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Prayer

The phrase “the dark night of the soul” is a powerful phrase, those words reach down ot the deepest sense of our being, the soul. When I attended the seminar titled “The Dark Night of the Soul” presented by Mark Yaconelli I was not sure what this dark night was really about.

According to Mark the dark night is not, misfortune, suffering, it is not restricted to holy people, being over taken by evil or even temptation. Is seems that according to these things, the things that lead us to this dark night of the soul are not things that come at the hand of our own decisions. Instead its almost as though it is just one of those things happen in the life of person. As we journey, it is almost as though in this process an inevitable stop is this dark night. That can at times last as long as a fortnight. But I think we could all agree that even if it lasts one night on one hundred nights, it is still one night to many (night is of course a metaphor).

Mark made a strong point about what happens during this period, of what I would call “spirathy” (my word, combining spirituality and apathy). He said that during this darkness nothing sounds good. Whether it is things that are to fufil any desires of the flesh or spirit. It is a numbing experience. As he discussed all of this, I recollected in my mind of times when I had felt this way.

As a sort of remedy, or perhaps antidote he led us in contemplative prayer. Where in the silence we would focus on one word, just one word. For me the word was Shalom, and all we did was focus on that one word. If our minds began to wander, shalom was my centering word. And we just did this for several minutes, but I found it to be a powerful prayer. You should try it.

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I just started reading Brian McLaren‘s newest book, Everything Must Change and I am loving it. For the past several months this blog has acted as more of a message board than anything that even resembles an actual attempt at a conversation. So in an attempt to write with more substance I am going to start writing about what I come across in Everything Must Change.

I thought the format for this discussion might have three sections: (1) Excerpt from book, (2) Dialogue, mostly with myself, (3) Questions. My hopes are that we can dialogue together.

EXCERPT (the following excerpt was spoken by Claude a peace activist from Burundi, to a group of other peace hungry citizens from around the region of East Africa, Rwanda is one of those places)

“Eventually I realized something. I had never heard a sermon that addressed these realities(i.e. death, hatred, distrust, poverty, suffering, corruption, injustice). Did God only care about our souls going to heaven after we died? Were our hungry bellies unimportant to God? Was God unconcerned about our crying sons and frightened daughters, our mothers hiding under beds, our fathers crouching by windows, unable to sleep because of gunfire? Or did God send Jesus to teach us how to avoid genocide by learning to love each other, how to overcome tribalism and poverty by following his path, how to deal with injustice and corruption, how to make a better life here on earth-here in East Africa.” (19)

DIALOGUE. When I read this I was using the stationary bike at a local gym, and I had to stop just so that I could process this. What I have observed of the Christianity of the Western World is that it has become nothing short of a self serving life philosophy. We look for churches that fill our needs, and when that church no longer meets our needs we move on to the next one (and sometimes as pastor’s because we have at times been fooled into thinking that numbers are important we keep trying to fill those needs and in doing so perpetuate the never ending cycle of self-serving Christianity). The thing is that if that is the case, that we are always looking for a church that meets our needs, or rather “feeds us spiritually” we will not have any time to look beyond ourselves, unless we are forced to. I think that it is only when we look beyond ourselves that Christianity becomes real and authentic. When I read the above section, and tried to put myself in that situation hearing the crys of children and the sight of mothers hiding it was terrifing to me. It wasn’t so much that the visual of this happening was terrifing, but rather that this was and is happening in the world, while I have for the past several years enjoyed my white chocolate lattes, supersized meals, entertainment on the silver screen just to be distracted from the hustle and bustle of our everyday.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if we were the ones experiencing the above mentioned, our first responses would be to pray. We read the narratives of scripture, like Daniel in the lions den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and we read ourselves into those narratives because we believe that God cares. For them their prayers is a sign of hope and faith, but for us in the western world their prayers have become our permission to wash our hands of any responsibility to help. Because after all if they have prayed then God will handle it. The words, “What can I do about something happening half way around the world” become our non spoken motto. Our Christianity must be anything but that. I write about his because I see what is happening and I cannot help but feel helpless. What can I do, a pastor of two small parishes in the desert? What can we do? Seriously I could use some answers!

QUESTIONS. If our Christianity doesn’t have an effect on the society around us, does it even matter? What is a Christianity that doesn’t affect society, really about? What is our personal hope for heaven at some point in the future, if people are experiencing hell every single day all around the world?

I found this on “Signs of Emergence” it is really powerful. It reminded me who I am and where I stand in relation to God and to you.

Stones

If we could all
just stop throwing stones,
and stoop, knees bent
and write in the dust,

we’d see that the dust
was once stone –
grand, and hard, and proud, and tough –
now ground and dissolved
in grace and tears.

So… how much better
to be a grain of dirt
on that kind prophet’s hands
than a stone
in the cold, accusing Temple
of the pure.

I have noticed that some blogs have a side bar with music that, that particular blogger is listening to. I don’t have one of those, so I decided to post on it. I purchased the Linkin Park “Minutes to Midnight” on a whim, never really having listened to it and I must say, I am really enjoying it.

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This album serves as a bit of a social commentary, ok ‘a lot’ a bit of social commentary. My favorite song at the moment is “Hands held High” which discusses the war going on right now. Here is an excerpt from the song:

“For a leader so nervous in an obvious way stuttering and mumbling for nightly news to replay and the rest of the world watching at the end of the day In their living room laughing like “what did he say?. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”

Not only is it a commentary, but also like a prayer. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen. Talk about the book of “uncommon prayer”. This songs seems an odd place to find a prayer, but aren’t our lives filled with prayer,even uncommon prayer. What makes a proper prayer?