Monthly Archives: December 2008

Synchroblog

  

There will be two synchroblogs in the month of January.

Everyone is invited to get involved.

There will be an interfaith synchroblog on the general theme of “Religion and Science” on 8 January 2008.

 AND

The original synchroblog group will be having a synchroblog on January 14 on the general theme of “Faith and Ethnicity”. The original group was Christian, though others are welcome to join it.

For more information see www.synchroblog.com, or contact Phil Wyman at pastorphil@salemgathering.com.

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Our God Is A Consuming Fire

Photo found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ottoman42/455242/

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With Advent, the December synchroblog, Christmas decorations and the approach of the Winter Solstice I have been thinking a lot about light lately. Between thinking about light and using Amy Carmichael’s poem “Make Me Thy Fuel” as an Advent Prayer I began to think about fire and that reminded me of Hebrews 12:29 which says “Our God is a consuming fire.” Through all of this thinking and pondering and praying I stumbled across a great article written by Frederica Mathewes-Green that was published on belief.net back in 2006 called Transfiguration. It was so good I wanted to share it with you. 

You really have to read the whole article  but here are a few excerpts:

“But there is something about light that most previous generations would have known, that doesn’t occur to us today. We think of light as something you get with the flip of a switch. But before a hundred years ago, light always meant fire. Whether it was the flame of a candle, an oil lamp, a campfire, or the blazing noonday sun, light was always accompanied by fire. And fire, everyone knew, must be respected. That’s one of the lessons learned from earliest childhood. Fire is powerful and dangerous. It does not compromise. In any confrontation, it is the person who will be changed by fire, and not the other way round. As Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Yet this consuming fire was something God’s people yearned for. In some mysterious way, light means life. John tells us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus says, “I am the Life” (John 11:25), and also “I am the Light” (John 8:12). Light is life: we live in light, and couldn’t live without it. In some sense, we live on light. It is light-energy that plants consume in photosynthesis–an everyday miracle as mysterious as life itself. When we eat plants, or eat the animals that eat plants, we feed secondhand on light. Light is converted into life, literally, with every bite we eat.”


“Through prayer, fasting, and honoring others above self, we gradually clear away everything in us that will not catch fire. We are made to catch fire. We are like lumps of coal, dusty and inert, and possess little to be proud of. But we have one talent: we can burn. You could say that it is our destiny to burn. He made us that way, because he intended for his blazing light to fill us. When this happens, “your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).”

“On the far side of everything–the Last Supper, the campfire denial, the Resurrection, and the Pentecost outpouring–Peter tries in a letter to make sense of what happened on Mt. Tabor that day. Peter saw God’s glory, and he knows it is for us. He says that God’s divine power calls us “to his own glory.” Through his promises we may “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4). “Partakers of the divine nature.” The life that is in Christ will be in us. In Western Christianity, we tend to take Scriptures like this metaphorically. When St. Paul refers to life “in Christ” some 140 times, we expect he means a life that looks like Christ’s. We try to imitate our Lord, and sing of following him and seeking his will. We ask “What would Jesus do?” We hope to behave ethically and fairly in this life, and after death take up citizenship in heaven. But it appears that Peter had learned to anticipate something more radical and more intimate: true oneness with Christ and personal transfiguration. We partake of, consume, the light and the life of Christ. We receive, not mere intellectual knowledge of God, but illumination.”

Hope For A Tree Cut Down

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I love the blogging world…the way one good thing leads to another good thing.

I was over at Missio Dei reading a great post by Jonathan Brink  about  The Great Emergence conference that was held in Memphis, TN Dec 4 – 6.  In the post he mentioned that Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television, got to open each session with sections of her book.  I wasn’t familiar with her work and went to check out her blog, Sarcastic Lutheran (which Jonathan was nice enough to link to).

Now stay with me…I started at Missio Dei and jumped over to Sarcastic Lutheran.

When I got to Nadia’s blog her most recent post was about a free album called Hope For A Tree Cut Down from Church of the Beloved.  So I clicked on that link. Turns out the album is available for free and it is hauntingly beautiful.  If you have trouble getting to Church of the Beloved (I had a little trouble – probably because they are getting a lot of hits) you can find it on ITunes as a podcast for free.

The title of the album is taken from Job 14:7-9:

At least there is hope for a tree:  If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.  Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil,  yet at the scent of water it will bud  and put forth shoots like a plant. 

Here are some good words about the album:

From their website, “That is what we are discovering together at Church of the Beloved – a hope.  Hope that something new is beginning that has very old roots.  Hope that God is growing life out of our devastation, trust out of our cynicism, love out of our fear, community out of our isolation….  And that’s what this album is about – fumbling into God’s grace.  It is a seismic and humble shift when our heart can hear the words that God has been saying to us for all our lives, ‘…nothing can separate you from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus’.  These songs say ‘Yes’ to God’s claim upon your life that, ‘You are my Beloved.’”

From elnellis.com Some highly creative and generous friends over at Church of the Beloved have recorded a fantastic set of music that stands in the spiritual and musical traditions of Sufjan, Colbalt Season and Over the Rhine- it evokes similar worshipful and emotive responses for me. This is an exemplary demonstration of contextual, local and indigenous worship that has come out of a faith community that is in touch with their creativity:

If you do download the record please share your appreciation with the folks who put this together. Please email them or leave a comment at their site.

An Advent Prayer

Advent is about waiting and preparing.

In recent years I have come to realize that this is not a time of mushy, sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus – but a time of waiting when one gathers strength and courage to encounter the adult Christ who calls us to lose ourselves in him and his mission.

In that spirit, I offer up Amy Carmichael’s poem “Make Me Thy Fuel” as a prayer during Advent.

Make Me Thy Fuel

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
~Amy Carmichael*, 1867-1951

What the heck…

This post is part of the December Synchroblog: Darkness and Light as Motifs of Spirituality. A list of contributors can be found at the end of this post.
I almost backed out of participating in this month’s synchroblog. To begin with, I am new at this blogging thing and still have a little anxiety about putting myself out there. In addition, I wasn’t that comfortable with the subject as I have been going through a spiritual transition over the last couple of years and am somewhat hesitant to declare what is light and what is darkness. But then I said, “what the heck”…so here goes:

 

 

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image found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/124906800/  some rights reserved: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en

 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

I went to an old time revival with my mother when I was nine years old and ended up “walking the aisle” and “accepting Jesus as my savior.” I was baptized, started attending church and was satisfied that I would “go to heaven” when I died. My parents were believers but not committed and I went away to college with a shallow faith.

I married in my late 20s, had two sons and got divorced all in less than ten years. When my husband left me I went through a very “dark” time (for the record, my husband and I remarried seven years later and are happily married today). After a lot of emotional ups and downs I did some serious reflection and decided that I wanted and needed my faith to amount to more than “life insurance”. I found a church, began to study the bible diligently and over time became a good evangelical Christian. I was a near perfect attendee, a generous volunteer and a sincere seeker of God. I was committed to following all that I was taught.

Fast forward…A couple of years ago something happened in my life (that’s another post for another time) that left me reeling and asking questions about a lot of stuff, including spiritual stuff. Through the course of processing what was happening in my life I began to realize that I thought some of the stuff the church was teaching was wrong or at least misleading. And that began a spiritual journey that I am still on and will probably be on for the rest of my life.

This journey has been a difficult and unsettling one for me. I was accustomed to having answers, being certain and able to argue my case. It seemed like all of a sudden all I had were questions, doubt and confusion. I experienced anger, sadness, resentment, shame, guilt and loss. I felt displaced and alone. How could I have believed that I was “in the light” when I had obviously been “stumbling around in the darkness?”  How could I keep from being deceived again? What if I was no closer to understanding the light now than I had been before? What was I supposed to do about all the times I had taught the wrong things to others, modeled the wrong things, thought the wrong things, said the wrong things? What was it about myself that made me enjoy the darkness so much that I remained in it for so long? How could I live out my faith in the place I was now inhabiting?

Over time, with the help of many of you in the blogging world, my husband and sons, and a few from my church community, I am learning to cope with the tension of living out my beliefs with enough humility that it doesn’t feel like I am being thrown off a cliff every time I have to come to grips with the possibility that what I believe may be wrong.   

I am learning that sometimes understanding the light means saying “I don’t know,” that light doesn’t always equal clarity and that things usually look a lot messier in the light.  I am learning that light seems to be a lot more about relationships than about facts and precepts, a lot more about love than law, and a lot more about inclusion than exclusion.  And I am learning as Henri Nouwen said:  in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness.

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For thoughts and musings from different perspectives check out these posts:

Phil Wyman Darkness: A Thin Place For My Soul

Adam Gonnerman On Being In Darkness

Lainie Petersen What The Mirror Doesn’t Tell Me

Jeff Goins Walking in the Light with Jesus

Bethany Stedman Light is Coming

Julie Clawson Darkness and Light

Kathy Escobar Light- I’ll Take a Sliver Anyday

Susan Barnes  and here’s a photo of one I made earlier

Joe Miller Discover Light in Darkness

Beth Patterson Advent: Awaiting the Ancient and the Ever New

Liz Dyer What the Heck

Sally Coleman Light into Darkness

Steve Hayes Lord of the Dark

Josh Jinno  Spiritual Motifs of Darkness and Light

KW Leslie Darkness versus blackness

Erin Word  Fire and Sacrifice

Ellen Haraoutunian Holy Darkness