Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Five: Prayer of Quiescence

Jan wrote: At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled “Turning to the Mystics” at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being.

So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:

Jan labeled her post Prayer of Silence (or not). As you might have already noticed mine is titled the Prayer of Quiescence. My answers to Jan's questions below should make clear why I chose my title.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Aliens, Refugees, Illegal Immigrants, and Global Citizens

1 planet - 57.5 million miles of surface land - 7 billion people - 1215 million live on less than $1.25 per day  - 43.7 million refugees/displaced. That's what the data shows. Today, June 20 is World Refugee Day and here are my reflections on not just refugees but also global citizenship. Just for comparison purposes, I start with other statistics intending absolutely no correlation, if you'll pardon the pun. The US population is 313.9 million (2012) and the population of California is 38 million. Of these, 11.5 million people are illegal immigrants and it is estimated that only 7.7 million will qualify for legal status under the new immigration bill that is currently being debated by our government leaders. Worldwide, the number of people who are refugees/displaced is greater than the population of the whole state of California and its only 4 times the number of illegal immigrants in the US. California though has about 239 people per square mile while the United States has 87. Refugees and stateless people, by definition, have no land at all, no place they can call home. Who are these people and where do they come from? Who is helping them and what does the Bible say about refugees? What can followers of Jesus do to help refugees/stateless peoples?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Parents Day

Every 7 years Father's Day falls on my Mother's birthday and then, its time to celebrate Parents Day. I'm celebrating it this year with a short story about my parents who gave so much of themselves so that I could become the person God created me to be and also enjoy a fulfilling life.

"Is this how your birthday parties were?" he asked. We were sitting in the home of my cousin's family singing songs of praise and giving thanks to God as part of their son's graduation from high school. "I didn't have any birthday parties," I replied.  "What? No birthday parties?" He couldn't believe it. "Well, my English cousins had birthday parties when their mom was still with them. I remember celebrating a couple of those with party hats and firecrackers. But we didn't have any birthday parties," I replied. I could see the incredulity in his eyes. What kind of parents didn't celebrate their children's birthdays? He knew I didn't feel deprived and had enjoyed my childhood. I thought of all the American kids I knew whose parents put in a lot of thought, time, effort, and money to celebrate their children's birthdays every year. Often it didn't seem to matter to the kids. The kids still felt abandoned, alienated, isolated. How do I explain that there are better ways to raise a child than celebrating his or her birthday? What will convince the average American that an annual birthday celebration is unnecessary, an undreamed of and often unknown event for probably 5 billion, if not more, of the 7 billion people living on our planet?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Los Ranchos Discernment Event 3

"Leaving the PC(USA) is not the only option," began Dana Allin, Executive Director of the ECO Synod. The folks considering departure are doing so for a number of reasons including:
1) fundamental authority of Scripture has been damaged;
2) instead of "in obedience to Scripture" the language has now been changed to "be guided by Scripture." At the PC(USA) General Assembly 80% did not want to be "in obedience to Scripture." This is the erosion of the centrality of Jesus in the new Book of Order; and
3) not only standards have changed but critical evangelicals are forbidden to publicly express their dissent. If you try to make Scripture the authority you are not welcome in PC(USA).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good Without God (Book Review)

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." This is the definition I found on the website of the American Humanist Association, an organization that has been in existence for about 70 years in the United States and whose motto is Good without God. Humanism, of course, has existed far longer in the history of mankind. One of its greatest periods was during the 16th/17th century Renaissance, and hence called Renaissance Humanism, when learning and rationalism in the arts and sciences triumphed over centuries of medieval superstition, supernaturalism, and ignorance. In recent times, humanism has been on the rise again; last month the British Humanist Association, called into question again, the Church of England's position as the established national church of the United Kingdom in light of the new attendance statistics they had just released. I have often been complimented as a humanist myself. Many followers of Jesus subscribe to aspects of humanist philosophy (indeed it is hard not to do so and it is not always wrong either) without realizing it; the danger arises when we are unaware of our own deep-seated influences, prejudices, false idols, and the many blind spots that may be hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, it is my delight and honor to present Don Major's review of Epstein's Good Without God.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Freedom from Darkness: Living in the Light

Quality of life. Freedom from death. This weekend I heard just such a story of freedom. I was so touched that I want to share it as widely as possible.

Sunday was the second teaching from Colossians in a dramatically titled new sermon series, Playmaker, Prophet, Priest & King: The Supremacy of Christ. It was on Colossians 1. 9-14. In verses  9-11 Paul is joyful having heard from Epaphras about the faith of the Colossians. He prays with high expectations for the Colossians to be filled with Christ. Pr. Scott asked: Do we pray with high hopes or low expectations? How much joy do we have when people come to know Jesus? What is the transformation from darkness to living in light? Then, we heard from Barbara B. Grace. Dignity. Joy. In Christ. I give you Barbara, in her own words, below.

This is a story of beginnings and endings, light out of darkness and hope.