Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Why Pray?

I was reading this today on and had to share:

Q: Why should we pray? I have a hard time being able to believe that talking to God can alter the entire course of the universe.

A: This is an important question, and although it’s very simple and obvious, a good answer would take a book. (I hope to write on prayer in a couple of years.) So, this is a shortened answer. Think of prayer less as functional and more as relational. That’s not to say it isn’t functional, but the functions are themselves relational above all. So, why pray? For the same reasons you talk to a friend, neighbor, stranger, parent, child, teacher, or doctor: to build a relationship, because we live through relationships.

Beneath your question, I think, is an assumption, actually, two: that the universe is a mechanism, and that God is outside of the universe. If you drop those assumptions, I think the question will take on a different feel. For example, what if the metaphor you choose for the universe is, rather than a machine, an unfinished song, or a novel in progress, or a family? Or what if you imagine God, not outside the universe only, but also inside it, part of everything that’s happening? Or how about imagining God as in front of the universe, inviting it into God’s own self, or perhaps imagine God out in the future, sending the present as a gift to the universe at every moment. These thought experiments will help you with this question too, I think.

How Do I Care

It's hard to know in times like these how to really care for people. Tsunami's, flooding, death and disaster. And yet part of me feels so disconnected from all that y'know? It's so far away from me that it doesn't even seem real. Sometimes I think I feel the same way about God. I wonder as He looks down on all of this hurt, I am sure His heart is broken. I know that mine should be too, but if there is anything that I think I struggle with the most, something that I really feel is in contrary to what God wants/feels, I would say that I really just have a hard time caring about things.

It all boils down to narcissism really. I think at the core of my not caring, of my callousness, the real root is that I just don't care about others because I mostly care about myself. It's horrible, I hate it, but it's the honest truth. However I have seen glimmer of hope lately. I can feel it in my heart, the pain, as I watch NBC Nightly News and I see that Indian mother mourning her child, or the Srilankan husband who has lost his whole family. My heart broke for them then. It reminds me of Job's plight. If you have never read Job's story in the Bible, you might want to check it out. Talk about suffering.

It's a process really. Life without Narcissism. I am not there yet, but I want to be. I want to care when I am busy, when my life feels crowded. I want to listen better because I actually care to hear what my wife, my friends are saying. I want to care as Jesus cared, when he met the woman at the well or when his heart broke when he heard that his friend Lazarus had died. I want to care and love well. And not just so that I can look like a better person, but because I think there is real life in caring, in loving people well.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

this title is more of what i am looking for than what i am offering. i was looking for a way to start some good conversations on this topic but was unsure as to where i should go to do so....until now. so, that is what i am wondering. personally, i think that for the most part, the church has missed the point over the last 500 years or so but this has become more evident in recent years, as illustrated by this excerpt from "Blue Like Jazz":

"In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn’t do it, and moreover, that I didn’t want to do defend the term. He asked me if I was a Christian and I told him yes. “Then why don’t you want to defend Christianity?” he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity, they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term Christianity meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won’t do it. Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word Christianity and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the son of God."

i am not saying that i disagree with the teaching of Jesus nor with that of the Bible but rather with the fundamental ring-wing Christianity of the 20th century. what are your thoughts on christian spirituality?