Thursday, December 8, 2011
I was sent this website post today and I think it has a lot of food for thought. I would love to hear your thoughts and responses.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
A Colleague sent me this article by Brian McLaren. I have found him to be a wise teacher in my life journey so I am sharing it with you now.
I'm in, and would encourage others to join the occupation. Not as a representative of your church or denomination, but as a human being, who is there to contribute and to learn.
By Brian McLaren, October 19, 2011
I never would have chosen the name "Occupy" to brand a movement. "The 99 Percent Movement" works a lot better for me. But I'm glad I didn't get to choose, because I notice the term "occupy" is kind of growing on me.
What I don't like about it: it sounds aggressive, like the (to me) ugly and unacceptable language of "taking back the country." For a movement to avoid violent actions, it needs to avoid violent rhetoric as well, as Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount. And deeper than rhetoric, it needs to be careful with the narratives it taps into. A case in point: "taking back" (to me) walks the line of a revenge narrative, implying that the country used to be "ours" and "they" took it away. That scenario is problematic for a number of reasons, so I'd rather steer clear of that kind of thinking—and language—entirely.
A term like "occupy," then, must not be employed unadvisedly or lightly. Its strength must be tempered and its potential downsides managed. And so far, that seems to be happening (here in the U.S., at least).
I was thinking about all this last Saturday while I was participating in the local occupation. About 300 of us walked down the sidewalk on both sides of our little town's main street (we wouldn't all fit on one side). Occasionally some chanting broke out, but for most of the time, we marched in silence; I would use words like reverent and pregnant to describe it. (One observer described it as "charged with secret extremity and transcendence.")
As we walked along, I kept thinking about Jesus' use of the term "kingdom of God." I've been fascinated by the term for a while now, devoting a whole book to it in 2006 (and then revisiting it in a 2008 release). Like "occupy," kingdom of God was a dangerous term for a nonviolent movement. It borrowed the language of the Roman empire whose pax was maintained by slavery, militarism, public torture, and frequent executions (i.e., crucifixion). It was overtly provocative—bursting out of the private sphere of spirituality into the public world of kings, lords, and laws. It threw down a gauntlet before the powers that be, challenging their legitimacy with a higher authority.
If I had been around, I would have counseled Jesus' against using the term.
Once again, I'm glad I wasn't consulted. It's rather obvious now that Jesus knew what he was doing. "The occupation of God has begun" might inspire the same fear and hope among people today as "the Kingdom of God is at hand" inspired in the first century.
The term "occupy" is winning me over because it puts an ironic spin on one of our most questionable national habits—occupying other nations: occupying Iraq, occupying Afghanistan, supporting Israel in occupying Palestine. Like kingdom of God, it turns that familiar language on its head.
The term "occupy" is also winning me over because it's about presence, making our presence known and felt in public spaces. These public spaces—from economic markets to political processes—have been colonized by powerful corporate elites (the 1 percent, or maybe the 10 percent), elites driven not by an ethical vision but by the relentless demand to maximize shareholder return. The 99 percent are realizing how destructive this colonization of public spaces has become, and by simply coming back—by re-inhabiting public spaces—we are demonstrating that we see what's happening and we are not going to tacitly comply with its continuing.
After our local occupation last Saturday, a smaller group of us stayed around to hold an informal planning meeting. It was a good process . . . and reminded me of how different grassroots democracy looks when compared to public politics. Demonizing and vilifying the person you're sitting next to—it won't play. Neither will dominating and filibustering or attempting a "live" impromptu version of political attack ads. Learning to differ firmly and graciously, acknowledging the concerns of an alternate viewpoint, searching for common ground, asking for clarification rather than assuming the worst possible interpretation, agreeing to seek greater understanding through honest private conversation after the public gathering . . . these are among the skills and virtues needed to make grassroots democracy work. They are seldom demonstrated or even valued among our political elites. Could that tell us something about why the Occupy movement is needed?
Nobody knows how the movement will play out. Lots of folks will wait on the sidelines and maybe dip their toes in later on. But I'm in, and I would encourage others to join the occupation. I'd especially encourage Christian leaders to do so . . . not as a representative of your church or denomination, but as a human being . . . not to co-opt or control, but to contribute and to learn. As someone who's had a lot of control (more than I realized) for a lot of years, I'm finding it a wonderful gift to simply be a participant, one voice among many, learning and listening and learning some more.
Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders. Among McLaren's more prominent writings are A New Kind of Christian (2001), A Generous Orthodoxy (2006), Everything Must Change (2009), and A New Kind of Christianity (2010). His lastest book, Naked Spirituality, offers "simple, doable, and durable" practices to help people deepen their life with God.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Observation # 6: The church will not recover its nerve, its creativity, or its authenticity simply by instituting fancy new gimmicks, implementing flashy programs, trying to get more organized, or working harder. The way forward is through the development of meaningful spiritual practices, a renewal of corporate spirituality, and a profound shift of consciousness in the way we do church. These deep inner changes will only be achieved by creating space for an awareness of the presence and action of God to emerge in our midst.
Cynthia's response: Amen, brother! More than seventy years ago the Quaker mystic Thomas Kelly penned these prophetic words:
“Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living. Let us explore together the secret of a deeper devotion, a more subterranean sanctuary of the soul, where the Light Within never fades, but burns, a perpetual Flame, where the wells of living water of divine revelation rise up continuously, day by day and hour by hour, steady and transfiguring. The ‘bright shoots of everlastingness’ can become a steady light within, if we are deadly in earnest in our dedication to the light and are willing to pass out of first stages into maturer religious living. Only if this is possible can the light from the inner sanctuary of the soul be a workaday light for the marketplace, a guide for perplexed feet, a recreator of culture-patterns for the human race.” (The Light Within, p. 31).
If that Light within truly exists, there is only one authentic way to find it, and it is just as you have named it: “creating space for an awareness of the presence and action of God to emerge in our midst.” If we don’t trust that the light actually exists, if we resign ourselves to being no more than the caretakers of a “receding memory of the Divine Touch,” then we might as well close up shop right now and go join the crew at the Sunday market and soccer practice. At least there’s fresh air!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Observation # 5: The pervasive fear in the church is paralyzing. It inhibits genuine conversation and keeps us fixated on finding solutions, rather than launching into bold new adventures of faith. There is no way to move forward until we come to grips with the reality of fear. Dealing with fear requires deep personal and corporate spiritual practice. Only transformed people will have the ability to be a transformed church.
Cynthia's response: This is so, so true. If “perfect love casts out fear,” the opposite is sadly but equally true: “perfect fear casts out love.” And it shuts down just about everything else as well. Fear is always a tip-off that one is living at the egoic level of consciousness (or in the corporate mode, the “we-goic” level): that anxiety-prone hardwiring of the immature human mind that sees everything from its own self-interest and perceives through separation and scarcity. The only “cure” for fear is spiritual practice, which gradually heals this artificial split in the field of consciousness and restores the direct perception of abundance and connection. All other approaches to fear simply mask the symptoms, generally through reliance on illusory power and control to “fix” the external situation deemed to be broken.
Ironically, this healing of fear is at the very heart of the Jesus message, over which the church claims custodial rights but about which it knows so very little. “Do not be afraid, little flock: it is my Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom,” Jesus assures his followers in those immortal words of Luke 12: 32. And throughout his entire ministry, he teaches, models, and ultimately offers himself up in the kenotic (or “letting go”) practice which not only surmounts fear but transforms it.
Imagine what might happen if a whole group of Christian were to simply drop their terrified insistence that the church as we know it must survive and were instead to give themselves to that “deep personal and corporate spiritual practice” that makes it possible to fall through fear into perfect love. What might happen next? Whatever form it might take, it would certainly be REAL: a powerful new unleashing of the Jesus energy, no longer as that “mighty fortress” and “bulwark never ceasing” of times gone by, but as the river itself, ever flowing.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Observation # 4: Faced with decline, the institution of the church is permeated by fear. Some in the church are fearful for the preservation of their cherished institutions and buildings. Others fear that their familiar theological formulations are being threatened. Fear is never a good starting place for opening to the movement of God’s Spirit.
Cynthia's response: You’ve hit the nail on the head with that one! In fact, modern neuroscience now confirms what the mystics and contemplatives have insisted since time immemorial: that fear completely shuts down our capacity for Spirit-led responsiveness and even wreaks havoc on our basic common sense. The data now emerging from The HeartMath Institute and other places depicts graphically how any fear response immediately lights up the neural pathways straight to the amygdala, the most ancient and primitive part of the human brain (commonly known as “the reptilian brain” because guess whom we share it with?), where it stimulates a series of very rigid and repetitive behaviors in response to the “fight or flight” signal. Not only are we out of touch with Spirit; we aren’t even using the more evolutionarily advanced parts of our human brain!
Learning to stay open, stay engaged, stay receptive in the face of sweeping change (rather than going to fear-responses) is a classic fruit of spiritual practice. It’s ironic that in the plethora of retrenchment strategies now engulfing the church, that this profound resource at the heart of the church’s own mystical treasure chest is so little acknowledged or utilized.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Observation # 3: Although the institutional expression of faith is in precipitous decline throughout North America and Europe, faith is not in decline. The majority of people still believe in God and have deep spiritual longings. They simply would not think of looking to the church to satisfy their spiritual hunger.
Cynthia's response: Ouch! What a zinger that last line is!! But like the lad in that old fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it names a truth that can be completely liberatingonce we let it out of the bag. If so many people “simply would not think to looking to the church to satisfy their spiritual hunger,” where are they looking? That’s pretty easy to see: to retreats, meditation workshops, wisdom schools (mine fill up instantly, a couple of years in advance), mystery schools, vision quests, spiritual direction programs, interSpiritual Institutes such as Ken Wilber’s Integral Life or the Spiritual Paths Foundation), internet courses (the wildly successful Spirituality and Practice e-courses, for example), virtual monasteries such as Sr. Joan Chittister’s newly launched “monastery of the heart, and grass roots contemplative orders and organizations such as Contemplative Outreach, The World Community of Christian Meditation, or our own plucky little Contemplative Society. They’re signing up for embodied experiences such as yoga retreats or Sufi zikr and whirling; they’re flocking to a proliferating network of “Open Centers” where spiritual ideas can be freely presented and pondered in an atmosphere of open inquiry and respect. The bottom lines seem to be that most people hunger for genuine spiritual formation (not doctrinal imprinting) in an atmosphere of embodied practice, non-sentimental but profound mystical devotion, and open, interSpiritual inquiry that draws respectfully on the transformative wisdom of all the great spiritual traditions. And if even this is too arcane, they run marathons, go skiing, or hang out at the Sunday market.
And I have to admit that for me, too, when I’m not scheduled to preach or celebrate, I do the same.
The big problem, of course, is the lived experience of a very large number of folks out in the world is that the church blocks the view, hog-tying genuine spiritual yearning in an intricate tangle of doctrinal ownership and theological nitpicking. If you’re following the response to Christopher’s observation #4 (to be posted soon), you’ll see what I mean. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? What part of “contemplative,” “embodied,” “immediate,” “non-ideological” do we not understand? Why would we rather be “correct” than connected?
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Observation # 2: The shift we are currently navigating is generally described as a move away from rationalism, propositional faith, and institutionalism. People are no longer seeking intellectual answers to questions or rigid institutional embodiments of those answers. They are looking for a deep experience of God and profound inner wisdom to support them in living authentic and integrated lives. We can no longer assume institutional loyalty. The days when we could rely on loyalty to the church and general agreement to a uniform body of dogmas are gone. It is not adequate to demandObservations and Reflections on The Future of Church
allegiance, or simply keep announcing our convictions confident people will eventually sign up.
Cynthia's response: That may indeed be how things look from the viewing platform of most of the Lenten Series speakers—i.e., the mainstream liberal Protestant establishment. But there seems to be no dearth of folks out on the religious right eager to sign up for rationalism, propositional faith, and institutionalism, while those seeking a deeper experience of God and an accompanying inner wisdom have existed in every generation. What’s really happening, it seems to me, is that the “middle” has dropped out of
mainstream Christian experience: those unspoken but hugely influential “lower left and lower right quadrants” (in Ken Wilber’s terms) over which the church until recently presided as a combination of cultural cement and social networking agency. Upward mobility, social respectability, cultural literacy, “old boys’ club” placement services, patriotism, civic duty, and a chaplainly blessing upon the affairs of state: all this was part of the great cultural-spiritual mainstream over which the church held undisputed sway.
That is mostly swept away now—a casualty of the cultural tsunami described in Observation #1 (first installment of this series). Not only does the role itself no longer exist in an irreversibly pluralistic, mobile, and secular society, but even in its former unassailable niche as ethical and moral pace-setter, the church now generally lags far behind in basic standards of inclusivity and civil rights widely established in secular society itself.
It seems to me that there are really two options for moving this dinosaur gently along the evolutionary track. One is to ‘fess up‘to the fact that this middle ground has always been an important part of the church’s missionary ground and radically get on board with the social networking program in terms understandable in today’s cultural reality. The other is to pare down and focus on those folks thirsting for authentic spiritual formation and actually deliver the goods, cutting through centuries of doctrine, dogma, and institutional solipsism to the profound transformational wisdom still flowing from the living heart of Jesus. That is the trajectory, of course, that I am myself the most keen on exploring.
The third possibility, of course, is to attempt to shrink the world back to its former cosmological and theological dimension so that the church’s cultural cement might yet again hold everything together. But this route, while being actively sought in some corners of the corners of institutional Christendom, does little service either to Jesus or to our planet.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Help Us to See
“Why do you stand looking up towards heaven? (Acts 1:10-11)
We look for you, straining our eyes
into the far country,
but our vision is disrupted
by the least, the lost, the littlest, the last among us.
We race after you, trying to catch up,
and turing the corner find only
a homeless family in our path.
We wander the streets, yearning to find you,
calling your name,
but it is only
a single mother who turns and wearily smiles,
a street person who whispers ‘hello’
a little girl who pirouettes and takes our hand.
But you are still here, Lord
Help us to see.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
A Prayer for Squamish United Church
Creator God, with whom we journey
in this season of the life and faith
we live in hope, trust and mystery
longing to live into your wisdom
as the one who makes all things new.
Holy One, we give you thanks for the gift of each new day.
And for the mission and ministry of Squamish United Church.
Living in your grace and faithfulness we have embraced your presence in our lives.
as together we have ministered in downtown Squamish for almost a century
We hold deep gratitude for the many who have
built this church and community over the years.
We cherish the gifts given by those who have gone before us,
Live in appreciation of those who serve and minister with us now,
And are already thankful for the anticipated ministry that will follow us.
God in whom we live and move and have our being
Enliven, Strengthen and Entice us now to be a vibrant centre for mission and ministry,
embracing the lives of the people of Squamish as we connect our church and community.
Transforming Spirit be with us in this season
as we begin to live out our ministry in a new way
Assist us as we seek to be faithful stewards of all we have.
Give us wisdom and courage as we seek to live out our mission and ministry
through redeveloping our church property and connecting with Sea to Sky Community Services,
Always being thankful for the many blessings we have already been given.
Holy Spirit, deepen our trust,
as we partner with you,
in making all things new.
The Reverend Karen Millard
Monday, May 16, 2011
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
They went out and followed him,
Those who had sat with him at the table.
He led them to a garden
Where he prayed while they slept.
He was kissed,
And because he was kissed he was arrested,
And when he was arrested, his friends fled,
Some to go into hiding,
One to stand beside a bonfire,
And say I never knew him,
I never knew him…
Until the cock crowed.
He was brought before the religious authorities
And accused of the sin of blasphemy
And of threatening insurrection.
Having no power to deal with him,
They handed him over to the state governor,
Who listened to the accusations
And then asked the accused
What have you to say?
To which the response was silence.
He had said it all.
He was not found to be guilty of any criminal charges
But because he was an embarrassment,
It was decided that the people should determine his fate.
He was cursed and spat on,
Whipped and humiliated.
And on his shoulders a cross was placed,
Which he accepted with grace.
Under the weight of it
He stumbled and fell
Stumbled and fell
All the way to Calvary.
On top of a garbage dump,
He was nailed to a cross of wood
And left to die,
While soldiers gambled,
Religious leaders smiled with satisfaction
And his mother watched and waited