Or How Easy It Is To Mistake Grief For Loneliness And Vice Versa
I’m feeling the Ache tonight
and i don’t know why still i know it was right
to hear your voice today but you echo in me tonight
the breath of God is falling, in the ruach Elohim
like rivers to my soul still i am empty
waiting for rain to come
come fill my sorrows til the cup is done
my skin is burning for the company of a friend
my life is turning with whispers of the end
i’m holding on, holding on
my song is not yet done, my kiss is still on hold
my lips are full of words my heart is not silent
you echo in me tonight, your voice is in my head
and God is present and around it
My Desire For Coherent Thought
exceeds my capacity at the moment. perhaps it’s just the tiredness of breakfast radio and the rest of life piled in on top that is making it so stretched. perhaps it’s the turmoil of questions I am dealing with inside my head when it comes to love and sex and hope and sorrow. they are questions of my own and on behalf of others and it makes them more painful each way.
i’ve always held on to the idea that love would find me one day, in it’s own sweet time and path but I am beginning to sense God challenging me on the expectations as loose as they may have been on the how’s and why’s.
i’m feeling both an impassioned love for my homeland and a desire to leap from it’s arms. i’m feeling an impassioned love for my city and for further shores, both south and east of here. i have new ideas and projects within me.. God is good.
– too many leaders just don’t get it (new leadership/millenial leadership.. whatever you want to call it) – leadership as a mandate rather than a skill has taken over.
– we’ve traded academic theology for applied theology far too often
– we’ve prioritized the church (intentional little ‘c’) at the cost of Church but mostly at the cost of Kingdom (the two are different).
– we’ve neglected the responsibility to create positive situations where people can fail well and move forward constructively where failure is a normal and expected and celebrated part of the process.
– we’ve neglected our theology of ‘every man’ for the priests.
This week, a sense of physical unrest has led to some much needed indulgence for the soul. i’m listening to Jakob Dylan “seeing things”…, reading Love in a Time of Cholera & The Book Thief.. novels purely for the sake of it. I’m diving through an expository series in Hebrews, devouring Proverbs and the Epistles in my readings.
I’m indulging in the company of the Good. This weekend past, I was producing Noise and was more honoured by the private and loving way the leadership honoured not just my gifts but my person, including playing on of my short films in the program. I have been soaking in late nights, mornings, church services, drinks, meals, just about any contact I can with the dear ones who light my soul back to life, care for me and laugh with me as I am slowly restoring to life. Today brunch with Sam was a talking point for frustration, joy, hope and possibility. I remain overwhelmed with the excitement of journeys yet to be had in such good company as the fellowship I walk in lately. My heart, though broken still with the sadness of Eastercamp, is swollen in pain and fulfillment most days.
Speaking of soul food, i had a vision once of a tree, planted in the centre of a well-watered garden. These insights in the specific understanding and inference of of the botany featured below has really captured me…
This teaching demonstrates how to use the fifteen psalms of ascent (Psalms 120-134) to probe the wisdom of trees in Jewish tradition. A psalm of ascent may be recited on each day from the new moon of Shevat through the full moon of Shevat, to celebrate and honor the sap as it rises. If possible, meditate on the named trees, or read the psalms and connect them to other trees you know and love. Each of the fifteen psalms has an earthy spiritual teaching, related to its tree, that we can learn during Shevat.
Psalm 120, which proclaims: “When my suffering was upon me, I called and God answered me,” mentions a thornbush or rotem. The rotem is the teacher of humility. Some people believe that the rotem is the thorn-bush that burned without being consumed in the days of Moses. Moses turned aside to look at the bush, but them hid his face, for he did not want to look at God. It is written of the thorn-bush that it was the most humble of all plants, and that is why the Shekhinah chose it to dwell in.
Psalm 121 says: “I will lift my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help is from God, maker of heaven and earth.” This psalm could be associated with the myrtle. Esther, the Persian Jewish queen who saved the Jewish people from persecution, had the Hebrew name of Hadas, myrtle. As Esther was a guardian of life, spreading good deeds, so too the good smell of the hadas restores the spirit, spreading fragrance everywhere. The sweet-smelling myrtle is often used during Jewish rituals ending the Sabbath, to renew the soul as the Sabbath departs. This psalm repeats the word-root “shmor/to guard” six times, just as we wave myrtle leaves in six directions on Sukkot to ask that the Divine presence care for and protect the world.
Psalm 122 says: “I rejoiced when people said to me: Let us go to the house of the Tree of Life. Our feet were standing in your gates, Jerusalem: Jerusalem rebuilt, a city bound all together, where the tribes, the tribes of God made pilgrimage.” Pilgrimage reminds us of the etrog, the good-smelling, bright yellow citron that Jews use on the harvest festival of Sukkot, is the teacher of fertility and union. It is said to represent the human heart, and it also represents the fertile womb. Combined with a palm branch, myrtle, and willow, the etrog represents unity: the unity of Jews with one another, the unity of the four worlds and four directions, and the oneness of creation.
Psalm 123 proclaims: “Look, as the eyes of slaves are on their lord’s hand and as the eyes of a maidservant are on her lady’s hand, so our eyes are toward the Tree of Life our God, until God shall be gracious to us.” This psalm teaches of the reed. When Moses’ mother Yocheved placed her baby son in a reed basket, Miriam watched over the basket, hiding in the reeds (suf), until an Egyptian princess found it and rescued her brother. The reed teaches us to be patient and work toward what we envision.
Psalm 124 proclaims: “If God had not been with us, the waters would have flooded us.” This psalm represents the willow. The willow is the teacher of need. The willow, or aravah, is one of the four species used on the pilgrimage festival of Sukkot. On the last day of Sukkot, known as Hoshana Rabbah, celebrants beat the leaves off the willow so that they may receive Divine grace during the coming year, and so that their harvest may receive abundant rain. Some say that the willow represents the lips in prayer.
Psalm 125 says: “Do good, o Tree of Life, to the good, and to the upright in heart.” Palm trees are often described as “upright” in the Hebrew Bible. The palm is the teacher of justice. The prophet Devorah, known for her wise judgment, sat under a palm tree while hearing cases. Tamar (whose name means palm tree) was a woman who took justice into her own hands-when her father-in-law Judah refused to allow his third son to marry Tamar and give her children in spite of his agreement, she veiled herself and seduced Judah instead-thus giving rise to the line of King David and of the Messiah. This psalm shows us that we cannot let the scepter of the wicked rest upon us, but must choose to be immovably righteous.
Psalm 126 cries: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with joyful song. The one who walks weeping and carrying the bag of seed, shall come back in joyful song, carrying the sheaves.” This hints at the sweetness of the fig (te’enah). The fig tree is the teacher of return, or teshuvah. The fig tree is the tree that gave leaves to Adam and Eve as garments when the first couple went into exile. Later, when Noah and his family, exiled from their homes, went onto the ark, they took fig saplings with them (Genesis Rabbah 36:3). The fig is a witness to the tears of exile, but also is as sweet as the joy of return–the fig fills the mouth with its sweetness as joyful song fills the mouth with music.
Psalm 127 announces: “If God does not build a house, it is vain for builders to work on it.” The cedar, or erez, is the teacher of sturdiness. Solomon’s temple was built of cedar, as was his palace. A psalm says that the righteous “shall flourish like a cedar in Lebanon.” This means that they shall be sturdy over time. If we do learn calm strength, like the cedar, we will give a gift not only to ourselves, but to others, who will be able to depend on us and learn from us.
Psalm 128 says: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the corners of your home.” The vine (gefen) is the teacher of blessing and abundance. Jewish festivals are consecrated by blessing a cup of wine, and Jewish tradition regards the grape as a bringer of joy. The Sabbath also begins with the sanctification of wine. Sitting under one’s vine and fig-tree is the ultimate expression of peace and prosperity. In the Song of Songs, the vine blossom is a sign of spring. The vine teaches us to celebrate our blessings and to open our hearts to goodness.
Psalm 129 rumbles: “Many have been my troublers from my youth, but they did not overcome me.” This strength relates to the oak (alon). The oak is the teacher of groundedness. When wind and rain come, they do not destroy the great oak. The oak is able to persevere in spite of troubles because of its roots-so too, we need to cultivate our roots in order to stay upright. The oak teaches us to stand firm when inner and outer weather blusters around us.
Psalm 130 calls: “My spirit leans to God more than watchmen to the morning, watchmen to the morning.” The Hebrew word for almond tree (sha’ked) means “watcher. The almond is the teacher of leadership. In Israel, the almond tree’s flowering is the first sign of spring. In the Bible, God made the high priest’s scepter flower like an almond tree to show that he was the spiritual leader of the people. A leader’s role is to watch over others, but also to watch over him or herself to avoid arrogance.
Psalm 131 teaches: “Have I not focused and quieted my spirit, like those who nurse from the mother?” This psalm evokes the terebinth. The terebinth, or pistacia tree, is the teacher of the cycle of life and death. The terebinth’s name, elah, can be a word for “goddess,” and the elah represents the mystery of God’s hidden womb. In the Bible, the terebinth is often a place of burial–Rebekah’s nurse Deborah is buried beneath a terebinth, and Absalom, David’s son, is killed while his hair is caught in a terebinth tree. Yet angels also reveal themselves beneath terebinths (Genesis 12:6, Judges 6:11). The elah contains the mystery of the tree that is cut down and regrows again. In Isaiah 6:11, we are told that the people shall be cut down “like a terebinth whose stump remains, and in its stump shall be a holy seed.” Every spring, plants that seemed dead come to life again. So too, we are mortal, yet the mystery of life is reborn in us.
Psalm 132 proclaims: “Your priests will wear righteousness and your kind ones will sing with joy.” This recalls the pomegranate, which decorated the hems of the priestly robes in ancient times. The pomegranate is the teacher of the indwelling of God. The fruit itself is an abundant globe full of bright red seeds, like a world full of life. In this psalm, God announces a desire to dwell among human beings, nurture the hungry and care for the needy, establish a just government, and “clothe its priests in deliverance.” These are all ways of acknowledging the Shekhinah. The pomegranate reminds us that we are always filled with seeds of light, and that our lives can be God’s resting-place.
Psalm 133 says: “How good and how pleasant it is when kinsfolk dwell together. It is like good oil on the head.” The olive, which produces oil, is the teacher of peace. In the mythic tale of Noah, a dove brought an olive branch to announce that the waters had subsided and life on the earth would be renewed. Olive oil was also used to anoint kings, consecrating their monarchy and blessing them that they should have a just and peaceful reign. In Psalm 133, the olive oil represents the peace of friends dwelling together. The olive tree teaches us, even after conflict, always to rededicate ourselves to the forces of life and peace.
Psalm 134 calls: “At this moment bless the Tree of Life, all you who serve the Tree of Life.” This signifies the apple tree (tapuach). The apple is the teacher of beauty. Its sweet-smelling blossoms last only a few days, but they are a joy to the senses. The apple tree shows us the glory of the present moment. The Shekhinah Herself, the presence of God, is called the “field of apple trees”-the source of all the world’s beauty. The apple teaches us to be present in the moment-not merely to understand, but to be.
—Rabbi Jill Hammer, Tel Shemesh Director
I remain, a girl under construction, who is learning how to live.