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Each week a member of the congregation reads a passage
of his/her own choice at the Sunday service.
From: Shaking the Foundations
- Paul Tillich
If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. He who waits in an ultimate sense is not far from that for which he waits. He who waits in absolute seriousness is already grasped by that for which he waits. He who waits in patience has already received the power of that for which he waits. He who waits passionately is already an active power himself, the greatest power of transformation in personal and historical life. We are stronger when we wait than when we possess. When we possess God we reduce Him to that small thing we knew and grasped of Him; and we make it an idol. Only in idol worship can one believe in the possession of God. There is much idolatry among Christians.
But is we know that we do not know Him, and if we wait for Him to make Himself known to us, we then really know something of Him, we are grasped and known and possessed by Him. It is then that we are believers in our unbelief, and that we are accepted by Him in spite of our separation from Him.
i thank You God for most this amazing day - e.e. cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing day:
(i who have died am alive again today,
(now the ears of my ears awake
The Guest House - Rumi
This being Human is a guest-house.
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Welcome and entertain them all!
still treat each guest honourably.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Be grateful for whom ever comes,
from: Prayer - Beginning Again - Sheila Keane
What is Prayer?
Why do we Pray?
I often have difficulty believing that prayer really changes anything except my own receptivity to grace. I can agree, however, that my new receptivity changes my actions, shaping a more Spirit-filled world.
I have noticed that the distinction between other and self becomes blurred as I approach the unitive experience of prayer. Being with others in prayer often gathers us into an unspoken and profound unity. I feel a welling up of love and patience; a sense of being family. Perhaps it is this unitive experience that allows me to hope that our prayer joins with the original prayer of creation; that, along with all souls and throughout all time, we become co-creators with the God who is large enough to have a deep and personal connection with every one of us.
For those of us still stinging from unpleasant religious experiences, who have been "bible-bashed", I encourage questioning. When we reject all images of God, are we really rejecting the historical church's attempts to limit and prescribe our theology? Or are we, instead, depriving ourselves of the realness, the feltness of God by our rejection of the church? I suspect that God understands our contempt for hypocrisy and applauds our efforts toward real relationship. Some may claim that rejection of organised religion and its doctrine is a sin, but to fail to risk sensing that God exists is probably a greater sin.
I encourage these energetic rejections of doctrine, institutions, even of whole faith traditions if necessary. Do not allow religion to remove you from your God. Guard Her jealously, and let Him have as many genders and images as you can imagine.
If there could be any agreement as to a "correct" way to pray, it might be to be real, to be as authentic as possible in the expression of prayer. Sometimes the honest prayer is not one of praise but rather one of anguish and betrayal. A quick browsing of the psalms will convince you that this has been true for a very long time. Praying doesn't have to be nice or flowery in language. It just had to be real.
To be authentic requires knowing myself and expressing that self fully and honestly to God. This isn't easy. Facing the truth about ourselves is one of our greatest fears, and is probably one of the best motivations for putting off prayer.
I found that trying to pray every day was a hopeless endeavour. The more I forced this discipline upon myself, the less I was able to pray. My impulse to pray needs to come from my desire to be with God, to bring a concern before God or gratefully recognise the presence of a God who is in intimate relationship with me. Trying to pray through my intellect, willing myself to pray at 9:43 a.m. because that's when I made an appointment for prayer....that doesn't work for me.
This experience raises questions for me. By what criteria do I decide that prayer is "working"? What about the traditional advice that a regular, disciplined prayer life is important? I cannot answer these questions. I can only continue to pray as I can, authentically and irregularly, from my heart.
Prayer is about living a life, which is rightly ordered in God's sight. As we try to do this, we live with questions: What am I supposed to do? What is God calling forth in me, in us? How can we know what we are called to do? How can we be sure? Prayer, like walking, is always beginning again. We are human. We drift away. We fall, but prayer catches us again and again, and we walk with God.
The Big Bang - Jean Robinson
In the beginning God made the Big Bang
Some time later he made me.
The Big Bang was fine -
Anguish amid the clashing gears
If only he would explain.
from: Babylon 5, season 5, episode 1 - No Compromise
The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
But always it is the same voice.
It is the small still voice that says,
'We are one.
We are one.
We are one.'
That we must be kind to one another.
We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation.
Book of Proverbs - Chapter 8
In the earliest days of the Hebrew tribes the people not only worshipped Yahweh but his wife Asherah, a practice finally wiped out by the later prophets. The divine feminine returned in another guise, in the divine figure of Wisdom, calling to the people to recall them from the error of their ways.
from: The Golden String - Bede Griffiths
I give you the end of a golden string;
One day during my last term at school I walked out alone in the evening and heard the birds singing in that full chorus of song, which can only be heard at that time of the year at dawn or at sunset. I remember now the shock of surprise with which the sound broke on my ears. It seemed to me that I had never heard the birds singing before and I wondered whether they sang like this all year round and I had never noticed it. As I walked on I came upon some hawthorn trees in full bloom and again I thought that I had never seen such a sight or experienced such sweetness before. If I had been brought suddenly among the trees of the Garden of Paradise and heard a choir of angels singing I could not have been more surprised. I came then to where the sun was setting over the playing fields. A lark rose suddenly from the ground beside the tree where I was standing and poured out its song above my head, and then sank still singing to rest. Everything then grew still as the sunset faded and the veil of dusk began to cover the earth. I remember now the feeling of awe, which come over me. I felt inclined to kneel on the ground, as though I had been standing in the presence of an angel; and I hardly dared to look on the face of the sky, because it seemed as though it was but a veil before the face of God.
These are the words with which I tried many years later to express what I had experienced that evening, but no words can do more than suggest what it meant to me. it came to me quite suddenly, as it were out of the blue, and now that I look back on it, it seems to me that it was one of the decisive events of my life. Up to that time I had lived the life of a normal schoolboy, quite content with the world as I found it. Now I was suddenly made aware of another world of beauty and mystery such as I had never imagined to exist, except in poetry. It was as though I had begun to see and smell and hear to for the first time. The world appeared to me as Wordsworth described it with "the glory and the freshness of a dream". The sight of a wild rose growing on a hedge, the scent of lime tree blossoms caught suddenly as I rode down a hill on a bicycle, came to me like visitations from another world. But it was not only that my senses were awakened. I experienced an overwhelming emotion in the presence of nature, especially at evening. It began to wear a kind of sacramental character for me. I approached it with almost a sense of religious awe, and in the hush which comes before sunset, I felt again the presence of an unfathomable mystery. The song of the birds, the shapes of the trees, the colour of the sunset, were so many signs of this presence, which seemed to be drawing me to itself.
As time went on this kind of worship of nature began to take the place of any other religion. I would get up before dawn to hear the birds singing and stay out late at night to watch the stars appear, and my days were spent, whenever I was free, in long walks in the country. No religious service could compare with the effect which nature had upon me, and I had no religious faith which could influence me so deeply. I had begun to read the romantic poets, Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, and I found in them the record of an experience like my own. They became my teachers and my guides, and I gradually gave up my adherence to any form of Christianity. The religion in which I had been brought up seemed to be empty and meaningless in comparison with that which I had found, and all my reading led me to believe that Christianity was a thing of the past.
An experience of this kind is probably not at all uncommon, especially in early youth. Something breaks suddenly into our lives and upsets their normal pattern, and we have to begin to adjust ourselves to a new kind of existence, This experience may come, as it came to me, through nature and poetry, or through art or music, or it may come through the adventure of flying or mountaineering, or of war; or it may come simply through falling in love, or through some apparent accident, an illness, the death of a friend, a sudden loss of fortune. Anything which breaks through the routine of daily life may the bearer of this message to the soul. But however it may be, it is as though a veil has been lifted and we see for the first time behind the façade the world has built round us. Suddenly we know that we belong to another world, that there is another dimension to existence. It is impossible to put what we have seen into words; it is something beyond all words which has been revealed.
There can be few people to which such an experience does not come at some time, but it is easy to let it pass, and to lose its significance. The old habits of thought reassert themselves; our world returns to its normal appearance and the vision which we have seen fades away. But these are the moments when we really come face to face with reality; in the language of theology they are moments of grace. We see our life for a moment in its true perspective in relation to eternity. We are freed from the flux of time and see something of the eternal order which underlies it. We are no longer isolated individuals in conflict with our surroundings; we are parts of a whole, elements in a universal harmony.
This, as I understand it, is the "golden string" of Blake's poem. It is the grace which is given to every soul, hidden under the circumstances of our daily life, and easily lost if we choose not to attend to it. To follow up the vision which we have seen, to keep it in mind when we are thrown back again on the world, to live in its light and to shape our lives by its law, is to wind the string into a ball, and to find our way out of the labyrinth of life.
from: Call No Man Master - Joyce Collin-Smith
"Until one is committed there is the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kill countless ideas and splendid plans - that the moment one definitely commits one's self then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now." - Goethe
I tend to think of Systems and Ways as climbing frames. The climbing frames are good. Like the masters, they exist to be grown out of. In the end, every one has to make his own way into the jungle of ideas, and to some the years in the wilderness may be long. Learning to endure the arid deserts, the slough of despond, even to travel through the valley of the shadow of death, requires endurance. Apparent signposts often turn out to be just mirages, and if followed lead you back again whence you came. Truth lies within the seeker. Once you begin to take responsibility for you own development you are on the Way. But as Krishnamurti said: "Truth is a pathless land".
In truth the Way is always your own. In solitude and with an inward promise, you make the first step, even if it is over a precipice of time and circumstance, saying "for this I give myself" And miraculously you are caught in the arms of Fate and turned to face reality.
Sonnet - Christopher Plantin (early printer in Antwerp)
A fitting, fair and cleanly habitation
No debts, no love affairs, no litigation
Content with little, free of all ambition
In dealing honest, passions kept in thrall
from: The Will To Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy - William James
... although in one sense we are passive portions of the universe, in another we show a curious autonomy, as if we were small active centres on our own account. We feel, too, as if the appeal of religion to us were made to our own active good-will, as if evidence might be forever withheld from us unless we met the hypothesis half-way. ... This feeling, forced on us we know not whence, that by obstinately believing that there are gods (although not to do so would be so easy both for our logic and our life) we are doing the universe the deepest service we can, seems part of the living essence of the religious hypothesis. ... If we had an infallible intellect with its objective certitudes, we might feel ourselves disloyal to such a perfect organ of knowledge in not trusting to it exclusively, in not waiting for its releasing word. But if we are empiricists, if we believe that no bell in us tolls to let us know for certain when truth is in our grasp, then it seems a piece of idle fantasticality to preach so solemnly our duty of waiting for the bell. Indeed, we may wait if we will,-I hope you do not think that I am denying that,-but if we do so, we do so at our peril as much as if we believed. In either case we act, taking our life in our hands. No one of us ought to issue vetoes to the other, nor should we bandy words of abuse. We ought, on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another's mental freedom: then only shall we bring about the intellectual republic; then only shall we have that spirit of inner tolerance without which all our outer tolerance is soulless, and which is empiricism's glory; then only shall we live and let live, in speculative as well as in practical things.
A Present To Myself - Pat Ingoldsby
I have decided to slow myself down significantly this year. No more crazy rushing or panicking or hyperactive pressure. I've made a start by doing a very simple calculation. 365 days during which I shall be awake for approximately sixteen hours each day. That works out as 350,400 minutes. No matter which way you look at it that is a super-abundance of time. It's the perfect answer to give to the negative voices inside my head. "No Pat... you couldn't possibly write a new play this year... that sort of thing takes AGES!" But I've got ages, thank you very much... I've got 350,400 magnificent gilt edged minutes... I'll work it out for you in seconds if you like.
With so much time on my side this year I'm going to really experience and taste and feel every single thing that I do.
No more hurried breakfasts or gobbled dinners with one eye on my food and the other on the clock. This year it's going to be: "Good morning toast-I now propose to cover you very slowly with delicious apple jelly and then I'm going to consciously enjoy every lazy relaxed chew."
From now on I'm going to concentrate on only being as busy as I choose to be. The generally accepted consensus seems to be that unless you are rushed off you feet, up to your eyes and put to the pin of your collar, there is something very wrong with your life. Frantic, wild-eyed people keep dashing up to me and asking: "Are they keeping you busy?"... or "Busy are we?" They ask the question with manic high-energy and are only programmed to respond to a "Yes thank God" answer with "That's a good complaint!"
I never want to be so busy anymore that I don't notice morning rain on cobwebs, a snail wandering up the side of my house and heading towards the roof, a baby trying to catch its own toes. This year, armed with my bounty of over 350 thousand minutes I'm going to pause and say: "Good morning spider, thank you for weaving such silver perfection outside my front door. Hello there snail... I hope you enjoy the view when you get to the top. If you look over towards the two big red chimneys you should be able to see Dun Laoghaire from here."
It's been a long time now since I climbed a tree... so I'm going to. I'm going to get the 42 bus out to Malahide and find a nice easy one. When I get to the top I'm going to stay there for a while and listen and I'm not coming down again until I hear a seagull scream.
It's been many years now since I rolled down a hill... so I'm going to. I'm going to put on some old clothes and get a bus out to Bushy Park because my sister tells me there are some brilliant hills out there... she has actually tested them.
I've made a list of all my 'It's been a long times' and I'm going to have great fun doing them all again... once or twice or even three times. I'm going to hold a shell up to my ear and listen to the ocean, reach through the autumn leaves and kick them high up into the air, buy a quarter pound of clove sweets and really take my time over each one. I'm going to fly a coloured kite on Dollymount Strand and if anyone asks me for a go I might let them hold the string for a while but not for too long. I'm going to build sandcastles and stick a white feather into the top of each one, dig a tunnel and watch the sea filling it up, press the little bubbles on seaweed and hear them going pop, stand on my head and see if the money falls out of my pockets... I've got so many exciting 'It's been a long times' on my list and I've got loads of glorious time in which to do them all again.
I read last year in the Farming Supplement of a daily paper that there are 1.4 million pigs in Ireland. I can't remember when I last saw one so I'm going to see a pig... if the farmer lets me I'm also going to hold a tiny chicken in my hand, milk a cow, pet a donkey and actually watch a cockerel doing his 'Cock-a-doodle-do'. That is something I have never seen. I suspect that they only ever do it when nobody is looking so I'm going to cover my eyes and pretend.
I signed a receipt on the first day of this year... "Received with thanks... the gift of 350,400 minutes." Now I'm going to live them.
from: Now is the Time Spiritual Reflections - Sr Stanislaus Kennedy
The 2 pieces below are very relevant to our everyday lives as 'polishing the mirror' can really open our eyes to the very unsettled nature of our lives, the constant seeking for ways of making our lives perfect whether it be materially or spiritually (if only I had this or did this), the regular and predictable thought patterns that do their utmost to reinforce our own particular view of the world, the desire for praise and reassurance, and most importantly the slow but steady realisation that all we have, and all we need is the constant "now" to live our lives in a happy and fulfilled fashion. We don't escape our pain, however we become more aware of it and its causes and are in a better position to handle it, compared with a situation where we ignore it or delude ourselves as to its causes, hoping desperately for it to go away which of course it never does. Therefore it is not a panacea. However, if there is anything worth persevering with in life, it must be the ongoing effort to live in the present moment by continually returning to the "now" no matter how often we have to do it and how difficult it is, after all it is all we have got. We will regularly drift off seduced by our dreams and the way we would like life to be but "now" will always welcome us back and allow us come to terms and accept our life as it is, if we are prepared to engage with the present moment. It seems such a simple thing to live in the "now" because you could argue where else do we live, but most of us myself included, do not experience life directly as regularly as we should, because we get swamped and overwhelmed by the ego driven thought processes which if we let them, can tyrannically direct and control our lives to our own detriment and to the detriment of all those around us.
Polishing the Mirror
Gradually, you can increase the amount of time you spend deliberately focusing on the present moment, and eventually it will become something that you will find yourself doing all day. This practice of noting our states of mind as they arise keeps us present to the moment. In the Zen tradition, this is called 'polishing the mirror'. The greater our consciousness of each moment, the more we can begin to let go of the stories that control our behaviour and consequently we can develop a greater clarity and better vision.
Learning to practice this living in the present moment is a slow process and it can be a daily struggle to do it, but once you move into it and make it part of how you live, it brings extraordinary peace.
Surprised by Joy
Occasionally, when we least expect it, a grace comes to us, and like Wordsworth we are 'surprised by joy'. A fresh eye looking at the ordinary is the greatest surprise of all. The surprise of the unexpected will wear off, but the surprise of freshness never wears off.
When we live in the now, life is full of freshness: for us then, 'There lives the dearest freshness/Deep down things' as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it. That freshness that Hopkins talks about is what the great religions of the world have all recognized in one way or another as a divine energy at the heart of things, what the Tao calls 'grace and what the great medieval Christian mystic Meister Eckhart calls 'isness'
When we are seeing with the heart, we discover that there is no part of life that does not contain a surprise. Nothing is too simple or too small, nothing is too mundane, nothing is too ecstatic or exalted, nothing is too ordinary or extraordinary - all of life becomes full of potential, full of surprise.
But freshness is, paradoxically, an acquired perception. We have to train ourselves to see it, like 'a mist from the breath of a wind/a tarnish that goes at the touch of a hand' as Robert Frost said; like e.e. cummings, we have to be able to say 'the eyes of my eyes are opened' if we want to see with that fresh eye, that ability to see things anew, as a child sees them.
When we have developed the ability to live in the present moment, when we have learned to take time to see with a fresh eye, then celebration becomes a way of life for us. We recognize and accept and greet each person we meet. Oppression of ourselves or others has no place in our mindset. Compassion becomes the foundation of our attitude to others, as we see them, steadily, with a fresh gaze and an open heart.
"The correspondence from and about the Dean of Clonmacnoise has made us think about Jesus. In the Encyclopaedia Brittanica Liberalism is described as a movement in modern Protestantism, which emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority. This does not mean that we reject all the fine Christian and Biblical traditions but rather that we should read them with an enquiring and lively mind rather than with one of acceptance without question.
None of the writings in the Gospels state that Jesus ever requested his followers or disciples to repeat prayers after him. His teachings were practical parables of the day.
Unitarian thought and Liberalism run hand in hand. Though Jesus had been dead several hundred years before the word "Unitarian" appeared, the movement that eventually acquired that label could be said to have begun shortly after his death. Then, many who knew Jesus, talked of his humanity and teachings while others who had only heard of him emphasized his divinity and began to construct a Religion that was more about him than of him." - George McCaw
Perhaps the words of Edgar Wallace - noted English novelist and dramatist (1875-1932) are relevant and strike home a simple but important message.
Clue of the New Pin - Edgar Wallace
Churches and sects and religions of all kinds are like rivers. God is like the water that flows down the mountainside and fills the brooks and rivers.
There come certain people, usually men, who bottle the waters; some in ugly bottles, some in beautiful ones; and these bottles they sell, saying, "Only this water will quench your thirst".
That it does quench thirst we will not deny, but the water is often stale and flat and the sparkle has gone out of it.
You can drink better from the hollow of your hands, kneeling by the brook.
In China the water is bottled with mystic writings and flavoured with cinnamon and spices.
Here, in England, it is bottled without much regard to the water, but with punctilious care as to the shape of the bottle.
I always go to the brook.
I like this because it reminds me to seek answers within myself, maybe through meditation and contemplation. It also appeals to some values, which I recognise as Unitarian.
from: The Ancient Sage - Alfred Tennyson
If thou would'st hear the Nameless, and wilt dive
'And since-from when this earth began-
Thou canst not prove the Nameless, O my son,
Gospel of life must not overlook environment
Does the silence of Ireland's bishops on environmental destruction in
their recent Proclaiming the Gospel of Life letter indicate a lack
of concern about the issue, asks
Sunday, October 14th last, was designated as a Day for Life by Ireland's Catholic bishops. In a letter entitled Proclaiming the Gospel of Life, they drew attention to eight signs of what they called the growing "culture of death".
Among these were listed the alarming growth in murders, an acceptance of abortion as a normal response to an unwanted pregnancy, and the increase of road deaths due to alcohol and drugs. I am in no doubt about the importance of these issues.
Sadly, however, there is not a single mention of environmental destruction - either here in Ireland or globally - in the letter. Does this silence indicate that environmental issues are not high on the bishops' list of priorities?
If so, they would appear to be out of step with Pope John Paul. On January 17th, 2001, he told a general audience that "if we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God's expectations.
"Man, especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth's habitat, made the air unbreathable, disturbed the hydrogeological and atmospheric system, turned luxuriant areas into deserts, and undertaken forms of unrestrained industrialisation, degrading the 'flowerbed' - to use an image from Dante (Paradiso XXII,151) - which is the earth our dwelling place."
As Christians we believe that life, in all its diversity, is God's greatest gift. The Bible describes the tender care with which God wove the web of life on earth. It is clear that all life is interconnected and interdependent.
Today life is found in every nook and cranny of the planet, from the deepest recesses of the oceans to the wonderful diversity and beauty of the tropical rainforests or coral reefs.
Until a few decades ago human activity did not push many other species over the cliff into the abyss of extinction. This has changed dramatically, especially with the plunder of the rainforests. Tropical forests cover just 6 per cent of the world's land area but are estimated to contain over half of the planet's species.
In 1993 it was estimated by researchers at Harvard University that 27,000 species were being extinguished each year. Others put that figure higher. On November 29th last, on the BBC's State of the Planet programme, David Attenborough said that unless major protective measures are taken now we could lose up to half of the species of our world in the next 50 to 100 years.
As a missionary it was my privilege to live for over a decade among the T'boli people in the rainforest of south-eastern Mindanao. I came to appreciate that the silent haemorrhaging of biological diversity is an extraordinary impoverishment for both the human and total life community.
Many of the estimated 80,000 species of plant found in the Philippine forests are highly nutritious and could easily be added to the larder of staple foods there and beyond. Extinction would mean this rich potential for new sources of food and medicine will never come to fruition.
Species extinction is not just a Third World problem. In Ireland and Britain intensive petrochemical, agricultural, and building programmes has taken a huge toll on the environment. Three species of wild flower - corncockle, corn chamomile, and shepherd's needle - have become extinct in recent years.
Until the 1950s clumps of cowslips, buttercups, bluebells,and primroses decorated most fields. They have almost all vanished and been replaced by ubiquitous, monotonous rye grass.
It is estimated that the number of endangered bird species grew by 50 per cent between 1993 and 2000. The corncrake, yellowhammer, corn bunting, lark, and cuckoo have almost disappeared. Even thrush and sparrow numbers are down significantly. We are literally clearing our skies and silencing the dawn chorus.
Experts believe that the disappearance of bird species is due to intensive agriculture and the cutting of hedgerows. The Wildlife Act of 1976 was amended in 1999 and restricts hedge cutting between April 1st and August 30th. To date, as far as I know, there has not been a single prosecution under the Act. County councils are one of the worst culprits.
In his address last January the Pope stated that "we must encourage and support the 'ecological conversion' which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading." I take that to mean that a concern for all life ought to be an integral part of Proclaiming the Gospel of Life.
Pensive, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of All - Walt Whitman
Pensive, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of All,
Four Questions - Bill Darlison
We all have periods of spiritual malaise, world-weariness, soul-sickness, times when we feel oppressed by life, or disengaged from things, and we can't quite fathom the reason why. At such times writes William J Bausch (in his book The Yellow Brick Road), we should ask ourselves four questions.
Question 1: When did I stop singing?
Question 2: When did I stop dancing?
Question 3: When did I stop being enchanted by stories?
Question 4: When did I become uncomfortable with silence?
So, when you are feeling out of sorts spiritually, when "the world is too much with you", ask yourself these four questions. They just might help you to identify the problem.
from: The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran
Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
from: Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith - David Myers and Malcolm Jeeves
'Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seem obvious that this material world is the only reality: disbelieve in Him and you must face hours when this material world seems to shout at you that it is not all. No conviction, religious or irreligious, will, of itself, end once and for all [these doubts] in the soul. Only the practice of Faith resulting in the habit of Faith will gradually do that...
People...are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is...act as if you did. Do not sit around trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, "If I were sure that I lived God, what would I do?" When you have found the answer, go and do it.' C.S. Lewis.
How can we apply the faith-follows-action principle to leading a church, to planning worship, and to nurturing personal faith? First, a top priority for churches must be to make their members active participants, not mere spectators. Many dynamic religious movements today- ranging from sect like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons....and discipleship-centred communities - share an insistence that all on board be members of the crew. That is easier said than done, but it does provide a criterion by which to evaluate procedures for admitting and maintaining members. As a local church makes decisions and administers its program, it should constantly be asking, will this activate our people and make priests of our believers? If research on persuasion is any indication, this will best be accomplished by direct, personal calls to committed action, not merely by mass appeals and announcements.
In worship, too, people should be engaged as active participants, not as mere spectators of religious theatre. Research indicates that passively received spoken words have surprisingly little impact on listeners. Changes in attitude resulting from spoken persuasion are less likely to endure and influence subsequent behaviour than attitude changes emerging from active experience. What's needed is to have listeners rehearse and act on what they hear. When the people sing....contribute prayer, read Scripture responsively, take notes on the sermon, utter exclamations, bring their offerings forward....they are making the worship their own.
from: Aldous Huxley
The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and the noise of desire-we hold history's record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio, is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the eardrums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions-news items, mutually irrelevant bits of information, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but merely create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ears, through the realms of phantasy, knowledge and feeling to the ego's central core of wish and desire. Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on wood pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose-to prevent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass-production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify craving-to extend and intensify, that is to say, the workings of that force, which (as all the saints and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its divine Ground.
from: The Kingdom - Louis McNeice
And of these is the Kingdom -
These, as being themselves, are apart from not each other
When I returned from summer holidays and started to assemble my pupils for the coming term, I learned that one of them - 15 years old - and her father, had been killed in a car crash. The mother was present in the car but survived. All who knew this lovely girl were stunned by such a calamity. This selection, from a book I was reading at the time, seemed to address the problem of reacting to such events in our lives.
From Conversations with God - an uncommon dialogue - Neale Donald Walsch
Judge not, then, the karmic path walked by another. Envy not success, nor pity failure, for you know not what is success or failure in the soul's reckoning. Call not a thing calamity, nor joyless event, until you decide, or witness, how it is used. For is a death a calamity if it saves the lives of thousands? And is a life a joyous event if it has caused nothing but grief? Yet even this you should not judge, but keep always your own counsel, and allow others theirs.
And know that what you do in the time of your greatest trial can be your greatest triumph. For the experience you create is a statement of who you are - and who you want to be.
from: The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
"What's the fifth obligation?" the boy asked.
from: The Irish Church: Beyond the Bleak Landscape - John O'Donoghue
Power is a strange force. Often it seems that it is very needy people who seek power. But the tragedy is that once they have it, they cannot be generous with it. Rather than using their power to empower others, they use it to centralise everything around themselves. As always a little clique or palace guard congregate around the centre to reinforce and when necessary protect it. The effect of this feudal model of power is that people are disenfranchised; creative and critical voices are marginalized. This creates the false dialectic of Us/Them situation, which is totally alien to the creational equality of God's People. Questions and critique seem to frighten the centre. In this way the centre becomes increasingly isolated from the existent and actual consciousness of the culture in which it finds itself. Frequently it seems that the centre is no longer the centre. When the centre deadens, the real energy thresholds move to the margins. Consequently, the margin becomes the real, living centre, the heart. This dilemma is at the root of the vanishing credibility of the Church. Its power structures are feudal. It is that of the pyramid - everyone at the bottom labours under the burden of holding up the man at the top. Reading the Gospel one recognizes that Jesus worked with a totally different notion of power. His incisive and critical spirituality cut into the pyramids of the imperial and religious power of his day. He advocated the inclusive compassion of the circle not the power of the pyramid.
from: Vistas From Inner Stillness - Richard L Walker
Everything written on these pages can be summarized in one admonition found in Psalms 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God". Or, following a continuous thread of truth through cultures and time, we read from the Taoist, Chuang Tzu: "To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders".
Often, the experience of this stillness floods us with a blissful awareness, and then, when we try to express and share these joyful experiences, an equally overwhelming frustration follows. The light of this Christ spirit comes to us from an inner stillness, but we are forced into a verbal prison as we try to express the acquired insights.
Words are the greatest handicap to communication. Only when we share ourselves with others can true communication occur, as the following story illustrates.
When I was a boy, we lived on the edge of town, and our home was bordered on two sides by lush green fields of Iowa corn that filled me with a security of God's promise of caring. This beauty was the result of a twist of nature that required hot humid summers; uncomfortable, but necessary for corn to grow.
We had no home air conditioners in those times and when the corn grew, the stifling heat at night made sleep impossible. People would take their blankets out to the back yard, lay down, and cover themselves with a sheet, hoping for a breeze of salvation, but the breeze never came for it was an Iowa summer and nature's time to grow corn.
Sleep might come from exhaustion, but the stillness of the night held the marvel of the stars for me, and I would lay in awe, watching their motions and fall asleep dreaming of a time when I would calculate those motions, and predict their destinies. Late one night as I lay very still, waiting for sleep, I heard the corn grow! It was a popping and cracking sound as the stalks grew millimeter by millimeter. Grass does not grow by continuum, but rather by quantum leaps, and I could hear it! During that period of personal inner stillness, just before unconsciousness, I was gifted with the blessing of hearing a living entity grow.
Decades later, I mentioned this experience to Mary Campbell a seasoned Friend in our meeting, and she understood what I was trying to say. She answered with an analogy so that I would know that she knew.
Mary said, "It's like a crystal radio set. Isn't it? You put the earphones on and then ever so gently, silently, with great expectancy seek, with a Cat Whisker, a spot on that lead crystal, which connects you with another universe."
"The signal is always there, but you have to block out all external sensations to hear it. The signal is so faint, but distinct, it seems to come from a depth inside us. Yes, yes! and that's what the Light is like too, a far distant, signal that only seems weak; yet, it is so clear and distinct when we listen with all we have."
These common denominators in our experiences permitted Mary and me to bridge the inexpressible and find understanding of events that were important to us. These common denominators exist for all of us, I believe, and if we are to convey our understanding of important events in our lives, we must reach out with our experiences and expose ourselves, our feelings, to others who are kind, who are receptive, and who are seeking answers to their life's quest.
Glimpses of the multiple facets of this world arrived from deep inside me at a time when I was transfixed in a state of silent awe of the power and beauty of nature.
When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple - Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
More heat than light in homosexuality debate - Patsy McGarry.
Psalm 23 for Busy People - Toki Miyashina
The lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush;
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