Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘The Other Side’ Category

I discovered a kindred spirit in an Interview on This American Life. Click on the Real Player icon next to “Heretics” 12/16 episode 308. It is worth the hour it takes to listen, well worth it. Here’s a description of it:

The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of hell, and with it, everything he’d worked for over his entire life.
Prologue. Carlton Pearson’s church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the Reverend. He didn’t have an affair. He didn’t embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse … he stopped believing in hell. (2 minutes)
Act One. Rise. Reporter Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson from a young man to a Pentecostal Bishop: from the moment he first cast the devil out of his seventeen-year-old girlfriend, to the days when he had a close, personal relationship with Oral Roberts and had appearances on TV and at the White House. Just as Reverend Pearson’s career peaked, with more than 5,000 members of his congregation coming every week, he started to think about hell, wondering if a loving God would really condemn most of the human race to burn and writhe in the fire of hell for eternity. (30 minutes)
Act Two. Fall. Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson’s church falls apart. After all, when there’s no hell (as the logic goes), you don’t really need to believe in Jesus to be saved from it. What follows are the swift departures of his pastors, and an exodus from his congregation – which quickly dwindled to a few hundred people. Donations drop off too, but just as things start looking bleakest, new kinds of people, curious, start showing up on Sunday mornings. (23 minutes)
Song: “Let the Church Roll On,” Mahalia Jackson

Read Full Post »

This world is so confusing. I try to understand why cartoons in one country cause people in another to react with violence. I wonder if it really has anything to do with genuine faith or if it is primarily a political act of aggression. I have read and researched, talked and listened, been respectful and inquiring of the Islamic faiths (there are many forms of it just as there are of every religion). I have grown in my respect for many of these forms but also am dismayed and fearful of others. This is very disturbing to me.
At the same time, there is the news about prison riots here in the USA. The riots are racially based. Interviews with inmates reveal that if they don’t act with hatred and violence toward those of another race, they will be punished by those of their own race. Seems to me like a microcosm of the world-wide violence. Perhaps the same sort of pressures apply to those of Muslim faith who are currently rioting.
One of the most helpful courses I studied in college concerned large social movements. 35 years later, I still remember the central point of the course: human beings are so malleable that in large groups individuals will do horrific acts in total contrast to their stated beliefs. I haven’t been put in that position as far as I know. I pray I would be more like Deitrich Bonhoeffer or Mahatma Ghandi but I fear I might be more like Peter during the trial of Jesus and try to just blend into the background or run away.
I wonder if this is why I tend to be suspicious of any large group event. I watched the Super Bowl to see the commercials but I can’t imagine getting all excited about any sports team. Perhaps I’m just ornery and don’t want to be one of the crowd. I’m suspicious of mega-churches for the same reasons. They remind me of rock concerts and hero worship. Basically, if everyone is doing something, I think there must be something wrong with it. Makes living in this world a little challenging. But then, it seems that’s largely the point of Christ’s teaching – we are made in God’s image and all of life is a struggle to fulfill that promise. The crowds won’t show us the way.

Read Full Post »

I just discovered another website that fascinates me. Truth Dig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines It is the website of the Rev. Madison Shockley from the United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California. He is a person of color and therefore a person whose experience of being a citizen in this United States is probably much different than my own.

Being a part of a community in which people come in all hues and views is of great importance to me. I have to say that I judge the authenticity of a spiritual community by the diversity of it’s members. My clearest moments of being a part of God’s kingdom have come when the physical manifestation of that kingdom was primarily, but not exclusively, people of color. I don’t know if this is fair or not, but it is one of the primary ways I judge the truth of a spiritual path. If people all look and act the same, I assume it cannot be a totally authentic manifestation of God’s spirit. This probably isn’t completely fair of me but so far the test has proved to be accurate.

Read Full Post »

This story was in my email box this morning from my sister-in-law who knows of what she speaks:

    Lessons on Life

(more…)

Read Full Post »

A little over two years ago, we had a fire in our townhouse. The Christmas decorations were still up which meant that most were either smoke or fire damaged. Fortunately, I had decided to decorate the tree in brass and white that year; “fortunately” because brass does not get smoke or fire damaged and “fortunately” because the ornaments that held memories of my adult children’s childhood were packed away in a smoke-retardant container.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent: the four Sundays before Christmas. I have often heard this described as the season of “waiting.” The first Sunday’s scripture readings are always about the Second Coming of Christ for which we have been waiting for 2000 years. I came across the following quote in my own preparations for this season:

A psychologist, William Moulton Marston, embarked to ask three thousand persons, “What do you have to live for?” He was shocked to find that 94% were simply enduring the present while they waited for the future;
waited for “something” to happen;
waited for children to grow up and leave home;
waited for next year;
waited for another time to ake a long dreamed-about trip;
waited for someone to die;
waited for tomorrow…
those who were waiting had no realization that today (now) was practically what they really had.”

I hate waiting. I have become better at it over the years – life is less urgent in these AARP years. Less places to go. Fewer timetables to meet. Fewer bills to pay. Less waiting. But I still hate it.

Learning various chants from various mystical practices has helped to a great degree. I chant within my thoughts mantras for clarity when I get anxious waiting in lines or driving long distances. I chant within my thoughts the Jesus Prayer when my thoughts are obnoxious even to me. I chant a prayer of blessing for the cashier when his or her seeming incompetence would otherwise make my blood boil. I chant requests for forgiveness when I’d rather have hateful thoughts because someone elses words have annoyed or offended me. In fact, it has been through these various practices that my “endurance” of waiting has actually often opened my eyes to the present right in front of me.

I remember waiting in line with a particularly slow and seemingly incompetent cashier at the grocery store. As she oh-so-slowly scanned each item of the people in front of me, and oh-so-slowly moved her eyes between the items scanned and the cash register, and oh-so-slowly (and I must admit gently) placed each item in the proper bags, the smoke gathered in my brain and oozed out my ears. Annoyed beyond reason ( I had no place I really had to go), I began to chant in my mind, “Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy” and when that didn’t work I moved on to: “Lord bless. Lord bless, Lord bless.” Eventually the line moved forward. I was still steaming but at least I was using the energy generated by my anger by attempting to pray.

And the line slowly moved forward. I put my items on the conveyor and watched them move oh-so-slowly toward her shaking hands and into the bags. Shaking hands. I noticed her shaking hands and looked up at her face. Her eyes were red rimmed and dark shadowed. I looked down at her hands and saw how thin they were. Glancing up again at her face, I saw the perspiration on her brow and the weariness in her eyes.

I was so ashamed of my thoughts and at the same time grateful for the spiritual practices which taught me to bless instead of curse. I softly touched her arm and said, “you are in terrible pain, aren’t you?” She looked at me anxiously, and just nodded her head. I told her I understood a bit about pain myself and that I hoped her pain would soon be eased.

Waiting can be just a way to endure the present. It can also be a discipline through which we are awakened to the present and able to see that Christ is right here in our midst, right now.

Read Full Post »

Zen Sarcasm

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
3. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.
4. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
5. Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
12. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
13. Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
17. Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
19. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.
20. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Read Full Post »

I met an elderly woman in our housing division the week that Hurricane Wilma was heading for Florida. A former science professor at our local University, she has the bright eyes and quick wit of unusual intelligence. She said to me, “With all the disasters in our world, I can understand why people of old would think the gods are angry with us.” In our ensuing discussion, we shared our sense of horror that the poorest and least powerful in our world have been the most to suffer in these natural disasters.
As the earthquakes were devastating Pakistan, I listened for updates on CNN and on NPR. Rarely were such updates given. I asked for prayers in church and many didn’t even seem to know there was an earthquake. The contrast with the news reporting on the Tsunami and the devastations of hurricanes on our own land was stark.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

The religion of Christianity is based on these words of Jesus as his summation of all scripture:

.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

(from the Gospel of Matthew, New Revised Standard Version)

Although simple words at first glance, it takes a life time to understand and truly live these words. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote Four Degress of Love way back in the 12th Century. I have not yet found a better understanding of how to live these two commandments of Jesus Christ.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

I seldom read books more than once. The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Scrolls of Taoist Christianity by Martin Palmer is an exception. I have read it three times in the past several months. http://www.brogilbert.org/christ-culture/5christ_tao.HTM The beauty of the progression of the Christian experience in the earliest centuries, moving from it’s roots in Palestine to the hills of China, challenges and enriches my own experience. An example of two liturgies (i.e.prayers said in group worship) from this ancient and oriental understanding of the Trinity follows.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »