Monthly Archives: June 2011

Think, Think, Think: How Pooh And I Clear Writer’s Block



I’m looking across the room at a picture of Winnie the Pooh in his classic thinking pose.  His eyes are scrunched closed, one arm is around his chest and this other hand is up to his temple.  Even looking at the picture I can hear him saying, “Think, think, think.”  Maybe he is trying to think of an answer to a question piglet has asked, or maybe he is working on a hum, but he is thinking hard!

Here at the front of the room the same scenario is playing out.  OK, I’m not physically squinting my eyes or knocking on my temple, but I am mentally trying to squeeze some kind of coherent thought out.  I have an assortment of posts in the works at the moment, but they are stalled at some point or other.  Some are just cool titles at the moment, while others were going along fine until I hit a mental snag on a point of logic or an annoying fact making my conclusion questionable.

There are various ways I get around this.  Today’s choice was to write about the block itself rather than try to dislodge it from my path.  Other options which I often use for blog writing include; saving my work and then choosing tags, previewing the post as it stands, heading off to http://creativecommons.comto find a good image to use, doing a spell check, or fixing the font and paragraph spacing.  If all of these distractions fail to help me reach the dangling strand of my thought, I just stop for a while and do something totally unrelated.

 

There are times when the strands just won’t be caught and I eventually give up on the post altogether.  Those bits often come back at a later date when they end up fitting like the missing puzzle piece into a completely different topic.  I’m sure you are familiar with the adage, “I think, therefore I am.”  It is the thinking that really matters and a slight change of focus can make all the difference.

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Mary’s Angels: “I Am Not Alone”


tonight the moon is a mirror-ballA while back I went out for coffee with a good friend.  During the course of the conversation we touched on many subjects.  She was sharing with me that she had been going for Reike treatments (is that the correct term?) for a while and she said she had an amazing experience at her last session.  She shared the following story with me, and asked as well that I share it with you;

My wish is to have peace and taking part in a Reiki experience has given me this sense of peace and serenity.

My last two experiences have been quite different from my earlier sessions. During these session I encountered my angel. Initially, I saw two glowing lights moving around each other as if they were playing joyfully with one another. I  felt happiness and an immense sense of joy, an almost childlike sense that only the present moment mattered. From the lights, a presence developed as an outline.  The outline gradually became more visible until I could see a hooded figure there with me.  I could not see his/her face. During this time I could see part of a wing that was a vibrant white in color. The energy that was present was very strong and real.

I can’t remember much else regarding this encounter but the feeling that I wasn’t alone. It was as if I was at another level compared to the earthly one. The message that came from this was to enjoy life, have fun and laugh. And more importantly, that I am not alone because my angel that is a very strong one at that is with me at all times. This in turn gives me strength during my spiritual journey called life. Is it possible that this other level is the spiritual parallel place of holiness?

Angels, are they real?  I’ll look into this in a future post with help/reference to Calvin’s Institutes.

Photo credit to Miemo Penttinenmiemo.net

Check out this great post by a friend of mine:o)


http://thehumankindnessproject.com/2011/06/20/strange-animals.aspx?results=1#SurveyResultsChart

Does the Audience Change the Message?


I expect most of us are familiar with the expression, “The medium is the message” coined by Marshall McLuhan.  The phrase is as old as I am, well ten months older.  At the time it was spoken in reference to the quickly changing face of media and our tendency to focus on the obvious effects and not really look for a deeper level.  I don’t pretend to really understand McLuhan’s message, but I think that it is important to look at our messages, especially as they are becoming more and more public through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.

When I prepare a message for any of my usual churches I do so knowing that, for the most part, I will be preaching to a Christian audience with a fairly similar frame of reference to mine.  When I write something for my blog it is different, I have no way of knowing who may read my post so things I wouldn’t normally explain get explanation.  Things that are totally open to the world on the internet need a different filter than comments to my friends and colleagues over lunch.  Awareness of audience is even one of the sections on rubrics for evaluating student writing.

I am working on a service I will be leading at my sister’s church in the Montreal area.  I have led worship at all four of the Presbyterian churches in my area, but this will be my first time preaching out of the province.   I am somewhat familiar with the church as I have worshipped there and sung in the choir on occasion, but I don’t really know it.  I do know that there are several retired ministers and theology professors who attend her church. While I am used to having one or two retired ministers in the congregation for my services at home, they are people with whom I am very familiar and comfortable.  This is not the case for my sister’s church, and who knows what other areas of speciality  I may trip upon in my message?

One service I did on Aboriginal Sunday a while back went well.  At the end I greeted people at the back as usual.  One woman hung back for a bit and when she came up to me said she was debating whether or not to tell me what she really thought.  I asked her to go ahead.  She was not pleased with my message and gave me various reasons mostly related to her perceptions of “special treatment” for First Nations people in our area.  While she had, in part, missed the actual point of the sermon, she needed to talk about the issues it raised for her and I hope that helped her in some way.

So, would I write a different message if I was speaking to the un-churched, the working class, a room full of professors, or atheists?  In the end, all I can do is what I usually do.  I will study the texts carefully, review what other’s have said on the topic,  do some fact checking, and then write what seems to flow.  Hopefully what I say will give people something new to think about, something to inspire them, or something about which to debate.

Slow Down, I Can’t Keep Up!


This morning at church when the minister was finished with the Trinity Sunday children’s story he said he had one more thing he wanted to share.  He told us that one of our little boys in the congregation had let him know, through his mother I believe, that we say The Lord’s Prayer too fast when we repeat it in worship.  He said he can’t keep up.  As the minister said, “Out of the mouths of babes!”

Not only may we be repeating the Lord’s Prayer too quickly, but I think we try to do most everything too quickly.  Several times lately I’ve been at the microwave at work or a checkout waiting for my card to process a charge and noticed how slowly it seemed to be going.  Two minutes in the microwave seems like such a long time now, and it is even worse if whatever we are heating isn’t done when the two minutes are up and we have to, gasp, put it back in for thirty more seconds.

I was at a meeting the other day as an observer and saw this same sort of scenario.  The goal of the meeting seemed to be to figure out the fastest way of getting the business done.  This led, for the most part, to motions being passed without discussion and the delightful result of being able to finish all the business before lunch by tacking on an extra fifteen minutes to the morning session.  This done everyone went their separate ways rather than gathering for a shared picnic lunch as had been attended.  Everyone seemed so pleased to be finished that the idea of fellowship over a meal was cast aside.

What else are we doing this way?  When we listen to our children do we seem to be in a rush for them to finish so that we can do something more important?  Do we ask people how they are but then walk away so quickly that they don’t even get to answer?  Really, what is the big race for?

The children’s story usually concludes with a prayer with the minister saying short phrases for the children to repeat.  Today, however, he led us in The Lord’s Prayer, which had already been done in its usual spot in the service, at a slower pace.  It was slow enough that there was time to reflect after each phrase on the meaning or ramifications of what we had just said.  What a great message.  Let’s relax    our    speed   this   coming   week   and   reflect   more   on    the   meaning   of   that   which   we   say   and   do.

Pentecost 2: You Expect Me To Prophecy?!?


     For those of you over forty-something have you ever listened to a rapper?  To include the younger set , have you travelled to an area where people all spoke a different language or with an accent that was very difficult for you to understand?

 

     If you were immersed in that sort of situation for days on end, then imagine the joy you would feel just hearing someone speaking so that you could understand.   Then, imagine if they were telling you that God had loved you so much that he gave his son’s life to atone for your sins.  Then they told you that through Him you would have eternal life.

     Imagine the feeling that would give you! Imagine the questions it would raise.  Are these guys drunk?  In Acts we see Pentecost play out.  The wind blows, the tongues of flame descend and then people begin to speak in languages they don’t even know.  Peter interprets these things for those who are present.  In order to make sense of this he quotes scripture.

     “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour
out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

     Wait a minute…did Joel say prophesy? Was Peter saying we should prophesy?  I’m all for God pouring out His Spirit on me, but I’m not Isaiah, Jonah, or Ezekiel…how am I supposed to prophesy?

     In his book New Proclamation Matthew L. Skinner says, “Peter’s brand of “prophecy” is …the task of identifying our own circumstances as somehow in line with testimony about God from the past and in line with the promises of what God is yet to do.”  He goes on to explain that the art of prophecy is in truly believing that the Bible is a message to us in our own time.

     We need to be open to a dialogue with the scripture. We need to let the Bible shape and effect all that we see, say and do. We need to stop reading the Bible as if it was just another book of information.

     In a course I took on Reformed Spirituality we looked at the practice of spiritual reading.  In the introduction to this section of her book Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson asks the reader to consider the different way we would approach reading a letter from a dear friend and a newspaper.

     Spiritual reading of the Bible is not going to come from reading to get through a section of text.  It is not about how much you read, or how quickly you read.  Our intention should be, in the words of Thompson, “simply to sink into the words and open ourselves to their meaning in our lives.  How do we go about this?

     There are four phases to spiritual reading.  The first to read in a reflective way, slowly, pausing over words which seem to catch our attention. The second phase is meditation, in other words, when we find those words which really catch our attention, then give some thought to why this seems important to us…what is the connection between this text and our lives?

     The third phase is speaking.  We respond to our reading with our emotion in prayer.  If the reading has highlighted our current struggles we will call out, perhaps in pain, if  it speaks of our joy we will lift our hearts in praise. If you want some excellent examples of this phase, read through some of the Psalms.

     Finally we contemplate. After pouring out in words all that we need to, we sit quietly and give time for God’s response to us.  We rest in God’s presence and listen. These steps may go back and forth as we move through a text but the  process is not complete without all four.

     As you can tell from the steps listed, this is not the kind of
reading we can fit into the 20 minutes between activities and is best not left to the end of the day.   When we make a space available in our day for this kind of reading, the Spirit will lead us in finding the meaning of the text for our lives.

     God sent His Spirit to us for a reason.  The Spirit is a gift to us which comforts us in our pain, helps us when we most need help, exhorts people to be present with God in answering the call to serve others in the world who are in need, advocates for us and provides the link for us to stay in touch with Jesus and through him with God, and, if we let it, reveals the truth in  Jesus.

     When God sends out His Spirit, plants spring to life– the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

This is the glory of GOD–let it last forever!

Amen

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

New Testament:Acts 2:1-21

Epistle: Romans 8:22-27

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost Part 1: It’s Not About Seances and Ouija Boards


I want you to think of the happiest, most joyful event in your
life. Think about where you were. Who was there with you?Imagine that you are right there now and let the feeling of joy fill you up. 

Do you feel your spirits rising? You may even feel that if you don’t tell someone about it you may burst! The Spirit of God is just like that. When the Spirit descended on the Apostles they couldn’t help themselves, they just had to share the Gospel!

We don’t like to talk about spirits very much.  It brings to mind ghost stories, séances and Ouija boards.  Because of this, Pentecost is an event in our church year which gets mixed reviews.  It makes us vaguely uncomfortable, but on Pentecost Sunday the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the believers. It is the birthday of the church!  

 

The Spirit is not a ghost. The Spirit is the Advocate sent to
continue the work of Jesus.  It could not come to us until Jesus departed. The Spirit is the final sign that we have been adopted into the family of God. Can you believe it?

If we are adopted that means that we are all part of the same
family and we will be there to look after each other and come together in a crisis and God, the head of our household, will be there suffering right along with us and being our guide for getting through the tough times.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of the groaning of
creation as if in labour pains.  Here he too makes the assumption that the church will be present in the world and active at times of deepest need and that God is present in the midst of the church. God shares our suffering and shares in our work of healing.

The current newsletter of the Presbyterian World Service and Development you can read;

“Three months following Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives. The disaster claimed over 15,000 lives and over 8,000 people remain missing, according to the National Police Agency of Japan.

Despite the immense challenges evacuees continue to face, PWS&D partners are working hard to provide daily hot meals, medical care, emergency supplies and psychosocial assistance. To date, PWS&D has received over $360,000 for emergency relief in Japan.

PWS&D partner, Church World Service (Asia-Pacific) has organized more than 2,000 volunteers to help distribute food and help clear debris. Cash-for-work programs are providing necessary funds to people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide food for their families. CWS is also trying to regenerate local businesses by refitting destroyed kitchens of local restaurants, in order to provide food and jobs for the surrounding communities.

The mental wellbeing of people is one of the biggest concerns as people struggle to deal with enormous loss, survivors’ guilt and other issues. Daycare centres and a single parent hotline are two new initiatives to help traumatized children and parents cope with their circumstances.”

You can see clearly that the church is present in this situation, and you can be sure that God is present with the church.  The Spirit does not shy away from the hard times in our lives, and in our world.  The Spirit offers help for the present and hope for the future.  If we are to lead a Spirit filled life we need to hope
and remain patient.

Please remember the people of Japan in your prayers. You can make a donation to PWS&D’s work in Japan by contributing through your church, mailing a cheque to the office, donating online or calling 1-800-619-7301 ext. 291. Please mark all donations as “Japan Relief. www.presbyterian.ca/pwsd/japan

 
SCRIPTURE READINGS:
New Testament:Acts 2:1-21
Epistle: Romans 8:22-27
Responsive Psalm: Psalm
104:24-34, 35b

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn#19


Sixth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #19

High in the heavens, eternal God

Psalm 36
Song 34
Paraphrase, Isaac Watts
Music: Orlando Gibbons.
 
High in the heavens. eternal God,
thy goodness in full glory shines:
thy truth shall break through every cloud
that veils and darkens thy desings.
 
Forever firm thy justice stands,
as mountains their foundaions keep;
wise are the wonders of they hands;
thy judgements are a mighty deep.
 
From the provisions of thy house
we shall be fed with sweet repast;
there mercy like a river flows
and brings salvation to our taste.
 
Life, like a fountain, rich and free,
springs from the presence of the Lord,
and in thy light our souls shall see
the glories promised in thy word.
 

Today I think I’ll begin with the music for this hymn.  I would not recommend using the music provided for hymn #19.  There is an alternate suggested which is Truro which is somewhat better (hymn #251).  I think if I wanted to use the paraphrase I would do it to the tune Angelus (hymn #516) which lilts along quite nicely in 3 and would be somewhat familiar as the common baptism hymn ‘A little child the saviour came’.

The paraphrase itself is nice and even metricaly speaking but, as seems to be a trend, I don’t really like parts of it.  Starting at verse 7 of the Psalm it says;
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light. (NRSV)

I don’t think the third verse is very clear in its meaning.  The Psalm speaks of feasting on abundance and drinking from the river of delights.  I don’t really see that as the same as “we shall be fed with sweet repast; there mercy like a river flows and brings salvation to our taste.”  I expect the phrasing is, again, chosen to match the rhyme scheme of the poem, but repast and taste do not even rhyme so it makes it awkward and confusing without accmomlishing the goal.


10 Ways Understanding the Bible is like Solving a Crossword Puzzle


flickr.com/photos/cayce/6286070/

Several years ago my spouse gave me a big book of crossword puzzles for Christmas.  There were 316 puzzles in the book, with solutions provided at the back.  Over time I have worked away at the puzzles, sometimes losing track of the book for months at a time (housekeeping is not my forte).  I found it and have been working on it again since I began my fast at Lent (see Turning it off for Lent http://wp.me/p1hsO8-8T ) Most evenings in the past several months have ended with me curled up in front of the TV with my book on my lap and a pencil in my hand.  The challenge of the puzzles is refreshing and the delight when I manage to complete a puzzle without peeking (cheating) is amazing!

By lovelihood Kim Love

So, what does this have to do with the Bible?

  1. Like Bible reading, crossword puzzles are something we often begin to do early in life when we first begin to read and write.  I’m sure you remember doing them when you were in grade school.

  2. The older you got, and the more education you gained, the harder the puzzles you were able to solve.

  3. Many people wouldn’t have bothered with another crossword once they got out of public school.

  4. Some continue to challenge themselves and work at the NY Times puzzles daily.

  5. They will go better if you do them in a quiet place without too much distraction.

  6. These puzzles can be affirmation of your knowledge and thinking abilities at times and baffling and completely unclear to you at other times.

  7. Every time you revisit a puzzle you see it differently.

  8. It is nice to have someone with you off whom you can bounce ideas.

  9. The remaining questions sometimes stay in your head for days as you puzzle over their meanings.

  10. If you really can’t get something, there is no shame in peeking, or asking someone for help.

By baslow Barry Solow

Last night I filled in the last puzzle in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completed all the puzzles as many still have holes in them.  Some which I started in pen and then got muddled up have a big X through them.  Every time I get the book out I go through it to see if I can fill in any more of the holes.  It is amazing what a little time and perspective can have on the problems.  There are some which I just don’t know, like the names of certain towns in Great Brittain, and those I will look up and hope to remember for another puzzle at a later time.

By jaybergesen Jay Bergesen

 

Unlike crossword puzzles I expect to continue puzzling out and exploring the Bible for the rest of my life.