Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine,
by Ann J. Timken. (Author)
As I read this book I felt caught up in a carefully crafted fugue, as in Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach employed the fugue form in his music as a way of ing seeking and expressing his connection to God. The voices belong exactly where they are placed to form a connectedness throughout the piece. Some fugues have as many as five voices meeting each other at each harmonic counterpoint, ever-growing in intensity and meaning. The fugue’s form is one of the most appealing musical for forms for the pianist.
Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine, by Ann J. Temkin, is in my opinion a memoir in fugue form. Many lives are woven together and their stories very skillfully told. Timken describes her spiritual journey from a Jewish background through her conversion to Catholicism, its many challenges and finally to an understanding of the world as a place where we can be comfortable in our discomfort. We can see differently once Jesus is a part of perception. Just as he promised: “Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.” (KJV, Matthew, 28:20.)
Just as in a Bach fugue, lives touch one another in Tekin’s book in many ways: discord and resolution, as my piano teacher used to say, “ouch” and “ah”. And as in jazz, there are no wrong notes, just better choices. Timken tells her story and Jesus’, entering and leaving at points like the fugue, beautifully intertwined to a sum that is greater than all the parts, our salvation and Resurrection. The journey is a series of experiences, counter experiences, episodes and a conclusion — always ending on a major (happy sounding) chord, Jesus’ Resurrection and ours. Indeed, when we follow Jesus as our teacher, farther ahead on the journey we must all take, we demonstrate our own salvation for the world.
Like the Jews who believed in Jesus as their Messiah were both happy and confused, for he taught another path, unknown to most, still unknown to most, Timken describes her own confusion along the way, our confusion, yet she finds her way through it, with Jesus at her side.
Timken, tells some very sad and disturbing stories about her life and the lives of others here, each meshed with Jesus’ story of his time and his crucifixion, then coming back into the world and picking up where he seemed to leave off. The counterpoint is beautifully and skillfully written, and it is heart warming to see Timken’s faith struggling as it comes through in her writing. Like Jesus, who cries out to God to please take, or postpone, what is about to happen to him, because he thinks it’s not his time, then succumbing to what is inevitable and then returning as triumphant to face his scared disciples who are still struggling with his message. She wonders, as many of us do, how it is possible that the church founded upon Jesus’ words, turns out to think and do what seems the opposite of his teaching. It is strange, as is our decision to separate from God, think we’ve pulled that off, and suffer terrible guilt for what we think we did, but continue to try. Jesus tells us everything we need to know about salvation, and we build a building, some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Yet, still fail to know he was speaking about changing our minds about our minds, not changing our illusions and our hallucinations to “better” ones.
If we did fully understand Jesus, we would, for one, not be here. The world is made for people who don’t understand, by people who don’t understand. It is clearly not God’s doing, but ours. We too often see the pain in the world we made and want God to come down and make it nice for us. God loves us, but he won’t (can’t) do for us what we must do for ourselves. Jesus told us, is continuing to tell us as we live with him, as he continues to be our savior, it is not about what we think should happen to save us, but what God does as we work out our role in His plan for salvation. We can’t fail, as we live Jesus’ commandment, Love one another as I have loved you. That is the tall order for established egos, guarding the citadel. We have the world we have today, a blood bath, a sad and cruel place, because we are as yet unable to really hear his clear message: forgiveness is the only way to God here. Stop trying to judge others and look at everyone in our life experience here as Holy Children of God, just as Jesus looks at everyone here. That is the love he is talking about. Yet, he brought God’s message here to us, and we killed him. If the second coming meant he would physically return here, we would kill him again. Fortunately, the second coming does not mean he is coming back. It means we are joining him to join our Father in heaven, Who welcomes His children home.
Connecting with Jesus, and other teachers of God, here is our only sure journey to God. In this book, Temkin has a close direct relationship with him and throughout the book she returns to the notes in her fugue that touch upon Jesus’ notes. That’s where the music gets exciting as she describes it. The entire piece may be in a minor key, full of discord, but the last note is always a happy one. He asks us to teach only love, for that is what we are. We realize it just as he said, through practicing forgiveness.
Can we aspire now to really hearing Jesus’ wonderful message, don’t dwell on the crucifixion. It was the last useless journey we had to make. It was an extreme example of the only way we can return to God. Jesus might say, listen to what I said, keep listening, look at what I did, and thus, what I must be thinking. And you will find the only question that does not need correction, and has the only answer there could be: would God sacrifice one of His children? If this is answered in any other way but “no”, we continue with our mad idea to separate from God. We can’t make that the answer and not accept the Resurrection as our awakening. There is no peace unless there is no opposition to peace. The message he gave from the cross was: you can tear apart my body and even in the pain I experienced you cannot kill me because death is your thing, neither God’s, nor mine. I will not condemn those who acted out of fear, because God does not; and, if I did I would not be teaching what I am, love.
Jesus probably would tell us, when I asked Peter, who do you think I am, listen to the question. I have always known who I am because I see you, Peter, as my brother and God’s treasured son. That is the question we need to ask of everyone we meet here, and say, Love created me; that is who I am. The awareness of Jesus who walks with us, is indeed our salvation. He teaches only forgiveness, a reflection of God’s love in the world. His teaching always has the same purpose, follow me and do what I do, for you surely can. Ann Temkin sees herself following Jesus, it seems, no matter what. Bob Pajer
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.