In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:23-24 But a time is coming — and now is here — when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks  such people to be his worshipers. (24)  God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” NET

These are two very important verses in the Bible. A time has arrived upon the earth when there are two types of worshipers (implied by text):

1)      There are worshipers

2)      There are true worshipers

The startling fact is that God does not seek after worshipers. He is seeking after those who worship him in spirit and in truth! In other words, there is a ‘worship’ that does not truly bring the glory God seeks. Man may try to give him glory through word and deed–but what really matters is that it is in spirit and in truth! Verse 24 goes further and tells us that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and truth. There is no other option that is pleasing to God.

And I have to stop and ask myself a serious question: Do I worship in spirit and in truth?

And do you?

What does this verse mean when it talks about worshiping in spirit and in truth?

I suppose one could spend hours and hours studying the different faucets of this question. One could argue a thousand different ways. But look at the verse objectively and there really is simplicity.

“In spirit and in truth”

These two verses are centered in the conversation between Christ and the woman at the well, just after she had ‘asked’ where the true place of worship was. Christ answered that a time was coming when one would neither worship in Jerusalem nor on a mountain top, but instead one would worship in ‘spirit’. In other words, people would worship from their ‘rational and immortal souls’[i] . And they would worship in ‘truth’ or with meaning. It would not be an act. It comes from deep inside us, wells up, and bubbles over.

Are you acting when you sit there on the church bench? So many boring hymns? So many drawn out sermons? So many things to think about instead? You’d better ask yourself one last question…

Am I a true worshiper? A worshiper that God seeks after?

These verses have challenged me greatly. My worship should hardly qualify for the King of Kings. But I have experienced that ‘true’ worship, and it’s a wonderful thing because it’s something that springs from the very core of my being –from my very rational and immortal soul. If only to make this my ‘norm’ and not just a passing fragrance of the true essence of worship.

That’s my desire. Is it yours?

~


[i] Strong’s Greek Dictionary

What Makes The Good Authors Better Than The Bad Ones?

Somewhat of a Speal.

Before we begin here I want to make it clear that I’m not referring to morals when I talk about good/bad authors. Dan Brown who wrote The DaVinci Code wrote a nasty book. Despite that, he’s an exceptional author (I’ve read most of the book except the places that went beyond reason). Tom Clancy is another highly acclaimed author for his books on war and mystery with accurate and vivid details –but his stuff does not depict high morals in any fashion. John Grisham writes novels about lawyers and cases and does a superb job at describing people and their motives –and yet many of his books contain strong language and often lurid scenes. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a trilogy that is perhaps the world’s most acclaimed epic but used magic, fantasy, and mystical forces within them.

High quality writing is not decided by morals, though morals in writing can hurt the story. Loose morals can (and probably should) deter Christians. But it is also fit to remember that extremely tight morals (I’m speaking about novels published by ultra-conservative publishers) can completely destroy quality writing. No names will be mentioned.

Let me also explain that I am not a educated English professor and nor have I studied the great details of writing and authoring to great degree. But I’ve always enjoyed writing and I’ve always read quite a lot and I can generally see a difference between good authors, beginners, and just plain ugly writing. Nevertheless, I am only opinionated on this matter. Also, just because I can see the difference, doesn’t mean that I can perform as a ‘good author’. I’ve tried at various times to succeed in writing a skilful story, but with little success.

Writing is like weaving. One of the most important things I see in good authors is their ability to write simply while weaving together a complex story. Weaving a design into a rug takes time and effort and detail, and when it is finished it will not take effort to discern it apart from the rest of the weave. One of the obvious mistakes I see in beginning authors is their great efforts to throw detail into the story, thinking that detail alone will make their story worthwhile. But when one tries to weave a pattern into a cloth, you can’t simply throw in some purple here and some red there and expect it to come out! When I read bad writing I come away feeling as if the author was using makeup in the story to make it look more interesting  than the real story, but instead it makes me feel sick in the stomach (or laugh hysterically). When I read good writing the details make sense and I begin to see an accurate picture.

For example, one book I recently read was written about Zebedee and his sons and their interaction with Jesus (The Crosses at Zarin; Mosley). The general thrust of the book was fine, but the writing was horrendous. Listen to this choice sample from the book:

Two finer specimens [James and John] of manhood were not to be found in all the land. Years of manipulating sails, dragging nets, and casting the shabaketh had developed and coordinated the muscles of their bodies until their slightest movement was a thing of silken grace…”

My friends, my dear friends! Okay, the first sentence isn’t horrible. The first part of the second sentence is better. But the last part of that second sentence goes down rapidly and ends like a turtle sprinting past a Ford Cobra. Moving with silken grace should not describe men. I’m not even sure it should describe women. The only sentence I can cull up using something like ‘silken grace’ is one with an assassin:

The shadows were  thick along the sea shore where the assassin now lurked. A fisherman lay some distance off, snoring soundly on the sand, sleeping off the effects of a ‘happy evening’. The assassin smirked behind his shroud. This would be too easy. Pulling a dark knife from within his cloak, he began his final approach –a shadow of silken grace that barred the first gray light from the eastern sky.

Now, I had some trouble getting that in there, but it works far better here than describing James and John.  The author should have written something like this:

Two finer built men were not to be found in all the land. Years of manipulating sails, dragging nets, and casting the shabaketh had honed their bodies until they moved with an ease and grace that clearly gave tell to their hours on the sea.”

In my opinion, this escapes the absurd and enters a reality that actually makes sense.

Simplicity and details that make sense will go a long way when it comes to writing. I think the mistake of most beginning authors is that they try too hard to sound like good authors by throwing in details, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Simplicity will serve you just fine until your story begins to grip you and you can begin to write with true passion –at which point you will be writing with your own style that’ll sound much better (being original) than if you sound like a Montgomery mimic.

Finally, let’s look at one of the great authors of the last age, J.R.R. Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors of all time. The first book of his that I read was the The Hobbit which he originally intended as a children’s story. As a result this story is simple and a bit humorous and silly and bit absurd as fairy-tails tend to be. But since it is meant to be this way, this sort of thing actually adds to the story.

With The Lord of the Rings (based from the same setting as The Hobbit) J.R.R. Tolkien aimed towards an audience of adults –and this can be immediately noted. But The Fellowship of the Ring (being the first book) is still written clearly and fairly simply and sets a tremendous base for the next two books. The Two Towers and The Return of the King become more and more infused with ‘passion’ (as I’d call it) as the book begins to reach a climax. And finally there is the huge battle of Minis Tirith where Sauron’s (the Dark Lord) army is defeating the men of Gondor when suddenly over the hill rides the entire Rohirem army (nation of horsemen). At this point the story reaches a climax and J.R.R. Tolkien waxes very near to becoming poetic, but one is so caught up in the action at this point he doesn’t even realize that the reading has become ‘difficult’. Then just as even the Rohirem are becoming pushed back, Aragorn (the returned King) arrives by ship with the armies of the dead (men who had long ago broken their vow to protect the king of Gondor and thus could not escape to the lands of peace). The next climax is reached when the Aragorn rides to the gates of Mordor with those who have chosen to follow him (to almost certain death). There they are hugely outnumbered by the forces of Sauron and there only cause is to give Frodo more time to destroy the ring. Just as all is about lost the ring is finally destroyed and Tolkien is once again rises to the challenge:

A brief vision he had [Sam Gamgee on Mt. Doom] of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed. Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming wave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down upon the land. And then at last over the miles between there came a rumble, rising to a deafening crash and roar; the earth shook, the plain heaved and cracked, and Orodruin reeled.

From the Battle of Mt. Doom, The Return of the King; J.R.R. Tolkien

These are powerful descriptions, and they’re more difficult to digest. But J.R.R. Tolkien mastered this stumbling block and led the way to it by building a powerful foundation using simplicity and descriptions that captivate the imagination and lead the mind with ease.

What can I do to right better? First, I should never try to mimic (at least as a beginner), for that will hurt and hinder your own passion for the writing. Focus on using simple descriptions that are easily captured by the mind. You don’t have to use entirely new wording to be original. And finally, allow yourself to be captured by what you write so that your writing in itself with naturally pull you forwards.

It’s all easier said than done, my friends…

Leaf Cutter Ants

Walk any distance through a Central American jungle and you’re sure to stumble upon a nest of leaf cutter ants. It’s probably a good thing that only 2.5% of ant queens successful set up a colony, or else there would be no leaves for them to cut.

These amazing ants are actually farmers. Despite what is commonly believed, these ants don’t eat the leaves they cut, but bring them back to their colony where they make compost with the leaves. In this compost the ants grow a special fungus that they eat for their food.

Each colony is set up with a sort of cast system. The queen, of course, lays the eggs. Then there are some really, really big guys that sit around drinking a fermented fungus brew until some big lugger like me comes digging around their nest, in which case they crawl out and pinch their huge squeezers at you (I didn’t get a picture of this because I was running).

Then there are some medium sized ants with scissor mouths that actually do the leaf cutting and leaf cutting. Often riding along with them on the leaves are even smaller ants who help protect the busy cutter from flies that try to lay eggs on them.

The first thing you’ll probably see when you get close to an ant cutter colony is this:

If you follow the trail (where the leaves are heading) you’ll eventually come to the colony which looks like some sort of sprawling nuclear factory:

These guys carry amazing loads:

Notice the small ant clinging to the leaf that the larger ant is carrying. Want a free ride? Hop on!:

Jurassic Park

As most of you probably don’t know, Santa Rosita is part of National Park of Guatemala. Well, technically it isn’t, but everything on our side of the river is being treated the same now and if you’d go up the road just a couple of kilos you’d officially enter the park.

Turns out, there’s a lot more Jurassic here than one would ever guess !

Chomp!!

Grrr!

The set-up

The big guy is probably around twenty inches long from head to tip of tail.

that’s all!

Followers of Christ

Disclaimer: What is said below is my trying to bring forth into words the truth brought forth from the scripture. And with my fallible mind creating a fallible train of thought, I suppose the truth contained within must instead become a fallible idea. ~NLY

As I look upon my life I see three things:

1)      I call myself a Christian

2)      I want to be a Christian

3)      I live (as best I know how) like a Christian.

But the real question that I keep coming back to and reminding myself of is this:

Am I a follower of Christ? -A committed disciple?  It’s a personal question –and one we should all be asking ourselves.

You see, I have this tendency to forget that my Christian life is about Christ and start focusing on myself. And when I start focusing my Christian walk on myself, suddenly my life’s purpose become this:

Trying not to sin.

Instead of:

Following Christ.

Does that sound familiar to more people than just myself? Seriously, folks, this is really a stupid thing to focus on. That isn’t true Christian living!

Johny was a robber. Robbed several banks before he was caught by the police and stuck in prison. Seven years later the president of the United States signed his pardon and set Johny free. Johny certainly learned his lesson  –but there is one problem. Johny doesn’t follow the example of the president and focus on making something of himself. Instead he sits around home, afraid to go out lest he become over powered by the temptation to rob a bank and fall back into his old habits…

Just like Johny, we were all sinners and we were living in ‘sin’s prison’. Jesus came along and won the victory over sin and gave each one of us the power to claim liberty through his name, with the condition that we follow his example. But we have this problem of focusing more upon our problem with sin, which I think is probably a lot less of a problem than we can ever imagine.

I don’t strictly believe in ‘once saved always saved’ (I believe that we can tend to err on the extreme side of ‘once saved, barely saved’) . But the real danger I see is not becoming ‘sinners’ again but becoming ‘lukewarm’ like the church at Laodicea. Do you understand what happened there? Things were going so well physically for that church that they filled their lives with physical things until they were at the point where Christ meant little to them. I imagine they did not even recognize the exchange until after the fact.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock!…” (Revelations 3:20)

Do you realize, my friends, that Jesus wasn’t talking to the twelve year old that has never received Christ. He wasn’t talking to murderers and adulterers and disciples of Satan. He was talking to the Christians at Laodicea. These folks had become so focused on their selves and doing what is ‘right’, that Christ got pushed out on the street. This can happen to us too!

There’s a concept in the Bible that I didn’t pick up on until recently. In Romans 7 we see our freedom from the law (which brings sin) explained as a marriage covenant. Until the husband dies, the woman is bound by the law to him and cannot marry another. But when the husband dies, she is free to marry another. In the same way, from birth we were under the unbreakable law of sin, and we were unable to escape that law until we have died (buried with Christ) and born again into a new covenant with Jesus Christ. At this point, we are not bound by the old ‘husband’ (which is dead), but by our new husband Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:1-6)

We must also note that there remains a law in our flesh (body of death) that wars against the new law of our mind (transformed by the renewing of our minds by Jesus Christ), and that we will not be delivered from the warring of flesh versus mind until our bodies of death are transformed on the last day when we are raised up by Christ. (Romans 7:23-25; 8:10,11)

The conclusion I come to over and over again is that we focus overly much on our problem with sin. We worry about the fact that sin cannot enter heaven and even though we are Christians, we still have a problem with sin.

The biggest problem isn’t sin. It’s a lack of commitment to Christ. It’s becoming cooler and cooler to the point that Christ is left knocking at our door. Of course, one can argue that at this point our lives are filled with sin again. But I believe that something remains different. Once we are born again, the sin factor in our lives becomes minimal and the commands to follow after Christ become high priority. From my shaky interpretation of Romans, there is a measure of grace in the lives of Christians. Paul worried that Christians might use it as an occasion to sin and strongly encouraged us that we not do so, but instead to give our bodies to Christ (a living sacrifice) and passionately follow after him.

When we focus on following on Christ, see what happens to our Christian walk. Instead of:

Trying not to sin (a self-centered idea)

It becomes:

Following Jesus Christ (an idea focused on Christ).

As long as we are ‘trying not to sin’, we are progressing the same direction as the church at Laodicea. Focusing on the absence of sin in their lives, they came to the place where they felt comfortable with themselves and the need of Jesus became minimal. We become salt that has lost its effect.

But when we are focused on ‘following Christ’, we are progressing toward fire and the Holy spirit. Our failures (sin) are a constant reminder of our need for Christ, but our focus should be to follow the commands of Christ and not focus on the ‘sinyness of sin’. We should be sharing his message and living by the direction of the Holy Spirit with faith.

Let us seek to follow after Christ each day, disciplining ourselves (something that comes from ourselves) to follow every command, which -when followed- should keep sin far from us as well.

~NLY

Algebra 1

One of my favorite poems about my high school days…

Quadratic equations, radicals, and Pi,

Those are the things that make a guy die.

Integers, reals, composites, and more,

These press the dry juices from the school floor.

The Product rule for square roots isn’t so tough,

Our teacher laughs, his voice is too rough.

He explains in our science things that seem clear,

Like the Quadratic formula for the makings of beer.

What use are these teaching, they throw us off track,

With a grind and a rush, with a wump and whack.

Ouch! The ruler is poised above my head at an 12° obtuse angle.

Oh for a rope that I might gladly to strangle.

Polynomial equations, they burn and sizzle,

Leaving my hare to stick up and frizzle.

Radical expressions appear in my eyes,

Percentage and diagrams, they make me want to… bawl.

With a fierce heat rays the teacher has a phase,

And describes my multiplicative idenity for craze.

Then with a ping and a pang, the fiddle string broke,

I am on the floor writhing, I’m having a stroke.

Formulas for energy pop through my head,

Like E = mc squared, and et cet…

Polynomials too, they rise and they burst,

Oh for some H2O do I thirst.

Hey and if you think I am finished then you must be wrong!

I still have to explain Trichotomy azioms, and a diphthong.

And did I mention Constants of proportionality, convex polygons, and disjunctions?

There is so much more to learn, I might have a disfunction.

Oh yes, Algebra’s fun, don’t get me wrong….

Just let me figure out this Pythagorean

~nathanyoder 2004

Primera Ama de Guatemala

A few days ago the first lady of Guatemala came by and gave a speech in El Naranjo. Since I was in El Naranjo at the time I ran over there and took some pictures. Interesting thing was that security didn’t want to let me in at first because they thought I was press and wanted to see my ID. When I told them I didn’t have ID and was really just a tourist, they pulled me all the way up front to take photos right in front of the platform where she was giving her speech. What fun!

Love So Amazing

A former post on my xanga…but its truth grows brighter every day!

Love so amazing.

Love so divine.

Demands my soul, my life, my all!

In this journey that we’re on, how much farther we have to go. My all is a journey that demands commitment. And as someone said, commitment isn’t when you’re feeling good. Commitment demands sacrifice. And sacrifice is painful.

It is my desire, my need. ALL for HIM.

Yet sometimes it feels as if I have hardly begun.

As I muse, I wonder. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Isn’t it we ourselves that make the burden heavier than it could be. With all our possessions that we cannot give up –it would be impossible to enjoy exactly what he wants us to have. We bring the burden upon ourselves, not He upon us.

There is one thing I know. If I had not the hope of heaven, what hope would I have? None. Absolutely none. Recently I re-read J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy. Its ending is beautiful, yet extremely painful, because it is the end of the fellowship of the main characters. Some pass to the white shores, never to be seen again. Some are mortal men, doomed to die. They pass, and there is no hope of their ever meeting again. That struck in me the blessed assurance we have.

What a hope. We may part for a time, but we shall have an eternity together!

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

We know these things. But it is a balm to speak.

Psalms 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.