Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It Comes From a Different Place....

The following quote...which loosely ties in with the quote from from the Starcke interview.

Nowadays when I say to people that "my guidance" tells me something, they ask what I mean by that. I say it's like any other thought, but it comes from a different place inside of me.

The intuition is infallible, and learning to pay attention to it has changed my life.

I like this line...It's not a thought I think; it's a thought I hear. I've heard those thoughts too. The still, small voice?  Sometimes when I am fuming at someone...totally pissed....out of the blue, I am aware of at least some aspect of their point of view.  I've even God, "I don't care.  I'm still mad!!!" 

I've got to be careful "listening" to the voice...because I have to discern whether it is the voice of God within...or the voices of my vain imaginations that seem to be a part of my genetic makeup.  I come from a long line of worriers, fretters and stewers.  I am the Princess of the Worst Case Scenario (my mom is the Queen) and the "what if" questions often flood my brain.  About my kids, about finances, about everyday situations, about global strife, the economy, the year 2012, my health. 

I have a routine medical test coming up.  Well, it should be routine.  I put it off until there were a few issues that prompted me to make arrangements right away.  I think, perhaps, in the past, I might have let my imagination get the better of me.  Strangely, I am not really freaking out or anything.  Dreading it yes...but not imagining every nuance of a worst case scenario outcome. 

A few years ago, I had a pap test that came back abnormal.  I had been having other problems for quite a while so my doctor ordered a D and C...under general anesthesia.  I fretted.  I was scared to death.  Keith reminded me of the verse that talks about casting down vain imaginations and taking every thought captive.  He gave it a different spin as in the vain imaginations just might be those "gloom, despair and agony on me" thoughts that were running rampant in my head.  He also sent me a really great prayer at work...via email. It helped a lot. 

The verse that talks about vain imaginations is 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Following are a few renderings from several different translations. 

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  (KJV)

Putting an end to reasonings, and every high thing which is lifted up against the knowledge of God, and causing every thought to come under the authority of Christ; (BBE)

When we pull down, calculations, and every height that uplifteth itself against the knowledge of God, and when we bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of the Christ, (Emph)

And with its characteristic "tell it like it is" translation style, The Message says the following...

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. (MSG)

This post (surprise, surprise) kind of meandered off topic.  More on this tomorrow...


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Answers From Your I AM Self...

The following quote is from the daily devotional section on

William Starcke's web site:

Pray for yourself as though you were praying for someone else. Stand aside and see yourself and your problems as though your human-self is someone who has called you for help. Ask yourself questions and then listen to the answers that your I AM self gives you. See your Christ self observing your prayers in the same way a parent would observe a child’s prayers. When you can stand aside and see your human-self through the eyes of your own higher consciousness, you will see that humanly you have nothing to fear. Greater love hath no man than that he can see his humanity through the eyes of his divinity.

So what do you think? 

One thing that piqued my interest was:

Ask yourself questions and then listen to the answers that your I AM self gives you.

It reminded me of an experience Frank Laubach talks about in Letters By A Modern Day Mystic.  He was walking up to the mountain....where he went every day to meditate and pray...and suddenly, God was talking to Frank...using his own mouth, his own voice.  Frank's lips were moving...but God was SPEAKING.  Not all of this quote resonated...but it is an interesting quote.  It gave me something to ponder.....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Practical Mysticism—Humanity’s Next Step

I think it was on EU where someone recently posted an interview with Walter Starcke entitled Practical Mysticism—Humanity’s Next Step

Truthfully, I've never heard of Walter Starcke before.  I was vaguely aware of some of the books he's written...simply from seeing them over the years in bookstores etc.  He is the author of Joel Goldsmith and I, It’s All God, The Third Appearance, The Double Thread, The Ultimate Revolution, The Gospel of Relativity, and Homesick for Heaven.  You can read his rather amazing bio HERE

What drew me to this interview is the practical mysticism theme that has captured my attention of late...the in the world but not of the world kind of thing.  There are several intriguing quotes in this interview that I will probably elaborate on (more views from the peanut gallery) Also, on his web site, he has a year's worth of daily devotionals.  They are short and to the point....about a paragraph each.  As I "leafed through" the daily selections for September, some resonated...some did not but they all piqued a thought, a question or an opinion.  I will probably comment on a few of those over the next few posts as well. 

Right now, however, I have some everyday of the world household chores to do, errands to run and if I can really motivate myself...make it to the gym (for a change) 

More on my usual sporadic, here, there and everywhere fashion.  :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Focusing Our Hearts and Minds

annie posted the following quote...written by Henri Nouwen on EU a while back...
Focusing Our Minds and Hearts
How can we stay in solitude when we feel that deep urge to be distracted by people and events? The most simple way is to focus our minds and hearts on a word or picture that reminds us of God. By repeating quietly: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want," or by gazing lovingly at an icon of Jesus, we can bring our restless minds to some rest and experience a gentle divine presence. This doesn't happen overnight. It asks a faithful practice. But when we spend a few moments every day just being with God, our endless distractions will gradually disappear.

What I took note of was the mention of "gazing lovingly at an icon of Jesus." This is so similar to the excerpts I posted from Frank Laubach's,"The Game of Minutes" ...where he makes similar suggestions. Frank talks about using icons of him walking beside us...."including him" in our conversations. 

I wrote quite a bit about Frank Laubach a month or so ago.  Although "The Game" seems to be a frivolous title, this man very much walked the path of the mystics....but was never so metaphysical that he was (as annie says) of no earthly use.  He was a Christian missionary to the Philippines and founded (through adversity) a reading system called "Each One Teach One" and worked for worldwide literacy his entire life.  He has several books and one (available on line) is called "Letters By a Modern Day Mystic" which chronicles his year in the Philippines.  He was alone because his wife and one remaining son, Robert, were in the States while Robert regained his health.  He and his wife lost three of their children to malaria.

During this time, he tried to devote his every waking moment to communion with God....while continuing to work his butt off doing his missionary duties.  The results amazed even him.  It seemed almost hokey when I first read it...almost the antithesis of the "spiritual path".....more akin to something you might hear on the 700 Club....yet here is Henri Nouwen saying the same thing!!

This also reminds me of an artist I came across a few years ago.  I don't think I've posted anything about him here on this blog but I was immediately drawn to his work. His name is Nathan Greene. His art depicts every day scenes with everyday people in every day situations....with one exception....Jesus is visible in the pictures.  Sort of a visual of Laubach's suggestion of imagining Jesus walking beside us...imagining him sitting in on our conversations with others, etc. etc. Check out his website....which has many, many inspirational pictures under headings such as





This post is intended as an (re)introduction to a series of posts on every day mysticism. I wrote quite a bit about mystics but then got distracted and wrote about other assorted, varied and diverse topics. I have a few posts planned...actually written down on an outline of sorts.  That is something new since I usually fly by the seat of my pants as far as what I write about.  I doubt if the "but I digress" posts will stop popping up here and there...but I think God just might plant those out of nowhere ideas for impromptu posts in my head for my edification and my education.  Perhaps I pass a bit of that along as I write. I learn so much in my internet "research."

Well, today is a busy day..and as much as I would like to sit here on the couch, laptop perched on my lap...surfing endlessly...writing and reading and pondering...real life calls me.  Have a great Saturday!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home To My Own Backyard

Well, in this post, I'm going to finally get back to...and wrap up....the series on Christian Buddhism.  I think I may have written about this topic prior to this series, but this particular time debra posted an article on EU entitled Buddhism strengthens ties to church and that captured my attention again.  It began with a post about the article...and then meandered into a discussion of Merton and his view of Christian Buddhism...then to a few posts about an interview with Thomas Keating.  These ponderments and musings can be found here. 

The following excerpt from the article expresses one of the main themes I wanted to get across...

Search can lead back home

People are hungry for a deeper spiritual experience — meditation, mindfulness, personal transformation, deep insight, union with God or the universe.

Habito, who calls himself a Zen Catholic, is one of the experts who say the search is a little like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. The quest for meaning ultimately leads some, like Dorothy, to their own backyards.

And that is where it leads me every time. There is certainly a thrill when I hear his voice in other sacred writings/practices/beliefs because it gives me a little bigger glimpse of his vastness, his hugeness, his everywhereness.  There is no where that he is not!!  But, the profound thing for me is that when I hear his voice...when I find other faith traditions, verses from the B-I-B-L-E immediately come to mind!!  For me the Bible contains the deepest revelation of God. 

Following are two quotes by John Hicks..a guy who started out as a Christian Universalist and then went on to embrace a much more inclusive pluralistic view of religion

But there is something else important to be said before I finish. There is a valid sense in which, for those of us who are Christians, Christianity is the only true religion, the only one for us. For we have been formed by it. It has created us in its own image, so that it fits us and we fit it as no other religion can. And so for most of us who are Christians it is the right religion, and we should stick with it and live it out to the full. But we should also be aware that exactly the same is true for people formed by the other world religions. They also should stick with the religion that has formed them and live it out, though in each case gradually filtering out its ingrained claim to unique superiority.


So the bottom line, I am suggesting, is this: we should live wholeheartedly within our own faith, so long as we find it to be sustaining and a sphere of spiritual growth, but we should freely recognize the equal validity of the other great world faiths for their adherents, and we can also be enriched by some of their insights and spiritual practices. We should not see the other religions as rivals or enemies, or look down upon them as inferior, but simply as different human responses to the divine reality, formed in the past within different strands of human history and culture. And we should seek a friendship with people of other faiths which will do something to defuse the very dangerous religious absolutism that is being exploited in almost all the conflicts going on in the world today. To support religious absolutism is to be part of the problem which afflicts humanity. But we can be part of the solution by setting an example of transcending that absolutism.

Perhaps more on this tomorrow.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be Gracious In Your Speech....

The following passage caught my eye the other day as I was skipping around in the book of Colossians. It occurs to me now that it goes along with what I posted yesterday. 

From Colossians Chapter 4:
2-4Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don't forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I'm locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I'll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.

5-6Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

The excerpt above is from the Message Bible.  The King James words vs. 3 thusly

that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,

A door of about that.  I like that.  To speak the mystery of Christ.  And in the Emphasized Bible....

 ......that, God, would open unto us a door for the word, so that we may speak the sacred secret of the Christ

And how should we speak of the sacred secret, the mystery of Christ?

Your discourse being always with benefit, with salt, seasoned, - that ye may know how it behoveth you, unto each one, to be making answer. (Emph)

And the King James says:

5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

"Redeeming the time"...interesting phrase don't you think?  And what should be the tone of our conversations? Gracious.  Or in King James speak, seasoned with salt.

I have seen Christians speak in a most ungracious manner (Ann Coulter comes to mind) as they try to ram their "gospel" down the throats of non believers....believers who see things differently than they do.  Today on EU someone posted an article that slammed Sue Monk Kidd...entitled


This is from the Way of Life website.  May I just call a spade a spade here and declare that this is utter bullshit.  One thing I really do appreciate about sites like an effort to discredit they usually publish the most delightful quotes from the works of the authors/preachers/teachers they pick to lambaste.  I've found some of the best quotes on sites light this.   


“I thought: Maybe the Divine One is like an old African woman, carving creation out of one vast, beautiful piece of Herself. She is making a universal totem spanning fifteen billion years, an extension of her life and being, an evolutionary carving of sacred art containing humans, animals, plants, indeed, everything that is. And all of it is joined, blended, and connected, its destiny intertwined. ... In other words, the Divine coinheres all that is. ... To coinhere means to exist together, to be included in the same thing or substance” (pp. 158, 159).

Hmmmm...God depicted as a black women.  Where have I come across that theme before?  I'm sure there is a section on this vast web site (no heretic left behind) that disses The Shack, too. 

And more from this web site

“... beginning in my early thirties I’d become immersed in a journey that was rooted in contemplative spirituality. It was the spirituality of the ‘church fathers,’ of the monks I’d come to know as I made regular retreats in their monasteries. ... I thrived on solitude, routinely practicing silent meditation as taught by the monks Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating. ... For years, I’d studied Thomas Merton, John of the Cross, Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, Ignatius, Eckhart, Luther, Teilhard de Chardin, The Cloud of Unknowing, and others”

I guess the list of those she studied explains it all...mystics, all of them.

“I would go through the gate with what Zen Buddhists call ‘beginner’s mind,’ the attitude of approaching something with a mind empty and free, ready for anything, open to everything. ... I would give myself permission to go wherever my quest took me”

I think her focus is on the divine feminine...which does not resonate with me...since God has revealed himself to me as father. Perhaps the author of this article has not taken note of the fact that one of the names of God means "many breasted one."  Sounds kind of feminine to me. 

The purpose of the whole web site is to expose the false teachers, the heretics....which seems to include just about everyone....


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Converse vs. Convert

Last week on EU, we talked about a discussion that was taking place on another list between one of our members, Dena, and someone who had taken it upon himself to correct Dena's theology. Joan, another "EUer" posted the following

let him know that if he wishes to 'converse' that you are all ears; yet if he wishes to 'convert' that you have an indwelling Spirit who is more than capable to lead into all truth.

Those two words, convert and converse caught my attention. On EU we converse. We do not always agree but we disagree agreeably. It is truly a conversation. There need not be a victor and no one feels the need to correct anyone else. There is no fighting that goes on there. In fact, that is our main rule..pretty much our only rule. Play nice. The moderators have only had to moderate once or twice.

This whole idea of conversing vs. converting reminded me of the Sunday School Class I am presently attending. Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. So far, I like the atmosphere of the class. The members seem interested in listening to other points of view. They are looking to find points of agreement rather than points of learn from someone different than themselves. To perhaps enlarge their perspective, to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, to understand.

As Stephen Covey advises in his well known 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Henry David Thoreau said:

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.

I missed the class on Sunday because I was in Uniontown. They discussed the chapter Faith and the Presidential Elections. The upcoming class is Chapter 6 entitled "Shhhhhh, Just Listen." If I glean any helpful insights reading the chapter or attending the class, you will be the first to know.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More From Uniontown…..

Once again, greetings from the Fairfield Inn, Uniontown.  Yep…straight from the bathroom.  Feet propped up on the porcelain throne (which I acknowledge triggers a certain degree of the ewwwww factor but we make do with what we have, no?) My much needed coffee is sitting on the counter by the sink. I told Keith yesterday that there is something that seems kind of vile about brewing coffee in the bathroom! What about actually drinking the coffee in the bathroom!! The overhead fan is humming away in an attempt to muffle any noises that might leak out into the main part of the motel room where Keith is peacefully slumbering. 

I woke up thinking about what I wrote yesterday.  I was also thinking of last night’s service with its total emphasis on the cross.  I don’t know exactly what I think about the cross these days.  I used to think I was pretty far out there to even see the atonement differently than the penal substitutionary theory that permeates our churches…and that permeated the sermon last night.   I do not see the atonement as anything penal…or legal…or as payment to an offended God.  I do not see it as balancing the scales.  I remember running across a quote somewhere, in one of the many nooks and crannies I explore on the internet.  I don’t have the source of the quote…nor do I have the exact wording….but it goes something like this

With love, the scale is broken. 

Meaning, to me, that as the well known passage in Corinthians declares….love keeps no record of wrongs.  So does divine love keep a record?  Did God ever keep a record?  Just who are the record keepers?  We are.  I listened intently to the message last night.  Lynn Hiles’ ministry is mainly to the churches…to the religious folk who have been battered and bruised and beat up repeatedly by other religious folk. (which is not my story at all ) His main mission seems to be breaking the chains of religious bondage.  For those steeped in the law, perhaps believing that Jesus fulfilled the law is the first step toward freedom.

(Digressing here a bit) Although I don’t see that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant law…He certainly did not keep every jot of the Levitical law.  Thinking here of healing on the Sabbath, touching the unclean etc. etc.  Or was the Law that Jesus fulfilled his well known summation of the commandments?  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself.

The message last night focused so much on the cross that when it was over Keith mentioned that it must have rubbed me the wrong way.  “No, amens from you.”   There was a lot in last night’s sermon that I did not agree with…but I always glean something from just about every sermon I hear.  If nothing else (as I’ve said here before) just hearing that which we do not believe clarifies what we do believe. 

The legal view of the atonement just doesn’t do it for me.  It does not resonate.  But while I disagree with the legal view…the how….I do agree with the supposed end result ….that we have access to God, we are accepted into the Beloved, we are part of the body, there is no condemnation, our sins are forgiven.  I do certainly agree with all that….and I don’t think Jesus had to “take the beating we had coming” to accomplish all of that.  The breach between mankind and God is in our minds.  God has always been conciliatory toward us.  It is only when we heed the instruction to be ye reconciled to God do we reap all the rewards and benefits of the relationship. 

I am not downplaying the atonement.  While (as I said above) I do not have it all figured out, I do embrace it as an event of unparalleled significance….that by going to the cross he set creation free, (etc. etc) defeated sin and death, bridged the breach and showed us the way to our Father. I just don’t think he did that in a spiritual court of law. 

And lest this drone on and on and on….this seems as good of a place as any to end the meandering.  Your thoughts, of course, are always welcome…..

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Uniontown….

I am writing this in the bathroom at the Fairfield Inn in Uniontown Pa.  I am sitting…no…not on the toilet….but on the desk chair I wheeled in here so I would not disturb Keith while I do my early morning web surfing/blog writing/email checking.  We are in Uniontown for a 50 year celebration of the United Christian Temple.  It is a church that has been a UR/kingdom church for all of its 50 years. 

It is just a small little church…but complete with stained glass windows and church pews.  Very cool.  Very sacred feeling.  The pastor of the church is a man named Galen Winebrenner.  He and his wife Susan sort of inherited the church from his father in law, an early kingdom minister by the name of Dane Tabor.  I couldn’t find too much on Dane Tabor on the internet…because he’s been dead for about ten or fifteen years.  I found several of his writings in a publication called “Arise.”   You will have to scroll down to find the two writings. Sights and Sounds Of A New Era and The Lord’s Day.  The Lord’s Day is a poem that reminds me of Ray Prinzing’s style.  Poem copied and pasted below….


My power is revealed to bless all mankind,
And my love so true will transform each mind.
So lift up your voice, give praise to my name,
Stand forth in my strength, my glories proclaim.

This is my day and all men shall know
That death is destroyed, my life doth now flow.
Come sing now my song of my grace blessing all,
Be joined to this throng who have answered my call.

Man's eye hath not seen, nor hath his ear heard,
What I have prepared, as declared in my word.
But my Spirit has made clear, my plan is now plain,
All the world is mine, give glory to my name.

So ARISE in my life, shake the dust from your feet;
It's time to depart from this world's broad street.
For my glory now shines, declaring the way.
All the earth is mine, and this is MY DAY!
...... L. Dane Tabor

This is now later in the day….almost time to leave for the Saturday evening service.  We’ve enjoyed the time here.  Lynn Hiles will be preaching again tonight.  I’ve mentioned him before, a real hoot of a guy…hilarious….preaches the finished work of the cross.

It is the message he has been called to preach and it is a message that is very much inline with much of the stuff that the people I fellowship with online believe…just from a very Christian perspective.  The similarities? Separation from God is in our minds…we are a new creation….all the earth is the Lord’s…in him we live and move and have our being….God’s not mad at us.   

As Dane says in the poem above:

Come sing now my song of my grace blessing all,
Be joined to this throng who have answered my call.

We all must answer the call we hear in our own heart…trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us…and everyone….into all truth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Ties That Bind....

When I started to think about the excerpt I read from a book called Letters To My Friends by John Conley came to mind.  I read it...oh...probably a year ago.  I think our minds work like a computer with some haphazard, half butt filing hierarchy.  At least my brain works that way.  Have you ever tried really hard to remember a name...of a actress...a street where you used to live?  The harder you try, the more elusive the name becomes.  Then...when you finally give up and focus your attention on something else, it pops up...just like that. That has always amazed me.  So even though I sometimes have to wrack my brain to remember a name that is on the tip of my tongue, the short writing by John Conley that I read a year ago came immediately to mind. I remembered that it talks about strands...luminous strands. 

When I close my eyes, I can see luminous strands of light stretching from me both forwards and backwards into eternity.  These strands are my fate, and I know of only one way to free myself of them.  Who we think we are at any given moment in time is but one of the many strands that flow through our life.  We grab onto this strand and cling to it.  We call it life, and we believe that this strand is the only strand.  We are blind to the many other strands that flow through us unseen and untouched. 

For example, we may latch onto the strand we call anger.  We may decide that is how we are, and how we always will be.  Or, we may latch onto the victim strand, and we will allow nothing to shake us from our conviction that we are victims.  These are the strands of our personal history. 

Were we but able to see, we could change our entire life in a moment.  We could be enlightened now.  We could live lives of abundance now.  Simply by grabbing onto the strands of our dreams.  But we are blind, or at the very least, I am blind. 

And in our blindness we are stuck.  We don't realize that, although we are unable to change the past, the future lies before us filled with promise. And is our destiny set? John Conley seems to believe that it is not. 

For in Stillness we have the power to change our destiny.  We have the power to grab another strand, which will lead us to realms unknown.  And if we are not still, we are slaves of our past.  We have no choice but to be who we are. 

Although his term for God might be off putting for some, I have no real objection to it.  As if we could sum up God in any one word anyway...or in any ten billion words. So when he refers to "Stillness" I simply substitute Abba Father since that is the way God has revealed himself to me.  And what does he mean exactly by "in Stillness" or the opposite..."not still"?  My friend Brian posted something today on EU that used Christian terms to express something very similar.  He talked about "walking according to the spirit" or "walking according to the flesh." When we are in Stillness we are walking according to the Spirit.  When we are not still, we are walking according to the flesh.  Our only hope of change, is through the wonder working power of the Spirit.  

By practicing Stillness, we sever the strands that bind us to our past, a past that determines our future.  We sever these old strands through our decision to do so, and we gather new strands to ourselves.

Perhaps Jon Osterman, the character from the movie the other night, didn't realize he could gather new strands to himself.  Perhaps he was convinced that he was bound to the old strands....bound not only to a unchangeable past, but bound also to an unchangeable future.  Perhaps the luminous strands are the connection to our source of never ending power...our Abba Father,  the Stillness.  And what Jon Osterman saw...the puppet strings....perhaps they were simply the ties that bind. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Secret....

About those strings....

G.K. Chesterton wrote a play called The Surprise.  It is sort of a modern day parable that deals with this total sovereignty/free will issue.  Since it is late...since I have a headache...and since I have not read the play myself, I am going to copy and paste what I found on the full credit to the authors, of course.  I would like to read the book myself...perhaps I will check out the library. I imagine there are some interesting quotes to be gleaned from the play.

The first excerpt comes from a book I found on google books entitled Chesterton and Evil.  Not only does the parable deal with the issue of free will/sovereignty, it also deals with the existence of evil. 

In a play, a character called the Author creates a number of puppets to perform "a play without a villain" (321) and the play is subsequently performed for a visiting friar.  However, the Author is not satisfied with his creation.  He explains to the friar that without their freedom the puppets remain artificial:  "They are everything else except alive.  They are intelligent, complex, combative, brilliant, bursting with life, and yet they are not alive" (324)  This is at the heart of the Author's problem.  "I want them to be and not to do.  I want them to exist" 323) At the request of the Author, the visiting friar asks God for a miracle, and the puppets gain their own wills.  In Act II of The Surprise, the Author's play is repeated, only this time the results are very different.  As the play concludes and the puppets start trying to kill one another, the Author sticks his head through the scenery to intervene: "And in the devil's name, what do you think you are doing with my play?  Drop it! Stop! I am coming down" (340)

Although the analogy that Chesterton offers us in The Surprise is an obvious one, he insists on reinforcing his main point through an early piece of dialogue between the author and the friar:

Author: The real world is very grievous and doubtless it is right that it should worship a grievous god.  I only say, for the world that I have made, that though I cannot make it as real, I have at least made it less grievous.  Inside that box on wheels, though not outside it, there is a very happy universe: not cozy, but nobly happy...and when I come out of my little theatre, full of towering generosity and the gestures of giants, into this wicked world, I think the world is mean as well as well as wicked....

Friar:  Do you know what has made the world mean and wicked?

Ahhhhh...isn't that the $100,000 question?

The other excerpt came from a blog post that talks about different views of the atonement...which is another mystery itself. The name of the blog is AÚN ESTAMOS VIVOS 

Chesterton offers another way into the mystery, in a little two-act play of his called The Surprise. The play opens, in the Middle Ages, with a friar wandering through a woods. He sees a large rolling caravan, a platform stage with its curtain open and handsome life-size puppets lying with their strings loose. The puppet master is up above the stage. The friar asks what town he will be giving his show in-he would like to see it. The man tells him to sit down and he will give him a free performance. A romantic tale is then spun out in which a swashbuckling hero and his friend, drinking to each other's health, swear to rescue a damsel in captivity. They carry it off with great panache, and the play ends. The friar applauds, but the man asks to go to confession. He confesses that he is un-happy because he loves his characters, yet they do not breathe and reciprocate his love. As he turns away, the friar falls to his knees and prays that his wishes might come true. The curtain falls on the first act.

The second act begins with the puppets again lying down amid their loose strings. But then the characters begin to stir on their own. They rise and start reenacting the play. But this time little things begin to go wrong, each aggravating the next, and the pace of mishaps quickens. The friends drink too much and quarrel, they show jealousy over the heroine, they arrive too late to rescue her, so her captor is about to rape her. At this point, the puppet master stands up on the roof of the caravan and shouts, "Stop! I'm coming down."

And he did come down, didn't he? He showed us a perfect image of himself in the person of Jesus. Amazing that he dwells in us and around us. The strings the character from the Watchman talks about?  Could they be luminous threads that connect our spirit to his spirit?  More about that tomorrow..... 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Puppets on a String?

An excerpt from the Keating interview (already posted a while back) that I have been planning to write follows....

Centering prayer is very rich but quite diffuse and tends to put the emphasis on grace in a way that perhaps needs to be balanced by the Zen attitude, which is that we have to do something, too. Actually, St. Ignatius expressed it well when he said, "Act as if everything depended on you, and trust as if everything depended on God." Well, how do you do that? That is a koan. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to do that.

Well I spent several years trying to figure it no avail. Trying to reconcile absolute predetermination dogged me for the longest time...putting a major kink in my relationship with God.  And I tortured myself with it...and snubbed God for months.  I talked ABOUT him..but rarely talked TO him.  Being married and mentored by someone who believes "totally" in total sovereignty...someone who knows a lot more than I do about scripture and theology and such...led to many "discussions" about that very topic. 

But what about ...... ? 
And what about ..... ? 
Okay...then what about.... ? 

And on and on it went.  Discussing all the usual in a bowl, fly in a jar, mouse in a maze.  Chess games and fenced in areas....pastured free will....and on and on it went. 

I know there are many verses that seem to indicate every little nuance of our personalities and our behavior is preplanned.  Our every thought, whim, wonder, opinion, fear, like and dislike preordained and predestined.  As someone on a message board once mused (can't remember where or who), "Did God simply put the tape in the VCR, push play and then sit back to watch the eons pass by...completely preplanned and prearranged? The ultimate que sera, sera.

And there are verses that "prove" God does give us some choices in our lives.  Real choices, not pseudo choices.  Some, like those who embrace open theism (Greg Boyd comes to mind) even believe that God chooses not to know every detail about how the future will play out   He knows the end...but the in between can take many different paths.  There are even scriptures that seem to indicate that. 

This can lead to debates about relative and absolute views of scripture and other ways of explaining away the verses the "other side" offers as proof. There are no definitive answers that can be proven with scripture.  I know folks on both sides of the fence might dispute that but alas....I think, for every scripture the "opposing" side comes up with there is another scripture that disproves it.

Now isn't THAT a major koan? 

Not too long ago, Keith watched a rather weird movie called "The Watchman" As is usually the case, I watched bits and pieces of it without the soundtrack.  He uses a headset so I can stay in the living room and read...yet my attention continues to be drawn to the screen. The movie was a very sci-fi, dark and foreboding superhero movie. The main character was a man who had a nuclear accident of some sort in a lab where he was a scientist.  The accident turned him into a blue energy kind of being with these creepy glowing all white eyes.

At dinner the next night, Keith filled me in on some of the details I couldn't figure out from the "silent version" of the movie.  He told me about one scene in particular that piqued my interest...a scene that contained a discussion about destiny.  I found the following conversation on the internet.  In the scene, Jon Osterman (the blue energy guy) and his estranged wife were discussing their failed relationship.  The conversation took place on Mars...where he had been banished to for one reason or another.  I don't know all the details but that is not what struck me about the conversation.  No point digressing.  

[as they ascend a flight of glass stairs on Mars]
Jon Osterman: This is where we hold our conversation. In it, you reveal to me that you and Dreiberg have been sleeping together.
[suddenly taken aback]
Laurie Juspeczyk: You know about me and Dan?
Jon Osterman: Not yet. But in a few moments, you're going to tell me.
Laurie Juspeczyk: If you already know the future, then why were you surprised when I left you? Or when that reporter ambushed you? Why even argue about it if you already know how this is going to end?
Jon Osterman: I have no choice. Everything is preordained... even my responses.
Laurie Juspeczyk: And you're just going through the motions? The most powerful thing in the universe is still just a puppet...
Jon Osterman: We are all puppets, Laurie. I'm just the puppet who can see the strings.
Laurie Juspeczyk: And what if you're wrong?
Jon Osterman: Why does my perception of time distress you so?
Laurie Juspeczyk: Because it's inhuman. Because it makes me insane. You always say you wanna comfort me. Well, it isn't working. Look, I don't want to fight. I'm sorry I slept with Dan.
[suddenly upset]
Jon Osterman: You slept with Dan?

A perfect illustration of the koan that Keating mentions in the interview.  And it also reminds me of one of the analogies about free will/ usually used disparagingly by those who believe in free will.  If predetermination is true then, like Jon Osterman, we are simply "puppets on a string."  We are part of the divine puppet show.  That is totally disheartening to me.  It brings comfort to some folks, but it brings me to despair. 

And I've been thinking about those strings that supposedly attach us to the hand of the puppet master but more on that tomorrow.....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More on the Keating Interview....

The last post about the Keating interview (many moons ago) ended with the following sentence.
This means first having a self and then surrendering it, opening oneself to union with God, which is a gift.
I think this sentence is ripe with stuff to think about and ponder. Some of that pondering follows....

Having a self and then surrendering it....

In the reading I've done over the course of the last year or so, there is the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) implication that the ego...the a bad thing. I don't necessarily see it that way unless, of course, it takes over and convinces you that it is all there is to you. You become lost in your thoughts...caught on the merry go round of egoic thinking. I recently read a quote from Willie Nelson...don't let your thoughts think you. Another way of saying, don't succumb to the ploys of the egoic mind. Annie recently posted a link to a short audio of Joel Goldsmith where he talked about our uniqueness. Joel Goldsmith refers to our individuality as "our individual expression of God's being. He says we never lose our individuality, our uniqueness.

But then there is mention about surrendering. Ahhhhh......the tricky part...surrendering our uniqueness to God. I found some really interesting quotes about surrender....
"At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy:I will not give up my right to myself--the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ."
-------- Oswald Chambers, in *My Utmost for His Highest*

To place ourselves in range of God's choicest gifts, we have to walk with God, work with God, lean on God, cling to God, come to have the sense and feel of God, refer all things to God.Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Calvin Seminary
He knows what He is doing with me. I cannot always understand His way, but I am content in the realization that He knows what is best. That is surrender.~Daya Mata
And a rather long quote from the very prolific Preston Eby...from THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD Part 23 THE CLEANSING AND SANCTIFICATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD
Many are ready enough to give unto God an hour a week, or perchance an hour a day, a few spare dollars, and a sentimental kind of religionism, which consists of feelings and emotions and activities; but anything like a practical surrender of themselves to the leadership of the Spirit alone, to follow on to know HIM in His perfections, to know His voice and obey His will as He reveals it, yielding body and soul, all they have, and are, and will be, to the Lord alone, is put on one side as an extravagant idea, not to be entertained by soberminded people, who have to get on in the world. Oh, are you one of these? Are you a servant of religion and tradition, rather than the Lord? YOU ARE ROBBING GOD! "But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? IN TITHES AND OFFERINGS" (Mal. 3:8). You are withholding that which belongs to Him. You profess to be the Lord's; then how much of you is His? The priesthood is the tithe and offering of the people unto God. Having received the call to priesthood, do you not belong entirely to Him? Then how can you how dare you refuse Him THE WHOLE of that heart, that life which He has claimed as uniquely His? Let the words, "WHOLLY GIVEN UNTO THE LORD," be henceforward our motto, the stamp and superscription on all we have, and are, and let each day and each hour witness, by God's grace, a renewed, willing, and hearty surrender of ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, unto Him whose we are, and whom we desire to serve as HIS PRIESTHOOD upon the earth. God grant that we may yield it!
And about union with Him? Norman Grubb puts it this way:
"Jesus gave us the vine and branches illustration. Through this our eyes are opened to the secret of the universe: union the mystery of the universe: how two can be one and yet remain two. The living God, the living Christ, and I actually become one person and function as one person. Separation is impossible. It has disappeared. We function entirely and forever and naturally as one person. And yet we remain two!" (Norman Grubb, The Key to Everything. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1960. Pgs 24,25)
...then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ-- Christ crucified and risen and living in glory-- into your heart. Andrew Murray
And about the gift part? Well, Romans 6:23 sums that up very succinctly....
the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord. (Emph)
And while cruising around looking for quotes about surrendering (amazing what google will cough up if one is willing to look for a bit) I found a whole series of writings on surrender written from a very calvinistic Universalist perspective. Check out the 2009 writings by Jan Antonoson on
The Glory Road...all about surrender. The most intriguing title in the collection? Surrendering to God Is Like Giving a Cat a Pill.

Tomorrow I will finish up my comments on this interview with Keating...and interview that provided all kinds of fodder for my thoughts and ponderings....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interesting Website -The Website of Unknowing

Well..yesterday did NOT go the way I planned it. Beth was supposed to work at 3:30...and I was going to drive her to work then hang out up in that neck of the woods until she was finished four hours later. I've written about that whole procedure here before. I usually hit a place with free wifi. like one of the nearby libraries..or Borders (where there is no wifi at all but with lots of books to leaf through and plenty of plugs so I can write about interesting things I find in the books w/o keeping an eye on how much battery I have left) I often some stuff at Sam's (including a serving of their vanilla soft serve...for 97 cents)

Plans abruptly changed when I got a call from Beth who was (in texting lingo) sk8ing. Skateboarding. Well, let me rephrase that. She was not actually sk8ing. She was laying face down on the pavement in the middle of the road after doing a somersault, landing first on her hand, then elbow, then back of her head, then her hip. She had road rash all over her.

When I rushed to pick her up (a few blocks from my house) she staggered to the car...and by the time we got home and she went to lay on her bed for a while, she was sobbing. Off to the ER we went...and spent four hours of a perfectly good Labor Day afternoon sitting in the ER. Ugh. End result...

No serious injuries. Lots of bruising. Probably pulled ligaments in the hip/groin.

So, even though I had planned to finish up a post about the Keating interview, it just didn't happen. BUT...while doing some "reasearch" for it, I came upon a really, really interesting website called THE WEBSITE OF UNKNOWING. It is self described as:

all about Christian mysticism, Celtic wisdom, interfaith spirituality, the emergent conversation, and assorted other topic

Check it out if you have a chance. I will be writing about some of the writings there in the future. Especially interesting to me was the post entitled Everything you always wanted to know about Christian Mysticism but were afraid to ask. Lots of comments there....which oftentimes are at least as interesting as the original post itself. (hint hint)

More on Keating tomorrow...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Listening To God - continued

While checking out some of the devotionals in the bookcase (for the other blog) in the One Year Book of Personal Prayer...a devotional I picked up years ago at a Goodwill of the quotes for September 7th is by Oswald Chambers. 

Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is the most initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. 

Funny how so many different resources...stuff from so many different sources (print, cyber, day to day living, movies, notes and quotes saved on my computer etc) seem to come together to make a point.  It always surprises me a little when it happens. 

Tomorrow...back to some of the ideas the Keating interview birthed within my brain...

Listening To God...

I don't know why I don't go to church more often.  Even though I oftentimes disagree with some of the stuff "preached and teached"...I almost always come away edified.  Yesterday the sermon was based on the following verses in John 7.

40On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41Others said, “He is the Christ.”

Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. occurs to me "the people" are still "divided because of Jesus."  So many different views about him...and I suspect we all, in varying degrees, miss the mark. 

But...I digress...since the main purpose for this post is to tell you about a video clip they showed in which members of the church talked about where they were from.  Somehow, even though it seemed to be a bit off topic, one of the little girl's Emily babysits for had a segment in which she told about the day she asked Jesus into her heart.  Following is a paraphrase of what she said...precious and priceless...from the mouths of babes. 

"The day I asked Jesus into my heart, I was with my cousin, Collin.  I looked at him and he had his eyes closed...but he wasn't sleeping! I asked him what he was doing and he said...."

Here comes the "out of the mouths of babes" part.

"and he said, I'm LISTENING TO GOD" 

Wow.  So many adults do not get that.  We think prayer is the means by which we tell God what we would like him to do.  And, I think, that is a part of prayer...pouring our heart out to him...dumping our requests at the throne of Grace...letting him help us sort it all out.  Perhaps that begins the process he uses to conform our will to his will.  But isn't a big part of prayer..perhaps the BIGGEST part of prayer...LISTENING to God?"

BE STILL and know that I am God. 

Collin already has that part figured out....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Have Another Blog...

Friday...on a whim...I revamped an old blog of mine that I have not posted on for several years.  I gave it a spiffy new template (not a "canned" blogger template but one of those hacks you can find on the internet)  And I gave it a new name...a name that just came to me out of the blue....while contemplating my brand new devotional (Jesus Calling)  The new name?  With My Utmost Devotion.  The URL still contains the original title....Savior of All, Condemner of None....not sure how to change that on blogger.

The description...

I have many devotionals hanging out on various bookshelves, in baskets sitting here and there, in drawers and cupboards and piled on the nightstand beside my bed. What a waste not to read and comment....

So the purpose will be to comment on some of them...and perhaps write a few more "just shooting the breeze" posts.  We'll see where that rabbit trail leads.  Drop over anytime...


What's Your Passion?

I went to church this morning...spurred on by a new Sunday School class....Seeing Gray in a Black and White World. The class is based on the book by Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of a United Methodist mega church in Kansas.  The gist of the book....

One solution to the culture and political wars that hasn't yet been tried, suggests Adam Hamilton, is for thinking persons of faith to model for the rest of the country a richer, more thoughtful conversation on the political, moral, and religious issues that divide us. Hamilton rejects the easy assumptions and sloppy analysis of black and white thinking, seeking instead the truth that resides on all sides of the issues and offering a faithful and compassionate way forward."--


Everyone agrees that America is polarized, with ever-hardening positions held by people less and less willing to listen to one another. No one agrees on what to do about it.One solution that hasn't yet been tried, says Adam Hamilton, is for thinking persons of faith to model for the rest of the country a richer, more thoughtful conversation on the political, moral, and religious issues that divide us. Hamilton rejects the easy assumptions and sloppy analysis of black and white thinking, seeking instead the truth that resides on all sides of the issues, and offering a faithful and compassionate way forward.He writes, "I don't expect you to agree with everything I've written. I expect that in the future even I won't agree with everything I've written here. The point is not to get you to agree with me, but to encourage you to think about what you believe. In the end I will be inviting those of you who find this book resonates with what you feel is true, to join the movement to pursue a middle way between the left and the right - to make your voices heard - and to model for our nation and for the church, how we can listen, learn, see truth as multi-sided, and love those with whom we disagree."

There are 9 other people in the class....2 couples, 3 college students, the guy who is leading the class is the head of the Lycoming College ministry and the assistant teacher is a member of the church...a youngish mother of two kids who will soon be thirty and works with AIDS patients.  I would guess I am the most liberal of the bunch...especially spiritually. 

One of the woman mentioned that sometimes it seems really hard to know what to do, where to start, how to proceed because there is so much to be done.  The suggestion was made that we find our passion and go from there.  Several mentioned what their passion was.  I was quiet.  But it got me thinking....what is my passion?

I know the thing that occupies most of my time...other than my kids, Keith and writing on this blog...reading and "researching," pondering, musing about...mulling over in my head  the things I write about on this blog.  And what is the main gist of what I want to convey here?  Like the title of the book my friend daniel talked about a few weeks ago on EU (and that I posted about here)  I want to tell people....


If you think he can be confined to any one religion (even Christianity) HE IS TOO SMALL!!!  If you think he speaks only through the Bible.  HE IS TOO SMALL!!!  If you think he cannot win over the hardest heart and cause the most stubborn knee to bow and cause every tongue to joyfully proclaim Christ is Lord...then HE IS TOO SMALL!!!  THAT is the gist of my passion...

Our assignment this week is to read several chapters of the of which asks the question, Is Your Jesus Is Too Small?" 

I will pass on any interesting insights from the book and from the class.  I think it will be interesting and I do really enjoy the face to face, in real life fellowship. 

In fits and starts, in my usual meandering haphazard fashion....more to follow....

Friday, September 4, 2009

Koans, Contrarianisms and Paradoxes....

Before I began to study the connection/similarities/differences between Buddhism and Christianity, I was not familiar with the term "koan." 
I didn't know the word but like most everyone I've heard some of the well known koans:

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

Another one that comes to mind...not sure if it has it's origins in Buddhism or not....

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

Following are several definitions of the word koan...found on the internet (where else?)

Wikipedia: a story, dialogue, question, or statement in the history and lore of Zen Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to intuition.

Word Net Web: a paradoxical anecdote or a riddle that has no solution; used in Zen Buddhism to show the inadequacy of logical reasoning

Mokurai's Temple:  A seemingly paradoxical riddle or statement that is used as a training device in Zen practice to force the mind to abandon logic and dualistic thought.

Well, well, well...I may not have known the Buddhist term for it, but I have been frustrated by koans galore...found right in the pages of Bible.  I don't think it is only in Zen that we find paradoxes that "show the inadequacy of logical reasoning." Some biblical koans come to mind. 

A biggie for me has been free will vs. total sovereignty. 

The existence of evil and the existence of a good God. 

It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me. (huh?)

Thou shalt not kill vs. In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Thou shalt not bear false witness vs Now therefore behold the Lord hath put a spirit of lying in the mouth of all thy prophets.

The topic of Biblical koans...paradoxes...could be the basis for a very long series of posts.  These paradoxes have been discussed and debated by those much smarter than me...and are still not settled to everyone's let's get back to the Keating interview- the part where he talks about koans...biblical koans:

CB: In reading your books, I thought that you saw God as immanent as opposed to transcendent. Did I read that incorrectly, or is this another koan?

TK: That is what it is. [God is] infinitely transcendent and infinitely immanent. That is the extraordinary part: God couldn't be closer, closer even than consciousness. But the Christian articulation of that mystery is a little different from [that of] the East. The Christian would say you are not God, whereas the Vedic tradition says that you become God. I think we may be talking about the same experience of divine union, but our belief system requires us to say that you may be so united to God that you can't distinguish yourself from Him but that He nevertheless remains ontologically-that is, metaphysically-distinct. That theological disagreement could simply be the result of having an experience and trying to articulate the inexplicable according to your particular belief system.

So although it sounds different, it may be the same thing. But we don't have enough experience to say that for sure. We have to have a lot more people in that state and be at a good stage of dialogue to precisely understand each other's terms. We started a little group called the Snowmass Interreligious Conference, where teachers from various spiritual traditions got together and just talked about what helped them the most. This gave us a chance to see a religion through somebody else's eyes, someone who has really been through it and now embodies it.

I had to look up those two words...transcendent and immanent.  I found a good explanation on an atheist's blog  on

Thanks Austin...

On the face of it, the characteristics of transcendence and immanence appear to be in conflict. A transcendent God is one who is beyond perception, independent of the universe, and wholly “other” when compared to us. An immanent God, is one which exists within — within us, within the universe, etc. — and, hence, very much a part of our existence. How can these qualities exist simultaneously?

How indeed?

He closes the post by saying...
The need for both qualities can be seen in the other characteristics normally attributed to God. If God is a person and works within human history, then it would make little sense for us not to be able to perceive and communicate with God. Moreover, if God is infinite, then God must exist everywhere — including within us and within the universe. Such a God must be immanent.

On the other hand,if God is absolutely perfect beyond all experience and understanding, then God must also be transcendent. If God is timeless (outside of time and space) and unchangable, then God cannot also be immanent within us, beings who are within time. Such a God must be wholly “other,” transcendent to everything we know.

Because both of these qualities follow readily from other qualities, it would be very difficult to abandon either without also needing to abandon or at least seriously modify many other common attributes of God. Some theologians and philosophers have been willing to make such a move, but most have not - and the result is a continuation of both of these attributes, constantly in tension.

"Constantly in tension"...what John G refers to as a contrarianism.  Austin therefore chooses, mistakenly in my opinion, to pitch the whole God thing.  He can't figure out the paradox...the contrarianism...the koan. Since his mind cannot comprehend how God can be both..then God must not exist at all...there must not be a God.  Although contrarianisms are exceedingly frustrating, throwing out God because we cannot wrap our brains around the totality of him, is like the oft used baby and the bath water saying.  

Keating goes on to talk about another koan.  In Christianese...grace vs. works. 

CB: Did your experience with Zen inform your Christian faith?

TK: Yes, it enriched it. I read the Gospel from a different perspective and saw the truth of Zen in much of the Gospel. Buddhism is a very advanced religion. Roshi Sasaki, who is still functioning at 89 in Mount Baldy in Los Angeles, thought that Zen could help Christians become better Christians. He saw-and I would certainly adhere to his insight-that there is a certain Zen quality in all religions. It is a fundamental religious attitude. Centering prayer is very rich but quite diffuse and tends to put the emphasis on grace in a way that perhaps needs to be balanced by the Zen attitude, which is that we have to do something, too. Actually, St. Ignatius expressed it well when he said, "Act as if everything depended on you, and trust as if everything depended on God." Well, how do you do that? That is a koan. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to do that. What the world religions all have in common is [the fact that] transcendence is the name of the game. This means first having a self and then surrendering it, opening oneself to union with God, which is a gift.

More on this topic...tomorrow.....

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I stopped at the library tonight after work, killing some time (yet again) while waiting for Emily to get finished with Cross Country practice. She wanted to hit Staples to buy back to school SUPPLIES...not to be confused with back to school CLOTHES....which we shopped for last week.  She filled a basket with notebooks, binders, dividers, mechanical pencils etc. etc. etc.

I love the library.  When I go to there, I browse the shelves much like I browse the shelves of a book store....wandering up and down the aisles.  I usually head for the religion/philosophy sections and something there always catches my eye.  This afternoon I was poking around on a shelf when a small paperback book fell onto the floor.  Now I WAS poking around on the shelf so it is not as if I was just walking by and the book jumped out at me, but it did fall on the floor, and it did get my attention and it just so happened that the book was about the topic I've been writing about lately.  The title....Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, The Eastern and Western Way.  On the cover it describes itself as "A study of the qualities Meister Eckhart shares with Zen and Shin Buddhism." 

Hmmmmm...intriguing.  Perhaps there is something in the book I am supposed to learn?  And then convey?  Perhaps.  Stranger things have happened. 

I could only find the "snippet" view on google books, but I found links that led to a couple of other books with a Christian Buddhist theme...books with a "limited preview."  The links follow.....

The Mirror Mind: Zen and Christian Dialouge by William Johnston

Christian Zen also by William Johnston

Living Zen, Loving God by Ruben L. F. Habito

The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialouges by Frederick J. Streng, Sallie B. King

 Beside Still Waters, Jews, Christians, and the way of the Buddha

By Harold Kasimow, John P. Keenan, Linda Klepinger Keenan


If I come across anything interesting in the book....I'll let you know.  I plan to write more on this topic....tomorrow....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coloring Inside the Lines....

Last Thursday I took the girls shopping for school clothes.  Never mind that Beth is a cyber school student whose normal attire for a typical school day is grubby sweats or whatever she happened to sleep in the night before.  She (due mainly to grave misbehavior and her screw you attitude) last year at back to school time hasn't gotten new "back to school" clothes for a couple of years.  Em is a full time brick and mortar student, so she needed some new stuff.  So off we went. I hate to shop...but I did get to spend about an hour hiding out in Borders while they looked around. 

I found two really interesting books.  The first...that really doesn't have anything to do with this post.... was entitled "Jesus Calling."  It is a devotional book, one of those little chunky kind of books...probably designed to fit in a purse or briefcase.  There is also a devotional journal designed to go with the book due out sometime in November, I think.  Like I said...not related to this post ..... "just saying."  The book is written as if Jesus was talking to us...first person.  I really liked the devotional passages I read.  I found a few excerpts from the book and an interview with its author on the CBN website

The other book, which is related to this post, was called "Love Poems From God."  Really neat book.  You can find extensive excerpts from the book at a site called Poet Seers which is definitely worth a visit.  I copied down a few of the poems during my school shopping reprieve at Borders.  One of the poems (that I had scribbled on an index card) immediately came to mind when I read the following snippet from Keating's interview. 

CB: That's a good point. Many people have an internalized image of a harsh, critical, judgmental, or even sadistic God. The whole point of centering prayer is to "rest in God," but if you assume that God is going to punish you, you're not going to be able to relax.

TK: Exactly. This is a problem for many pre-Vatican II Catholics and, I would think, for fundamentalists, given their teachings. Most mainline Christians have a pretty monstrous idea of God that involves hell and punishment. If you feel that God is a judge, then you are ready to bring down the verdict of guilty for your least fault. We didn't know how to teach children religion, so we gave them the Commandments instead of fostering the idea of God as a loving father and protector who is merciful and who loves us. That is the good news of the gospel. I'm afraid we got into the habit in many Christian denominations of teaching the bad news first.

And what does Keating suggest we do with this false image of God?

TK: Throw it in the wastebasket. Learn that it isn't God. One of the values of centering prayer is that you are not thinking about God during the time of centering prayer, so you are giving God a chance to manifest.

This is where the poem comes in....

An Image That Makes Them Sad
How long will grown men and women
in this world

keep drawing in their coloring books

an image of God that makes them sad?

(pg 117 Love Poems From God)

Per Keating's out the page and throw it in the wastebasket.  By basking in his presence, learn to color a new picture. Don't try so hard to "stay in the lines" (of our preconceived images of God that we've picked up along the way)  Scripture talks about "singing a new song"....well....color a new picture.  Don't be afraid.  He promises to lead us into "all truth."  Still a bit leery?

CB: And if fear arises?

TK: Let it go, along with every other thing that arises. If one has an obsession or an emotionally charged thought that is diseased, not thinking is one of the best healing methods there is. In centering prayer there are moments of peace that give the psyche a chance to realize that God may not be so bad after all. Centering prayer gradually heals the emotional wound of thinking and feeling about God in a way that is unhealthy and certainly untrue. In the periods of centering prayer, people experience God in a new way. God has a chance to be Himself for a change.

More on Keating and this interview tomorrow.....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interview With Thomas Keating

In yesterday's post, I mentioned an interview with Thomas Keating that I stumbled upon while researching (googling) the connection between Christianity and Buddhism...which led to articles about Merton and Keating and centering/contemplative prayer. Keating is considered one of the founders of contemplative prayer, which is similar in many ways to Zen mediation. The article begins with a bit of history about Keating and the origins of contemplative prayer:

As a student at Yale in the early 1940s, Keating, the scion of a wealthy but not particularly religious Park Avenue family, found his Roman Catholic worldview sufficiently challenged by a freshman philosophy class to seriously investigate the roots of his faith. While in the library reading Thomas Aquinas's Catena Aurea, a line-by-line exposition of the four Gospels by the great Church fathers, he experienced a profound conversion: He deeply grasped the fact that Christianity was a contemplative religion. He realized that the spiritual sense of the Scripture was much more important than the literal and that union with the Divine was not only possible but available to all. "That insight," says the 74-year-old Trappist monk, 'was the seed that has continued to grow all through my life. What I am doing now is trying to share that insight."

The article goes on to say that:

Keating defines centering prayer as a contemplative practice, "a very simple method in which one opens oneself to God and consents to His presence in us and to His actions with us." When Keating uses the word "contemplation," however, he is not referring to rumination or reflection. He is using the term in its classical sense: being with God. Thus, through centering prayer one moves beyond images, emotions, and thoughts. According to Keating, it is like "two friends sitting in silence, being in each other's presence."

Keating's little snippet about friends made me think of the chapters in Exodus that tell us about the relationship Moses shared with God.  In the excerpt that follows, the Lord "speaks" to Moses face to face.  Were there words, spoken words, exchanged or was there silent communication similar to what Keating talks about?  The word translated "spoke" is the Hebrew word "dabar."  According to the Strong's Concordance it can mean to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing.  Also, according to Strong's, it is translated 20 times in the KJV as "commune."  I like that word...commune.  It means to be in close or intimate communication.  It encompasses all kinds of expression...both verbal and nonverbal.  Following is what scripture has to say about what took place in The Tent of Meeting. 

Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. 11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.

Later in the chapter Moses asks God to "teach me your ways" and "show me your Glory."

God replies, "My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest." and "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence." two friends being in each other's presence.  And how else do we see his glory...but by abiding in his presence? By hoofing it to our very own Tent of Meeting (where ever that might be...and who says it has to be a specific geographic location.  Perhaps the Tent of Meeting is another name for the prayer closet Jesus talks about...the place we find within...where we commune with the Spirit within....with "the Christ in you...the hope of Glory"  And in that special place he causes all of his goodness to pass in front of us. 

In his book, Friendship With God, Neale Walsch says:

"You must be willing to suspend what you imagine you already know about God in order to know God as you never imagined"

And so many of us have a skewed image of God....clinging to what we imagine we already know about  God.  Too frightened and leery to seek his sit in silence in his presence. 

Keating touches on this distorted image of God in this interview.  More on that tomorrow......