Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Faith in 4 Seconds

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

This is how many of us want our faith life ….

Quick.  4 seconds.  Let me get back in the race.

This propensity struck me at a recent camp.  Sitting there in front of teens, it is ever so easy to speak to the possibility without sacrifice, to speak to “5 easy steps” to achieve this, that, or the other thing.   I am a sucker for that stuff!   It is the “health and wealth gospel” that has slid into much formal religion.   Give the gas, a new set of tires, and set them screaming back into the race.

But that is not the Gospel.

The Gospel asks time and patient investment.  It does not yield easy answers but instead authors slow transformation.  Things then “grow.”  They don’t “appear.”  There is not a “screaming off to…”  There is a measured “settling into….”  It draws from “peace” and never “frenzy.”

Not an easy message for adults or teens in this culture!

So what did I tell the teens?   With a smile, I told them, that like me, they were spoiled and lazy.  I told them that like me, as the famous saying, they were born on third base and wanted praise for hitting a triple.  And I told them they could make a difference in the world.  It will just take more than 4 seconds.

You Are Not Special

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

In a recent article by David Brooks he spoke of the “Good Person Syndrome.”  This ‘syndrome’ stems from our common cultural assumption that we are all good people and that our flaws are aberrations occuring at the edges.   What that assumption creates is a culture unable to engage in spiritual work of much depth.  It may likewise explain why some of the most spiritual people one will meet are those who have traveled the 12 Step path out of addiction.  An addict appears to be advantaged through the knowledge that the problem is them – it is their ego, their self centeredness, their selfishness that is most in need of addressing.

What if, as adults, we started with the same set of assumptions?  What if we were clear on the idea that “I am selfish?”  That is actually not bad news but a critical portal to growth.  From there – no more need to pretend or dress it up.  From there, we can exercise rigorous honesty and humility.    Held as I think God would have us hold it, it is freeing not damming because it leaves us with options vs. leaving us in a numb sleep where everything is narcotized with the hypnotic words that everything is “fine.”   We can then truly pray to become a vehicle of God’s life-giving will.

And in praying for God’s will, our true selves, created in His image and likeness, comes alive!  We can learn more deeply that we are not special but that in that “not specialness” lies heaven because in that place lies self-LESS service and connection and peace.  “Heavenly peace enters in when the desires that spring from self–love and love of the world are removed.”  (Secrets of Heaven, 5662).  A pretty good place to be.

What is risk?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Last night I finished the Movie, “Of God’s And Men.”  Deeply powerful.  Working through more and more what it means to give one’s life to God, not in a brash way but in the quiet understatement common among those whom we would call “saints.”

In that quiet, there is deep freedom.  I imagine many of us have met those who live that freedom.  And paradoxically, in that freedom lies tremendous courage, strength, and determination.  Risk is then redefined.

“Risk all for love, Jesus tells us, even your own life. ‘Give that to Me and let Me save it.’ The healthy religious person is the one who allows God to do the saving, while I do my part to bring up the rear. It always feels like a loss of power and certitude at the beginning, which is why it is called faith, and why true Biblical faith is probably somewhat rare.”

The men in the movie did loose their lives.  They “risked” it all but within the parameters of an empowered surrender to their fates that placed the definition of risk well beyond what common culture can make sense of.  By the end of the movie, with their physical fate obvious, one is left feeling the restful peace of God, a peace filled with hope, the peace of free men – a place where the only call is to love completely.  I close with this scene from the movie in which the head of the monastery talks to one of his fellow monks, a doctor who finds it his call to treat to all who come to him, including members of  the terrorist group who will eventually claim his life.

What can you learn in 20 minutes?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Returned this weekend to our old “home” – the Pocono Mountains.  We spent our first years as a couple and family here – teaching at Pocono Mountain High School.  It was the birthplace of friends and connections that last to this day.

We have so much impact on one another.  At times the blessing of that simple fact almost overwhelms.  This has been a week of it.  The 9/11 service gave birth to over a 100 connections.  And these connections -  many are very real – including grateful thanks as well as requests for prayers and just simple reaching out. Paulette, for example, sent a beautiful prayer for peace for her parents, one that just sang in my heart this morning.

And then there are the old Pocono Mountain students and swimmers from days gone past.  They are now often getting married (congratulations to Jenn and Pat who are getting married today!)  or now have children of their own.

Spent time last night with a dear family.  I used to teach Theresa – over 15 years ago. Her and her husband Neal are doing an incredible job raising a rather outgoing young son, Brayden, who is courageously moving forward through health challenges.  As a fellow Star Wars fan, I can safely say, “The Force” and “The Phillies” are with this crew!

And all of this just brings me to my knees.  Because the fact is, no matter how many times as a teacher or pastor I get thanked, I KNOW in an absolute way that I have received infinitely more than I ever gave.  You can’t be around the Walsh’s of the world and not think “courage” and “grace.”  You can’t be around Jenn and Pat and not think “joy.”  You can’t read Paulette’s prayer and not think “peace.”

So what can you learn in 20 minutes?  I sat by the lake for 20 minutes in simple prayer.  Of course my brain skittered away from the task at hand – distracted by silly in-my-brain debates and construction noise – but there were a few moments of quiet clarity, times where the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork in this world gently spoke to a world far deeper than words.  It is a world that connects with Neal, Theresa, Brayden, Jenn, Pat and Paulette – with Life.  It breaths into that place of depth – where “deep meets deep.”   My normal hampster-wheel of ego driven noise is silent there.  And what do we learn in place?  Do you have 20 minutes?


Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

“Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men” – the core of the Christmas message.  Peace finds forms.  This Christmas, there is the obvious form of Peace that Christianity calls us to – peace as in an end to war, as in “beating swords into plowshares.”  This level of peace is of no small consequence and of no small responsibility.  “Peace” and “Goodwill” are connected in that regard.  By practicing one, we practice the other.  By feeding one, we feed the other.  By creating the space for one, we create space for the other.

In that regard we must be mindful of not using theology as excuse making.  Christianity, as an institution, over the ages has advocated for certain wars based on “just war theory.”  Deciding which wars are justified and which are not may well not be a topic to be addressed from pulpit.  Yet, as Christians, at the very least, we must remain uncomfortable with any war, justified or not.  When theology confirms the justification of war, we should be fearful of getting too comfortable with a bedfellow we must remain leary of.  To put it simply, Jesus was never comfortable with violence.  Neither then should we be.

None of this mitigates the great sacrifices of the military and military families.  None of this says that there are not real threats out there in the world that call us to legitimate self defense.  As a former history teacher I shudder to think of what the Nazi war machine would have done if it went un-confronted.

And I believe Christian pastors need to constantly remind all of us (including me) that if we simply start to accept war as a comfortable “status quo” we are missing a key to the Christian message.  If Jesus’ message does not unsettle us at least in this area, we arguably missed part of the Christmas message, a message of hope and comfort, but a message also that should confront us with something that maybe is just a bit more than a triumphal proclamation of “Peace on earth and Goodwill toward men.”  That proclamation may just be a command.

Aggression, War, Violence

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Viewing the North Korean attack on a South Korean island this morning saddened me.  War and violence continue to be part and parcel of the human experience.

Important for us to remain mindful of the Christian call to a different way.  Jesus clearly said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Likewise the Old Testament spoke of the coming of God’s kingdom as being a time when men would “beat their swords into plowshares.”

War and nations function under a logic not far removed from the individual.  In the New York Times, a reporter noted that this provocation by the North followed a well rehearsed script – “…a pattern of aggressive actions by the secretive government when it feels under stress or threatened.”  Individuals often lash out when they feel under stress or threatened.  Nations and their leaders do the same.

This is where the Christian New Church path should give us pause.  Into that pause must come not only the words of Jesus but His actions.  As a church and a culture, we need to do the same, really looking towards arresting the insidious logic of aggression.

That is the work.  The Bible states it well … forging their swords into plowshares.   That takes fire, heat, shaping with a hammer – there is little “soft” in sticking to Christian roots.

In my humble opinion, technology, while wonderful, has not necessarily made us safer.  There is a safety out there but it will not be arrived at through technology but through the redeployment of consequential faith.  As Deitrich Bonoeffer noted, “Peace is the great adventure.  It must be dared.”  My prayer is that the warring parties find peace, especially given the presence of nuclear arms on the Korean Peninsula.  My prayer is that there be a reflective moment to create a space where the crazed logic of “eye-for-an-eye” can be seen for what it is.  Peace in its deepest form is one of greatest blessings one can be thankful for. 

Finding Separation From Our Problems

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Attachment to our problems is one of the more challenging aspects of moving forward in our lives.

The New Church perspective is that many winds of thought course through our minds incessantly.  The sources are spiritual – forces from heaven calling us towards what is good and true, forces from hell calling us towards what is evil and false.  We of course  get to choose which ones we direct our attentive towards.  A phrase carrying a great deal of wisdom in it is to “pay attention.”  Attentiveness “costs” – it is something we must pay for.   To pay attention to the negative influences “costs” us the ability to be attentive towards the good and vice versa.

I have been thinking a lot about how to come from a centered place grounded in God  somewhere beneath these winds that shift back and forth incessantly.  Maybe that is where mediation comes in.

Interesting that “meditating on God’s Word” was one of Emanuel Swedenborg’s “Rules  of Life.”  That concept strongly aligns with the broader Christian concept of centering prayer.  Prayer as meditation on the Word focuses us in.

Imagine a meditation on the Beatitudes – in weakness there is strength, in surrender there is power.    A simple focus – 20 minutes, in a quite space – on those words, while holding the Christ-centered visual image of core light in our soul, the Divine Spark as it were, can pull us under the winds so to speak and allow us into a place where we can witness the ebb and flow of thought in a none-attached way.

Fascinating that New Church theology contains within it the concept that if we truly knew good thoughts were from heaven, evil thoughts from hell, we would be healed, we would be saved at that moment – a clear call to non-attachment as a worthy goal.

In that grounded-ness, in that touch point deep within, lies peace, a peace from which we hold the challenges of the day – challenges of faith, job, relationship – far differently.  That is the place where we can best address the problems that need addressed, and leave alone the problems that need no addressing.