Life takes practice & daily discipline

Wow, this morning (meaning this past Thursday morning) I spoke to someone at the gym who in the last couple of months has lost 35 kg. I have often seen him grimacing when his personal trainer takes him through his daily routine between 6 – 7 a.m. His language is sometimes quite colourful as a result of the physical exertion his personal trainer demands. He is still a big guy but unrecognisably so. I salute his persistent discipline. I admire the extent of his investment in his health — personal trainers are not cheap — but they are a whole lot cheaper than heart attacks. I also admire his honesty and humility to recognise that without a personal trainer holding him accountable and coaching him, the change he dreamed of would remain just that — a dream, never to see the light of day.

Last night (meaning Wednesday night) during Wednesday Church we learnt from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk, the great need to practice, practice, practice. To practice ‘deep listening’ — to listen without judgment and blame. To practice ‘deep looking’ — to look within ourselves to locate the origins of our own anger and violence. To practice walking calmly and gently on the earth. These practices will produce understanding and with understanding  our hearts are opened to compassion. “Only a drop of compassion can put out the fire of hatred in ourselves and others”.

Is this difficult? Sure it is! Like loosing 35kg is difficult. It takes practice and daily discipline and to do this we need coaching and accountability.  In Church, like gym we need personal trainers.

Lets chat, Alan

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Killing grieves God

This past week we heard the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed. President Obama announced that “it was a good day for America” and that it goes to show “that there is nothing we can’t do”. We have known Obama as a great orator but these words of his disappointed. They diminished rather than enlarged our common humanity. They added to the inappropriate gloating that took place outside the White House and Ground-Zero. Bin Laden’s killing — like all killing — is a tragedy that grieves God the creator and lover of us all.

In the Gospels Jesus says that Satan cannot cast out Satan. Equally, violence cannot cast out violence or killing cast out killing. Violence and killing beget more of the same. This tragic truth stains much of our human history. When will we stop doing to others as they have done to us? When will we take Jesus at His Word — and begin to love our enemies in the very least by refusing to kill them? If there was one thing Jesus was very clear about — in word and in deed — it was that we are called to love our enemies.

In reminding his congregation of this, St. Augustine proclaimed in a sermon: “Let your desire for him [your enemy] be that together with you he may have eternal life: let your desire for him be that he may be your brother. And if that is what you desire in loving your enemy (that he may be your brother) when you love him, you love a brother. You love in him, not what he is, but what you would have him be.” (Augustine, Eighth Homily, in Homilies on the First Epistle of St John).

God, encourage us to extend the circle of our love to include our enemies.

Sunday 8 May 2011

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“What would I say to Osama bin Laden”

“What I Would Say to Osama bin Laden”  A Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh answers this question in an interview with Anne A. Simpkins on the 28th September 2001.  During Wednesday Church we will be reflecting on his answer.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk in the Zen tradition, who worked tirelessly for peace during the Vietnam War, rebuilding villages destroyed by the hostilities. Following an anti-war lecture tour in the United States, he was not allowed back in his country and settled in France. In 1967, he was nominated by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is now internationally known for his teaching and writing on mindfulness, and for his work related to “socially engaged Buddhism,” a call to social action based on Buddhist principles. Thay, as he is affectionately called by his followers, shared his thoughts on how America should respond to the terrorist attacks.

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Carry a Psalm with you

Do you ever stop and reflect on just how much stuff you carry around with you?  Cell phone, keys, wallet, driver’s license, glasses, bag (never mind what is in the bag…) the list can go on and on.

Today I want to encourage you to carry something else around with you — something that really will enrich our living. I encourage you to carry a psalm with you each week.  A psalm that we can carry in our mind — reading and re-reading — perhaps even learning it by heart — carrying it in our heart.

 This past week Psalm 16 was our set psalm.  Here are a few lines that moved me to wonder and wander…

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
You show me the path of life.  In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

These words cannot be read too slowly. As we read them — they read us back. What do they mean? What do they mean for our individual lives and for us as a community, country … cosmos?

Peace, Alan

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Stand face to face with the crucified Lord

Today we are called to stand face to face with the crucified Lord. Crucified because he refused to restrict his loving to the accepted contours of the socio, political, economic, cultural, religious and national interests of his day. He loved without fear and favour. This was too threatening for those who had a vested interest in the status quo and too disappointing for those who desired a violent overthrow of the status quo. Faced with the choice of limiting his loving or being killed — he chose to be killed and in his dying breaths he extended his love to new heights to include even his killers.

May his love pierce us today, Alan
Sunday 24 April 2011

“We have gotten so used to the ultimate Christian fact — Jesus naked, stripped, crucified and risen — that we no longer see it for what it is: a summons to strip ourselves of earthly cares and worldly wisdom, all desire for human praise, greediness for any kind of comfort; a readiness to stand up and be counted as peacemakers in a violent world; a willingness to let go of those pretenses that would have us believe that we really aren’t worldly. Even the last rag we cling to — the self-flattery that suggests we are being humble when we disclaim any resemblance to Jesus Christ — even that rag has to go when we stand face to face with the crucified Lord.” Brennan Manning in The Signature of Jesus.

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