Friday, April 27, 2012

John Baillie Prayer

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.  

For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:

For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life: 
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.
Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prayer for Strengthening of Will from Brenda Salter McNeil

“Come into me, divine, initiating, eternal will, Lord, command what you will and then will what you command.

I thank you, Lord, that my weak and insufficient will is now one with yours. May I know more and more what it means to be in-willed, indwelt by you. Thank you, Lord, that you are completing the healing work you have begun in me and you will continue it in this world and the next.

God fill me with your light and your love. Replace the empty places that were filled with distorted images and dependent relationship. Fill me with your presence, with your light, with images of the good and true and the beautiful. Spirit of God, now fill me from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head, fill every cell of my being with your presence. Come, Holy Spirit fill me and use me, I pray, for I give you all thanks and all glory and all praise.

I choose now to meet my God given needs in God-glorifying and health giving ways. And I ask, Lord, that you teach me to minister to others in the way you are now ministering to me. For I pray in your name. Amen."

From Brenda Salter McNeil, The Heart of Racial Justice

Friday, March 09, 2012

Penn State, Canadian Sunday School Mission, Western Hockey League and Boys Scouts: Accountability for the Language We Use to Talk About Sexual Abuse

A couple of weeks back a story ran in a local Calgary paper about a sexual abuse case at a church camp from the 70s. The abuser, Mark Archibald, received a sentence of one year of house arrest. The punishment did not fit the crime. The Calgary Herald provided excellent coverage and posted the articles online here, here and here.

The issue at play with this case and with many other cases in the public spotlight right now is how the abusers and the institutions which employed them try to justify, minimize and avoid accountability. In this particular case i was perplexed at how John Hand, former chair of the camp board where the abuse occurred, defended Archibald and seemed to display a dismissive attitude towards the victims. As a result i wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald expressing my point of view. Here is that letter:

"I was saddened to read the report of the abuse of three young people by Mark Archibald. On one level i appreciated former camp board chair's compassion for Archibald and his desire to see him restored to good standing with his religious community and for both parties to experience forgiveness. However i wonder if this church leadership group or any religious organization who go through these terrible events take enough time to become critically aware of how their ideals of "forgiveness", "restoration" and "reconciliation" often seem to favor the abuser and not the abused?

The fact that the board chair said that "we can apologize sincerely and make restitution" and think that is adequate for victims of sexual abuse seems to exhibit a pollyannaish view of reconciliation. (I am not even sure that what needs to be achieved is reconciliation, i would prefer the word justice.)

I do not doubt that Mr. Archibald has suffered humiliation and embarrassment but i think that people speaking publicly about such abuses need to work harder at respecting the wounds of the abused rather than the wounds of the abuser. For the former camp chair to defend Mr. Archibald and simultaneously accuse abuse victims of being unwilling to "grow and move on" seems archaic at best and completely myopic at worst. All the former camp chair gave us in his interview were sound bites from an impotent organization defending the heinous attacks of an abuser on the grounds of religious idealism.
And i for one have heard enough."

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Origen and Thoughts on Prayer

"One should not pray for the cool of spring in the heat of summer." Origen

"You shall not pray that facts are not facts." Jewish Rabbi

Prayer is one of the most befuddling and also meaningful activities that a human can participate in. It takes us away from our own idols, securities and puts us into a place of interaction and dialogue with a being who is not prone to our manipulations. Often it is incredibly humbling. Prayer is not a majic pill, it is not a way to manipulate God's favor. There is such a thing as praying badly. But i think even praying badly can be a good thing because if we keep at it we will discover God with us.

But if prayer is participated in with a disingenuous spirit and with a sloppy and self centered way it can also produce distorted results.

When i hear someone say "i prayed about such and such and God told me..." my own internal system of cautious suspicion goes on alert. Why? Because these statements are often the ultimate trump card in Christian religious conversations. Whenever we claim we have received divine sanction for something what else can be said? Can i disagree with what "God" says to another person? Well i can and i have but it can be an uncomfortable situation.

That is why i like some good even handed thinking about prayer. Prayer is not just an exercise to get what we want, however noble or good that may be. Nor is it a means to by-pass a hard work or effort in life. For example praying to win the lottery or that i would get an A on a test without applying myself is disengenuous. These are not prayers, they are simply self interested wishfulness.

Lent, the church season we are currently in, is supposed to help us to diminish and root out our illusions about our spiritual lives. Hopefully our prayers for ourselves, the world and our friends are going towards these ends.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mean Apostle Paul

Paul the apostle was a fighter, a bruiser, a pugilist and therefore he enjoyed a good rhetorical theological dust up. He got into it with competing religious groups and also those who were within the early Christian community. Though we modern folks see him as a bona fide apostle he had to claw and argue for the claim that his spiritual experience with Christ was just as legitimate as the other apostles (see 2 Corinthians 11). He also had the chutzpah to take on the Roman Empire.

Though his achievements were great, many people struggle with the writings of Paul today. I often hear people say that they don't like Paul. He comes across to polite and deferential North Americans as mean, sexist, pushy and hierarchical. He is not the kind of guy you would invite to a house party. I wonder what the wonderful writers at Her.meneutics would say about him?

In comparison to modern rules of civility and deference perhaps this assessment is true. Yet, Richard Rohr among others have argued that God had to choose somebody with a really big ego and with a lot of self-confidence to speak out for the truth of God while under theoppressive shadow of the Roman empire. Rohr contends that a person lives in a colonized culture like Paul did they are often "beholden" to the dominant group. They are humiliated, beaten down and "will not look into the eyes of their oppressor." Yet surprisingly Paul does the opposite. He speaks and writes with a bold and confident spirit. As Rohr writes, "think of the courage it took to walk into the great intellectual capital of Athens, the great imperial capital of Rome, and to stand up and talk publicly--expecting success!"

This is probably what threatens and turns people off when they read Paul today. He is, as Scot McKnight recently pointed out, a pugilist. Mcknight argues that Paul's arrogance and incredible self confidence is not just sheer ego but rather deeply rooted, through prayer and meditation, in the power of the resurrection.

Besides Rohr's contextualizing and McKnight's apologetic for Paul, we can also see that his arrogance makes for compelling reading. This man who was quick to toot his own horn, bragging about being the greatest sinner or greatest apostle or greatest Jew was also had big problems. Firstly, he had contended with an embarrassing thorn in the flesh and secondly, the reality that his fellow Jew's were not responsive to his preaching and evangelism. These failures were big personal griefs for a man who saw himself as "the greatest."

As he himself said: "Sometimes i think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world--to people and angels alike." Seriously, how can we not love a guy who thinks the angels are watching his every move? As renowned Pauline theologian Krister Stendahl encourages us, Paul is "so blatantly arrogant that one can somehow cope with it."

I agree, how about you?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


I found this picture on-line this morning. It caught me off guard at first as i tried to figure out what the artist was trying to convey.
The blogger who posted it wrote "it is a protest against the evangelical art form of pretty-picture-with-validating-scripture." What do you think of that?
Too much, not enough, silly, relevant?