Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Searching for God

There is a wonderful Chasidic story about the child of a rabbi who used to wander in the woods. At first his father let him wander but over time he became concerned. The woods were dangerous. The father did not know what lurked there.

He decided to discuss the matter with his child. One day he took him aside and said, "You know, I have noticed that each day you walk into the woods. I wonder, why do you go there?"

The boy said to his father, "I go there to find God."

“That is a very good thing,” the father replied gently. “I am glad you are searching for God. But, my child, don't you know that God is the same everywhere?”

“Yes,” the boy answered, “but I'm not.”

in David J. Wolpe, Teaching Your Children About God

Light

When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light in to dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the black places in the hearts of me - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.

Quoted by Robert Fulghum, It was on Fire when I Lay Down On It

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

a Silence and a Shouting

a Silence and a Shouting

An extract from the book by Eddie Askew
available through The Leprosy Mission
or contact TLM Trading Limited and request a catalogue
(all proceeds support The Leprosy Mission)

Books on prayer are published so often these days that to read them all would leave very little time left to pray; but I have been using one recently called It's me, O Lord by Michael Hollings and Etta Gullick. There is a description of prayer which is more of a poem and a meditation than anything else. Here it is:

"The important thing about prayer is that it is almost indefinable. You see, it is: hard and sharp, soft and loving, deep and inexpressible, shallow and repetitious, a groaning and a sighing.

"A silence and a shouting, a burst of praise digging deep down into loneliness, into me. Loving. Abandonment to despair, a soaring to heights which can be only ecstasy, dull plodding in the greyness of mediocre being - laziness, boredom, resentment.

"Questing and questioning, calm reflection, meditation, cogitation, A surprise at sudden joy, a shaft of light, a laser beam. Irritation at not understanding, impatience, pain of mind and body hardly uttered or deeply anguished.

"Being together, the stirring of love shallow, then deeper, then deepest. A breathless involvement, a meeting, a longing, a loving, an inpouring.''

Prayer is . . . resentment . . . irritation . . . impatience. Does that surprise you? It took me a long time to learn to bring my resentments to the Lord, as well as my joys and requests. Yet l think we should. Our whole lives should be, are, open to God and He knows what is there deep down. It is only by bringing our anger and irritations out into the open that He can deal with them, even direct them, for good. That is good psychology, and it is good Christian living too. And in the cleansing process comes the realization and experience of love - shallow, then deeper, and a real meeting and involvement with the Lord.

Lord, teach me to pray.

It sounds exciting, put like that.
It sounds real. An exploration.
A chance to do more than catalogue
and list the things I want,
to an eternal Father Christmas.

The chance of meeting you,
of drawing closer to the love that mode me,
and keeps me, and knows me.
And, Lord, it's only just begun.
There is so much more of you,
of love, the limitless expanse of knowing you.
I could be frightened, Lord, in this wide country.
It could be lonely, but you are here, with me.

The chance of learning about myself,
of facing up to what I am.
Admitting my resentments,
bringing my anger to you, my disappointments. my frustration.
And finding that when l do,
when I stop struggling and shouting
and let go
you are still there.
Still loving.

Sometimes, Lord, often -
I don't know know what to say to you.
But I still come, in quiet
for the comfort of two friends
sitting in silence.
And it's then. Lord, that I learn most from you.
When my mind slows down,
and my heart stops racing.
When I let go and wait in the quiet,
realizing that all the things I was going to ask for
you know already.
Then, Lord, without words,
in the stillness
you are there . . .
And l love you.

Lord, teach me to pray.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Broken We Kneel

One day [my daughter] Emma saw a woman
Walking toward us covered in a veil and asked the
Inevitable, “What’s that, mommy?”

“Emma,” I answered, “that lady is a Muslim from
a far away place. And she dresses like that – and
covers her head with a veil – because she loves
God. That is how her people show they love God.”

My daughter considered these words. She stared
at the woman who passed us. She pointed at the
woman, then pointed at my hair, and further
quizzed, “Mommy, do you love God?”

“Yes, honey.” I laughed. “I do. You and I are
Christians. Christian ladies show love for God
by going to church, eating the bread and wine,
serving the poor, and giving to those in need. We
don’t wear veils, but we do love God.”

After this, Emma took every opportunity to point
to Muslim women during our shopping trips and
tell me, “Mommy, look, she loves God.” One day,
we were getting out of our car at our driveway at
the same time as our Pakistani neighbors. Emma
saw the mother, beautifully veiled, and, pointing at
her shouted, “Look, mommy, she loves God!”

My neighbor was surprised. I told her what I had
taught Emma about Muslim ladies loving God.
While she held back tears, this near stranger
hugged me, saying, “I wish all Americans
would teach their children so. The world would be
better. The world would be better.

Taken from Broken We Kneel
By Diana Butler Bass

(Quoted from McLaren, B. A Generous Orthodoxy. Pgs 298-299)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker

I submit this not because of Obama but because of the Spirituality this letter contains (esp. from the second paragraph on) - I think it speaks to all of us.

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

What is Real

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pretty Amazing Grace

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me
pretty amazing grace is who You are
I was an empty vessel
You filled me up inside
and with amazing grace restored my pride

Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me
and with amazing grace reclaimed my heart
love in the midst of chaos
calm in the heat of war
showed with amazing grace what love was for

You forgave my insensitivity
and my attempt to then mislead You
You stood beside a wretch like me
Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed.

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel
humbled and awed by everything I found
beauty and love surround me
freed me from what I fear
ask for amazing grace and You appear

You overcame my loss of hope and faith
gave me a truth I could belive in
You led me to a higher place
showed Your amazing grace
when grace was what I needed

look in a mirror I see Your reflection
open a book You live on every page
I fall and You're there to lift me
share every road I climb
and with amazing grace You ease my mind

Came to You with empty pockets first
when I returned I was rich man
didn't believe love could quench my thirst
but with amazing grace You showed me that it can

In Your amazing grace I had a vision
from that amazing place I came to be
into the night I wandered
wandering aimlessly
found Your amazing grace to comfort me.

pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing

You overcame my loss of hope and faith,
gave me a truth I could believe in.
You led me to that higher place
showed me that love and truth and hope and grace were all I needed.

--Neil Diamond from his latest album "Home Before Dark"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spirituality

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.
---Anthony de Mello

Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

There once was a simple farmer who lived and struggled alongside his neighbours and friends, trying to exist and fulfil a peaceful life. One day news arrived from far away, that his old loving father had died. His neighbours gathered to grieve, but the farmer simply said, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

In time relatives brought a very fine horse of great cost and fine breeding, left to the farmer by his father. All the villagers and neighbours gathered in delight with him to celebrate his good fortune, but he just said, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer's neighbours sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"

Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

(Ancient Chinese story told in Anthony
de Mello's book, "The Song of the Bird")

Chinese idiom: Sai Weng Shi Ma, Yan Zhi Fei Fu

PUSHING AGAINST THE ROCK

There was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man's mind such as; "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time and it hasn't budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it? Etc." Thus, giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. "Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough."

And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord" he said, "I have laboured long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimetre. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

To this the Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your hands are callused from constant pressure; your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in my wisdom. This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Our greatest fear

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson
(sometimes (incorrectly) ascribed to Nelson Mandela)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Political Spirituality

OK, I know this is not really what this blog is all about but I have said before that politics and Spirituality cannot be separated.

As you may have heard, today the ANC decided to recall the President of SA, Thabo Mbeki. According to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe this was done "as an effort to heal and unite the ANC". That's all fine and well, my question is, "What about the COUNTRY!!!!" What about the people???

The only reason I can see the ANC would want to "heal and unite the ANC" is because they are concerned about next years elections. There seems to be no concern about the criminal intent of either Jacob Zuma or Thabo Mbeki or anybody for that matter. The real issue surely is the criminality of the arms deal. A commission of inquiry is what is needed to get to the bottom of the issue not party politics.

Once again, we have a case of government serving their own needs instead of the country or the people.

Once again we pray, "Your Kingdom come (Lord God) your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

We need God's people to play a prophetic role once again and hold our government accountable.

OK, rant over.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spirituality

This is a wordle of this blog:

If Only I Had Known

If only I had known the cost of human greed,
perhaps I would have reached out more to those in need.
But now I see the truth across the great divide!
If only I had known and changed,” the rich man cried.

If only we could see which bargains in the store
are made in dismal sweatshops that oppress the poor.
For each subsistence wage—each tiny, crippling stitch—
makes wider the divide between the poor and rich.

And, too, if we could hear a mother’s lullaby;
she’s singing now to calm her hungry toddler’s cry.
For rich ones came one day, took land and water rights,
and left the poor with hopeless days and hungry nights.

If only we could learn what keeps us wanting more:
we build our bigger barns so we’ll feel more secure.
But you alone, O God, give true security;
possessed by our possessions, we cannot be free.

O Christ, if we could know God’s will for all the earth!
And yet, by your own Spirit, you have shown God’s truth:
“Do justice, help the poor, share life and love and land,
and when you see the hungry, open wide your hand.”

by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Monday, September 15, 2008

It all comes back to you!

Even the simplest everyday actions can have an impact on the environment. And in the end they all come back to us.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lord God, your love has called us here

Lord God, your love has called us here
As we, by love, for love were made',
Your living likeness still we bear,
Though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed;
We come, with all our heart and mind,
Your call to hear, your love to find.

We come with self-inflicted pains
Of broken trust and chosen wrong,
Half-free, half-bound by inner chains,
By social forces swept along,
By powers and systems close confined,
Yet seeking hope for humankind.

Lord God, in Christ you call our name,
And then receive us as your own,
Not through some merit, right or claim,
But by your gracious love alone;
We strain to glimpse your mercy-seat,
And find you kneeling at our feet.

Then take the towel, and break the bread,
And humble us, and call us friends;
Suffer and serve till all are fed,
And show how grandly love intends
To work till all creation sings,
To fill all worlds, to crown all things.

Lord God, in Christ you set us free
Your life to live, your joy to share;
Give us your Spirit's liberty
To turn from guilt and dull despair
And offer all that faith can do,
While love is making all things new.

Brian A. Wren (1936 – )

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Q & A (Matthew 16:13-20)

when it shows up
on the test
('who do you say I am?')
i quickly flip open the book
and copy out the answers . . .

for
'Son of the living God'
has become a research paper
(hopefully expanding into
a dissertation)
with experts, writing
in several languages,
quoted to support my view,
but a real Person:
calling me to follow;
willing to open my shut mind;
hoping to send me out
to confront the powers
in my corner of the world?

and
i have said
'Lord'
so many times
that i have lost count,
but the instances
i have (actually,
willingly, eagerly)
given you control of my life?
even if i include the
thumb on my counting hand,
i still have several fingers
left over . . .

so maybe i need
to close the book,
and open my self
to you.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

You are known. I know you. I created you. I am still creating you. And I have loved you from your mother’s womb. You have fled - as you now know - from my love; but I love you nevertheless and not-the-less, and however far you flee, it is I who sustain your very power of fleeing; and I will never finally let you go. I accept you as you are. You are beloved, and you are forgiven. I know all your personal sufferings. I have always known them. For beyond your understanding, when you suffer, I suffer as well. I also know all the little tricks by which you try to hide - from yourself and others - the ugliness you have made of your life. But know that, from my view, you are beautiful, more deeply within than you can see. You are beautiful because you yourself, in the unique person that only you are, reflect already something of the beauty of my holiness in a way which shall never end. And I, perhaps I alone, truly see the beauty that you shall become. Through the transforming power of my love, which is made perfect in humility and weakness, you shall become perfectly beautiful - in a unique and irreplaceable way, which neither you nor I will work out alone, for we shall work it out together.
-Charles Robinson-

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sanctus Real

If weakness is a wound that no one wants to speak of
Then "cool" is just how far we have to fall
I am not immune, I only want to be loved
But I feel safe behind the firewall

Can I lose my need impress?
If you want the truth I need to confess

I'm not alright, I'm broken inside
And all I go through, it leads me to you

Burn away the pride
Bring me to my weakness
Until everything I hide behind is gone
And when I'm open wide with nothing left to cling to
Only you are there to lead me on.

Honestly, I'm not that strong.

I'm not alright... that's why I need you.

- Sanctus Real

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Flame

“THE FLAME”

(lyrics by Joe Henry, sung by Trisha Yearwood
at the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympics)

Oh come ye now unto the flame: keep it through the night
Nourish it and share its warmth and spend its precious light
The torch is passed among us all to help us understand
A covenant of brotherhood that joins our open hands

We are standing at the edge faced with just one choice
Help each other to be kind and let our hearts rejoice
As different as we seem to be, we are still the same
Divided by our separate walls, but joined before the flame

Oh come ye now unto the flame: keep it through the night
Shelter and embrace its warmth and spread its precious light
The darkness makes us all afraid, but we are not alone
The beacon of our common love will guide our journey home

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Spirituality of the Cellphone

On the 30 March 2008 Shane Hipps did a talk at Mars Hill on The Spirituality of the Cellphone. It is really amazing. You can download it here and I would highly recommend that you do - it is well worth the listen.

It's actually more about the spirituality of the electronic age in general and speaks about how electronics disconnects us as much as it connects us. There is no substitute for physical presence.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I CHOOSE

It's quiet. It's early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming. In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of the solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day's demands. It is now that I must make a choice. And so,

I CHOOSE LOVE...

No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I CHOOSE JOY...

I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical . . . the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I CHOOSE PEACE...

I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I CHOOSE PATIENCE...

I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Rather than complaining that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I CHOOSE KINDNESS...

I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone, kind to the rich, for they are afraid, and kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I CHOOSE GOODNESS...

I will go without a Rand before I take a dishonest one. I will see the good in others when it is hard to find. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS...

Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My spouse will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their parents will forget them.

I CHOOSE GENTLENESS...

Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I CHOOSE SELF-CONTROL...

I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. I choose self-control.

LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, AND SELF-CONTROL...

The Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek God's face. When this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Shack

I finished this book over a week ago but I've been putting off commenting on it partly because I don't really know where to start and I don't want to do the book an injustice but also because I'm not sure how to respond. This is not a review just some thoughts:
I enjoyed the book.
I loved the theology.
I found parts deeply profound and moving.
I found some of the conversations too "trite" and "easy" (here's where I start to struggle).
Having been through some really difficult times myself I though that Mac accepted things too easily - but I realise that is a little unfair - I just wanted him to fight a little more. At times it reminded me a little of the "Touched by and Angel" TV series - a little too soppy.
Having said that I know that it was originally written for Paul's children to introduce them to some deep themes - and Paul obviously has a strong personal faith and has worked through the issues he grapples with in the story personally. That's why I'm hesitant to "criticise". I know that it's not a theological treatise on Theodicy. I just know that people I've dealt with struggle more deeply with these issues than Mac seems to have.
It was very personal for me too as my greatest fear in life is to lose one of my children and I don't think I'd let God off so easily if it happened to me.
But that is the strength of the book - it allows us to grapple a little with some very real issues. It gives us a launch-pad to work through those issues ourselves.
I think the key is to remember that it is a STORY - stories can be powerful tools of healing but they are tools - they can never provide all the answers.
I think everyone should read this book but don't expect too much from it - it can change you and your thinking or it can just be a good story.
(Hopefully the fact that I've rambled a bit will show you how I struggled to write this - READ THE BOOK FOR YOURSELF!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

God’s Love

This morning a chain of thought began as I watched my daughter going off to school. It’s difficult to explain but a wave of love suddenly welled up within me and I actually felt a physical pain within me. This started me thinking of God’s love for us. I have always said that I have begun to understand God’s love far more since having children. One of the images that God uses to illustrate God’s love for us is that of Parent-Child.

I love my children in a way that is different from the way I love my wife – not less, just different. The love I have for them is different from the love I felt in the early days of my relationship with my wife – that young love of infatuation that also caused a physical pain within me (you know what I mean). And I thought, “Wow! God loves me like that too. I wonder if it also causes that kind of pain for him?”

My children irritate me at times, they frustrate me, they even make me really angry at times – but I still love them with a love that is so deeply entrenched within me. One of my greatest fears is of something bad happening to them – it would . . . I don’t know really – but it would hurt – BIG TIME!!! It would even destroy a part of me. That’s how God loves us.

But then I thought, God also uses images of loving us like a spouse and even like a lover (just read Song of Songs). Then I thought of Hosea and how God used Hosea’s life to illustrate God’s love for us. God asked Hosea to marry a prostitute – an outcast, one who is un-loved and God asked Hosea to buy her back even after she had betrayed Hosea and ended up being sold into slavery – and God used Hosea to show how God loves us.

That’s how God loves us. Are you getting it? God’s love is BIG – VERY BEEEG!!!! And, nothing can separate us from that love.

In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son---will he not also freely give us all things? Who will accuse God's chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us! Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, "For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below---there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Spirituality I define as becoming conscious of and intentional about our relationship to God. I say conscious of because I firmly maintain that we are all already in a relationship with God and we have been so since our very beginning, whether we know that or not, believe that or not. Spirituality is about becoming conscious of that relationship. I say intentional because I see spirituality as being about paying attention to that relationship, being intentional about deepening that relationship and letting that relationship grow. Just as human relationships grow and deepen through spending time in them and paying attention to them, so also our relationship with God grows in this same way."

~From the sermon "Jesus and the Christian Life" by Dr. Marcus J. Borg

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Morgan (7) & Tyla (4) (my daugther's) are playing:

Tyla: I kill you!
Me (from the background): No killing allowed (trying to instill pacifist leanings into children)
Morgan: But Dad, there's always bad guys
Me: Yes, but no killing allowed!
Morgan: So, what do we do with the bad guys?
Me: Put them in jail - no killing allowed
Morgan: What if they get sick in jail and die?
Me: Well, that's different . . . just so long as you're not killing . . .
Morgan: OK! So, you go to jail, get sick and die!

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Somewhere someone"

The kingdom of love is coming because:
somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind,
somewhere someone shares with another in need,
somewhere someone refuses to hate, while others hate,
somewhere someone is patient - and waits in love,
somewhere someone returns good for evil,
somewhere someone serves another, in love,
somewhere someone is calm in a storm,
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you?
(jke)

This morning I did something that seemed very small and insignificant to me - just being polite and friendly really - but the response was, "Are you from heaven?".

This got me thinking - isn't this what it's all about? Wouldn't it be great if we all lived as if we were from heaven?

When I say "heaven" I don't mean some place up in the clouds where angels play harps, I mean God's Kin-dom - the universe the way it's designed by God to work - the kind of world God dreams of for all people.

If everyone just treated one another with respect and dignity (dare I say love) we might experience heaven on earth - God's Kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I hope more people think I'm from "heaven" - I would love everyone I interact with to think I'm from "heaven" because then I might be a part of God's dream to mend the universe (and all universes beyond).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gift of Worship

video

From:
http://floodgateproductions.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=271

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some not so Zen Wisdom (yes, humour is also spirituality):


* Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.
* The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
* It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbors' newspaper, that's the time to do it.
* Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
* Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
* Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
* If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
* Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
* If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
* Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
* If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
* If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
* Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.
* Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
* A closed mouth gathers no foot.
* Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
* Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
* Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
* Never miss a good chance to shut up.
* Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thot for the Day:

Religion is a social construct of a much deeper reality

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite

Bloggers Unite is an initiative designed to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, a single voice can be joined with thousands of others to help make a real positive difference; from raising awareness for cancer, to an effort to better education systems or support 3rd world countries.

Today's the day to blog about Human Rights.

It always fascinates me how people sometimes react when we talk about human rights within the context of Spirituality. Some people seem to think theirs no relationship between the two. I believe that Human Rights and Spirituality are extremely closely related.

Spirituality is, in part, about becoming truly human and so anything that robs us of being truly human is an issue of Spirituality.

A few days ago I was teaching about the "Kingdom of God" that Jesus spoke about so frequently when one lady suddenly said, "Doesn't that mean that we (Christ-followers) should be more involved in politics?" and I was overjoyed because that's exactly it.

Jesus said, ""(God) has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed (Luk 4:18)

He also taught his followers to pray saying, "may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Mat 6:10)

The Kingdom of God that Jesus was talking about is realising God's dream for the universe
here and now not escaping this world one day when we die.

We are all invited to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to set free the oppressed. That's Spirituality!

So, whatever we do, we should striving to liberate people from oppression and injustice. Whatever your passion is let's make sure that our Spirituality is not divorced from the realities around us.

Stand up for Human Rights today and every day in small ways and in big ways - any way you can.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

spoilsport

personally
(and please don't
take this personally)
there are those times
when i wish i were an
orphan . . .

then,
i could ditch
my Easter outfit
and put on my
all-too-human skin
again;
then,
i could
be cranky
without guilt
belaboring the point;
then,
i might just enjoy
treating people
the way they seem
to enjoy treating me.

But nooooo!
You have to go
and make Spirit
my sibling . . .

and spoil all my sin.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman
(based on John 14:15-21)
http://prayersfortoday.blogspot.com/2008/04/spoilsport.html

I have never met Thom but I wish I could - he is one of my heroes of the faith.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Motivational Quotes of the Day for April 16, 2008
http://www.quotationspage.com/mqotd.html
----------------------------------
Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth.
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.
-- Arthur Ashe

The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.
-- Anita Roddick, A Revolution in Kindness, 2003

The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.
-- Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, Rosebud, 1993

Monday, February 18, 2008

NOTICE

Attention! Behind these doors we worship regularly with liars, thieves, gossips, backbiters, people with troubled marriages, alcoholics and drug addicts. We welcome hypocrites and jealous, envious, coveting, materialistic sinners of all sizes, shapes and colours.

But the good news is that we all have something in common. We have all learned that the Church, the body of Christ, is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. We have all learned that the Lord is our rest, that he reaches out to save us, and that we are the redeemed community of the saints.

We come here to worship and to praise God, and to continually plan how we might be better agents of change, salt and light in a darkened world that needs the good news that Jesus saves. You are welcome, but be warned, that we take Christianity seriously!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dandelion clock

Hope is a dark elusive child
curled in the womb
cradled in our arms.
It can be lost,
disappear,
blown on the wind like a dandelion clock.

Its going,
its ebbing away
leaves us
grieving,
empty,
hopeless.

‘But’ is a hopeful word.

But even as the gossamer
powder puff
disintegrates,
the seeds are carried
to cling to distant crevices.
As it recedes
it reseeds
to grow again.

God, giver of peace,
grow hope within and around us.
God of steadfast love,
never leave us hopeless.

Galloway, K (ed.) The Pattern of our Days, 1996: Wild Goose Publications

Saturday, February 02, 2008

this year

i've gotten rid
of all junk:
chips, chocolate, cola;
the fridge is now stocked
with fruits, veggies, juice -
this is the year
i get into shape!

no more contrived reality,
no more glazed eyes
from watching "Idol" wannabes;
it's public radio and tv,
it's a stack of bios from the library -
this is the year
i form new habits!

but you would
take my twisted logic
about 'who deserves'
and reshape it
into compassion;

you would
take my bitter heart
and fill it with
hope and joy;

you would
take my hurtful ways,
and reform them
into acts of gentleness;

this is the year
you take delight
in making me
a servant!

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman
http://prayersfortoday.blogspot.com/2008/01/this-year.html

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Hospitality has lost its edge in the contemporary church.
We no longer see it as a weighty moral issue;
it is now more about manners than morals...
But the hospitality of Jesus was controversial.
He chafed against the limits of social propriety
by welcoming prostitutes and adulterers,
crooks and outcasts into his gracious presence.
His hospitality knew no limit.
It was not just indiscriminate: it was promiscuous."

"The Other 'H' Word,"
Mark Ralls,
The Christian Century
, 2005.