Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Peaceable Life

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 

—–1 Timothy 2:1&2

The peaceable life is one of the most elusive objectives of all time. A study at Duke University produced the following list of behaviors that help bring us to a peaceable life. I share them with you.

  • The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.
  • Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.
  • Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.
  • Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.
  • Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
  • Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues love, humor, compassion and loyalty.
  • Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.
  • Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

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Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living, Psychology

The Sabbath in a Cup

This is worth thinking about, and without a doubt, we all need a Sabbath.

Everyday Asceticism

There were three friends, earnest men, who became monks. One of them chose to make peace between men engaged in controversy, as it is written: “Blessed are the peace-makers.” The second chose to visit the sick. Third chose to be quiet in solitude.

Then the first, struggling with quarrelling opponents, found that he could not heal everyone. And worn out, he came to the second who was ministering to the sick, and found him flagging in spirit, and unable to fulfil his purpose. And the two agreed, and went away to see the third who had become a hermit, and told him their troubles. And they asked him to tell them what progress he had made. And he was silent for a little, and poured water into a cup. And he said: “Look at the water.” And it was cloudy. And after a little he said again: “Now look, see…

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A Meeting in a Part

In a dream I meet

my dead friend. He has,

I know, gone long and far,

and yet he is the same

for the dead are changeless.

They grow no older.

It is I who have changed,

grown strange to what I was.

Yet I, the changed one,

ask: “How you been?”

He grins and looks at me.

“I been eating peaches

off some mighty fine trees.”

 

——–Wendell Berry

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Start a Conversation

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
Matthew 5:13
How many people do you meet on an average day ? Do you bother to even say hello ? Most of us go through our days ignoring the persons we encounter on a typical day. Christians are the salt and light of the world. It is our presence in this world that can make all the difference. If we are silent and fail to engage the world in conversation ten we have little impact. I can’t help but regret all the nice things I have left unsaid. all too often we are quick to criticize but oh so slow to compliment.
In our busy and anonymous world people are just blurs that pass us by and we think nothing of them. I wonder how different the world would be if we all just started a few conversations. Just randomly and casually. Here’s the suggestion. Take a day, just one day, and be very intentional about saying more than hello to the people you see that day. Who are those people ?
A possible list: (yours may be different)
  • The cashier at the coffee shop,grocery …
  • The postman
  • The garbage collector
  • The person who is 50 feet away from you at the office.
  • The kid in your class that never utters a word.
  • The members of the church choir.
  • The person who walks (jogs-they may not want to speak but who knows)by your house every day.
  • That person you see every time you are in that restaurant.

That just a list to get you started. There are so many more. If you have a few suggestions just  post a comment. Take time to be the “salt and light” of the world.

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Ignatian Meditation

English: Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) França...

English: Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus (commonly called –the Jesuits- Pope Francis is one). The youngest of eleven children, Ignatius left his home in the Basque region of Spain to become a page for a noblemen. His life of brawling, gambling, and womanizing was disrupted when the nobleman lost his position. He then joined the army and was badly wounded when he was hit in the leg by a cannonball. During his one year recuperation as a prisoner of France henturned to God. His Spiritual Exercises for a 30-day retreat were modeled after his own conversion experience and are considered a classic of Western spirituality. Ignatian Meditation is a part of the system Ignatius described in his Spiritual Exercises.

Ignatian meditation is counter-intuitive to our culture. Parents and grandparents who have watched their children and grandchildren “play like” have the easiest time with this prayer. Mine have played at being Harry Potter, SpongeBob and Dora. Ignatian Meditation asks that you enter into the story of scripture, and become a part of it. This form of meditation engages the imagination and asks you to become a child again.

The instructions are sometimes presented in quite a complex way, these can help you begin.

Points for Ignatian Meditation

  • Find a quiet place to pray. This may be in your room, a church, outdoors, or your office with the door closed.
  • Establish a sense of inner peace and tranquility. Let the cares and concerns of the moment slip away. Sometimes reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 or a favorite prayer from memory will help get into the prayer.
  • As you relax into God’s presence, take a moment to greet the Lord. Ask God to guide your thoughts.
  • Slowly read the passage. Get a sense of its geography and flow. Is there something that stands out to you?
  • Read it again, using a different Bible translation. Is there something in particular that is touching you?
  • Place yourself in the story. Are you a main character? A spectator? Think about the following:
    • What are you wearing?
    • What are the sights? Smells? Textures? Sounds?
    • What is going on around you?
  • Who else is there? Do you recognize those around you?
  • Surrender to the story. Interact with your surroundings, allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit as you speak and engage with others.
  • Do not try to control the prayer.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
  • How are you feeling? Is your “heart on fire?”
  • As you bring your prayer to a close, take a few minutes to speak to God about it.

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Contemplation and Action, Why Not?

For a number of years now I have sought to deepen my relationship with God by opening myself to His ongoing presence in my everyday living. For me this has come about by sacred reading, retreats, and prayer practices both ancient and not so ancient. I have found myself inwardly led to read and study a variety of works that are written for the specific purpose of bringing creation into contact with the Creator. Such contact is far more than knowledge-it is awareness.

A word that is often used to describe that awareness is contemplative. A contemplative is a person who dedicates himself to live where heaven and earth intersect. William Thiele is the founder and director of The School for Contemplative Living here in New Orleans. In a recent article he cut right to the heart of an important, though fundamentally misunderstood, contemplative principle. “So where exactly is the first place contemplatives belong? The answer is: wherever there are people who’ve been excluded by others. A Christian contemplative seeks to follow the Jesus who always preferred to hang out with the very people excluded by others. Aren’t there enough stories in the gospels to make it crystal clear that those sinners, (non-religious people), and tax collectors were his best buddies? And didn’t Jesus manage to also get himself excluded and eventually killed by the religious people who were doing the excluding?” I want to ponder on that a little.

 There is an undeniable relationship between being a person of contemplation and one that cares and reaches out to the hurt and injustice of the world. When we are called to prayer and silence, we think we are called to isolation and abandonment. The twentieth century mystic monk, Thomas Merton, spent months at a time living as a hermit, but he reminds us of something he learned in isolation, “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”  The desert mystics went to the desert to escape the empire, but also to direct others on a path towards God. Many of those that they taught made a great difference in their world. Can we be people of contemplation and compassion without being people of action?

 I think not. Jesus assigns us to be the “salt and light” of the earth. The real thought that I am playing with here is action. As contemplatives we must be people of action. We are stirred to action by our passions. A contemplative must feel enough, care enough to do something. When you have your time of prayer and solitude, emerge from it with full awareness of the world that surrounds you.

  Do you have the spiritual fortitude to think as George Bernard Shaw did? “Some men see things as they are and say why, others dreams things that never were and say, why not?”

 Contemplatives are compelled by the very presence of Him they seek to say, “Why not?”

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Reflections From a Broken Mirror

Chris Martin Writes

At some point in our life, I believe we have all been there. Unsatisfied with how we look, act, or fit in. It’s human nature to never be happy with how we are. In some cases, that can actually be a good thing, but for now, I’m talking mainly about our appearance and how we feel about life in general. In a world where we are bombarded with millions of different looks, fads, opinions, and opportunities, it’s a miracle we even know who we are as individuals.

It’s everywhere. TV. Movies. Books. Magazines. Billboards. Newspapers. Daily, we are subjected to what the world, society, thinks we should be. What we should wear. What we should eat. What we should not eat. What is healthy. What is not healthy. The list stretches beyond eternity where no one can see an end to the madness. People are looked down upon if they…

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Virgins and Sticks

John Cassian Mosiac

John Cassian

There was an old man who was served by a holy virgin and men said he was not pure. The old man heard what was said. When he was at the point of dying he said to his fathers, “When I am dead, plant my stick in the grave; if it grows and bears fruit, know that I am pure from all contact with her; if it does not grow; know that I have sinned with her.” So they planted the stick and on the third day it budded and bore fruit, and they all gave glory to God.

——Abba Cassian

The importance of this saying is not in its factual content but in its parabolic truth. In the day of the lost art of telling the story, we miss so much. The wise old man is illustrating the point that our real selves will not be seen in this life but in what our lives bring forth – that is seen through the eyes of our Creator. As we toil from day to day we miss so much of the grace of God’s creation. In our struggle to find and do right, we miss the most important point of all. God makes things right. Holy is living not really about virgins and sprouting sticks. Cassian tells us that the old man knew God and his life bore fruit.

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Song of the Builders

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

—-Mary Oliver 

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Crime and Punishment

The thoughts in this article are worth some consideration. I don’t present it as end all, but a platform for disussion.

pub theologian

We’ve been looking at atonement theories over the past few weeks: When Jesus Died – A Conversation on Atonement, Wonder-Working Pow’r, and A Soothing Aroma.

The big question is: how do we understand/interpret Jesus’ death? This might seem a merely academic debate that should stay behind church doors between some old, dusty theologians. But I’m interested in the issues because there are societal and cultural realities that are shaped and guided by certain theological views – and this impacts all of us, whether we are people of faith or not. Today we are drawing from two books that seek to show how certain atonement views have helped to shape the world we live in. First up, J. Denny Weaver’s The Nonviolent Atonement:

Atonement theology starts with violence, namely, the killing of Jesus. The commonplace assumption is that something good happened, namely, the salvation of sinners, when…

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