Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest blog by the lovely Miss Leah

Narrow praise
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Book of Matthew 7:13-14, the words of the Messiah.

Narrow is the way.  Narrow.  And few find it.  What could this path look like?
Imaginations lead me to images of a secret path long forgotten; one over-grown with weeds, thorns and briars.  Crouching is not enough to discover its veiled mystery.  A deliberate mission of unveiling must be undertaken.

Yet one does not even become aware that such a road exists unless something stirring within eludes and draws one to the truth of its nature.  How difficult heeding this tiny, fleeting whisper which woos of other paths, can surely be.  The path which one does currently stand upon is beset with jewels, sparkles, and glitter; all the things which entice the eye, the mind, the soul.

Narrow or wide?  Easy or difficult?  Carnality of human nature will naturally follow the easy open road.  But the spirit within man, desirous of greater and deeper truths, hungers for the narrow, illusive ancient path to life.

Reflecting upon this verse this morning, it sobers me to my current positions, both spiritual and physical.  I find myself lusting for the sparkle of the broad way.  With all its lights, chorus and production, the excitement it generates is captivating.  It's entertaining.  But then Matthew 7:14 reminds me that the path to life may not, at first, appear so lustrous, but it is indeed, the only, narrow entrance way to what it is I truly seek: life.  Entertainment yields a grand mirage of life, but the Messiah is the only One capable of providing a cup full of the promise.

I am in no position to judge what path one may have made their current route, but if what Yahshua says is truth; the majority of us are on the wrong road.  Psychology teaches that no one wants to be wrong.  We all have an innate desire to be “right”.  But those who find it are few.  Wrong about where I misplaced my keys is one thing.  Wrong about matters of life, I find exceptionally much more difficult to swallow.

Perhaps, for a moment, we should briefly glance south, peering down towards toes and feet.  What path is it we stand upon?  Is it so wide there's room to lay length wise?  Or can you barely see the difficult path extend beyond the edges of your form?  Does it sparkle or is it a dusty dirt road?  Not that there is anything wrong with sparkles!  But though life is often entertaining, entertainment is rarely life.

After a deeper exploration of the unoriginal Greek, the broad path is said to be “entered into”; denoting a certain degree of passivity.  While the Greek for “find” in regards to the narrow path, clearly expresses a direct and deliberate searching, seeking; pursuit and discovery.  The word is “heurisko”.  In light of the contrasting connotations, perhaps it's that Yahshua was stating that there will be few who will seek and actively pursue the path which leads to life; and therefore never find it.  It as if we naturally enter this world landing on the broad and easy path, routinely plopped upon it by a less than dutiful stork. 

It takes our deliberate attempt to leave the broad and seek the Alice's chase for the illusive white rabbit, torn almost directly from the pages of Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland.  In order to continue the chase down the tiny path, Alice must somehow squeeze herself through a narrow doorway she must, first shrink herself in order to fit inside.  Who knew Carol was so spiritual?

So did you look?  At your feet, silly.  What does your path look like?  What does your “way” reveal?

Currently, my running shoes are ready for the adventure of a chase.  And at the end of this narrow and humble road I seek, is the Savior, and not a white rabbit, Who holds the keys to praising life.

To "praise".  I've been sitting on this revelation for a few weeks.  Partially, due to business, and partially, I believe, so that I could gain even more depth and understanding regarding this topic.

This revelation was opened to me with Psalm 117.  Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the psalms, composed of a mere two verses.  Yet, it swells with vibrant wisdom contained within its mysterious brevity.  The psalm is as follows:

“Praise Yahuah, all you nations!  Extol Him, all you peoples!  For His kindness is mighty over us, and the truth of Yahuah is everlasting.  Praise Yah!“ (ISR)

When studying the original Hebrew, which the text was written in, so much more can be captured than from what the English language is able to express, alone.  I began dissecting the first “praise” in verse one.  Here, the original word is “halal”.  Halal means to shine; flash forth light; be boastful; the use of a clear, sharp tone; to be foolish; to sing one's praises; to boast oneself.

I've often pondered myself and questioned via prayers, what does it mean to praise?  There are scriptures upon scriptures which allude to “praising Yahuah,” yet who has a clear understanding of what it means to praise the Creator Yah?  Many commentaries have been written, and if you were to walk into any mainstream Christian church, you'd more than likely experience a time of “praise and worship”.  This “praise and worship” time is normally composed of the playing of musical instruments and singing.  Some congregations may involve dance or drama, but they are fewer in number.  It has become so commonplace (the correlation of music to worship), that “praise and worship” has all but become synonymous with spiritual music.  I agree that the use of instruments, songs, hymn, singing, and the like, are certainly a means to worship and praise.  But there is an intuitive nature within me which cries that it is so much more.

So back to my dissection of Hebrew.  Halal, at first; struck me in its reference to the utilization of light.  At once, it brought to my mind, the image of a photo being “snapped”, captured by a sudden bursting forth of light via flashbulb.  This warmed my heart, as I have often sensed His guiding Spirit, inspiration, and glow in capturing a certain scene by means of a shutter and lens.  Other photographers I've spoken with, also speak of their greatest photographs being captured by a means of inspiration.  It is not our creation which we esoterically capture, but by capturing His beauty, we somehow become co-creators with the divine – boasting of His marvelous handiwork, as the scriptures describe it.

Which brings us back to another possible definition for halal: to be boastful.  If one is like me, the word “boast” automatically rouses notions of arrogance, sports; and esteeming oneself above the rest.  Yet, I find a different connotation from “boast” in this definition.  This boasting arises without the self as the sole purpose of the boast.  The self becomes a mere vessel to point the boastful finger at another.  It is like that neon orange “DETOUR” sign which, at first, draws attention to its bold statement, only to redirect the traveler to a more important location.  I see this kind of boasting in the boast used to praise.

I have a very talented friend which this form of praise reminds me.  This friend is a fabulous tailor.  He is skilled in color, design, sewing, and displaying his unique fabrics.  Everywhere he wears his divinely inspired fashions, he gets looks, comments, accolades, and inquiries as to how one can obtain one of their own.  The means in which my friend carries himself is in the most humble manner.  There is no need for him to draw attention to himself, for the clothing shouts for itself!  In this way, his boastful clothing draws on-lookers to him and his talent.  But it does not halt there.  For my friend always points his admirers to the source of his skills.  He gives credit to another.

All this was gathered from the first “praise” in verse one.  The second “praise” is translated the same but has a different Hebrew root word.  The original word here, is “shabach”.  Shabach means to soothe, still; stroke.  I see this relating to praise in the hands of a potter, smoothing his clay upon his wheel.  I see it in the stroke of the artist's paintbrush.  I see it in the way a playwright soothes his audience with the graceful orchestration of plot and setting.  I see it as the hand which soothes the ill, stroking frail hands and soothing a broken spirit.  I see this praise as one which nourishes the soul, stirring it in a calming and regenerative fashion.

The Arabic understanding of “stroke” is in relation to waters, such as in stilling a wave.  This automatically takes my mind to Yahshua's calming of the stormy sea in Mark 4:39.  Yahshua spoke to the sea, “Peace, be still.”

Psalm 117 is addressed to “all you nations.”  For a religion which originated in Hebrew culture and among the Hebrew people, the invitation is not limited to their ethnic descendants.  It encompasses the native and the foreigner, alike.  It extends to all the world, all of creation.  For, as verse two declares, “For His kindness is great over us, and the truth of Yahuah is everlasting.  Praise (“halal”) Yah!”

Perhaps my brief introspection into what it means to “praise” has shined forth some light of illumination upon what many of us have always known to be a deeper truth.  I hope all the artists out there, no matter what your preferred medium may be, is encouraged and inspired to keep making praises among all of creation, in the way that only you are able to co-create!

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