Archive | June 2012

mindful of one thing

In the early church an Abba or an Amma (spiritual father or mother) would give a beginner a maxim to think about, and be mindful of all day (including memorizing it). This is wisdom not information.

For example, ‘Want to possess nothing with as much desire as those who want to posses everything.’ Diadochus of Photike (5th century).

Speaks to our materially possessive world.

 

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Mindful of God and God mindful of us

 I love the story of Saul in Acts 9 when he is on the road to Damascus. We think we know the story but how well do we know it? It is very challenging and disturbing.

 Saul becomes aware of the divine presence. A light from heaven flashed around him, he heard a voice (the Voice). He is blind for three days, a symbolic representation of his death to his old self as the Bible calls it (Ephesians 4:22). Some Christian psychologists call this a false self. We are to replace it/God replaces it with our new self (Ephesians 4:24). We could call this our true self.

 What happened to Saul in those three days? He began the day in certainty. He had power and control – in his hand he had a letter from the high priest that gave him the authority to arrest Christians? (By the way was he right to do this?)

 He began the day with security and with his survival assured: he was on the side of those with power. He began the day with the esteem and affection of his religious friends.

 Our false self is like a submerged triangular  iceberg with three points: our desires for power and control, for security and survival, for esteem and affection. At any one time, one of these points will be the most visible one sticking above the surface of our life (icebergs are mostly below the surface).

During those three days of blindness Saul sees these three certainties of his false self crumbling. He will no longer have power and control as a new untrusted follower of Jesus. He will no longer enjoy the esteem and affection that used to be his. His security and survival is under threat (there is a plot to kill him within days).

 Of course each of us try to ensure that we protect these three needs, but this is an impossible task, and one that takes up most of our energy. What we need to do is let go of trying to ensure these three things, and instead put our trust in the Voice. He is the new centre, and we are not.

 It is not surprising that many people say conversions like Saul’s just don’t happen any more. The truth is they need to but we avoid this true conversion, dying to our old self and rising to our new self; letting go our false self and embracing our true self.

Can you become aware of this false self, and how you protect these needs?

Jerusalem Bells Are Ringing

Jerusalem Bells Are Ringing

Recent reflections on Yad Vashem study tour in Jerusalem posted at Baptist Times online

Coco the dog’s mindful thoughts (after being brain-scanned)

 We recently wired up our dog in order to find out what he thought – a sort of canine brain-scan. The clever computer was able to translate his stream of thoughts into English (although he does speak English: words such as walk, food, bedtime, outside etc).

 The punctuation was difficult to work out because it was a stream of consciousness, so I will try and represent it as faithfully as possible.

 I do love my family but I do want to be top dog and I am only the little dog but I think I might be able to dominate the smallest one I am going to try I do resent that I do not get the family food on the table because I am part of the family I do also resent that I do not get my own bedroom or even better get the bed that the mummy and daddy have I don’t mind them having a a little bit of it I do also like chasing squirrels but I don’t really know what I would do if I caught one maybe I could shake it like a sock I do like doing that maybe if I don’t eat my dog food they will give me human food because I am now one of them although I do like cheese and ham on my walks and I don’t mind rolling over for these treats or rolling on the lovely fox poo that they kindly leave in the park I do have a happy life, sleeping, eating and free running I do look forward to talking to you again….

Coco who is a cockapoo ( Cocker Spaniel/ Poodle cross) fell asleep at this point. We will try again later in the week. Image

the mystery of mindfulness part 3

Sometimes we need to focus on the riddles and mysterious statements Jesus makes, staying with just the one or two verses of that riddling.

For example what does Jesus mean when he says this in Mark 4:21-24?

He said to them, ‘Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

‘Consider carefully [see] what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’

A clue is that this has to be considered in the context of the rest of Mark 4. Two key questions are: what is the lamp, and what is being measured?

 Jesus was a riddler. And wrestling with riddles sparks new neural pathways in our neuroplastic brains.

So what does Jesus mean when he says this in Mark 4:21-24?

He said to them, ‘Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

‘Consider carefully [see] what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’

In the context of Mark 4 which is about the seed and the sower, with the seed being the Word of God, the lamp is also the Word of God. The echo is of Psalm 119:105,  ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’ But what is being measured? And what will be received? The clue is in what the good soil represents in the parable of the seed and the sower. And the answer is worth waiting for. The answer makes Jesus a major contemporary player in a key cultural phenomenon.

The good soil is the attentive listener the one who attentively hears the Word of God. Another aspect of Mark chapter 4 is the hidden nature of God’s revelation, which also requires us to be attentive. Jesus begins the parable of the sower, with the imperative, ‘Listen!’ He ends it with ‘He who has ears to hear let him hear.’

He repeats this with a variation in verse 23, ‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ This is followed up so that we get the point about being attentive hearers with ‘Consider carefully what you hear, in verse 24. Literally he says ‘see what you hear.’ Akouein in verse 23 is apparently a present imperative which means a continuous turning to God’s Word in attentive hearing.

What are we listening for? We are listening for God’s revelation. What Jesus is saying is that the more attentive we are the more revelation we will receive. With the measure you use (of attentiveness) it (revelation) will be measured to you (v.24).

 The sad thing is that we don’t value this attentive listening (a Christian version of mindfulness) to the Word of God in a continuous way. Of course we have to ask, ‘how do we do it?’, and that is another matter. Jesus is the master and commander of attention and we should listen attentively to him.

 

Mindful of mystery part 2

Jesus was a riddler. And wrestling with riddles sparks new neural pathways in our neuroplastic brains. I dare you to wrestle with this one.

What does Jesus mean when he says this in Mark 4:21-24?

He said to them, ‘Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

‘Consider carefully [see] what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’

In the context of Mark 4 which is about the seed and the sower, with the seed being the Word of God, the lamp is also the Word of God. The echo is of Psalm 119:105,  ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’ But what is being measured? And what will be received? The clue is in what the good soil represents in the parable of the seed and the sower. And the answer is worth waiting for. The answer makes Jesus a major contemporary player in a key cultural phenomenon.