Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Healthy Family

The following is from Entering the World of the Small Church, written by Anthony G. Pappas.

"Professor Maynard Hatch, formerly of Central Baptist Seminary, worked with churches in a field-placement setting to measure their "temperature" (degree of health) by using certain characteristics of a healthy family. These characteristics, fifteen in all, are described in Dolores Curran's book Traits of a Healthy Family."

The Healthy Family...
1. Communicates and Listens
2. Affirms and Supports One Another
3. Teaches Respect for Others
4. Develops a Sense of Trust
5. Has a Sense of Play and Humor
6. Exhibits a Sense of Shared Responsibility
7. Teaches a Sense of Right and Wrong
8. Has a Strong Sense of Family in which Rituals and Traditions Abound
9. Has a Balance of Interaction Among Members
10. Has a Shared Religious Core
11. Respects the Privacy of One Another
12. Values Service to Others
13. Fosters Family Table Time and Conversation
14. Shares Leisure Time
15. Admits to and Seeks Help with Problems

These characteristics are being used in reflection on churches and the Body of Christ in general. I find them to be very helpful when trying to identify the health of the church you are attending or visiting and considering joining.

Though the discussion which introduced these characteristics happened to be related to the rural church, I find these characteristics vital for today's family. These are characteristics that can be sustained regardless of geographical location or family dynamics...if one so chooses to put in the extra time it takes to invest in their family. Families all to often dwell on the negatives and the petty, rather than seeking God's will for their family and working through issues. No where above is it suggested that we sweep problems under the rug or stick our heads in the sand and hope they simply disappear with time. But rather, it encourages us to have an open and respectful dialogue with our families that does not present a hostile environment.

Anyway, I just thought these were great characteristics to pass a long to you and hope you find them good food for thought.

Scripture Verses on Family for Personal Prayer and Reflection

"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." - Proverbs 14:26.

"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." - Proverbs 17:1.

"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." - Matthew 12:25.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:21

A house divided will surely crumble. But a house built on a foundation of the Lord and that lives to serve Jesus Christ, will never fail.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Praying in Color

Image/Drawing by Sybil MacBeth

For those of you who may not know, I'm in seminary. I'm currently taking some summer courses and this week, the course I'm taking gives us the opportunity to explore some alternative ways of worship. What was introduced this morning was something I had never done before, but LOVED it. I encourage you to try something new in your prayer life and maybe this might be the thing to reconnect you with God in a knew and refreshing way.

This idea of worship comes from the book titled Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. You can learn more about Sybil and the practice of praying in color by visiting her website at www.prayingincolor.com.

That being said, the following is the exercise we practiced this morning and I would really like to encourage you to continue reading and after reading through the instructions, attempt this new form of prayer. If you do it, I'd love to hear your reflections.

1. Draw a shape on the page - a triangle, trapezoid, squiggly line, or imperfect circle. Write the name of a person for whom you want to pray in or near the shape.

2. Add detail to the drawing. This might be dots, lines, circles, zigzags or whatever your hand wants to do.

3. Don't analyze your next stroke too much. Dismiss the art critic from the room. This is not about creating a work of art; it's about creating visual images for the mind and the heart to remember.

4. Think of this as kinesthetic improvisation, a kind of praying in tongues for the fingers.

5. Continue to enhance the drawing. Think of each stroke and each moment as time that you spend with the person in prayer. The written name and the emerging picture may evoke words and thoughts for the person. They add a new layer to your prayer experience.

6. Words, however, are unnecessary. Sometimes, we do not know what to say; the mere act of sitting with this person and keeping them as the focus of our intention can be as powerful as words.

7. Keep drawing until the image feels finished.

8. At some point, your mind will probably wonder. In Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton said, "If you have never had any distractions, you don't know how to pray." Distractions are as much about being human as hair and heartaches. Make no judgments about your ability to pray based on their uninvited appearance.

9. Repeat the person's name to yourself as a way of corralling distracting thoughts. Think about the face or the entire person as if you were sitting with him or her in conversation.

10. Add color to the picture. Choose colors that will stay in your memory, that you particularly like, or that remind you of the person for who you pray.

11. When the drawing and praying for the first person are completed, move to another space on the page. Draw a new shape or design to create a place for the name of a different person.

12. When you move your focus take several deep breaths to release any anxiety.

13. In the process of this wordless prayer form, daydreams and distractions will probably enter your mind and demand center stage. Notice them, but don't dance with them. Refocus on the person for who you pray.

14. A flash of the image in your mind during the day is a reminder that you have committed these persons to the care of God. It is also a reminder that you have chosen not to worry but to pray for them.

15. Whenever worry about a person seeps into your consciousness, picture them in color surrounded by the love and care you offered when you sat with them in prayer. Envision them in the care and presence of God. Act as if you really believe that God will take care of them.

16. I use the word icon with the understanding that an icon is an image that helps us to see God. We do not worship the image; it has a transparency about it that lets us see through it to a deeper experience of God and god's presence.

** The above image and steps come from:
MacBeth, Sybil. Praying in Color. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2007.
Visit www.prayingincolor.com

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Meditation on Psalm 62:1

Psalm 62:1 - "For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation."

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Meditating on the Word.

"Any beginning is difficult, and whoever begins such an undertaking will experience the first attempts as strange and perhaps completely empty. But that cannot continue for long; the soul will fill itself, it will begin to revive and gain strength. Then it will experience the eternal silence which rests in the love of God. Cares and sorrows, unrest and haste, noise and confusion, dreams and anxieties - all will be stilled in that silence, in which the soul waits for God alone, from whom comes its salvation.

It is a law of the world that there can never be rest and satisfaction here. Here no passion will ever be completely stilled. Every satisfaction has planted within itself that which drives beyond what has been achieved. The rich person wants to become richer, the mighty one mightier. The reason for this is that in the world there is never anything completely whole, so that each success, no matter how great, is only a partial success. If it is possible for there to be rest and silence anywhere, then it is only possible where there is wholeness, and that is only in God. All human strivings and drives are finally directed towards God and can only find their complete satisfaction in him. Augustine, the great father of the church, expressed this most beautifully when he said: "Lord God, you have made all things for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." May God grant us all to know this rest, may he draw us into his solitude and silence. We will thank him for it."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"If We Are the Body"

A Beautiful Video, Excellent Song by Casting Crowns and a Powerful Message. Check it out!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on Prayer

I was in the bookstore today and picked up a little devotional that in title is denominationally specific but the content can be deemed universal. Prayer & Devotional Life of United Methodists is written by author Steve Harper, who is a clergy member in the Northwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is currently serving as vice president-dean of the Florida Campus of Asbury Theological Seminary. As I was reading the first chapter of this book, I came across a couple of paragraphs that I found profoundly important and I want to share them with you.

"Our fingerprints are a tangible reminder of our individuality and our unrepeatable value in the sight of God. It makes no sense to believe that God takes the time to etch into the ends of our fingers little lines which differentiate us from everyone else and then turns around and mass produces human souls. Rather, our fingerprints are divinely created evidence that we are a distinct and prized self, made in the image of God.

We are never more "ourselves" before God than when we pray, because when we pray, we bring nothing else with us. We are not "doing" anything at the moment, but paradoxically, we are doing the most important thing - we are giving God our selves."

Harper goes on to say:

"Prayer is exercising the muscle of the soul, so it can enable us to live for God. Prayer propels us into the world precisely because we know that the God who "wants us" is the God who "wants everyone." Prayer is not an exhibition of selfishness, but rather the energy of servanthood. The specificity of our soul-print relationship does not isolate us from others or insulate us from sensitivity to their needs. Rather, prayer reveals the loving heart of God for humankind and the broken heart of God for any persons who are failing to be the unique, unrepeatable selves God intended them to be. Prayer shows us that the basis of redemption is God's unwillingness to accept caricatures and counterfeits. Prayer reveals God's love for the whole world through the coming of Christ, and we are invited in the prayer relationship to become disciples of Christ in the service of others."

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Prayer for the Universal church

O God of all times and places,
we pray for your Church,
which is set today amid the perplexities of a changing order,
and face to face with new tasks.
Baptize her afresh in the life-giving spirit of Jesus.

Bestow upon her a great responsiveness to duty,
a swifter compassion with suffering,
and an utter loyalty to your will.

Help her to proclaim boldly the coming of your kingdom.
Put upon her lips the ancient gospel of her Lord.
Fill her with the prophets' scorn of tyranny,
and with a Christlike tenderness for the heavy-laden and downtrodden.
Bid her cease from seeking her own life, lest she lose it.
Make her valiant to give up her life to humanity
that, like her crucified Lord,
she may mount by the path of the Cross to a higher glory;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Walter Rauschenbush

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