A Prayer for All Saints Eve

Jesus & disciples

Let us stand with those who have gone before

We are back in Seattle our heads still whirring with the disorienting experience of starting the day with a beautiful spring morning and ending with blustery autumn weather.  I am also adjusting slowly to the images of pumpkins on doorsteps and scary halloween decorations all over the place – not something that Australia has yet cottoned onto thank goodness.

Most of the US is gearing up for Halloween tonight.  I find myself reflecting on All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day tomorrow and especially all those who have gone before us witnessing to the goodness of our God.  Here is a prayer that I wrote this morning as part of that remembrance

God we are surrounded by a cloud

Faithful witnesses who have gone before

Those who have loved where we would have hated

Those who have healed where we would have hurt

Those who have spoken out when we would have remained silent

God may we walk in their footsteps

Learning courage from their sacrifice

Gaining strength from their faithfulness

May we learn to give so that others may receive

May we learn to love so that others may be set free

May we learn to die to ourselves so that others might live

God may we join that cloud of faithful witnesses

Treading paths of loving obedience

Leaving footprints that others desire to walk in

God may we too lead kingdom lives



Last Day in Australia – My Concerns About How We Care for the Elderly

Tom & I are in the midst of our last day in Sydney.  Tonight we will have dinner with Matt Stone and some of his cronies.  Then tomorrow last trip up to the local shops for a cappuccino or mocha with Mum – hate to admit it but cappuccinos here are much better than in the States.

The hardest thing is leaving my Mum who is now 86.  One of the challenges that we do not deal with well in the church is the growing elderly population and the pressures it places on sons and daughters and often grandchildren as well.  Mum is in great health and I have three wonderful brothers in Australia who are looking after my mother well but it is still a struggle to be so far away.  And I find that all my friends in their 40s and 50s are dealing with these issues.  One of the growing challenges in our highly mobile society is that families are often spread out over the world and elderly parents and grandparents can be conveniently shuttled off to a nursing home.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how to care for elderly family members in a compassionate and caring way while still carrying on our busy lives.  Of course one of the solutions is probably to slow down our lives and recognize that looking after elderly parents is part of the pattern and rhythms of our lives that we need to accept and in fact to embrace.

I have loved listening to my mother’s stories this week of her childhood adventures.  The world has changed so much in the last 100 years that all of us need these connections to our past to strengthen and root us.  It is not only our Christian heritage we need to get in touch with.  It is our family histories too.

What do you think?  Those of you who have elderly parents how do you handle this challenge

How Rich Are You

Here is another great resource that I learned about here in Adelaide.  So often we feel that we do not have enough financial resources for all that we need.  Here is a great site that helps put our incomes into perspective with the rest of the world.

Global Rich List

Reflections from the Week

Those of you who have been following my posts this week know that there has been quite a bit of diversity – some reflections on our time here at Tabor, some looking forward to the end of the month and our celebration of All Saints and Halloween, some sharing the resources that I have come across.  I thought today that I would try to pull together some of my thoughts and the rich input that this week has provided for me.

Yesterday we had the privilege of being involved in a wonderful worship time here at Tabor coordinated by some of the younger students.  It was a very experiential time with stations set up around the chapel – everything from opportunities to light candles as prayers for friends and issues we are concerned about to the privilege of having our hands washed and massaged as a sign of the cleansing power of Christ.  There were also opportunities to draw pictures that came out of our inner struggles and hurts and to interact with God’s good creation by going out into the garden with sheets of paper to do rubbings of leaves.  In the courtyard someone had written Following Jesus in large chalk letters that we were invited to add to with our own thoughts about what it meant to follow Jesus.

In our class we are talking about taking our imaginations seriously and developing new models of life, faith and community that reflect something of God’s new world of freedom, justice and abundance which is constantly breaking into ours.  The possibilities of using our imagination to interact with the gospel story are boundless and we can make a difference if we take the story of God seriously and make it the inventive catalyst for our lives.  This worship service was a graphic example of what is possible when we stir our imaginations in this way but we do need to move our imaginations outside our worship box and into the world around us.

Interestingly I was reading an article this morning that talked about the fact that change does not usually start with leaders and government officials but it begins with the imagination of ordinary people who believe that they can make a difference in the world.  Those we call leaders are really followers in places that matter.

The common thread in all my reflections this week is my continuing attempt to grapple with how we reinterpret all parts of our life as opportunities to both experience the God revealed in Jesus and to be representatives of this God.  I am continually amazed at how many parts of my life are totally disconnected from my faith and how difficult it is to integrate these into my understanding of the gospel story.

Part of what the week has provided for me – in spite of its busyness – is a quiet place of solitude and reflection.  As I have prepared for the Rhythms of Grace workshop I have again reflected a lot on what it means to have a Godly rhythm to my life.  I thought that I would finish with a couple of quotes I have come across that  have really helped these reflections and my growing understanding of both our need for a Godly rhythm and the challenges attaining it.

The first refers to the rhythm of life that wove through the early church

Though this rhythm borrowed heavily from Judaism, it was clearly adapted to the new reality of Jesus Christ.  History & practices of Judaism receded into the background; the incarnation, death & resurrection of Jesus became the center piece”  (Gerald Sittser Water from a Deep Well)

The second refers to our disconnection from the natural world – obviously something that I am very concerned about

When we become strangers to the earth we have lost more than our roots; we have lost touch with the rhythm of life.  Where life once was seasonal and secure it is now episodic & erratic.  We live after the fall… unblessed on earth and unconnected to heaven.  (Ray Anderson)

The third refers to my growing recognition of the need for solitude as part of the rhythms of life for all of us

Solitude is not withdrawal in order to get away.  It is withdrawal in order to be with someone who is normally crowded out of our lives. (Charles Ringma)

And the last refers to my growing recognition of the need to incorporate fasting as well as feasting in our rhythms

Reserving for special events food we might easily afford, but that are luxury items in the world economy unites us with those who have less.  (Joetta Handrich Schlabach)

Getting Ready For Halloween

One of the things that really surprised and horrified me when I first came to the US was the huge emphasis on Halloween.  Even churches organized Halloween celebrations with kids dressed as witches and no one thought twice about feeding the monsters that came to their doors trick or treating.

Today there seems to be more talk about not celebrating Halloween because it has been so taken over by witches, covens and non Christian groups.  But is that the right attitude?  How could we redeem the celebration of Halloween and return it to the Christian celebration it once was?  How can we enter into the joy and celebration of God’s rhythm of feasting and add to the fun rather than trying to kill it?

The word Hallowe’en itself is a contraction of “Hallowed evening” the old English word for “holy” still seen in older translations of the Lord’s prayer .  The evening is hallowed because is is the beginning of the Feast of All Saints celebrated November 1st.  All greater feasts of the church calendar like Christmas and Easter begin in the evening the following the ancient Jewish practice of beginning the celebration of the Sabbath at sundown on Friday evening.  So it seems to me that ignoring Halloween and trying to just celebrate All Saints Day doesn’t really work.  What we need to do is reattach it to All Saints Day and regain its original and true significance.

So how can we do this?  Here are some possibilities:

Matt Stone conducts an alternative service – Thanksgiving for the Dead to reflect on lost loved ones and the saints who have gone before

Helen Hull Hitchcock from Women of Faith and Family suggests holding a children’s party at which children dress up as saints from past ages.  She has some other great suggestions that you can check out here

tom and I will be on the road this Halloween but here are some thoughts I have on celebrations we could do in the future to enter into the real meaning of Halloween

Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it.   Ask them to bring photos and stories to share.  Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.

Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago.  It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians.  There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian.   I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.

Plan a Halloween pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research.  Explore the Christian heritage of your community.  Where did the first Christians come from?  How did they interact with the native peoples?  Where was the first church established?  Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community.  Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before

What ideas do you have for a redeemed Halloween celebration?

Do You Believe in the Corporation?

This morning we have been talking about the challenges of the global economy and how it seduces us into its values.  We also talked about how easily we buy into the values of our secular culture – its work rhythms, its suburban lifestyles, its consumer patterns – and then living our Christianity over the top without questioning the highly flawed values on which our lives are grounded or trying to decode them.

One of the students in our Tabor Intensive here in Adelaide just made us aware of this sobering and challenging DVD – The Corporation that I would heartily recommend.  You can download it in sections from the web or purchase it online as well.

Another great resource we have talked about this morning is Mark Sayer’s The trouble with Paris: Following Jesus in a World of Plastic Promises. This is one of the best resources for critiquing the consumer culture from a Christian perspective that Tom & I have come across.  It also comes in a DVD study version which we have not seen but have been told by our students is excellent.

A Manifesto for Slow Communication

This morning at our Tabor College class here in Adelaide we are talking about the pressures that distract our lives.  I began with a devotional juxtaposing the version of Psalm 23 (antithesis) which I know I have quoted before and the real Psalm 23.  We are more and more concerned about how the increasing rate of communication and modern life is shaping us and our faith in ways that we do not even recognize.  Above all our increasing busyness makes it very difficult for us to relax, listen and discern the voice of God.

Interestingly we also came across this article from the Wall Street Journal August 21 Not So fast, which heightens some of these concerns.  The article is adapted from John freeman’s book The Tyranny of E-Mail. It has been a great article for me to reflect on as I have been sharing more about the fact that we are far more effective as God’s people when we take the time to slow down and listen to God.

The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

read the entire article

So read the article, read through Psalm 23 Antithesis then read through the real Psalm 23, rest, relax and spend some time listening to God.  If you don’t have time to listen I can tell you there is something wrong with your life.  Let me know what God is saying to you in the midst of this.

The clock is my dictator I shall not rest

It makes me lie down only when exhausted

It leads me to deep depression, it hounds my soul

It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake

Even though I run from task to task, I will never get it all done for my ideal is with me

Deadlines & my need for approval, they drive me

They demand performance from me beyond the limits of my schedule

They anoint my head with migraines my in-basket overflows

Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever

(Marcia Hornok)

Meeting the Twelve Apostles

Tom & I have now arrived in Adelaide, after a long (1000 km) but spectacular 2 day trip along the coast between Melbourne and Adelaide.  I last made this trip with my family when I was 12 years old so as you can imagine there was a great deal of nostalgia and remembering for me.

Things have changed a little since my last visit.  The roads have definitely improved which is a great blessing and there are loads of signs reminding American tourists that in Australia we drive on the left.  Evidently there are horrendous accidents each year because tourists rent cars at Melbourne airport and start their long trek towards Adelaide in jetlagged state along narrow windy roads that can be nerve racking even if you were familiar with them.

falling rock sign

Tom let me do most of the driving because at least I grew up driving on the left and rather enjoy the twisty turny roads But by the end of the day with only 400 km (250 miles) covered and 7 hours of driving even my nerves were a little frayed.

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles

Other things have changed too.  One of the spectacular rocks known as the twelve apostles has crumbled and London Bridge (another rock formation) has fallen down but this is still one of the most spectacular drives imaginable.

We particularly enjoyed our stopover at Port Fairy a small community which is one of the oldest ports along the South coast of Australia.  The old norfolk pines lining the streets beautifully frame the old buildings.  A very memorable stop though it is a shame that what was once such a thriving community is now little more than a tourist stop.

Port fairy buildings & norfolk pines

Port fairy buildings & norfolk pines

My greatest disappointment was the Blue Lake at Mt Gambier which I remember as this brilliant blue colour.  However what I had forgotten was that the colour changes dramatically in a couple of days mid November for no known reason.  So we are a month early and the lake just looked like any other deeper crater lake.

Blue Lake Mt Gambier

Blue Lake Mt Gambier

What surprised me most was the vineyards that have developed all along this road.  We didn’t have time to stop but could have been quite tipsy by the time we made it to Adelaide.

All in all this was a wonderful break in a hectic few weeks.  Lots to reflect on in regard to everyday spirituality too so probably more of that to come over the next few days.  We are now at Tabor College for a week teaching an intensive on the church and the future.  Saturday I also conduct a spiritual retreat on spiritual rhythms.

Love Has No Limits

You know that I am starting to recover from my cough and feeling more relaxed when I put up 2 blog posts in one day.  However I could not resist this heartwarming clip A Lion Called Christian. It brought tears to my eyes (maybe partly because I am missing our dog Bonnie who will give us a similarly warm welcome when we get back to Seattle).

More than that it reminded me of the unconditional love of God who never forgets us and welcomes us with unconditional and exuberant love wherever we are and whenever we turn towards him.

How Do We View God?

I am busily getting ready for my last day here at WorldView and reflecting on how we all view God.  I think that there is no better way to see how others view God than to look at the art with which we depict God.  I know that I have done something like this before on my blog but then I find that repetition never hurts.  In fact no matter how many times we repeat an exercise there is still something more to learn about God.

Two websites I would heartily recommend that help us do that.

Matt Stone’s blog – as I have mentioned before Matt has the best collection of multicultural Christian art I have come across.  Matt even has some alien Christian art which I first laughed at but then realized that this too represents many people’s view of God.

Another site that has a rich collection of more traditional art in an A – Z catalogue is textweek.com This site also has other resources that connect to the weekly lectionary readings.

Here are some of my favourites which give very different views of Christian faith.  I suggest that you spend some time reflecting on these and what you can learn about God and Jesus as you meditate on them.  Would love to hear what your reflections teach you.

Jesus washes feet

Jesus washes feet

Adbusters cover

Tibebe Terffa Ethiopia


Latin tiles 001-1

jesus heals blindman

Varghese - calming the storm

Jesus heals paralized man