Perplexed into contemplation – Richard Rohr

The piece below is one of the most beautiful writings I have ever read. It’s part of a series  of reflections on art and faith. It is beautiful, touching and liberative. Do read on!

Perplexed into Contemplation
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The imagination offers revelation. It never blasts us with information or numbs us with description. . . . We find ourselves engaged in its questions and possibilities, and new revelation dawns. . . . The imaginative form of knowing is graced with gradualness. . . . The imagination reveals truth in such a way that we can receive and integrate it. —John O’Donohue [1]

I must confess that I tend to prefer the older forms of art and music to much of what I see and hear in pop culture. Often when I listen to music on the radio today, I often scratch my head and say, “I really don’t get it!” But maybe the point is for us to not get it when we encounter something new or unfamiliar.

One of our CONSPIRE 2018 teachers, Dr. Barbara Holmes, suggests that both art and contemplation have a related goal: shifting paradigms. Art and contemplation lead us to wonder, but first they perplex us. Mature spiritual leaders make room for and welcome the prophetic—the challenging, new, and unexpected—even while holding onto the essentials of our wisdom traditions.

Holmes writes in Joy Unspeakable about how the Gospel is being re-envisioned by young people:

To reconsider your circumstances using the perspectives of a new generation is a difficult and contemplative act. It is contemplative because it requires the recognition that the world as we know it is not of our own making. Another generation has its hands to the plow: they will not engage the world as we did; they are singing a new song. [2]

If Christianity is to survive and stay relevant, we must welcome new songs, new expressions of the sacred through beauty, celebration, lament, defiance, and calls to repentance and action. To do so requires bringing contemplative practice beyond pews and prayer mats to the ways we engage on social media, the streets, and the evening news. Contemplation is not only for so-called sacred spaces; it can touch and change all of life.

Ronald Rolheiser writes:

God cannot be thought, but God can be met. Through awe and wonder we experience God and there, as mystics have always stated, we understand more by not understanding than by understanding. In that posture we let God be God. In such a posture, too, we live in contemplation. [3]

Reverend Holmes continues:

[Art is] contemplative because [it] ignites memories of the awe and wonder that we tend to discard after childhood. . . . When we decide to live in our heads only, we become isolated from the God who is closer than our next breath. To subject everything to rational analysis reduces the awe to ashes. The restoration of wonder is the beginning of the inward journey toward a God who people of faith aver is always waiting in the seeker’s heart. For some, the call to worship comes as joy spurts from jazz riffs, wonder thunders from tappers’ feet, as we ponder Lamar’s prophetic insolence and Beyoncé’s black girl magic. Each artistic moment is just slightly beyond our horizon of understanding. Perhaps we are confounded so that we might always have much to contemplate. [4]

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

[1] John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (HarperCollins: 2004), 147.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, second edition (Fortress Press: 2017), 197.

[3] Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God (New York: Crossroad, 2001), 117.

[4] Holmes, Joy Unspeakable, 198

Image credit: Composition VIII (detail), Wassily Kandinsky, 1923, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York.

To learn more, visit CAC.org

 

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What every pastor can learn from Kevin De Bruyne

What every pastor can learn from Kevin De Bruyne

Just in case you are not into football, Kevin De Bruyne is a prolific midfielder who belongs to Manchester City football club in the English premier league. His contributions to the team have been pivotal for their currently unbeaten streak of games this season (2017-18), as of January 9, 2018.

If one were to watch De Bruyne play, there are many parallels that can be drawn to pastoral ministry. A few things all clergy can learn from De Bruyne’s game: Continue reading “What every pastor can learn from Kevin De Bruyne”

Verses for the new year

Happy new year!

Are you happy enough?

Now I needed strength to enter the new year because of the feeling that I hadn’t enough strength to sustain the youth ministry I am in. Looks like I may be here in this city for one more year, ensuring a transition in the ministry from one Youth Chaplain to the next.

Encouragement came through the Word of God – the Word that creates and sustains. I hope this encourages you too!

Three verses came to my rescue at a time the feeling of inadequacy to lead a youth ministry gripped me, at the end of 2017 :

2 Samuel 23:10

but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

This appeared as I was reading Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson, a book that has found its way into my heart, family life, ministry, sessions and sermons! The verse emphasized the perseverance of Eleazar at a time his troops seemed to be losing the battle. He fought on…

… till his hands froze to the sword …

Hang on in there, Mathews, the verse seemed to say to me.

Isaiah 11:1

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

A verse read at every Christmas carol service, yet overlooked, as most don’t listen to the lesson readings in between the melodious carols.

A stump is what is left after a tree is chopped down. It bears no hope for fruit bearing or growth. It’s a sign of destruction and hopelessness. Yet Isaiah, driven my the prophetic vision conveys the imagination of the God he serves :

There is hope even for a stump.

God will enable life to emerge even from that which is dead and hopeless.

That’s enough for me and the ministry I am given. It’s not me who is leading it, but the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of life. Not only will a shoot come out of the stump, but also will the root bear fruit!

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

This passage lit up again while I went through a sermon I had prepared in October. It reinforced the above two verses. Together with these, I entered the new year with great hope and I wish you do too.

I was wondering how to sustain the momentum and growth of this ministry I am in. Sure it’s what I have always wanted to do! Now it needs further growth, more impact and expansion. And I don’t exactly know how, although I have made plans for the year. You could say, I am blind and can’t see the way forward.

But this verse, yet again from Isaiah, reminded me to hold the hand of the one I serve and just walk along, to places that I never knew. That’s super exciting. And he will shed light amidst darkness and make rough places smooth.

That’s enough. All I need for a new year is here. Now all that we might need is coming back and reading these verses every day.

I hope these verses encourage you. Let it brighten up your heart and fill your limbs and joints with strength. May the Word of God spur your will to be the blessing to this world you are meant to be.

The Lion Chaser’s Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

Run to the roar.

Set God-sized goals.

Pursue God-given passions.

Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.

Stop pointing out problems.

Become part of the solution.

Stop repeating the past.

Start creating the future.

Face your fears.

Fight for your dreams.

Grab opportunity by the mane and don’t let go! Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.

Burn sinful bridges.

Blaze new trails.

Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.

Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.

Dare to fail.

Dare to be different.

Quit holding out.

Quit holding back.

Quit running away.

Chase the lion.

– Mark Batterson, Chase the Lion

The “It’s possible” experience

It has been my dream to wake up early in the morning and begin the day fresh and fine. Get up, pray, read, study and write – that was the plan. It has not been easy getting there how much ever I have wanted.  Impossible has been the buzz word, leaving much regret at failed attempts.

That began to change with the help of Robin Sharma’s inspirational talks. Getting to your A-game, the 5 am club, The 90 rule and the like have been super exciting that I did begin waking up early in the morning. Invoking the power of the sub-conscious mind, the goals which were put down on paper began to happen. That was till December. In January some commitments caused my routines to change and then I got back to it last week.

It was like get, set, go. I would wake up at 5 am,  exercise -Really! That was sort of impossible for me somehow – and eat healthy. One day I just got up, I began automatically waking up at 5 am. The other day I felt as though my body was automatically dragging to my sports shoes and towards the door, that I did enjoy going out and running. What’s more? I even finished all the work I had  assigned for the day and it was only 8.15 am! Time just turned up, exactly as these guys said  it would.

Now the question is about consistency.  I have got this feeling that it is possible. I would correct it to say, rather than just feeling, my body seems ready before my mind is! This is truly amazing and I have been waiting for something like this to happen.

Since February 28 I have been sharing written devotions, here on my site as well as on facebook. I gave myself a Sunday off, but it has been consistent. Yesterday, I shut everything else I was doing and got to my computer to write. This is a good time, a season of change. Daily quiet time, prayers and affirmations really work wonders within us!

Today I ran all the way towards the local railway station and I did not for once feel, “Oh… too far!” In fact my body wanted me to ran and move and dragged me on. It was sort of weird, like there was someone else in charge of what I was doing. I feel good this evening, after the run and a cold shower. Back to my daily devotion writing now, a series called Jesus in Mumbai ( #JesusInMumbai ) where I try to seek an incarnational understanding of Christology  situating it within the daily living in Mumbai. It has been fun, meditative and creative.

The power of the subconscious mind, intriguing indeed.

A few steps would be:

Affirm to yourself

Write it down

Review it

Repeat.

 

Thank you God.

The co-traveller | 1 Kings 17 : 1-24

He travels by train with us. He was the one who fed and quenched Elijah’s thirst at Kerith. When Kerith dried up, God fed him through a widow who was about to starve to death (1 Kings 17:1-24).
Nonetheless, we see God was with Elijah on the mountain top as well as at the brook of Kerith. He was with him through his starting point and his destination.

Continue reading “The co-traveller | 1 Kings 17 : 1-24”

A few insights from Pokemon Go!


The exhortations in the picture sounded like Jesus. It seemed like the divine, to which nothing is a limitation, was bursting forth through the game screen. It was foolish of me to attempt the game on 2G but that’s what turned my attention to the message on the screen that had the plausible resemblance to a Bible message. Another look at the screen made it seem straightout of the Book of Revelation, which gave me a smile. Pokémon Go was now kindling my imagination.

Alas! Three Bible verses popped up in my head as I stared at the note on the screen: 

Luke 12:46a The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 

1 Peter  5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
The first talks about the return of Christ of which we know nothing of the day and the hour. We are simply asked to be prepared. There simply is no time to mess around and we have no business doing so! Keeping our act together, living according to the guidance of God through the Word, worship and fellowship, was paramount, lest we fall into the clutches of sin and darkness.The  second verse warns us from taking things lightly all the time, making us aware of the dangers we could fall into. We are hearing reports of people who endangered their lives chasing Pokemons and even crossing international borders, gravely violating rules without realizing. 

The third verse that came to me was :

Matthew 26:10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.

How beautiful! Jesus was aware of the deepest longings of the woman who was anointing him. He saw through the daring of a potentially shameless woman who was being despised for being present too near him;  for crossing the Jewish line of etiquette and  socio-spatial gender boundaries. Why would she do that?

Let’s consult ourselves first. We chase Pokemon for fun, right? Are you sure? What’s in a game that seeks to catch creatures that are not there physically yet exist on the screens and the technology mediated world of virtual reality? Surely, it’s more than fun. There’s a sense of achievement. The Pokemon we caught which others haven’t  enhances our sense of uniqueness.  Everyone wants to feel special – and appreciated. We all want our moment when we are accepted, acknowledged and asked for. 

In gathering together at the gyms and other public places, defending our Pokemon’s, we seek community. We all want to know that we are not alone. If we are too proud to ask the company of others, we can form communities (that may or may not last),” accidentally, through these defensive alliances. Yes, we want relationship. We are a different person,without them. We seek proximity and interaction, we seek protection and care. And we go after Pokemon. We live, move and have our being in a broken world that chases after… Pokémons. 

Jesus is aware of what we seek. He asks us to be aware of what our neighbour seeks. Just as he was. Aware of her  deepest longings, Jesus tells speaks on behalf of her, calling her act, beautiful. Despite her brokenness, the woman knew where to go. Do we know where to go with our brokeness? Which way do we guide the broken people around us, especially the ones who come our way?

So the two injunctions that appear as Pokémon Go loads have deep meaning for anyone who seeks a meaningful life – one that we can truly call LIFE. In short, the Truth – that which is real, which is actual. No floss. 

And there is one who said “I am … the Truth.” Leonard Sweet tells us that in Christian faith the Truth is not a statement, law or method; it is a person.

If Pokémon symbolizes that ultimate thing we are searching for inorder to satisfy us, then, Jesus is the ultimate Pokémon. May our search for Pokémon lead us to the Truth who is none but Jesus.

He is waiting to embrace you when you find him.