Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Way of a Pilgrim

Every now and then a book changes something about the reader. This is one of those books. I enjoyed Way of a Pilgrim, will likely buy it, might read it again, but have really liked the subject it discusses, which is prayer.

The book talks about the ecstatic experience from certain prayer rituals. I don't know anything about that. It is kind of hard to imagine for me, but am content to say "Well it's out there for some..." and I think it is interesting. I am not there, to that experience.

Before any of you start to tune out about "ecstatic prayer" thinking it's one of those kinds of books I might first mention that he indicates that the prayer he is saying is a simple "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me". That's it.

But the husband and I were talking about how even though we might not express worship that way, it is rather magnificent and beautiful to know that there is so much that we don't know about our God, and the mystical and poetic ways that he can be known. For me, it make me smile and be grateful that there was so much more to God that I had only seen this little drop.

And it introduces a technique of prayer that is so simple and accessible that it has been a nice addition.

I learned that the Philokalia, the book it refers to alot as a wise book in helping to understand the bible, is actually a real book that can be purchased.

And anecdotally, the book is also the book that is referred to in J.D. Salinger's book Franny and Zooey. I was a big Salinger fan in my youth.

Way of a Pilgrim has its roots in Orthodox Russian church. It has been my first glimpse inside that church really. Having visited really alot of orthodox churches, I knew that there were cultural and language barriers, but it really felt altogether like a different religion.

After reading Way of a Pilgrim, I think maybe not so much a different religion. It is hard to gain access though to the heart of a faith, when language and culture stand as barriers, and there is no one there to help bridge the divide.

I am reminded of a young woman I lived with in Vladimir. She and I were talking about missionaries and said she didn't understand why they came to Russia. After all, she said, they have their own church. She had a very good point.

But after living there, and now hearing about how it is there even now, I know that the orthodox church, well, people don't go really, except perhaps in rural areas.

Still it is there, and perhaps things will change in Russia...

But as for the book, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the narrators devotion and pilgrimage. It has its own place but it is a book I would recommend as a sort of devotion.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This 'n that

Jeff sent me this article that he found on his meanderings at lunch.

It basically is a sort of addition to the attacks between atheists and Christians. I guess I am reluctant in posting because it does nothing to de-escalate the issues really. It might inflame them some, but it does quote some stuff that atheists have said generalizing Christians categorically negatively, at the same time crying "victim".

By and large it seems to me that the right response to atheist rhetoric is general apathy, and this article just really confirms to me that most of this stuff is little more than kids on the playground, name-calling.

But here is something more positive. Shane Claiborne wrote a piece for the Washington Post about the National Day of Prayer. In true Shane fashion, it makes me feel glad to get a drink of the water of his writing. Here is a tidbit.

So, rather than argue that National Day of Prayer is something that should go away with Jerry Falwell and the Christian Coalition, we say keep it. Let's call Christians (and everyone else) to prayer. But let's also challenge ourselves to become the answer to our prayers. When we pray for the hungry, let's remember to feed them. When we pray for the unborn, let's welcome single mothers and adopt abandoned children. When we give thanks for creation, let's plant a garden and buy local. When we remember the poor, let's re-invest our money in micro-lending programs. When we pray for peace, let's beat our swords into plowshares and turn military budgets into programs of social uplift. When we pray for an end to crime, let's visit those in prison. When we pray for lost souls, let's be gracious to the souls who have done us wrong.