The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who will guide you in 2012?

 Richard Rohr opines, "One reason that fundamentalism continues to grow in all religions is that it DOES tell you that you are being guided, and life is not all accidental, and without inherent purpose. God is intimately involved in even small aspects of fundamentalists’ lives. Yes, this is very often misused, but at least it is not secular meaninglessness and often frees them from becoming control freaks. Again, the good and bad of everything! So many liberals are somewhat aware but totally steering their ship, so many conservatives are somewhat surrendered but to a god largely of their own making. There must be a way to be both graciously surrendered and to a true and loving God? This is surely the work of a priest or spiritual director, it seems to me."

Many American Christians have opted for a "lone ranger spirituality," a kind of "Me and my God" spirituality, which leaves them very alone in those moments when life gets tough. These Christians are quickly identifiable because instead of resting on God they blame God when life doesn't go the way they it should.

Throughout Christendom, those who found a maturing faith in face of the struggles and trials of life had a spiritual director who walked with them.

My wife, a trained spiritual director and I, a trained theologian, are willing to work with anyone who wants to have spiritual direction.

Ron Friesen


http://richardrohr.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/accidental-or-providential/

A vision for 2012











The ultimate perfection of the contemplative life is not a heaven of separate individuals, each on viewing his own private intuition of God; it is a sea of Love which flows through the One Body of all the elect, all the angels and saints, and their contemplation would be incomplete if it were not shared, or if it were shared with fewer souls, or with spirits capable of less vision and less joy.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books) : 65
 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wrapping up a year....

Twenty-eleven was an interesting year. I started the year working for a university as a full-time online professor and ended the year in a prison. Well, I should explain, I am working in a prison as a mental health counselor.

For years, I have wanted to do "a ministry with men." I am doing a ministry with men in prison - not quite what I had in mind! With men who have been charged with sex offenses, to top it off.

I am finding the work challenging and interesting. The men range from doctors, educators, priests, pastors, youth ministers, to carpenters, plumbers, truckers, farmers. They scan the scope from men who achieved doctorates to those with barely a sixth grade education. Financially, they cover the socio-economic realms from millionaires to paupers.

Each day I meet men who are seeking their way. I walk their journey to the best of my ability.

I didn't know what 2011 would bring; I am not going to make any predictions about 2012.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Darwinism is killing the American soul

The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television as rubes stupid enough to cling to this antiquated behavior are voted off reality shows. Fellow competitors for prize money and a chance for fleeting fame, cheered on by millions of viewers, elect to “disappear” the unwanted. In the final credits of the reality show America’s Next Top Model, a picture of the woman expelled during the episode vanishes from the group portrait on the screen. Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, nonpersons. Celebrities that can no longer generate publicity, good or bad, vanish. Life, these shows persistently teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and a constant quest for notoriety and attention.

Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human  beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens.


http://www.projectworldawareness.com/2010/09/american-psychosis-what-happens-to-a-society-that-cannot-distinguish-between-reality-and-illusion/

Sometimes the truth is hard to hide.

Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.
William O’Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire State House, told a Tea Party group earlier this year that students are “foolish” and tend to “vote their feelings” because they lack life experience. “Voting as a liberal,” he said, “that’s what kids do.” And that’s why, he said, he supported measures to prohibit students from voting from their college addresses and to end same-day registration. New Hampshire Republicans even tried to pass a bill that would have kept students who previously lived elsewhere from voting in the state; fortunately, the measure failed, as did the others Mr. O’Brien favored.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/opinion/keeping-college-students-from-the-polls.html?ref=editorials

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve

It is Christmas eve, a tree blinks, lighting
Cinnamon sticks stir in the apple cider
Lovers look into each other's eyes
It is the eve of love.

It is Christmas eve, children giggle, wondering
Presents await opening under the tree
Children ponder the wrappings
It is the eve of wonder.

It is Christmas eve, flames crackle, sparking
Songs fill the air while angels sing
Worshipers reflect the meaning
It is the eve of awe.

2011 (c) Ronald Friesen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A poem for Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

It is the season again of pine and cinnamon,
Of hot chocolate and fresh-baked rolls
Store shelves overflow with music boxes
With a serenade: “I wish you a Merry Christmas.”

In Bethlehem hills smelly sheep rested
While their shepherds retold stories of
Wolves and bears defeated by nightfall
With a serenade: “Mary had a little lamb.”

Angels interrupt the drunken carousal
Casting out darkness with glorious brightness
Which faints men who kill wolves and bear
With a serenade: “Glory to God in the Highest.”

“Come to the stable to see the Newborn King”
Invite the heavenly host to men of disrepute
Leave your flocks and see the baby -
the baby who smells of the stable.

© 2011 Ronald Friesen

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why we need Christmas - John Calvin

It deeply concerned us, that he who was to be our Mediator should be very God and very man. If the necessity be inquired into, it was not what is commonly termed simple or absolute, but flowed from the divine decree on which the salvation of man depended. What was best for us, our most merciful Father determined. Our iniquities, like a cloud intervening between Him and us, having utterly alienated us from the kingdom of heaven, none but a person reaching to him could be the medium of restoring peace. But who could thus reach to him? Could any of the sons of Adam? All of them, with their parents, shuddered at the sight of God. Could any of the angels? They had need of a head, by connection with which they might adhere to their God entirely and inseparably. What then? The case was certainly desperate, if the Godhead itself did not descend to us, it being impossible for us to ascend. Thus the Son of God behoved to become our Emmanuel, the God with us; and in such a way, that by mutual union his divinity and our nature might be combined; otherwise, neither was the proximity near enough, nor the affinity strong enough, to give us hope that God would dwell with us; so great was the repugnance between our pollution and the spotless purity of God. Had man remained free from all taint, he was of too humble a condition to penetrate to God without a Mediator. What, then, must it have been, when by fatal ruin he was plunged into death and hell, defiled by so many stains, made loathsome by corruption; in fine, overwhelmed with every curse? It is not without cause, therefore, that Paul, when he would set forth Christ as the Mediator, distinctly declares him to be man. There is, says he, "one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," (1Ti 2: 5). He might have called him God, or at least, omitting to call him God he might also have omitted to call him man; but because the Spirit, speaking by his mouth, knew our infirmity, he opportunely provides for it by the most appropriate remedy, setting the Son of God familiarly before us as one of ourselves. That no one, therefore, may feel perplexed where to seek the Mediator, or by what means to reach him, the Spirit, by calling him man, reminds us that he is near, nay, contiguous to us, inasmuch as he is our flesh. And, indeed, he intimates the same thing in another place, where he explains at greater length that he is not a high priest who "cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," (Heb 4: 15).
Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.12.1

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hermeneutics in Everyday life

"Hermeneutics in Everyday Life" by Tim Perry, Durham University
Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.


2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.


3. A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn’t take it too seriously, he doesn’t feel obligated to take it too seriously either.


4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn’t bother to read the sign but he’ll stop if the car in front of him does.


5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.


6. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean:

1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing;

2) location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things:

a) Take another route to work that doesn’t have a stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the Law;

b) Stop at the sign, say “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop,” wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: Rabbi Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Issac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” R. Hezekiel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter, but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus he was judged for his transgression at the stop sign. R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out: “Stop, father!” In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: “Out of the mouths of babes.” R. ben Jacob says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky, for it is written: “Forever, O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens.” R. Ben Nathan says: Where were the stop signs created? On the fourth day, for it is written: “Let them serve as signs.” R. Yeshuah says….[continues for three more pages]

8. A Lubavitcher rabbi (Pharisee) does the same thing as an orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000 watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal. He also works out the gematria of shin-tav-pey (S-T-(O)-P) and takes it to mean that the Rebbe Schneersohn, of blessed memory, will be resurrected as the Messiah after he has stopped at this intersection 780 times.


9. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage “STOP” undoubtably was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that He was, He would never have wanted to stifle peoples’ progress. Therefore, STOP must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.


10. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called “Q” Street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn’t explain the meaning of the text!


11. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage “STOP.” For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author of the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P”.


12. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the sign were not there.


13. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the “T” to “H”. “SHOP” is much easier to understand in context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message “STOP (AND) SHOP.”


14. A “prophetic” preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world–north, south, east, and west), equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded “mark of the beast,” a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent II - December 4, 2011











"Be empty and see that I am God." It is our emptiness in the presence of the abyss of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him.

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books): 231