Saturday, August 14, 2004

Parched Tinderbox Part 1

Parched Tinderbox

Part 1

Recently I read another wonderful phrase, "parched tinderbox," so I need to start unpacking it!

To begin: in WebSpeak, what is a tinderbox? I found this definition:
A tinderbox is system designed to test builds and report failure. In the FreeBSD case, tinderboxes build world (the base system), GENERIC, and if applicable LINT kernels.
and continuing:
Also, hypertext software for "personal content management" tool from Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems.

At its most basic level, Tinderbox is a hypertext note-taking application. Like the Brain, notes can be linked to each other, viewed and browsed.
In terms of the historically customary use of "tinderbox," here's another definition, from

n 1: a dangerous state of affairs; a situation that is a potential source of violence; "the Balkans are the tinderbox of Europe" 2: a box for holding tinder

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
"Tinder" also reminds me of Glenn Tinder, my political science professor now emeritus at UMassBoston, who wrote a book with the fabulous title The Crisis of Political Imagination.

Back to Parched Tinderbox, which of course says a whole lot about the Holy Spirit's action in our lives and world! (Well, yes, and of course I always interpret everything biblically and theologically.) As People of Pentecost, we claim both the wind and the fire: the fire and the wind can stir up a much mightier blaze when the kindling, the tinder it has to ignite is very, very dry! Actually, the dryer the better, if you want your fire to start fast, to warm the chilliness of the desert night...or even the parchedness in your heart. The fire will start quickly, specially when the tinder's exceptionally dry, as in "parched"...since this site is called "Desert's Spirit," lets make that Desert Dry, as in the some times, some things or some peoples who truly are *desert-ed*…individuals, communities and even churches who truly are *desert-ed*, like Israel was during the desert wanderings we read about in the biblical books of Exodus and Numbers. In the dryness of the Exodus desert Israel learned its identity at the same time as Israel learned the identity of Yahweh, its God. Identity-forming crises of wandering dry in the deserted wildernesses happen to us as well, and when as dry, deserted people we need and thirst for life-renewing and life-sustaining water we generally also crave need the warmth, even the intensity of the heat of the fire of the Spirit that gives us life!

Tinderbox as "a dangerous state of affairs; a situation that is a potential source of violence..." and therefore tinderbox as a condition and a situation thatneeds the HS's intervention and (I'd hope) would be open to the HS's life- and world-transforming action! Remember the Chinese pictogram for crisis? It carries the double meaning of danger and opportunity, so it looks as if our states of being parched tinderboxes put us onto the horns of a similarly two-pronged dilemma.

To help us think about *Parched Tinderbox(es),* here's a text from 2nd Isaiah; we know him as the exilic Isaiah:
Isaiah 43:18-21

Isaiah 43:18-19

Do not remember the former things,
          or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
          now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
          and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
          the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
          rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
          the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise. NRSV
So the Word commands us: do not remember the former things or even consider those old-timey things, that ancient but so familiar way of doing and being, those worn-out ideas and accoutrements of different kinds most of us keep insisting we *need* to keep hanging onto...for dear life itself? Don't even think about and definitely don't take to heart those ways of being, thinking and doing that at the same time are both familiarly comfortable and undeniably ineffective. The Word commands and the Word promises: a new thing, and that new thing is something we have evidence of, something we can see, taste, touch, feel and hear; in the words of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, we can perceive! Ultimately the promised newness is down-to-earth, here-and-now, brand-new, resurrected life in the reign of God on earth, just as it is in heaven. Then, we receive another promise: God will make a way and we'll be shown a way, a road in our wilderness and a river in the desertness of our lives. I've mentioned how Israel's experience in the Exodus desert became the way they learned their identity as the precarious people of God while they were learning Yahweh's identity as the God Who, unbidden, does the humanly impossible in response to human need. For Israel, exactly as for us, it was about the journey rather than about the destination, the People learned about and lived with the God of Israel and the God of Christ Jesus Whose responsiveness is anything but uncertain or precarious, but always a sure thing, if we'd only look and if we'd be open in trust, open to the completely unexpected.

to be continued.

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