Saturday, December 25, 2010

Turning a corner

Jesus exploded into the life of ancient Israel -- the life of the whole world, in fact -- not as a teacher of timeless truths, nor as a great moral example, but as one through whose life, death and resurrection God's rescue operation was put into effect, and the cosmos turned its great corner at last.

N.T. Wright
Simply Christian

Friday, December 24, 2010

Incarnation

For me, the Incarnation is the place, if you will, where hope contends with fear. Not an antique doctrine at all, but reality - as ordinary as my everyday struggles with fears great and small, as exalted as the hope that allows me some measure of peace when I soldier on in the daily round.

Kathleen Norris
Amazing Grace

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prison and Advent

Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other--things that are really of no consequence--the door is shut and can be opened only from the outside.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Tegel Prison: November 21, 1943 - To Eberhard Bethge

Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Solidarity

The very first statement Jesus ever voiced about his concern for the poor, oppressed, marginalized people was when he cried out as one of them--eyes shut tight, mouth open wide, wailing, kicking ...It was one of the most profound acts of solidarity with the poor he could make.

Scott Bessenecker
The New Friars

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Weakness

If I am to seek for answers to my questions, or even for the questions to ask in the first place, I must hold on to this failure [Jesus], but it isn’t easy, so far have we strayed from the original vision. We don’t understand the method in his madness. His coming to us as a human child, in total weakness, was the greatest act of warfare against the powers of hate and chaos that I know. And if I, too, am to fight in this battle, it is from his weakness that I must draw my strength.

Madeleine L’Engle
The Irrational Season

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiness is...


…Holiness is… more than a moral or imitative quality. It is the embracing of their own uniqueness, a work that in most cases involves a radical and dangerous experiment in their own relationship with the institution . No one breaks through into the energy of the spirit just by doing what is expected of them or by what ensures security and immediate approval…


From Fr Laurence Freeman's Foreword to the 2009 collection of essays entitled, John Main: The Expanding Vision.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Loneliness

The roots of loneliness are very deep and cannot be touched by optimistic advertisement, substitute love images or social togetherness. They find their food in the suspicion that there is no one who cares and offers love without conditions, and no place where we can be vulnerable without being used.

Henri Nouwen
Reaching Out

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Images

When a religion aggressively proselytizes and seeks to transform the world, its most important resource is its images. It is image that transforms the imagination, and it is imagination that engenders a lifestyle. And what globalization does better than anything else is transform the imagination. That is why the entertainment and advertising industries are the first wave of the emerging global consciousness.

Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire

Monday, December 06, 2010

Place

A place, I repeat, is a somewhere that isn’t going anywhere. So an experience of a place can befall us only when we do the same.

David James Duncan

My Story as Told by Water

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fasting

Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God. At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering sister and brother. This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day.

Pope Benedict XVI
"The Great Joy of Fasting" 12.11.08

Monday, November 29, 2010

Robert Farrar Capon and Universalism


"I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.
"But I am not a universalist if you are talking about what people may do about accepting that happy-go-lucky gift of God’s grace. I take with utter seriousness everything that Jesus had to say about hell, including the eternal torment that such a foolish non-acceptance of his already-given acceptance must entail. All theologians who hold Scripture to be the Word of God must inevitably include in their work a tractate on hell. But I will not — because Jesus did not — locate hell outside the realm of grace. Grace is forever sovereign, even in Jesus’ parables of judgment. No one is ever kicked out at the end of those parables who wasn’t included in at the beginning."
Quoted in the (all too brief) Wikipedia entry on Robert Farrar Capon, without any source, unfortunately.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fasting

Fasting is to be, as St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “a perfect quieting of all our impulses, fleshly and spiritual.” Fasting is not meant to drag us down, but to still us. It is not meant to distract us from the really real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are.

Lauren Winner
Mudhouse Sabbath

Friday, November 26, 2010

Worship as political action

Christians are engaged in political action just by being part of the church. Worship is the leading political activity of Christians. In worship, we sing Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked and defend the oppressed, and God hears our Psalms; we pray for rulers to rule in righteousness; we hear the word of God that lays out our alternative way of life, and we sit at the table where we who are many are formed into one body, an alternative Christian polis, by sharing in the one loaf. The problem is that in many churches those things don’t happen. Churches don’t sing Psalms, and especially don’t sing the hard Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked. More churches are having weekly Eucharist, but in evangelicalism that is still more the exception than the rule. The first political agenda for American Christians is to get worship more into line with Scriptural requirements.

from an interview with Peter Leithart

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Keeping Jesus 'alive'

When emphasis is placed on the divine at the expense of the human (the conservative errror), Jesus becomes an ethereal authority figure who is remote from earthly life and experience. When he is thought of as merely human (the liberal error), he becomes nothing more than a superior social worker or a popular guru.

Gregory Wolfe, The New Religious Humanists, quoted in Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace (pg 174).

Norris adds: The orthodox Christian seeks another way, that of living with paradox, of accepting the ways that seeming duatlities work together in Jesus Christ, and in our own lives.

And in the next paragraph: When I confessed this [her Christianity missing its centre] to a monk, he reassured me by saying, 'Oh, most of us feel that way at one time or another. Jesus is the hardest part of the religion to grasp, to keep alive.'

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

American religion

As I find it, religion in America is characteristically atheistic or agnostic. Religion has virtually nothing to do with God and has little to do with the practical lives of men in society. Religion seems, mainly, to have to do with religion. The churches--particularly of Protestantism--in the United States are, to a great extent, preoccupied with religion rather than with the Gospel.

William Stringfellow
, A Private and Public Faith

Our bodies and eternity


No doubt about it: we’re going to have these bodies forever, though in some transfigured form we can’t now imagine. Out bodies are blessed, but we don’t know how to live harmoniously in them. We drive them like vehicles, use them like tools to dig pleasure, and in the process damage them and distort our capacity to understand them. Fasting disciplines help us to quiet these impulsive demands, so that we can better hear what they need and how they are meant to work. It is a turning towards health, a way of honoring creation and preparing for eternity.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
The Illumined Heart

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kingdom of Heaven as a feast

I understood why Christians imagined the kingdom of heaven as a feast:  a banquet where nobody was excluded, where the weakest and most broken, the worst sinners and outcasts, were honored guests who welcomed one another in peace and shared their food.
Sara Miles
Take This Bread

See the review I wrote of this book. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Liked or loved?


[B]ehind the word 'like' there is an astonishing gentleness. The word 'love' which we have vastly overused can have for us the meaning of a forceful intervention to rescue us, and we can forget that behind a forceful intervention to rescue us, which may indeed be how love is shown in a particular circumstance, there is something much stronger, gentler and more continuous, not dependent at all on needing to rescue us. This is liking us.

What I want to suggest is that the word like in all its gentleness is the word appropriate for the extraordinarily unbothered, non-emergency power we mean by creation. It is that gentle liking that is the sign of a power which could not be in greater contrast with the power of the satanic. A power so gentle and so huge that we are not able to be afraid. In the midst of the false manufacturing of meaning and frightening power displayed by the satanic, we are being taught that our being liked and held in being is at the hands of something infinitely more powerful, infinitely restful, and we can live without fear.

What is being revealed is the power of the Creator. 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' ... It seems to me that the fruit of contemplation in the midst of the violence which is going on about us...is this: as we learn to desire through the eyes of another [Christ's], so we are given the heart of another, and what we learn is the extraordinarily benign, peaceful power of one holding everything in being, liking and delighting in us, without distinction.
James Allison in On Being Liked

Shalom and covenant

“Shalom and berith (“covenant”) are practically synonymous. Shalom refers to the state of those who participate in the harmonious society. Berith refers to the community and all the privileges and obligations that community implies. Covenant and shalom go hand in hand; God’s community must have one to experience the other.”

Jon Stock in Inhabiting the Church (“Stability”, pg 112)

Faithful and tender


“The Hebrew word “hesed” expresses two things: fidelity and tenderness. In our world we can be tender but unfaithful, and faithful without tenderness. The love of God is both tenderness and fidelity. Our world is waiting for communities of tenderness and fidelity. They are coming.”

Jean Vanier in Community and Growth

Paradox and tension

Like most searches for direction, I arrive again at paradox: my life is infinitely valuable and ultimately insignificant. Grasping after either side of this equation leads to dark and isolated places, narcissism on the one side and nihilism on the other. Holding these opposing realities in tension, however, liberates us to do something, to take a step, without fear.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
“Ashes round the yard” in catapult magazine

Monday, November 15, 2010

Change and security


In human beings there is a constant tension between order and disorder, connectedness and loneliness, evolution and revolution, security and insecurity. Our universe is constantly evolving: the old order gives way to a new order and this in its turn crumbles when the next order appears. It is no different in our lives in the movement from birth to death.

Change of one sort or another is the essence of life… when we try to prevent the forward movement of life, we may succeed for a while… but inevitably there is an explosion..

And so empires of ideas, as well as empires of wealth and power, come and go. To live well is to observe in today’s apparent order the tiny anomalies that are the seeds of change, the harbingers of the order of tomorrow. This means living in a state of a certain insecurity, in anguish and loneliness, which, at its best, can push us towards the new. Too much security and the refusal to evolve, to embrace change, leads to a kind of death. Too much insecurity, however, can also mean death. To be human is to create sufficient order so that we can move on into insecurity and seeming disorder. In this way we discover the new.

From Jean Vanier's Becoming Human, chapter 1 (Loneliness)

Andrew Wyeth

I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future -- the timelessness of the rocks and the hills -- all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Andrew Wyeth
“Andrew Wyeth: An Interview” by Richard Meryman
in LIFE Magazine (May 14, 1965)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dorothy Day


The sustained effort of writing, of putting pen to paper so many hours a day when there are human beings around who need me, when there is sickness, and hunger, and sorrow, is a harrowingly painful job. I feel that I have done nothing well. But I have done what I could.

Dorothy Day
The Long Loneliness

God's 'absurd' love

‘The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about the Christian’s faith is that it obviously presumes far too much. It is too good to be true: the mystery of being, revealed as absolute love, condescending to wash his creatures’ feet, and even their souls, taking upon himself all the confusion of guilt, all the God-directed hatred, all the accusations showered upon him with cudgels, all the disbelief that arrogantly covers up what he had revealed, all the mocking hostility that once and for all nailed down his inconceivable movement of self-abasement – in order to pardon his creature, before himself and the world’. – Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 102.)

Doubt and Belief

While reading Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace, particularly the chapter, Belief, Doubt and Sacred Ambiguity, it occurred to me that for both Christians and atheists it isn't the believing we have trouble with, but the doubts - or, you could say, it isn't the doubts we have trouble with, but the believing. And I'm not sure which is the truer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Religion and Truth

Scott Peck wrote that, “there are two reasons people seek religion: to approach reality, and to escape reality.

Similarly, Sir Thomas More wrote: “God help me always to seek the truth; and protect me from those who have found it.”

Unanswered questions

The unanswered questions aren't nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers.

-attributed to Thomas Merton

Friday, November 05, 2010

The core of revelation


In all that babbling of ours we miss the core of biblical revelation when it speaks to our faith and asks questions of us. It will teach us neither the historical nor the physical facts of how the earth began, neither genetics nor cosmology. It asks a question -- a series of questions -- that is; it makes people responsible (obliged to respond) and throws us back upon our freedom.

Jacques Ellul
Living Faith

Awareness


"Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised."

-Shoshana Zuboff

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Held in prayer

"A life in prayer is a life in open hands where you are not ashamed of your weakness but realize that it is more perfect for a [human] to be led by the other than to seek to hold everything in [their] own hand."

- Henri J.M. Nouwen

The neverending search

Christian faith prompts inquiry, searches for deeper understanding, dares to raise questions. How could we ever be finished with the quest for a deeper understanding of God? What would be the likely result if we lacked the courage to ask, Do I rightly know who God is and what God wills?

Daniel Migliore
Faith Seeking Understanding

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Clowns of God


All idolatry springs from a desire for order. We want to be neat, like the animals. We mark out our territories with musk and faeces. We make hierarchies like the bees and ethics like the ants. And we choose gods to set the stamp of approval on our creations. What we cannot cope with is the untidiness of the universe, the lunatic aspect of a cosmos with no known beginning, no visible end and no apparent meaning to all its bustling dynamics. We cannot tolerate its monstrous indifference in the face of all our fears and agonies. The prophets offer us hope; but only the man-god can make the paradox tolerable. This is why the coming of Jesus is a healing and a saving event. He is not what we should have created for ourselves. He is truly the sign of peace because He is the sign of contradiction. His career is a brief tragic failure. He dies in dishonour; but then most strangely, He lives. He is not only yesterday. He is today and tomorrow. He is available to the humblest as to the highest.

But look what we humans have done with Him. We have bloated His simple talk into a babble of philosophies. We have inflated the family of His believers into an imperial bureaucracy, justified only because it exists and cannot be dismantled without a cataclysm. The man who claims to be the custodian of His truth lives in a vast palace, surrounded by celibate males who have never earned a crust by the labour of their hands, never dried a woman's tears or sat with a sick child until sunrise.

The Clowns of God by Morris West, pg 258

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Trinity

...In ‘the Holy Trinity we have to do with God himself, not just modal ways of thinking about God, for the One true God is actually and intrinsically Triune and cannot be truly conceived otherwise. There is in fact no real knowledge of God except through his revealing or naming of himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the three Persons are the One true God. The only God there is, is he who has named himself to Israel as ‘I am who I am/I will be who I will be’, and who as the same Lord has personally come to us as ‘God with us’, clothed with his triune self-revelation and self-designation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The transcendent God who is the free ground of his own eternal Being is none other than the very one who has shown us his face in the Jesus Christ and imparted to us his one Spirit. He is the one Lord God of heaven and earth in whom we believe and whom we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Thomas Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God, 15-16.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seeking

It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less! Only when this fact is fully experienced, accepted, and lived with, does one become fit to hear the simple message of the Gospel - or of any other religious teaching.

Thomas Merton
Faith and Violence

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Being poor costs more


Poor people are forced to pay more for less. Living in conditions day in and day out where the whole area is constantly drained without being replenished. It becomes a kind of domestic colony. And the tragedy is so often -- these forty million people are invisible because America is so affluent, so rich; because our expressways carry us away from the ghetto, we don’t see the poor.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” in A Testament of Hope

In/out of fashion

“Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.”

- Mother Teresa

Monday, October 18, 2010

Killing God...


It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Speaking truth in your heart

....this person speaks truth in his heart. A curious turn of phrase. It is not enough to speak truth with one’s mouth. Not only is there always the question of just what the truth is, and when it might be appropriate to withhold some part of it, but the more serious problem is that truth-telling can become crass or calculating when it loses its moorings in the character of the truth-teller. Hence the harder task of telling truth to oneself. Such honest is a prerequisite of integrity.

Mark Hamilton, discussing Psalm 24

Who is my neighbour?

It seems clear, from reading the daily news if nothing else, that there will always be some in this world who want their holy wars, who will discriminate, vilify, and even kill in the name of God. They have narrowed down the concept of neighbor to include only those like themselves, in terms of creed, caste, race, sex, or sexual orientation. But there is also much evidence that there are many who know that a neighbor might be anyone at all, and are willing to act on that assumption.

Kathleen Norris
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Enormous pockets


We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren't on our lists, people we've never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.

Jonathan Safran Foer
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Monday, October 11, 2010

Living beyond today


These are devastating times: 175 billion people are desperately poor, one billion are hungry. Lonely hearts indwell our neighborhoods and attend our schools. In the midst of it all, here we stand, you, me, and our one-of-a-kind lives. We are given a choice... an opportunity to make a big difference during difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope?

Max Lucado
Outlive Your Life

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Regular prayer

“Prayer that is regular [based on a daily rhythm, like The Office] confounds both self-importance and the wiles of the world. it is so easy for good people to confuse their own work with the work of creation. it is so easy to come to believe that what we do is so much more important than what we are. It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow.. But regularity in prayer cures all that. Regularity harnesses us to our place in the Universe. Morning and evening, season by season, year after year we watch the sun rise and set..w e come to realize that we are simply small parts of a continuing creation..

“Benedict called for prayer at regular intervals of each day, right in the middle of apparently urgent and important work. The message is unequivocal. Let no one forget what they are really about. Let now one forget the purpose of life. Let no one forget to remember. Ever.

“To pray in the midst of the mundane is simply and strongly to assert that this dull and tiring day is holy and its simple labors are the stuff of God’s saving presence for me now…

“To pray when we cannot, on the other hand, is simply to let God be our prayer.

Joan Chittister, quoted by Len Hjalmarson in his blog. Source not listed.

Jesus - more or less


Questions of belief aside, no one could be less interesting than the Jesus of the Gnostic gospels.

Questions of belief aside, no one could be more interesting than the Jesus of the canonical gospels.


Alan Jacobs - two consecutive tweets on Twitter, 6th Oct.10

Truth and justice


Because they spurn riches as ashes that are dead because of avarice, none of them has anything according to his own will. Whatever each has through the gift of God, let her possess with God. She says that nothing is hers by her own strength, but all is from God who gives all good things to the good. And what are these? Truth and justice, which interweave with all good things.

Hildegard of Bingen, Book of Life’s Merits

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Truth


All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Artur Schopenhauer [pictured as a young man]

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Efficiency

Revival in the Church comes not from increased efficiency in organization but from waiting upon God. Not that efficiency is not necessary, but no amount of efficiency can breathe life into a body from which the Spirit has departed.

William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: the letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, pge 263. [Revised edition 1984]

Friday, October 01, 2010

Scars

Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me, they are proof of the fact that there is healing.

Linda Hogan
Solar Storms

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Evil


"Evil exists," he says, not flinching at the word. "I believe that what the rich have done to the poor in this city [New York City] is something that a preacher could call evil. Somebody has power. Pretending that they don't so they don't need to use it to help people - that is my idea of evil."

Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol

Humility


Many of those who are humiliated are not humble. Some react to humiliation with anger, others with patience, and others with freedom. The first are culpable, the next harmless, the last just.

Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What peace is

Peace is not a matter of prizes or trophies. It is not the product of a victory or command. It has no finishing line, no final deadline, no fixed definition of achievement. Peace is a never-ending process, the work of many decisions by many people in many countries. It is an attitude, a way of life, a way of solving problems and resolving conflicts. It cannot be forced on the smallest nation or enforced by the largest. It cannot ignore our differences or overlook our common interests. It requires us to work and live together.

- Oscar Arias Sánchez,
from his Nobel Lecture

Monday, September 13, 2010

The prophetic voice


The essential question for the church is whether or not its prophetic voice has been co-opted into the culture of the day. The community of God's people who are striving to remain faithful to the whole counsel of God's Word will be prophetic voices crying out in the wilderness of the dominant culture of our day.

Walter Brueggemann
The Prophetic Imagination

God's love is a bridge

‘God’s loving is concerned with a seeking and creation of fellowship without any reference to an existing aptitude or worthiness on the part of the loved. God’s love is not merely not conditioned by any reciprocity of love. It is also not conditioned by any worthiness to be loved on the part of the loved, by any existing capacity for union or fellowship on his side …

The love of God always throws a bridge over a crevasse. It is always the light shining out of darkness. In His revelation it seeks and creates fellowship where there is no fellowship and no capacity for it, where the situation concerns a being which is quite different from God, a creature and therefore alien, a sinful creature and therefore hostile. It is this alien and hostile other that God loves …

This does not mean that we can call the love of God a blind love. But what He sees when He loves is that which is altogether distinct from Himself, and as such lost in itself, and without Him abandoned to death. That He throws a bridge out from Himself to this abandoned one, that He is light in the darkness, is the miracle of the almighty love of God’.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1 (ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance; trans. T.H.L. Parker, et al.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), 278.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Evil....Good

To walk away from one's faith because of unanswered questions about evil is to walk into a storm of unanswered questions about good.

Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), p. 119

Friday, August 27, 2010

God, sunrises and daisies

Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that God has the eternal appetite of infancy.

G.K. Chesterton from his book Orthodoxy

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blocking the well

There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God ... But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again.

Etty Hillesum - from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943

No need to feel superior

The easy way for us rid ourselves of whatever sanctimonious self-importance may have attached itself to us [Christians] is by simply (and constantly) remembering that we’re not better than nonbelievers. What we are is luckier than nonbelievers. We didn’t do anything to get saved. We didn’t deserve it. It’s not like God was holding auditions for an open spot in heaven, and we just so wowed him with our killer rendition of “Oklahoma!” or “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that we won.

Blog post by John Shore: On the Christian's Natural Sense of Superiority (extract from his book, I'm OK, You're Not: the message we're sending unbelievers and why we should stop.

Being in the presence of significant lives

“… there is no substitute for learning to be a Christian by being in the presence of significant lives made significant by being Christian. … Significance suggests importance… lives that make a difference and that demand acknowledgment. But the lives of significance I began to notice were not significant in any of those ways. Rather, they were lives of quiet serenity, capable of attending with love to the everyday without the need to be recognized as “making a difference.”

From Hannah's Child: a Theologian's Memoir, by Stanley Hauerwas

Monday, August 23, 2010

A just and humane world

Because of our faith in Christ and humankind, we must apply our humble efforts to the construction of a more just and humane world. And I want to declare emphatically: Such a world is possible.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel,
from his Nobel Lecture

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creativity

Todd Donatelli said [about his congregation] 'It is a community that believes that for those created in the image of God, a sign of their faithfulness, a sign of their engagement with the Spirit, will be creativity.'

Diana Butler Bass: Christianity for the Rest of Us, pg 214

Hospitality

Christians have always been hosts and guests, natives and strangers, citizens and sojourners.  In our contemporary world of strangers, tourists, and nomads, Henri Nouwen proclaims, 'When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests....Then, in fact, the disctinction between host and guest proves to be artifical and evaporates in the recognition of newfound unity. '

In a time of hate-filled extremism, some Christians still long for a world of nonviolent love, of reconciling peace.  Of human wholeness, of true brother and sisterhood, in God's compassion.  For them, hospitality opens the way to practicing peace, doing a tangible thing that can change the world.

As Martin Marty, a noted Lutheran theologian, says, 'In a world where strangers meet strangers with gunfire, barrier walls, spiritually landmined paths, the spirit of revenge, and the record of intransigence, it sounds almost dainty to come on the scene and urge that hospitality has a strong and promising place.

Diana Butler Bass: Christianity for the Rest of Us, HarperOne, published 2006

The Henri Nouwen quote comes from Reaching Out: the three movements of the spiritual life (New York: Doubleday, 1975) pg 47.
The Marty Martin quote comes from When Faiths Collide, pg 128 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Choice

To choose what is difficult all one’s days, as if it were easy, that is faith.

W.H. Auden
from For the Time Being

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The time will come.....

The time will come when wealth will be redistributed, when the workers of the world will once again unite -- standing for economic justice -- for a world where we can all have enough to live fully and well.

bell hooks, from her book Where We Stand

bell hooks is the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sowing seeds

To create this new society, we must present outstretched and friendly hands, without hatred and rancor, even as we show great determination and never waver in the defense of truth and justice. Because we know that we cannot sow seeds with clenched fists. To sow we must open our hands.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentinian human rights activist, from his Nobel Lecture

Monday, August 09, 2010

Loving well...or badly

I find that it is better to love badly and faultily than not to try and love at all. God does not have to have perfect instruments, and the Holy One can use our feeble and faltering attempts at love and transform them. My task is to keep on trying to love, to be faithful in my continuing attempt, not necessarily to be successful. The quality of my love may well be the most important element of my spiritual guidance.

Morton T. Kelsey, from his book Companions on the Inner Way

Friday, August 06, 2010

A fully-formed image of Christ

Are we doing it? Are we giving the world a symmetrical, authentic, fully-formed image of Christ? There is still time. Spiritual growth is not a matter of chronology alone. It’s a matter of spirit. Of heart. Of who you are to the next person you meet. In the next crisis you face. In the next moment you live.  

Lloyd John Ogilvie, from his book The Magnificent Vision

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hungry for Love

Many people are hungry not for bread only, but they are hungry for ... love. Many people are not only naked for want of a piece of cloth, but they are naked for human dignity ... Homelessness is not only not having a home made of bricks, but homelessness is being rejected, unwanted, unloved, uncared for. People have forgotten what the human touch is, what it is to smile, for somebody to smile at them, somebody to recognize them, somebody to wish them well.

- Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Stripping to the Core

I urge you to still every motion that is not rooted in the kingdom. Become quiet, hushed, motionless until you are finally centered. Strip away all excess baggage and nonessential trappings until you have come into the stark reality of the kingdom of God. Let go of all distractions until you are driven into the Core.


Richard Foster, from his book Freedom of Simplicity

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Simplicity, Complexity

I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
qtd. in The Blue Sweater

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Laying low

Christian brothers and sisters may warn us if we are taking on too many activities, or if we are getting too puffed up, or both, as one friend said to me once, ‘You need to lay low in the Lord.’  They may encourage us that we are moving in the right direction.  They may stir us up to love and good works.
Richard J. Foster
Freedom of Simplicity

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Praying and labouring

The things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us the grace to labour for.

Thomas More, English philosopher, lawyer, and author of Utopia

Monday, July 26, 2010

Maintaining the status quo

"When the status quo benefits you, your theology doesn't normally include changing the status quo. For most white, middle-class Christians, the world is working fine. So religion that includes social change doesn't matter. They want to leave things pretty much as they are."

From "Always Personal, Never Private" in the Summer issue of Leadership.

What do we think life is for?

The frantic, fragmenting, multitasking character of contemporary living has made it likely that many of us will simply evade, or fail to consider with much seriousness or depth, life’s most basic and profound questions: What is all our living finally for? Why do we commit to so much? Why do we devote ourselves to the tasks or priorities that we do? Will we know when we have achieved or acquired enough? What purpose does our striving serve? While these questions point to the basic ingredients of any recipe for a decent human life, they are also vital to the life of faith...

Norman Wirzba
Living the Sabbath

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Connectedness

The Hmong have a phrase, hais cuaj txub kaum txub, which means ‘to speak of all kinds of things.’ It is often used at the beginning of an oral narrative as a way of reminding the listeners that the world is full of things that may not seem to be connected but actually are; that no event occurs in isolation; that you can miss a lot by sticking to the point; and that the storyteller is likely to be rather long-winded.

Anne Fadiman
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Thursday, July 22, 2010

God's love...and loss


God’s love is such a powerful companion for us that no matter how searing or how intense the hurt of a loss is we know that our spirit need not be destroyed by it; we know that God will help us to recover our hope, our courage, and our direction in life.

Joyce Rupp, from her book Praying Our Goodbyes

Tyrannizing Creation

The creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, some of the most profound and evocative stories ever written, certainly don’t envisage humans tyrannizing creation. Try doing that to a garden, forcing it to do what you want whether the soil will take it or not, and you may well create a wilderness.

N.T. Wright
After You Believe

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fences

There is just enough room in the world for all the people in it, but there is no room for the fences that separate them.

Father Taylor of Boston, quoted by Rita Snowden.

Found in The Daily Study Bible: The Letters to Galatians and Ephesians, by William Barclay, pg 113. (Revised Edition 1976

"Father" Edward Thompson Taylor (1793-1871), the chaplain at Boston's Seamen's Bethel, inspired Herman Melville to create "Father Mapple" in Moby Dick.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The sacred in everything

For Christians, the seculum is nothing more or less than God’s world. Recent publications argue that to live in New Zealand is to sense, all around us, that sacredness. Robyn McPhail, for example, points out the sacredness of topsoil for farmers. We have noted the suggestions that we learn to read the work of our poets and artists in terms of an earthed and earthy spirituality.

Peter Matheson, in The Myth of Secular New Zealand, published in Pacifica 19 (June 2006)

seculum - definied as world/universe; secular/temporal/earthly/worldly affairs/cares/temptation

Friday, July 16, 2010

Church Discipline

Recovery of the practice of church discipline in our congregations is absolutely essential if the church today is to end the scandal of cheap grace and gross disobedience. Of course, we must be careful to avoid the harshness and legalism that too often crept into church discipline in the past. But loving, firm, courageous insistence on mutual accountability must again become a normal part of congregational life. We must relearn how, as John Wesley said, ‘to watch over one another in love.’

Ronald J. Sider
The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Uncomfortable Bible


There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible -- until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves. But then we are perhaps too used to it and too at home in it. Let us not be too sure we know the Bible ... just because we have learned not to have problems with it. Have we perhaps learned ... not to really pay attention to it? Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it?

- Thomas Merton
from his book Opening the Bible

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Difference


Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing ... But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.

- Audre Lorde
from her book Sister Outsider

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Capacity


All too often we bemoan our imperfections rather than embrace them as part of the process in which we are brought to God. Cherished emptiness gives God space in which to work. We are pure capacity for God. Let us not, then, take our littleness lightly. It is a wonderful grace. It is a gift to receive. At the same time, let us not get trapped in the confines of our littleness, but keep pushing on to claim our greatness. Remind yourself often, “I am pure capacity for God; I can be more.”

- Macrina Wiederkehr
from A Tree Full of Angels

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Faith....is commitment


Faith...is not about propositions, but about commitment. It does not mean that I intellectually subscribe to the following list of statements, but that I give my heart to this reality. Believe, indeed, comes to us from the Old English belove, making clear that this too is meant to be heart language. To say "I believe in Jesus Christ" is not to subscribe to an uncertain proposition. It is a confession of commitment, of love.

Diane Eck

Encountering God

Monday, July 12, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Becoming Me


"Instead of making vows about how my spiritual life will be perfectly well organized until I die, I seek to surrender my will for just this day. I look for small graces. I try to engage in little acts of service. I pray briefly to accommodate my limited attention span. I look for ways of being with God that I already enjoy. I try to go for half an hour without complaining. I try to say something encouraging to three people in a row. I put twenty dollars in my pocket that I will give away during the day. I take a five-minute break to read a page of great thoughts." (P. 71).

John Ortberg: The Me I Want to Be - Becoming God's Best Version of You

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Delivering us from fear

O Lord, we beseech thee to deliver us from the fear of the unknown future; from fear of failure; from fear of poverty; from fear of bereavement; from fear of loneliness; from fear of sickness and pain; from fear of age; and from fear of death. Help us, O Father, by thy grace to love and fear thee only, fill our hearts with cheerful courage and loving trust in thee; through our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

Akanu Ibaim
“Fear of the Unknown” in An African Prayer Book

Friday, July 02, 2010

Not being silent

I swore never to be silent whenever, wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forgive without end

Never tire of forgiving, and so give the devil no hold. Be merciful and compassionate, spontaneously and wholeheartedly. The Lord forgives you all day long; in the silence of your heart, then, do the same, untiringly and sincerely.

- Pierre-Marie Delfieux, from The Jerusalem Community Rule of Life

Monday, June 28, 2010

Where edges meet

I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were at the middle of either one. Anne Fadiman
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marriage - more than just for the couple

The inflections of community are important because they get at the very meanings of marriage. Marriage is a gift God gives the church. He does not simply give it to the married people of the church, but to the whole church, just as marriage is designed not only for the benefit of the married couple. It is designed to tell a story to the entire church, a story about God’s own love and fidelity to us.

Lauren F. Winner
Girl Meets God

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Suffering


People who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are.

- James Baldwin, from his book The Fire Next Time

Knowing, loving another

To be intimate with another person, we must always be imagining the other’s feelings, hopes, desires. We have to imagine those desires as best we can, knowing all the while that we cannot ever know even our closest friends and beloveds completely.... The day we believe we know everything there is to know about our intimate beloved is the day our love will cease to grow. We can always go more deeply into the mystery of each other. There is always more to know. Stephanie Paulsell
“Friendship and Intimacy” in On Our Way

Friday, June 18, 2010

What prayer isn't

Prayer is no panacea, no substitute for action. It is, rather, like a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness. It is in this light that we who grope, stumble, and climb, discover where we stand, what surrounds us, and the course which we should choose.

- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, from his book Man's Quest for God

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Divine Embrace

[The divine embrace] is the place where I so much want to be, but am so fearful of being. It is the place where I will receive all I desire, all that I ever hoped for, all that I will ever need, but it is also the place where I have to let go of all I most want to hold on to. It is the place that confronts me with the fact that truly accepting love, forgiveness, and healing is often much harder than giving it. It is the place beyond earning, deserving, and rewarding. It is the place of surrender and complete trust. Henri J. M. Nouwen
The Return of the Prodigal Son

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living dangerously

To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely -- to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.

- Cornel West, from his book Democracy Matters

Community

The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God's triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
"An Experiment in Love" from A Testament of Hope

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Good news to the poor

The gospels record that Jesus preached good news to the poor, and an essential part of that good news was that they were to be poor no longer.

- Dorothy Day, quoted in Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Peacemakers

Peacemakers ... need to be sustained by a willingness to suffer if necessary, to endure abuse without retaliation, to overcome hatred of the enemy, and to keep hope and patience alive during a long period of struggle. The church can sustain trust in the possibility of the miracle of transformation when the evidence for change appears bleak, and joy even amid suffering and pain.

Duane K. Friesen & Glen H. Stassen
"Just Peacemaking" in Transforming Violence

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life at home

We must realize the yawning pitfall in that very characteristic of home life which is so often glibly paraded as its principle attraction: "It is there that we appear as we really are: it is there that we can fling aside the disguises and be ourselves." ... It will never be lawful simply to "be ourselves" until "ourselves" have become [children] of God ... This does not mean, of course, that there is no difference between home life and general society. It does mean that home life has its own rule of courtesy -- a code more intimate, more subtle, more sensitive, and, therefore, in some ways more difficult, than that of the outer world.

- C.S. Lewis, from his essay "The Sermon and the Lunch"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saving the world

The sad part of it all is that if the world could have been saved by that kind of relatively minor meddling, it would have been--long before Jesus and a hundred times since. But spiritual works no more bring in the kingdom than moral or intellectual ones. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus--especially the Ascension, since it is the final affirmation of the hands-off policy implicit in the other two--proclaim that no meddling, divine or human, spiritual or material, can save the world. Its only salvation is in the mystery of the King who dies, rises, and disappears, and who asks us simply to trust his promise that, in him, we have the kingdom already.

Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgement

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Desmond Tutu

In God's world, where each of us is God's precious child and where the risen Jesus is reconciling all things, the last word does not belong to vicious ideologies but rather to the One who tenderly holds our history in his hands. God's justice, forgiveness, truth, mercy, and love--they shall overcome.

Desmond Tutu
Forward to Hope in Troubled Times

John Wesley

Have I rejoiced with and for my neighbor in virtue or pleasure? grieved with [her] in pain, for him in sin? ... Have I revealed any evil of anyone, unless it was necessary to some particular good I had in view? Have I then done it with all the tenderness of phrase and manner consistent with that end? ... Has goodwill been, and appeared to be, the spring of all my actions toward others?

- John Wesley, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for All God's People

Friday, May 14, 2010

Doing what comes naturally

Whether it's the sin of racism, greed, pride, or indifference, doing what comes naturally is what always gets us in trouble. Better to channel our thoughts, actions, and desires through the purifying filter of God's Spirit and [God's] Word.

- Edward Gilbreath, from his book Reconciliation Blues

Trees

I'm no tree-hugger. I'm a tree-leaner, and a tree-sitter, and a tree-seeker.... The trees do not speak to me. But I am pleased to take their shelter, pleased when they reinforce my smallness, pleased when they give me separation from the everyday static jamming my head.

Michael Perry
Population: 485

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In their twenties

They inhabit a world so rich in technology that everything works better, but no one seems to know exactly why. Parented by proxy and prescription and by cable TV, they have achieved the loneliness their elders pursued. They enter their twenties less interested in finding themselves than in finding the way out. Faithless, hopeless, untutored in love, they make babies for the sake of company and kill themselves with unspeakable violence in staggering numbers--suffering from a deficiency in meaning acquired from pop culture, pop psychology, feel-good religion, that tells them don't worry, be happy, take care of yourself and your self-esteem. They stand to inherit, along with the spiritual void their parents have left them, the bill from the card it was all charged to.

Thomas Lynch
The Undertaking

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Imitating Jesus

Our imitation of God in this life ... must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.

- C.S. Lewis, from his book The Four Loves

Waking Up

Waking up is hard to do
But once we see
How deep the suffering goes
How high the purpose of human beings
Created in the image of the Creator
What is sleep, but settling for so much less?
What is sleep, but surrendering to a tiny, lazy savior?
What is sleep, but biding time in such boredom
That eternity becomes bad news?

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
"A blessing for wakefulness" in catapult magazine

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Enjoying affluence

Those of us who now enjoy affluence and freedom a well as power are predisposed to believe that benign forces shape our destiny. But to the extent that our blessings are incidental by-products of our citizenship in nations that currently enjoy domination status over others, our well-being may be more a result of flagrant injustice than divine providence.

Walter Wink
Engaging the Powers

Friday, May 07, 2010

Vocation

When I was in high school I thought a vocation was a particular calling. Here's a voice: "Come, follow me." My idea of a calling now is not: "Come." It's ... what I'm doing right now, not what I'm going to be. Life is a calling.

- Rebecca Sweeney, an American who held a variety of jobs, including six years as a nun

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Joy

Things that bring you joy tell you a lot about who you are.

Michael Perry
Population: 485

Monday, May 03, 2010

The issue of God

"You cannot evade the issue of God: whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him . . . If Christianity should happen to be true--that is to say, if its God is the real God of the universe--then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything."

G K Chesterton

Daily News December 12, 1903

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Vatican II

Christ summons the Church, as she goes her pilgrim way, to that continual reformation of which she always had need.

Coming forth fromthe eternal Father's love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer, and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God's children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns.
This she does most of all by her healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which she strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activities of men with a deeper meaning and importance. Thus, through her individual memebrs and her whole community, the Church believes she can contribute greatly toward making the family of man and its history more human.

The two quotes above come from the documents of the Vatican II Council. They're quoted on page 72 of Robert Warren's On the Anvil.

Being willing to fall...

If I had to name my disability, I would call it an unwillingness to fall ... This reluctance signals the mistrust of the central truth of the Christian gospel: life springs from death, not only at the last but also in the many little deaths along the way. When everything you count on for protection has failed, the Divine Presence does not fail. The hands are still there -- not promising to rescue, not promising to intervene -- promising only to hold you no matter how far you fall.

- Barbara Brown Taylor, from her book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rising in the Morning


If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

- E.B. White, in an interview with The New York Times in 1969

Joan Didion on marriage

John and I were married for forty years. During all but the first five months of our marriage, when John was still working at Time, we both worked at home. We were together twenty-four hours a day, a fact that remained a source of both merriment and foreboding to my mother and aunts. "For richer or poorer but never for lunch," one or another of them frequently said in the early years of our marriage. I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death. What ended was the possibility of response.

Joan Didion
The Year of Magical Thinking

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sexual love


Sexual love is the force that in our bodily life connects us most intimately to the Creation.... It brings us into the dance that holds community together and joins it to its place.

Wendell Berry
Sex Economy, Freedom and Community