Laying the Groundwork for Interfaith Dialog

    Friday, August 19, 2011, 11:50 AM [General]

    During this past week I set before our congregation the spiritual practice of learning from someone different than yourself.  I practiced, too.  I met with Jim Ferguson, whom I first met through his Pastoral Pondering that was published in the Newberg Graphic.  Jim is one of the leaders of the Baha’I community in Newberg.  In his article he quoted several world religious sources on the topic of peace.  A subheading of his article was something about the time being right for interfaith dialogue in Newberg.  That got my attention!  I made it my point to find Jim.  So on Thursday afternoon I took Lionel with me to the Coffee Cottage to meet Jim.  We had a great conversation and laid out a plan to create opportunities for interfaith conversation.


    The centerpiece of our plan is a celebration of World Religions Day next January.  The concept of the event is to invite speakers from various faith traditions—Christianity, Baha’i, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American traditions and maybe others—to present a short talk on a selected topic.  The intent is to create understanding between faiths.  As a follow on to this event we talked about the possibility of visiting the places of worship of various faith traditions.  Many are easily accessible in Portland.     We would probably do that in the spring.


    In order to prepare for these two events and to take the initial step we are planning a potluck in park.  The tentative date is Saturday September 17 at noon.  Our vision is that we will have about 30 people from our church, the Baha’i community, and anyone from Newberg who is interested in interfaith conversation.  As soon as we confirm the date, we will announce it.  While this is a stand alone event intended to give us the opportunity to meet each other, we also envision that a planning committee for the World Religions Day event might emerge from this potluck. 


    The prophet Bahá’u’lláh, a Persian nobleman, is the founder of Baha’i.  The essential message of Bahá’u’lláh, who preached in the mid nineteenth century,  is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race, and that all the world’s religions represent stages in the revelation of God’s will and purpose for humanity. the unity of all religions in the mid nineteenth century.  As a Persian he had his religious roots in Islam.   


    Peace and Blessings!



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    Spiritual practice: Who am I?

    Thursday, August 18, 2011, 1:59 PM [General]

    Jesus asked, “Who do others say that I am?”  Next he asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Often our sense of self, of who we are, comes from outside.  One might even say forces and interpretations that are put upon us from outside are components of our self-understanding. 


    I might explain what I mean by “forces” outside of us.  One example would be cultural, societal, or group expectations.  You know, “Real men don’t eat quiche.”  So if I eat quiche, what does that say about me?  Really?


    Here’s an exercise to help you discover some of the outside influences.  During the day take note of what others say about you?  It may be helpful to write down the comments.  Also pay attention to what you say about yourself.  Again, writing may be helpful.  At some time during the day, ask yourself, “Where did that come from?”  or a variation, “Who says?”  Then as a follow on, ask yourself whether the comment is really you.  Hint, more often than not, even if the comment is true, it is not really you and certainly not the whole of you.


    Peace and Blessings!


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    A Lesson of Faith from and Outsider

    Monday, August 15, 2011, 1:05 PM [General]

    In only two places in the gospels Jesus commends someone for their faith.  In both instances, the person he commends is an “outsider.”  In one instance he commends a Roman Centurion who came to intercede on behalf of his servant (Matthew 8:5-10). Of course, the centurion was an officer in the army of the occupying force.  Jesus found something commendable in the life of this disliked foreigner.  In the end Jesus says he hasn’t seen as great faith in anyone in Israel as he has seen in the centurion. 


    In a second story (Matthew 15:21-28), Jesus commends a Canaanite woman for her great faith. This second story is a satirical account.  First off, when the woman keeps calling after Jesus, his disciples want her to be quiet.  Jesus appears to agree that she is an annoyance.  He says, “I have come only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Then the woman herself engages Jesus.  She pleads for mercy for the healing of her daughter   Jesus says that he cannot take the food for the children’s table (i.e. the house of Israel) and give it to the dogs.  This, too, is satirical (or extremely insulting!).  Instead of responding to the insult—after all, in effect, Jesus called her a dog—the woman responds, this is a little thing for you.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table,” she says.  That’s when Jesus commends her great faith.


    Here’s the satire.  Though Jesus said he came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the message is clear: he came to others, too.  Even to this foreign woman.  Although the children are worthy of food, the outsider recognizes there is ample blessing for her to be included.     


    This woman believed her life and the life of her child could be much different.  I take from this story a central message:  “outsiders” have much to teach the insiders.  What can we learn from those who are outside of our box?  Sometimes they have lessons for us that let us see ourselves in a new way with new appreciation for what has always been before us.  


    As others share with us, they bless us.  As we share our lives, we bless others too.


    Peace and Blessings!



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    Seek To Learn From Someone Different From You

    Sunday, August 14, 2011, 12:57 PM [General]

    In the gospel we read a story of Jesus healing a Canaanite woman’s daughter. She so tenaciously clung to her hope that Jesus could heal her daughter that she wouldn’t take no for an answer. In the end, Jesus not only healed the girl; he also commended the woman for her faith. This is all the more amazing because the woman was an “outsider.” No doubt, the “insiders” were shocked at the praise Jesus gave her.

    During this week, I encourage you to find a way to learn from someone different than you. In the ideal world, you might be able to have a conversation with someone of a different religion, a different ethnicity, a different culture. The world is easily accessible now thanks to the internet. You can find someone on line. Or you can read a story of someone from another faith tradition. One on line source I can recommend is Sacred Journey.  Listen to find something you can learn from the other person. Say to yourself or to the person, "thank you for sharing that with me."

    Peace and Blessings!


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    Offer Blessing

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 12:00 PM [General]

       Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.—1 Peter 3:9


    I attended a meeting where a friend was presiding.  A man walked in off the street and started to yell at my friend and disrupt the meeting.  I was so impressed that my friend calming asked the man whether there was anything we could do to help him.  Taken aback by her kind response, he was left without words.  She simply said, “Bless you” and the man turned around and walked out of the meeting room.


    Think of someone who has “abused you” and offer blessing to them today. 


    (Immediately someone will think of situations in which they have been physically, emotionally, psychologically or sexually abused.  Please do not take this word to mean you should submit yourself to harm or treat the perpetrator as if the event never happened.  You can bless someone and still take yourself out of harm’s way.  And blessing does not mean you have to deny your experience.)


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    Spiritual Practice: Random Acts of Kindnes

    Monday, August 8, 2011, 6:37 PM [General]

    Each week as part of my sermon, I suggest a spiriutal practice.   This is my offering for this week:

    For the next five days make it your goal to do one thing each day that will make another person’s life more wonderful.  Do this without any intention of recognition or reward.  Do it simply because it is a good thing to do.

    Peace and Blessings!


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    From storm to taking risk

    Sunday, August 7, 2011, 6:46 PM [General]

    This week, I’m suggesting a visualization exercise for the spiritual practice.  My inspiration for the exercise comes from Sunday’s Gospel.


    Jesus’ disciples were alone in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  In the night Jesus walked out on the water to their boat.  The disciples were surprised—in fact, doubted that it could really be Jesus.  When they were convinced it really was Jesus, this miracle so impressed them that they declared that Jesus was in deed the Son of God.


    This is a three step meditation.   Step one:  quite yourself, relax, breathe naturally, and let simply observe what happens in your thoughts and feelings.  When your ready bring to mind a situation—a storm—you are dealing with.


    As you think about your situation with it’s attendant feelings ask yourself where is Jesus in this storm?  “Jesus” may the image of a person or sense of hope or an insight toward solution for your situation.


    And finally, invite Jesus into the storm.  What inspires you most to take a step of faith or to take a risk?


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    Walking on Water

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011, 1:02 PM [General]

    Each week, as I prepare myself for the coming Sunday’s sermon, I ask a series of questions about the gospel reading. I’d like to share a couple of those questions in this blog.

    Here’s the gospel story for Sunday: Jesus’ disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was not with them when they began their journey. In the night he walked out on the water to join himself to their boat. They were surprised—in fact, doubted that it could really be Jesus. When they were convinced it really was Jesus, this miracle so impressed them that they declared that Jesus was in deed the Son of God.

    Now for the questions. The story brings to mind a gospel song, Count Your Blessings, which uses the imagery of this story, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed…”

    So, here’s the first question: What are some of the storms you are experiencing or have recently experienced? I can imagine several answers. Financial hardship, illness, broken relationship, addiction.

    Another question: as you think about your particular situation, where is Jesus in this storm? Like the disciples you may feel like you are all alone in the boat. Or it may be that you see hope or solution for your situation (Jesus) or at least can imagine it. Then like the disciples you find yourself saying, “It can’t be.” Or you might reach resolution. Like the disciples you find that the answer, the solution, the cure, the direction for the next step is with you in the midst of the situation.

    Peter wanted to walk out on the water to meet Jesus. I get the impression he was saying something like, “If it is good enough for you, it is good enough for me.” So, here’s a final question I will leave with you. When you think of the life of Jesus, what inspires you most to take a step of faith or to take a risk?

    Peace and Blessings!


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    Inner ease technique

    Sunday, July 31, 2011, 9:39 PM [General]

    For the past six days I’ve been participating in Everything is Energy World Summit hosted by Kristin & David Morelli.   One of the presenters tonight was Marci Shimoff.  She shared a technique that is too good not to pass along.  It’s called the Inner ease technique, which Marci says she learned for the institute of heart math.


    You can use this technique to affirm self-love and to reduce stress.  Marci suggests that you use this technique three times a day for the next week.  It takes only a minute or two:  three simple steps:


    Step 1:  Place your hand over your heart.  This gesture in itself releases oxytocin.

    Step 2:  As you breathe, imagine your breath is coming in and out through the center of your heart.  This will drop you into your heart center.

    Step 3:  On the in breath imagine you are breathing in compassion, ease, and love.  Exhale normally.


    Try it right now and notice the change in energy you experience.  Do this exercise a couple of times each day. 


    You can also use this technique when you sense anxiety, fear, anger or any other stress producing emotion.


    Thanks, Marci. 


    And to you,

    Peace and Blessings!



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    Have a Good Day; Make a Good Life

    Saturday, July 30, 2011, 5:25 PM [General]

    Some time ago, I accompanied an army unit on a field exercise.  Over the course of the ten days we were in the filed, I and my assistant crisscrossed the grid of the area of operation.  One day we came upon a mobile van of equipment.  I got out of my vehicle and knocked on the door.  A soldier who was monitoring the equipment answered.  I greeted him and asked him how he was doing.


    "Not so good, Chaplain," he told me and he proceeded to give me a litany of the things that were not going well in his life.  I listened sympathetically and encouraged him the best I could.


    A few days later, my assistant and I came across what appeared to be a similar van.  Once again, I got out of my vehicle and knocked on the door.  A soldier came to the door.  Lo and behold!  It was the same soldier.  "How's it going today?" I asked.


    Once again he answered, "Not so good, Chaplin," and he gave me another litany of things that were wrong in his life making a bad day for him.


    Again I encouraged him the best I could and went on to the next place.


    A few days later, I came across another van.  I went through the same routine.  To my surprise for the third time the same soldier opened the van door.  We had a repeat conversation of our past two meetings.


    This time, I couldn't help myself.  I said to him, "you know.  I've met you three times during this exercise.  Each time you told me you were having a bad day.  I hope the days get better for you.  If not, you're going to come to the end of your life.  You'll stand before your maker who will ask, "How was your life?"  And you'll have to answer, "It was a series of bad days."


    Your maker will shake the head and say, "A series of bad days.  It sounds like you had a bad life."


    Today is the only day you have.  If you have a good day today, you are making a good life.  It's up to you to decide whether this is a good day or not no matter what is happening.


    Have a good day.  Build a good life.


    Peace and Blessings!




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