Religion

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Freedom As Fate by Stanley Hauerwas

June 23, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Our sense that we live in a morally chaotic, fragmented world accounts for two of the dominant characteristics of recent ethical theory: (1) the stress on freedom, autonomy, and choice as the essence of the moral life; and (2) the attempt to secure a foundation for the moral life unfettered by the contingencies of our histories and communities.  As we will see, these are closely related insofar as it is assumed that freedom depends on finding the means to disentangle ourselves from our own engagements. Caught between the competing interests, we increasingly feel compelled to create or choose our morality.  This is variously reflected by moral theories such as emotivism, existentialism, and situationalism, which [...]

POETRY: An Ulster Twilight by Seamus Heaney

June 23, 2018

The bare bulb, a scatter of nails, Shelved timber, glinting chisels: In a shed of corrugated iron Eric Dawson stoops to his plane At five o’clock on a Christmas Eve. Carpenter’s pencil next, the spoke-shave, Fretsaw, auger, rasp and awl, A rub with a rag of linseed oil. A mile away it was taking shape, The hulk of a toy battleship, As waterbuckets iced and frost Hardened the quiet on roof and post. Where is he now? There were fifteen years between us two That night I strained to hear the bells Of a sleigh of the mind and heard him pedal Into our lane, get off at the gable, Steady his Raleigh bicycle Against the whitewash, stand to make sure The house was quiet, knock at the door And hand his parcel to a peering woman: “I [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The Qualities Of Attentiveness by Leighton Ford

June 22, 2018

From The Attentive Life Poets, writers, artists, naturalists all help us to understand what it means to “attend” and teach us that we can think of attentiveness in many ways. Being fully present in the moment.  “Simple attention to the present.  In these moments of attention to the present, each moment stands alone and becomes a visitation, a presence in its own right.” Looking long enough.  “If one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place.  Something is ‘given,’ and perhaps that something is always a reality outside the self.” Looking freshly at what is familiar.  Harvard naturalist [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass

June 22, 2018

From Grounded  Almost one in four Americans no longer identifies with any particular religious tradition, a number that rises to one in three if you count only American adults under thirty.  In Canada, the national number is slightly more than one in four; across Europe, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated people is higher.  In societies that were once strongly shaped by Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, increasing numbers of people have opted out of conventional religions at historic rates.  In terms of raw numbers, between 660,000 and 700,000 Americans per year in the last decade have left religion, making “no religion” the second largest “religious” group in the United States – and the only group posting numeric [...]

A NEW EARTH: Is There A Hope That Really Overcomes All This? (Part Four) by John Eldredge

June 21, 2018

From All Things New The Answer to the Riddle of the Promise Optimism is not going to cut it.  Trying to look on the bright side isn’t going to sustain us through days like we are living in.  Given how critical hope is to our lives, the most urgent question has to be, “Where is the hope that can overcome all the heartache of this world?” “We all feel the riddle of the Earth,” wrote G. K. Chesterton.  “The mystery of life is the plainest part of it.  The clouds and curtains of darkness, the confounding vapors, these are the daily weather of this world.”  Thank you, Gilbert; I love it when someone says perfectly what we’ve always known to be true but never named for ourselves.  I think the mystery boils down to this: [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: In The Beginning Was The Kingdom (Part One) by R. Alan Streett

June 21, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth Fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the Earth. (Genesis 1:28) We first learn of the Kingdom of God in Genesis, the book of beginnings.  There we discover the foundation for all theology, including kingdom theology. The foundation is the most important part of any building.  Without a firm and level foundation, a building will be off-kilter and weak, and it won’t stand the test of time.  I live in north Texas, where the soil is known as black gumbo.  It shifts, expands, and contracts depending on ground moisture.  For years, builders constructed houses on highly reliable pier-and-beam foundations that were raised above ground level.  In more recent times, they [...]

EVIL: Understanding Lucifer

June 21, 2018

I have a son who, when he was young, played some video games.  One type he played were called role-playing games.  In these, the player assumes the identity of a fictional character and works to accomplish the many levels that are in the game.  One challenge on each level is to defeat the “boss.”  The antagonist to the player’s protagonist.  As the player climbs to the next level, the difficulty of defeating the boss gets harder.  Until the last level, when the player meets the “Last Boss.” The worst enemy of them all. Seven years it has been.  Funny how so many things in our lives revolve around the number seven: days in a week, continents, seas, deadly sins. It began back then, but it took a few years [...]

POETRY: The Misery Cord by Les Murray

June 20, 2018

In Memory of F. S. Murray  Misericord. The Misery Cord. It was lettered on a wall. I know that cord, how it’s tough to break however hard you haul. My cousin sharefarmed, and so got half: half dignity, half hope, half income, for his full work. To get a place of his own took his whole lifetime. Some pluck the misery chord from habit or for luck, however they feel, some to deceive, and some for the tune— but sometimes it’s real. Milking bails, flannel shirts, fried breakfasts, these were our element, and doubling on horses, and shouting Score! at a dog yelping on a hot scent— but an ambulance racing on our back road is bad news for us all: the house of community is about to lose a plank from its wall. Grief is nothing you can do, [...]

BELIEF: Sorrow’s Flower—A Quick Shudder Of The Heart by Christian Wiman

June 20, 2018

From My Bright Abyss Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color.  This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow.  They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is.  But they still burn. And why this sorrow?  Why its persistence, its involvement with all that is my soul?  Childhood was difficult, and most of it remains inaccessible to me, but I was deeply loved.  And I am capable of deep love now for the people in my life, for my work.  I love the life that I have been granted in this deepening [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 106 by W. Robert Godfrey

June 19, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 106 is the last and longest psalm of Book Four.  It is one of the new songs of praise for God’s redemptive work.  If looking to creation builds up faith, so too does looking at God’s great saving works of the past.  This historical psalm reviews Israel’s past with special attention to the exodus and wandering in the wilderness.  But it also looks beyond that time to Israel’s present sufferings.  As a conclusion to the fourth book of the Psalter, it shows that whatever comfort may be found in creation and covenant, Israel’s full redemption is still a future reality. This psalm begins and ends with praise and contains repeated evidence of God’s saving mercies for his people.   It is [...]

EARTH: Protective Father by Francine Rivers

June 19, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord your God is going ahead of you.  We will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.  And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child.  Now he has brought you to this place. (Deuteronomy 1:30-31) Some years ago, while working at our warehouse. Rick called me on the intercom and said a mother quail was out back with her chicks. I came running, and we watched from the delivery doorway as the quail pecked for seeds and bugs among the grass behind our building. The chicks scurried around their mother like little puffs of tan cotton, unaware of us – or of danger lurking close by. We spotted a cat crouched and [...]

ANIMA CHRISTI: Chapter Five (Part One)—Water From The Side Of Christ, Wash Me by Marie Paul Curley

June 18, 2018

From Soul of Christ The fourth petition of the Anima Christi prayer focuses on water flowing from the heart of Jesus as a symbol of cleansing and new life – for each of us individually, and for the world. Water From the Side of Christ… “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out,” (John 19:33-34).  The Fathers of the church saw a great deal of symbolism in the water mixed with blood flowing from the side of Jesus: an image of the sacramental baptismal waters that cleanse us from our sins, and also a reference to the church, founded on the new life that Jesus came to bring us. Water is [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Presentation In The Temple by John O’Donohue

June 18, 2018

The words of a secret have rivet eyes That cannot sleep to forget what they know. The restrained voice sharpens to an arrow That will reach its target through any disguise. Two old people wait in the temple shadows Where stone and air are hoarsened with prayer For some door to open in their hunger; Sometimes children laugh at her twitching nose. Worn to a thread the old man’s rope of days, Spent unravelling in this empty torment, Has wizened his silence to words of flint. When he glimpses the child, his lost voice flares. His words lodge in the young mother’s thought That a sword of sorrow will pierce her [...]

PRAYER: An Horology by John Keble

June 18, 2018

Note: This selection of short prayers for every hour of the day, made partly from “The Devotions of Bishop Andrewes,” is intended, under God’s blessing, to aid the feeble endeavors of those saints upon Earth who humbly desire to show all faithful obedience to their blessed Master’s words, “Men ought always to pray.”   Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)   O God, in the multitude of thy mercy, hear me. (Psalm 69:13)   The Lord’s Prayer Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive [...]

THE EARTH: Creation—The Devil Is In the Details

June 17, 2018

There is a parallel saying to the title of this essay: God is in the details. When God is in the details then he will be revealed through your attention to detail.  Your sacred devotion to your work will return great rewards. But when the devil is in the details, your lack of attention to the work in front of you will result in mistakes, and you will be disappointed in your effort. I’m not using that phrase in the usual way. Instead I’m going on my own path with those words. I’m old.  I get very fatigued when I hear people say things that refer to God, the Father, as one who is aware of every blink of our eyes.  Making God, the Father, out to be someone who sits on his throne able to watch everything at all times at [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—The Holy Spirit And Mary by Tom Smail

June 17, 2018

From The Giving Gift But if all this involves dynamic personal relationships, then it is to one of the most significant of these in all its particularity that we must now turn.  The place at which, according to Matthew and Luke and the creedal tradition of the church, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal himself in his New Testament fullness is in relation to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of course when the creed brings the Holy Spirit and Mary together, the subject of the sentence is not either of them, but “Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”  If the Spirit works revealingly in Mary, it is not for her sake or yet for his own, but so that Jesus Christ can be formed in her [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Christian Ethics In A Fragmented And Violent World—2 by Stanley Hauerwas

June 16, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Living Amid Fragments: The Insufficiency of Ethics One of the ironies of the current situation is that the attempt to deny that ethics responds to the peculiarity of our current social and historic situation only makes us more subject to that situation.  We are told we live in a morally bankrupt age.  People think what was at one time unthinkable; indeed they do what was once unthinkable.  We experience our world as so morally chaotic that we now feel our only alternative is for each person “to choose,” if not create, the standards by which they will live. As pervasive as this feeling is, it is unclear exactly why we feel we are morally at sea.  No time or society has ever been free of moral ambiguity.  [...]

POETRY: A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also by Seamus Heaney

June 16, 2018

In memory of Donatus Nwoga When human beings found out about death They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message: They wanted to be let back to the house of life. They didn’t want to end up lost forever Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke Or ashes that get blown away to nothing. Instead they saw their souls in a flock at twilight Cawing and headed back to the same old roosts And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning. Death would be like a night spent in the wood: At first light they’d be back in the house of life. (The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.) But death and human beings took second place When he trotted off the path and started barking At another dog in broad daylight just barking Back at him from [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Welcoming God’s Attention, Or Not by Leighton Ford

June 15, 2018

From The Attentive Life There are people whose attentions we resent because they are very annoying.  And it may be that sometimes we resent God’s attentions not so much out of a reasoned denial of his existence as from a deep instinctive refusal to conform to what we perceive as some kind of celestial busybody who tries to run everyone else’s affairs. Simon Tugwell is a British scholar who has a deep understanding of how our imaginative “cramps” – our pictures of God – affect our belief, or lack of it.  He remembers from his childhood an old Book of Common Prayer with a picture of Guy Fawkes trying to sneak a bomb into the Houses of Parliament.  At the top of the picture was an enormous eye watching him.  Here was an image [...]

POETRY: Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

June 15, 2018

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift. Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain; then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train. Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales console the lodger looking out across a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls a child’s name as though they named their loss. Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer— Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.*   *The poet is English, and these geographical markers are a well-known feature of the local shipping [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—We’re Grounded by Diana Butler Bass

June 14, 2018

From Grounded  If you pay attention, you can hear this shift in conversations everywhere.  On a flight from Washington, D. C., to Los Angeles, a successful executive was seated next to me.  After she told me about her work, she asked, “What do you do?” I replied that I write about religion and spirituality. She laughed.  “’Religion’ isn’t a very popular word, is it?” I agreed. “I used to be religious,” she explained.  “I grew up Roman Catholic, but left the church over the sex-abuse scandal.  The church doesn’t make much sense in the world as it is now.  But I still believe in God.  I’d say I’m a spiritual person.” “Lots of people tell me that they are ‘spiritual but not religious,’” I said, [...]

A NEW EARTH: Is There A Hope That Really Overcomes All This? (Part Three) by John Eldredge

June 14, 2018

From All Things New Looking For a Stronger Hope Scripture names hope as one of the Three Great Forces of human existence: Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) By saying they last forever, God names these three as immortal powers.  A life without faith has no meaning; a life without love isn’t worth living; a life without hope is a dark cavern from which you cannot escape.  These things aren’t simply “virtues.”  Faith, hope, and love are mighty forces meant to carry your life forward, upward; they are your wings and the strength to use them. I believe hope plays the critical role.  You’ll find it pretty hard to love when you’ve lost hope; hopelessness collapses into who cares?  And [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: Discovering The Kingdom (Part Three) by R. Alan Streett

June 13, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth The Early Church and the Kingdom Our journey continues as we step out of the four gospels and into the Book of Acts.  In this exciting book, which spans the period between A.D. 30 and A. D. 64, Luke describes the early believers, apostles and lay people alike, spreading the kingdom message to the ends of the Roman Empire.  He mentions that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected but before he ascended to Heaven, he spent 40 days with his apostles, “speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,” (Acts 1:3).  Stop and think about that for a moment.  Jesus could have spoken about anything, but he chose to speak about one thing only – the kingdom.  Thus, he ended his Earthly ministry the same way [...]

BELIEF: Sorrow’s Flower— Contingency by Christian Wiman

June 13, 2018

From My Bright Abyss Adele, who at nearly sixty years old finds that her faith has fallen away, tells me that it was love that first led her to God.  Thirty-five years earlier, love for the man who would be her husband for most of her life seemed to crack open the world and her heart at the same time, seemed to fuse those latent, living energies into a single flame, the name of which, she knew, was God.  There were careers and children.  There were homes laid claim to and relinquished.  There was something perhaps too usual for a love that had torn her so wholly open, but time takes the edge off of any experience, life means mostly waiting for life, or remembering it – right?  She tells me all this – right up to the depressingly [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 104 by W. Robert Godfrey

June 12, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God for his works of creation.  Here most fully in Book Four, the psalmist seeks comfort and encouragement for his faith in the power and wisdom of God’s creative acts.  This psalm praises God for the goodness of his creation and the great variety planted in it.  It is an exuberant celebration of the God of creation. This kind of psalm we might call the “old song” of creation.  The phrase “old song” does not appear in the Psalter, but is the proper contrast to the “new song” spoken of in six psalms, (33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1).  In the context of these six psalms, it is clear that the “new song” is not a reference to the creativity of the [...]

EARTH: Variety In Creation by Francine Rivers

June 12, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation – every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit.  These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.”  And that is what happened.  The land produced vegetation – all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit.  Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind.  And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12) I love walking through the produce section of our local grocery store and looking at all the apples – Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Braeburn, Fuji – all different colors and all beautiful. Did you know there are 7,500 kinds of apples in the [...]

ANIMA CHRISTI: Chapter Four (Part Two)—In The Light Of God’s Word by Marie Paul Curley

June 11, 2018

From Soul of Christ United ourselves to the Precious Blood of Jesus, we place before the Lord our intentions: to alleviate the sufferings of the world, especially of the innocent victims of violence, war, and oppression.  We may wish to pray especially for those who witness to Christ in the face of persecution and threat of death. Theme for Holy Hour: Adoring the Victorious Lamb of God Suggested opening hymn: “Pange Lingua / Tantum Ergo” (written by Saint Thomas Aquinas with various translations into English, such as: “Sing My Tongue the Savior’s Glory,” translated by Edward Caswell).  Spend quiet time in silent adoration. Adoring Jesus In His Word Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come… and [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Nativity by John O’Donohue

June 11, 2018

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman. Even the moon leaves her when she opens Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark to become flesh and bone. Someone is coming ashore inside her. A face deciphers itself from water And she curves around the gathering wave, Opening to offer the life it craves. In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers, She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears. A red wire of pain feeds through every vein Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn. Outside each other now, she sees him first. Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on [...]

PRAYER: An Horology by Lancelot Andrewes

June 11, 2018

O thou that hast put in thine own power the times and the seasons, give us grace that we may pray to thee in a convenient and opportune season; and save us. O thou that for us men and for our salvation wast born in the depth of night, grant us to be renewed daily by the Holy Ghost, until Christ himself be formed in us, to a perfect man, and save us. O thou that very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun, didst rise again from the dead, raise us also daily to newness of life, suggesting to us, for thou knowest them, habits meet for repentance; and save us. O thou that at the sixth hour of the sixth day didst nail together with thyself upon the cross the sins of the world, blot out the handwriting of our sins that is against us, and [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Beginning With Mary—Three Basic Affirmations by Tom Smail

June 10, 2018

From The Giving Gift 1.  To describe the Holy Spirit as Gift emphasizes that we are here in the realm of grace. Free giving is not by any  means the only kind of exchange that can take place between two parties.  A check can pass from me to you as a contracted payment of wages in return for services rendered.  It is then not a gift but a payment, a quid pro quo in which one party fulfills agreed conditions and the other party is in duty bound to pay the agreed reward. Some Christians have tended to understand God’s sending of the Holy Spirit in this contractual way.  God gives the Spirit when we fulfill the conditions that he has laid down.  This view has both a typically Roman Catholic and a typically Protestant form. In much [...]