Friday, February 27, 2015

During those years
when I was a Charismatic Christian,
I often felt out of place:
in the midst of people singing
and praying and emoting outwardly--
and talking, talking, talking--
I felt drawn inward;
to a deep,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"I had embraced a form of Christian faith devoted less to the experience of God than to abstractions about God, a fact that now baffles me; how did so many disembodied concepts emerge from a tradition whose central commitment was to the Word become flesh?" 

- Parker Palmer, All the Way Down

Sunday, February 22, 2015

“Jesus’ followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war.”

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

"A theology that takes mystical experiences seriously leads to a very different understanding of the referent of the word 'God.'  The word no longer refers to a being separate from the universe, but to a reality, a 'more,' a radiant and luminous presence that permeates everything that is."

-- Marcus Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

Friday, February 20, 2015

"It does seem that there are lineages of war and that wars are the causes of wars. And it seems unlikely that wars cause peace. Wars cause victory and defeat, equivocal terms because in wars both sides lose much that they would rather keep, and they cause exhaustion. But victory, defeat, loss, and exhaustion don’t define peace. It is certain that peace does not cause war. Wars, moreover, tend not to end. Damage from our Civil War continues today. We are still under the influence of World War II. We still suffer the effects of the succession of wars that have followed." 

-- Wendell Berry
 (via AZSpot)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"The emerging movement represents a third way, that cuts across denominational lines and abandons the emphasis on institutional loyalty, instead emphasizing an inclusive, optimistic vision of what it means to be a Christian today. This third way recognizes that the human condition is precarious, no one has a lock on truth, everything (yes, even the Bible and Church authority) must be questioned in the light of reason, criticism, and the full sweep of human knowledge, and that any honest effort to follow Jesus Christ can only be made in the light of the existential uncertainty of the human condition.

This is a path that is humble (because it admits it doesn’t have all the answers), compassionate (since it recognizes that everyone makes mistakes), and gentle (because it emphasizes Jesus’s teachings on mercy and forgiveness). This is the path that says 'I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I take the teachings of Christianity seriously, and I also am willing to engage with other sources of knowledge and wisdom, including secular sciences and ancient contemplative traditions, east and west.'

I believe this third way is the way of the future. And I bet if Karl Rahner were alive today, he’d agree with me. It’s the way of the mystic, for the mystics and contemplatives have always understood that the heart — compassion, forgiveness, relationship, mercy — takes us closer to God than the head — dogma, doctrine, theology, philosophy. The mystics have always understood that feeding a hungry child matters far more to God than all our arguments over the correct way to baptize or the real meaning of Communion or how to interpret the parable of the unjust steward. For the mystics and contemplatives, time spent in contemplative prayer is a way for the mind to abandon arrogant thoughts, so that the heart may embrace compassionate living."

--Carl McColman

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"But here’s the irony of it all: while we find burning people alive morally repulsive when ISIS does it, most Christians seem to have no moral qualms about believing in a God they think will do precisely that."

-- Benjamin L. Corey, Why ISIS Should Make Christians Rethink The Doctrine Of Hell

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"There have been millions of 'simple' Christians throughout the centuries.  I do not mean 'simple-minded' in a pejorative sense; I mean the people for whom the life of the mind was not central to their Christian lives.  They were neither preoccupied with correct beliefs nor bothered by intellectual issues.  Instead, Christianity was about loving God and Jesus and seeking to love one another.  Many of the saints were 'simple' Christians in this sense.

Thus Christianity is not about getting our theology right.  Theology is the intellectual stream of Christianity.  In its narrow sense, it refers to an intellectual discipline that has been practiced by theologians from the earliest centuries of Christianity: the thoughtful articulation of what it means to be Christian.

Theological controversies over the centuries have sometimes been treated as if they were really important even though they were also often arcane.  For instance, a Trinitarian conflict split the Western and Eastern churches in 1054: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son, or from the Father only?  In the 1600s, 'supralapsarianism' versus 'infralapsarianism' almost divided the Reformed tradition.  At issue was whether God decided to send a messiah (Jesus) before the first sin (because God knew it would happen) or only after it had happened (because only then was it necessary).  More familiarly: infant baptism or adult baptism?  Christians have often thought it is important to believe the right things.

In a broader sense, theology refers to 'what Christians think.'  In this sense, all Christians have a theology--a basic, even if often simple, understanding--whether they are aware of it or not.  In this broader sense, theology does matter.  There is 'bad' theology, by which I mean an understanding of Christianity that is seriously misleading, with unfortunate and sometimes cruel consequences.  But the task of theology is not primarily to construct an intellectuallly satisfying set of correct beliefs.  Its task is more modest.  Part of its purpose is negative: to undermine beliefs that get in the way of taking Christianity seriously.  Part is its purpose is positive: to construct a persuasive and compelling vision of the Christian life.  But being Christian isn't primarily about having a correct thoelogy by getting our beliefs right.  It is about a deepening relationship with God as known especially in Jesus."

-- Marcus Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"In Him we live and move and have our being."

-- Epimenides of Knossos (6th century B.C. philosopher-poet, in reference to Zeus)

Friday, February 13, 2015

“'Contemplative leadership' emphasizes listening over arguing, wondering over demanding, patience over goal-setting, silence over shouting, service over domination, and prayer over politicking. Which is not to say there is no place for setting goals or debating difficult issues — of course such things will still take place. But they will emerge in the context of deep mindfulness, active compassion, a willingness to live in ambiguity and unknowing, and a recognition that sometimes the will of God comes to us in the most unlikely and humblest of ways. Contemplative leadership assumes that discerning the call of the Holy Spirit is an adventure that requires everyone’s participation. So everyone is invited to the dance."

-- Carl McColman, Seven Hopes for the Christian Church of the Future
    (via AZSpot)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

On scratching the itch...

One of the fundamental lessons learned in meditation/contemplation is that you are not your thoughts and feelings (or, to put it another way, your thoughts and feelings are not you).  One learns to step back and observe the thoughts and feelings as they pass through the conscious mind--arising, existing for a moment, then ceasing.

Sometimes when I meditate I will get an itch--on my nose or ear or elsewhere.  I've discovered that if I don't react to it other than to simply observe it, the itch goes away after a moment or two.  If I don't scratch the itch, if I don't engage the lustful thought or nurture the angry feeling, it will pass away of its own accord--floating on down the stream of time.  One learns from this that pretty much everything within us and around us is in a state of flux and flow, process and impermanence, arising and ceasing.  This observation is at the heart of religious mystical teachings, be they Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, etc.

Meditation/contemplation has proven to be a very helpful practice for prison inmates and students in troubled schools because it teaches them to not immediately react in stressful situations but rather to observe what is happening and what they are feeling about what is happening and then choose an appropriate reaction (or non-reaction) that is positive and productive.

Two days ago a man in North Carolina murdered, execution-style, three young adults.  Immediately presumptive speculation began.  Was it a hate crime based on the man being an atheist and the victims being Muslims?  Was it a parking dispute which escalated to extreme proportions?  Time will tell.  Eventually the details will come to light and we'll all have a better idea of what happened and why.  But it is hard for us to step back and watch and wait and not react immediately.  We want to scratch that itch now.  The media capitalizes on our desire to scratch the itch.

One thing about the killings in North Carolina is clear: the man used a gun.  The problem with guns is this: humans are prone to react based upon thoughts and feelings (which are not reality but a perception of reality) and if a gun is added to the mix that reaction is quite likely to be tragic and irrevocable.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Gathered in stillness
Embracing the emptiness
Listening together
Held and connected
In silence and light

Inwardly turning
Flowing, discerning
Love, like an ocean
Rising within
In silence and light

      And as the moment is ending
      We sink into language and time
      From silence and light

Settled and clear
Presence still near
Sown into dust
Sparkling through rust
In silence and light