Saturday, September 28, 2019

Understanding God



"God is all in all, predictable and unpredictable, the existence of a mystery, and always greater than conceived."

Erwin K. Thomas, Interfaith Author  

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Books for Every Christian




25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read’s editor Julia L. Roller presented readers with much information about these books.  In each chapter a brief background was given about a book’s author.  What followed was a summary of each book’s major themes.  To help readers there was further guidance, and a key to excerpts selected from each selection.  At the end of every chapter there was a study guide with questions.

It was recognized the Bible couldn’t be supplanted as a premiere text.  So it wasn’t included as one of the books to be read.  Excluded too, were works of living authors.  This book was a compilation of a reflection of over 2,000 years, of saints, poets, and thinkers.  It provided a profound look about faith, showcased the cost of discipleship, and was meant to be a devotional for the contemplative.

There were benefits to reading such a work.  Readers would experience a renewal of the soul that would lead to a transformative life.  Each book’s material was challenging, and should be read, and reread. This would certainly lead to a greater intimacy with God.  People would also be blessed in their lifelong quest in knowing their Creator.

Books that stood out in the 25 entries were:  Confessions  - St. Augustine was noted as the first Christian spiritual autobiography; The Imitation of Christ  - Thomas à Kempis offered instructions about Christian living; Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross commented on the journey of purification; The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer elaborated on submitting to the yoke of Christ; Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis puts controversies of the moment in proper perspective; and The Return of the Prodigal Son - Henri J.M. Nouwen demonstrated what is meant to have an affirmation of love.

These selected works that were presented chronologically were not a list of the best Christian classics.  They represented various literary genres including: poetry, fiction, and biography. The contributing authors dug deep in the subject matter.  These books are available free on the website of Christian Classics Ethereal Library: <www.ccel.org>.    
  


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Forms of Worship




Forms of Worship

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), was a prominent figure in the Transcendental Movement that originated in New England in the middle of the 19th century.  Emerson’s Nature spelled out his philosophy.  He drew some of his ideas from the German Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), of the Age of Enlightenment that saw everyone as having a spark of divinity.  An individual’s nature was thought to be a microcosm of the world.

Many spiritual believers around the world work in industries, corporations, companies, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.  In the United States the tenets of the constitution speak of the separation of Church and State.  In Islamic countries there aren’t such prohibitions.  Religion is part and parcel of government.  But in America workers’ minds are free to think and ponder what they wish.  Their actions won’t be public, but as they do their jobs they could silently glorify God - their Provider, and Sustainer of their lives.

In countries it’s a different story at churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues.  Believers are free to worship as they please, and they do so mainly on Saturdays or Sundays.  But some religious centers are open daily for prayer.  Whether worshipers use the Bible, Torah, Koran, Upanishads (Veda), or other sacred texts it’s their choice.  Their scriptural readings are also supplemented with prayer books.  At ceremonies there are priests, rabbis, shamans, or other holy men, or women presiding. Prayer in places of worship is known for its rituals.  The national religion of Japan – Shintoism, has thousands of kami (spirits) that take the form of people, places, natural phenomena, and revered objects.  Like in Japan, Chinese have altars at home where they venerate deceased family members

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Images of Women




Images of Women

Historically women were depicted in the American society as individuals who were docile, bound solely for the purpose of taking care of the home, and raising children.  They washed dishes, clothes, clean house, raise the kids, and did chores as their responsibilities.  The mass media latched on to these roles and elaborated on them, portraying women as having happy family lives.  But Ed Koch (19242013), a lawyer and politician thought differently when he said, “Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest and we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.”  For years as women were saddled with domestic responsibilities, still they showed they had diverse talents.

With stereotypes males grew up believing females were to be seen as sexual objects.  Even today in popular media there continues to be much focus on feminine beauty, and their sex appeal.  Presently, it’s more than being blonde and blue-eyed.  Beautiful women are seen in every ethnic group, and shades of complexion.  Kat Graham (b. 1989), Swiss-born American actress, model, singer and dancer wrote, “There was a time when men thought it was sexy to have a house wife waiting for him to come home from work in her slippers, but in modern society, I think an independent woman is even more sexy.”  Today’s women are more independent because for the most part they have broken through the glass ceiling of this world that held them back in society.  Presently American society still lacks meritorious promotions, and equal pay for equal work.

Faith-Filled Women

Faith-filled women are a special breed.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, and Queen of the Universe, is an ideal role model for Christian women.  She witnessed the crucifixion of her Son - Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Eleanor Roosevelt (18841962), a politician, diplomat, and the longest serving First Lady of the United States said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”  This was very much like Mary.  Christian women continue to emulate her purity and devotion.

Regardless of how intelligent and spirit-filled women are some men still view them as beings to manipulate.  Some films and TV programs depict women as flaky and unstable.  Some news clips portray female reporters as being emotional when reporting tragic stories, and a few male journalists have criticized them for becoming too personally involved, rather than being detached, and objective. 

Women’s Role

Why must women be stuck in a world that’s mainly shaped by men?  Anaїs Nin (19031977), an author born to Cuban parents in France, but living in the United States wrote, “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than create it herself.”  For Nin, a woman must shoulder her responsibilities, and not just rely solely on men.  Women have done so in their religious lives in personalities like St. Joan of Arc, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who are faithful Christians to emulate.  In the secular world there are also prominent women in the military, sports, arts, politics, medicine, engineering, science, technology, and executives.  These outstanding women are visionaries, wonderful mothers, proven creators, and renowned image builders.         

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Not in God's Name




Not in God’s Name

Jonathan Sacks’ Not in God’s Name is rather interesting discourse on sibling rivalry as the cause of religious violence.  His discussion is based largely on the Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud.  He analyzes the story of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Esau and Jacob, and the sisters Laban, Rachel, and Leah.  Sacks points out that what is important about these stories in Genesis was the fact that they led to blessings and redemption of all concerned.

Deuteronomy contains the word ‘love’ more than any other Mosaic books.  To Sacks ‘memory’ has also become a moral force that is found both in Exodus and Deuteronomy.  But the virtue of ‘love’ has to be tempered with ‘justice’ for laws and rights of the poor, and destitute to be upheld.  He addresses the Islamic prediction and divisions that resulted with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.  And Sacks envisions that the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam should be able to live in peace.

It was interesting to learn of the ‘commonalities’ of the three Abrahamic traditions.  Yet Sacks shows that the reading of scripture calls for study and reflection.  For the ‘Word of God’ is subject to different interpretations, and much depends on time and place.  He states how the Hebrew language differs than that of Greek, and how believers in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have differed in their beliefs.  Yet he argues that there should be no place for fundamentalist beliefs in society.  People should do unto others like what they would like to be done to themselves.  And they ought to love God, their neighbor, and the stranger.  For divine living is all about ‘forgiveness’ and ‘reconciliation.’  So why nations can’t heed these principles and live in peace?     

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Loving Shepherd




A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
 
W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 grew up and lived in East Africa surrounded by herders.  He explains much of what happens resembles those shepherds in the Middle East.  For eight years he was a sheep rancher, and was engrossed with the stories of the Bible.  He therefore uses natural phenomena to provide insights into supernatural truth.  Keller points out that present day city dwellers miss biblical teachings because they are unable to relate to nomadic folks who live in simplicity. 

He brings to bear a shepherd’s insight to this devotional Psalm.  He empathizes with David himself and refers to Psalm 23 as “Davids Hymn of Praise to Divine Diligence.” With “I shall not want,” God points out that in our lives like sheep we’ll be free from friction, for he has prepared an ideal banquet for our every need.  God leads us to “still waters.” He doesnt want us to toil on dry, semi-arid soil without having deep, clean, and pure water to drink.  This situation is ideal for sheep grazing.

God “restores my soul.”  This happens when sheep becomes distressed, but here God is ready to comfort and give them rest.  In “paths of righteousness” is our assurance that his flock will strive.  Even as they “walk through the valley” is the fact that our Savior knows firsthand the terrain of our lives, just like any shepherd, who leads his sheep in mountainous territory.

“Thy rod and thy staff” brings the sheep comfort as they are guided by a loving, and caring Savior.  “Thou preparest a table,” Keller feels this is similar to the feast on Table Mountain near Cape Town, Africa.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” is his everlasting care exercised over the sheep. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” climaxes this proud and joyous Psalm.

Psalm 23 is considered the nightingale of Psalms.  Its the epitome of feeding, guiding, governing, and defending the sheep.  Its climax terminates in everlasting rest not one of sorrow and pain, but joy, hope, and pleasure.  People can say, “O death, where is thy sting!”  “Thy rod dost comfort me” as we journey and feed on his Holy Word.  Now we reach the zenith, and are guests of Gods everlasting banquet.  Keller captures it all in his wonderful little book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.            

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Religions in Asia





Religions in Asia

Asia is the largest of the seven continents in the world.  It is also the birthplace of most of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  These combined religions have spun off other forms of religious traditions.  On the Asian subcontinent alone there are over three billion religious adherents.

South Asia

Hinduism is one of the major religions in India that has spread around the world.  Of India’s approximate billion people 80% are Hindus.  Hinduism is said to have originated in the Indus Valley.  India’s sacred books the Vedas are considered eternal in time.  Hindu’s religion has to do with the ordering of life according to dharma that will lead to a favorable rebirth.  A Hindu’s life which is expressed in the division of labor is reflected in a caste system.  Brahman – Hindu’s major deity is the producer of all things, but there exists in Hindus an underlying self or soul.  It is this soul that continues to be reborn (samsara) at different levels as animals as well as humans.  This process is governed by the natural law of karma.  In Hinduism God is manifested in different forms, so there are many gods.  But these have been classified in a threefold manner in the form of Brahma – as creator, Vishnu – preserver, and Siva – destroyer.  But a Hindu’s worship begins by evoking the specific presence of a deity at a temple or shrine.  On India’s Independence in 1947 the nation was designated a secular state and all religions were recognized.  Religions like Sikhism and Jainism could trace their origin from Hinduism.  Hinduism is the main religion in Nepal and Bali.   It is practiced in other countries outside the subcontinent by predominantly Indian expatriates.

Buddhism – Gautama Buddha, “Awakened One” was born (c. 563–483 BCE).  He was the founder of Buddhism, one of the major religions and philosophical systems of southern and eastern Asia and of the world. Buddhist traditions are Theravada – adheres to the orthodox teachings of Buddha, Mahayana – its schools appeal to all followers regardless of class, and Vajrayana (Tibet) – takes on an esoteric form.  Samara (Cycles of Rebirth) is the ever-changing state of things from which Buddhists desire to be liberated.  While Moksha is Buddhists’ final liberation where with nirvana they reach an unperturbed state that is the essence of liberation.  Buddhist populations live in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion.  Guru Nanak (1469–1539) was the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikhism religion.  He was born in Talwandi, west of Lahore.  Nanak travelled throughout the Indian countryside to Assam, around Panjab, and to Sri Lanka.  He visited Ladakh, and went all the way to Mecca, Medina, and Baghdad.  In every place he taught, sang hymns, held discussions with Hindus and Muslims, and established a dharmsala as a worship center.  India has c.14 million Sikhs, most of them live in Panjab.

Southwest Asia

Christianity (c.4 CE) has the largest number of believers in the world.  Judaism (c. 1800 BCE), that is the religion of Abraham and Hebrews’ offshoot is Christianity and Islam.  In Christianity Jesus Christ - a Jew is the Son of God.  God the Father and Holy Spirit complete the Trinity.  Christianity’s major problem is “sin.”  It’s a religion with angels, demons, and saints.  Believers use the Bible – Old and New Testament, as its sacred text.  Christ came to earth, died, and resurrected to save mankind.  Christian practices include baptism and the Eucharist (communion).  Since the 20th century a number of Asian Jewish sects have lived in Israel.

Islam is a monotheistic and Abrahamic faith tradition, with Allah as God and Muhammad (c.570–632 CE) as its Prophet.  Muhammad’s revelations are recorder in the Qur’an – the sacred book of Muslims.  Muslims believe in the Five Pillars – repeating the creed, reciting prayers in Arabic, giving to the poor, fasting from sunrise to sunset, and making a pilgrimage (hajj) in one’s lifetime to Mecca.  The two major Muslim sects are the Sunni and Shi’ite.  The Sunnis comprise about 80% of the Muslim population.  Sufism is another mystical sect. There are over twenty major Muslim countries in Asia that dot the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.  Some Islamic nations outside the Middle East are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.  

East Asia

Taoism - Laozi Tzu (601 BC–531 BC) is traditionally regarded as the foremost founder of Taoism, and is associated with the ‘original’ or ‘primordial Taoism.’  The work written on bamboo tablets attributed to him is Tao Te Ching dated in the 4th century BC.  Taoism or Daoism is a Chinese religious and philosophical system which is inextricably intertwined.  It has come to influence China’s main beliefs, viz. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shamanism.  Tao is ‘the way’ of living in harmony with ‘human virtue.’

Shinto - Modern Japan has seen the growth of different types of Shinto.  Shinto has no organized doctrine or tenets.  It is considered a religion of participation at the shrines in the traditional Japanese rites and festivals.  The ideal setting for Japanese practitioners is at a precinct an enclosed sacred area with a gate, ablution area, sacred buildings of the main sanctuary that houses kami (spirits), and a worship area.

Other Religions

More than one-in-five people in the Asia-Pacific region does not identify with any religion (21%).   The share of people in the region who are followers of folk or traditional religions – including Chinese folk religions and Australian aboriginal religions – is 9%. Christians comprise 7% of the region’s population, while Jews and adherents of other religions each make up less than 1% of the population.

http://www.globalreligiousfutures.org/regions/asia-pacific




Friday, September 13, 2019

Fields of Blood




Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood will have a reader ask the question, “Is violence endemic to human nature?”  From mankind’s early beginnings there was a great struggle for survival.  When our ancestors were hunter-gathers they had to hunt and kill their prey.  These humans lived through violent periods in the Paleolithic and Neolithic age.  Later Mediterranean peoples continued to experience struggles during the Constantine’s empire, Crusaders, Spanish Inquisition, Wars of Religion, Thirty Years’ War, and Reformation.

In the 17th and 18th century religion was rejected in the West.  During the Age of Enlightenment John Locke propounded the belief of the separation of Church and State, but this period saw the rise of scientific and cultural racism.  In Europe and America the suppression of the indigenous populations and African slave trade for economic profit flourished.  And Germans, who were world-leading secular thinkers, gave rise to death camps under Hitler that exterminated millions of Jews.

Secularism was marked by Western imperialism, and an imbalance of power.  But what became of Asoka’s concept of peace, India’s ahimsa – non-violence, China’s Golden Rule, and Jesus Christ’s teachings to love your neighbor as yourself?  In India there were renouncers, European monks took to monasteries, and Confucian and Taoist’s ideals, but still violence was prominent.

In the 20th century violence continued to rage in the Middle East.  Historical observers point to many reasons, but one of Islam’s tenets is that of peace.  Still there was 9/11, the Israeli-Arab conflicts, jihads, and the horrendous effects of the Jews Six-Day-War.  Yet people were witnessing the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, the rise kookism of the Israeli secular right, and fundamentalism in America.  It appears that with the rise of more nations with nuclear weapons humankind’s future has become more problematic.            

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Letter A - Inspirational Living





Letter A - Inspirational Living

Abundance

The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!”  (Ps 52:6-7).

People must make God their strength and not trust in an abundance of earthly riches.  When we love the Lord he will preserve and plentifully reward us.  He blesses us when we give bread to the poor.  If we lack wisdom and ask him, he will bless us liberally.  It is God who provides all grace, and makes us sufficient in every good work.  He prepares a table in the presence of our enemies, anoints our heads with oil, and our cup runs over: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23:6).

Adoption

And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18).

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who curse and persecute us, so that we may be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.  As we pray we are taught to say, “Our Father in heaven” (Mt 6:9).

People are advised to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  We must not think about what we shall eat, drink, or wear.  For our heavenly Father knows that we need these things.  But as many who receive him, to them he gives the power to become children of God for those who believe in his name.

Many who are led by the Spirit are children of God.  This Spirit that we have received is not one of bondage, but of adoption which enables us to cry out, “Abba, Father.”  He affirms that if children, then we are joint-heirs with Christ.  If we share his suffering we may also be glorified together with him.  The Lord disciplines those he loves and scourges every child who he receives.

Adultery

“You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14).

God warns us that we shall not lie carnally with our neighbor’s wife to defile ourselves with her.  He said that whosoever divorces his wife, and marries another commit adultery against her.  If a woman divorces her husband, and marries another she commits adultery.  A man may also commit adultery in his heart if he looks at a woman to lust after her.  He will however commit adultery if he is bound by law as long as she lives.  If the husband is dead a woman is released from the law with him.  But if her husband is alive, and she marries another man she will be called an adulteress.  But if he dies she is free from that law to marry another man again.

Affliction

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy (Ps 140:12).

The Psalmist declared, “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commandments give me delight” (Ps 119:143).  People are reminded that although they walk through the valley of the shadow of death they will fear no evil, for God is with them.  His rod and staff are comforting.  We must not fear for he is with us, so be not dismayed because he is our God.  He will strengthen us with his right hand.

In The Beatitudes Jesus Christ taught:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt 5:3-12).

Alms

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured in your lap.  For with the measure  you use, it will be measured to you (Lk 6:38).

The Lord said that we should honor us with possessions and the first fruits of all our increase.  So that our barns will be filled with plenty and our vats will overflow with new wine.  Believers are further told not to despite their neighbor’s sins, but when we show mercy on the poor they are happy.   People are to give alms of what they have and all will be well with them.  They are encouraged to sell whatever they have to build up a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches, or moth destroys.

Concerning the widow’s mite the Lord explained how this poor woman has cast in the collection plate more than all those with their riches.  We therefore mustn’t do our charitable deeds before men or women to be seen by them.  Otherwise, we have no reward from our Father in heaven.

Ambition 

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mt 16:26).

People consist of physical and non-physical characteristics.  Their souls are immaterial parts of their person-hood.  To lose one’s soul is tantamount to eternal death and damnation.  For, believers who have found grace, and forgiveness through Christ are assured of everlasting lives.  This is the most noble and dignified ambition of Christian believers.  It is the fulfillment of God’s plans for his creation.  It is therefore wise to resist temptations for worldly riches, honor, and glamour, by turning toward our savior  and loving God.

Angels 

No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (Ps 91:10-11).

God’s mighty angels exist among us and are lights that we call guardian angles.  These are bright angelic spirits on missions to guide and protect us from harm.  Some appear in human form, while others are benevolent spirits.  These amiable companions defend us in the best possible ways.  Unlike the angels of darkness they perpetuate what is best for our lives.

Anger 
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel (Prov 15:18).

Much of chapter 15 of Proverbs is about speech communication.  A gentle or conciliating answer prevents wrath.  If however our response is harsh and ill-timed it stirs up personal emotions, and soon this can turn into an argument.  Hot-tempered people can stir up strive where there is none.  A wise person is able to soothe contention and cool it down once it starts.  Often, it is not what we say, but how we say it that prompts an unpredictable answer.        

Anointing 
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:38).

The gospel message went out to the Jews first.  Jesus is however Lord of all – Jew and Gentile alike.  His audiences heard the story about his baptism by John, the Baptist that spread throughout Judea.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and lived a life of selfish service.  God was with him.  He did good works healing those who were sick, and oppressed by the devil.

Apostasy
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God  (Heb 3:12).

The original recipients of this letter were believers who were addressed as brethren.  These were in danger of turning away from the faith and had to be on guard against having pernicious hearts.  For, if they continued down this road, God would forsake them unless they repented.  They were therefore urged to remain committed to the assembly, to urge each other in faith, love, good works, and from falling away. 

Their unbelief would be the distrust in the truthfulness of God's word.  The brethren must therefore hold on to their faith to the end of their lives.  They ought not to forsake Christ, for other religions that do not have the answers to sin.  This was their duty, for to fall away was to be hardened by deceitfulness, that looks beautiful but is deadly sin.

Apostles 

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (Acts 2:43).

Those assembled in the temple felt a sense of reverence and awe at the wonders and signs of the apostles.  These were amazing miracles, for their hearts were quickened when they were struck with bewilderment.  The apostles were the conduits through whom these amazing things were happening.
Much of what occurred was beyond their expectations, but essential for their spiritual growth as a church.  Through these revelations the apostles were able to validate their divine, and ordained positions as instruments of God.  To the attendees these wonders, and signs attested to the truthfulness of being witnesses for Christ

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Religious Acts




Religious Acts 


“Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better.  If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”   
Tullian Tchividjian (b. 1972), professor of Theology and pastor  


“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”
 Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906–2001), author and aviator     


“God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
Billy Graham (b. 1918), evangelical preacher


 “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement    


 “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), South African retired Anglican bishop    . 


 “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.  This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”
 Albert Camus (1913–1960), French author and philosopher   
      

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Case for God





The Case for God

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong presents a most unsettling picture of mankind’s quest to define God.  Every era from antiquity, Greeks, Romans, medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, modern, and the post-modern age based its understanding on the knowledge and culture of that period.  These beliefs of Rousseau’s concept of a universal machine, Newton’s God and the universe, Darwin’s evolution, Einstein’s relativity, post-modern atheists of the “God is dead” movement, and the rise of fundamentalism gained some traction.  But the search of God continued to be illusive with detractors.  It was however determined that the rise of scientific evidence was based on measurement, while religious beliefs centered on virtues.  In the epilogue Armstrong did an excellent analysis of what she saw as the foundation of religious beliefs.  Nevertheless the contents of this book would be rather disturbing to believers who think they understand their God.     

Monday, September 2, 2019

On Labor Day




On Labor Day
God thank you for the diversity
That has graced our lands
We have hailed from Europe,
Asia, Africa, and Latin America

Divine Essence we have evolved
As hunter-gatherers
To farmers, builders,
Educators, warriors, and peacemakers
But behind it all was your guidance

We have developed as loving fathers and mothers
Raised families in communities
And build nations
But it was by your grace
That your gifts have shaped our destiny

Eternal Spirit we are a nation
That has been shaped by your blessings
As Jews, Christians, Muslims,
Hindus, Taoists, and atheists
But still we are citizens
Not only of America, but the world

“Divine Essence, let your freedom reign as we undertake our mission.  Guide and bless us that we uphold our interdependence in society, striving to live, and work in peace.”
Amen 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Family at Prayer





 A Family at Prayer
 

Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.  May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

Psalm 88:1-2 


Dad’s mind was on Saturday because he considered it to be our Sabbath Day.  On this day, as soon as we awoke he summoned us to pray.  The kids all gathered in the living room and knelt.  Dad would then pray with us from his heart.  “Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly ask you to continue to bless our family.  We’re most thankful for the many blessings you have showered on us.  We’re especially grateful for our health, food, and shelter.  Although, we don’t have much, we’re most thankful.”

Amen!

“We humbly ask you to continue to bless our work, and especially the efforts of mom, who does so much.  We thank you for granny Sarah, Edwin, Squee, and Boyie for all they do.  Thank you for our family, and the kids, who are in school.  Help us to have joyful and kind hearts.

Amen!

“Please continue to guide us in having a loving home.  Be with our neighbors and friends.  And help us so that we would view strangers we meet as angels of peace.” 

I always thought when I heard this prayer that some strangers could well be devils in disguise.  It was dad’s way of helping us see the good in people.

Dad continued, “Help us to envision living in your heavenly kingdom, forever and ever, amen!”  Soon he began chanting, “Miracles, miracles, God of miracles, miracles, miracles, God of miracles!”

I was always wondered about dad’s repetitive chanting.  It was his belief that all things were miracles.  In discussing these beliefs he would say, “Show me anything, and I’ll see a miracle.”  As a child I never understood when he said even bad things could be miracles.  Soon I thought Christ dying on the cross was the epitome of evil, but look at all the good that came from this bad act.

Again we sang, Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us!”
“Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us!” We responded.

For dad, his chant was adequate enough in asking God to forgive us of our sins.  As he knelt before us he was saying, “God’s in control.  God’s in our soul.” We repeated, “God’s in control.  God’s in our soul.”

Undoubtedly, dad believed God was the master of our destiny.  We each had a soul that ought to be guided by his purpose.  This was what he taught us.  Soon dad raised his eyes toward the ceiling and said, “God’s the way, the truth, and light.  God’s our delight.”

We repeated, “God’s the way, the truth, and light.  God’s our delight.”

Dad’s religious fervor was overwhelming.  As we knelt some of us shifted from side to side trying to make ourselves comfortable on wooden floors.    But dad however was oblivious to our discomfort.  I wondered if such prayers had anything to do with the people we became in life.  In confidence, dad persisted, “With God all things are possible.  With God all things are possible.”

This saying reflected his beliefs that all things whether big or small, God was able to transform according to his ultimate purpose.

Again, dad implored God’s forgiveness.  “God, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.”

Humbly we responded, “God, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.”

Our favorite prayers followed, “The 23rd Psalm,” “Our Father,” and “Hail Mary.”  Dad then concluded this devotion with “May God’s peace, be always with you. Amen!”  And we responded, “May God’s peace, be always with you. Amen!”

Often I noticed some of my younger brothers and sisters had trouble following dad’s prayers.  The responses they blurted out were funny as they stumbled over their words.  The older kids giggled and immediately we received a warning look from Dad.  He said, “This was no time to fool around.”


Once the devotion was over we returned the furniture to its proper place.  But while we were praying mom was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  As soon as she entered the living room she asked dad how we did.  It was mom’s belief, “A family, who prayed would be together.”  She believed that we were all members of the Church of Christ, and saw our living room as a place of worship.  As soon as the prayers were concluded dad kissed each of us on the forehead before he left the room.  After breakfast, we did house work, and planned for church on Sunday.