For the research, data, etc., see the CNN report here.
For the research, data, etc., see the CNN report here.
I am approaching thirty years of increasing solitude and silence. I try not to judge my life by output, but I would say that relevant, creative life-output is in direct proportion to increasing solitude and silence (S&S). S&S are the wellspring of creativity. S&S situate a person in the interior desert from which righteous introspection happen. S&S provide the environment for authentic self-evaluation that, with God’s assistance, produce genuine inner transformation. And such inner transformation is what it’s all about, as opposed to the hypocrisy of the external extreme makeover.
In times of S&S we get to breathe clean air once more, clear our senses, clarify our purposes. It was said of Gandhi that he took one day a week off to accomplish two things: 1) rest his vocal chords; and 2) collect his thoughts.
S&S do not require literal desert places, though they are nice and quite helpful. This is because true S&S are conditions of the heart, and can be found whereve one is physically. I know this personally to be true, having taken many hours a week in solitude and silence over a period of thirty years. S&S are the twin trees planted in the oasis of the soul that draws from the river of God.
Contemplatives like Merton attest that S&S is different from “R&R” in the sense that S&S are to be the foundational background that hums unceasingly, and out of which true discernment grows. Personally I think a lot of people need a real vacation after their physical vacation. S&S can provide this daily.
Our world does not value S&S. Busyness is valued, and of busyness there is no end. Busyness’s operative is: to be busy. Always. Hence, the massive irrelevancy of the “busy life,” which is a life that is to be always “filled up” with “things to do.”
One day in the early 1980s I was walking across the campus of Michigan State University feeling lost in regard to my doctoral dissertation (Northwestern U.). I saw a friend who was an MSU professor. “How are you today?” he asked. “I’m struggling with my dissertation. I don’t know what to do and where to go with it. I can’t see the forest for the trees.” His immediate counsel to me was: “Take two weeks away from it. Then, come back.” Initially this seemed ridiculous, a break I could not afford to take. Yet something also seemed right, especially coming from this scholar and friend. So I took two weeks off. I did not attend to the dissertation. Yet, in the absence of directly working on it, thoughts began to bubble up inside me. I wrote them in my journal. The game plan was being given to me in the silence and abstinence.
In the same way solitude and silence are God-gifts to bring healing, well-being, joy, perspective, creativity, strength, and hope. Out of them come relevant telic activity. The psalmist never counseled us to “Be busy, and know that I am God.”
“History teaches that the church is often at its vibrant best in competitive, pluralistic environments, where it has to be at the top of its game.”
See some real-Jesus stuff happening in Portland which just happens to be “Jesus’ favorite city.”
(Thanks DJ for this link.)
(The River Raisin)
Thanks to Rick Davis and Lael Arrington for their radio talk show The Things That Matter Most. They have compiled a feast of audio interviews, to include things like:
What Spiritual Knowledge Can Do for You – Dallas Willard
The Lost Gnostic Gospel of Judas – Bart Ehrman and Darrell Bock
Beyond Death: Evidence for Immortality – Gary Habermas
Understanding the Muslim Next Door – Sumbul Ali-Karamali
Pastor Turned Atheist Talks to Atheist Turned Pastor – Dave Schmelzer and John Loftus
A Dispassionate and Respectful Discussion about Evolution’s “Flaws” – Paul Nelson and Karl Giberson
Darwin Day: Can You Believe in Evolution and Still be A Christian? – Karl Giberson and Paul Nelson
What is Evil (or Good) and Where Does It Come From? Part I – Michael Shermer and Ben Wiker
What is Evil (or Good) and Where Does It Come From? Part II – Michael Shermer and Ben Wiker
What Does it Take to Believe in God? – Bill Craig
“God the Failed Hypothesis” Part 2 – Victor Stenger and Hugh Ross
How Can We Know What Is True? – J.P. Moreland
Lead Guitarist from Nu-metal band KORN Finds Jesus – Brian “Head” Welch
VeggieTales Creator Offers Evidence for the Reality of God – Phil Vischer
…and A LOT MORE (Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris, Os Guinness, Ravi Zacharias, Paul Maier, A.J. Jacobs, Alister McGrath, Michael Behe, Erwin McManus, John Eldredge, Francis Collins, and so on…).
(Chickadee, on my backyard deck)
I’ve been reading a lot of Dallas Willard and J.P. Moreland stuff recently. Willard, in addition to being a Jesus-follower and great author, is a brilliant philosopher who teaches at the University of Southern California. Today I came across this story about Willard.
He was speaking with USC professors and graduate students on the subject of “The University and the Brilliance of Jesus.” After Willard’s talk a humanities professor said, “I’m confused. You, one of the world’s prominent philosophers, believe in Jesus Christ as the hope of the world?”
To which Willard responded, “Who else did you have in mind?”
J.P.’s presentation on Romans 12:1-2 is the best I have ever heard on this text. It contained echoes of his mentor, Dallas Willard, especially Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, “Spiritual Life: The Body’s Fulfillment” (ch. 6) and “St Paul’s Psychology of Redemption – The Example” (ch. 7).
I am still thinking deeply about all of this stuff. It has, I believe, impacted me in a way that has not happened for a while.
This morning I am sitting on our back porch. We have 3 1/2 acres of trees and lawn on a river. There’s a large, old pine tree adjacent to our back deck. I’ve got 4 bird feeders, a corn squirrel feeder, and a hummingbird feeder hanging from this tree. The hummingbird that has claimed my feeder comes every few minutes to feed. Chickadees arrive with their young babies begging for food. The same goes for a downy woodpecker family. I regularly see nuthatches, cardinals, redpolls, sparrows, grackles, starlings, robins, a baltimore oriole, even an occasional hawk.
I read my devotional literature, soaking in God’s creation and his presence, with me. I read a quote from Dallas Willard on the Bible from A Faith and Culture Devotional. Willard writes:
“On its human side, I assume that [the Bible] was produced and preserved by competent human beings who were at least as intelligent and devout as we are today. I assume that they were quite capable of accurately interpreting their own experience and of objectively presenting what they heard and experienced in the language of their historical community, which we today can understand with due diligence.
On the divine side, I assume that God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide. Those who actually believe in God will be untroubled by this. I assume that he did not and would not leave his message to humankind in a form that can only be understood by a handful of late-twentieth-century professional scholars, who cannot even agree among themselves on the theories that they assume to determine what the message is.
The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through his church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourished that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading – that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or a mindless orthodoxy – is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom.” (pp. 78-79)
I finish typing this. There’s the hummingbird again. He hovers, maneuvers, flies backwards, sips the sugar water mixture, moves three feet from my face and stares at me, then bullets away.
I am saddened by today’s CNN report of another Christian church bombing in Iraq. This was “the seventh Christian house of worship in the country to be bombed in three days.”
“Many of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians have fled the country after targeted attacks by extremists. In October, more than a thousand Iraqi families fled Mosul after they were reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists, who apparently ordered them to convert to Islam or face possible death. At least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul in the first two weeks of October.”