Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Days of the Future-Past...

I gave the following devotion to the group of Friday.

Past - Future - Present

Think back to that far way time: 2011. Remember  yourself innocently. Think of where you were.
-You were home. Soaking up your last few days in America.
-You had no idea what you could get for just two Lira.
-You didn't know the taste of fresh kebap.
-You had no idea what roasted chestnuts smell like. Or how annoying that smell could be.
-You had never seen the majesty of Justinian's great church.
-You hadn't heard the call to prayer minutes apart from church bells.
-You had no idea what "bomba gibiyum" or "lavabos nerede?" meant. Or how useful they would be.
-You probably had no idea what the inside of a mosque actually felt like.
-Or what Syriani church services were like.
-Or how hilly Istanbul really is.
-You hadn't seen the fire in a Turk's eyes when they talk about politics.
-Nor the slow measured words used when other words like "Armenian" or "Kurd" come up.

You've come far! 2012 has been an eventful year! You should be proud of how much you have been blessed to see in two weeks. But, before we continue.
Think back to 2011 again. Remember what you were actually feeling like on January 5th? You weren't focused on January 5th, you were thinking about where you would be on January 7th! Us Westerners are trained to focus-on-the-future.

Speaking of the future, lets try another thought experiment. Clos your eyes and picture this:
-Golden. The sunset reflects off of the sea. Birds fly by and cry out against the ocean wind. You're surrounded by beauty - but Izmir is known for its beauty. [Izmir]
-Now imagine a stone amphitheater. You can see a Roman path to your right and the ocean in the distance. The marble is warn out and chilly - but it's alive. Long ago, a man from Tarsus orated his letter in this very theater. Can you hear his words? "And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the good news that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as His own - by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago." [Ephesus]
-Now imagine a strange ceremony. It's religious, and somehow relatable, yet it's untouchable. It's bizarrely romantic. It seems totally normal that one of the most famous poets would find many muses here. [Konya]
-Now imagine silence. Warmth. Laughter. The beach. Relaxation. Refreshment. Slow-ness. [Antalya]
-Now imagine rock. Lots of rock. But imagine soft rock - not like Enya or Sting or Ray LaMontagne - like easily malleable. So easily malleable there are caves all around. Interconnected caves. Cities, even. All underground. Now imagine going into one of these caves and looking up to see a dome decorated with paintings of Mary, Jesus, and many angels - then, you realize that this is a church - an actual, ancient, underground church. [Cappadocia]

OK, open your eyes.
Sounds good, doesn't it?
But don't get too carried away just yet. These next two weeks could be really hard. You could be sick of that person who snores on the bus. You could be sick of buses in general. You could just be sick. You could be experiencing your first wave of homesickness. The future is totally unknowable - and it's impossible for us to live future-oriented.
Eventually, our future-oriented emotions - excitement, nervousness, anxiety, fear - they all run out. They hit their expiration dates. Or, you become so enraptured with them that you forget what it's like to live without them.

So, this is a challenge.
To me as much as it is to you - to live in the present. To dwell on what the call to prayer means for you right now. To commit that Turkish to memory instead of flushing it our of your head. To think about your friends on the streets of Istanbul, and not the ones on the streets of Santa Barbara. To talk with the person in this room who you still don't know. To look at the people on Istiklal - not the ground or the buildings, but the people. To get a Turk to tach you backgammon. To see how present God is in this room - and out in the streets.

I'm going to play a song , and for the five minutes it's playing, just live in the present. Be with your thoughts. Find meaning in the words, or just listen to the melody. But shed yourself of anything regarding excitement or worry about the future or longings for the past, and just be here.

This is the song I played:

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