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WWJB

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If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and have a beer.

A Prayer For the Gulf of Mexico

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(h/t Sister Georgeanne, of Denver’s Northwest Spiritual Caregivers, a  collegial group of folks from diverse  spiritual disciplines who serve throughout Northwest Metro Denver.)

Just about all of us experience feelings of anger when we consider the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, along with feelings of despair and hopelessness.  What have we done?  What can we do? Every time there is news from the gulf, these questions tend to hang over us with all the weight of an oil-soaked containment boom.

Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan, who has researched and developed a unique expertise on the characteristics of water,  has said that water actually responds to human emotions.   What might happen if many of us were to direct positive emotions toward the Gulf and its waterlife in prayer?  Those who believe in and practice the power of prayer walk a wide variety of paths.  Some pray to the One God.  Some pray to the Universe.  Some pray to some unseen energy or force that permeates the world and the universe.   Whatever your spiritual path and practice may be, prayer is a valuable occupation.

Here is the prayer proposed by Dr. Emoto, a daily prayer that can harness our collective good energy and direct it toward the Gulf and all the life caught in this crisis:

To whales, dolphins, pelicans, fishes, shellfishes, planktons, corals, algae and all creatures in the Gulf of Mexico:

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

This Book Sounds Like a Must-Read

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“Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate,” is written by British literary critic Terry Eagelton as a response to the most recent trumpet blasts by atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.  The book is based on a series of lectures he delivered at Yale and, based on the Salon review, finds many of the same flaws in “Ditchkins” anti-religionist positions as one can find in Bill Maher’s satirical, anti-religion film, Religulous.

But Eagelton doesn’t stop with them.  He sizes up that which passes for dominant American religious practice and finds it to be seriously deficient.   He takes American Christian fundamentalism to task for being essentially faithless, in part by speaking to the problems that I’ve encountered with them:  their ideology basically is so self-centered that it ignores and tacitly approves the ongoing, devouring exploitation of  both people and natural resources.  Meanwhile, despite being turned in on themselves, they champion any social and governmental movement that would ram their narrow-minded ideology down the throats of the rest of us.

“Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate” is now at the top of my reading queque,  following right behind my current read which also talks about religion in our time.

I’m about a third of the way through Phyllis Tickle’s book, “The Great Emergence,” also a very interesting read.  In brief, her book explores the very plausible likelihood that we are currently caught up in a tumultuous period of religious and cultural change,  change that seems to erupt like a volcano about every 500 years.  I’ll post a review after I’ve finished the book.

Holy Saturday/Vigil of Easter: We Wonder What It All Means

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The dark clouds are breaking, now that Friday is past.  The memories remain; of the heavy mallet that smashed every dream while driving ever so deeply the sharp despair of a future hope now denied, the music of life wrapped in awful stillness, the bride’s joyous laughter now lays like a broken vase shattered on a stone, the stone that seals out light so that death may do its thing.

Will it ever end otherwise?  Gray clouds shroud the sun, darkly blanketing the beaming rays as if to say, “No.”

Promises made in visions seen so long ago.  What were they again?  Something about suffering and loneliness, and– where is God?  Dim memories kindle a small spark; where are the promises kept?  The book is lifted from its resting place, the bride sits and stares at symbols set in place so long ago, words spoken in ancient ink, waiting for the dance to begin again.  What is that blurry barrier to the music that must be played?  A veil, still worn,  now set aside–is that a tear, or the track of a tear?  The dusty flute begins to play a dirge-like melody.  “We accounted him stricken,” croons the singer, “struck down by God, and afflicted.”

The song winds through the air and then touches gently, like a soft wind, warm in its caress.

“See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.”

The tiny flame grows and blooms, opening the light of words once spoken, words once sealed in the jar of circumstance, a jar now opened.  Their fragrance now carried on this comforting breeze, carried from the trumpet of the lily in the sun-warmed valley.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” In the rubble of dreams torn down arises–

The book keeps singing as the bride bathes in healing waters.  Company is coming.  Good company, bringing  joy to fill  the empty cup, the best vintage saved until now, the feast is on, the table is set.  The shards of old dreams are swept away.  The music, now set free, says, “Yes.”  “Yes.”  “Yes.”

Back from Spiritual Retreat! Cistercian Monks are Great Hosts

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I was on a short sabbatical up high in the Colorado mountains near Snowmass at a Cistercian monastery, St. Benedict’s, spending retreat and discernment time with other pastors in my conference.  Here’s a brief post written while on retreat.  More to come down the road–hopefully some video as well, if I can figure out how to edit and upload…………..

Springtime view from St. Benedict's Retreat House, Spring 07

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, CO

The snow lightly blankets the valley and the mountains, yet it is warm in the sun and not too cold after twilight.  Across the valley from the retreat house, Mt. Sopris keeps watch over time and history, and over the Cistercian order of monks who oversee the life of the valley.  There are some 20 in their number which reflects an intake of new novitiates-a bad economy can bring such inspiration.

This morning’s Mass began with a hymn based on an Irish poem attributed to St. Patrick.  The tune it was set to was “Morning Has Broken.”  I found it oddly amusing and yet touching to hear these monks who are so rooted in medieval plainsong sing such a modern tune.

I am on retreat with other pastors in our conference and also with our bishop.  This morning he led us on a guided discussion of health, both personal and congregational.  It’s interesting how it does seem to depend on an ongoing balance between self and community-and this seems to go well beyond the culture of church to speak to people no matter their walk through life.

This monastery has become a leading center for contemplative spirituality.  Father Thomas Keating is one of the order’s prominent guides.  A pastor friend told me this morning he had attended a winter retreat on centering prayer and found it valuable for his everyday prayer life.  I may need to look into this as well.  The monastery chapel and monk quarters (there is a Latin-based church name for their domecile, but it’s outside my grasp at the moment) are on the side of the valley nearest Sopris.  On the other side of the valley and about a third of the way up its rim is the large retreat house, and behind it some 8 hermitages.  The stone and beam construction design includes lots of glass as well.  The buildings appear to grow up out of the rocky ground and their grandeur is not revealed in their size but in the thoughtful, artistic way they were made to compliment and even enhance the natural beauty of the Sopris valley.  It is a pity to be here only 2 nights and one full day.  But the experience reminds me how precious such time is and how precious other times are as well.

I suppose that can be said of life in general when looking back on it near the end.

Too short, but beautiful, oh so beautiful.

Spirituality Connected to Specific Spot in Brain

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Neuroscience has uncovered a potential area of the brain that accounts for a person’s sense of spirituality.

The right parietal lobe is the center where much self-definition takes place.  In other words, it is the spot in the brain where all the activity is “all about Me.”  It’s constantly processing information that helps the self navigate through a variety of physical and social situations, as well as the place that generates self-criticism.

A study published in the journal Zygon suggests that subjects who displayed more spiritual qualities also experienced a less-functional right parietal lobe.  This connects with the spiritual and religious understandings of  selflessness that draw people to focus less on self and more on others, a primal chord found in most of the world’s major spiritual paths.

The study suggests, among other things, that spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation may actually alter the activity of this part of the brain.

For more on the story, click here.

What I find funny about all this is the kernel of truth found in the notion that “you have to be brain-dead to be religious.”

What’s even more amusing is the notion that being partially “brain-dead” could actually be good for you, since spiritual people tend to live longer and healthier lives.

A Call to Prayer for Tumbleweed Readers

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Tonight I ask for your prayers.  I’ve spent part of the evening with a young woman we’ll call “Sue” and her 3 precious kids, ages 6, 20 months and 11 months.  She found out today that her husband has left her and is involved with another woman.   Sue has only a part time waitress  job, for about 20 hours a week on weekends.  And despite being married to this guy for two and a half years years and bearing him two wonderful children, she has not established legal citizenship in this country.  He is a born citizen of the U.S., by the way, as are the kids.   He is basically sending her signals that he’s just going to abandon them all, leaving her to support herself and their kids.  She is devastated and scared at the moment, as you might well imagine.  Whether you pray to God or to the universe, or to the good side of the Force, please pray for this family.  I believe in the power of prayer and believe that somehow this woman, who has a good heart and spirit about her, will make the journey through the wilderness to a new and better life.  Tomorrow I begin to help her connect with the social service agencies in our area that can give her the help she needs.  I’ve also spoken to our church and we are adopting the family for Christmas.

This guy will ultimately have to answer for one of the most pathetic, weasel-like things one could do to a wife and kids at Christmastime.

This is another helpful reminder to me that Christmas means more than just the brightly colored gaiety that we grab onto.  It also has to do with an ancient story about the Divine entering into our human experience in a most unpleasant set of circumstances.  No plush hospital birthing room for Mary.  And Jesus was born in the bloody reality of human birth, surrounded by the stink of barnyard animals and their offal.  Might the same angel who told Joseph to get up and take the mother and child quickly to the safety of Egypt be dispatched to deal with this current situation.

Again, your prayers are welcome and appreciated.  Peace.