Thursday, July 31, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Mary's Song

My soul glorifies you my God,
My spirit rejoices in you my Saviour!
For you have blessed me lavishly
and make me ready to respond.
You shatter my little world
and let me be poor before you.
You take from me all my plans
and give me more than I can hope for or ask.
You give me opportunities and the ability
to become free and to burst through my boundaries.
You give me strength to be daring,
to build on you alone,
for you show yourself
as the ever greater One in my life.
You have made known to me this ----
It is in my being servant that it becomes possible
for your realm to break through here and now.
-- adapted by Olga Worenski, IBVM

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Thomas Merton -- On Suffering

 When suffering comes to put the question, "Who are you?" we must be able to answer distinctly and give our own name. By that I mean we must express the very depth of what we have desired to be and what we are becoming. And if we are becoming what we are supposed to become the interrogation of suffering will call forth from us both our name and the name of Jesus.
-- adapted from Thomas Merton

Monday, July 21, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Celtic Prayer -- You Are

You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
You are the light that shines in dark
You are the heart's eternal spark
You are the door that's open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day.

you are god

- celtic oral tradition - 1st millennium

Friday, July 11, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Vacation

Morning Prayer is on vacation as I prepare to have a 7:00 am prayer service every morning at Morrison's Campmeeting in Rome, GA.  Catch you on the flip side!

Cosmology of Christianity

This week I’ve been caught up in an idea.  The article above has perhaps unintentionally given me a new tool in my theological toolbox.  The author uses the word “cosmology” in a new way – at least for me.  He talks about the cosmology of Christianity.

Now cosmology is the study of the origin of the universe.  We have gone through many different cosmologies in the history of science and the field (much like the universe!) is continually expanding.  However today most agree it starts with the Big Bang and proceeds from there.

In Christianity (not Christendom and there is a difference) the Big Bang would be Jesus Christ – his birth, life, death and resurrection.  This event lasted longer than the Big Bang obviously, but this is the place where it was formed. Some might argue that Christianity started with the formation of the universe and I can see that viewpoint.  After all, did God not create all of space and time?  But I postulate that Jesus was Christianity's Big Bang.

After the Big Bang, within nanoseconds, much of the universe was set into existence.  Within nanoseconds, the constant Pi was set to be 3.14 and so forth.  With different initial conditions, Pi just as well could have been set to 3.16….  And our universe would be different.  All of our constants would be different – Pi, Phi, e, square root of 2, i, the speed of light and so forth.  Mathematically all of them are related.  If you change one, you change the others.  And another idea – all mathematical constants are somehow inside all the others.  They are intricately linked.  The mystery of Pi is that it somehow contains the universe, but I digress.

If there is such a thing as a cosmology of Christianity and Jesus is our Big Bang, then our constants would be our essential doctrines and all of them are intricately linked together.  There are lists of such things and if you hold to all of them, then you are called “Orthodox.”  All flavors of Christianity have them in common – and they all start with Jesus.  (And I am NOT going to go down rabbit trails at this point debating what is and is not essential on this list, but needless to say there are commonalities.)

And just as mathematicians might have one favorite mathematical constant (mine is Phi or the golden ratio -- yes mathematicians are weird) then people might have their favorite doctrine.  Each of us comes to the journey from a different place and will each walk a different path.  I asked various people what they thought was the most essential doctrine of Christianity outside of the person of Christ and I received different answers. 

One of my daughters said, “Forgiveness.”  There’s a lot packed in that one word – enough to write entire books about.  One of my friends said, “The Law of Love.”  She meant the statement, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, minds, soul and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Another said, “Imago Dei” or the Image of God from which we were created.  For me it’s actually the concept of the Trinity – the fact that God exists as a network of relationships and we have been invited into that relationship.

For the author of this article, it’s the church being the Bride of Christ.  Now from each of our own favorite doctrines we get a certain spin or twist on our faith.  For me, since God is actually a network of relationships, I feel that relationships are very important, almost primary in the way that I deal with this world.  For someone who answered Forgiveness, then forgiving and being forgiven is primary.  And so forth.

If your starting point is the church being the Bride of Christ – well there are many very interesting places you can go with this and I’ll talk about that tomorrow…..

Thursday, July 10, 2014


People are interesting.  I love to people-watch.  And in my years of people watching I have noticed something.  People like to verbally claim one thing, act differently and then really think something entirely different from number one and number two.  Yes, you probably have noticed this as well.  Technically I guess we could call it the Formal, Informal and Tacit and these adjectives can be applied to many things: Formal, informal and tacit structures.  Formal, informal and tacit power.  Formal, informal and tacit doctrines, actions, value systems, learning, organizations and so forth.

If the three are wildly different it can leads to quite a bit of disharmony – both within society and within ourselves.  When we say one thing, act another and believe a third, we end up seriously conflicted.  Again there is a technical term for this – dissonance.  This is actually a musical term that means that the notes being played are “sour.”  I found a lovely quote on Wikipedia from Roger Kamien’s 2008 book “Music: An Appreciation, 6th Brief Edition” that says:

"An unstable tone combination is a dissonance; its tension demands an onward motion to a stable chord. Thus dissonant chords are 'active'; traditionally they have been considered harsh and have expressed pain, grief, and conflict."
—Roger Kamien (2008), p.41

Dissonance is ACTIVE and UNSTABLE.  It wants to move to stability. The more mature one gets, the more the formal, informal and tacit become harmonious and this mature one is said to be Wise. 

We have loads of problems in this world that cause quite a bit of dissonance.  For instance, those of us who are Christian know we need to assist the poor, the dispossessed, the outcast, the least, the last and the lost.  We say it aloud to one another.  This is our formal belief.  Informally (the way things really are), we set up our structures and organizations to be, well, not poor-friendly.  I have noticed a trend to charge for VBS, for instance.  The costs can range according to region, but most of the time, it prices VBS out of a poor person’s pocketbook.  Yes, I know there are scholarships – but how available is that knowledge to the congregation?  Is there a social stigma that will go along with it?  Tacitly, in our heart of hearts, there are those among us that are happy that the poor can’t brush elbow with our kids.

Which brings me to the subject of honesty.  How can we set up a safe place for honesty?  Most of us that live in a dissonant state know that if people really knew what we believed and thought, we would be judged and found lacking.

So let’s be honest – we ALL have those thoughts.  We all have some thoughts and beliefs that are not quite up to the high and lofty ideals that we profess with out mouths.  We all are human.  None of us really and truly live up to all of our ideals.  Let’s be honest.  We are flawed.  I think it’s worse for us to not admit that brokenness than it is for us to not live up – to not be perfect.  Yep, that’s the up and down of it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How to Have an Argument*

Now I know that not everyone is a Monty Python fan.  I think Monty Python is probably an acquired taste, rather like olives.  I really didn’t like the first bits of Monty Python I saw as a kid.  The rudeness and crudeness of the comedy just turned me off.  As an older teen and adult,   have developed a taste for  some of it (along with Greek olives but not green ones.  Yuck.) I now understand why some of their sketches are hilarious  -- they stretch the ridiculous so very far that your reality just breaks.

The “I Want to Have an Argument” skit is one of those.  If you have never seen it, YouTube has it here:   This skit shows a series of lovely (ha!) examples of how NOT to have an argument.  The first “argument” that the protagonist has with an opponent consists of a stream of vile abuse.  This is NOT an argument.  The second argument consists of just contradictions.   This is NOT an argument (Oh yes it is!  Oh no it’s not!  Yes it is!  No it’s not!)  The protagonist then goes to the complaint department – complaints are not an argument.  The final argument is the “being hit on the head” lessons.  Not an argument again but which IMHO is about as painful as some so called arguments.

If you have been out and about recently, cruising on the internet or IRL (in real life as the kids say), I am certain you have probably run across someone who likes to hit you over the head with their opinions and call it an argument.  Or doesn’t offer you a real argument or discussion and just contradicts everything you say.  Or just wants to complain about this or that, these people or those people without ever developing a real argument.

So how do you have an argument?  I would like to offer up some suggestions (take ‘em or leave ‘em.)

First – no yelling. Please. Really, I mean it.  No yelling.  This includes TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ON THE INTERNET. Yelling never ever gets your point across. If you want an illustration of this, just watch Parliament sometimes.  To be honest, have you ever really listened to a person who yelled at you?  It can be painful, it can be scary; it most definitely can be frightening.  I think it shows a basic disrespect and it’s just rude.  The only time it’s appropriate to yell is when you are talking to me in a noisy, crowded place and I yell back “What??” because I can’t hear you over the din or when you are cheering your kids at Little League.  Seriously, no yelling.

Second – be polite.  Use your nice words like “please” and “thank you.”  As my mama used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” (actually I did a scientific experiment last year in the kitchen and discovered you can catch them with both, but that’s not the point.)  Why no yelling?  Why use your nice words?  Because each and every one of us is made in the Imago Dei – the image of God.  By dissing one another, we are showing disrespect for that Imago Dei within the other person.  Treat that other person with the same respect you would show Jesus and you won’t go wrong.

I think about conversations and fights.  A good argument should be a conversation – a dialogue with one another and not a fight.  I watch my husband and my kids spar in Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do.  At the beginning of a match, you shake hands.  If you greet each other with respect , you actually can build a relationship.  If you approach another person with your arms open and your hand extended, usually the other person will do the same to you.  If you approach the other person with your guard up, ready to throw a punch or block a punch, you are going to be blocked.  Enough said.  A real argument, an honest argument and a Christ-filled argument – no one is going to go away bleeding.  We are called to love one another and not pummel each other to a bloody pulp.

Third – logic is your friend.  People think that logic is hard.  It really isn’t, you just have to be intentional in learning a few things.  First lesson in logic:  If A, then B. A is true, therefore B must be true.  This is a valid argument – it’s good and if you get this you will pass the class.  If the sun is shining and it’s a clear day, then the sky is blue.  The sky is blue, therefore the sun is shining. Another?  The classic example:  All humans are mortal.  Socrates is human, therefore Socrates is mortal.  Not too hard.

Second lesson in logic – the opposite works differently. The argument,  “If A then B.  Not B, then Not A.” does not work.  An example: All humans are mortal.  Socrates is not a human, he’s a cat.  Therefore Socrates is not mortal.  This obviously does NOT work because as we all know, even though it is said that cats have 9 lives, they are indeed mortal. I’ve lost enough cats to know this is not true.

This is the basis of formal logic.  You can judge an argument valid (or good) or invalid (not good) by these two lessons.  There is also a brand of logic called “informal logic” and there are many, many more ways to judge an argument valid or invalid.  A few example are: Ad hominem, Straw-Man, Appeal to Authority, Slippery Slope, the Hitler Card, False Burden of Proof, False Causation, the Fallacy Fallacy, Appeal to Emotion.  There are more – just use the internet to look them up.  These fallacies (or errors in argumentation) are so prevalent in today’s society. They are insidious.

In an Ad Hominem fallacy, you attack the person rather than the warrant (argument) directly.  For instance, Jane argues eloquently for apples in school lunches.  John who does not want to pay for apples because he thinks they are expensive and he doesn’t like red and green foods (OK stupid reasons I know, but roll with it please) doesn’t address apples at all at the PTA meeting, instead he attacks Jane saying she’s a big idiot, smells funny and dresses her kids weird and so her idea about serving apples is also idiotic, might make you smell funny and make you dress your kids weird.

I see this kind of fallacy all the time.  I saw it at annual conference a couple of years ago when a “no-brainer” resolution came before the conference – an anti-bullying resolution.  Of course we are anti-bullying, aren’t we?  Who likes a bully?  Anyway, the person who presented the resolution was of a minority that some people don’t like very much.  Therefore, we don’t like this resolution.  Sigh.

I would like to say this: even people we consider complete idiots can occasionally have a good idea.  Occasionally they can be right. Really. That includes anyone you don’t like: Adriana Huffington, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Marcus Borg, Rick Warren.  It doesn’t matter why you don’t like them – occasionally they actually might be right.  Adolf Hitler, one of the most despised people of the 20th century, could say, “The sky is blue” and this statement be true. (This is an example of the Hitler Card, btw.)  You need to judge the argument by its own merits, not by how much you love or despise the person making the it.

Likewise, the opposite is true.  Someone you admire and see as a role model in your life can be wrong.  Your greatest hero could say, “The sky is green.”  Just because this is your hero and you love them doesn’t make the sky green.  This is an example of an “Appeal to Authority.”  Sometimes people know what they are talking about and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes actors know a lot about salad dressing (I love Newman’s Own) but sometimes they don’t (what does Harrison Ford think about salad dressing – beats me!)  Ask this: does this person actually make salad dressing?  Do they have a PhD in condiments?  Have they published papers on how to shake up oil and vinegar into tasty concoctions?  If the answer is “no,” you might want to give their opinion or stamp of approval a pass and find a real expert or even (gasp!) research it yourself.

Fourth – Listen.  As my mama used to say, “God gave you two ears and only one mouth.”  You should listen twice as much as you speak.  Listen not only with your ears, but with your heart. 

Please y’all.  I am asking for a favor.  Please be civil to one another as we work through our society’s problems.  Let’s engage in civil discourse, civil discussion and use just a little logic here and there.  After all, we are all in it together.  We all share the same planet.  Peace out, ya’ll.

*NOTE: (and I’m not yelling)  This was written to be light in tone about a serious topic.  The tone was meant to be humorous and not mocking; it was not meant to be disrespectful or patronizing.  Please take it in the manner offered.

Morning Prayer -- parish prayer - st. cosmus & st. damian in the blean

Lord God, Giver of Life,
Source of all healing,
who alone can help us grow in wholeness:
We thank you for the gift of life and health,
and remembering your faithful servants Cosmus and Damian
we ask you to guide and uphold all doctors, surgeons, hospital staffs
and all engaged in the ministry of healing
together with those they serve,
that disease and disunity may everywhere be overcome;
through Christ the Divine Healer,
who suffered and died and lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit our God of Salvation, now and always.
          parish prayer - st. cosmus & st. damian in the blean

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Frances McKinnon Morton -- A Word of Prayer

1 A word of pray’r when the day begins
Brings a day of blessing sure;
A word of pray’r when the twilight dims
Brings a night of rest secure.
A word of pray’r in the morning,
A word of pray’r at night!
When sorely distressed,
A pray’r brings you rest,
Making all things right!
2 A word of pray’r when the heart is sad
Brings you comfort, peace and rest;
A word of pray’r when the days are glad
Adds a joy to hours most blest. [Refrain]
3 A word of pray’r when the heart is lone
Brings a Friend to understand;
A word of pray’r when your strength is gone
Brings the clasp of a mighty hand. [Refrain]
4 Always a pray’r to the God above
Brings a blessing sweet and true;
Enfolds your heart in His tender love,
Lends His boundless strength to you. [Refrain]
Frances McKinnon Morton

Monday, July 07, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Psalter 1912 -- The Lord has Heard and Answered Prayer

1. The Lord has heard and answered prayer
And saved His people in distress;
This to the coming age declare,
That they His holy name may bless.
2. The Lord, exalted on His throne,
Looked down from Heav’n with pitying eye
To still the lowly captive’s moan
And save His people doomed to die.
3. All men in Zion shall declare
His gracious name with one accord,
When kings and nations gather there
To serve and worship God the Lord.
4. Before my journey is complete
My vigor fails, my years decline;
My God, O spare me, I entreat;
The days of life are wholly Thine.
5. The earth and heav’ns shall pass away,
Like vesture worn and laid aside,
But changeless Thou shalt live for aye,
Thy years forever shall abide.
6. Thou, O Jehovah, shalt endure;
Thy throne forever is the same;
And to all generations sure
Shall be Thy great memorial name.
7. Thy servants’ children shall remain
Forevermore before Thy face;
Enduring honor they shall gain,
Established ever in Thy grace.
The Psalter, 1912

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Morning Prayer -- A. H. Ackley -- At the Place of Pray'r

1 At the place of pray’r I sought Him,
When I heard His loving call,
Kneeling there my sins confessing,
Jesus saved me from them all;
And my guilty heart so burdened,
Was set free from earthly care,
For I found His grace sufficient,
Kneeling at the place of pray’r.
At the place of pray’r I’m kneeling,
Life is sweetest with Him there,
Deeper truths God is revealing
At the place of prayer.
2 At the place of pray’r I found Him,
With a pardon for my soul,
And I cried in y amazement,
“Canst Thou even make me whole!”
Pointing to His cross He answered,
“I for thee have suffered there,”
So by faith I found redemption,
Kneeling at the place of pray’r. [Refrain]
3 At the place of pray’r how precious,
Is the Savior’s keeping pow’r,
For the comfort of His Spirit,
Is my joy of life each hour;
All the past His blood has covered,
Every burden He will share,
And no evil shall befall me,
Kneeling at the place of pray’r. [Refrain]

Friday, July 04, 2014

Morning Prayer -- George Washington

O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul....
Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life bless my family, friends, and kindred.
--An undated prayer from Washington's prayer journal, Mount Vernon

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Morning Prayer -- Lowell Mason -- Work, For the Night is Coming

1. Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.
2. Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute,
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.
3. Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Morning Prayer -- George W. Bush

George W. Bush
A Prayer for the Departed
We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who love them... On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask Almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.
As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God's love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country.
--From his address to the nation after the World Trade Center attacks, September 14, 2001