The Lost Dogs – Breathe Deep the Breath of God

As many of you know I love breathing prayers and often post my own.  This video by The Lost Dogs  gave a whole other twist to breathing prayers that it is worth considering – enjoy

Welcome all Doubters – By Coe Hutchison

Last week I posted this video on Faith means Doubt.  Coe Hutchison chair of the MSA Board and pastor at Grace Lutheran in Port Townsend WA responded witha comment I thought was so good I asked him to make it into a post as we all struggle with the realities of life and the doubts that assail us.  Each time we grapple with doubts our faith is stretched, renewed and hopefully revitalized.

In the Gospel message for last Sunday, June 19 (Matt. 28:16-20), we read that even after following Jesus for years some of the disciples experienced doubt. And the Gospel’s author decided that it was important to point this out in the very last words of his Gospel. We might expect Matthew to paint a picture of the sure-hearted disciples rejoicing at meeting the resurrected Jesus and going forth into the world with confidence. Instead we read that some DOUBTED! Thanks be to God for Matthew’s honest and accurate testimony to real life. And yet in the face of doubt and questions and faint-heartedness, Jesus declares his reassuring presence with us to the end of the age.

I have often thought that it would be good to have signs on our churches that say, “Doubters Welcome Here!” There is no better place for us to bring our doubts than to the place where Jesus meets us.

Frederick Buechner writes, “Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. . . Faith is not being sure where you’re going, but going anyway. . . . Tillich said, that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, 30)

Thomas Merton, as Christine noted, was a wonderful encourager of the doubting faithful. Here is my favorite quote from Merton that I have carried with me for years. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976)

May God continue to bless the doubting faithful!

Borders is Closing – What Does it Mean

This morning I read with sadness this article on Publishers Weekly about the demise of Borders Books.

The future of Borders has become much clearer with a motion filed late Friday that asks the court to approve a new motion that will permit it to sell “substantially all of its assets” by July 29. If the motion is not approved, or an agreement to sell the company is not reached, Borders said it will liquidate the bookstore chain as quickly as possible.  Read the entire article

I had already read about this in Australia where not only is Borders closing but Angus & Robertsons which is also part of the REDgroup.  The tragedy is that this bookstore chain first opened its doors in 1884 in Sydney and to me is one of the icons of Australian books.  Part of the problem is that it is now cheaper for Australians to buy books online overseas and have them shipped to Australia.

At least it looks cheaper up front but what I wonder is the ongoing cost to society?   Hundreds of jobs are being lost in Australia, and NZ.  The stores in the US may still escape if a sale occurs in July but the impact on thousands of lives is still huge.

The consequences of of actions spreads out in ripples that many of us are not even aware of.  Cheap books online for those who love to read seems like a godsend but it definitely has its downside & the impact of a global marketplace on everything we buy and use is incredible.  Many of us are starting to think about buying locally where food is concerned, but it is hard for us to think to other areas of consumption as well.

Perhaps preserving local bookstores by buying books locally is as important as buying produce that is grown locally. Which brings me to another article on the Publishers’ Weekly website that is easy to overlook.  It talked about the closing of Butterfly Books – the largest independent children’s bookstore in Wisconsin.  Small independent bookstores matter just as local businesses and food production matters.  At least that is what I think.  What do you think?

Living the Worship Driven Life by Steve Wickham

Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World is contributed by Steve Wickham (BSc, FSIA, RSP [Aust], GradDipBib&Min) an online Christian minister and freelance author maintaining three blog sites (Epitome, ex-ceed and TRIBEWORK), posting daily to service a diverse readership. You can find his nearly 3,000 published articles onEzineArticles.com

This article was first published on Epitome 

___________________________________________________________________

“Then say to [Pharaoh], ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness’.”  ~Exodus 7:16 (NIV).

Worshipping God is a whole-of-life experience of faith, the spending of ourselves in love, and earnest learning in wisdom. It’s probably a whole lot more to boot.

It’s certainly not confined to Sunday church services and prayer meetings.

How do we convert the typical endeavour of worship for God at church — a comparative ‘Egypt’ by confinement of location and activity — and take such worshipful endeavour out into the world; to the comparative ‘wildernesses’ of our workplaces, homes and communities?

Freedom of Worship

If we consider ourselves free only to ‘worship’ at church — or within safe Christian boundaries — then we probably have the wrong concept for what worship is.

Worship may be any activity where we’re able to glorify God via what we do and through what meagre (or mega) portion we, of our hearts, bring.

Living like Christ, whilst we’ll often fail to meet the Saviour’s standard, is the freedom of worship.

Note that Jesus was free to worship God in his literal wilderness experience (Matthew 4:1-11). Out in the world, far beyond the Temple, he was tempted three significant times by Satan. Jesus worshipped the Father via straightforward, wise obedience. His worship, at least in this setting, was nothing about readings in church or singing Hallels.

We too are free to express our worship, not only beyond the gates of our churches, but via an amazing array of activity.

The Vast Worshipful Expanse

God has created a very big place — the universe. Yet, no matter how big things get (the universe is ever-expanding in size) it’s a scientific and a miraculous fact that smallness is equally big. Nanotechnologies and the like prove God to be unfathomable regarding the legacy of expanse, both macro and micro.

God is a limitless Lord.

We can extend God’s expansive nature to the issue of worship; to the degree of variety of worshipful activity at our fingertips.

Anything done with love in our hearts fits this Divine mould.

Where we rise to the heights of righteousness, plumb the depths of humility, reach out our arms in the width of justice, and scour the breadth of God’s wisdom, we worship; to a trillion different nuances.

As we’re unique persons, each crafted at the masterstroke of the Lord’s design, uniqueness becomes the authenticity of our worship. Nobody will worship in the world like we, perhaps, can or do.

The Mission is to Worship: Worship IS Mission

The entire world we can touch is our ‘wilderness’ and the mission of God in our mortal bodies and minds is beyond Egypt (the physical church buildings we present at each Sunday).

Not that we can’t worship in Egypt; we can worship anywhere!

To consider ourselves as pleasing God by remaining in Egypt, however, when the wilderness is the way to the Promised Land, is ludicrous.

We must extend our worship to the farthest reaches of our conscious lives, for through our worshipful ways we experience God. We should yearn after God’s Presence these ways, desiring more and more infilling of the Spirit that gives life; and that, through us, so our worship truly glorifies God.

When we take the Purpose Driven Life model, connecting both ends — worship with mission — we can finally retain the beads — fellowship, discipleship and ministry — ending with a string of beads constructed toward Christlike completeness.

Our mission is to find our worshipful purpose in all our moments.

Faith Means Doubt – Thoughts from Thomas Merton

Yesterday I listened to an episode of Tokens Radio Show entitled The Wisdom of Skeptics.  I highly recommend it.  What most struck me was the reference to Thomas Merton and his belief that faith cannot exist without doubt.  I meet so many people who have given up their faith because they have been led to believe that Christians should not have doubts about what and why they believe.  It so saddens me to hear this.  Like most of us I struggle constantly with doubts.  As I grapple with them in the presence of God and my current understanding of Christian faith, they usually bring me to a deeper and richer knowledge of God and of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

I found this short video clip from his Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton which provides a few profound thoughts on the topic of doubt that I think will enrich all of us.

Worshipping God in the Real World – How To Encounter God in Your Daily Life

Today’s post for the series Worshipping God in the Real World comes from  K Zhang.  She lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is also an artist, art educator, blogger and a minimalist.  Her blog  Prayer Kingdom   is about staying connect to the things of God that add value to your life, without getting stressed out from information overload.

___________________________________

God is everywhere, then why do you need to encounter him?

What we are looking for is a feeling of being in the presence of God.  But the Holy Spirit is always with us, leading us and guiding us, even when we don’t feel close to God.  Our feelings can be deceiving.

Even King David, a man of God, cries out saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” – Psalm 22:1 But King David was not really forsaken by God, he was feeling far away from God.

In our relationship with God, you will feel seasons of abundance and seasons of drought.  However, this is all because your heavenly father loves your and wants you to grow and become more like Christ.  Whenever he is far from you, it is a season of testing of your faith and trust.

God promises that:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matt 7:7

When we seek to be close to God and to be in God’s presence, we can be.

My Top Three Ways of Encountering God:

1. Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. – Phil 4:4

Consider a father… is the father not happy when the child is happy in the world that he created for the child?  Our heavenly father created this beautiful world for us.  He is happy when we enjoy his creations.  He is happy when I am enjoying an ice cream and when I am tanning in the sun.  He is happy when I am laughing with friends and family.  He is happy when I am finding happiness in the details.

A song that I like to listen to is Today is the Day by Lincoln Brewster.  It reminds me that God has built this day especially for me.  All the joyous experiences he has planned and put in my life.

2. Praising God

One of my most favorite verses:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Phil 4:6

Whenever I give thanks, I feel closer to God because giving thanks is a form of prayer, and it is a conversation with God.  Prayer is not one session of sitting there, heads bowed, and praying.  It can be down anywhere, any time, in any situation.  I often say prayers of thanksgiving whenever I feel like it.  And I can feel God smiling down at me whenever I thank him.

3. Being Completely Honest with God

In any relationship, when you being totally honest with the person, your relationship reaches a new level of trust.  Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with God himself.  Jesus died so that we may have a personal relationship with him.  I find that I can never feel close to God if I am hiding something from him.  Also in my life, the closest I have ever been with God is when I am crying out to him. I share with him my inner thoughts and my deepest emotions.  I share with him my sins, frustration, uncertainty, hurts, and fears.  I even share with him my doubt about him.  It is in my complete honesty that I feel the great love and forgiveness God has for me.

Other Ways I encounter God in my Daily Life:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Worship Singing/ Playing Music
  • Going to Church
  • Tithing and Trusting
  • Fellowship with Other Christians
  • Practicing Godly Characteristics like love, patience and kindness
  • Traveling, seeing God’s Kingdom
  • Making Art to Glorify God
  • Helping Others
  • Quiet Time with God

God is always with us, whether we feel like he is or not.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Christchurch Bishop fears her clergy face “exhaustion of spirit” following tremors

I am now back to Seattle after a trip to Australia for my mother’s 88th birthday.  It was a wonderful trip, but the images coming out of Christchurch New Zealand where I once lived have tinged my memories with sadness and my heart is aching for the dear people of this city who have just suffered more earthquake shocks as bad as the one that did so much damage in February.  For those that are interested I  am reposting this from the Anglican Communion website that shows the heart ache that many are suffering.  You can see the original article here .  Thanks to John Leech who sent me this link.
It makes me very aware of the privilege of our lives and how many suffer in our world.   This is unfortunately just one of the many disasters still impacting the lives of millions around us.
Christchurch Bishop fears her clergy face “exhaustion of spirit” following tremors
By Lloyd Ashton, Anglican Taonga

In the wake of yet more big jolts in Christchurch, Bishop Victoria Matthews says she fears her clergy are facing “exhaustion of spirit”.
“People are tired. They have been more than magnificent. Let me say that clearly.
“But I am hearing of a deep weariness of the soul, and I’m having to ask people to reach deep into their resources to meet yet another crisis.
“The churches that have stepped up to the plate, and been magnificent so many times before, will have to do it all over again. Because we have got to keep looking after the people of God.
“I’m watching people’s eyes, and hearing their words very carefully, and I’ve been saying to some: ‘You know, you’ve got to get out and away for a month.’
“And they say: ‘Yes. You’re right. I do.’ But after yesterday, getting them to do that is going to be more difficult. Because they are going to want to be with their people.
“That’s the story that is front page for me.
“I was talking to an elderly man the other day who’d lived through war, and been evacuated six times in his life. He knows the drills, so to speak.
“But the people who are actually at the front line now… we don’t.
“We are a generation who have never been through a war, never lived through a sustained, critical period like this. That makes it really difficult.”
As a young woman, Bishop Victoria twice served three-month stints in Haiti – and while she was there, she lived through a military coup.
While the politics couldn’t be more different, she says the turmoil in Haiti she experienced then was the best preparation she’s had for leading the Diocese of Christchurch through the crises it faces now.
She also says that the destruction of the cathedral’s rose window has significant implications.
“It raises the question yet again about whether we need to deconsecrate (the cathedral), and take it right down – but that question has not been answered yet.
“The rose window was, in a sense, the icon of the icon.
“It was the trademark. The logo. Call it whatever you will, it was the one piece, the people of the cathedral said, that they would move to whatever a new Cathedral looked like. That would go with them.
“But it won’t now.”
For some other churches, yesterday’s quakes were the coup de grace.
“Holy Trinity Lyttelton is right down,” she says. “The roof is now on the ground. We knew that we were probably looking at demolition there, but that’s now been done.
“St Luke’s, which has been deconsecrated, is now very precarious. I think we will have to move to demolition there as soon as possible.”
While the historic stone church at St John’s Latimer Square, which had already been deconsecrated, has suffered more damage.
Bishop Victoria says she dropped into a number of church schools yesterday, and found them in good heart.
“The spirit of young people is wonderful. I was checking at St Michael’s church school, and a young man from Christ’s College came up to me there and said: ‘Good afternoon Bishop. I just need to tell you that Christ’s College is all right.’ Isn’t that good?”
“Then I went on to Bishopspark – and the spirit of the sweethearts there is amazing. One 96-year old woman, who is a clergy widow, said to me: ‘Ohh… the staff were so lovely. They brought us all downstairs, and gave us the nicest cup of tea.’”
In the evening, Bishop Victoria emailed her clergy, urging them to be careful around their buildings.
“The operative word,” she wrote, “is safety. So please do not take chances.”
Today she identified two other pressing needs:
“We need prayer. We need prayer, because we are beyond running on our own strength.
“Before yesterday, I’d been going round the parishes saying: ‘We’ve got to pray our way through this.’
“Everybody agreed. Then yesterday happened, and now we really need the whole country and beyond this country praying for us for strength. Because there is no other way we are going to get through this.”
She also forecasts that “in a fairly short time, we’ll be needing very practical help again. “
“People who might be able to come and do relatively minor repairs, like helping waterproof homes, for example.”
“So: safety, prayer and practical help.”

Worshipping in the real World – Reclaiming the Jubilee

Hackeny Street party

The season of the church calendar after Pentecost is known as ordinary time not because it is dull and boring, but because it does not have a distinct theme such as the birth, death or resurrection of Christ.  However the creative use of feasting and fasting throughout this season of the year provides wonderful opportunities for us to connect the everyday events of our lives and of our culture, to our faith in extraordinary ways.

One of the regular celebrations that the Mustard Seed Associates team hosts during this season is our annual Celtic prayer on Camano Island at the site where we are just beginning to see the establishment of the Mustard Seed Village. .  This year it will be held the weekend of August 12 – 14, our retreat.   It is our 20th celebration, an annual event that has helped us discern God’s vision for this site and move forward slowly into its fulfillment.   God’s faithfulness over these years has amazed us and this year we are planning a special celebration to dedicate the establishment of this new community which is just beginning to emerge.

Our theme for this year is Jubilee and New Beginnings and working on the programme for this retreat will be one of my major responsibilities over the next month.  Jubilee has always been a special celebration for me  and today I wanted to share one of my favourite Jubilee stories which always comes to mind as I think of Jubilee.   It harkens back to another Jubilee celebration in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 50th year of her reign.

This Jubilee was celebrated throughout the British Commonwealth with jubilee parties, many of them street parties.  Chris and Ali Lawrence and the members of the Round Chapel Neighbourhood Project situated in a poor and often violent community in London however decided to host an alternative Jubilee event – an event that harkened back to a far older understanding of Jubilee as expressed in Leviticus 25.  They called it “reclaim the Jubilee”.

Outside the Round Chapel, Lower Clapton street was transformed from the media’s image of “murder mile” into a majestic setting filled with flowers, music, storytelling and food.  Children, parents and elderly people gathered to play games, dance and eat from a wonderful multicultural banquet feast – a luxurious spread of meat and vegetables provided on a shoestring budget.  Reggae, soul and Cajun music reverberated through the street and storytellers held the audience spellbound.  At one point a moment’s silence was held to remember those who had died on this stretch of road in acts of violence linked to drug dealing.  At the same time, people recommitted themselves to working together for a more peaceful and just neighborhood.  The 400 dinner guests departed reluctantly at 10pm to the sounds of “Burn” (cow punk 1970’s revival) their heads filled with memories of laughter and multiple flavors, their eyes overdosed on images of color and their minds spinning with reflections on the true meaning of a strong community.

Ali Lawrence died of cancer a few years later but the seeds that were planted through the work she and Chris planted in this and the many other celebrations they hosted in Hackney provide a wonderful and enduring glimpse into God’s jubilee which we will celebrate in its fulness together with Ali and all those who have gone before us in that wonderful kingdom Jubilee feast in God’s kingdom.

God Sightings Off Campus – by Theresa Froehlich

The first post in our series Worshipping God in the Real world is contributed by Theresa Froehlich. Theresa is a Certified Life Coach, an ordained minister, a native of Hong Kong, the mother of two grown children, and the wife of Hervey Froehlich’s.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“Why don’t you write a book about marriage?”Charles asked me as he dexterously snipped off strands of my hair with his scissors. This conversation began with me sharing with my Korean hairdresser about the book I have been writing as a result of the traumatic launch of our two children, now in their early 20’s.

“This is a book to show struggling parents how to stop parenting, let go and move on. The book grew out of my messy launching experience.”

At first hesitantly, he confided, “I have so many problems in my marriage. My wife of six years is leaving me and taking our one-year old daughter with her. She has yelled very abusive words at me numerous times and used expletives when she lost it with my parents. She has moved out and yet she feels I should be paying for her apartment and living expenses. I don’t want to get a divorce but she refuses to listen. I have hired a lawyer to fight for the custody of my daughter.”

“Does she speak any English? Does she have a green card?”

“She speaks only Korean. No, she doesn’t yet have a green card.”

“Charles! That must be very painful.”

As I finished paying for my haircut, I bowed in the Korean custom (even though I am not Korean) and promised to pray for him. He looked at me with gratitude and hope in his eyes, because another human being had taken the time to listen to his story, to enter into his pain, and to feel his heartache.

Pain has a way of opening my eyes to see the suffering around me and to visualize myself as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. My own painful experiences have stripped away my self-centeredness and turned my eyes from the institutional church to the world, the community, and the individuals around me. After all, this is “the world” that God so loved that he gave his only Son.

Years of teaching adult Sunday School, leading Bible Study groups, and speaking at and attending retreats have all been very challenging, productive and enjoyable. Yet, something has been missing in my walk with Jesus Christ, the connection with those who do not darken the doors of the institutional church, the place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ can become animated in the daily conversations in the marketplace and the neighborhoods.

At times, I wondered if I need to take Communication 101 or re-read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People in order to connect with those who don’t speak Christianese. After all, talking to non-Christians is somewhat like cross-cultural communication. I was pleasantly surprised that what people most appreciate is simply my attentive attitude and listening ear.

Worshipping in the Real World: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life

Next week I will start a series of blog posts on spiritual practices in everyday life which you can read about in a previous post entitled Worshipping God: Out of Church and Into the World.  I have several quest bloggers already lined up and expect that many more will join over the coming weeks.

One of my growing passions is helping people find a 24/7 faith that is expressed in and through their everyday activities.  I strongly believe that everything we do is meant to be an act of worship in which we either experience or represent God.  I am also concerned that one of the reasons people are disconnecting from church and faith is because we have so divorced faith practices from the everyday world in which most of us live.

Kingdom signs are all around us.  We encounter God in conversations with friends and colleagues, and in generosity and compassion towards strangers.  We interact with God when we pet animals and dig in the garden, when we dig wells in Africa and respond to tornado victims in Joplin.  These can all become sacramental acts of faith if we open our eyes and ears to see and listen.

There is still time to participate in this series.  If you would like to contribute a guest post please email me at seasickdoctor@gmail.com for instructions.  And do let your friends and fellow bloggers know.  I hope that this series will be both diverse and faith building for all of us as we learn more about what it means to worship the God who created us and who is present in all we are and do.