Friday, October 7, 2011

God's Abundance

Walter Bruggeman says: "We must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction t the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity."

Interestingly it seems to me the more we focus on God's abundance, the more abundance there is in our lives; and, conversely the more we focus on scarcity, the more scarcity there is in our lives.

What choices are you making for your life?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Institutional Church or the Power of the Assembly

What is the problem with the institutional church. Well I am sure, as with any institution, there are many. It is too big, too slow to respond to the needs of the people, too cold, times not convenient. to much possibility for mistrust, righteousness and judgment. All these things are true, but that begs the question, does it have any value? Beyond the organization and the polity and all of the above, there lies the assembly of the faithful and to me therein lies the value. Small groups are wonderful and intimate and quick to respond to the individual and corporate needs of the group. But there are times, when in the midst of some internal or relational conflict, that I need to be in the company of the faithful without intimacy, without others expressing concern, without people asking questions. I just need "to be," while surrounded by others who are also praising and worshipping God. Some how then, I am lifted into a momentary place of rest, beyond my current troubles, my current flaws, my current misgivings, those who may be judging me, my fears and failures, into a closer and more intimate relationship with God who loves me unconditionally and takes me as I am with all my flaws, no questions asked. Lest we throw out the baby with the bath, there is power in the assembly and there is power in small group intimate worship. It is not an either/or choice, but rather a choice of which I need at the moment in my journey.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where Did You Find God Today?

Starting with the premise that no human being is perfect, the thing I love about the Celts is that they seemed to be able to find God in their life all the time and in many different ways and places. It was, for them, just a normal thing to experience God in their daily lives. We can rationalize it was a simpler time, not so many distractions or not so much stress. I think it is closer to the truth for us that we forget to look or to breathe in the moment and realize. God is in front of us, and behind us, and to the right and left of us, we just need to look and listen. Make it a practice at the end of your day to ask yourself: Where did I find God today? In what conversation, in what act of random kindness done for me or that I did, in whose eyes, in what expression of nature or creation.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cup Half Full or Half Empty

What it is about human beings. We all meet people whose cup is half full. They are very positive in their outlook, always try to say something nice or nothing at all. And, then there are those whose cup is half empty, interestingly always seeming to see things in the negative. Our responses vary. To the positive response, it is just too sweet, too marshmallow, too cliche.  To the negative response, it can be disheartening, discouraging, even hurtful. I have often wondered how this "half-full" "half-empty" cup feels inside. Are the half-full people really that positive? How is it to live with that positive an attitude when all around you is crumbling? Are the half-empty people really that negative? How is it to live with that negative attitude when good things are going on all around you?

More importantly how do these attitudes affect our relationship with God? Does the positive attitude draw us closer? Does the negative attitude separate us? St. Patrick was discouraged when he was kidnapped and held prisoner; St. Brendan was discouraged sailing the Atlantic for what seemed like forever, looking for land; and yet, they continued on. What made the difference for them?

How responsible are we for how our attitude in daily living affects others? Do we ever look at our face in the mirror and see what other's see? Is the statement: "that's just the way I am" good enough. What is it that God expects of us? As Micah says:  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Church-Institution-Community-Group

I have been thinking about these words, what they mean in our culture, how they relate to God and to worship, if they do. Somehow I just keep going in circles. Why is it that we have so much trouble finding God in our world, when God is present all the time? OK so there is distrust for the institutions but do you then throw out the baby with the bath, do you throw away God because humans mess up institutions that represent God? Maybe the Celts had one up on us. They seemed to find God everywhere in together. And how did they worship? Yes in small groups? Yes in communities? Yes in corporate settings? Yes! Yes! Yes! They clearly understood the value of together in different forms. I believe they also understood that each size of together provides a different type of anchor for the soul. The small group - intimacy, closeness, comfort. The community - caring, serving, growing. The corporate body - security, buoyancy, privacy.  One gathering was not eliminated in favor of another. There is wisdom in knowing that each type of gathering soothes the needs of the soul at different moments and different times. It is for sure that we might favor one over the other, but favor, not eliminate the others. If we place emphasis only on the favored then our priorities will realign to avoid the others and we open ourselves to miss the presence of God in a new and different way. We open ourselves the opportunity to have a soul soothed even when we aren't yet aware of its need. We are not unidimensional human beings and our God is not unidimensional either. Why is it that when we find one way, we think there is no other way to worship? I wonder what would give us the idea that group gathering and worship in one form is all there is? Anytime, anyplace we are together in His name there is His presence in which we can rest and learn.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Feeds Your Soul?

At dinner last Christmas I was having a great conversation with our niece and nephew about the different churches in the area and what appealed to them and what did not. For me it was not only great conversation, but some insight into the thinking of the young professionals that surround us. The key in the conversation was not so much the following question, but rather the answer. "What feeds your soul?" This was the question, and the answer?  Absolute silence, followed by a reply, "I have no idea." It was an honest answer, but I was even more surprised, when in 3 weeks time included in a thank you note I read the following: "I am still thinking about your question!" I believe it could be said that many are seeking the answer to that question.

Thomas Merton wrote once of a Japanese story where a renowned teacher of archery goes to a mountaintop to find the greatest archer in the world. He's astonished to discover that this accomplished master doesn't use a bow and arrow. Yet, when the master aims his empty arms, formed as though to shoot, into the sky, and then releases the invisible arrow, a bird falls to the earth.

Merton went on to say: "What I envision ... is the recovery of sacred language without a church in which to use it, an education in the soul that takes place outside of school, the creation of an artful world accomplished by persons who are not artists, the emergency of a psychological sensibility once the discipline of psychology has been forgotten, a life of intense community with no organization to belong to, and achieving a life of soul without having made any progress toward it."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What is Prayer

Prayer it seems to me is but a conversation with God, with a Higher Power, with the Mystery of the Universe. Maybe it is a way of acknowledging that the sun doesn't rise or set because of us, perhaps a way of stepping out of the ego that constantly wants to take credit for success. Or perhaps it is the awareness of the connectedness of all things and people, a search for clarity, a place to calm the mind.

The conversation doesn't require particular stance or a particular place. In the Celtic world the people seemed to have a prayer or a blessing for everything. There was a reverence and respect for the entirety of creation. "Everything they touched, every tool that they handled was done with respect and reverence; every activity performed with a sense of the presence of God, indeed done in partnership." Eleanor Hull wrote: "These were the prayers of a people who have so much to do from dawn to dusk from dark to dark that they had little time for long, formal prayers. Instead throughout the day they made each activity in turn the occasion for prayer, doing what has to be done carefully for its own sake but simultaneousy making it into the occasion for prayer.  Each thing in turn, however humble, however mundane, could be handed over to God, or performed in partnership with the cooperation of the Trinity, saints and angels."