Shalom and the Community of Creation – Randy Woodley

cover-shalom-and-the-comm5

Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying reading Randy Woodley’s wonderful book Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. As many of you know, the study of shalom has woven through my life in the last thirty years. Working in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border in the mid 80s’ transformed my life and started me on a quest for a deeper understanding of God’s worldview. Shalom is the best word that describes this for me. I put some of my own thoughts together in the booklet Shalom and the Wholeness of Godand you would think that after 30 years there could be nothing new for me to learn. Randy’s book teaches me that this is not so and will probably never be true.

Understanding the shalom of God and the desire of God to see all things restored and made whole again should, I think, be a never ending journey for all of us. Ancient Semitic constructs of biblical shalom have parallel constructs among other indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as the Harmony Way. Jesus, Randy explains is the shalom restorer of justice and dignity. So often he came to those who had dignity, no rights in society. Like the shepherds whose testimony was unacceptable in a court of law.

Randy is a Keetoowah Cherokee  and brings the richness of his First Nations’ perspective to the discussion. I learned so much from his invitation to view scripture, humanity and all creation through the indigenous lens. One comment that particularly challenged me is:

As people of faith, we should view every drop of oil, every diamond, every lump of coal and every source of water with a theological eye. We should try to see our world through the eyes of the One who created it. All the earth is sacred. It seems quite foolish that only after we have gone too far will we realize that no amount of capital gains, no particular economic system, no modern convenience will be worth the price that we will be forced to pay. Attributed as a Cree Indian proverb, around Indian country they say “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” I sometimes wonder if modern humanity will drive itself to extinction over greed. (52)

Randy beautifully weaves the story of indigenous peoples in North America and their understanding of the Harmony Way into his narrative. God is not just revealed in the Hebrew scriptures. God’s ways are powerfully portrayed in the beliefs and stories of all cultural groups. Often their traditional beliefs are closer to the ways of God than the capitalistic, creation destroying ways of Western cultures. The atrocities done to natives peoples in many lands has broken God’s shalom not just destroying them and their cultures, but the very land that was taken from them.

God speaks through all cultures and if we only listen to the theologians from our own culture, our understanding of God will be stifled. This is a compelling and challenging book that expresses a different cultural worldview. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the truths of God’s shalom world.

You may also like to check out this article I wrote some years ago on theological diversity in a globalized world 

Greater Than the Bible

I am currently rereading E Stanely Jones‘ The WayIt is one of my favourite devotionals and I find myself coming back to it time and time again. This week I am working through a section where Jones talks about Jesus as being greater than the Bible, greater than the Ten Commandments, greater than the Creeds,  and even greater than faith itself. It is a challenging and thought provoking series of devotionals.

Jesus is greater than the Bible, there is only one mediator, ( 1 Tim 2:5) and one way to God. All scripture, all creeds, all revelation must be viewed and judged through the filter of Jesus Christ – his life, death and resurrection. Eternal life is not in the pages of the Bible, it is in Christ who is uncovered through the scriptrues. The Word is not made printer’s ink, says Jones, The Word was made flesh, not a page buta person.

It is true that we would know little about Christ if it were not for the Bible. The Old Testament is the period of preparation for Christ, the New Testament is the revelation of Christ. We need to remember however that the New Testament is the report of various people’s impressions of Jesus, it is not Jesus himself. Yes it is divinely inspired and it has caught the essential meaning of who Christ is but as Jones says: we always have the feeling that they were trying to tell the untellable and express the inexpressible.

All of life is an ongoing revelation of Christ. We see him revealed in the face of friend and stranger. We see his presence in God’s wonderful creation. We see his miracles in our daily provision, in our healing from illnesses and more than anything in loving acts towards one another. He existed before the Bible was written. His presence fills all things, and holds all creation together (Colossians 1:15-20). It is good for us to remember this and give thanks.

Living Christ I give you thanks for what you reveal,
Something fresh each morning, something new each evening.
You are a constant surprise to me,
I hold my breath as new things unfold in every moment,
My soul tingles with expectancy and I thank you.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.

Life As Prayer by Roy Goble

This morning’s post is the first in the series Lord Teach Us To PrayIt is written by Roy Goble the owner of the family real estate investment firm Goble Properties.  He is also the President of PathLight International, which serves at-risk youth by providing educational opportunities that integrate faith and learning.  Roy is a Trustee of Westmont College, Chair of the Board for The SOLD Project, and is founder of several non-profit organizations.  He and his wife D’Aun live in Pleasanton, California.  You can read more about Roy at www.junkyardwisdom.com where this post first appeared and follow him on twitter at @roygoble.

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Many years ago, when I was far younger than today, I was interviewing a person for an important leadership position at a ministry. He was about my age and I asked him to describe his prayer life. He answered, “My life is a prayer.”

That’s all he said. I sat there waiting for him to elaborate. He didn’t.

Curious, I asked the typical follow-up questions. How do you do that? What does it look like? Are there exercises to follow? How can you attain such intimacy with God at such a young age? I wanted an answer that helped me understand how it was even possible. But he basically shrugged and said, “It just is. I can’t really explain it.”

Frankly, the answer made me nervous about this candidate. A conversation with wiser friends calmed me as they explained how different faith traditions view prayer in different ways. Eventually we hired him and he worked for many years with the organization.

But I still think about his response. Or more accurately, I think about living a life in such a way that it is pure prayer. How is it that every thought, action, and breath reflects such a spiritual richness?

A simple poem by Fr Gilbert Shaw sets up the question:

Prayer
is the turning of our whole mind,
our whole being,
towards God.

I want that, of course.  It sounds wonderful. But how do you get it? The idea of a life that is prayer sounds great but seems impossible. A part of the mosaic within my brain understands that there is no definitive methodology, but my linear side is completely frustrated by that.

This is very Western of me, I’m told.  And I agree that it is. But that doesn’t answer my question.  Besides, the Western faith tradition has a long history of mystics and poets who found great joy in struggling with the incomprehensible idea of living a life of prayer.  Brother Lawrence and his pots and pans comes to mind. Learning from those who walked down this path before me has been helpful … to a point.

Shaw also writes:

The purpose of living is not to learn to make prayer,
but to become prayer; to live in and for God
according to the divine call, wholly surrendered to
the Spirit’s activity in the soul for the glory of God.

That’s somewhat more helpful because it equates the idea with something we become. It’s an action. But what action? I keep coming back to the desire for something tangible. It all seems like hard mental work to figure this stuff out, and I would rather just not think about it.

But then that’s the point where I stop and smile. I have learned that we need to be thinking about it. God likes it when we wrestle with such things.

Over time I have come to understand that this struggle to understand is exactly what God wants. My life is prayer only when it is a life of longing for God. The mental sweat that comes from striving to grow spiritually is part of connecting with God’s heart. And God considers it pure joy to meet us in that place.

Or said another way, what we find to be work may well be what God finds to be praise.

Why Do I Believe in the Resurrection?

From head to heart

Do you believe in your heart?

Yesterday I received an email from a friend who told me they were not sure that they believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. I was surprised because this person has a strong Christian faith. And I know that if I scratched the surface of many of my friends I would find the same doubts and struggles. In fact I struggle with this myself sometimes.

Why then do I (at least most of the time) believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and that because of that I want to commit my life and future to him? As a young Christian my belief in the resurrection was a purely intellectual belief. I believed because I read it in the bible and because theologians I respected told me it was true. I knew in my head that Jesus had risen from the dead, believing it in my heart was another matter.

There came a point in my life when this intellectual faith was not enough. As I struggled to make sense of my experiences in refugee camps and in communities of poverty where kids died every day from malnutrition and easily treatable diseases, I needed a dimension to my faith that intellectual knowledge just did not provide. That was when I cam across the writings of Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster and others whose deep heart centred faith inspired and enriched mine.

Part of what they helped me see was that heart knowledge is far more profound than head knowledge. Heart knowledge comes not in the place of discourse and reason but in the place of silence and contemplation. I started to see that unless I intentionally took time to draw aside and immerse myself in the presence of God, my doubts and uncertainties would grow and my faith would eventually crumble. My confidence in the resurrection of Christ has grown over the years, not because I have immersed myself in theology but because I have learned to immerse myself in God an allowed the resurrected to Christ to take up residence in a bigger and bigger part of my heart and my life.

Something else that has rooted my faith in the resurrection of Christ in recent years is my growing connection to the story of God as it lived out in the garden. At my seminars on spirituality and gardening I always tell participants We read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but experience it every time we plant a seed and watch it burst into life. I think that one of the reasons that God entrusted the stewardship of creation to us is because it is in tending what God has made that we most intimately connect not just to the creator but to the creator’s story.

More than that God’s story of life, death and resurrection is lived out in the very fabric of our being. Our bodies are constantly living and dying and rising again. When astronauts first went into space, one of the problems they faced was the sloughing of their skin cells as the epidermal layer of their bodies rapidly died and replaced itself.

It is good for us to doubt the foundations of our faith. These doubts however should not move us away from God but encourage us to explore those deep and inner places in which we are assured once more of God’s faithfulness and love. Trust in the story of God, though founded on intellectual knowledge will never survive on that alone – the wisdom propounded by the people of this world is totally inadequate to understand the holy creator of our universe and the story that is being lived out in our midst through the power of the risen Christ.

So my question today is: How do we move from head knowledge to heart certainty? How do we encourage each other to move our understanding of God from intellectual assent to indwelling presence?

April Synchroblog – What If Jesus Did Not Rise

resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus

For the April 2012 Synchroblog, we are exploring the question,“What if the resurrection is a lie?”

Make no mistake, we are not challenging the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We firmly believe in the historical reality of the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

But we also know that soon after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians were accused of inventing this story. Some critics claimed that Jesus never died. Others said that the apostles stole the body of Jesus from the grave. Today, there are countless millions of people who still believe that the resurrection is a hoax.

Here is a list of bloggers who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. If you participated, please include this list of links on your blog!

U2’s Easter Anthem Window in the Skies – post by Lee Wyatt

Easter is coming

Easter is coming

This morning’s post comes from Lee Wyatt. It was first posted on her blog Marginal Christianity 

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U2 gave us our Lenten anthem this year with their song “Walk On.” It seems appropriate to let them lead us into Easter as well. Their beautiful song “Window in the Skies” is a Resurrection ballad that extols the wonders of “what love has done” from God’s raising of Christ from the dead to the manifold ways God’s love raises us to new life today.

This song was recorded at Abbey Road where the Beatles recorded their hit song “All You Need Is Love.” The cover for this song has the four members of U2 crossing Abbey Road. It is eerily reminiscent of the famous album cover of the Beatles crossing that road with Paul out of step with the rest of the band giving rise to all sorts of speculation about his demise.

It is worth picking up on this comparison. The Beatles were cheerleaders for the sexual revolution/free love movement of the sixties. We believed then that human love could overcome all barriers and obstacles and lead us to the promised land. U2’s “Window in the Skies” preaches a different gospel: a more than human love, indeed divine love itself, has come to us, we did our worst to despise and reject that love, yet it proved itself more powerful than any grave into which we could cast it. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has opened forever a “window in the skies” through which streams freely and forever breathing healing and new life into all our relationships. The Beatles and U2, though recording at the same place, preach very different gospels, one of which is no gospel at all but merely a new name for slavery. U2’s gospel, however, it truly good news. God has acted to do what we cannot, even at our loving best – grasp the genuine humanity and vocation for which we created!

The first verse stakes the claim that freedom and peace have come because death itself has been undone and life, true life, flows among us again. Indeed, “the rule has been disproved.” Death is not the final word, the last chapter of human life. “The stone it has been moved,” and forgiveness and new life are given to us all!

“The shackles are undone
The bullet’s quit the gun
The heat that’s in the sun
Will keep us when there’s none
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The GRAVE is now a groove
All debts are removed

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me”

Resurrection love, contra merely human love, creates strange bedfellows with its enemy-loving, hate-destroying, relationship renewing ways. The genius, the power of this love, is that is gets us “out of our heads” and into God’s “heart”. And from there our attention is wholly captured by the passion to share that love that we have found (or better, has found us) with all we meet – “Oh can’t you see what love has done, what it’s doing for me”!

“Love makes strange enemies
Makes love where love may please
The soul and its striptease
Hate brought to its knees
The sky over our head
We can reach it from our bed
You let me in your heart
And out of my head

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

Oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh

Please don’t ever let me out of you

I’ve got no shame
Oh no, oh no

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

I know I hurt you and I made you cry
Did everything but murder you and I
Our love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see what love has done
To every broken heart
Oh can’t you see what love has done
For every heart that cries”

And this is all due to the powerful reality that “Love left a window in the skies.” Jesus’ resurrection opened the world to God’s love in a way that it can never be shut out again. Indeed, this love, God’s death-defeating resurrection love, will bring us to the promised land.

“Love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see”

It’s this kind of love that enables us to “Walk On” as we make our way to the kingdom of God. Have a most blessed Easter!

Prayers for the Journey

This is a summary of the prayers that I have posted on facebook and twitter in the last couple of weeks

Still my mind O God, calm my spirit,
Draw me to a place where my soul finds solitude,
May I listen to the sounds of silence,
And hear your quiet whispers.

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God transform us

May our blindness become sight,

May our zeal become faith,

May our hate become love.

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God we are hungry to see your face,

Jesus we are thirsty to hear your words,

Spirit we are longing to know your presence,

Feed us, quench our thirst, dwell within us today.

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May the gospels be ever new to us

May the word of God be ever fresh

May our eyes and ears be ever open

To the Christ revealed as we walk the road with him

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When Jesus says don’t be afraid, may we listen

When Jesus says I am with you always may we believe

When Jesus says in me there is no condemnation

May we be set free.

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Let us breathe in the wonder of this moment

Let us look at its beauty and savour the essence of God

Let us touch its glory and know the love of God

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May we seek to know the will of God

And listen to all the voices through which God speaks

May we walk forward without fear into God’s kingdom ways

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Let us sit in the presence of God

Confident of his goodness and mercy

May his love surround us

His Spirit fill us

His truth guide us

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God is good and loving and kind,

May we share God’s goodness,

And celebrate God’s love,

Till the whole earth shines with God’s glory

__________________________

The beauty of the snow covered landscape outside my window reminded me of this prayer I wrote last year:

Beauty beyond words, creativity beyond imagining

God bathed, son drenched, spirit infused

May we dare to believe

God is here, transforming, redeeming,

Making all things new.

____________________________

A prayer for Martin Luther King Day

 

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we shout for justice,

And as one we fight against oppression.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we seek God’s righteousness

And as one we sing God’s praise.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we climb God’s mountain,

And as one we enter the promised land.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom,

And as one we enjoy its peace, and abundance and love.

Prayers for the Journey

I just realized a couple of days ago that I stopped posting my weekly roundup of prayers from Light for the Journey at the beginning of Advent with the intention of restarting this practice whenever Christmas was over. I am a little late, but here are the prayers that I have posted each morning since the beginning of the year – enjoy!

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This prayer by Mother Teresa was sent to me by Paul Uwemedimo

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guide me then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen

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God who saves,

When we cannot see the path guide us

When we stumble lift us up

When we grow weary hold up our hands

Fight for us O God and do not let us be overcome

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May we listen deeply to God’s Spirit
And ground our lives in prayer
May we make space for God’s transforming work
So that we can be renewed and discern the will of God

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Looking out at the beautiful snow capped mountains inspired this prayer:

The whole world shines with God’s glory and love

May we know it in our hearts, share it in our actions, show it in our lives

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May we learn to live in gratitude

Attentive to each moment

alive with the glory of God

________________________________________

May we let go the hurry

Learning to live with our bodies and spirits in sync with God

May we grow in awareness of God

In every moment and object and encounter

May we learn to live in trust

Knowing the all embracing love of God

_______________________________________________

God who revealed yourself to wise men following a star,

Guide all who search and journey towards your light today,

God whose light shines like a bright guiding star have mercy on us.

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God may I live within limits,

of my body, my mind and my spirit.

God may I live within limits,

of my calling , my community, my capacity.

God may I live within limits,

of who I am and who you want me to be.

May I learn to live in the place of trust,

and wrap my heart around your presence.

May I learn to still my mind and listen,

attentive to the quiet whispers of your voice.

May I attune my ears to your words,

And savour the sacredness of each moment.

May your ways echo in the depths of my being,

so that all I am and all I do,

flows from an experience of your love.

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God may I welcome this new year without fear or regret,

Secure in the certainty of your promises,

May I live in anticipation of its beauty,

And be prepared to embrace its challenges,

May I look for your love in every moment,

And listen for your voice in every sound,

May I see your image in every stranger,

And exalt in your glory expressed in all your creation,

May I learn to live in the place of trust,

Remembering always that the future is in your hands.

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Christ is here, God’s son come down to earth,
May your life be built on him,
May your roots grow deep in him,
May your faith grow strong through him
(Adapted from Colossians 2:7)

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Strengthening Our Backbones – Why Do We Trust in God?

Why do we trust in God Almighty?

Why do we trust in God Almighty?


This post is the fifth in the series Whatever happened to Our Backbones? 

Whatever Happened to our Backbones?

Strengthen You Spiritual Backbones: The Importance of Creeds

Strengthen You Spiritual Backbone – Write Your Own Creed

 

Whatever Happened to Our Backbones – Practices that Give Us Strength

I had intended that this would to be the last in the series, a post on how to transform our beliefs into action. However, as I shared yesterday this series has encouraged me too to take time to think about what I believe and why, something that I know I should do on a regular basis. Unless we have confidence in our beliefs and hold them deep within our hearts they will never transform our lives.

This morning I continued to reflect on the first statement of the Nicene creed:

We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

Why do I trust in God? What about God inspires my allegiance? Obviously it is hard to sum this up in one short post but I wrote this prayer/poem this morning in response to this question.

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,

Lover of justice, giver of life, creator of all things.

I trust in the One who is righteous and holy.

I believe his unfailing love continues forever.

I believe his faithfulness never lets go.

I believe his mercy and grace extend through all eternity.

I bow in worship and shout for joy.

I enter his presence with thanks and praise,

This God is my God and there is no other.

Above all else knowing that God is a God of love holds me secure in my faith. When I do not understand what is happening that is what gives me strength. When my heart aches for those who suffer this is what encourages me to respond. When I feel overwhelmed by life, this is what comforts and supports me.

I am currently reading Matt Woodley’s commentary The Gospel of Matthew, God with Us. In his comments on the first chapter of Matthew he says: Behind the mess and unpredictability of the human story, God is weaving another story, a story of harmony and redemption. That belief too, is central to my faith. It the prime motivator for my way of life. God Almighty, the God of love who is supreme over all creation is weaving a story of harmony and redemption in our world and asks us to be a part of it.

What is the central aspect of God’s character that strengthens your faith? I would love to hear your reflections on this too.

St Francis of Assis – by Jamie Arpin Ricci

St Francis of Assis

St Francis of Assis - beyond bird baths and sound bites

Today’s post is the second in a series by Jamie Arpin Ricci around the themes of his just published book The Cost of CommunityJamie is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighbourhood. He is planter & pastor of Little Flowers Community, in the inner city of Winnipeg. Jamie is also forming Chiara House, a new monastic community. He is a third order Franciscan with The Company of Jesus and is founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his wife Kim & son, Micah.

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St. Francis of Assisi

In many ways, beyond bird baths and sound bites, I only became really familiar with St. Francis of Assisi after watching the 1972 Franco Zeffirelli film, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”.  A loose retelling of the early part of Francis’s life, the movie borrows strongly from cultural themes of the 1960’s & 70’s.  In other words, Francis is something of a peacenik, hippy, love child (albeit, a celibate one).  When I first saw the film, I loved it- moved by the beauty and poetry and devotion of the young saint, identifying with his dissatisfaction with the nominal expressions of faith around him.  The story captured me and drew me into the life of St. Francis.

As the years went by and my exploration of St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality/missionality deepened, I began to see how inaccurate the film had been.  Of course, every film made about a long past era inevitable (even necessarily) borrows from current contexts to allow the viewer to more meaningfully enter in.  However, I found myself increasingly troubled by how this version neutered Francis, making him a loveable, gentle eccentric.  The Francis I was discovering was bold, uncompromising and excessively radical in his devotion to Jesus.  His powerful example was being watered down in the film!  And so, I stopped watching the movie altogether.

Several more years have past since then and something strange has happened: the movie has grown into my heart once again.  Is it any less misleading?  No, my concerns are still as strong as they once were.  And yet, I cannot help but feel a strong sense of gratitude for this film.  After all, it was this simple and accessible telling of Francis’s life that helped me on a journey that would alter the whole course of my life.  Without it, I wonder where I would be today.  And so, I accept it for what it is and forgive it for what it is not.

I have also come to realize that my journey with Christ has had a similar trajectory.  The Jesus of my childhood looks very different than the Jesus I follow today.  Having more to do with living a moral life and providing a means to avoid hell, believing in Jesus then looked different to following Him now.  I was taught nothing of His call to live justly.  Faith was largely a private, personal piety you devoted oneself to.  The essential communal expressions of Christianity were all but unmentioned.  One might think I follow a different God altogether.  And yet, how can I begrudge a tradition that ultimately led me to active relationship with God and a place within His chosen people, the Church?

Please understand- I am not suggesting my past faith is something I have grown out of or above.  As we consider our past- those places, people and choices in our faith journey that seem less than ideal, it is important that we embrace the discipline of gratitude.  Such thankfulness does not ignore nor deny the failings that were there, but failing to be grateful denies the honesty of our journey towards Christ.