Monday, July 19, 2010

The Spirituality of Body Talk

Talk to Your Body

The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness. It is unfortunate that often only when we are ill do we realize how tender, fragile, and precious is the house of belonging called the body. When you visit people who are ill or who are awaiting surgery, you can encourage them to have a conversation with the body area that is unwell. Suggest that they talk to it as a partner, thank it for all it has done, for what it has suffered, and ask forgiveness of it for whatever pressure it may have had to endure. Each part of the body holds the memory of its own experience.

Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. We should avoid the false dualism that separates the soul from the body. The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely. Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


Friday, July 16, 2010

Animals and Us

Honor the Dignity, Beauty, and Wisdom of the Animal World

The animals are more ancient than us. They were here for millennia before humans surfaced on the earth. Animals are our ancient brothers and sisters. They enjoy a seamless presence — a lyrical unity with the earth. Animals live outside in the wind, in the waters, in the mountains, and in the clay. The knowing of the earth is in them. The Zen-like silence and thereness of the landscape is mirrored in the silence and solitude of animals. Animals know nothing of Freud, Jesus, Buddha, Wall Street, the Pentagon, or the Vatican. They live outside the politics of human intention. Somehow they already inhabit the eternal. The Celtic mind recognized the ancient belonging and knowing of the animal world. The dignity, beauty, and wisdom of the animal world was not diminished by any false hierarchy or human arrogance. Somewhere in the Celtic mind was a grounding perception that humans are the inheritors of this deeper world.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inner Wellspring

You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself. There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this is a wellspring of love within the heart. . . .

If you find that your heart has hardened, one of the gifts that you should give yourself is the gift of the inner wellspring. You should invite this inner fountain to free itself. You can work on yourself in order to unsilt this, so that gradually the nourishing waters begin in a lovely osmosis to infuse and pervade the hardened clay of your heart. Then the miracle of love happens within you. Where before there was hard, bleak, unyielding, dead ground, now there is growth, color, enrichment, and life flowing from the lovely wellspring of love. This is one of the most creative approaches to transfiguring what is negative within us.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Anam Cara-Soul Friend

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the "soul friend."

In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the "friend of your soul."

The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship. In his Conferences, John Cassian says this bond between friends is indissoluble: "This, I say, is what is broken down by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part."

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

more about this in my musings The blessings of spiritual friends

Monday, July 5, 2010

Embrace Your Inner World

Embrace the World that Lives Inside You

It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other's sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions, and blasphemies. Each day, our tribe of language holds what we call the world together. Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

More about John O'Donohue here and here.


Eliot on Waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

— T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker,” The Four Quartets

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


ONCE in Persia ruled a king
Who upon his signet ring
‘Graved a motto true and wise,
Which, when held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance
Fit for any change or chance.
Solemn words, and these were they:
“Even this shall pass away.”

Trains of camel through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarkand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to rival these.
Yet he counted little gain
Treasures of the mine or main.
“Wealth may come, but not to stay;
Even this shall pass away.”

‘Mid the revels of his court,
In the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guests,
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried: “Oh, precious friends of mine,
Pleasure comes, but not to stay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Lady, fairest ever seen,
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on his marriage bed
Softly to his soul he said:
“Though no bridegroom ever pressed
Fairer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Fighting in a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield,
Soldiers with a loud lament
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning, from his wounded side,
“Pain is hard to bear,” he cried.
“But, with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away.”

Towering in the public square,
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his status grand in stone;
And the king, disguised, unknown,
Gazing on his sculptured name,
Asked himself: “And what is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Struck with palsy, sere and old,
Standing at the gates of gold,
Spake him this, in dying breath:
“Life is done, and what is death?”
Then, in answer to the king,
Fell a sunbeam on the ring,
Answering, with its heavenly ray:
“Even death shall pass away.”

HT: Punna

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stations of the Cross (15)


Where is my Lord?
They have taken Him away.
All I see is a tomb, a place that is empty.
And just when I need Him,
and long for His voice,
even His body would not wait for my tears.

Shut away in a box, He has occupied their coffin.
Shut away in a book, He fulfils, Living Word.
Shut away in our concepts, He shatters such shackles.
No prison can hold Him; no tomb thwart the miracle.
His life is our liberty; His love changed my life.
No dying can rob me of what He has given:
once blind, now I see.
Hallelujah! His promise:
‘In the day when the hearts of men
fail them for fear, then look up, little flock,
your redemption draws near.’

Let all creation
give thanks to the Risen Lord.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord!

Filled with His praises,
give thanks to the Risen Lord.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord!

He is our Shepherd, and we are His sheep.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord!

Stepping out boldly, we claim resurrection.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stations of the Cross (14)


Laid in a borrowed tomb, awaiting the sign of Jonah
- the only sign that would be given to His generation
- that after three days and nights in the womb of the earth,
the belly of the fish, the grave and hell,
He would come forth to do His Father’s will
- Jesus the humble Son of God, the exultant Son of Man,
the eternal contradiction, the Blessed One.
The end is not yet. Weeping endures for a night,
but joy comes in the morning.
The good news – ‘He is risen’ –
will burst on the Son-rise.

Therefore with joy shall we draw water
out of the wells of salvation.

When all is dark,
and Hope is buried,
it is hard to trust His words
that promised, before the pain:
He died that I might live.
He died that I might live.

In His death is my birth.
He died that I might live.
He died that I might live.

In His life is my life.
He died that I might live.
He died that I might live.

My Jesus! He died that I might live.
He died that I might live.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stations of the Cross (13)


Jesus could now feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. And with a loud voice He cried: ‘It is finished.’ His mission of atonement had been completed. Finally, He could allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: ‘Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.’ A while later, the soldier pierced a long spear into the side of the dead man, to His heart. The watery fluid and blood that flowed out show us He had literally died of a broken heart – not the usual crucifixion death of suffocation. The friends of Jesus were allowed to remove His holy body, and for a moment his mother held Him again upon her lap, cradled in her arms.

Let Him sleep now. It is finished.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
It was for me.
It was for me.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ my God.
All the vain things that charmed me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood:
It was for me.
It was for me.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stations of the Cross (12)


As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. As He pushed Himself upwards to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is searing agony as the nail torn through the nerves. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept though the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. Jesus fought to raise Himself, in order to get even one short breath. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

To the thief dying at His side: ‘Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.’

To His mother and His closest friend: ‘Woman, behold thy son’ - ‘Behold thy mother.’

In the words of the psalm foretelling the death of Messiah, He cried: ‘My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

Father God, You waited
through the long hours of agony,
when He was robbed even
of the sense of Your love, Your presence,
when the sin and disease and hatred
and darkness overwhelmed Him so greatly.
He was wounded for my transgressions.
He was wounded for my transgressions.

Father, what love is this of His?
What love is this of Yours
that His dying love reflects?
Your forgiveness for me,
as we gaze upon His sacrificial death,
is truly an underserved gift
as the pardon He spoke to the dying thief.
It is mine if I will only receive:
He was wounded for my transgressions.
He was wounded for my transgressions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stations of the Cross (11)


The journey was at an end. Jesus was quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The soldier felt for the depression at the front of the wrist; he drove a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly. The title ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’ was nailed into place, and the crossbar lifted into position. The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.

The victim was now crucified.
‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’
He is our peace.

Jesus, our sin put the nails in Your hands.
It was love that held You there.
It was love that held You there.

Jesus, our sin put the nails in Your feet.
It was love that held You there.
It was love that held You there.

The soldiers hoisted Your cross on high.
You were their prisoner;
but no one took Your life away from You.
You gave it willingly, freely.
It was love that held You there.
It was love that held You there.

You were lifted high upon that cross,
even as You had prophesied when You promised;
‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
will draw all people to Me.’
It was love that held You there.
It was love that held You there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stations of the Cross (10)


At the place of death the King of life is stripped of His clothes. Naked, He came into the world; naked, He is taken from the world. Vulnerable, exposed, God became man. He was a crying helpless, dependent baby. Now, vulnerable, exposed, His heart, His life, His body all bared before the world. He will be hung up to be mocked. But God is not mocked- His very nakedness is a parable, a sacrament, a picture of the Father’s hurting heart exposed in love to us.

Lord, You were stripped of the robes You wore,
but You were the same - it didn’t change You.
Things meant little to You; You never hide behind them.
You showed us the Father’s heart,
so open and broken:
may we be open to You, and to each other.
May we be open to You, and to each other.

Lord, for our sake You left the riches of heaven
and became poor.
You came within our reach.
May we be open to You, and to each other.
May we be open to You, and to each other.

You did not hold on to even the little
You had left to call Your own.
May we be open to You, and to each other.
May we be open to You, and to each other.

The nakedness of God was exposed before the world,
Lord, O lovely Christ,
may we be open to You, and to each other.
May we be open to You, and to each other.

No robe was left now upon Your tired shoulders,
just a crown of mockery on Your head.
You are still a King.
You loved, and won rejection and pain-
but You still loved.
May we be open to You, and to each other.
May we be open to You, and to each other.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stations of the Cross (9)


Jesus fell again. Oh God, how many times must I fall and pick up that cross again? As many as seven times? Or seventy times seven times? For ever; until this never-ending road is ended; until the impossible is completed, the unbearable borne through all eternity.

For the sake of My children. My sons. My loved ones. My bride. My people, I must go on. I will not, I must not, give up now. The way of sorrows, the way of pain, the way of self-renunciation, the way of My cross.

How long the road You came for us, Lord,
with Your smarting burden! O Lord.
Your love have no limits.
Your love have no limits.

You picked up the weight of Your cross,
the weight of our sins,
We are Your burden, an overwhelming burden;
but that burden is sweet to You
because of the love You also bear to us,
an overwhelming love.
Your love has no limits.
Your love has no limits.

Lord, I know You can forgive me:
Your love has no limits.
Your love has no limits.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stations of the Cross (8)


As Jesus continued, painfully stumbling along the road to Calvary, a group of women joined themselves to the procession, wailing in the manner normally considered appropriate for a funeral procession. But Jesus told them to cry out to God for themselves and their own children.

Lord, some of us are never far from tears,
and some of us have forced ourselves not to cry.
Bring our tears into Your captivity and direction,
that they respond to Your voice.
You have the words of eternal life.
You have the words of eternal life.

Lord, You have the words of eternal life.
You have the words of eternal life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stations of the Cross (7)


The pain, the exhaustion, the love that drives Him on-but the cross is so heavy. Again He falls beneath the weight; and in bitter resolution-Thy will be done-and in fatigue, Jesus again drives Himself up against the cross, and carries it on towards the fateful Hill of Death.

Will it never end?
I'm not as sure as when I started.

I never knew it would be like this.
But this is my firm choice:
Lord, I will go on with You.
Lord, I will go on with You.

Lord, often I fall,
and the temptation is not to rise again
and continue with You.
When I fall and others watch and laugh,
or say, 'I told you so, you'll never make it,'
give me the strength to fulfil my promise:
Lord, I will go on with You.
Lord, I will go on with You.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stations of the Cross (6)


An act of compasssion. A woman called Veronica places a cool cloth on His hot and tired face. He feels the coolness of the cloth, and the love with which it was offered. And through His pain He smiles- a smile never to be lost, never to be extinguished. She reaches out to touch His face, and He leans His head into her hands, within her reach.

Oh, blessed day! The Master touched her life, her heart, her outstretched hands. What faith! What lovely face! What timeless meeting...O blessed Christ.

Christ of the human road, let us,
like Veronica, reach out to touch You,
and, sweet Christ,
show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.
Legend or living person, Veronica, by example,
teaches us to be Your witness,
and others may gaze into Your loving eyes
and know Your smile.
Show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.

As we see Your face by faith,
we learn to become like You, Lord Christ.
That the world may see Your glory:
show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stations of the Cross (5)


Simon carried the cross of Christ. At first it was just a tiresome and unwelcome task he was forced into by the soldiers; only later did he recognise his privilege in shouldering the burden of the One who made the worlds.

He was compelled to carry the cross part of the way for Jesus. Simon, himself a stranger, an outcast, often misunderstood, perhaps identified with Jesus, and felt the gratitude of this Man above all men; and amid the pity Simon felt for Him, he felt a burning compassion flowing back to him from Jesus, a burning, life-changing love. Simon carried the cross of Christ.
As Simon took the weight of the cross from Jesus,
You have taught us that we must bear one another's
burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
May we carry Your cross.
May we carry Your cross.
Simon was one just passing by,
but suddenly he was compelled to change direction,
and, with all his strength given
to the carrying of the cross,
pressed through the crowds
to the place of the Skull.
Golgotha, Calvary
Sweet Jesus, like Simon,
may we carry Your cross.
May we carry Your cross.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tokens of New Life Beyond Death

In his book The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight shares the moving story of Margaret Ault. When Margaret was just about to complete her Ph.D. at Duke, something unexpected—but quite welcomed—happened: she fell in love. She went on a date with a man named Hyung Goo Kim, and the proverbial sparks flew. But almost as quickly as the sparks became a fire, they were doused with water. Hyung Goo informed Margaret that he was HIV positive. Needless to say, Margaret was devastated. In her own words, "I'd just met someone I liked, and we were definitely not going to live happily ever after. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut by the biggest boot in the world."

Still, she and Hyung Goo were married. In his book McKnight asks the question many of us would ask: "Why would anyone invite into the core of their being so much pain?" He then goes on to share that the answer unfolds in the rest of Margaret and Hyung Goo's story. He writes:

When Margaret was in graduate school at Duke, she and Hyung Goo loved to walk in the Duke gardens, and so knowledgeable did they become of its plants that they "supervised construction" of a new project. They walked through each part of the garden routinely and had names for some of the ducks. In their last spring together, the garden seemed especially beautiful [to them].
Hyung Goo died in the fall and Margaret returned to the gardens in the spring where a memorial garden of roses was being constructed in his honor.

McKnight then points the reader to a series of quotations from Margaret's book Sing Me to Heaven, where she reflects on the days she returned to the gardens. She writes:

Where peonies were promised, there were only the dead stumps of last year's stalks; where day lilies were promised, there were unprepossessing tufts of foliage; where hostas were promised, there was nothing at all. And yet I know what lushness lay below the surface; those beds that were so brown and empty and, to the unknowing eye, so umpromising, would be full to bursting in a matter of months.
Is the whole world like this? Is this what it might be like to live in expectation, real expectation, of the resurrection?
Was not Hyung Goo's and my life together like this? Empty and sere, and yet a seedbed of fullness and life for both of us. He died, and I was widowed; yet in his dying, we both were made alive.

After quoting Margaret's words, McKnight concludes:

Where does she find strength to grip such faith and such hope? It is found in [her question]: Is the whole world like this?
The answer, "Yes, the whole world is like this: the whole world offers us tokens of new life beyond death and disasters." It offers the promise of new life beyond the grave, a life of renewed love in the presence of God. Why? Because Jesus was raised from the dead.

Stations of the Cross (4)


As Jesus again shouldered the cross and bore His burden, He glanced ahead and saw His mother. He could not stop to talk, to explain, to gather her in His arms and comfort her. All His energy was being soaked into that cross.
Who are My mother and brothers? Those who do the will of My Father.

Not My will, Father, but Yours.

Lord, You had to leave the security
of home and family, twice.
You left Your Father to be a man with us,
and left Your human family to die for us.
You had to pray to Your Father:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.

Lord, when we leave all and follow You
and it hurts those we love,
help us to know that You have been there, too;
but is more than rewarded in the end.
Help us to pray:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.

Lord, when Your cross pierces
our own desires, and make us call out,
let our cry be, through our pain:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Stations of the Cross (3)


Jesus has willingly embraced the cross, but His physical body was weak from lack of sleep, from the pressures of arrest and trial, and from torture and beating.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Jesus say, Yes, but His holy body hesitated and He fell to His knees, determining to rise again even in His weakness.

Lord, You embraced and shouldered Your cross,
but Your body was weak.
Your Body is still weak:
Your people shrink from the weight of suffering.
In our weakness, Lord, let us pray:
Your will be done.
Your will be done.

Jesus, You were first a carpenter:
build us into what You desire,
and secure every joint tightly,
that we may hold together.
Plane the rough surfaces of our relationships.
We are Your workmanship-
Your will be done.
Your will be done.

Jesus, You said 'YES' to the Father's will;
and only Your body hesitated.
May we, Your Body, no longer hesitate,
but follow You in Your obedience, saying:
Your will be done.
Your will be done.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stations of the Cross (2)


Jesus was scourged. The whips cut His back until it was shredded and bathed in His blood. A crown of thorns was set on His head in mockery. Then they returned His robe to Him, and brought Him to the cross on which He was to die.

Jesus embraced the cross, resting it painfully on the smarting wounds on His back.

Lord, You were scourged and wounded;
You deserved no punishment.
but were punished in our place.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.

When You were already hurting,
You embraced the cross.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stations of the Cross (1)


His accusers brought many false charges against Jesus, but He spoke not a word in His own defence. 'crucify him!' they shouted.

Pilate washed his hands, to show the decision was not his own, but he did not dare to side publicly with Jesus; instead, he was willing to content the people.

So Jesus was condemned to death.

Lord, when You were misunderstood,
You silently forgave;
but we so often respond in anger.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

Lord, You gave us opportunity to choose Jesus,
but for so long we have chosen rebellion
that demanded Your death.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review on The Noetic Universe

Dean Radin (1997, 2009) The Noetic Universe: The Scientific Evidence for Psychic Phenomena (London: Transworld Publishers)- originally published as The Conscious Universe (1997) by HarperCollins Publishers.

Noetic Science was mentioned in Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and is currently the context of J.J.Brahms' television series Fringe. Noetic science is the science of the paranormal. Popularly called PSI studies, noetic sciences studies the phenomenon of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, precognition, ESP and OBE (out of body experiences). In this well documented book, Dean Radin relates the numerous research studies that have already been done on these phenomenon. These studies were done using the strict scientific criteria and tools as in other studies in physics and biology. In this book, Radin highlights the scientific methodology and its limitations. He laments the biasness of mainline scientists when it comes to noetic sciences.While the results of these researches in noetic sciences are not as clearcut as in other sciences, there is enough to show that there is something there that cannot be discounted or dismissed easily.

Personally I believe there are phenomena that cannot be explained because of the limitations of the scientific method and the scientific language. Another area of interest is whether some religious phenomena such as glossolalia (speaking in tongues),prophecy, spiritual gifts of word of knowledge, and spiritual (or divine) healing may be explained by noetic science. Prophecy may be some form of precognition and spiritual gift of word of knowledge may be some form of clairvoyance. It will be interesting to watch for further development in this field.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Role of Doctrine in Spiritual Formation

Top Story
Illustration by James Steinberg
The Mind Under Grace
Why a heady dose of doctrine is crucial to spiritual formation.

Bonhoeffer knew, as did Calvin, Augustine, and many others, that dry, seemingly irrelevant ideas like the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and eschatology are crucial elements of our spiritual formation. Theology helps map a reading of Scripture as Scripture interrogates its readers under the guidance of the Spirit.

For the past 200 years, many parts of Western Christianity have labored as Schleiermacher's children. The mainline traditions have hoped to achieve relevance. The evangelical and free-church traditions have hoped to read the Bible unadulterated and alone. Both traditions, however, have made our feelings—which are, by definition, slippery and transitory—primary. Mainliners have eschewed theology for fear that it imposes another's context and assumptions, while evangelicals have eschewed theology because it might compete with the pristine Bible or become a rigid boundary. Both traditions forget that theology is a kind of memory that allows us to hear God's Word by clarifying our experiences.

The Lost Art Of Catechesis
It's a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thinking Faith on Post Modern Prodigal Son

The latest from Thinking Faith...

The Prodigal Father - A Postmodern Homily
The familiar parable of the Prodigal Son traditionally prompts us to reflect on the love and forgiveness of the father who welcomes back his younger son. But what if we focus on the effect of the father’s generosity on the relationship between the two brothers? Desmond Ryan argues that if we look at this story in a new way we see the harmful consequences of prioritising relationships based on authority over those based on a sibling model. Read >>


Global Atheist Convention 2010

The BBC news online reports on the Global Atheist Convention.

Melbourne skyline - file image

More than 2,000 atheists from around the world are gathering in Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate their lack of religious belief.

It is thought to be the world's largest gathering of atheist thinkers.

They plan to issue a statement on what they say are the negative effects of religion on society.

All 2,500 tickets were sold out earlier this year, but a religious gathering at the same venue in December attracted three times as many delegates.

The Global Atheist Convention is bringing together scientists, philosophers, writers and comedians, says the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Christopher Landau.

They will be joined by bestselling author Richard Dawkins and discuss Islam and terrorism in a session titled The Cost of Delusion.

read more

And here is a lecture by Richard Dawkins in 2002 on Militant Atheism

Thursday, March 11, 2010


pen in hand, reading, writing
river flow to sea

What Does the Church Teaches about Death and Dying?

Lent is a period for meditation on dying and death. The focus is on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. However after the recent passing onto glory of two ladies in my church due to cancer, I cannot help but meditate on our own mortality. As a Christian I find there is hardly any teaching in our churches about death and dying. The emphasis is on living a victorious Christian life and in receiving all the grace and gifts (health, wealth, prosperity) that God has promised us. I find that churches teaches us how to live well but not how to die well. I wonder why this is so when the symbol of our faith is a man dying on the cross!

Does our attitude towards death affects our pastoral care? Do we Christians learn how to die well? An interesting research paper Religious Coping and Use of Intensive Life-Prolonging Care Near death in Patients with Advanced Cancer (The Journal of the American Medical Association - JAMA.vol.301, No.11, March 18, 2009) shows that people with terminal cancer who have a high level of positive religious coping (belief in God, be at peace with God) are more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging medical care near death. Of the people with positive religious coping in the study; 60% are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Baptist), 10% others and 10% atheists. This is curious as I will expect that high positive religious copers will be more at peace and ready to leave this life than to hang on by accepting intensive life-prolonging medical care near death.

Michael Balboni, M.Div.Th.M., a researcher at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute when interviewed by Rob Moll on Christianity Today March (web) 2010 in The Medical Hazards of Spiritual Care speculates as to the reason why,

Do you know what pastors and spiritual caregivers are telling their congregants who are sick with cancer?

We really don't know what's going on with clergy. But the kind of support they're offering is probably leading patients to choose more aggressive care. We can only hypothesize why. I'm guessing it has to do with some misunderstandings about the ability of medicine. Fighting cancer is not necessarily the best thing to do spiritually. When people have metastatic cancer, it would appear that they are not being accompanied in quite the right way regarding their medical decisions.

Balboni published a research paper Provision of Spiritual Care to Patients with Advanced Cancer: Associations with Medical Care and Quality of Life Near Death (Journal of Clinical Oncology Dec 14, 2009) in which his team finds that patients with high positive religious coping that are treated by medical professionals who are religious tends to end up with hospice care rather than intensive life-prolonging medical care near death. Is there a difference between spiritual care provided by the clergy and the medical professionals who have religious affiliations? Balboni speculates,

On the other hand, there are certain doctors and nurses who simultaneously understand and/or share beliefs and practices with the patient, and they understand the complexities of the disease and the disease process. Having an understanding in both areas, they seem to be able to offer spiritual advice when engaging medical decisions.

I believe medical professionals have a better view of the disease processes and healing. See my thoughts on healing here. Some clergy and Christians has a different expectation of 'supernatural healing' from God. Even in very terminal cancer patients they are expecting God to work his miracles. The problem with this approach is that while waiting for a miracle, the patient is not preparing for his/her death. Thus when death approaches, everyone is in a panic and the patient ends up with intensive life-prolonging medical care near death (which actually causes more suffering). A better approach will be to accept that one has terminal cancer and prepare for death while waiting for the Lord's deliverance-one way or another.

what do you think?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thinking Faith on The Prodigal Son

The latest from Thinking Faith...

The prodigal son and his jealous brother
Jack Mahoney SJ continues to explore the ways in which Jesus teaches about God’s forgiveness in Saint Luke’s Gospel, from which our Sunday gospel readings for this Lent are taken. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus illustrates to his listeners the joy of forgiveness, both on the part of the penitent sinner and of God. But do we not feel a sneaking sympathy for the faithful and jealous elder brother? Read more


Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 11

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 11 (March 14 to March 20, 2010), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

The Doctrine of the Word of God
The Necessity of Scripture
By: John M. Frame
Webpage PDF Word

The Current Intellectual State of Affairs in America
An Article
By: Tim Keller
Webpage PDF Word

Introduction to 1 Corinthians
A Sermon
By: Scott Lindsay
Webpage PDF Word

Original Sin
Depravity Infects Everyone
By: J. I. Packer
Webpage PDF Word

The Rent Veil
The True Veil
By: Horatius Bonar
Webpage PDF Word

The Bondage of the Will
By: Martin Luther
Webpage PDF Word

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (6)


Liturgy, a grateful community, a communal sense of time and the sacraments are important characteristic of the Christian faith communities in their worship of the one True God. These elements also have an important role in the Christian spiritual formation of Christians who are involved in these formative processes. Worship is not only communion partaking but also transformative as worshippers are gradually being transformed into the character of those who worship in Spirit and in Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

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read whole article here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

biomedical ethics & the contemporary church course

I will be teaching a course on biomedical ethics in East Asia School of Theology (EAST) in June 2010. I invite you to come and join me for this course.

biomedical ethics & the contemporary church

East Asia School of Theology
1 Dorset Rd Singapore 219486
3rd-Quarter 2009/10 Class

Dates: 18, 19, 25, 26 June

2.00 to 6.00 PM;
9.00 AM to 4.00 PM

Synopsis of course
Advances in medical treatment modalities, biotechnological innovations, and geneticmolecular manipulations have brought about unique challenges to the church today. In this class, a pastoral-theological approach will be used to examine, reflect and develop responses to difficult moral and ethical issues such as test tube and designer babies, facts and fallacies of stem cell therapies, cloning, abortion, mercy-killing, living will, gene therapy, and aesthetic surgery.

DR TANG is a senior consultant pediatrician in Johor Bahru and adjunct teaching faculty of Monash University School of Medicine in Malaysia. His interest in neonatology, respiratory medicine and biomedical ethics has led him to speak widely in churches and seminaries on issues this class will cover. Dr Tang is the author of Random Musings From a Doctor's Chair, A Good Day to Die: A Christian perspective on mercy killing, Live and Let Live: A Christian perspective on biotechnology, and Spiritual Formation on the Run. An avid community service worker, he started the Rotary Club of Tebrau Heart Fund to sponsor children with congenital heart diseases for corrective surgery in India, and developed the Calvary Autistic Centre project
for Autistic children in Johor Bahru.

Register at or call Ms Wong at tel: 62919744 ex 202 for enquiries.
East Asia School of Theology 1 Dorset Rd Singapore 219486

download brochure here

Frederica Mathewes-Green on the Jesus Prayer

"The topic was the Jesus Prayer but I expanded it to Eastern Christian spiritual disciplines in general, and said a bit about the Christ of Sinai."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (5)

Spiritual dimensions of the Sacraments

The sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion are important spiritual formation object lessons. In the act of obedience of being baptised, and indeed baptism itself, people may learn that they are set aside for God. In many Christian faith communities, this occurs after a person has gone through the catechumen or baptismal classes to learn the basic of their beliefs.

During the Holy Communion, the action with the bread in “take, bless, break, share” are again important reminders of Jesus’ sacrifice and redemption and the Christians’ responses.

The Reformed worship incorporates the spiritual formation processes found in the early catechism in liturgy worship services. These processes includes the focus on the praise and adoration of God, the participation of worshippers in worship rather than as spectators, a Word-centered liturgy, emphasis on preaching as a means of grace and the presence of order, dignity and grace (Weaver, 2002 , 33-34). The Holy Communion, baptism and confirmations are also important aspect of the Reformed worship. Therefore spiritual formation takes place as people are reminded weekly of the creed, prayer and rules governing the Christian faith. “Formative worship” is an important dynamic process for Christian spiritual formation.

Works cited

Weaver, J. D. (2002). Presbyterian Worship: A Guide for Clergy. Louisville, KN: Geneva Press.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (4)

A communal sense of time

Closely aligned with a community’s worship of God is its sense of time[i]. The Christian calendar gives a sense of the liturgical year which has bind Christian faith communities together in a common tradition of worship through the centuries[ii]. It serves the function of marking time, and “continually orders the pattern of our spirituality into a remembrance of God’s saving deeds and the anticipation of the rule of God over all creation.” (Webber 2004, 27 italics author’s). The activities of the events commemorated are important because it reminds Christians annually who they are and their place in God or the Christian story.

According to Webber, “Christian-year spirituality” is a spirituality of being identified with the life and work of Lord Jesus Christ (2004, 23-24). However it does not stop there. It also allows the Holy Spirit to work in the Christians’ lives. Bruce Lockerbie, an educator, is convinced that the Christian calendar “has helped many Christians become spiritually more mature.”[iii] (1994, 141). Similarly Dubley Weaver, a Presbyterian pastor also finds that the Christian calendar is a “helpful way of helping children live the story of God’s love in Jesus Christ and emphasizing the distinctiveness of the Christian faith and commitment in the midst of a secular world.”[iv] (2002, 67). All this serves to remind English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia to go back to the liturgical calendar as many churches has abandoned it except for Easter and Christmas celebrations. Presbyterian/Reformed churches in other countries still follow the Christian calendar. For some unknown reason, this has been discontinued in the English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia. The Christian calendar is Christo-centric as is the process of Christian spiritual formation. Following the Christian calendar forces the English-speaking Presbyterian churches to plan their preaching and church activities around the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Works cited

Lockerbie, D. B. (1994). Living and Growing in the Christian Year. In K. O. Gangel & J. C. Wilholt (Eds.), The Christian Educator's Handbook on Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Weaver, J. D. (2002). Presbyterian Worship: A Guide for Clergy. Louisville, KN: Geneva Press.

Webber, R. E. (2004). Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

White, J. F. (2000). Introduction to Christian Worship (3rd. rev. exp. ed.). Nashville: Abington Press.


[i] In Ancient-Future Time, Robert Weber writes about the Christian practice of time. He divides the church year into two cycles: a cycle of light (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) and a cycle of life (Lent, The Great Tridium, Easter).(Webber, 2004) He calls it “Christian-year spirituality”.

[ii] James White indicates the presence of the Christian calendar indicates Christianity takes time seriously. Compared to other religions which did not take time seriously, Christianity shows a God who intervenes in historic time. (White, 2000) p.67-80.

[iii] Lockerbie make a strong case for observation the Christian calendar by giving six reasons.

(1) Observing the Year provides each Christian with opportunity to fulfill one of the most basic human instincts, the chance to start all over again, (2)The Year’s cycle provides those principles and discipline each Christian needs, (3)We need to walk with God’s people through history, to “walk where Jesus walked,” by means of observing the year, (4) Observing the Year means marking a season of several days or weeks rather than just one day, (5) Observing the year sets believers part from secularists for whom the holy-day has become a mere holiday and (6) Marking the season gives time to develop a biblical understanding or theology of the season.” (Lockerbie, 1994)P.136-139.

[iv] This is particularly important because typically children and youth are left out of the Christian calendar year except for Easter and Christmas where they are expected to perform for the adults, in the form of song items, skits, and dances.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (3)

A grateful community in worship

A worshipping community acknowledges their identity in God, in their relationship in God, and in their expression of gratitude for what God has done. A grateful worshipping community will be the strongest weapon for the Malaysian Christians including the English-speaking Presbyterians to survive in a religious pluralistic society, and against the Islamisation program of the government. A grateful Christian faith community has a sense of identity as one who receives from a God who cares and gives. The sense of identity is important especially when there are efforts from another religious community to displace that sense of community. Worship reminds the Christian faith community that they are poor yet rich in Christ.

Worship may be done in churches, at their workplace or anywhere at all. While in church, worship is the participation of the whole community, not just the act of the worship leader while the rest of the congregation sit as passive spectators. However, as theologian Marva Dawn insists, worship is a performance for the audience of One, not for one another[i]. (1995, 82). Dawn is writing in response to some churches where worship has become a performance. Celebrity worship leaders lead in the singing backed by professional standard musicians. The problem arises when people goes to the service because of the performance of the worship leaders and the music. The worshippers are the audience watching the cues and leads of the worship leaders or the pastors. The focus is on the people on the stage. True worship is when the worshippers, the leaders and pastor all focus on God the subject of our worship, an audience of one. Dawn hasten to add that “because God is the subject, we always remember that we can only be actors because he acted first” (1995, 82). Dawn’s point is that everything done in worship should be for God alone.

Works cited

Dawn, M. J. (1995). Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[i] The worship service has become a performance or a theatre. (Dawn, 1995) p.82

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BioLogos in the Creation/Evolution Debate

The BioLogos Foundation was founded by Francis Collins as a result of the runaway success of his 2006 book The Language of God. Francis Collins, currently Chairman of the National Institutes of Health in the United States is a committed Christian who believes that it is possible to harmonies science and Christian theology. He led the International Genome Project in 2003. Collins coins the word "BioLogos" which is similar to theistic evolution.

Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life. Because the term evolution is sometimes associated with atheism, a better term for the belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos. BioLogos comes from the Greek words bios (life) and logos (word), referring to the gospel of John:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The difference between theistic evolution, intelligent design (ID) and creationism may be found here. The main work of The BioLogos Foundation is in its website which was launched almost a year ago on 28 April, 2009. The work of the Foundation to "reconcile God with science" was highlighted in the May 2, 2009 TIME magazine. I have found its resources useful in helping me to understand the relation between science and Christianity.

Some notable articles from the website on BioLogos are
  • "Biblical Creation and Storytelling: Cosmogony, Combat and Covenant"
    by Brian Godawa

    Download full PDF

  • "Science as an Instrument of Worship: Can recent scientific discovery inform and inspire our worship and service?"
    by Jennifer Wiseman

    Download full PDF

  • "Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution"
    by Denis O. Lamoureux

    Download full PDF

  • "Scientific Fundamentalism and its Cultural Impact"
    by Karl Giberson

    Download full PDF

  • "Evangelicals, Creation, and Scripture: An Overview"
    by Mark Noll

    Download full PDF

  • "Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: I. Concerns of the Typical Evangelical Theologian"
    by Bruce Waltke

    Download full PDF

  • "Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: II. Concerns of the Typical Parishoner" or "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople"
    by Tim Keller

    Download full PDF

  • "Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: III. Concerns of the Typical Agnostic Scientist"
    by Darrel Falk

    Download full PDF

  • "Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism" by Karl Giberson
    Download full PDF

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Henri Nouwen on Relationship

The Balance Between Closeness and Distance

Intimacy between people requires closeness as well as distance. It is like dancing. Sometimes we are very close, touching each other or holding each other; sometimes we move away from each other and let the space between us become an area where we can freely move.

To keep the right balance between closeness and distance requires hard work, especially since the needs of the partners may be quite different at a given moment. One might desire closeness while the other wants distance. One might want to be held while the other looks for independence. A perfect balance seldom occurs, but the honest and open search for that balance can give birth to a beautiful dance, worthy to behold.

HT: Paul Long

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (2)

Liturgy as Formative Worship

Many theologians define liturgy as a sequential set of actions making up a “sacred structure or shape.” At the climax of this sacred shape is the Eucharist. Thus liturgy is what happens only in church services or mass. Anglican Samuel Wells (2002) concurs and sees each step or action of the liturgy as pedagogy[i]. Each action or step of the liturgy conveys a spiritual lesson to the people involved in the liturgy. Lynn Bauman explains, “The term liturgy comes from the language of the New Testament itself. It comprises of two Greek words, laos meaning ‘people’ and ergon meaning ‘work’ (Luke 1:23; Phil. 2:17; He. 8:6). Together these terms signify that worship is a work that invites the whole people of God in the transforming sacrifice of Christ” (Bauman, 1994, 103). Liturgical worship has a contributing factor in Christian spiritual formation because it brings the worship into the daily life of the worshippers. These understandings of the liturgy as work implies the participants are to live out the liturgy (in their workplace) the rest of the week. (Bauman, 1994, 103-107). Liturgical worship is a power dynamic process for English-speaking Presbyterians and other Christians because the experience of continuing worship in churches and in their work will have a powerful effect on their spiritual formation.

While some theologian distinguishes liturgy and worship, especially those from non-liturgical churches, Singaporean theologian Simon Chan see no difference between liturgy and worship. Chan defines liturgy as “the people’s common response to that word (God’s calling), their acceptance of the Word, which constitutes them as the covenant people.”(2006, 41). This definition narrows liturgy and worship to a covenant celebration, rather to a celebration of the outward flow of grace. However, it is better to expand its understanding to beyond the rituals of the liturgy. Australian educator Ted Endacott adopts a middle point when he points out the importance of Sunday worship in connecting “traditional Christian beliefs and current experience” (2005, 14).

Works cited

Bauman, L. C. (1994). Spiritual Formation Through The Liturgy. In The Christian Educator's Handbook on Spiritual Formation (pp. 99-110). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Chan, S. (2006). Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community (1 ed.). Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Endacott, T. (2005). "Working the Circles": A Fresh Look at Mission, Worship and Christian Education. Australian Missiology Conference Retrieved 7 February 2008, from

Keating, T. (1987). The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.

Wells, S. (2002). How Common Worship Forms Local Character. Studies in Christian Ethics(15), 66-74.


[i] Thomas Keating however, sees each step as a powerful spiritual experience. (Keating, 1987)

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