(scroll down to the date of my latest post)
Challenges for the thinking Christian: “Why does the bird sing?” …This is my contemplative page. To set the tone I’ve shared Anthony DeMello’s “The Song of the Bird” to stimulate your contemplative thought. Below this I will post periodic “Quips,Quotes,& Prayers” to stimulate the exercise of contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is mankind to God communication involving “dwelling in the space of the question” in deep reflection and meditation.
Instead of springing reflexively to the answer mode, one meditates at length on the question or commentary at hand allowing God to engage us in a journey. FYI: It took me five years of meditation to arrive at MY solution to this question. It was a beautiful journey… Go find YOUR answer…You’ll find my solution hidden somewhere on this website. (LOL)
The Song of the Bird
(a contemplative brain teaser)
The disciples were full of questions about God.
Said the master, “God is the unknown and the unknowable.
Every statement about Him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the truth.”
The disciples were bewildered. “Then why do you speak of Him at all?”
“Why does the bird sing?” said the master.
– An ancient koan(riddle) shared by Anthony DeMello, Jesuit thinker
Quips, Quotes, & Prayers
Tuesday, July 30,2018 These words from Meister Eckhart, a German mystical theologian from the 14th century, are a lovely invitation to us: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: when the Son of God is begotten in us.”
Thursday, June 14,2018, Flag Day Reflections from James Howell, Pastor, Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte::
Saturday, April 28,2018: Finding the Gold within ourselves:
Until we have discovered our own identity and gifts, we tend to idolize and imitate others and put them on a pedestal. It’s a kind of infatuation that eventually will disappoint and disillusion us. We also fall in love with the people who hold the power that we ourselves want: physical attractiveness, money, power, position, talent, or influence.
We worship others for what they do for us temporarily, and in doing that we miss the value and foundation that we ourselves possess. Sooner or later we will have to withdraw OUR gold from this unstable security box. If not we will remain permanently poor. ….Richard Rohr in On the Threshold of Transformation.
Thursday, April 19: This from Rev Jas Howell, Myers Park UMC, Charlotte, NC:
April 10,2018 Quote from Annie Dillard: “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.
It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”
04/05/2018 Rev James Howell is one my favorite Christian bloggers in the Country. I’m sharing his post Easter blog.titled Prayer:Uprising :
03/17/2018 Another segment from Rev James Howell’s blog: “from judgment toward mercy to Joy” I think these are intimately related to one another. If we get fixated on judgment, being judged, judging others, even ourselves, then we wallow in guilt, or we afflict others with guilt. In such a mood, there is no mercy – and where there is no mercy, there is no joy…. Somehow I suspect a judgmental spirit is a desire to get things under control. You criticize government, or a stranger, or your boss, or a loved one – and in trying to size the other up, and jam the other into a box you can manage, you miss out on the wonderful reality of the other person. Mercy is the antithesis of control. If I have mercy on you, I fling control to the wind and just let you be who you are; I’m not forcing you to do or be what I want, I can let you be who you already are in God’s eyes.
03/08/2018 I got this blog share today from Rev. James Howell, pastor, Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte,NC,titled Love God,love Neighbor: “The German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg offered a keen insight into what it means to pray for others: “By prayer, love of neighbor is integrated into the believer’s relationship to God as participation in God’s love for the world. Prayer prevents the practice of neighborly love from becoming simply our own moral work.”
…James Howell’s commentary: “When asked which was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus answered with two: Love God, and Love Neighbor – but not because he couldn’t settle on just one and thus gave two. Jesus understood fully how the two are really one, and left it to us to puzzle out how they are one. Pannenberg’s thought helps. Prayer is quite simply the expression of our relationship with God (although we forget, and trivialize prayer by treating it like some kind of gizmo to get God to do us favors). God loves the world, including the neighbor. When we pray for someone, anyone, we join our hearts to God’s heart in God’s love for that someone. These two loves become one. They are as indistinguishable as the love a dad has when he sees his wife cradling his child, her child; dad’s love is for her, for the child, for them – and if he then thanks God, dad’s love is for God, and for them, love flying around everywhere, embracing everyone in that charmed circle.”
02/27/2018:A VERY IMPORTANT DISCUSSION FOR ALL PARENTS OF BOYS CONCERNING SO-CALLED “Toxic Masculinity”: by Dr. Jordan Peterson renowned Canadian clinical psychologist,cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.. His main areas of study are in abnormal, social, and personality psychology.with a particular interest in the psychology of religion and ideology of belief and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance.
Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci7iM7c3VB4
02/06/2018 Our ego….can we keep it restrained to let God guide us?: In God, our self is no longer its own center. There is a death of the self-centered and self-sufficient ego. In its place is awakened a new and liberated self which loves and acts in the Spirit.
—Richard Rohr, “Mirror and Mask”
02/02/2018. Appropriate for February: “Heartsick, heartbroken—To know love is to know pain.What could be more common? Even so, each broken heart is so singular That with it we probe the divine.” –Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
12/29/2017. When Things Fall Apart, a contemplative thought for the New Year compliments of my mentor, Richard Rohr:
When Things Fall Apart
Friday, December 29, 2017
The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.
In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.
Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient—and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, until this reluctant prophet finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get back where he needs to be—in spite of himself! Looking in your own “rear-view mirror” can fill you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.
Gateway to Silence:
You make all things new.
Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (Franciscan Media: 2002), 69.
We wish you a joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year!
12/22/2017, This Christmas I am reading an important book: “The First Christmas, What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth” ,by Marcus J. Borg (deceased) and John Dominic Crossan, perhaps two of the most important Jesus scholars of the last century. I chose this book obviously because it is the Christmas season but also because it shines a light on a process that I am initiating called “Ground Zero Gospel, a focus on the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ parables”. It is a teaching and storytelling ministry that I am developing to share with churches
.Please listen to the following YouTube interview with an open, contemplative mind since I present everything in this space, not as answers, but as questions and challenges to the thinking Christian. It might be helpful to re-read my above description of “dwelling in the space of the question”. The commentary below has important things to say about Jesus’ use of parabolic teaching and its value to today’s culture.
Click to hear commentary on this important book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk90WDo90_0
12/12/2017, this from Thomas Merton: “Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.”
12/10/2017 Kenosis: In Christian theology, kenosis (Greek: κένωσις, kénōsis, lit. [the act of emptying]) is the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will.
“We cannot love God unless we love God’s world. Christians [should] have always known this, because an incarnate God is a world-loving God; but now it takes on new meaning and depth as we realize the radical interrelationship and interdependence of all forms of life. . . . In sum, we are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. But this turns out to be a kenotic, a sacrificial love”—Sallie McFague
The key to kenosis is knowing that your life is not about you. Everything—each breath, heartbeat, morsel of food, seeming success—is gift. We are entirely dependent upon God’s loving us into being, and keeping us in being, interdependent with all other beings. Your life does not really belong to you, as countercultural and difficult as that is to understand in our individualistic, competitive, consumer culture. As the Trinity reveals, life and love are poured into us that we may pour into others. “It is in giving that we receive.” This is precisely what Jesus modeled for us through his life, death, and resurrection.--Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr
09/24/2017; Prayer does not produce “Weak resignation to the evils we deplore”(Fosdick), but strenuous battle against the powers of destruction. God does not lead us to bow our heads quietly in submission; he invigorates us to moral battle. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.Phillipians 4:13 (Eugene Peterson’s Praying with the Psalms)