In the last few days I have posted several articles about the love of God and prayer. I also posted one about the riots here in Seattle on May Day. Guess which one got the most traffic?
It saddens me to see how much more easily we are drawn towards violence than towards love – not the mushy love of lust that is so often portrayed on the TV screen – but the enduring self sacrificing love that is at the core of who God is and who God wants us to be.
Violence saturates our society and we seem to accept it especially here in America. When I set out to get statistics on violence and media consumption this morning, I could find the results of little research done in the last 7 or 8 years. And the statistics from back then are rather sobering. Evidently the average child, from 2004 figures, will see at least 8,000 murders on TV before they finish elementary school and 200,000 violent acts by age 18. And if you want to follow the statistics SCMS Canada is well worth a visit.
Yet many people do not believe that watching violence creates violent behaviour and unfortunately much of the research produces inconclusive results as this article shows. In fact the most quoted research, though it concedes that watching violence increases aggression, states the startling fact that:
We ﬁnd that violent crime decreases on days with higher theater audiences for violent movies…. Overall, we ﬁnd no evidence of a temporary surge in violent crime due to exposure to movie violence. Rather, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter over 200 assaults daily.
So should we encourage the watching of violence hoping that it will actually decrease the incidence of violent crimes? Or is there another solution like teaching both children to love and care for each other rather than competing with each other.
Fortunately there are many organizations that are more concerned with peaceful rather than violent solutions to violence. Those involved in conflict resolution have grown remarkably in the last few years. Here are a few organizations worth checking out.
Eastern Mennonite University has a great list of resources on peace and conflict resolution, though of them deal with more global issues of violence.
Alternatives to Violence Project is another group that seems to take this issue seriously.
As you can see this has only been a very quick research project this morning and I would love to hear your input. How do you think the viewing of violence on TV and the interacting with violence in video games impacts behaviour? and probably even more important – How should we as Christians respond?
This morning I have been thinking about what it means to practice the presence of a God who is love. We know that the central commandment Jesus gave to the disciples was to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and to love your neighbour as yourself’. It is so simple yet so profound that we spend our entire lives trying to understand and live into its meaning.
Paul begins his great discourse on love by saying “let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31 NLT) What gives me great hope is the transformation that has taken place in Paul’s life. We first meet him as a fire breathing, killer of Christ’s followers. Now he has learned what love is all about.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13: 4-7 via biblegateway.com)
We see the same transformation in John’s life. He who was known as a son of thunder becomes the apostle of love. His gospel and his letters provide a wonderful glimpse into what the love of God looks like.
If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
Interestingly when we reach out to others with love and compassion our own ability to love grows. I have mentioned before that I was born 2 months prematurely and spent the first month of my life in hospital. Separated from my mother’s love I built a wall between myself and others. For much of my childhood I felt that a glass wall separated me from my family and friends. Then I became a Christian and the wall began to give way. It didn’t shatter in one fell swoop but it did slowly break down. What broke it down more than anything else was my reaching out to others who had even deeper needs than I did. The support of friends who loved me also eroded its walls.
Isaiah 58: 6-12 has become my life verse, because it is my life story.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes. (NLT via Biblegateway.com)
Reaching out to others has healed my wounds to. Learning to love others has made me more lovable (at least that’s what they tell me) and in the midst I have discovered the presence of a God whose love is so deep and so enduring that it will never leave me.
I have just heard about the May Day riots in downtown Seattle. Chaos and property damage have been the order of the day. According to the KOMO news report: Property damage was extensive including a Wells Fargo bank, Niketown, Taphouse Grill, American Apparel and the old downtown federal courthouse. Seattle police tweeted that multiple vehicles were damaged along parts of Seneca Street and Sixth Avenue, and the HomeStreet Bank on 6th was also vandalized.
This kind of violence doesn’t really help anyone’s cause and in fact diminishes the important protest of the many peaceful participants. It certainly doesn’t forward the cause of justice and often alienates those who would listen to justified protest. The May Day parade traditionally honors labour and workers’ rights. In Seattle, it drew hundreds of demonstrators for immigration rights and from the Occupy movement, with many converging on a park near downtown for rallies and music. These people need our prayers and support. Please pray with me.
Dear God in a world of violence and injustice,
May your righteousness prevail.
When anger and destruction seem to reign,
May your peace restore and renew.
When voices seeking justice are silenced by rioters ,
May your shouts for freedom be heard.
Protect the innocent, guide the righteous,
Be with those who walk for justice,
May your peace and harmony prevail.
Guide those who seek to restore
Many of you know that I am working on a new book on prayer: Return to Your Senses – Reimagining How We Pray, that hopefully will be available in September. When I worked in Africa I was impressed with how Africans wove their prayers through every part of life. Everything had a spiritual dimension to it. Every experience was a way to encounter and interact with God. It was this same spirituality weaving through all of life that first drew me to Celtic Christianity.
When I returned to Western culture I went hunting for this same kind of spirituality. Everyone I spoke to referred me to Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. How sad I thought that the only book anyone can think of that talks about how to interact with God in the ordinary mundane acts of life is 400 years old. Since then I have come across a number of books that address prayer and spirituality in this way.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World was a particularly delightful find. In the introduction to her book she talks about people who call themselves spiritual but not religious.
They know there is more to life than what meets the eye. They have drawn close to this “More” in nature, in love, in art, in grief. They would be happy for someone to teach them how to spend more time in the presence of this deeper reality, but when they visit the places where such knowledge is supposed to be found, they often find the rituals hollow and the language antique. (xvi)
My post last week What Is Prayer elicited a lot of helpful interaction in this type of prayer which so many of us hunger for but don’t know how to grasp. It is very difficult for us to take our rituals and formulae and turn them into relationships of love.
I think that we often misunderstand what contemplative prayer is all about too which doesn’t help us to move closer to the loving heart of God. Contemplative prayer is not necessarily about sitting in a quiet place but about finding a quiet presence in the midst of life’s distractions. Cultivating that is often challenging but always very rewarding. Consider Brother Lawrence . He entered into the presence of God while washing the dishes – something that I am sure was very noisy with lots of distractions.
So my question this morning is – How Do We Learn to Pray? How do we learn to move beyond rituals to relationship? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas and if you have any books to recommend on the subject would love to know about them.
Yesterday I posted this gorgeous photo on facebook
Thanks to my good friend Patty Doty, I found out that this marvellous lavender labyrinth is in Kastellaun Germany.
I love labyrinths and as many of you know we construct one each year for our Celtic retreat on Camano Island in August and a couple of years ago even had participants making their own finger labyrinths. I have also blogged about the significance of labyrinths here and still hanker after the labyrinth that Craig Goodwin created out of his backyard vegetable garden.
Going online this morning to do some research on labyrinths for my upcoming book I discovered that the Labyrinth Society celebrates World Labyrinth Day on the first Saturday of May – which just happens to be next Saturday so it seemed a good time to post again about labyrinths. I have not posted resources to help one explore and create one’s own labyrinth and thought that this was a good time to do that.
Here is the list provided by the Labyrinth Society, though these are not specifically Christian.
- Find a labyrinth
- Download a finger labyrinth
- Walk a virtual labyrinth
- Make a 7 circuit labyrinth
- Make a Chartres labyrinth
- Activities for kids
Many Christians, because of the non Christian roots of this tool are skeptical and even condemning of its use. This is a well balanced article that explains some of these concerns. However labyrinths are gaining popularity amongst Christians and I personally have found them to be a very helpful tool for mediation.
Some of the best Christian resources come from Jonny Baker and the people at Proost in the UK.
Landskapes – Labyrinth Meditations, Eucharist, and Spirit of the New.
The labyrinth Network Northwest also has some great resources available. – It is an extensive list and I am very glad that I did not need to reproduce it.
And this pdf on Labyrinth Prayer not only explains the labyrinth & provides some prayers to use in walking it but also mentions some great books on labyrinths.
Bosco Peters just made me aware of this video that he uploaded for his post Twists and Turns of Holy Week. Thanks Bosco.
I also really enjoyed this video introduction to labyrinth walking.
I have fallen in love with pear and raspberry bread which is a favourite in Australia at coffee shops for morning and afternoon coffee. It is one of my fond memories of visits with my Mum. I have been thinking about making this with some pears I have that are a little beyond fresh use.
It is usually served toasted with butter (yum) though it is always good plain too. I prefer it to banana bread though I have never found it offered here in the U.S.
This recipe is adapted from the one I found at bestrecipes.com.au
– 3 cup whole grain or wheat flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1 pear, peeled and chopped
– 1/2 cup raspberries, do not thaw if using frozen
1. Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F
2. Sift flour, baking powder, soda. Stir in sugar and nuts
3. beat egg and oil together. Add to mixture, stir in milk, add pear and raspberries and gently sir into mixture until just combined
4. bake in a greased loaf tin for about 60 minutes, until golden brown. Leave in tin to cool
Here is my round up of facebook prayers from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!
God we give you thanks and praise this morning
your love is unfailing in unanticipated circumstances,
Your faithfulness endures in unexpected places,
Your mercy is unlimited in undeserved ways.
May we remember always
The love of God casts out fear
The life of God conquers death
The glory of God fills our world
May we remember and give thanks.
Let the light of God shine into your soul,
And fill you with life.
Let the love of God shine through your life,
And fill others with the life of God
Let all earth rejoice and praise the One who is Lord of Lord
Let the trees shout and the lions roar
Let the birds sing and the elephants trumpet
Glory to the creator of all life.
Jesus may we today see your glory in unexpected faces
Hidden treasure in the face of strangers,
Glimmers of newness in the struggles of loved ones,
Life emerging where there has been death.
For the beauty of the earth we thank you O God,
For the abundance of the garden we thank you O Christ,
For the flourishing of friendship we thank you O Spirit,
For the abundance of life we give you thanks today,
Thanks to the three in One, the One in three.
Let us look and see the wonder,
Resurrection exploding around us,
In sunshine and blossom and springtime emerging,
Christ is risen and is everywhere present in our world.
May the beauty of God’s creation seep into your soul,
May it fill you with love and peace,
And radiate from your heart into this world God loves.
Lord Jesus Christ your majestic name fills the earth
You glory is reflected in all creation
Your love is expressed in every act of caring
May we rest secure in the wonder of your risen life.
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