Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "What to do when Praying?" (Sister Wendy)

A Quote from Sister Wendy on Prayer

It is one of the most frequently asked questions: What should I do during prayer? How eagerly people long to be told the answer! For that would make me safe, well protected: I would know what to do! But the answer is of the usual appalling simplicity: stand before God unprotected, and you will know yourself what to do. I mean this in utter earnest. Methods are of value, naturally, but only as something to do "if I want to," which in this context of response to God means "if He wants me to." I may feel drawn to meditate, to sing to Him, or to stay before Him in, say, an attitude of contrition or praise.

But we cannot say prayers at all unless we know also the prayer of silence. In silent prayer, there are no words and hence no thoughts. We are still. This silence is nothing to be afraid of. Five or ten minutes, whatever can be spared. You are just there to stand in His presence and let Him take possession of you.

Whether you are aware of that presence does not matter. God is there, whatever your feelings, just as Jesus knew God was there even when He felt abandoned on the cross. What pure praise of the Father's love; to feel abandoned and yet stay content before Him, saying, "Father, into your hands . . . " We cannot sufficiently emphasize to ourselves that prayer is God's concern, and His one desire is "to come and make His abode with us." Do we believe Him or not? Of course, I can cheat. If I choose not to be there for Him (and since I am not yet transformed into Jesus, to some extent I always do protect myself against the impact of His love), then that is cause for grief. But it is creative grief. It drives us helpless to Jesus to be healed. We say to Him: "If you want, you can make me clean." But He answers, "I do want to --- but do you?" That wanting is ever the crux of the matter.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p43-45)

Monday, February 27, 2017

BookPastor >> "No God But One" (Nabeel Qureshi)

This review was first published on Aug 17th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity
AUTHOR: Nabeel Qureshi
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (320 pages).

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Is Allah the same as Jesus? This issue costs a tenured professor her job and puts her seminary at the center of a controversy. For the rest of us, it highlights the confusion behind the differences and the similarities between Christianity and Islam. On the one hand, there is a lot of similarities in the Old Testament with the Quran. On the other hand, there are distinct differences in the theology of the person of God. As a convert from Islam, author and speaker Nabeel Qureshi has a personal interest in this one issue, partly because of his acute background understanding of Islam, and also because of his new found faith in Jesus. Having struggled with the differences between Christianity and Islam in a very personal level, he knows why and how people are confused about the whole matter. This book is his attempt to tell the differences between the two great religions and to investigate who God is. For over a decade, he has struggled with the issue, together with thousands of people he have met caught between the theologies of the two faiths. It is hoped that the book will not only clarify the differences but will enable us to pray more knowledgeably for the people caught between the two faiths.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Lord of the Nations" - Regent College

I remember this song that was first introduced to me back in 2004 when I was attending Regent-College. Somehow, the song sticks and brings back fond memories of the beautiful journey through that little building under the green roof. Maybe, one of these days, I'll do a recording. Until then, the words alone are worth reflecting upon.


O Lord of all the nations
You’ve brought us to this place
You’ve granted us each other
As symbols of Your grace
Like those who walked in darkness
We’ve seen the rising sun
A pilgrim path pursuing a holy quest begun

You purify our passions
You loose the ties that bind
You soften stony spirits
You lighten troubled minds
You enter our emotions
Untangle webs of pain
You touch us with Your finger and we are whole again

Lord be our friend and mentor
Whatever lies ahead
Your love is our refreshment
Your will our daily bread
Until we taste Your glory
Until we are made new
Within each one engender an appetite for You

O all-consuming fire
Come melt these hearts of stone
Lord wrestle with our spirits
Until You reign alone
Disperse us through the nations
Transforming grace to tell
And let this brief sojourning become our Peniel

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Hunger for God" (Sister Wendy)

Duccio's Painting on Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
A Quote from Sister Wendy on Hungering for God

Duccio shows us an image of prayer, of the need and the hunger for God. The apostles have gone into the city to satisfy their hunger. They emerge in a compact bunch, supporting one another, protected from the clear light of His presence by the fortress of the world, their own self-sufficiency.

Their hands are full, they clasp themselves, satisfied hands with the food of this world in their grasp. But the woman stands alone and exposed before Jesus. Her emptiness is seen not only in her hands, but in the most noticeable detail about her, which is the large empty pot on her head. 

She does not hide her poor human emptiness: she exposes it, but the exposing is to Jesus. She is a living symbol of our need for Him. She stands still, an image of the stillness we choose at prayer. But Jesus does not reach out His hand to fill hers. He does not come to her. Jesus sits by the well and asks her to give to Him: her need is met with demand - again, a moving symbol of prayer. God gives Himself, not obviously, not in terms tangible or visible, but in holy contradiction. It is in giving that we receive: we, us. Our prayer may seem all nothingness, all giving, giving of time, of energy, of struggle to be present. 

Jesus may seem to have only asked, not given. But that is how He does give. The woman went away, wholly changed, fed and renewed to her innermost depths. Yet she was given no water, no food. Jesus told her to draw her own water, and He revealed to her the shameful inner truth she carried. Yet this apparently merciless treatment was living water, was life, was communication of God at such intensity that there were no human terms in which the woman could see or judge what had happened to her. But she believed, and the whole city of her personality, her whole self, all she was and could become, believed with her.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p39-41)

Monday, February 20, 2017

BookPastor >> "God Dreams" (Will Mancini)

This review was first published on Aug 18th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church's Future
AUTHOR: Will Mancini
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016, (288 pages).

Vision is an integral part of Church. Mission is an outflow of the vision. Both go together but how can we make the process more effective and clear? Without clarity, how can any organization know where to go and how to motivate their members to fulfill the objectives? What is the purpose of its existence? Many people know the importance but lack the necessary tools and processes to clarify their vision and mission. Based on more than 15 years of experience, more than 500 churches, and over 10000 hours of work with church team facilitation, author Will Mancini makes vision sharpening as a key priority in this book. He lists three benefits for reading this book.
  1. Leading meaningfully
  2. Inspiring the community
  3. Focusing on God's vision
By honing on clarifying our Church's vision and direction, Mancini believes that Church Identity; Church Direction; and Church Story can be connected as one. The six parts of the book are:
  1. Restart the Conversation: of vision and dreams
  2. Discover Visionary Planning: visualizing the future
  3. Find Your Future: Adopt templates toward fulfilling the goals
  4. Focus Your Long-Term Vision: 
  5. Execute Your Short-Term Vision
  6. Lead with Freedom: personalizing the vision
(From Will Mancini's "God Dreams" Overview)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Why Do We Pray?" (Sister Wendy on Prayer)

A Quote from Sister Wendy on Prayer

I hope the famous Jesuit (St Patrick) did know, because the simplicity of prayer, its sheer, terrifying uncomplicatedness, seems to be the last thing most of us either know, or want to know. It is not difficult to intellectualize on prayer. Like love, beauty, and motherhood, it quickly sets our eloquence aflow. It is not difficult, but it is perfectly futile. In fact, those glowing pages on prayer are worse than futile; they can be positively harmful. Writing about prayer, reading about prayer, talking about prayer, thinking about prayer, longing for prayer and wrapping myself more and more in these great cloudy sublimities can make me feel so aware of the spiritual—anything rather than actually praying. What am I doing but erecting a screen behind which I can safely maintain my self-esteem and hide away from God?

Ask yourself: what do I really want when I pray? Do you want to be possessed by God? Or to put the same question more honestly, do you want to want it? Then you have it. The one point Jesus stressed and repeated and brought up again is, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will grant it to you.” His insistence on faith and perseverance are surely other ways of saying the same thing: you must really want it, it must engross you. Wants that are passing, faint emotional desires that you do not press with burning conviction, these are things that you do not ask “in Jesus’ name;” how could you? But what you really want, “with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” that Jesus pledges himself to see that you are granted. He is not talking only, probably not even primarily, of prayer of petition, but of prayer. When you set yourself down to pray, what do you want? If you want God to take possession of you, than you are praying. That is all prayer is.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p33-4)

Monday, February 13, 2017

BookPastor >> "Dr Karyn's Guide to the Teen Years" (Karyn Gordon)

TITLE: Dr Karyns Guide To The Teen Years
AUTHOR: Karyn Gordon
PUBLISHER: Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2008, (320 pages).

This is a parenting guide for all interested in connecting with teenagers. Based on her experience with talking to over 200 thousand high school students across Canada, Dr Karyn Gordon has summarized her "inside-out" parenting approach to help us along. She lists the six keys to parenting teens as:

  1. Keeping the Big Picture in mind at all times
  2. Acknowledging and adjusting our parenting attitudes
  3. Understanding and communicating emotions
  4. Building our child's self-esteem
  5. Communicating effectively
  6. Establishing boundaries and providing structure.
First off is the big picture understanding. Key to all of these is the awareness of "inside-out" versus "outside-in" parenting. The latter basically focuses on what is developing inside the teens rather than what they teens are doing outside. This includes observing the reasons why they are doing what they are doing; the motivation; the sensitivity to their feelings; and the readiness to talk. Character development is more important than mere achievements. This means learning to identify positive traits and helping their self-esteem. Communications are important but right communications are even more important. Between authority and influence, teens respect the latter. Learn about the importance of their peers and friends. Choose to connect more than to control. Check to see which of the three kinds of learning they do best. Are they visual or are they more kinesthetic (learning by doing)? Or are they more auditory? Learn to focus more on learning styles and understanding their relationships.

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