Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
It would be great to hear any stories or experiences where you have felt the true spirit of Christmas.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
through an event that has left you depressed, anxious or broken?
Sometimes by going to pray we can actually worsen the impact of this
event in us if we are not careful. By going into a a time of prayer
we may inadvertently spend too much time on the event itself and it
becomes more of an obsession than a time of healing and freedom. The
Catholic writer Ronald Rolheiser says, "Prayer is focus on God, not
upon ourselves". The image of a mother and child helps us understand
this. The child is hurt and when it goes to her mother the
overwhelming presence and love of that mother is the comfort and the
healing they receive. The problem so often with us is that we go to
pray and spend more time churning over the event that we don't receive
the healing of the mother. I suppose this is where the discipline of
private worship is so important. I am going to try this the next time
I have a speed wobble with somebody or some issue. I will endeavour
to spend more time worshiping God in prayer than fixating on my
emotions and feelings. I am convinced it will not be easy but I am
also convinced it is the truth.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
A place where those who have mourned and grieved the injustices of this world will be comforted and consoled by the hope of it happening no more.
A place where the quite and the gentle people will have the chance to reign and rule the way of the world.
A place where people who search to live closely with their Creator will find their fulfillment in becoming what they seek.
A place where forgiveness, compassion and mercy will not be ideals but the actual practice of humankind.
A place where those who have pure and innocent motives will be the architects of world politics.
A place where all who fought for what was right, good and beautiful will find the fruit of all their labour materialize.
*Part of a sermon I'm preaching for a Remembrance Day service. The beatitudes paint the dream of a whole new world order.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Generosity may not be what you think. Generosity is not just digging into your wallet and handing over money to a needy cause. Generosity is about living in such a way that is generous to the planet and thus others. Generosity is about building new community that shares life and sustains life. Generosity is a spiritual condition that is fed by the extravagance of God’s generosity. Generosity is a means of grace, a spiritual discipline. Generosity is the mother of forgiveness, mercy and offering. Generosity is at times spontaneous but mostly it is a sacrifice of the will.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
First they came for the Jews.
But I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists.
But I didn't speak up because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists.
But I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics.
But I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me.
And by that time one was left to speak up.
(Written supposedly by a U-boat captain Pastor Martin Niemoller)
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
I am working with a great guy by the name of Duduzi. I am helping him in the spiritual growth & development part of the mission. On Wednesdays I have the privilege of conveying the message of hope to the clients of the mission. I have started by drawing pictures on the blackboard that relate to the scriptures, we then read the relevant scripture and use the pictures to draw the meaning out in ways that are memorable. The critical aspect of this ministry is to help Christian spiritually be a reality and not some disconnected part of their lives. To help them realize that their lives are important and can add value to the relationships around them. If anybody has material that could assist us we would be most appreciative.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Yesterday I touched on seminarian life being born rather out of ‘Presence’ versus ‘Vision.’ This may tie in with the difference between being ‘Driven’ versus being ‘Called’. The ancient image of the shepherd and the butcher comes to mind. The butcher is behind the flock pushing them and the shepherd is leading them from the front. The latter shows a different attitude in the sheep. The sheep are happy to be in the presence of the Shepherd, who calls them by name and thus they follow even if they don’t know where. The former part of the illustration the sheep are disquieted and are being driven by forces unknown to places they don’t know. In both cases the myopic sheep are unaware of their destination but their temperament is different.
I think this is another model for ‘presence’ in seminarian education. The art of helping seminarians (what a word?) hear their names called rather than be driven and packaged into the ‘perfect’ seminarian. I have a feeling SMMS will help this process more than our previous models of education.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
I knew a young man who came from a rural area who enrolled as a student at the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa. He walked into the library on his first day and wished he had never enrolled. When asked why, he said, "If am expected to read all those books I will never succeed." Could it be that an institution of spiritual learning could impede our spiritual formation by its overbearing presence?
Watching the seminarian's at the grandiose opening of the 'Seth Mokhitimi Seminary' in Pietermaritzburg I wondered if they were traumatized or encouraged by the large edifice and monumental speeches.
Speaking from my own experience and no doubt far to Eurocentric. We may loose our personal contribution as we are traumatized by corporate vision. When we think that 'our becoming' demands we look like another product of the seminary we may loose our bearings. If we think we ought to have the capabilities of all that is flaunted as 'expected' we may fade in its shadow. Our seminarian growth ought to flourish as we are joined together by 'Presence' rather than 'Vision". This may seem heretical in today's language but "Presence" for me is the life throbbing dynamo we have with God through Christ, actualized by the fertilizing Spirit of God. When we speak about a 'Seminary' in my eyes we are speaking about a well-kept hothouse where this dynamo is nurtured carefully. It is a place where all different plant DNA types are matured for their God created actualization. There is none alike, each cherished for what it can contribute to the function and beauty of the world. It is not about being a Methodist or a Charismatic, a Church builder or a Pastor, an Artist or an Accountant exclusively. The power of encouragement grows us into the plants we are meant to be – nothing more and nothing less. Spiritual formation is discovering the boundaries. It may even lead us outside the confines of Methodism. I had better stop there.
(Seminary mid-15c., "plot where plants are raised from seeds," from L. seminarium "plant nursery," figuratively, "breeding ground," from seminarius "of seed," from semen (gen. seminis) "seed" (see semen). Meaning "school for training priests" first recorded 1580s; commonly used for any school (especially academies for young ladies) from 1580s to 1930s. Seminarian "seminary student" is attested from 1580s.)
Friday, September 03, 2010
A shared story is a doorway to freeing ourselves. When we listen to the journey of another person it ignites the patterns of our own similar life experiences. We come to realize that our life's paths are not that dissimilar. Somehow in the mesh of swapped life experiences we embrace each other in a shared humanity. The more honest our story telling the more it will resonate within the heart of another. The Christian is a person born in stories, stories of how molecules aggregate to form species, how a nation crosses the deepest rivers to safety and freedom, how law and order ratifies a nation born, how a Creator's love never ceases and the story of a god-man who rested the worlds problems on his shoulders. From there on the story becomes our story and the Spirit that burned in the hearts of those early believers still swaps its stories with those who will listen. Don't underestimate it.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The books I have been reading lately have blown me away. "The restless heart" by Ronald Rolheiser is another such enlightenment. I suppose it is my fascination with how the human works that draws me to these writers. The book lends itself to a deep look at the human condition of loneliness that is unpacked and explained so carefully. There are great differences between what we term, loneliness, alienation and solitude. I cannot do this book justice by skirting its content but if you are concerned about the spiritual heart then do yourself a favour and step into the pages of this Roman Catholic priests mind.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Without the thoroughness of loss we cannot experience the transition into resurrection. The log in the fire is transformed utterly into energy, heat and ash. Those who have died are energy if we gather around our loss of them and experience the fire of their lives. This pertains especially to the loss of those who have died through injustice. When we gather around their graves and mourn we are lifted up by their transcendent resurrection energy, our compassion grows and their hope becomes ours. The reverse is no doubt true when we avoid our grief and thus miss out on the resurrection fire. (Thoughts inspired by Parker J. Palmer & Latin American poem – ‘They have threatened us with resurrection’)
The truth is that our grieving with others attaches us with their cause, their lot, suffering and condition in a profound way. Teach me how to grieve God that compassion may flow abundantly.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Matthew 16:25 (New International Version)
"25For whoever wants to save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
This verse of scripture always niggles somewhere at the back of my mind. I suppose the reason is it just doesn't make any sense in the normal run of things. It is a call to live outside of the current paradigm of 'success & failure', where success is rewarded and failure is ignored or frowned upon. My experience is that the more we live for the successes in life we quickly drop in the in-between times to being disappointed until we reach the next success story. We are programmed to move upward towards greatness but the opposite may be called for when encountering Christ. This would mean embracing our failures and in doing so embrace the reality of the human lot. To learn from the 'downs' in our life and enter into the reality of the human race as weak, broken and in need of healing we tell the real story. To 'find life' is about the real things of life, the way we walk with others, hear each other and to live in the light of the greatest 'failure' story - the lonely Christ who identified with human weakness.
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I am still going through “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller and I am trying to summarize ideas, concepts and truths about the Christian faith that will help me answer questions for myself and help me deal with questions that come from others.
I am also reading another brilliant book about poetry as a means of spiritual practice but more about that one later on.
Immanuel Kant defined an enlightened person as one who trusts in his or her own power of thinking rather than in authority or tradition (Keller, R.F.G. pg46). This is common thinking is it not, in the age of relativism, Aquarius and all those kind of things.
The underlying concept is that we cannot be free if we are ‘straight jacketed’ to anything that restricts our freedom. If one looks at the smooth stroke of the professional golfer, the easy footwork of the soccer player, the first thought is: “ how easy and free that looks.” Let us not be mistaken as what we see is really the outcome of hours, days and years of restrictive discipline and practice that forfeited much else to get that ‘easy’ look. The truth of the matter is freedom comes with a price.
The arbitrary comment often heard today is, “ We can decide our own morality. We the individual decide what is right and wrong.” The counter argument to this is surely found when we criticize leaders who are leading their countries to ruin through their personal sense of morality. We would argue that despite their personal convictions they should act otherwise for the sake of others. In other words there is a morality that is beyond the individual and belongs to all humanity.
(Thoughts inspired by Timothy Keller, The Reason For God)
Saturday, June 12, 2010
So to call Christianity an exclusive community separate from others is rather rich when a closer look at your own community will unearth a similar exclusivity. What should be considered in all communities is the value of how that community respects, love and care for other communities. What should also be carefully monitored is if the community condemns, violates, is aggressive toward and demonizes other communities not like theirs. No community is entirely inclusive of all people regardless of what their moral and belief structures are.
I would like to add that although Christianity is inclusive of all race, gender and class there is a value and belief structure that is expected of all its members. In saying that it is important to note that ‘grace’ is a fundamental doctrine of the Church and thus one often finds members who contravene the core set of values still being a part of its meetings and community life. It takes extraordinary circumstances for a mother to throw her child into the cold.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The illustration goes that if you look into a two-man tent and you cannot see a St. Bernard justifies that there is no St. Bernard in the tent. But, if you look into the two-man tent and you do not see a flea does not mean that there is no flea there (Based on an illustration of Alvin Plantinga). To say that God is not good enough or powerful enough to deal with suffering and make the conclusion that there is no God because of it, is a subjective deduction. To make claims that there is no God or there is no meaning in the suffering of the world rest entirely on our cognitive skills and who can ever claim to know the wonders and horrors of the universe. (Thoughts inspired by Timothy Keller’s book – The Reason for God).
There is suffering that leaves us wondering whether there is any meaning in it but if we examine our lives we will find that the suffering we have experienced has shaped us some way or another. I watched a BBC production of Tess of the d’Urbervilles by
Thomas Hardy recently. I could see no redemption of the suffering she encountered, she even called her dead child “Sorrow”. But, who am I to say what suffering did for her as a person. Who is to say that she would not have had more meaning in life than one who grew up eating cakes and sweet tea? It does leave one with the awkward question, especially the counselor of how we help or redeem people from their suffering?
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
The fundamentalists among us Christian's love to highlight the wrongs of others, the judgment due to others and brandish the verses in scriptures that herald Jesus as being the only way to salvation. If their attitude is anything to go by I don’t know if the world needs to be saved into a place that replicates this pride and arrogance. It is a future I certainly don’t want to be a part of.
If one has to focus on fundamentals the part of Christian faith I would rather be fundamental about is the fact that we are ‘all’ made in the image of God and we all are as much ‘good’ as we are ‘bad'. What is distinct about the Christian is that they recognize the darkness within them that needs redemption and their identity is not determined by how good they are. This ought to keep the Christian humble and non-judgmental of others. The other fundamental I would be fundamental about is that we are called by Jesus to love and pray for our enemies. If we are living by this creed we have to drop our weaponry of words and sharp judgment and reach out ways that transcend the obvious. Maybe in these ways we can say that Christianity will bring peace to earth. (This has been inspired by Tim Keller’s thinking in the book ‘The Reason for God’.)
Saturday, June 05, 2010
I have learned over the years to avoid agricultural shows if I can possibly help it. There are so many dogs jumping through fiery hoops that a person can handle in one year. I always seem to arrive when the police are showcasing their clever hounds. If you blindfold me I am sure I could take you to at least 40% of the stalls that were in the same place last year and without doubt the year before that. Is it just me, but you have to always be careful where you tread as some over eager kid always eats too much and spews the contents over the public pathway.
That is until Howard arrived. I have never been so excited to go to the show before. I have a tendency to give my child a voice when he has not even spoken the hallowed “Dada” yet. I am thinking how my little 17 month old is going to perceive the prize bull with brass ring in its nose, the elegant horse jumping its logs and the shiny tractors with there new chrome radiators and black polished tyres. He just has to enjoy it or is it the flashbacks of my childhood roaming the old “Rand Easter show” that I project through his little eyes?
Friday, June 04, 2010
No matter how hard anti-religious groups, governments, regimes etc. try to eradicate humankind’s faith it just doesn’t work. It would seem that the search for divine meaning and significance will continue to burn deep in our souls for centuries to come.
The Reason for God
The Next Christendom
Thursday, June 03, 2010
I have just started my next adventure through a book entitled “The Reason for God – belief in an age of skepticism”, by Tim Keller.
Although insulted as a Methodist on the third page: “My family later found its way to a more conservative church in a small Methodist denomination. For several years this strengthened what could be called the “Hellfire layer” of my religious formation…” I was able to continue and find grace to forgive him.
He has begun with a strong case for orthodox doctrine still being relevant and even growing in the urban cities. He sees this particularly amongst the multi-ethnic groups moving into cities like London and New York. His case rests in the fact that the skeptics and those who throw great doubt on the teachings of the church need also examine what that doubt is and so understand their own ‘belief. He also challenges the Christian to examine his/her doubt and make sure they have truly come to terms with their own faith. I look forward to the rest of the book.