Holy Is the Day by Carolyn Weber – A Book Review

almost didn’t open Carolyn Weber’s new book Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present. When my copy arrived from InterVarsity Press it almost went on the I don’t think so pile. Fortunately it didn’t. And in fact I am posting this a couple of hours later than I intended because I could not put the book down. This is a delightful and in many ways challenging book.

I thought this was just the story of a young mum grappling with the unexpected gift of twins, but it isn’t. She writes as a woman emotionally and physically drained by a career in academia, writing a first book and raising three young children. She is the epitome of a person – male or female –  who wanted to “do it all” then learned the need to take time to put it down, to live in the moment and discover the wonder of God’s grace.

Each day is holy when we trace various ways of understanding the ‘present’ in relation to god’s grace in our lives, for when we are really with God we are reminded that he is with us always,” writes Carolyn. “Through looking at the everyday questions of our lives – ranging from kitchen to the crucible, the classroom to the emergency room, whether we are faced with professional upheaval or personal reflection – how do we se God’s handiwork in our lives?”

This book includes some profound hidden gems that kept me reading even when I should have turned to other things:

Giving God your all rarely has to do with actual money. Looking at the parable of the poor widow who gave her last coins to the offering I considered what it is to give God everything, to truly give him significant pieces of yourself until you have given him your all. To give so much that all that is left is to be with him. I think of how the world measures the depth of our giving by what we hand over, but Jesus measures it by what we hold on to (44)

Challenging words that I take time to ponder and hopefully respond to in my own still moments of prayer and surrender.

Trauma prepares us for resurrection (60)

So often we question heartache, pain and suffering, running away from trauma or even denying it. Yet physical trauma often uncovers hidden emotional trauma, events from our past that we have buried and thought dead. Now they emerge in God’s resurrection light. Such a profound and inspiring thought.

I love the poignant stories Carolyn shares and the ways in which she invites us to share the joy and despair of her life. This is a wonderful book for anyone who truly wants to learn how to live more consistently in the presence of God.

 

God Awakens the Dawn with Light

God awakens the dawn

God awakens the dawn

As I sat in the presence of God this morning the sun was rising. The mountains outside my window were tinged with red and the setting moon glowed in the light of the pink hued clouds.

Moon setting in the dawn light

Moon setting in the dawn light

 

This is one of the delights of the shortening of the days at this time of the year. In summer I am unaware of this awe inspiring slow change from dark to light. But this morning as I watched the changes I was was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God – light always follows darkness, dawn will always come and often, as I experienced this morning, the longer the period of darkness, the more spectacular the breaking in of God’s light. 

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

So often we rail against the darkness. We feel depressed because God’s presence is hidden in our world and in our lives. The coming of dawn reminds me that God’s light is never far away. It will break in to every darkened night. And the bright globe of the moon this morning reassured me that even in the midst of darkness God’s light shines. 

God's light shines even in the darkness

God’s light shines even in the darkness

I must confess that I did not get to the reading of scripture this morning, or to my usual prayers. All I could say to God was thank you, thank you, thank you and within my heart the joy of God rose like that light giving sun. May it do the same for you this day. 

Prayers for the Journey

The heavens declare your glory,
the seas and everything beneath
speak of your majesty.
From the beauty of a butterfly’s wing
to the roar of a hurricane’s wind
we see through these to the power within.
The heavens declare your glory,
and we your people, gathered here
below, join in their everlasting song.
This world, gifted in love
so we might recognize the hand
that placed it here.
This world, given breath
that we might understand this life
and in love, share.
Posted by John Birch of Faithandworship
May the love of the good God hold us,
May the life of the compassionate Christ fill us,
May the joy of the counselling Spirit guide us,
This day and evermore,
Amen
Christine Sine

I sit in quiet to absorb the wonder of God’s presence.
Forgive me Lord,
For my mind so easily strays.
Have mercy Lord,
For my thoughts are often in chaos.
Grant me peace O Lord,
For distractions call me away.
Cleanse my heart,
Calm my soul,
Free my spirit,
That I may hear and see and know you,
Every moment of the day.
Christine Sine
Father, in your will is our peace.
We accept this new day as your gift, Lord;
grant that we may live in newness of life.
Father, in your will is our peace.
You made all things, and keep all things in being;
give us the insight to see your hand at work in them all.
Father, in your will is our peace.
A prayer for Syria  from the jesuit Post
————————————————————
I thank you Lord
For the wonder of your love,
for the patience of your guidance,
For the glory of your presence.
I thank you Lord
For the many blessings you bestow,
For the lavish provision your provide,
For the unexpected beauty you reveal.
I thank you Lord
You are the God who holds me close,
You are the Christ who renews my life,
You are the Spirit who strengthens my faith,
I thank you Lord
For giving thanks honors you,
It opens the path,
That reveals the salvation of God.
In this new morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Give us joy to balance our affliction
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands,
give success to the work of our hands.
————–
Let us open our ears to listen,
so that we can hear God’s heartbeat.
Let us open our eyes to watch,
so that we can see God’s presence.
Let us open our minds to believe,
so that we can embrace God’s ways
Let open our hearts to trust,
so that we can share God’s salvation.
This prayer inspired by Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me O God,
Because of your unfailing love.
O eternal God, O holy One
O God above the heavens and beyond the earth,
Because of your great compassion,
Blot out the stain of my sins.
O merciful God , O incorruptible One,
O wondrous God, creator of the elements,
Wash me clean from my guilt,
Purify me from my sins
O God of the rushing air,
O God of the flowing waves,
O God of all bright stars,
O God of the flaming fire,
Create in me a clean heart
Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Creator God,
Who formed me in my mother’s womb
Have mercy on me.
Redeemer Christ
Who walks beside me as a friend,
Have mercy on me.
Transformer spirit,
Who leads me into the paths of life,
Have mercy on my.
Triune God,
Creator, redeemer, transformer,
The One who is making all things new,
Have mercy on me.

 

 

Sophia Rising – Is Yoga An Acceptable Spiritual Practice?

Sophia Rising by Monette Chilson

Sophia Rising by Monette Chilson

Is yoga an acceptable Christian spiritual practice? That is one of the questions that will arise for many of us as we read Monette Chilson’s new book Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga. 

I love the way that Monette weaves her own faith journey through her exploration of yoga. Her choice of Sophia as the name of God she uses throughout the book will immediately send many outside their comfort zone. However she explains:

Most of us will pay lip service to the fact that God transcends gender, but our experience – because of the stigma associated with the feminine divine in Western religions – does not include prayers, images or words that let us express this truth. Whether the aversion to referring to God in feminine terms stems from patriarchal roots, a desire by early Christians to separate themselves from Goddess worhsip or to differentiate themselves from gnostic communities, the result has been a severing of the sacred feminine that has silenced voices that would pray to God our mother. Sophia embodies those missing pieces, giving us the prayers, images and words we need to complete our limited human perspective on who God is- and who God wants to be in our lives (13)

In the second chapter of Sophia Rising, dubbed The Heart of Yoga, Monette describe one of her  favorite applications of pratyahara, the Benedictine practice of mindful eating. For those of us who love to garden, cook and eat it is a wonderful invitation.

“If you want to experience taste in a sacred context, try slowly and silently eating a bowl of soup on a cold night. Not only will you savor the taste of the soup as it moves over your tongue, but the warmth of it will move through your body, extending the experience beyond that of a meal where we eat and move on to another bite, another thought, another activity before the food is even down our throats.

While soup is soothing and a great way to ease into mindful eating, you can expand your experience into a seasonal rhythm. Soup is perfect for a winter practice. A salad full of the first greens of spring can usher in the warming winds of the season, awakening our taste buds to the delicate treats ahead. Juicy strawberries and peaches, dripping from our chins, call us to the informality of summer, while crunching into a crisp apple is the perfect way to transition our taste buds to back to the routine that fall brings with it. Who would have thought that yoga could be so delicious?!”

As Monette explains, it is an interesting paradox that in narrowing our focus, we expand our awareness. By restricting our intake of stimuli, we actually increase our consciousness of God’s presence in any given moment through acts as simple and mundane as eating.

Sophia Rising disturbed, enriched and challenged me. It’s provocative and well researched content stretched my views of spiritual practices and Christian faith in a healthy and inspiring way. I do not currently practice yoga but this book definitely tempted me to begin. And for the many of my Christian friends who do practice yoga and yet have never been sure how to integrate the practice with their faith, this is a must read book.

A Beautiful Celtic Prayer

I posted this on the Light for the Journey Facebook page this morning and thought that some of you might appreciate it too.

God to enfold me.001

Ascension Day Getting Us Ready for Pentecost

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Today is Ascension Day, but like many of us I am already thinking about Pentecost in 10 days time. Then we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, though for many churches it has become a day of prayer for peace. The following prayer came to me this morning as I thought about these two celebrations and the amazing impact on our world of Christ’s ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit and our heart burning desire to see God’s peace come in our world.

Peace O Lord to all whose lives entwine with ours,
Peace to all who walk this earth with us.
Peace to friend and to stranger, to neighbours near and far,
Peace to all who struggle,
Peace to the lost, the broken and the hurting.
Peace from the Christ who has redeemed and saved us,
Peace from the One who sits at the right hand of God,
An advocate for all God’s children,
May we follow him into the new creation and join him in making all things whole.

Last year I spent time reflecting on these two events as well and thought I would repost that reflection here too – I love this art piece that I found thanks to Matt Stone to go with it.

African art - Zaire Jesus

African art – zaire Jesus

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

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.

And if the world doesn’t end this Saturday… Getting our Priorities straight by Richard Dahlstrom

The following post was contributed by Richard Dahlstrom.  Richard is the senior pastor at Bethany Community Church in Seattle, WA. His second book is The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Love. Keep up with him at richarddahlstrom.com.

And if the world doesn’t end this Saturday… Getting our Priorities straight

Imagine you know the date the world is ending.  Imagine that it’s very soon, like five days from now, on May 21. You know this dates marks the “beginning of the end,” the day that Jesus’ faithful followers get plucked out of this cosmic frying pan before an angry God turns up the heat on the rest of humanity.

If you believed this to be true, it would change the way you lived. Global warming, over-fishing of the oceans, peak oil, human trafficking, bubbling animosities that continually run the risk of exploding into genocide—none of these things would matter. Your life would be reduced to one simple obsession: persuading everyone you know to get on board with Jesus before it’s too late. Your obsession would be admirable, for you’d be motivated by love.

It’s all good, wholesome…IF it’s predicated on reality. If you know that the end is this Saturday then get on with getting people in the lifeboat so to speak. The trouble is that this is an old song, sung in nearly every century since Christ left, and this in spite of the fact that Jesus was rather explicit about how nobody knows dates. Nobody. I’m old enough to have seen 1974, 76, 77, 79, 87, 88, 93, 99, 2000, 2001 all declared as the definitive year of Christ’s return. Oops.

If, however, Saturday doesn’t unfold that way, then a couple of things will have happened:

1. More people will have reasons not to believe.

2. We’ll have spilled ink and pixels, wasted ad money and airtime over a matter that Jesus explicitly told us not to worry about.

As the line from the old tune “Where have all the flowers gone?” says, “When will we ever learn?”

My casual glance, years ago in Italy, at the destination signs on a train platform meant that I ended heading to Geneva (spelled “Genova” in Italian) instead of Genoa.  It’s a small letter, v.  It makes a big difference.  I’d better look at my subject carefully, or I could up on the wrong train entirely.

Our world is already bleeding with endless crises: floods, food tainted with poison, wars, terror, lust for power, and privacy, property; everything’s conspiring to create a chronic sense of dis-ease.

Which train?

There are three trains in the station, but two of them will take us to the wrong place.   If we hop on “The Kingdom is Now,” we end up wedding ourselves to the power structures of this world in order to bring about the reign of God.  The church has ridden this train to destinations such as colonialism, slavery, oppression, greed, and environmental degradation, all in the name of Christ.

If we hope on “The Kingdom is Later” (like May 21, or whatever), then we ignore the ethical implications of Christ’s reign, again adapting ourselves to the world’s systems while we shout people into the lifeboat.  This has created still more ugliness—in Jesus name.

The real train says:  “Now and Not Yet.” The kingdom is here, but like a mustard seed, or some yeast in the bread. God’s reign began when Christ rose from the dead. There’s a new world order already at working and our calling is to live as robust citizens of this new kingdom, embodying the ethic of Christ’s reign NOW in our economics, environmental stewardship, commitments to reconciliation, and so much more. This train will take us where we need to go: the land of hope.

This is what Jesus spoke of after he rose.  It’s the message of the early church.  It’s the passion of Paul. It must become our magnificent obsession. Herein is joy. Herein in hope.  Herein is a realignment of our lives with God’s purposes.

The canvas of our world is waiting for each of us to paint, not the ugliness of our world’s violence and corruption, but the colors of hope:  justice, mercy, love. I’ve been on all three trains and I can tell you this: only one is life giving. My own story of changing trains, plus tools for painting with the colors of hope here and now, in the midst of life’s beauty and messes, is what my new book is all about.  You can learn more about it here.

Share this link, and answer the question: “What needs to change in your neighborhood for people to have a greater sense of hope?” I’ll pick a random winner among those who tweet this link and share a comment.

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Breathe In – Fill Yourself with God

Creation and spirituality - Hannah Varghese

This morning I was sitting reading my Bible, feeling rather distracted by thoughts of all I need to do today.  So I reached for my book of prayers to find one that would help me centre in on God’s presence.  I intentionally looked for a breathing prayer because I have found that they help me to focus on God better than any other form.  I came across this one which to be honest I don’t even remember writing.  It encouraged me once more to reflect on the life of God breathed into us at creation and breathed through us afresh as Jesus filled us with the Holy Spirit.

Breathe out empty yourself: of hate, of fear, of anxiety

Breathe in fill yourself with love, with life, with mercy

Breathe out empty yourself of busyness, of selfishness of greed

Breathe in fill yourself with peace, with joy, with hope

Breathe out empty yourself of idolatry, of self worship, of false gods

Breathe in fill yourself with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit

As I prayed this prayer and reflected on its meaning three scriptures came to mind that you might also like to reflect on as you pray it.

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7 NLT)

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. f you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 21 – 23 NLT)

All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Tim 3:16 NIV)

More of Hannah Varghese’s art here

The Hallelujah Chorus Wow’s Macy’s

This is spectacular! The Hallelujah Chorus has hit the Macy’s Parade. On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation’s “Random Acts of Culture” at Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia. They planted the singers amongst the crowds throughout the Grand Court at Macy’s.  Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ – the world’s largest pipe organ – the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

This event is one of 1,000 “Random Acts of Culture” to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives.

This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.   What a shame that it could not have been to coincide with the start of Advent instead.  But still the response and delight of the shopping crowd is refreshing.