Tuesday, January 29, 2008

School of Prayer


I'm facilitating a thing this weekend for our church called the School of Prayer. I suppose it's a little presumptous to suppose that someone can learn prayer in a weekend, but we're working as a congregation at learning to pray (I think I have more to learn than anyone coming), so a weekend devoted to exploring it is a good thing. It's interesting to me that Jesus' disciples after observing his life sustained by his praying came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray."

In other words, his living and his praying weren't separated; They were the same thing. The disciples obviously wanted to be like Jesus and realized from careful observation that his praying was central to his character. His attractive life generated a desire in them to imitate him, hence, "Lord, teach us..." To be fair, their background was prayer saturated (The Psalms were their prayer book and praying was deep in the life of their people), but I would suppose Jesus' praying opened new windows for them.

This gives me pause. How central is my praying is to my living? So often, I pray because I want, need or would like something. God is a genie who gets me out of jams and keeps me from suffering. And if I'm honest, this is manipulation, not prayer. We pray to make our living a bit easier, not to live with God irregardless of the outcome. I don't think I'm alone in this.

So this weekend we're attempting to go beyond that, because obviously prayer is something that can be learned.

I had an email interchange a couple years ago with Dr. Paul Fitzgerald (here's his blog, well worth your time) about this subject and he opened a window for me through Eugene Peterson's writings on the subject. Many know him as the author of the popular paraphrase of Scripture -The Message. I copied Dr. Paul's comments here.


Peterson's book is the one on Psalms. After reviewing it his basic point is that prayer and the Psalms are what he calls primary language (Language I) -the language of intimacy and relationship. He identifies Language II as naming and listing speech that we are trained to use in educational settings. Language III is motivation speech and is the predominate language of politics and advertising. It is lovers, poets and saints who never stop using Language I. Romantics practice adoration and never sound like they are solving equations or selling soap. Here are some quotes:

"Romantic love extends and deepens it for as long as we have the will to pursue it. But our will commonly falters, and in the traffic of the everyday and press of making a living, we content ourselves with the required and easier languages of information and motivation. In the early months of parenting, the basic language is relearned and used for a while. At death, if we know we are dying, we will use nothing else. A few people never quit using it -a few lovers, some poets, the saints- but most let it drift into disuse. Walter Wangerin, Jr. calls this a 'vast massacre of neglect.'" (p 38-39)

"Languages II and III are no less important in the life of faith but if they are not embedded in Language I they become thin and gaunt ... our habit is to pray in these more easily handled languages (II & III). This is fatal to prayer. Informational language is not prayer language. Motivational language is not prayer language. To pray in these languages is, in effect not to pray. We must let the Psalms train us in prayer language - the language of intimacy, of relationship and of 'I and Thou' of personal love. ... Learning to pray is not learning anything new; it recovers our first language." (p. 39, 40)

I can't resist adding a few additional lines:
"Individual's don't 'make up' the community, they are produced by it." (p. 84)

"The Christian recovers a sense of community and experiences the dynamic of community not through the categories of sociology but through the music of liturgy." (p. 89)

"The recipe for obeying St. Paul 's 'Pray without ceasing" is not a strict ascetical regimen but a watchful recognition of the trouble we are in." (p. 37)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Welcome to the Blogging World

I'm in a Small Group that meets on Tuesday nights (usually at our house). We're doing our best at navigating life and learning to be Jesus' friends along the way. Juliana, a great mom to one of Hudson's friends (Jamie), and part of our Small Group just joined the blogging world. She even quoted Mother Teresa in her first entry--so she's obviously headed down the right path. :-)

Here's the very searching quote:

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

The whole entry can be found here and for more on Mother Teresa, check out the incendiary article in Time Magazine about Mother Theresa's tortured inner world that can be found here.

Welcome to the Blogosphere Juliana!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rethinking The Beast


My corner of Evangelical world gives some thought to the book of Revelation and it's meaning, along with not a few prognostications about the nature and meaning of the Beast. I thought I would offer this as an intelligent foray into the meaning of the Beast so we can all be ready when that denizen of history appears on the global scene.

We all know that 666 is the Number of the Beast.

But did you know:

$665.95......................Retail price of the Beast·
$699.25......................Price of the Beast plus 5% sales tax·
$769.95......................Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul·
$656.66......................Walmart price of the Beast·
$646.66......................Next week's Walmart price of the Beast·
00666.........................Zip code of the Beast·
1-666 .........................Area code of the Beast·
1-900-666-0666 ............ Live Beasts! Call Now! Only $6.66/minute.·
670............................Approximate number of the Beast·
DCLXVI.....................Roman numeral of the Beast·
666.0000.....................Number of the High Precision Beast·
0.666 .........................Number of the Millibeast·
1010011010..................Binary of the Beast·
Phillips 666..................Gasoline of the Beast·
$6.66 9/10....................Price of a Beast gasoline·
Route 666....................Way of the Beast·
666 F.........................Oven temperature for roast Beast·
666k..........................Retirement plan of the Beast·
6.66%........................5 year CD rate at First Beast National Bank, $666 minimum deposit.·
i66686........................CPU of the Beast·
666i .......................... BMW of the Beast·
DSM-666.....................Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast·
668............................Next-door neighbor of the Beast·
666 mg........................Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast·
Lotus 6-6-6...................Spreadsheet of the Beast·
Word 6.66....................Word Processor of the Beast·
6 h. 66 min....................Beast Standard Time (BST)·
Boeing 666....................."A Jet for the Beast Age"·
Beverly Hills 66666..........Beast's favorite TV show·
6/6/66..........................The birthdate of the Beast·
666-66-6666..................The Social Security number of the Beast·
6666............................The PIN of the Beast·
25.806975.....................The square root of the Beast·
Motel 666......................Beast Western·
Windows 96 ver.666.........OS of the Beast

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thoughts from a Prayer Breakfast

I attended the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast yesterday (Virginia NEVER refers to itself by that common moniker of "state."). 1,000+ people ate eggs, drank coffee and did a bit of praying while listening to the Celebration Men's Chorus (an excellent black men's chorus) and Mark Earley, current president of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

I found out while there that it's the annual kick-off to the General Assembly of the State Legislature. Or as one guy I overheard in a coffee shop afterwards said, "Yeah, it's a chance for them all to come together and talk about being brothers so later they can call each other an SOB in good conscience."

I suppose cynicism always grows in the shade of power.

Here are some thoughts shared that got my attention.
From the State Supreme Court Justice commenting on 1 Samuel 16:6 - "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." When God looks into our hearts, what will he find there?

From the Old Testament Scripture reading - Deuteronomy 6 - "These commandments are to be upon your hearts." I hadn't heard that phrase in that passage before. Heartfelt. At the core of our being. The ruminating thoughts that give animation and energy to our actions.

From the last song of the Celebration Men's Chorus (see video below) -
Give me a heart that knows no ill,
Give me a heart to do thy will.
Give me a heart, like thine.

I sure would like that.

From Mark Earley's remarks (his talk was about The Good Samaritan)-
On his journey from VA Attorney General to president of Prison Fellowship.
"I used to tour prisons and encounter the prisoners as inmates, as a number. But I never thought of them as my neighbor."
"Moses was a murderer, a fugitive from justice."
"Paul was a co-conspirator in murder, a man of violence convinced like so many people of violence are, that his violence was right."

video

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I Feel Like This Sometimes

I came across this video and a similar note by someone who apparently miscarried a baby too. I hadn't felt anything about our miscarriage in a while and it touched a deep place in me (viscera on full display here).

Dear Justice -

I thought about you today. You would have loved your mommy and your two brothers. I'll see someday soon...I'm homesick for you today.

Love,

Daddy