Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Gate Of Heaven Is Everywhere

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Christine Sine is once again hosting an Advent Blog Series on her blog Godspace.  The series is called “Jesus Is Near: How Do We Draw Close?”This post is my contribution to the series.  Christine will share at least one contribution daily on her blog, where she also provides a list of all the contributors.

“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent

and God is shining through it all the time.

God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything – in

people and in things and in nature and in events   …

The only thing is we don’t see it  …

I have no program for this seeing.  It is only given.

But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

–          Thomas Merton

 

Years ago I believed that drawing near to God required me to become someone other than who I was/am.  Although I became a follower of Christ while the old hymn “Just As I Am” was sung, I didn’t believe being myself would allow me to get very close to God.

It took me many years to begin to understand that being myself – my real self as opposed to my false self – was not only what would enable me to draw near to God; but, to my amazement and surprise, reconciliation with God and others was to be achieved through reconciliation with myself – my made-in-the-image-of-Christ self.

I don’t need to leave myself – my true self – to become spiritual – to commune with God – to see God manifested in everywhere, in everything – to walk through the gate of heaven that is everywhere – in people – in things – in nature – in events.  It is my false self that must die so that my true self may emerge.

My false self finds it’s identity in what I am not (I’m not like “those” people), or in a group who shares some common experience, or in a person who makes me feel like I belong.  My false self is consumed with personas and masks that hide my feelings, my failures, my passions, my fears, my desires in order to pretend to be what I perceive to be expected from me.

My false self is telling me right now, as I write this, that I must get busy and do something to become my true self … but the truth is I cannot do it – I cannot think or work myself into being real enough to draw near to God.  Becoming real is something that happens to us in the midst of our life.  Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”

In other words, it grasps us in the midst of our ordinary life. Being real is an experience  – during prayer, in the midst of suffering, while fully experiencing our place in creation, being forgiven or loved, enjoying art or relationship … it is not based on any sense of merit or accomplishment – it is a gift.  A gift that allows you to see a child sleeping, hear a voice singing, feel a breeze blowing with spontaneous awe and gratitude; a gift that allows us to be mindful of difficult feelings when they begin to surface – feelings of anger, fear, boredom, sadness, frustration, anxiety – that can be acknowledged to ourself and to God as if we were holding the feeling in our hand and presenting it to ourself and to God; a gift that allows me to look upon events and people with sacred attention and be vulnerable rather than defensive, judgemental, controlling and/or manipulative.

The fact that we cannot think or work ourself into being real enough to draw near to God does not mean that we cannot end up spending our life working to nurture and maintain our false self.  Our realization of our false self, our struggle to remove our masks, our willingness to dwell silently in the presence of God, to allow God to live his love through us, to be present in the here-now – these things help us to receive the gift of the really real – the gift of being our true self – so that all our enterings and leavings become a movement into the presence of God because “the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

“Everything I see, hear, touch, feel, taste, speak, think, imagine, is completing a perfect circle God has drawn.”  – Meister Eckhart

Prayer For The Week – Look here, Lord.

Look here, Lord

Things were bad this week in our community.

Someone was shot and killed.

The gun violence keeps increasing.

People are afraid.

Where are you Lord?

Are you asleep?

I need your help.

You’re the one who brought me into this place, so this is your problem too.

Are you going to enlighten me and show me how to respond to this?

Are you going to intervene?

What do we do?

What are you going to do about this situation?

– Pastor Judly Adams

 

Pastor Adams is a pastor in Kingston, Jamaica.  Kingston is a very poor city with a high rate of violent crimes.


Six Word Story #1 – Scars

According to legend Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

and called it his best work.

It’s not known if the story is true or not or if Hemingway is the one who wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

However, the story itself has continued to inspire people to attempt to write their own six word stories.

There are websites, books and contests devoted to the idea.

In the spirit of those who have gone before me in this endeavor I am going to attempt to offer up a six word story now and then here at Grace Rules.  I’ve tried this a few times and it is pretty hard.  The challenge is to come up with six words that create a vivid enough picture for the reader to immediately be able to imagine a story.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Finally, someone saw past her scars.


Inerrancy Of Scripture: A Reaction To Modernism

 

I do not beleive in the inerrancy of scripture.   I fully acknowledge that my opinion and understanding may be wrong. At the same time, I would add that I have also spent many years seriously studying scripture, living as a committed follower of Christ and have not formed my opinion in a vacuum or in a hurry.

Many would say that there are serious scholars who have been able to carefully harmonize the contradictions in scripture in a way that is acceptable and thoughtful. My experience over the years has been that there are many Christians (many of who are professional clergy) who flippantly explain away contradictions and  I have not personally found even the most careful harmonization of contradictions in scripture sufficient enough for me to continue to claim that scripture is inerrant.

Before I continue I do want to clarify that I am not saying that the many contradictions are a serious threat to the authority or value or credibility of scripture but that our resistance to acknowledge the contradictions is a threat to these things. I may have a different view about the authority of scripture than some who are reading this but that is a different discussion and I don’t believe it hinges on whether or not scripture is inerrant.

Many who believe in the inerrancy of scripture also believe that has been the position of Christians since the formation of the canon.  That is simply not true.   Discussions of inerrancy did not even take place until the modern age. Before then you would find the position being along the lines that there is no false teaching in scripture but that is a long way from claiming scripture is inerrant. In addition,  some might be surprised to find that there are many great and respected theologians through out history who have believed there were (and are) inaccuracies and errors in scripture – people such as Martin Luther, John Chrsyostom, Calvin, Matthew Henry, Charles Hodge to name a few. The fact is that no ancient church council ever debated the issue of inerrancy, let alone announced favor of it and no traditional creed or reformed confession addresses the issue of inerrancy. In other words, the current insistence on inerrancy has its origins in late 19th and early 20th century reactions to modernism. IMO this is a false dichotomy that many thoughtful Christians refuse to accept.

In recent times, I have also begun to believe that the insistence of inerrancy in regards to scripture is a stumbling block and obstacle to what we can learn from scripture.  In addition I have also observed that the insistence of inerrancy tends to make an idol out of scripture among our communities of faith resulting in the displacement of Christ as the center.

Step Away From The Keyhole

This post is part of the November Synchroblog, “Seeing Through The Eyes Of The Marginalized”.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day. You can find a list of all the participants at the end of this post.  If you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Being “marginalized” means more than just belonging to a minority. Marginalized people are pushed to the margin because a society refuses to acknowledge their needs, their beliefs, their value, their rights and their concerns.  As a follower of Christ, I want to reach out and help people who are marginalized – I want to be a good ally, who not only empowers marginalized people to believe that they matter and that what they have to offer has value, but also to change society and systems that continue the cycles of marginalization and oppression.  Living that out is hard and even those of us who are sincere and well intentioned are prone to make mistakes.  Here are some things I have been learning as I attempt to become a good ally to some dear friends of mine who often find themselves in the margins.

PRIVILEGE

Someone said, “People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.”  That is what happens to us.  We see the world through our position of privilege and it robs us of a realistic perspective – we need to step away from the keyhole we have been peering through, throw open the door and walk out into the open. Privilege is the biggest obstacle that an ally of any marginalized person or group has to overcome.  It traps us into mindsets that make it almost impossible for us to understand what it means to be marginalized.  This obstacle can be effectively dealt with and overcome, but many (maybe even most) allies haven’t taken the time to confront their own privilege and the part it plays in the oppression of others.  Most are so accustomed to their privilege that they aren’t even consciously aware of it – white, male, straight, healthy, affluent, employed, included, heard, affirmed – whatever our privilege is, we need to acknowledge it, confront it and learn about how it is part of the problem. Without acknowledging the privilege we hold we cannot truly understand the experience of the marginalized or effectively contribute to their betterment.

HUMILITY

The lack of humility is a definite barrier for those who want to see through the eyes of marginalized people and work for justice.  The more one learns about privilege and oppression the more one will recognize oppressive attitudes and behaviors they have held, how little they know about what it is like to be marginalized, and how many things one has done or said in the past that is now considered to be dreadful … in other words, if you want to see through the eyes of the marginalized, be a good ally and fight for justice get ready to be comfortable with humility.  Becoming a good ally means we have to give up the power that privilege has afforded us and allow humility to create space in us to listen, learn and grow.

INDIVIDUALS

It is easy for us to forget that those who are marginalized and oppressed are individuals with unique stories of their own.  People within a marginalized group have unique and individual needs and concerns.  We need to take the time to build authentic relationships with marginalized people, to listen to their stories, to see them as more than a project or a cause, to connect with them, learn from them and experience day to day life with them.  The only effective way to empower marginalized people to believe they matter and are valuable is through individual interaction.

What help can you offer to those who want to become good allies to people who are marginalized and oppressed?

Here’s a list of all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:

Kathy Escobar – Sitting At The Rickety-Card-Table-In-The-Family-Room For Thanksgiving Dinner

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight

Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole

John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways

Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People

Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem

Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body

K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are

Jacob Boelman – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Peter Walker – Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Cobus van Wyngaard – Addressing the Normalized Position

Tom Smith – Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Annie Bullock – Empty Empathy

Christen Hansel – Foreigners and Feasts

Sonja Andrews – On Being Free