4.23.2017

how down's brings me up

It's the last Sunday of my second year at Trinity Western University. As a university student, I'm living through what statistics say is one of the most stressful times of my life. Next week I'll probably write about the many factors that have contributed to the craziness, memories, stressfulness, and excitement of this year. But this week, I wanted to dedicate a post to the most special little man I know.


Remi is one-and-a-half years old, and for one year of that he has absolutely stolen my heart. Exactly a year ago I wrote a post about what God taught me just by staring into his big blue eyes. I tried not to creep out his parents by how infatuated I was with their child, but I think they were pretty used to it from his many other adoring fans. There is a beauty to his simplicity that simply draws people in. Not a week went by that I did not wiggle my way into their home, faithfully working to become a favored babysitter. And now, as the year comes to a close, I realize what a gift it has all been.


One of the most beautiful parts of Remi is that he has Down's Syndrome. It's just an extra chromosome, but it affects mental and physical capacities in the few who are born with it. Anyone who knows someone with Down's Syndrome also knows that these people are somehow born with an innate and unshakable joy. And in a year where darkness has been prevalent in so many places and ways, the light of Remi's smile has been a little ray of Jesus in my life. On the days when grades seemed overwhelming, Remi showed me of the joy in bathwater. In the emotions of discouragement with the state of the world, Remi reminded me of the joy in music. Through the mundane monotony of school and daily life, Remi demonstrated that each small, repetitive, over-and-over-again step is a process toward something beautiful. When I was afraid to open my heart to anyone else and risk the pain, Remi's whole little person knocked on my heart's door until I could do nothing but throw it wide open.


People talk about Down's Syndrome as the "Scenic Route," and it's a beautiful analogy to the reality that every milestone takes longer to achieve, and is thus all the more celebrated. There have been moments this year that were so worth waiting for. Back in September I was propping Remi up on his knees and moving his hands to teach him to crawl; now he races in laps around the dorm lounge. A year ago, his floppy body in my lap reading a book was precious; now he points at the pictures and makes the animals' sounds and is ready for the motions of the coming pages often before I get to the page. I was a stranger in September who he made his shy little faces toward; now I'm often the familiar one in the room, and I treasure every time he has nestled into my shoulder. There is almost nothing more rewarding than to walk into the room and watch the giant smile spread across his face.


But there is no doubt that this love I feel comes from more than just this precious boy. From Matt and Chelly, I have experienced some of the most faithful hospitality and willingness to open their lives to a new, temporary person. Even though they both work in stressful, demanding, people-saturated jobs, they have given countless afternoons and evenings of letting me come sit on their floor with their baby, soaking in their wisdom, honesty, and genuine care. I have learned this year that I am so, so slow to trust people, always assuming that they don't mean what they say, that they don't really want me, that I'm inconveniencing them. But Matt and Chelly have spoken against those thoughts over and over. They have sought me out. They have given far beyond what was necessary. They have spoken words of encouragement that were uncalled for, and remembered things about me I never expected.


I have no idea what this year would have looked like without my crew of best friends. They have been one of the greatest gifts God could have given me. It will be a long summer of missing them, but I can't wait to meet the newest brother who will be here when I return!


Down's Syndrome has been the vessel through which I have been given some of the greatest joy. If you have one of these beautiful people in your life, remember that we are some of the lucky few who get to live with this reminder that our value is innate in our humanity, and we are loved simply because we are. But for all of us, remember to stop and be oh so present with the people around us. There is nothing worth more than our fellow humans, each and every one of them. If you do not have anyone with special needs in your life, I encourage you to seek them out and allow them to enter into who you are; they will teach you so much more about what it means to really live. And continue to be generous; open your heart, your home, your arms to those who need it, whether it's a foster child, a lonely senior, a refugee, or a university student in need of rest. I hope I can bless others even half as much as I have been blessed.


Thank you, my dear Keller family.








4.16.2017

he is risen

This morning I woke up at 4:43am and quickly got dressed and out the door and into my friend’s car. We made a quick Tim Horton’s stop on our way to Crescent Beach before dawn. The mountainous skyline across the bay was already showing definite hints of pink as I ran onto the grassy beach strewn with logs and over a hundred of my university friends. On the other side of the of the crowd of familiar faces stood a few students leading with Scripture readings and songs of worship on the guitar. We gathered close together to hide from the freezing cold, joining in song. We watched as the sky on the horizon grew brighter and brighter, but the sun had not yet appeared. A student came forward and read from Matthew 28:


Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  



But as he spoke the words “he is risen,” we were blinded by light. Every face around me was lit up with orange rays as suddenly, at those history-changing words, the sun burst over the mountain peaks. I was speechless; the sun had risen at the moment we declared that the Son had risen. It was just like the light I imagine must have burst from the tomb that first Easter Sunday. It is all because Jesus is risen from the grave that this world has any light or hope. I am still astounded by the awe of that moment. I had to take this quick picture. 


After another song, the leaders sent us to wander the beach in our own time of reflection before coming back together. I was so joyful over God's hand upon us, and over a living Savior who conquered death that day. I reach a nearby log, and then I turned to face the rest of the beach, and realized that as our group spread, we covered the grassy sand bar. And I was struck by how huge Jesus' victory really was. He didn't only conquer death once, he conquered once for all. Every single one of those people filling the beach was a case of Jesus' victory. You did it! I whispered to him in joy. Look at all these people you have saved! It was worth it! 


Praise you, Jesus, for becoming flesh and dwelling with us. 


Praise you, Jesus, for being the fulfiller of ancient prophecies. 


Praise you, Jesus, for choosing to save us even when we were your executioners. 


Praise you, Jesus, for remaining faithful to your promises. 


Praise you, Jesus, for conquering the grave and sin. 


Praise you, Jesus, for being alive and victorious. 



He is risen!


4.09.2017

one less to weep



I don't want to dive into the grief and horror in the world around me. But I must. 

She is dignified and poised, this older woman who I meet each week. Along with several younger women, we study English for a couple hours each Friday, helping them cope with this new world called Canada. Their children already speak English well due to their hours in school each day, but these mothers, and grandmother, struggle to go shopping or use the bus, still stressed from their difficult journey from Syria through the English-dominant airports.  Most of our time together is in a frenzy of Arabic, occasional English words thrown to me by someone compassionate to my lack of comprehension. I've picked up a tad, though; I learned "how are you," "chair," and "glory to God."

This week, we planned to review the shopping vocabulary and have some conversations to work on pronunciation. We started by asking how they were feeling after the chemical attack made on civilians in Khan Sheikhun, Syria earlier this week, followed quickly by the U.S. missile airstrike of a military base in Syria. We never really got back to the English lesson.

I didn't understand what they were saying, but I could read their faces. Needing to talk, the hijab-clad women passionately spewed their anger, fear, opinions, arguments for who is good, who is bad, and what is really happening. The youngest woman just sat there in silence most of the time, staring blankly at the table, her emotionless expression matched by her 1-year-old son sitting silently beside her.

I was holding the 8-month-old, trying to keep his busy hands occupied with my mint container while the women shared freely with each other and with my Arabic-speaking classmate. But suddenly I heard an inhaled gasp from the older woman beside me and turned quickly as I watched her serene, well-respected face crumple into sobs. I didn't know what was happening but before I could think my hand was on her shoulder, rubbing her back, wanting to do anything for her to know she is loved. My classmate, also in tears, came and wrapped her arms around her. She told me that yesterday had been 5 years since this woman's son had been killed in the Syrian conflict. She had 5 sons - one here in Canada with his children, one killed, and she doesn't know where the other three are. Even as she began to weep, she was trying to restrain herself, pull herself back together out of respect for our supposed English lesson.

I don't think anyone said anything while she cried. There was nothing to say. I wanted to weep but was still shocked by the reality sitting in the chair next to me, and struggling to contain a wriggling baby. The other Syrian mothers sat silently; compassionate but all-too-acquainted with these very emotions. Their eyes reddened, but they didn't sob. They had been the ones in tears before. Today just wasn't their day.

We handed her a tissue.

It seemed only appropriate that all the women were covered head to toe in black.

Someone started a conversation again, my classmate went back to her seat, but this older lady kept silent. She still shook with the shaky breaths of one recovering from the sobs, still wiping away the tears streaming from her eyes.

I wanted so badly to say something, but was kept distant by the language barrier. Though even with the language I don't think there was anything to say. But it was a moment that I knew was shaping me even as it happened. The headlines and statistics were suddenly flesh and bone, tears and shaky breaths. I sat in silence beside her.

After a bit, it seemed like they were coming around to the English lesson again, but I wasn't. I wanted her to know how sorry I was, how my heart was splintering, even as meager as that was next to her shattered one. I decided to ask my classmate to translate these carefully chosen words: "I am so sorry. I so wish I could fix it, but I know I can't do anything. But I will pray, and many others will pray with me for you. We will pray for Syria, and we will pray that you may feel God with you." I got my friend's attention and asked her to translate, but just a few words in, I felt my chest tightening. "I so wish I could fix it -" and then I couldn't speak. Tears poured out. The women, not knowing what I had been saying, noticed my collapse and weren't sure what to do. I tried to talk and say it's okay, don't worry, but the initial breath turned into a sob. I put my hand on the shoulder of the grandmother beside me, trying to communicate to her that my tears were for her son.

She smiled gently, tears still in her own eyes.

She handed me a tissue.

I won't ever forget this Friday. I won't forget the horror of trying to learn English while fighting the trauma of four missing sons. I won't forget the collective silence, the somber reality that each woman at the table had the same story. I won't forget watching the face of a grandmother who has no reason for a dead son except for corruption, for evil, and for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I won't forget the longing for justice written in her skin, underwriting the paralyzing grief.

I have no conclusions. Even between the Syrian women they dispute who is right and who is wrong. All I know is that I want to bring this woman's three other sons to her. For every refugee mother, I want to find all her children. I can't. I understand reality. But maybe we can find some. Maybe we can help one less mother weep for her children.








4.02.2017

what do you want?

At my dear friend's wedding this weekend, they had a Bible as their guest book, asking the guests to sign by their favorite verse anywhere in the Scriptures. I signed by Mark 10:51. I love this tiny little verse because it encapsulates the potential simplicity of how we come to Jesus in prayer. 




Mark 10:46-52


Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

"Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.






My thought for today is short and simple. Do you believe that Jesus could also ask you the same question? Jesus has called us. Now, as we come to our Savior in prayer, I imagine her could ask us the same question: What do you want me to do for you? 

Maybe he is asking you that question today. He loves our honesty. What is your answer?







3.26.2017

learning about me

The semester isn't over yet, but it feel like it is coming quickly. There are only two and a half weeks of classes left, and last night was the passing of the torch from this year's RA's to the incoming team for next year. In this time of reflection, I've been realizing that this year my greatest learning curve may have simply been learning about myself.


People Person
Four years ago, I would have said I was a total introvert. Three years ago, pretty introverted. Two years ago, pretty even. Last year, an extroverted introvert. Now, I'm realizing that I don't care for the labels at all, but I am definitely not the total introvert I used to be. Sure, I recharge with alone time. I love my solitude and quiet mornings. But I loved being in a dorm last year. I have loved living in the Globe this year. I haven't done homework in my room at all; I almost always go out to the lounge with people. Sometimes, I'm very selfish, very very selfish. But I've realized that I honestly, genuinely love to hear people's stories, to be let into their lives. So perhaps I actually am a people person.


Control Freak
I'm a control freak. I've known that for more than just this year, to be sure. For example, I was overly particular about every detail I wanted in the Globe (my apartment) at the beginning of the semester. My roommate reminds me of the time I told her she couldn't put pots in the dishwasher. Yesterday, I was in a team-building activity where we were blindfolded and held the shoulders of the person in front of us as we were led through a little town near the school. Even though it was a simple activity, I was so afraid and absolutely convicted of my need to be in control. I've become comfortable acknowledging it, and finally become ready to try to begin fixing it. At the bottom of a need for control is the lack of trust. The blindfolded activity was scary because I hadn't yet learned to trust my safety to the people I was holding on to. I was overly picky over the furnishings and layout of the Globe because I didn't trust that other peoples' visions could be as good as mine. As I work to let go of the need for control, for things to be my way, it will be a process of learning to trust other people.


Self-Motivated
I guess I thought everyone was like me in this, but I've been learning otherwise. I'm incredibly self-motivated, perhaps even to a fault. I can get out of bed at any time in the morning without much consideration because I know that I want my nice long morning and time with Jesus. I have been writing a blog post every Sunday for going on six years. My own logic is more than enough to motivate me. Just an observation.


Step-by-Step
I take things one step at a time, not usually worrying about what's coming in the future until it's in the present. I haven't really started thinking about my summer job yet because it's not summer yet. I'm glad for this because it does cut way down on the stress that would result from the need for control were I to also try to plan ahead for everything.


Slow Processor
I've learned this year that it takes me a very long time to process experiences, emotions, motivations, interactions, etc. For example, I would say that I have only recently come to understand the main benefits and highlights of my two years in China, even though I left nearly two years ago. I don't expect to really understand the implications and purpose of my trip to Alert Bay for months. More and more, I find myself asking for days or weeks of time to let information or thoughts sink in before I respond, which made my leadership interviews difficult this year!


Intuitive
Maybe it's intuition, maybe it's the Holy Spirit, or maybe it's both, but I've discovered that I have some kind of ability to sense how a person is feeling and how to respond to them. I think I'm learning how to pick up on when to be silent, when to distract, when to touch, and when to prod further. I've prayed over and over again for eyes to see what God sees and a heart to feel what God feels, and I hope this is the beginning of an answer to that prayer.


Perfectionist / Performance-based
I never thought I was a perfectionist because I didn't really care if I got problems wrong on my math homework and I wasn't as perfectionist as my friends. But I'm realizing now that I have a very performance-based value system for myself that I would never consciously justify. I subconsciously care so much about my reputation, even just to myself, that I will sacrifice my real priorities to maintain my self-image. For example, I know that I value people over tasks. But when it comes down to spending hours in a necessary conversation with someone instead of studying well for an exam, I'm far too inclined to study because grades are engrained into my self-created value system. I've got to work on this.


Leader of My Own Spirituality
Finally, I'm realizing that I've been a leader my whole life. I relate to other people mainly through leadership, and that means of relating will carry over to God. In relation to the need for control, I'm learning that deep down I try to lead and control my own spiritual walk. Perhaps I don't really trust that God will grow me into a Christ-like, Spirit-filled person, and so I try to formulaically make that happen myself. I have all the skills necessary to make a plan and put it into action, but I really need to just crawl into the loving arms of a Father who wants me to simply trust Him.



These are a few things I am learning about myself. Grab a journal and think about what God has been showing you about yourself lately!

3.19.2017

tibetan buddhist views of prayer

This is information from a paper I wrote for my Eastern World Religions class. I am fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism and with prayer, so I combined the two topics. It's a bit of a hefty paper, so dig in if you're interested. Most of all, I learned to appreciate the many ways Tibetan Buddhists remind themselves to weave prayer throughout their everyday life. I hope to be more like them in that. However, I also grew in my deep gratitude to Jesus for providing a way for us to have direct access to God in a personal relationship. Our goal, praise God, is not to earn our way to favor or to eternal life. We have already been accepted and welcomed in because of Jesus, and prayer is one of the most important realizations of that freedom. Enjoy!






            The land of Tibet has long been enshrouded with mystery. Found on plateaus past the treacherous mountain passes of the Himalayas, the people of Tibet were long isolated from even the most nearby societies and cultures. The modern religion of Tibet is a unique folk religion that defines the Tibetan culture through its monasteries, art, music, dance, and more distinctly developed methods of prayer than perhaps any other folk religion. However, while prayer is quite possibly the most central part of a Tibetan Buddhist’s life, the history and purposes of prayer are by no means simple. This paper will explore Tibetan Buddhist perspectives on prayer by examining the significance, mantras, and other methods of prayer in this fascinating culture. 
Understanding the significance of prayer for Tibetan Buddhists requires an elementary knowledge of Tibet’s religious history. The most ancient form of spirituality in Tibet is shamanism, a traditional animistic religion focused on nature. Olson (2005) explains, “Tibetan shamanism is closely associated with adoration of nature and the spirits that are believed to inhabit mountains, rocks, meadows, and waters.” This animist spirituality eventually developed into a more formalized religion with striking similarities to Hinduism and Buddhism located to the south. This oldest religion of Tibet is known as Bon, with dates of establishment ranging anywhere from contemporaneously with the life of the Buddha, one thousand years prior (Banerjee, 1981), or even 30,000 years ago (Berzin, 2003). Many of Bon’s original features are thought to be similar to Buddhism, including an intentional self-reflection and meditation on what is unseen. However, Bon was an animistic religion with rituals and practices for daily events such as grave-making and taming evil spirits (Banjeree, 1981). Barker (2003) describes Bon as a “religion based on the worship of nature.” She explains further that “The sky, mountains, rivers and lakes were believed to be animated by gods, demons or spirits, all of whom demanded careful ritual propitiation in return for protecting the local community” (Barker, 2003). The spirit world was a defining reality for Tibetan peoples, and many deities formed the worldview of a Bon adherent.
Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the seventh century AD, and was seen as a powerful, highly civilized religion (Barker, 2003). As the leaders of Tibet accepted and promoted Buddhism, the new religion blended and melded with Bon into a unique practice, different than either had been on its own. Whereas Buddhism in its purist forms is minimalist and focuses on meditation in order to become one with an ultimate reality, Bon adds a distinct element of a spirit world that is reminiscent of Hinduism, though far less widespread. This blending of religions led to practices generally unconnected with Buddhism, such as the use of oracles and spirit-possessed monks to speak on behalf of deities or ancestors.
“The Tibetans do not just follow the teachings of Buddha,” writes Kalman (1990). “They also believe in the many spirits and magical powers that were once part of the Bon religion.”  Tibetan Buddhists believe in traditional Buddhist boddhisattvas as wise and kind guides to which prayers are directed. However, they also believe in “spiritual protectors” (Kalman, 1990), spirits whose fierce and angry looks are considered to ward off evil spirits. Bon’s animism gives a new flavor to the role of prayer in a nominally Buddhist society.
The significance of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism, though affected by Bon, is closely tied to the traditional Buddhist concept of meditation using chants, liturgy, and rituals. The purpose of prayer can vary greatly, but is generally considered essential for meditating. Lopez (1997) writes:
A good deal of the religious life of a Buddhist meditator or clergy member is devoted to chanting prayers and performing liturgical practices. For advanced meditators, these chants are a method of using the voice as a contemplative practice. For others, these are simply the daily ritual performances that provide a frame around their more abstract sitting meditation practice. (p. 406)
More extensive research on prayer in Tibetan Buddhist contexts will continue to revolve around the mantras and meditation-based foundation. Prayer is significant in this religion because it is a means of contemplating and meditating upon life, the cycle of rebirth, and the escape from suffering so characteristic of Buddhism.
However, prayer may find its greatest significance for Tibetan Buddhists as a means of gaining merit for their own personal karma. For example, Tibetan Buddhism places great emphasis on preservation of life, including even the smallest of creatures such as ants or mosquitoes. In order to respond to the negative karma that a person might inherent - even unknowingly - by taking life, a Tibetan Buddhist may chant or pray through mantras to compensate for their errors. Lopez (1997) writes “At the end of a prayer or any other virtuous activity, it is customary to dedicate the merit that has been produced with a prayer…” (p. 406). These dedications show a clear intention and purpose, such as this example of a prayer dedication: “By this merit may we attain omniscience, Defeat the enemy – wrongdoing – And free all beings from the ocean of samsara, With its stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death” (Lopez, 406). It is clear that while prayer for Tibetan Buddhists may have animistic undertones, the main significance of prayer is its potential power to bring one closer to escape from reincarnation through meditation and meritorious deeds. Thus, prayer is vitally important in the life of a Tibetan Buddhist.
Considering the significance of prayer, it is not surprising that Tibetan culture is full of methods to help one pray. The most important foundation for understanding the many methods of prayer is to understand the mantras used in Tibetan Buddhism. A mantra, defined simply, is “a short prayer that is repeated over and over” (Kalman, 1990). However, mantras are quite different from the Western concept of prayer, even quite distinct from short, repetitive prayers like the Lord’s Prayer or the Catholic rosary. The distinction is found in that the mantra’s importance is less in its meaning and more in its physical sound. Lopez (1997) explains:
…it must be recalled, however, that the power of a mantra resides not in it semantic sense but in the sounds themselves, each of which, and in various combinations, has particular divine associations. That is why Tibetans invariably write and recite mantras in the original Sanskrit, and in most cases have no idea what a mantra’s “translation” may be. (p. 279)
Ultimately, slowly repeating short mantras is a way to empty the mind and completely detach oneself from desire, suffering, and the physical world around the speaker. Western religions create upwardly-directed prayers for every occasion and spontaneously in any circumstance, asking God for the fulfillment of needs and engagement with the world; Buddhism is quite opposite in that the speaker’s goal is not fulfillment but emptiness, and not engagement by disengagement. Western minds may also find it hard to grasp the concept of sounds in and of themselves containing a deeper meaning, but eastern religions have a long history with the idea, especially with the famous, historical sound of om.  
            The most important of all Tibetan Buddhist Mantras is om mani padme hum. This mantra originated in India, but made its way to Tibet and was adjusted to the Tibetan pronunciation and orthography. Mantras cannot be translated well because their meaning is not the focus of the words, but the rough translation of om mani padme hum is “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus” (Kalman, 1990). This mantra is considered the mantra of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion (Dharma Haven, 2003). Each of the six syllables contains deep, untranslatable meanings that are said to somehow incorporate all of Buddha’s teachings within their sounds. By repeating the mantra, the speakers hope to place their minds into the mind of the Buddha. Pure Buddhist teachings claim that anyone who has achieved nirvana can no longer be contacted or reached; however, Tibetan Buddhists, along with many branches of Buddhism, still pray to the Buddha of Compassion, believing that “he will bring [to his pure land] all those who pray to him or recite his six-syllable mantra, om mani padme hum” (Lopez, 1997). 
In addition to extremely short mantras such as om mani padme hum, Tibetan Buddhism also has a tradition of liturgical prayers. These prayers are often used at festivals and are focused toward the ultimate Buddhist goal of enlightenment. The liturgy may be split into intentional sections such as Confession or Rejoicing, quite similar to Christian liturgical practices in many ways. However, the purpose of the liturgy remains quite faithful to Buddhism, always with the goal of gaining merit toward nirvana. For example, in the festival to the Buddha of Compassion, the seven categories of prayer all clearly state the desire of the Tibetan Buddhist, including pleas such as “Please quickly free me and mother and father, Sentient beings of the six realms from the cyclic existence… Teach me well the precious good path, and place me quickly on the level of a buddha” (Lopez, 1997). The end of this festival’s liturgy ends with a traditional dedication: “Whatever little merit I may have accrued by prostration, offerings, confession, rejoicing, requesting, and entreating, I dedicate for the sake of the enlightenment of all” (Lopez, 1997).
Spoken prayers, mantras, and liturgy are perhaps the most common, universal forms of prayer, but Tibetan Buddhism is famous for the many ways it incorporates prayer through other non-verbal methods. Despite the belief that the physical sounds of a mantra contain the mantra’s power, Tibetan Buddhists also hold that simply viewing the written form of om mani padme hum is another way to pray the prayer (Dharma Haven, 2003). Thus, it is no surprise that Tibetan Buddhists place the mantra everywhere in order to view it as much as possible. Mani stones, rocks engraved with the mantra in the Tibetan script, are one of the most common forms of art in Tibet. When Tibet mainly adhered to the Bon religion, piles of stones were left at mountain passes as a means of ensuring safe travel. Today, Buddhism has melded with this practice, and Kalman (1990) writes that “Lamaist Buddhists leave mani stones with mantras written on them” in those same mountain passes. From tiny engravings on jewelry to giant letters spelled out on hillsides, om mani padme hum envelops the visual experience of a Tibetan Buddhist.
      Aside from viewing the mantra, there are other ways to pray the prayer than visual or verbal. The prayer wheel is a famous tool used by monks and laymen alike to gain great amounts of merit more quickly. Because the mantra is considered powerful even in its written form, the Tibetans write om mani padme hum on a slip of parchment and place it like a scroll inside a metal wheel, shaped like a small barrel around a handle or pole. These wheels can then be spun with the hand, and each spin of the mantra represents a prayer. Feigon (1999) writes, “The scrolls release prayers and invocations that bring merit to the user.” These prayer wheels can be hand-held tools, easy to carry and transport, and quite commonly used by the elderly whose old hands are free of work and whose final goal in life is to build up their merit for their next reincarnation. Larger prayer wheels are often found lining the walls at Buddhist temples so that worshippers or monks can simply walk past the wheels and spin the mantras as they pass. Clever worshippers have also placed prayer wheels in streams so that the constant flowing water spins the wheel and produces a constant outpouring of prayer.  
The most recognizable and renowned of all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist prayer are the beautiful, signature prayer flags. These long strands of colorful, rectangular flags are hung everywhere from temples to mountains to rooftops to marketplaces, and have graced the land of Tibet far longer than Buddhism. Berzin (2003) explains “The idea of prayer flags also comes from Bon. They are in the colors of the five elements and are hung to harmonize the external elements…” The colors blue, white, red, green, and yellow represent the five main elements of nature, sky, air, fire, water, and earth. Barker (2003) goes on to write:
Bon shamanism has long believed in the concept of lung-ta, which represents a person’s vital energy and fortune, which is symbolized by a horse or the wind. When their lung-ta is large, a person can achieve renown and be successful in their undertakings. To create positive energy… they would position these decorated clothes and feathers in high places, such as rooftops or mountain passes, where the wind would carry the aspirations of the totems into the heavens. (p. 12)
As seen above, Tibetans have long believed that the inner energy of a human being is represented by the wind, and thus they held that these flags blown in the wind were a symbol of both power and good fortune (Barker, 2003). Thus, even these prayer flags continue to confirm the reality that prayer in Tibet is a means to an end; historically, the Bon purpose or prayer was good fortune and success, but Buddhism has changed that purpose to the achieving of enlightenment.
While prayer flags originated with the natural elements and nature’s spirits represented artistically in Bon, they were soon transformed into Buddhist prayer materials with the development of the Tibetan orthography and a block-stamping process. Today, “Prayer flags have Buddhist scriptures written on them… Tibetans believe that every time a prayer wheel turns, or a prayer flag flutters in the wind, a prayer is sent up to the heavens” (Kalman, 1990).  Therefore, prayer flags are perhaps the best symbol of Tibetan Buddhism because they are a modern mixture of ancient, animistic Bon, and meditative, merit-based Buddhism.

Prayer flags, prayer wheels, mantras, and mani stones are just a handful of the myriad of ways Tibetan Buddhists pray. Prayer festivals, prayer halls, rosaries, and other ritual activities all add to the mountain of methods which remind Tibetan Buddhists to constantly focus their mind on the Buddha and on enlightenment and simultaneously earn merit to aid them in their journey toward enlightenment. By exploring the significance, mantras, and other methods of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism, it is clear that prayer in this religion is both unique and highly valued. Prayer for a Tibetan Buddhist is deeply embedded in their worldview and lifestyle, rooting them not only in the Buddhism which has made them famous, but also in the nature-centered animism of their ancient history. It seems only appropriate that this mysterious land be the home of such a rare and beautiful world of prayer.

   References

Banerjee, Anukul Chandra. 1981a. “Bon-The Primitive Religion of Tibet.” Bulletin of Tibetology 4: 1-18. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281126633_Bon-The_Primitive_Religion_of_Tibet. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

Barker, Diane. Tibetan Prayer Flags: Send Your Blessings on the Breeze. London: Connections, 2003. Print.

Berzin, Dr. Alexander. "Bon and Tibetan Buddhism." Study Buddhism. Berzin Archives E.V., n.d. Retrieved from https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/abhidharma-tenet-systems/comparison-of-buddhist-traditions/bon-and-tibetan-buddhism.Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

Cozort, Daniel. Highest Yoga Tantra. Lanham: Snow Lion Publications, 2005. Print.
Feigon, Lee. Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of the Snows. London: Profile, 1999. Print.
"History of Bon." http://www.ligmincha.org/en/boen-buddhism/resources/history-of-bon.html Ligmincha International - Preserving Bon Buddhist Wisdom in the World. Ligmincha International, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
Kalman, Bobbie. Tibet. Toronto: Crabtree Pub., 1990. Print.
Lopez, Donald S. Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton, New Jersey.: Princeton UP, 1997. Print.
Olson, Carl. The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2005. Print.
"Om Mani Padme Hum: The Meaning of the Mantra in Tibetan Buddhism." http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm Om Mani Padme Hum: The Meaning of the Mantra in Tibetan Buddhism. Dharma Haven, 02 Nov. 2003. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

3.12.2017

james 2

I'm part of a small group from the linguistics department that is studying through the book of James. Many of us have read this a hundred times, but read it again. Ask for eyes to see where in our life we can love people more authentically. Jesus wants to be your strength. 


My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.