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Archive for May, 2011

O Lord . . . .

Let me stand today–

for whatever is pure and true and just and good:

for the advancement of science and education
and true learning:

for the redemption of daily business from
the blight of self-seeking:

for the rights of the weak and oppressed:

for industrial cooperation and mutual help:

for the conservation of the rich traditions of the past:

for the recognition of new workings of Thy Spirit
in the minds of the [people] of my own time:

for the hope of yet more glorious days to come.

Today, O Lord–
let me put right before interest:

let me put others before self:

let me put the things of the spirit before
the things of the body:

let me put the attainment of noble ends above
the enjoyment of present pleasures:

let me put principle above reputation:

let me put Thee before all else.

O Thou the reflection of whose transdendent glory did once appear unbroken in the face of Jesus Christ, give me today a heart like His–a brave heart, a true heart, a tender heart, a heart with great room in it, a heart fixed on Thyself; for his name’s sake. Amen

— From A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

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Bob Dylan is 70 today.

Bob Dylan is 70 years old. See here for an updated essay from a few years ago about him after the release of his memoir Chronicles.

Or here’s a briefer piece about him more up-to-date.

Wow. Seventy years and looking relatively good for a guy who’s been up all night for 70 years.

“May you always know the truth,
and see the light surrounding you.”

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“The idea of God’s having any needs at all, let alone needing us, may sound like an alien, even heretical idea, yet it is a realization that many contemplatives come to.”

— Gerald G. May in The Dark Night of the Soul

St. Teresa of Avila (Spain)

Count yours truly as a contemplative Christian, one whose personal theology — what I believe about God and why I believe it — has been shaped largely by the influence of St. Teresa of Avila and her Spanish buddy St. John of the Cross.

In the book excerpt below, the late and great contemplative Christian writer, psychiatrist and cofounder of the Shalem Institute Gerald G. May mulls on the thought of the two mystic Spaniards.
It’s taken from Mays’ book The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth.

“It is usual for people to think of God as the Supreme Being, the Lord and Master of all Creation, the omnipotent Higher Power who is in charge of everything. Such a God is separate from us, transcendent, above and beyond us, and capable of giving us good things and bad things. We naturally pray for the good things we want and for relief from the bad things we don’t want. And usually it doesn’t work. We don’t get all we want, and we get too much of what we don’t want. Logically, then, that transcendent, omnipotent, and separate God seems arbitrary at best, unloving at worst.

“But the contemplatives, as we have seen with Teresa and John, emphasize God’s immanence as well as transcendence. God is our center, they say, closer to us than we are to ourselves. We are immersed in God, and God is immersed in us. So if the transcendent God ‘out there’ is arbitrary or unloving to us, that same God is being arbitrary or unloving to the God ‘in here.’

“An alternative vision, one that I find repeatedly in contemplative literature, is that instead of God’s being unloving or arbitrary, God may not be so omnipotent. Or at least the power of God may not extend to making God invulnerable. Most contemplatives see God as being wounded when and as we are wounded, sharing our sufferings as well as our joys. When bad things happen to us, they also happen to God. This is certainly in keeping with Teresa’s sense of the Holy One’s being surrendered to us in love and needing us to love, to be loved by, and to manifest God’s love in the world.

“The idea of God’s having any needs at all, let alone needing us, may sound like an alien, even heretical idea, yet it is a realization that many contemplatives come to. Theologically, if God is indeed all-loving–if God is love–then that love must necessarily temper God’s omnipotence. Love always transforms power, making it softer, deeper and richer. Conversely, it may be only in our vulnerability, in our actually being wounded, that love gains its full power. Thus true omnipotence may not be found in a distant and separate power over something or someone, but rather in the intimate experience of being wounded for and with.

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UMCOR: Bringing relief from Joplin, Mo. and Alabama to Darfur

The “pundits” and talking heads already are wondering if Joplin, Mo., will get shortchanged in terms of donations and volunteers for relief because of “compassion fatigue.” People, after all, have given so much already for relief in Alabama and Japan and here and there and everywhere.

“Compassion fatigue”–that’s a phrase that flies all over me as a Christian. I don’t think Jesus and his followers ever threw up their hands in frustration because of compassion fatigue.

Now’s the time to suck it up (as your coach used to say) and give a little extra, perhaps, for relief in Joplin AND Alabama.

I specified donations for relief in both Missouri and Alabama this morning through UMCOR–the United Methodist Committee on Relief. (We Methodists pronounce it Um-Core.) I know that 100 percent of my donation will go for actual relief for people hurting in those two states.

Be a good jitterbugger, you all of the Jitterbuggingforjesus.com cult — or a good Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, high-minded atheist or whatever you are–and consider giving through UMCOR or Red Cross or some other credible channel. And join me in prayers, you of good faiths.

Click here for more info on UMCOR and how to target your relief dollars or find a way to volunteer.

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A word and then some from my main man the mystic Mr. Merton, who (among others, like Christ Jesus, of course) keeps me inspired when the world and the grind of ministry are too much with me. . . .

(Photo from MaidinSun Photography. Click here for more. And also here.).

Our Christian destiny is, in fact, a great one: but we cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves.

“It is, therefore, a very great thing to be little, which is to say: to be ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are.”

— From Thomas Merton’s No Man Is an Island

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We are what we love. If we love God, in whose image we were created, we discover ourselves in him and we cannot help being happy: we have already achieved something of the fullness of being for which we were destined in our creation.

“If we love everything else but God, we contradict the image born in our very essence, and we cannot help being unhappy, because we are living a caricature of what we are meant to be.”

— From Merton’s The Waters of Siloe

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Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as “the Merton Prayer.”

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
© Abbey of Gethsemani

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EUGENE PETERSON: NO FAN OF CONSUMERIST CULTURE, PROSPERITY GOSPEL OR MEGACHURCHES

What’s so bad about it is that they don’t have to live responsibly. When you are part of a megachurch you have no responsibility to anybody else. . . .

“The minute the church and pastors start saying what do people want and then giving it to them, we betray our calling. We’re called to have people follow Jesus. We’re called to have people learn how to forgive their enemies. We’re called to show people that there is a way of life which has meaning beyond their salary or beyond how good they look.”

— Eugene Peterson on megachurches.

Peterson is a retired Presbyterian minister and author of 30 spiritual books including his much-acclaimed The Message, a very reader-friendly but sound translation of the Bible. The quote above is from Ralph Abernathy’s interview with Peterson on the occasion of the publication of Peterson’s book The Pastor. Click here for more from the interview with this wise and universally respected and often provocative but always gentle pastor.
And click here for an excerpt from The Pastor.

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Our jitterbuggingforjesus.com research assistant and sometimes contibutor here at the blawg that is saving the world–that would be our assistant L.K. the mysterious and mystic and deeply contemplative Christian and flaming sixties librul (Joan Baez Div.–you know the type) sent along these deep thoughts:

If the world really IS coming to an end tomorrow, then why am I sitting here doing paperwork?

“What we all SHOULD be doing is make our favorite drink:

She makes an excellent point and I’ve given her the rest of the day off and why work today anyway?

Why bother to go to the cleaners?

Why get your oil changed?

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