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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Pace Setter

Posted by jbharp on April 22, 2008

I met a friend yesterday evening for a slow paced easy run. I’ve given her on a plan for a 10k run on Memorial Day, so I met her in the middle of my weekly long run to offer some running companionship and keep her at a beneficial pace. She’s into the second week and has experienced all three types of training runs: long, tempo and speed. We were discussing the first week of runs when she confessed that inside of her existed a ‘sprinter that wants to come out on every run.’ But when running a 10k (not to mention a marathon), sprinting isn’t the best strategy. It makes sense to distribute your energy evenly throughout the entire race and settle in for the long haul.

Fortunately, I don’t suffer from the sprinter syndrome. I prefer setting aside most of a summer Saturday morning and spending a few hours hitting the trails. A methodical, rhythmic crunching of gravel and dirt under my shoes for hours gives me delight. I realize that others have to fight the urge to truck through a slow, steady pace. But there are other urges within me that I have to fight.

There are times when nearing the end of a run, I get the urge to keep on running past my determined distance. And some days when I don’t even plan on running, I’ll crave to lace up my shoes. On the contrary, and a more frequent occurrence, I’ll be tempted to cut a run short or cut out a run completely. Although I sometimes give in, I do my best to adhere to the plan I have in place.

After we parted ways and I continued on the second half of my run, I was reminded of a line in the Jewish Passover Seder (since it was fresh on my mind from the night before – more on this later). It says ‘The key to freedom is to anticipate the future and make it real. The definition of maturity is the ability to trade a lower pleasure now for a higher pleasure later.’

This applies for all areas of life not just running. Freedom is often displayed in the ability to say ‘no.’ Freedom does not mean we can indulge in anything and everything we want, as our culure would sometimes lead us to believe. But it proves to be challenging (at least for me) to keep our lives on a daily course we have planned.

At times I try to go through life alone. I think I can do it better or I don’t want to bother anyone with my choppy pace and heavy breathing (sticking to the running metaphore). When I help someone out with their running (the few requests I’ve had) I am thrilled and not burdened in any way. Without a doubt, I have greatly benefited from people who run along with me in life to keep me at an appropriate pace. Afterall, life is a marathon and includes various types of training runs.

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Posted in Religion, Running | 5 Comments »

Light

Posted by jbharp on December 25, 2007

Wreath Lights

This year was a unique Christmas for me. I spent the day alone, which wasn’t a first (I think only a second). Neither occasion was planned, but I found myself in a solitude situation due to the inadequacy of my vehicle…or rather scrap pieces of metal on wheels. I’ll be shopping for a new truck over the next few days. I would say that it is not only a Christmas present to me, but also a gift to everyone else in my life. It can even be considered a gift to those fellow motorist I share the roads with. Stay tuned to see my new wheels (hopefully as early as tomorrow).

Even though I was alone today, the day was still a fine day of celebrating the birth of Christ. I woke up early and went for a run in the chilling wind. Santa must have been pretty cold last night in this neck of the woods.

After cleaning up, I attended a Christmas Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs. I opted out of a midnight Mass, despite the lure of being awake to usher in Christmas day. It was a pleasant time with so many other people there to recognize the reason we celebrate this holiday.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reminded of the hope that surrounded our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming. God shown His light into this world of darkness through Christ.

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. (Isa 9.2)

Merry Christmas!!!

Posted in Religion | 2 Comments »

Chanukah

Posted by jbharp on December 12, 2007

Tonight ended the eight night Jewish holiday of Chanukah. I decided to observe some the holiday rituals this year. I purchased a Menorah and a box of 44 candles. It wasn’t a large Menorah. I wonder if it even met all of the proper traditions involved in lighting of the candles. It was a rather cheaply constructed Menorah. I briefly considered returning it to the store and getting a higher quality one. But I felt a great sense of ownership after I used superglue to repair the far right candle holder back onto its branch. If there was a guild of superglue workers, then I would be at the top of the trade.

Even though Chanukah is a well know Jewish Holiday (somewhat due to it occurring during the Christmas season) it is not one of their major holidays. That is not to say any celebration of God’s miracles and providences is minor in any way. It is just that Chanukah does not have as many commandments (mitvots) to fulfill as other holidays. But for Jewish Holidays, which are packed full of symbolism, meaning, self reflection and growth, this doesn’t say much. Chanukah certainly doesn’t deviate from having traditions packed full of meaning.

One interesting thing I learned was about the Menorah in the Holy Temple. Unlike the nine branched Menorah used to observe Chanukah today, the Holy Temple’s only had seven branches.

The Menorah in the Temple had seven branches: six outer lamps, which all faced the seventh center stem. The Menorah’s six outer branches represent the six realms of secular knowledge — physics, philosophy, astronomy, medicine, music and mathematics. But the Torah is telling us that society cannot rest on knowledge alone. Unless this information is focused and directed toward the center stem — symbolizing God, Torah and spirituality — then this wisdom is for naught. Or worse, it is destructive.

How true it is that everything else in life amounts to nothing without the central focus of God. It reminds me that God and science (and the other realms of knowledge) are not at war. But that God is the central piece to these forms of knowledge.

Chanukah was an enjoyable time. I was especially grateful to experience some of the evenings with others – the Horses, my cousin, and my roommate.

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Judgment, Please

Posted by jbharp on December 2, 2007

Lately, it seems I keep hearing a disturbing quote. And more often than not it comes from Christians. When I hear this expression I cringe, if not visibly then at least on the inside. The words come from Matthew 7 – “Do not judge.”

The words themselves do not bother me, but the way they are used – in an end all fashion; with a no question, no contest delivery. For someone to hold these three words as a complete philosophy in themselves they would have to ignore the complete nature of a just God, the appointment of judges in the Old Testament, and the few verses that follow these words.

Here’s the entire passage:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This passage uses the action of removing a speck from your brother’s eye to symbolize judging. It ends with the way in which we are to carry out the action of removing the speck (i.e. judge).

There are certain elements of God’s nature that we are incapable of imitating: omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. But there are elements of God’s nature that we are capable of imitating and should: justice, love, and mercy. Often we focus on love and mercy. These are the ‘feel-good’ aspects to center around. However, neither love nor mercy can even begin or have any power without first calling on justice. Mercy happens only after pronouncing judgment on something that is wrong. And an element of love comes through corrections and rebukes, which require some judging.

We only have what we can perceive with our humanly senses…that is actions and words. We can not see the state of each person’s heart. That is why the judgment of hearts is ultimately in the hands of God. The day will come when God will be on the throne as the almighty, infinitely wise judge. In the meantime we should partake in the practice of judging, otherwise love and mercy are rendered useless.

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Imitating Myself

Posted by jbharp on September 13, 2007

I often seek to be a man who is steadfast and sturdy. A man confident and sure in his ways. A man who does not change with the blowing winds. But then I realize “I’m only 28 years old. I surely can’t have life all figured out. I must certainly have room to grow and develop.”

Earlier this year I had a friend from college tell me that I’ve changed since graduating nearly 5 years ago. She made it clear that it the statement was not intended as an insult. However, would it have been insulting to offer the contrary, that I’m the same old Jared?

I know I must be careful not to get stubbornly stuck in my ways. And it continues to be easier to do so with the development of habits (good or bad).

The Jewish High Holy Days began Wednesday night with Rosh Hashana. This is the time of year for in-depth self reflection and anaylsis. I came across an article at Aish.com that suggests we often imitate ourselves.

…most of us, at some point in life, either consciously or not, become satisfied with who we become satisfied with who we are and what we’ve become. As such, we cease to strive toward attaining greater spiritual heights. We are content to live out our remaining days as a mere imitation of ourselves!

Therefore, the question we all must ask is: Have I become an imitation of myself? And if so, when did it happen and what factors are to blame? Is it malaise, a crisis in belief, anger at God, or simply laziness? Unless we find the root of the problem, how can we hope to uproot it?

But there’s another, perhaps bigger, question: Who do I want to be?

 I’m still trying to strike a balance between steadfastness and change in myself. One thing I do know is to not imitate myself, but rather be an imitator of Christ.

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The Source of Zeal

Posted by jbharp on July 30, 2007

For the Christian, it is a good thing to have zeal for the Lord. Contrary to this blog title, I am not going to offer any definitive answer of where zeal originates (I just thought it was a cool sounding title). Rather, I’ve been thinking about one source for zeal which seems to be given credit far more than any other: persecution.

It seems that many Xians travel the world and witness professing Xians living in other cultures (as well as many who stay behind but hear the stories of these individuals). These Xian’s lives are truly threatened and in harms way on a daily case. Anyone can easily see the passion and fervor that these people posses under harsh circumstances. Now when the American Xian sees this they impulsively react, understandably, with admiration of the zeal in these people. What follows is a healthy analytical question – “Where does this zeal come from?” The non-analytical process demanded of the answer is what I think is unhealthy. And that answer is: persecution.

These familiar observations lead to nothing more than admiration for our brothers and sisters who are in fact being persecuted. This is nothing wrong of itself. But, what then are we to take away from it for our own growth? Unfortunately, I think many presume that it would do the American Church some good to undergo persecution. Now I cannot say for sure whether all who speak of the zeal in people of persecuted areas are advocating for the American Church to undergo persecution. But the fact of the matter is this; anyone seeking to be zealous for God, should not seek persecution.

There are several ways to have passion, fervor, and zeal for God. But persecution should not be a method crafted to obtain these traits. Persecution undoubtedly can lead to zealots, but zealots do not necessarily come from being persecuted.

A Xian is certain to face persecution at some point in their life, scriptures tell us so. But just because it is guaranteed does not mean it should be pursued. Just think of a money situation. Most everyone will have some financial struggles at some point of their life, and some for their entire life. It is an obvious guarantee of life. We all have to work and we all have to earn money. Even though we are certain to face financial woes, we never intentionally pursue these troubling times. And rightly so. Has anyone intentionally tried to lose their job and become months behind on mortgage and credit card payments just so they can struggle in a area of life that is inevitable? Of course not. Then why would any Christian want to explore persecution just for awakening zeal.

Individually Xians don’t need to pursue persecution. And the American Church does not need to create or encourage a culture that persecutes us. It is my suspicion that the zeal in persecuted Xians was present before the persecution.  

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A Shabbat Experience

Posted by jbharp on March 18, 2007

This Friday night I attended the Shabbat services at Temple Beit Torah (TBT). This is another synagogue in town other than the one I have been attending over the past few weeks. I had a few conversations with a some Jewish co-workers who encouraged me to check out both synagogue in town, so I finally decided to try TBT.

There appeared to be more people at TBT than the average attendance at Temple Shalom, including more children and more youth. And many people in the congregation had a part in the service. A teenage girl lit the Shabbat candles. These two candles resemble the commands of Shabbat: To Remember (Zachor) Shabbat and To Observe (Shamor) Shabbat.

An eldrely lady read a portion of the service book. She began reading before the appropriate time. Even though a few people spoke up correct her, she didn’t stop until a man in front of her turned around and put his hand over her reading. In the middle of her reading, after she began at the proper time, she turned over too many pages. Again it took the man in front of her to flip her service book to the correct page. She commented to the Rabbi and the congregation, “You’ll never ask me to do this again.” Many people laughed.

After the Torah reading, the children went up front to help the rabbi adorn the Torah before it was placed back into the ark. I noticed one helper, a little boy probably around five years old, had a familiar symbol on the top of his kippah. I took a closer look as he returned to his seat, and noticed that on his kippah was none other than the man of steel, Superman. The symbol of course was his distinguishable “S” insignia.  

I didn’t stay around after the service to meet anyone. I’ll go back this Friday and will make more of an effort though. I’m hoping that there will be more of a regular crowd at TBT than what I found at Temple Shalom, who is currently without a Rabbi.

In the “sermon,” the Rabbi pointed out the American tendency to throw out our possessions as soon as they become outdated, broken, or unneeded (well, most of us. Visit my aunt’s house for a contrary habit). This was not the course of action by the Israelites toward the first set of tablets containing the 10 commandments that Moses had thrown to the ground. There were two tablets placed in the ark (I Kings 8.9, I Chor 5.10). Since the word tablet already implies two pieces, it is thought that these versus suggest that the first set as well as the second set of tablets was there (think about two pair of pants. That would be four legs, right).

The Rabbi concluded with the significance of holding on to the things that have meaning to us, the things that have an impact on our life and change the way we live. It is clear these tablets were meaningful to Israel, just as the Torah is to us today.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Ti 3:16-17 NKJV.

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My First Minyan…almost

Posted by jbharp on March 13, 2007

From the website Judaism 101, a note about the minyan. 

A complete formal prayer service cannot be conducted without a quorum of at least 10 adult Jewish men…This prayer quorum is referred to as a minyan (from a Hebrew root meaning to count or to number). Certain prayers and religious activities cannot be performed without a minyan. This need for a minyan has often helped to keep the Jewish community together in isolated areas.

I went to the Thursday morning minyan at Temple Shalom last week. But according to the description above it wasn’t quite a minyan. The number 10 is based on Abraham’s intercession for Sodom in Genesis 18, when he plead with God to spare the city if 10 righteous people are found. But on Thursday morning with only six people initially present and eventually growing to eight, the headcount never reached the double digit threshold. Women were included in the count. However, I was not.

It was explained to me that portions of the prayer service could not be conducted unless there were at least 10 people present, and I was kindly told that I could not be counted since I was not Jewish (righteous). After the eighth person came in, glances towards the door kept hoping for more partakers as we went through the portions of the service that were permitted with less than 10 present.

When the eighth Jewish person came in, a quite exclamation came from a lady sitting in front of me, “Oh good. We only need one more.” A quick, non-threatening correction came from her neighbor, “No. Two more. We can’t count Jared.” I was’t hurt from this. Though I am not Jewish, scripture tells me that I have been made right (Act 13.39, Rom 4.5).

The prayer service lasted about 45 minutes. I visited with a man briefly after the conclusion, telling him that I was Christian and came to the service because of my interest in Judaism. He told me the difference in the two religions is very simple to understand. Basically, Paul took the establishment of Judaism, told the Jews that if they believed in Jesus all of their sin would be taken away, and the law is now useless. That was the end of the conversation as we all sat down for a small breakfast.

The breakfast consisted of sandwich rolls with cheese and some chocolate mini-donuts. For 30 minutes I sat eating, listening to a few of them talking about their families and work. Half way through my cheese sandwich as I pulled away a bite, my teeth also pulled out a half eaten piece of paper that wrapped the slice of cheese. Quickly grabbing the paper and wading it up, I hoped no one saw me. If they did, no one said anything. As I left the temple that morning I would love to say my thoughts were “spiritual,” but I found myself wondering if paper was kosher.

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A day of struggle

Posted by jbharp on February 17, 2007

It’s been a trying time a work the last few days. Not due to the work load. Not due to conflicting personalities. And not just for me. Last Friday (2/09) we received the news of an unexpected death of a receptionist for the field engineering department. And yesterday (2/16) we came into work hearing of yet another man in the engineering support group passing away the previous night.

The relief and unhurried feel that is typified on Fridays was replaced by grief and sadness. I was not on a daily contact with either of the two individuals, yet over the few years I’ve been here (and the many years they were here) working relationships along with friendships developed. It is clear to see and sense sorrow from so many who know these relationships will not continue on this earth.

Although I and a few others here at work are comforted that these two individuals both knew Christ as their savior (the guy made the commitment just three months ago), death remains to be difficult and a testing truth of life to undergo.

Sitting in my office yesterday attempting to do some work, I was reminded that a battle is going on in this world. A battle is going on right here in my workplace. I couldn’t help but feel that I’ve been a lazy soldier. There have been days I’ve left work with a beautiful, blue sky and brilliantly, warm sun. But I felt as if a dark, wicked cloud had been over and within my office building all day. I’ve found myself anxious to leave and ready to get away on those days. My life would be much more comfortable if those days never existed. Scripture is clear about what is going on…

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph6.12

I believe God was evident in directing me to my current workplace. So I am recommitting my work at Utilities to Him. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I want to be in the midst of the struggle. I do not want to flee from it. I know this to be true though; my workplace needs comfort, my workplace needs wisdom, my workplace needs love. And I know the true source to satisfy these needs.

So, the battle continues…

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My First Shabbat

Posted by jbharp on February 11, 2007

Nearly two weeks ago I visited the Jewish Synagogue Temple Shalom here in Colorado Springs. I went to the Shabbat services held on Friday evening. Unfortunately, I missed the last two weekends, but do intend to go back.

When I walked through the doors, two ladies were standing in the foyer near the sanctuary. I quickly introduced myself to the one with the name tag, Heidi, who was obviously an usher. Within two questions into our introductions I confessed… “I’m Christian.” As if completely unfazed, the one lady (I think her name was Sharon) quipped, “That’s alright. We don’t bite.” Heidi proceeded to give me a service book and instructed me to remember my kippah (KEE-puh, more commonly known as a Yarmulke, YAH-mi-kuh) before I entered the service as she pointed to a basket full of kippahs against the wall.

After I put on my kippah, Heidi escorted me into the sanctuary welcoming me to sit by her. Actually, I think she insisted. She pointed to the second seat on the back row. A split second after I began sitting in the third seat, because the first two were clearly marked “Usher,” she playfully snapped “No sit here between us!” She again pointed to the second seat. I didn’t hesitate to follow her instructions this time.

Moments later entered Fay. As I stood, she squeezed by to claim the seat directly next to me. Upon our meeting she repeated her name three times. After we were aquianted (rather we knew each other’s names) Fay boldly asked, “Where have you been all these years?” So I confessed to her. “I’m Christian. And I just came here because I want to learn.” Her reply was, “Oh good! You just listen to me and Heidi.”

For the next hour I sat between Heidi and Fay on the back row of a scarcely attended service. Heidi and Fay were the noisy ones in the congregation. They clapped to any song they deemed appropriate and conducted numerous conversations around me. They attempted to help me follow along in my service book, but they seemed to have difficultly finding the right page for themselves. As I interacted with them, I noticed a smile remained on my face for the entire service. These two amusing, enjoyable ladies proved to be the highlight of my evening. They were care-free, joy-filled, unashamed, Jewish ladies that welcomed me sincerely.

The words that Heidi said to me while we were still in the foyer is what I will remember most. With indisputable affection, she professed her love for Judaism and declared she would not want to live her life without it.

I’ll share more about this experience and (hopefully) many more to come.

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