Monday, November 05, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come (on Earth)

Where in all the scriptures does God comfort [us] with a hereafter? The earth shall be filled with the glory of God. According to the Bible, that is the meaning of all the promises. Jesus, come in the flesh, what is his will? Of course, nothing other than the honor of his Father on earth. In his own person, through his advent, he put a seed into the earth. He would be the light of [humankind]; and those who were his he called "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth." His purpose is the raising up of the earth and the generations of [humanity] out of the curse of sin and death toward the revelation of eternal life and glory.
Why else did he heal the sick and wake the dead? Why did he exalt the poor and hungry? Surely not in order to tell them that they would be blessed after death, but because the kingdom of God was near. Of course, God has a way out for those who, unfortunately, must suffer death; [God] gives them a refuge in the beyond. But shall this necessary comfort now be made the main thing? Shall the kingdom of God be denied for earth and perpetuated only in the kingdom of death, simply because God wants also to dry the tears of the dead? It is to discard the whole meaning of the Bible if one argues, "We have nothing to expect on earth; it must be abandoned..."
Truly, within the human structures of sin, we have no lasting home; we must seek what is coming. But what is it, then, that is coming? The revealing of an earth cleansed of sin and death. This is the homeland we seek. There is no other to be sought, because we do not have, and there cannot come to be, anything other than what God intended for us in the creation.

—From Thy Kingdom Come: A Blumhardt Reader edited by Vernard Eller

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The spiritual life

The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now. Therefore we need to begin with a careful look at the way we think, speak, feel, and act from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, and year to year, in order to become more fully aware of our hunger for the Spirit.
As long as we have only a vague inner feeling of discontent with our present way of living, and only an indefinite desire for "things spiritual," our lives will continue to stagnate in a generalized melancholy. We often say, "I am not very happy. I am not content with the way my life is going. I am not really joyful or peaceful, but I just don't know how things can be different, and I guess I have to be realistic and accept my life as it is." It is this mood of resignation that prevents us from actively searching for the life of the Spirit.
Our first task is to dispel the vague, murky feeling of discontent and to look critically at how we are living our lives. This requires honesty, courage, and trust. We must honestly unmask and courageously confront our many self-deceptive games. We must trust that our honesty and courage will lead us not to despair, but to a new heaven and a new earth.
—From Making All Things New by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, August 06, 2012


The woman potter summarized not only the making of a pot but her basic belief about life:

Both my hands shaped this pot. And, the place where it actually forms is a place of tension between the pressure applied from the outside and the pressure of the hand on the inside. That's the way my life has been. Sadness and death and misfortune and the love of friends and all the things that happened to me that I didn't even choose. All of that influenced my life. But, there are things I believe in about myself, my faith in God and the love of some friends that worked on the insides of me. My life, like this pot, is the result of what happened on the outside and what was going on inside of me. Life, like this pot, comes to be in places of tension. Life comes to be when we learn how to avoid looking for answers and finally learn how to ask the questions that will bring us to life.

(From: Growing Strong at Broken Places by Paula Ripple)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Living Simply

Today's global realities call for comfortable Christians to review their lifestyle. Guidelines for a simpler style of life cannot be laid down in universal rules; they must be developed by individuals and communities according to their own imagination and situation. A simpler lifestyle is not a panacea. It may be embarked upon for the wrong reasons, e.g., out of guilt, as a substitute for political action, or in a quest for moral purity. But it can also be meaningful and significant in some or all of the following ways:

  1. As an act of faith performed for the sake of personal integrity and as an expression of a personal commitment to a more equitable distribution of the world's resources.
  2. As an act of self-defense against the mind-and-body-polluting effects of overconsumption.
  3. As an act of withdrawal from the achievement neurosis of our high-pressure, materialistic societies.
  4. As an act of solidarity with the majority of human kind, which has no choice about lifestyle.
  5. As an act of sharing with others what has been given to us, or of returning what was usurped by us through unjust social and economic structures.
  6. As an act of celebration of the riches found in creativity, spirituality, and community with others, rather than in mindless materialism.
  7. As an act of provocation  (ostentatious  underconsumption) to arouse curiosity leading to dialog with others about affluence, alienation, poverty, and social injustice.
  8. As an act of anticipation of the era when the self-confidence and assertiveness of the underprivileged forces new power relationships and new patterns of resource allocation upon us.
  9. As an act of advocacy of legislated changes in present patterns of production and consumption, in the direction of a new international economic order.
  10. As an exercise of purchasing power to redirect production away from the satisfaction of artificially created wants, toward the supplying of goods and services that meet genuine social needs.

The adoption of a simpler lifestyle is meaningful and justifiable for any or all of the above reasons alone, regardless of whether it benefits the underprivileged. Demands for "proof of effectiveness" in helping the poor simply bear witness to the myth that "they the poor" are the problem, and "we the rich" have a solution. Yet, if adopted on a large scale, a simpler lifestyle will have significant socio-political side effects both in the rich and in the poor parts of the world. The two most important side effects are likely to be economic and structural adjustments and release of new resources and energies for social change.

—From David Crean in Living Simply edited by David Crean and Eric and Helen Ebbeson

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I have heard this story before but was reminded of it by a friend:


The story is told of the man whose son complained about the terrible circumstances he was facing. The boy said he didn't know how to cope with the adversity of his life.

The father took his son into the kitchen and had him put water in three pots. He had the boy put a carrot in one, an egg in another, and coffee beans in the thrid. Then they put the pots on the stove, turned on the heat until the water boiled for several minutes in each pot. They then turned off the burners and, using a pair of kitchen tongs, removed the carrot and the egg from their pots, and poured the contents of the third through a strainer into a cup. The dad asked the boy what happened to each. In the first pot, the carrot had become soft; in the second, the egg had become hard, and in the third, the water had changed to coffee.

"The lesson," said the father, "is this: adversity can make you soft by weakening your resolve and sapping your strength; or adversity can make you hard, by making you bitter or mean; or you can change the water of adversity into the coffee of opportunity."

I've been trying to make coffee the last 6-8 weeks. In fact, a lot of coffee! We have had continual, repeated, aggravating, pain-in-the-kazoo, frustrating problems with our internet and email server. The technicians have been out, multiple times, and each left with assurances
that 'you won't have any more problems." And within 24 hours, we would have to call back.

I've lost emails that I thought had reached people, and not received emails folks thought I had gotten (and wondered why I had not responded). We can't maintain our website efficiently. And I finally gave up on trying to do Occasional Sightings. Indeed, my 'strength' (at least cyber-wise) has been sapped, and I border on bitterness towards the service provider, when not wanting to throw the whole system out the window!

But now, I've decided to make coffee. I am trying to do so while using a breath prayer in such moments. I use the word 'frustration' in mine right now, but you can put your own emotion in:

Breathing in, I know frustration is in me.
Breathing out, I know the feeling is unpleasant.
(after a while), Breathing in, I feel calm.
Breathing out, I can let go of the frustration.
(after a while longer) Breathing in, I am at peace.
Breathing out, I offer peace to others.

Can I pour you a cup of coffee?

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Letting go

There is a story told of two monks in Japan, "travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. 'Come on, girl,' said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. 'We monks don't go near females,' he told Tanzan, 'especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?' 'I left the girl there,' said Tanzan. 'Are you still carrying her?'"

From: Prayer by Simon Tugwell

You are known

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,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The revolutionary nature of compassion.

Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of "lawfulness" in Jesus' time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context.

—From The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

Real Love

I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among (people) of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will not be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal. I do not speak of helping them, because as far as that goes I am unfortunately quite incapable of doing anything as yet.

—From Waiting for God by Simone Weil