Monday, December 28, 2015

Sad preferences...

"It amazes me that we should have to prove the obvious to so many Christians, who for some sad reason prefer a static universe, which they presume they fully understand." (Richard Rohr)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ron Rolheiser on the Incarnation

"The Incarnation Means that God is in the Ordinary"

Love these thoughts by Rolheiser...

"We celebrate many things at Christmas, not the least of which is how scandalously easy it now is to see God. After the incarnation, every home is a monastery, every child is the Christ child, and all food and drink is a sacrament."

We struggle to believe this. For many reasons, each of us has the propensity to miss seeing God in the ordinary because we are forever searching for him in the extraordinary...We no longer need to look for God in extraordinary visions—a sunset will do."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Boomeritis...

I've been thinking about different leadership styles recently, not least the Baby Boomer generation. So I was intigued this morning with Richard Rohr's thoughts based on psychologist Ken Wilber  more here

"Boomeritis." It's the disease that the Baby Boomers like myself are likely to have, but just can't see. A combination of arrogance and individualism keeps people trapped at this "Mean Green" level. It seems we have just enough enlightenment to reject everybody below us as naïve, and at the same time we can't imagine anyone being smarter than we are. The mystical, non-dual levels look ridiculous to academic and sophisticated Greens. Wilber also calls this "flatland" because it's contemptuous of both higher and lower levels. Mean Green people will not let go of either their separateness or superiority. Their ego is still in charge.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fundamentalism...

"Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous. . . . Such people think they know absolute truth and thus they corrupt religion." 

Pope Francis

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rolheiser on the Prophetic...

Some insights from Rolheiser on what represents a prophetic message.

"When you hear a voice that deeply shakes you and yet, in another way, offers deep hope, a voice that both draws and upsets you, you are hearing a prophetic voice....Unfortunately, not many voices in our culture do that. More commonly we experience only one of the two: a voice that greatly upsets us, but offers no deep hope; or a voice that offers cheap consolation without deep challenge. These are voices of false prophets."

Ron Rolheiser

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Alex Ferguson: The secret of success...

Just caught up on the BBC documentary on leadership featuring Alex Ferguson - hate to say it but it was brilliant! 

Some amazing insights to structural change and development through sustaining the strong ideology of Manchester United. 

Here are some edited highlights!

"It is vital for a leader to be willing to challenge the existing culture not live with it as it is..." 

"The greatest problem when you're leading an organisation is that you take the system as it is and try to make it work when it might be the system itself that is at fault. You can't just amend the message you may need to change it completely..."  

"Leadership is a balance of listening learning and leading..."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Non-Violent Provocation...

Typical - day after you preach on Hebrews 10:19-25, not least "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds " a brilliant Ghandi quote pops into your inbox!
"Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being. . . . If love or non-violence be not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces. . . . Belief in non-violence is based on the assumption that human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love. . . . If one does not practice non-violence in one's personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken." Ghana (Mahatma Gandhi, edited by Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence (New Directions: 2007), 10)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Default Settings: Irritation...

I remember reading somewhere that Dallas Willard used to ask himself each evening two powerful questions. "Have I been more or less irritable today? and have I been more or less hopeful today". I tried it and found it quite challenging!

Add this Carl Jung quote to the mix and it gets a whole lot more challenging! "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."  C.G. Jung

Almighty God,
unto you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid;
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration
of your Holy Spirit
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Book Group - Bel Canto...

Bel Canto drew a varied response as a choice this time around for book club.

I was struck by the impact of beauty in a dark and ominous situation, the transformation it brought, the hope it nurtured and its part in the dignity of humanity.

I got home and thought of a connection I wish I had made. Tom Wright suggests that we have  a responsibility  to be 'workers for justice; explorers of spirituality, makers and menders of relationships, creators of beauty...' Wright, N.T. (2006:161). Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. SanFrancisco: HarperSanFrancisco

As ever a fascinating discussion last night.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The deeper love...

Intriguing quote from Ann Patchett's Bel Canto

"If someone loves you for what you can do then it's flattering, but why do you love them? If someone loves you for who you are then they have to know you, which means you have to know them"


Monday, September 21, 2015

Missing the point...

Some interesting thoughts today from Richard Rohr about the difference between being punished by your sins and being punished for your sins.

"Jesus sought to create a deep sense of personal choice, responsibility, and freedom right now, and not just disconnected payoffs in the afterlife. But we have understood much of the Gospel in terms of divine threats and artificial rewards--a delayed schedule of merits and demerits. This deeply distorted the transformative message of the Gospel and appealed to our self-interest instead of love. In other words, it fed us at the ego level instead of the soul level."

Monday, September 07, 2015

Rohr thought!

Just parking this Richard Rohr thought on my blog to digest at another date!


"Rather than making dogmatic statements about how to get to heaven, Jesus modeled and taught how to live on earth in a loving way, and he said that this was indeed heaven! But Christians have all too often pushed heaven into the future. We've made Jesus' death and resurrection into a reward/punishment system for the next world, which creates tremendously self-absorbed and self-preoccupied people. It doesn't transform anyone into compassionate, loving individuals. Instead it leads to a kind of morbid self-analysis in which people feel guilty, inferior, and inadequate or superior and self-righteous."

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Prayer to Remember (Thomas Merton)

I came across this helpful prayer recently.

Oh God, we are one with You.
You have made us one with You.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
You dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.
Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit.
Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.

Amen.

- with thanks to Richard Rohr!

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Poisonwood Bible (1998), by Barbara Kingsolver,

Latest book tackled by the Suttonsa book group was Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.

Fascinating insight to the Congo of the 1960's and the impact of Nathan Price's narrow fundamentalist missionary thinking on his family. His alter ego Brother Fowles having identified that there are Christians and then there are Christians has this to say about creation.

"When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at CreationBecause that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day without lot of dubious middle managers." 


~ Brother Fowles

It resonated with another quote I read recently 

"Having a narrow opinion from a narrow set of information is only natural. What mucks it all up when a narrow set of information is assumed to be wider than it is."

~ Jef Rouner (No it's not your  opinion, you are just wrong)

It also got me thinking about the difference between faith and superstition and the thin line that exists between the two. 

Mixed response to the book by the group, but I really enjoyed my second trip through the book.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Ladder Theology...

Mostly today chewing over an interesting thought from Richard Rohr's insights of Thérèse of Lisieux!!

He talks about the spirituality of imperfection, with the thought that perfection is the ability to include imperfection."Imperfection, in the great spiritual traditions, is not just to be tolerated, excused, or even forgiven. It is the very framework inside of which God makes the God-self known and calls us into gracious union".

He talks about Ladder Theology that began to emerge in the early Constantine Church "Once you align with the mind and will of empire and success, your spirituality focuses on perfection, achievement, performance, attainment, and willpower"

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Tilgate Kingfisher...

Seems an age away, but I really enjoyed our Church day out at Tilgate.  The highlight for me was the unexpected sighting of a Kingfisher, a flash of orange and blue and there it was. Ever since I heard this poem I've wanted to see a Kingfisher to see if Ann Lewin was right.

Prayer is like watching for 
The kingfisher. 
All you can do is 
Be there where he is like to appear, and 
Wait. 
Often nothing much happens; 
There is space, silence and 
Expectancy. 
No visible signs, only the 
Knowledge that he’s been there 
And may come again. 
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter, 
You have been prepared. 
But when you’ve almost stopped 
Expecting it, a flash of brightness 
Gives encouragement. 

- Prayer Is Like Watching For the Kingfisher – by Ann Lewin

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rohr Thoughts....

I found this an interesting Rohr thought  

"I would not respect any God I could figure out with my limited, rational mind. St. Augustine said the same in the fifth century: "If you understand it, then it is not God" (Si comprehenderis, non est Deus)."

It reminded me of two other quotes I squirrelled away once!

"Doubt isn't the opposite of faith. It is an element of faith. Where there's absolute certainty, there can be no room for faith." Paul Tillich

"Complete religious certainty about God without any shadow of doubt is a sign of atheism. The God we think we know all about cannot be the true God, because God is always greater than our powers of comprehension" (Gerard Hughes)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Midrash....

"Midrash is a way of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, questioning and imagining a multitude of interpretations possible. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader, instead of closing down the possibility of being changed by latching onto one final, closed, and forever certain interpretation"

Richard Rohr


Friday, May 08, 2015

Pertinent ...

Tuesdays with Morrie our latest book group book had this today ...

"We've got a form of brainwashing going on in our country" Morrie sighed. "do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. And that's what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. The property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it-and had repeated to us-over and over until nobody bothers even to think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by this he has no perspective on what's really important any more"

Friday, March 20, 2015

We are all completely beside ourselves....

Book Club at Suttonsa continues to grow and always seems to stimulate great discussion. While "We are all completely beside ourselves" for many different reasons, was not my favourite, the discussion tonight made it well worthwhile.

Here are some of my page fold overs.... 

"There are moments when history and memory seem like mist, as if what really happened matters less than what should have happened. The mist lifts and suddenly there we are.... I see how, in a family like mine, love doesn't have to be earned and it can't be lost. Just for a moment, I see us that way; I see us all. Restored and repaired. Reunited and refulgent." 28

"Language does this to our memories-simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. And oft-told story is like a photograph in the family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture." 48

"It terrifies me to think that, come summer, there will be no more hiding, no more passing. Everyone from the woman who cuts my hair to the Queen of England might know who I am. Not who I really am, of course, but an airbrushed version of me, more marketable, easier to love... I still haven't found the place where I can be my true self. But maybe you never get to be your true self, either". 298

Friday, March 13, 2015

Accountability Both Ways...

I've been reading about accountability recently and the need for it in all areas of life, somewhere in my mind it connects with something Richard Rohr speaks about. He has some interesting 'If Only's' to consider within the context of Mark 9:34-35 "Anyone who wants to be the most important has to be the least important--the servant of all the others" 

  • If only the Church had shared Jesus' bias toward the bottom the past two thousand years! 
  • If only we had seriously believed him, how much sooner we would have seen the coming of peace and justice on this earth. 
  • If only we had truly listened to the Gospel, how differently Western history would have unfolded.

Instead, we have made easy and happy friends with power, prestige, perks, and possessions--even in the name of God and the Church. (Richard Rohr).

My wondering takes me to think about what inverted accountability would look like? To what degree do structures welcome and embrace accountability from outside their bureaucratic machinery? I was encouraged with a recent article that spoke of 'accountability of each other', that is something that I hope is more than an Utopian dream!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The beauty of the unsolved...!

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." Rainer Maria Rilke Quoted by ... you guessed it Richard Rohr!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Here's a thought...?

Another gem from Richard Rohr! "The biblical tradition hopes to reveal that whenever the prophetic function is lacking in any group or religion, such a group will very soon be self-serving, self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self- promoting. When the prophets are kicked out of any group, it's a very short time until that group is circling the wagons around itself, and all sense of mission and message is lost. I am afraid this is the natural movement of any institution. Establishments of any kind usually move toward their own self-perpetuation, rather than "What are we doing for others?" In fact, the question is not even asked because self-perpetuation is presumed to be a high level necessity. Thus the prophetic and Pauline words for institutions were "thrones or dominions or principalities or powers" (Colossians 1:16). They consider themselves "too big to fail," usually because they are protecting their own privilege--which is too important to question." A challenge for all levels of church and institutions seeking others but who end up falling into the trap of protecting their own privilege.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Touching the Holy 4/5

4. Since I am the one person I will have an intimate relationship with for my entire life I need to take care of myself at least as well as I would care for others. Therefore, when I am feeling poorly about myself, I need to take steps to unconditionally accept myself and to help myself getting clarity and perspective in the same way as I would for someone else coming to me to empathy and support

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Touching the Holy .... 3/5

It has been a while since I summarized parts of this book here is part 3

3. I must be sensitive to irrational thoughts and willing to challenge and dispute them. thus I can affirm my self-respect and model it for those whom I wish to help. a common  example of this is the irrational belief: I must be perfect or successful all the time. This is ridiculous and impossible. Is based on such irrational beliefs as: if I make a mistake it undoes all that I have accomplished; it is all my fault; it means I am a terrible and unspiritual person; it will completely destroyed my reputation in everyone's eyes; it cannot lead to anything good

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweeny, J. (2014) Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment. Jericho Books

It has struck me interesting that arguments for and against faith while supposedly in opposite camps, look surprisingly similar in their construction, particularly when shaped by a theology or non-theology that lends itself to cliche and caricature. For instance when strong assertions to deny faith or inspire faith use a Dante fueled understanding of hell as their primarily source.

Described as being both disturbing and enthralling Jon Sweeney's book is both useful and interesting. "With gripping narrative and solid scholarship, Jon Sweeny charts hell's 'evolution' from the Old Testament underworld Sheol, through history and literature, to the greatest influencer of all: Dante's Inferno. He reveals how the modern idea of hell if based mostly on Dante's imaginative genius-but in the process, he offers a more constructive understanding of the afterlife than ever before.

"Full of the mysteries of Greek mythology, philosophy, and ancient religions, Inventing Hell will:

  • Show you that there was little agreement among Christians, before Dante, about the nature and extent of what we call Hell.
  • Illuminate for you the concepts of afterlife that existed before Dante, from ancient Judaism, Virgil and Plato, the teachings of Jesus, the early church, Islam and medieval theologians.
  • Demonstrate that Dante had various medieval apocalyptic sources to help him create the elaborate architecture of Hell that most people know today.
  • Shine a clearer light on the sort of Hell that Dante created." 
'Before we've done', Sweeney suggests, '...you may be shocked to realise that for seven hundred years we've simply taken Dante's word for it!' (pp 8)

This book has got me interested in :-
  • Jewish thinking of Sheol rather than a Christian redaction; 
  • Virgil pagan vision of afterlife;
  • Homer's and Hesiod's god Hades; 
  • Plato's myth of Er;
  • What Socrates says about the immortality of the soul; 
  • Similarities of retributive afterlife in the Qur'an; 
  • The influence of political contemporary's in Dantes world; 
  • Aristotle and Cicero's ideas of eternal punishment and
  • Aristotelian influence over medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas
Well worth a read!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Faith Development: As seen in scripture...

I'm really enjoying Richard Rohr's thoughts this week via his emails. Today he talks about 'An Evolving Faith'. I have always been fascinated by exploring Faith Development and found it a relief as I discover more of who and where I am!

Rohr suggests that 'the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures show an evolutionary development, a gradual coming to see how God acts in human life.God is not changing; it is our comprehension of God that is changing.' He identifies in 'Israel's growth as a people is a pattern of what happens to every person and to every people who set out on the journey of faith. They go through stages and gradually come to see how God loves them and what God's liberation does for them.'

"In the first stage, people start to experience the reality of God and God's love as more than abstract concepts. At the same time, however, they tend to believe that God's love is limited to just themselves, a select few such as a chosen people or the one true Church.

In the second stage, people begin to respond to God's love, but they perceive God's love as rather totally dependent on their ideal response. They believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love them if they are good, that God will save or reward them if they keep the commandments. 

In the third stage, people begin to see God's love as unlimited and unconditional, but they do not see further than that. They acknowledge that God loves them whether they are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But they still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. They do not yet see themselves as inherently participating in the process. 

In the fourth stage, they make the breakthrough to seeing that God's grace and love is present within them, through them, with them, and even as them! The mystery of incarnation has come full circle... It is all one stream of Love! 

... As Ken Wilber so brilliantly says, "Religion starts elitist, but ends egalitarian. Always!" I think it is almost a necessary pattern, but far too many stop half way."

I guess this is fits somewhere with a Thomas Merton quote I am chewing over

"He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centred ambitions, his delusions about  ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas"

Merton, T. (1973:178-179) Contemplation in a World of Action 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Finding the Golden Thread...

Here is what I am chewing over today.....

Richard Rohr is saying some interesting things about engaging with scripture, quoting Madeleine L'Engle he points to a 'common religious confusion' that comes from when people confuse partial and passing knowledge with eternal truth.

"Truth is eternal. Our knowledge of it is changeable. It is disastrous when you confuse the two"

He continues saying:

"We can only safely read Scripture--it is a dangerous book--if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps you develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice.... Any "pre-existing condition" of a hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove yourself right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures--just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their love of death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!" (Richard Rohr)

I wish Stephen Fry knew Richard Rohr!



Monday, January 19, 2015

Healthy Church #7 Does a few things and does them well

Too often it is so easy just to chase the next amazing panacea for the church, to to mimic the latest just shake, mix and stir answer to the church's woes. The result is that a church can slip into being overloaded trying to be all things to all people.

Warren argues though that a healthy church knows and works within its capacity, a healthy church does a few things and does them well. In order words it represents a church that knows what it is about and is focused. A true sense of urgency means that these churches are purposeful and relaxed and as a result there is enjoyment in mission and ministry.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Living with Hope

I liked this from Nouwen.org today:

"Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands." 

The idea of living in the moment we find ourselves seems significant and Larry Warner of b-ing.org develops this in his monthy email for Januray saying:

"Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote a book dealing with this important perspective entitled, Abandonment to the Present Moment/Sacrament of the Present Moment. His premise is that God’s will for us is discovered and lived into in the moment that we find ourselves – the present moment, the now here of our lives."

Somehow perhaps these two thoughts converge?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

two alternating mediocrities of knowing...

The daily meditations from Richard Rohr seem to have taken a step up, and seem to take more chewing over, but his key thought this week is a good one to chew on. In encouraging his readers to find "a healthy middle" he distinguishes between "two alternating mediocrities of knowing..."

"all heart and little head (lacking rational, historical, scientific grounding) or all head and little heart (lacking inner experience and true love). We need head and heart, grounded in our physical and sensory body, for a holistic and mature faith".

Adapted from Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self,pp. 70-71; and Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality, pp.13-14