Disturbing Presence

Reflections on the Way of Jesus

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Re: vital worship

“In the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.”

~ Woodrow Wilson

I was blessed to have a few weeks of vacation during the summer before moving onto a new ministry. The down time was restorative.  Among the activities I enjoyed was going to worship in other churches and sitting in the pews to get the vantage of the congregation.

I love watching people so I sit right in the middle of the sanctuary when I am able. I did so at one church and noticed how many people bring coffee and bottles of water. I saw people knitting and holding hands with others.

I saw when people seemed to tune into the worship leaders and when they tuned out.  One of the most remarkable things I saw in one congregation was a woman eating a banana and a roll with her coffee. Actually, I have a keen sense of smell, so I smelled the banana before I saw the woman eating it. My initial reaction was more than surprise. I was appalled that someone would desecrate a house of God by eating a banana. “What would she do with the peel?” I wondered.  Didn’t she know this was sacrilege? She seemed to savor it so much that she was bordering on ecstasy. She did the same thing with the roll and the coffee – small bites and small sips. She closed her eyes while she ate, seeming almost as absorbed in her breakfast as the service.

After a few minutes of this distraction, I found that I was smiling at the banana eater and I felt warm inside, like I had witnessed something wholly bizarre, but holy and precious. I felt like God led me to that church to watch her eat and to examine my own biases of right and wrong, secular and sacred. More than that, it was a gut check for my worldview. I take pride in being a liberal – someone who is open to new ideas. Yet, my initial reaction was so conservative – wanting to preserve the puritan decorum of our Congregational forebears. “How dare you? Don’t you know the tradition of the church is to be stark and focused on the inner self? Why didn’t you eat before you got here?”

As I processed all these feelings, I came to realize that the most profound moment of worship for me in that hour was not the awe-inspiring music or the brilliant sermon. The most profound sense of worship was when I realized I was grinning on the inside and outside because of the joy I experienced watching the woman eat and drink. I realized that her mindfulness in eating was as worship-full as the service itself.

How many times do I judge others because of my biased sense of morality? There’s nothing immoral or unethical about eating a banana in worship, especially if you tote the peel away like she did. Perhaps the most sinful thing in this whole experience was what I initially thought about that woman.

Now that I’ve had time to process that experience, it makes me wish we’d have more people eating bananas in worship … or doing anything with such intense mindfulness. It also makes me wish I was a little more liberal in my mindset. Conserving grace and judging others are about as ungodly as one can get.

Thanks be to God that there are so many ways to express our faith. And thanks be to God that I am still a work in progress. Thanks be to God that a beautiful young woman who didn’t have time for breakfast before worship came to worship and taught me a new variation of worship: eating bananas.

Filed under worship Christianity Church judgment food mindfulness eating drinking coffee ministry people watching

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Reason alone, one way or another, eventually turns into reasoning together. It sees the light of day. It meets its own history. It strikes up a conversation. And it’s never the same afterward.
Nathan Schneider, from God in Proof (via beingblog)

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This!

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            a God to rescue you from yourself,

a faithful presence always.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            a Being worthy of worship.

Mercy and Mystery.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            One who gives life.

            Approach with awe.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            a day to rest,

            a day not to play God yourself.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            a chance to thank your parents

            for blood and bone.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            an opportunity to see this creature

            as made in God’s image.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            a way to love your spouse

            with all your being.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            the time to discover

            all the resources at your disposal.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            an honorable life

            where truth matters.

This!  This is what you’ve been waiting for:

            abundance.

            You have all you need.

This!  You’ve been waiting for all this.  Enjoy!

             

Filed under ten commandments faith Law of Moses Christianity Judaism

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We come out of nowhere, don’t we, in the sense that we’re a total accident. Our parents met. There’s the accident. And, you know, we’re born. Obviously, we come from someplace physiologically. And then comes the emergence of our being, which is the psychological and spiritual emergence of our being that takes time, experience, education of a certain kind with parents and neighbors and teachers and relatives and from one another humanly. And this slow emergence of our psychological being and our spiritual being is itself a great mystery. And mystery, you bet — mystery is a great challenge. It’s an invitation, and it’s a wonderful companion, actually.
Robert Coles, in The Inner Lives of Children. (via beingblog)

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Reality Spoken

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“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  Ernest Hemingway

 

I had an acquaintance who constantly accused his wife of being a liar and not worthy of his trust.  He told all his friends and family as much, including their children.  He used to grill her and find holes in her stories.   He’d follow her to the grocery store, sure she was meeting another man.  He’d even show up to her job unannounced to make sure she was at work when she told him she would be.  He accused her of having an affair that resulted in the conception of their second son, even though the son was a spitting image of him.  He never caught her doing anything, but always said she was an expert liar who covered up everything.  You can probably guess that this troubled marriage ended unhappily.  His mistrust became abuse when practiced his way.

My experience with this man was that he trusted almost no one.  He was suspicious.  He thought he knew more than everyone else.  He’d say degrading things about people behind their backs.  And if they were fragile enough, he’d insult them to their faces, knowing they didn’t have the wherewithal to fight back.  But, he had the allure of a bright, charming, fun-loving man.  He was the loudest voice at parties.  He seemed buoyant and engaged.  And you should see what he did on the dance floor … like dirty dancing on steroids!

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A colleague described this man as a narcissist.  I’m not a specialist in diagnosing pathologies, but it seems to me that he had some self-esteem issues, which caused him to put everyone else down so that he seemed to be a bigger and better man.  His reality was sad.  The man I knew was fearful, paranoid, and lonely.   

He thought the world was out to “pull one over” on him, so that’s all he saw –  hucksters, liars and cheats.  I met some of those same people.  I perceived them as honest, kind, and generous and I told him so.  Somehow, he thought he was able to discern peoples’ motivations in a way that eluded the rest of the world.  He told me that only 3% of the population scored the way he did on the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.   When I heard that declaration, I thought to myself, “Thank God.  We don’t need more than 3% of the population being so nasty!”

I tell you about this guy because I believe that we speak our world into being.  If I say the church is filled with loving, faithful, and generous people, I’m more likely to see those characteristics than anything else.  If I say the church is filled with uptight, controlling hypocrites, I’m going to see behaviors that fit my description, even if those behaviors are the exception rather than the rule, even if those behaviors don’t exist at all. 

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It’s my hope and prayer that, as people of God, we see others closer to God’s reality than this acquaintance of mine.  I think God sees us with rose-colored glasses.  Sure, God knows our growing edges and vulnerabilities, but like a loving parent, She has eyes of love that are smitten with us.

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Filed under Christianity God's love narcissism trust belief faith rose colored glasses

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The sun of the first day
Put the question
To the new manifestation of life —
Who are you?
There was no answer.
Years passed by.

The last sun of the last day
Uttered the question
on the shore of the western sea,
In the hush of evening —
Who are you!
No answer came.

from our special program, The Modern Resonance of Rabindranath Tagore (via beingblog)

And then he said, “Here I am.”

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beingblog:


You might say that God made us in his own mysterious image — mysterious not like human riddles and conundrums, but in our capacity to energetically participate in the creative, existential mystery of whatever the world is up to with us. At the eye of the storm we can know peace, strength, and a faith that passes understanding, finding ourselves at home with true mystery.

— Paul Martin, from Revelation in the Whirlwind of Existence.
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

YES!

beingblog:

You might say that God made us in his own mysterious image — mysterious not like human riddles and conundrums, but in our capacity to energetically participate in the creative, existential mystery of whatever the world is up to with us. At the eye of the storm we can know peace, strength, and a faith that passes understanding, finding ourselves at home with true mystery.

— Paul Martin, from Revelation in the Whirlwind of Existence.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

YES!