calls

More info: Wikipedia article – Haiku in English

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Letter to the Gibraltar Chronicle: Time for a Gibraltar School of Languages?


Dear Sir,

The closure of the Instituto Cervantes has been celebrated by some and lamented by others. It seems to me that those who celebrate its demise reason from a political perspective whereas those who lament its closure do so on cultural and educational grounds.

Cultural institutions such as the Cervantes work as a conduit for the cultural diplomacy aims of the state in question. In Spain, the Instituto exists for the promotion of Spanish culture as a mechanism that helps Spain achieve its “soft power” goals internationally. This will certainly involve moving beyond the promotion of culture and language towards “nation branding”. At the end of the day, the Instituto is part and parcel of the “Marca España” project. Given Gibraltar’s political history, many are understandably wary of Spain’s projection of power, whether of the soft or not-so-soft variety.

Most of your readers, however, will also appreciate the richness of the Spanish language and culture. The gradual demise of the Spanish language within our society is not something that we should rush to celebrate.

Gibraltar’s multi-cultural society, and geographic location, means that we have an extremely rich mix of languages, or at least easy access to them. Is it time for Gibraltar to have its own school of languages? We are blessed with having English, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and Hindi already spoken within Gibraltar, and close to proximity to the Maghreb also means that we can add French to the mix.

Food for thought?

Yours faithfully,

John K. Baw.

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The power of the backstory

When I learn the background to a situation, I find that this helps me develop a keener sense of understanding. I have learnt the power of the backstory. Let’s take a look at a powerful backstory that really moves me ….

Learning from Wintley Phipps in the above video, that the spiritual song “Amazing Grace” was written by a former slave ship captain, and that, as many believe, the melody was an African sorrow chant, endows the song with a lot more meaning and power, in my mind.

Backstories matter. They will allow you to appreciate things, people and situations in a far richer and more meaningful way. If we take the time to sincerely learn a person’s backstory we will enhance our own sense of honest curiosity. This makes for a more genuine journey through life and a less conceited and judgemental attitude.

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”

(Cherokee Tribe Proverb)

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

Behold how good and pleasant


Hine Mah Tov” is a Jewish hymn traditionally sung at Sabbath feasts and whose lyrics are the first verse of Psalm 133.

Psalm 133:

1  How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!

2  It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.

3  It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

INTRO:  

This three-verse song, or poem, is traditionally referred to as a “Song of Ascent”.  Some Scholars believe that these ‘Songs’ (Psalms 120-134 in my bible) were called Songs of Ascents because pilgrims sung them as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the pilgrim feasts.  Other scholars believe that these were songs sung by the temple priests in Jerusalem as they ascended the fifteen steps of the temple. 

Who would think that a three-verse poem could capture such simple beauty and stand among the greatest poetic celebrations of all time?

VERSE-1:

[Behold] How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

The Psalmist begins with an exhortation:  Behold, the goodness, and pleasantness, of unity.  A direct request.  It begs the question:  What are we ‘beholding’? Are we ‘seeing’ the shortcomings in others?  There shortcomings and faults galore in all of us, but what do we see?  The ancient poem echoes…… Behold the goodness [in others] – an appeal to regard others through the lens of grace.  As the old song goes:

I love you with the love of the Lord
Yes I love you with the love of the Lord
I can see in you
The glory of my King
And I love you with the love of the Lord.

We cannot work towards unity until we behold the good in others.  This verse reminds me of the several times that the creation account in Genesis 1 repeats this refrain.  ”And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10; 1:12)

“Seeing” (Beholding) and “goodness” appear together at each and every step of God’s creation. Could it be that the writer is saying that God is up to something in Psalm 133?

When kindred dwell together in unity.

This is a word that Christians have historically held to mean the Church.  The writer is extolling the virtues of the church ”dwelling” together.  Church is more than a building.  Church is more than meetings.  Church is more than programmes.  We are encouraged to “dwell” or “do life” together. I am not so interested in growing a congregation or an impressive ministry as I am learning how to journey through life together with a bunch of people who have been redeemed, who have felt the call to follow the Lamb of God, or have been quote washed” and reconciled through the cross of Christ.

The unity that is enjoined here is the opposite of our fractured humanity – That ”scattered-ness” of relationship, so masterfully depicted in the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.  It is a unity that rests on three pillars: “and the Lord said, ”look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”  In Genesis 11 God scatters mankind as the downward spiral that began in the fall of Genesis 3 reaches its natural conclusion.  The unspoken nod towards the principles of unity and achievement here are worth noting:  The writer says that nothing is impossible for people when these have Unity (one people), Communication (One language), and Vision (nothing that they propose to do…).

This unity is “the light of the world. A city built on a hill [that] cannot be hidden” (Mat. 5:14).  Having established how good/pleasant this is, the writer then introduces imagery of the Holy Spirit.

VERSE-2:

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the colour of his robes.
Aaron the High Priest could not enter the holy place to minister to God unless he has been consecrated and anointed with the holy anointing.

Can the writer be pointing towards the preeminence of unity among believers? Could unity be a precondition to our ministry? Could this unity be “like the precious oil” that had to be applied before ministry unto God was acceptable?

The precious oil in Scripture is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The verse says that this anointing runs down from the High Priest’s headed to the edge of his garments.

In the New Testament we are taught that Jesus is our High Priest: “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Hebrews 4:14)

We are also taught that we, the church, his body, are to remain “connected” to Jesus Christ, the anointed one: “They have lost connection with the head, From the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and see news, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2: 19).

The picture here is the precious anointing oil of the Holy Spirit flowing from Jesus, our High Priest, downwards, covering his body, the church, and producing a beautiful unity.

VERSE-3:

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

I have always read this verse in a very linear fashion.  In my mind, the dew would somehow descend from a towering Mount Hermon, to those mountains of Zion that lay beneath it. A cursory glance at an atlas put paid to that idea.  You see Mount Hermon is nowhere near the mountains of Zion (Jerusalem).  Hermon is situated in northern Israel, right at the Syria/Lebanon border, whereas Jerusalem is more towards the southern part of Israel.  My point is this:  The dew of Mount Hermon does not fall anywhere near the mountains of Zion.  In my view, the Psalmist must be trying to tell us something using figurative language.

Two possible interpretations of this verse immediately come to mind:

  1. The dew (symbolic of the presence of God–Or Holy Spirit) is covering everything, sweeping across all the land from the north (Hermon) southwards (Zion). 
  2. Mount Hermon is a very ordinary/mundane mountain in Israel whereas the Mountains of Zion, pregnant with spiritual and national meaning, are of great importance.  The meaning of the dew falling from Hermon to Zion could indicate a reversal of values and priorities.  It could also be that the Holy Spirit is working His goodness and pleasantness in a body of redeemed believers as these journey through life  – from the very mundane things to the very important ones.  Nothing will be left untouched, from the ordinary to the spectacular.

The writer of Psalm 133 says that living together in unity is good and pleasant, and then he uses language to describe this that can only be taken to mean the Holy Spirit being poured out.  In the book of Acts, Chapter-2 begins by dramatically depicting the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – Indeed, this event was like precious oil being poured out from the Heavens, or like the dew of God’s presence falling – and at the very end we are shown that this Divine Presence produced a good and pleasant unity:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:44-47

Indeed, behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!  There the Lord has ordained His blessing, even life forevermore!

 

This article has been written using the author’s notes from a talk at Living Waters Church.

Posted in Scripture & Verse | Tagged ,

POEM: AUSTERITY

I just HAD to repost this one!

Le Blog | John Baw

austerity

Austerity,
that dreaded word;
Never bites the shepherd,
as it does the herd.

View original post

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Poem: I never would have imagined

annabelle

I never would have imagined
That my dreams would come true
That one true love
Would love me back
And that one true love was you

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President Obama’s comments on the Crusades

20150213_obama

I feel sorry for President Obama. The man has experienced the brunt of the religious aftershock of his comments at a recent Prayer Breakfast.  Here’s the skinny on what happened.

Highlighting the atrocities being committed by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIL), speaking of the tension between the compassionate and murderous acts that religion can inspire, he went on to say the following:

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Nothing new here people.  His comments were by-and-large accurate.  Yes you read that correctly.  For example, in the Siege of Ma’arra, in late 1098AD, Muslim babies were impaled, cooked, then eaten by the Crusaders.  Jay Michaelson writes, “And this is all at a time in which the world population was approximately 300 million — less than 5 percent its current total. Muslim extremists would have to kill 34 million people (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to equal that death toll today.”  Yes, the Crusaders committed heinous crimes.  The later Inquisition was probably even worse.

Why would 21st Century Christians want to try and defend them?  What has really shocked me is why some Christians are so averse to recognise that atrocities, unconscionable atrocities, have been committed by Christians in the name of Christ.  True, I am viewing this from outside of the American socio-political landscape, and am maybe very simplistic in my reasoning, but in my mind the fact that Christians have in the past committed these religious atrocities is the reason WHY Christians have a voice in this matter.  We have been there.  We have done that.  We have learnt. We have repented. We have moved on.  We have vowed never to repeat these heinous acts.  We must now stand for peace and goodwill for all men.

The vast majority of Muslims will say that the actions of ISIL are not representative of Islam.  Christians must be able to say that the actions of Medieval blood-thirsty knights are not representative of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

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