Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peace to You

Contemplating   “Peace to You”
I recently ran across this quote by modern mystic Valentin Tomberg,

“Modern Science has come to understand that matter is only condensed energy.  Sooner or later science will also discover that what it calls energy is only condensed psychic force, which discovery will lead, in the end, to the establishment of the fact that all psychic force is the condensation, purely and simply, of consciousness (i.e. Spirit).” 

I have this mental image of a microscope peering into a table or a feather or into my own hand.  The magnified image shows that what I saw on the surface, what I thought was static and solid, is actually composed of pure flowing energy.  The energy itself is then somehow magnified and I discover that there is something even less dense than energy itself, it is prayers and attention and presence, a lighter and more spacious essence than even energy.  But then those prayers are in some mysterious way examined to reveal that there is even a more basic, pure, spacious, fundamental building block that gives form and life to those prayers and that something or better someone is what we call Spirit or God or Life, Truth, Love, Peace or whatever name we choose to use.  

A closer look at the hand image reveals that it is not actually made with lines but with words.  “Peace” and “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” from the Gospel of John 14:27 are what makes the image materialize.  This, in my mind, is what we are all made of at the deepest most sacred most ineffable level.  Our true, holy, pure essence (the image of God) is here at (actually within) our literal fingertips.  To realize that this deep peace is cursing through our bodies as well as through the bodies of all those around us, and then to ever so clumsily allow this indescribable “Isness” to form and animate and guide us, this is what our life is truly about. 

1.   What comes to mind as you look at this image?
2.   If at our core we are made of something good and wonderful why do we humans cause so much destruction and pain in the world.
3.   What are some things that seem to hinder you from living a life out of peace and love?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Non Sequitur

Contemplating “Non Sequitur”

We claim to be different.  But from our appearances, from our actions, from our business dealings, from the way we spend money, from what we watch on TV, from our vacations, from what we eat, from the houses we live in, from the cars we drive, from the words we use, from how we treat our neighbors, from our health, from what we worry about, from being truthful, from how we dress, from what we read… it is difficult to see any difference at all.   Is there really any difference?

1.  What catches your attention about this doodle?
2.   What scriptures come to mind?
3.   Do you believe we are supposed to be different from the world outwardly and inwardly?  If so how? 
4.   Can you think of Christians who are obviously different from the world?  In what ways do they stand out? 
5.   How was Jesus inwardly and outwardly different from the world? 
6.   How is God calling you to be different? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

How the World Ends

Contemplating  “How the World Ends”                                               

In her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard mentions the idea that the universe looks more like a great thought than a great machine. She says, "The question of who is thinking the thought is more fruitful than the question of who made the machine, for a machinist can of course wipe his hands and leave, and his simple machine still hums; but if the thinker’s attention strays for a minute, his simplest thought ceases altogether." This idea of God’s amazing and loving ability to keep the universe in existence by sheer thought really catches my attention. Especially since I can hold an uninterrupted thought for what, 30 seconds?
1.   What do you think of the idea of God keeping everything together by thought?
2.   What’s your attention span?  How long do you think you can hold a thought?  Try it.
3.   What tends to distract you?  How would you label these distractions (worries, fears, regrets, planning, ego, etc)?
4.   How might your day be different if you could give complete attention to everyone you met and everything you did?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Be Transformed

Contemplating  “Be Transformed”

I like it that the NIV translation uses the word "pattern" in Romans 12:2. The spiritual life is about noticing the patterns we are stuck in. Prayer practices, or spiritual disciplines, help us break free from these patterns. Once we begin to break free, once we begin to be truly transformed, those around us are affected in very deep ways.  "When one person finds peace, thousands are saved."
1.   Why do you think it is so difficult to notice the patterns of the world we are currently stuck in?
2.   How is it that prayer practices help us break free from patterns?
3.   What patterns do you need to break free from?
4.   Do you agree with the intriguing ancient quote "When one person finds peace, thousands are saved"? Why or why not?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Contemplating “Stunted”

As I drew this picture a vivid childhood memory came to mind.  I was standing on the sidewalk next to my elementary school.  My mother and Mr. Huff, the principle, were standing next to me.   We were looking up a long steep curved sidewalk admiring the huge new addition that more than doubled the size of the school.   I still remember how steep that sidewalk was had how large the new elementary school addition seemed.  But when I drive by my old elementary school today it looks much different than I remember.   That sidewalk isn’t very steep and that large building, well, it isn’t very large.  As we grow our perspective changes.  What seemed one way as a child seems much different as an adult.

Faith is the same.  Our eight-year-old theological beliefs, ideas, and structures fit us quite well when we were eight-years-old.  If, however, we continue to adhere to that same faith as grown adults we are bound to feel confined and frustrated.  We are trying to live and function in a faith that no longer fits.  I don’t believe this means God changes, I believe it means that as our hearts and minds become more open to God, God reveals to us a much larger faith then we could have imagined as a child.  This adult faith often requires much grappling but it is also one that is very spacious and wonderful and fits us quite well.

1.   What Scripture passages come to mind as you look as this picture?
2.   What happens when we have a faith that is a few sizes too small for us?
3.   What does a faith that is too small look like?
4.   What is the difference between this negative idea of a faith that is too small and the positive idea of having childlike faith?
5.   What tends to keep you confined in a smaller faith?
6.   Can your faith ever be too big?  Why or why not?

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Seeds Are You Watering?

Contemplating “What Seeds Are You Watering?”

We have within us the capacity to entertain a spectrum of emotions and desires.  Our lives can be filled with love and compassion as well as hate and revenge.  What is interesting is that we play a part in which emotions and desires manifest.  Whatever desire we pay attention to (feed and water) it will grow.  And, likewise, whatever we don’t give energy to doesn’t grow; it becomes smaller.  Complaining all the time will cause the seed of complaining to get bigger and bigger until one day we realize complaining has become a huge part of our character.  When we pay attention to being compassionate the seed of compassion will grow.   One day we realize we have become a compassionate person.   This is a simple yet profound truth. 

One aspect of the drawing that I like is the way the roots are surrounding one eye and one side of the face.   This reminds me that whatever we water will take root, and the roots go deep within. 

The one I love
The one I hate,
But the one I feed
Will dominate.

1.   What do you like about this drawing?
2.   In what ways do we water the negative seeds within us?
3.   How can we water the attributes we value and want in our life?
4.   How do we water the seeds (both negative and positive) in the lives of others?
5. What seeds have you been watering this week?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hard Sayings of Jesus

Contemplating  “Hard Sayings of Jesus”
I am so amazed with our obsession with cell phones. I just read an article that called cell phones the “new cigarettes.” We immediately pull them out when we walk out of a building, we’re constantly fiddling with them, we’re never without them, and we even take cell phone breaks on the job and between classes. There’s even a phenomenon called “phantom ringing” when your brain tricks you into thinking your cell is ringing when it really isn’t. We let this little object interrupt our dinner, time with family, worship services, concerts, and so on. Are we with anything else (let alone anyone else) more in life than our cell phones?
1.   It’s been reported that people have high levels of anxiety, stress, and insecurity when they don’t have their cell phones. Why is that?
2.   What other devices in our lives seem to take over and control us?
3.   What would happen if you turned off your cell phone for 24 hours?
4.   Which would you consider a harder saying of Jesus, to turn the other cheek or to get rid of your cell phone?