Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Spiritual Disicpline of Solitude

Spend Some Time in Solitude

Solitude is one of the most precious things in the human spirit. It is different from loneliness. When you are lonely, you become acutely conscious of your own separation. Solitude can be a homecoming to your own deepest belonging. One of the lovely things about us as individuals is the incommensurable in us. In each person, there is a point of absolute nonconnection with everything else and with everyone. This is fascinating and frightening. It means that we cannot continue to seek outside ourselves for the things we need from within. The blessings for which we hunger are not to be found in other places or people. These gifts can only be given to you by yourself. They are at home in the hearth of your soul. . . .

In everyone's inner solitude there is that bright and warm hearth. The idea of the unconscious, even though it is a very profound and wonderful idea, has sometimes frightened people away from coming back to their own hearth. We falsely understand the subconscious as the cellar where all of our repression and self-damage is housed. Out of our fear of ourselves we have imagined monsters down there. Yeats says, "Man needs reckless courage to descend into the abyss of himself." In actual fact, these demons do not account for all the subconscious. The primal energy of our soul holds a wonderful warmth and welcome for us. One of the reasons we were sent onto the earth was to make this connection with ourselves, this inner friendship.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


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Friday, July 30, 2010

Frozen Embryos

From Christianity Today

Top Story
Illustrations by Tim Baron


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going to South Africa

South Africa, here I come......may be able to pick up cheap post World Cup memorabilia.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Carl McColman on Mysticism and Contemplation

Received my autographed copy of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism from the post office. I appreciate Carl making the effort to post it to me. I am looking forward to reading it.

Carl in his blog post explains mysticism and contemplation

Mysticism signifies spirituality that is characterized by mystery: in Christian terms, this means the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of prayer, the sacraments, and salvation. The Mystical Body is the mystery in which we mere mortals find union with Christ, who in turn is one with God the Father (see John 10:30). So Christian mysticism is the spirituality of union with God in Christ.

Contemplation, by contrast, signifies the relational “gaze” or interaction between a creature and God (in Christ, if understood as Christian contemplation). Contemplation is not a process of thinking, but rather a process of seeing. “I see God, and God sees me.” In the seeing and being seen, we are invited into union. Thus, contemplation is a normal and perhaps even essential element of mysticism. Contemplation, or contemplative prayer, is the means by which union with God may be consciously experienced (I choose my words carefully: “may” be experienced, for the act of contemplation, particularly as initiated by human beings, does not guarantee or engineer any particular experience of God; all it does is dispose the contemplative to receiving whatever gift, in whatever form, it may please God to give). But just as mysticism arguably requires contemplation, so too I think we can make the case the contemplation leads to mysticism (or, at least, to “ordinary mysticism” as I defined it yesterday). Thus, I believe that contemplation and (ordinary) mysticism, while not identical, are certainly most intimately related. Read more.

Here is an interesting dilemma:

is mysticism a subset of contemplation

or contemplation a subset of mysticism

or are both an overlap of the process of 'deitification' or union with God?

My understanding of mysticism is that it is the state in which our being (mind,soul,spirit) perceive of being in contact with God. It is best explained by the analogy of a dance. As the Orthodox tradition best explains it, this dance is the perichoresis of the Truine God. We are invited to join in this dance. Mysticism is the ontological and episemiological awareness of being participant in this dance.

Contemplation is a more focused mysticism in that the attention is directed to one member of the Trinity. It is also an ontological and epistemological awareness but narrower in scope.

Both mysticism and contemplation comes under the process of union with God as we come into deeper relationship and interaction with the Truine God who is both immanent and transcendent.


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McColman on Ordinary and Extraordinary Mysticism

Carl McColman whose The Big Book of Christian Mysticism I am impatiently waiting to arrive so that I can read it on the long plane ride to South Africa defines "ordinary" and "extraordinary" mysticism in his blog post here. I find his definitions very illuminating and similar to my own perspective. This is especially useful for Evangelicals who for some unknown reasons find mysticism threatening.

  • Ordinary Mysticism is what I understand Rahner to mean when he says “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” This is, in essence, an experiential spirituality which seeks union with God, in the heart of the mystery of God, which transcends a merely rational or intellectual relationship with God. This mysticism basically has three characteristics: it aims for, and hopes for, the felt experience and conscious awareness of the presence of God, and union with God. But of course, since such experience can only by the gift of God, the seeker must recognize that sometimes God is “known” only in darkness or unknowing — the felt experience of the seeming absence of God. This is where faith is essential, for only a lively and well-nurtured faith can sustain the seeker through times when God seems absent. In addition to experience and faith, the third element of ordinary mysticism is practice: the disciplined engagement with historically recognized spiritual practices, including lectio divina, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, which do not cause the experience of God, but dispose the seeker to be open and receptive to receive whatever experience God may choose to bestow. One who engages in such practices can be called a “contemplative,” even though the highest, most mystical form of contemplation is, itself, purely a gift from God.
  • Extraordinary Mysticism, like ordinary mysticism, entails the conscious awareness of the presence of God, and/or sustaining faith in God’s presence even when only aware of God’s seeming absence, and a life ordered to spiritual practices aimed at fostering greater intimacy with God. However, it is extraordinary in the sense that the mystic experiences phenomena or events that cannot be explained by ordinary human science: such as miraculous healings, visions, locutions, levitation, the ability to survive on no food other than the Eucharist, the stigmata, and the body remaining incorrupt after death. Such phenomena, of course, is controversial, and many devout Christians may remain skeptical about such things. I would argue that even a person who is skeptical about allegedly supernatural phenomena may still be an “ordinary” mystic.

I strongly hold that mysticism has a place in Christian spirituality because mysticism prevents Christians from placing God in a box.


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Favourite Coke and Pepsi Advertisements

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Does Powerpoint have Power? A Response

My dear friend Rev Dr Tan Soo Inn recently asked this question in his weekly GRACEWORKSMAIL 29/10. Please read the whole ecommentary here. He mentions that he does not use powerpoint in his presentations but uses handouts. In support of his not using powerpoint, he mentions two heavy weights like Christopher Witt and John P. Kotter who allegedly do not use powerpoint and have their reasons for not doing so.

According to Witt, powerpoint is good in conveying information not in persuading, hog the audience's attention and takes time preparing. All these three reasons are true. But is that a strong enough defense against powerpoint usage? Preaching and teaching are forms of communication. In any form of communication, there must be some information exchange. Communication must engage the audience and the speaker's face (no matter how handsome) should not be limited to as the only area of focus, and while it is true that power point take time to prepare, it seems to me strange to be given as a reason against using it. In preparing a sermon or a talk, if we begrudge the amount of time preparing powerpoint compared to research and data collection, then we have missed the whole point of the process of successful communication.

Saying that, I agree with Soo Inn that it is the messenger, not the powerpoint. I will also hasten to add that it is also the message and the audience. Personally I do not differentiate Christian preaching and teaching into two categories. To me, all Christian preaching and teaching are evangelistic and for edification. There can be no separation between the two. It is the work of the communicator to distill the huge amount of raw data from his/her research to the core of the message to be delivered. Personally I have to rework all my sermons or teachings 3-4 times to par down the amount of information to the core or essential sermon or teaching statement I want to convey. Who I am, my communication skills and my powerpoint are the means to convey this core or essential statement.

As communicators, we need to study our audience. Gone are the days when they are able to sit through hours of sermons or lectures. It may still work with the older folks but the younger folks have a different way of communication, hence the new social media. In a post modern audience used to two seconds sound bites, visual and musical ques and multimedia presentations, instant response and feedback (via texting, twitter, MMS, mobile video), the challenge is for communicators to connect with them in an effective manner.

Thank you for this stimulating ecommentary. An addendum: as we learn homiletics to communicate, communicators especially Christian pastors must learn how to design appropriate and effective powerpoint slides!

picture source

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Open Door

I nick this wonderful post from Helen Rosenthal's blog Reflections of an RSCJ.

When we pray, the door is always open. We are invited to enter and just be at home with the Lord. Sometimes this seems too good to be true. We want to believe it; we say we do, but we often wait at the threshold, timid and even fearful. We only need to look up and see that the door is open for us and the one who loves us is inside. He hears our prayer and opens the door even before we knock. The door will lead us into His Heart. Have confidence and courage and go forward. I think I often hesitate, feel unworthy, and yet I know from experience that I need just to go through the door of prayer and I can enter His Heart.


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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Study on Jeremiah

I intend to spend the next six months immersed in the study of the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. For me this is the best way to study a topic or subject. I have started with these books

including these digital books in my Logos library software
Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 26, Jeremiah 1-25(craigie/kelley/drinkard)
Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 27, Jeremiah 26-52 (keown/scalise/smothers)

Are there any other books on Jeremiah or Lamentations that you think will be good for me to study? Will appreciate your recommendations.


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Friday, July 23, 2010

Rethinking the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Guest T wrote an interesting post about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and asked some important questions on Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed blog.

How exactly do we come to think what we do about God? How do we think about each of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience separately in relation to good theology? How do we think they inter-relate in our actual practice and how should they inter-relate?

Hopefully a post on each of the four "quads" will be helpful for all of us to think about those questions and refine our own approach. Before we look at each of the four individually, though, a little background is in order. First, Wesley saw scripture as clearly primary among the four. In fact, he saw the other three as the unavoidable lens through which we viewed everything, including scripture and even God himself. We should note that the Quadrilateral is offered as both prescriptive (for how we ought to build our theology) and descriptive (of how we all inevitably assemble our knowledge of God). Of course, the emphasis we put on each "quad" may make for a wide margin between the prescriptive and the descriptive uses, as well as the ideas about God that we end up with. (And two quick points for the record: 1. I'm not Methodist, so folks from that background may want to give correction or depth to my summaries, and 2. although the quadrilateral is faithful to Wesley's theology, the term "quadrilateral" was coined by a much later admirer of Wesley's approach.)

I agree with Wesley that scripture should be primary among the four; I also agree that it should not be, perhaps more importantly, cannot be the only player in forming our knowledge of God. Scripture often supports contrasting claims about God. It presents opposite truths in tension. It leaves a sea of questions unanswered. Some explicit statements we don't take explicitly. And we place enormous weight on some Reasonable inferences (like the Trinity, for instance), especially those that have the support of Tradition. Not only do Tradition, Experience and Reason form the lens for our view of Scripture, they address, with Scripture, they explore and fill in many gaps in our understanding of God, some of which Scripture itself creates. Perhaps most importantly, they make the faith into our faith.

Please note that the highlight in bold is mine and not in the post.

Read more


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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ronald Cole-Turner: The Genetic Revolution and Designer Babies

Ronald Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Dr. Cole-Turner discusses the complex moral and religious implications of new bio-technologies, including gene-splicing and cloning. Series: "Burke Lectureship on Religion & Society"


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

10 Ancient Remedies That Are Still Around Today

I have a guest post by Ashley M. Jones who highlights 10 ancient remedies.

10 Ancient Remedies That Are Still Around Today

Ever since its inception, mankind has applied its intelligence and resourcefulness to finding ways of curing diseases and injuries in order to keep itself propelling ever forward. Ancient physicians and other innovators from across the globe worked tirelessly to create treatments, tools, and techniques for the benefit of society’s overall health and wellness. While many of these eventually found themselves overridden with the advent of advanced research, more efficient procedures, and new discoveries, an exceptionally impressive many have survived the centuries – if not millennia – and continue to enjoy a startling amount of relevance even today. The following list compiles a diverse selection of these remaining remedies, though it is by no means intended as a comprehensive guide. Consider it a very quick primer on a few of the ancient medical treatments utilized in contemporary medical facilities and use it as a stepping stone into far more detailed research.

1. Prosthetics

When it comes to engineering feats originating in ancient Egypt, more people immediately think of the Great Pyramids and all the meticulously constructed treasures contained within. Few realize that the Egyptians may have actually invented the use of prosthetic digits to help amputees rehabilitate easier and those born with deformities exhibit higher functionality and independence. In 2007, a female mummy originating from anywhere between 1000 and 600 B.C.E. was found sporting a prosthetic toe fashioned out of wood and leather. The woman had undergone an amputation on her big toe, and forensic evidence suggests that the site actually healed very well before strapping on the new extremity. It would have ostensibly helped her walk with better balance following the surgery, though some testing with replicas is needed to understand the true efficacy. Actual replacement limbs have yet to be discovered along the Nile, however, though an artificial leg dated around 300 B.CE. emerged in Italy.

2. Acupuncture

The exact practice of acupuncture as people understand it today was developed by the ancient Chinese, but the exact date of its emergence into human society remains unknown. Tools that could have possibly been wielded in an acupuncture ritual dating back to around 6000 B.C.E. have been unearthed, but their actual use remains unknown. Likewise, some texts from around 198 B.C.E. make references to procedures that sound similar to acupuncture but could very well be something else entirely. But the first definitive mention comes from The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, written around 100 B.C.E. It lays out all the core tenets and practices of acupuncture – likely culled from a century’s worth of information and tradition – and its relationship with Taoist philosophies. Today, the intricate and complex system of utilizing pressure points as a means of treating physical pain (and even psychological hang-ups) is still widely practiced in China alongside massage and herbal treatments. It has also obtained quite a bit of widespread acceptance in the “West” as well.

3. Flaps

Dermatological surgery as it is practiced today owes a debt of gratitude to Susruta, an Indian surgeon credited with the invention of pedicle flaps in 600 B.C.E. After an extensive trial-and-error process, he outlined the very basics of transferring bits of skin from one part of the body to another – specifically, from cheek to nose. Amazement settles in when one realizes that he created the procedure, which involves separating the dermis from the body without compromising its blood supply, completely sans access to contemporary anesthetic and sanitation methods. Contained in India for centuries, pedicle flaps eventually made their way to Europe and, later, the United States. While the surgery has since become subjected to a few refinements to make it fit in more snugly with the latest technologies, the basic skeleton and intention as written by Susruta remains unchanged. It has also, obviously, resulted in applications far beyond the original rhinoplasty as well.

4. Cauterizing

Known as the “Father of Medicine,” Greek physician Hippocrates (for whom the Hippocratic Oath is named) left an impressive legacy of diagnosing diseases and conditions – including lung cancer – and inventing medical devices such as the rectal speculum that laid the groundwork for today’s comparatively more technologically sophisticated interpretations. One example of his myriad contributions to the medical community involves the technique of cauterizing wounds as a means of preventing a potentially deadly amount of blood loss and staving off infection. Such a procedure, as outlined in the heavily influential Hippocratic Corpus, also ensures that surgical or otherwise damaged sites do not crack open and result in excruciatingly painful hemorrhaging. Surgeons and other medical professionals still burn away at damaged flesh much as Hippocrates did in his day, though they wield entirely contemporary tools to get the job done. However, the concepts behind cauterization survive relatively unchanged since ancient Greece in spite of the shift in technology.

5. Leeching

Contemporary audiences may wince at the idea of using leeches in a hospital or other medical facility, but the truth is that it actually exists as a highly effective means of bloodletting even with today’s newfangled contraptions at the ready. Leeching, or the process by which a patient’s blood is sucked out by the titular eager annelids, helps to prevent clotting during and after surgery and was once believed to cure a number of different ailments. The first recorded mention of the process was discovered on an Egyptian tomb dating back to 1500 B.C.E. , and it remained in fashion for more than a millennium until doctors and scientists in the early 20th Century dismissed it as largely hogwash. However, leeching experienced resurgence in the 1970’s and remains an entirely valid method of removing blood pools that cause painful swelling even today. In fact, many hospitals make sure to keep a few on hand at all times in the event a doctor or surgeon needs their parasitic assistance.

6. Maggot Therapy

Like leeches, the very nature of fly larvae has been harnessed in order to treat different medical ailments in humans as well. Although generally associated with treatment on the battlefield, the real history of maggot therapy actually roots itself in more distant times. The Aborigines and the Mayans both took advantage of the insects’ taste for decaying flesh as a means of cleaning wounds that had become infected and pulsating with pus and/or gangrene. The process later became exceedingly popular in both mainstream and military medicine, especially considering the fact that the droves of maggots munching away carries with it an antibacterial effect that also helps stave off infections. Doctors in contemporary times continue to utilize maggots in various treatments where dying tissues require immediate removal. Patients claim that the experience, when it can actually be felt, tickles and itches a bit – rarely, if ever, does any pain factor into the equation. After all, the plucky little bugs can tell the difference between delicious decay and the foul stench of living flesh.

7. Caesarean Sections

Ancient and medieval Islamic physicians alone have greatly impacted modern medical practices far more than mainstream society realizes, and many of their scientific and mathematical applications and discoveries remain completely relevant today. If Hippocrates is considered the “Father of Medicine,” then Abu al-Qasim al-Zahwari (936-1013 C.E.) ought to be the “Father of Surgery.” His Kitab al-Tasrif, one of the most influential medical texts ever penned, set the standard for 500 years’ worth of European medical history. Among other accomplishments, including inventing nearly 200 different surgical tools, al-Zahwari is sometimes attributed with performing the first caesarean section – a means of delivering a baby by slicing open a mother’s abdomen rather than through the birth canal. This is, however, somewhat anecdotal, although references to caesarean sections performed on dying women have cropped up in ancient Chinese and Roman writings. The real history of the procedure comes off as uncertain and spotty, though there is reason to believe that it has some basis in ancient and medieval medical practices.

8. Hydrotherapy

Doctors today continue to use water as a conduit for soothing pain and strain, especially in the muscles, but hydrotherapy has actually been utilized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Japanese – among other civilizations. Many ancient medical texts discuss the various applications that both drinking and soaking in heated or cooled water provide for various ailments, and some cultures incorporated aromatherapy into the equation. The Romans, of course, garnered quite a bit of fame for their public bath houses meant as both a social and therapeutic meeting place – the precursors to today’s health spas. Water still plays an integral role in 21st Century medical treatments, continuing to act as an external painkiller, exercise medium for those in need of physical therapy, cleanser for the bowels and other organs, and many other extremely valuable applications. Spas frequently take a cue from the ancient societies who blended hydrotherapy with aromatherapy to help their patrons unwind – a move which also has helps stimulate mental health as well.

9. Cosmetics

Though associated with makeup and inessential surgical procedures today, cosmetics actually have a pretty solid foundation in maintaining health and wellness. Shaving, which actually dates back to prehistoric times, rids the body of hairs that can trap sweat and provide a veritable Shangri-la for bacteria and mites. Wealthy citizens of ancient cultures, likely beginning with the Egyptians, slathered themselves in perfume in order to mask their natural body odor – a sensibility that later inspired Abu al-Qasim al-Zahwari to invent solid deodorants in addition to hair removal sticks, mouthwashes and poultices made of coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg, and even lotions, aromatic rubs, and nasal sprays. All of these still persist in today’s lifestyles, frequently incorporating new developments (such as antiperspirants accompanying deodorants) along the way without actually changing their original intent. Al-Zahwari’s suggestions for freshening breath remain extremely popular in many nations today, and the ingredients found in his pain-relieving creams – like camphor, for example – still play integral roles in products such as Vick’s VapoRub and Tiger Balm.

10. Massage

The use of massage as a means of relaxing muscles and relieving tension for better physical and mental health dates almost as far back as human history itself. Nearly every civilization sported its own particular brand of therapeutic touch, which some speculate originates in shamanic healing and empowerment rituals. The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians all boasted their own massage rituals. It crops up in medical texts by Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen and subsequently found its way into Roman culture as a result. Along the way, some began incorporating elements such as perfumes, lotions, oils, hot rocks, and other accessories into massages as well, resulting in an experience as sensual as it is beneficial. There is so much information available on massage’s myriad uses – from physical therapy to simple relaxation – that anyone considering some form or another will likely find one suitable for his or her needs. Be sure to consult with a doctor or nurse beforehand, however, as some massage rituals may not necessarily work to alleviate certain conditions.

The brilliant minds of ancient physicians and surgeons still resonate into today – a testament to their ability to transcend time without having to strive for physical immortality. Without their contributions to their own eras as well as the current one, humanity would crumble and fade entirely as its members drop off one by one from various blights. Even those whose findings ended up obsolete as research and development evolved still played an entirely valuable role in keeping the species alive and deserve the gratitude of later generations.

Ashley M. Jones writes regularly on the subject of pharmacy technician certification. She invites your questions, comments at her email address:


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God's Glory in Everything

Meister Eckhart once wrote that it is delusion to think that we can obtain more of God by contemplation or pious devotions than by being at the kitchen hearth or working in the merchants’ stalls. This is hard to believe because it is literally beyond human comprehension. God is in the saucepan as well as the chalice, the lawn mower as well as the monstrance. The manner is ordinary, but God’s glory is in every event, every moment, every particle of creation.

— Mother Gail Fitzpatrick, OCSO, Seasons of Grace:
Wisdom from the Cloister

This quote is from the blog of Carl McColman, Anamchara-The Website of Unknowing. Carl has written extensively on mysticism and this is a great blog to visit if you are interested in the subject. Recently Carl has published a new book

Order your copy of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism by clicking here.

I have written to him and he has graciously agreed to send me three of his books which he will autograph, some bookmarks and prayer cards. I am looking forward to reading his book and has been bugging my postman (poor chap).


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Random Glimpses of My Desktop (15)

I first read of Doomsday in the Superman storyline The Death of Superman. Since then I have learned more about this Kryptonian creature of mass destruction. He has an interesting biography. More details here

and guess who is on my desktop?


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Monday, July 19, 2010

Lamentations and the God of Jeremiah

The Lamentations of Jeremiah and the God of Jeremiah

Lamentations 3:21-25

Sermon Statement

Justice and love comes together in our Holy God in perfect balance. The unfailing love of God goes beyond judgment to new life because He is a God of hope, love, faithfulness and salvation

read more

download mp3



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Sunday, July 18, 2010

May Beauty Awaits You

A Beauty Blessing

As stillness to silence is wed
May your heart be somewhere a God might dwell.

As a river flows in ideal sequence
May your soul discover time is presence.

As the moon absolves the dark of distance
May thought-light console your mind with brightness.

As the breath of light awakens color
May the dawn anoint your eyes with wonder.

As spring rain softens the earth with surprise
May your winter places be kissed by light.

As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance
May the grace of change bring you elegance.

As clay anchors a tree in light and wind
May your outer life grow from peace within.

As twilight fills the night with bright horizons
May Beauty await you at home beyond.

— John O'Donohue in Beauty: The Invisible Embrace


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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

Inception is a complicated movie. It involves multiple layers of complexities, dreams, realities and levels of darkness of our subconscious. On one level it asks the eternal question of whether reality is a person dreaming he or she is a butterfly or whether it is the butterfly dreaming it is a human being. On another level, it asks the question of whether it is possible for subliminal or subconscious manipulation by others for their own agenda. On a third level, if one has a choice to choose to live in less than ideal reality or in an ideal dream reality, where will one choose to live? Reminds me of the dilemma facing Kirk and Picard in the nexus in the movie Star Trek: Generations.

Leonardo DeCapri fresh from his recent excellent psychological thriller Stutter Island stars in this science fiction thriller of the manipulation of dreams. For the plot (spoilers) read the Wiki here. The movie is at times slow paced and sometimes confusing as the viewers have to keep track of the layers of dreams involved. Thus it is not like most science fiction movies which are fast paced with lots of CGs. Still it is surprising for me to see a few cinema patrons leaving in the middle of the movie. I, for my own part, have enjoyed it immensely.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Ted Peters on Synthetic Biology

Sze Zeng alerted me to this article by Ted Peters on synthetic biology. This is the first time I am aware of this Journal of Cosmology.

Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol 8, In Press., June, 2010

Commentaries: Artificial Life


On May 20, 2010, famed geneticist Craig Venter and colleagues published a landmark study in the emerging field of 'synthetic biology', the creation of an artificial bacterium genome (copied from DNA sequences of Mycoplasma mycoides) which was transferred into a closely related microbe which began to successfully reproduce, making over a billion copies of itself.

Venter's achievement has drawn mostly enthusiastic praise, with some likening it to the 'splitting the atom' and deserving of the Nobel Prize. Yet others' warn of a 'Frankenstein monster' and 'genetic pollution'; fearing that artificial genes and artificial life may take over the world, and end life as we know it.

Scientists and bioethicists from around the world have been asked to comment and to explain. What is the real significance of this achievement, and is there any reason to feel fear?

read the whole article

HT: Sze Zeng

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Seth Godin's Insubordinate

From Seth Godin

I’ve written a personal addendum to Linchpin. Here it is, it's a free PDF. Insubordinate is a 40 page ebook, feel free to share. I couldn’t possibly include all the linchpins I’ve worked with over the years, but I think you’ll find that many of the examples in the ebook resonate.

Other free eBooks by Seth Godin

who's there
permission marketing
unleashing the ideavirus
the bootstrapper's bible
what matters now (editor)


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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Standing at Crossroads

Crossroads are busy places. They are chaotic places of noise and busyness. Often at the junction of four or five feeder roads, crossroads are where the traffic of people and cars merge and disengage, for a fleeting moment meeting, and then going their separate ways. Many of us find ourselves standing at crossroads, some more frequent than others, at different times in our lives. We stand in the chaos, amidst the noise, confusion and uncertainty, as we scan the various roads that lead away to decide which one to follow. Crossroads are places of decisions. They are scary places because we know decisions have consequences.

How do we find our way out of the crossroads of our lives? Jeremiah the prophet offers a profound advice from the Lord. Addressing the people of Judah who had lost their way at the crossroads of idolatry, religiosity and self-interest, Jeremiah suggests that that they
"stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls..." (Jer 6:16).
In the hectic pace of modern techno-culture, often we struggle to find the "one thing needful" and not be carried away by the tsunami of change that engulf us and carry us along in its flow. We must to look around our crossroads, looking for the ancient paths, the good way, that will leads us to the "one thing needful" and find rest for our souls. The "one thing needful" in our lives is to sit at the feet of Jesus: To behold his glory and bask in his presence. Our souls need rest. Our souls need healing. Our souls need refreshing. The aridity in our souls needs the "living water" of Jesus Christ.

I enjoy the songs of Don McLean. One of his more famous songs is American Pie. However there are many of his other relatively unknown songs that have made an impact upon me. One of them is "Crossroads" from his 1971 American Pie album.

"But there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.

Can you remember who I was? Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? Can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again."

The lyrics and music spoke to me of the times when I had found myself at crossroads: Of the pain, the hurts, the uncertainties, and the loneliness. It also reminded me that at these times, I do not stand alone. Jesus has always been there with me, supporting me and tending to my wounds. "Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" Sound advice of an ageless truth.

Kyrie eleison

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Theological Appraisal of the Word Faith Movement

The Edinburgh Research Archive website has many good and excellent thesis and dissertations available. I found this interesting PhD dissertation.

Edinburgh Research Archive >
Divinity, School of >
Divinity PhD thesis collection >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:

Title: A Theological Appraisal of the Doctrine that Jesus Died Spiritually, as Taught by Kenyon, Hagin and Copeland
Authors: Atkinson, William P
Supervisors: Fergusson, David
Hurtado, Larry
Issue Date: 2007
Abstract: This thesis appraises the doctrine that Jesus ‘died spiritually’ (JDS), as taught by E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth E. Hagin and Kenneth Copeland: important research because of the influence of these men and their teaching, not least on Pentecostalism. JDS teaching originated with Kenyon, was introduced to the Word-faith movement by Hagin, and continues to be offered by Copeland. However, it has been the subject of much criticism. The appraisal conducted in this project is primarily theological. Aspects of JDS teaching are considered in the light of both the Christian scriptures and the church’s great thinkers. Theological investigation into Kenyon’s immediate sources is also conducted. The research finds that the alleged ‘spiritual death’ of Christ incorporates three major elements: in this ‘death’, Jesus was separated from God; partook of a sinful, satanic nature; and was Satan’s prey. Jesus had to die thus to atone for human sin. The appraisal observes that criticism of JDS teaching offered so far is partially inaccurate. In particular, the alleged ‘spiritualisation’ of Christ’s death does not owe its origin to New Thought or Christian Science, as claimed, but is developed by Kenyon from seeds lying within Higher Life and Faith Cure circles. However, study of the three main aspects of JDS teaching confirms earlier research that it often misrepresents the Christian scriptures. Furthermore, it departs significantly from historic Christian formulations. This particularly applies to the claim that Christ partook of Satan’s nature. The project concludes that JDS teaching is not readily compatible with the traditional trinitarianism, incarnationalism and substitutionary atonement to which it claims to adhere. Adoption of JDS teaching by Pentecostalism would be damaging in these doctrinal respects, and thus draw the latter away from its moorings in traditional Christianity. Pentecostalism is advised to reject the bulk of this teaching.
Keywords: Divinity
Appears in Collections:Divinity PhD thesis collection

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Stanley Martin Hauerwas: "Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Truth & Politics"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is well known for his heroic opposition to the Nazis. Dr. Hauerwas' lecture examines Bonhoeffer's understanding of lying and why it's approporiate to hold politics to a higher standard of truthful speech. This relationship between truth and politics is a particular challenge for democratic regimes. Series: "Burke Lectureship on Religion & Society"


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Facebook as a Learning Management Tool

Technology is changing education. William Drummond explores using Facebook as a learning management tool and a panel explores the 21st century student. [12/2008]

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Prayer for Friends

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn how to be a good friend yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul
where there is great love, warmth, feeling,
and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant,
or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship,
and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging
with your anam cara.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


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Presidential Commission on Synthetic Biology

There have been an significant two days meeting on synthetic biology in Washington D.C. that seem to have been missed by many. Summers Johnson of blogs about it here and here. She notes

Perhaps the only real substantive ethics discussion came from AJOB Neuroscience's own Paul Wolpe who provided an overview on religious perspectives related to synthetic biology as well as four examples of synthetic biology.

Some of his statements were somewhat surprising. Wolpe stated that religious communities are relatively unconcerned about synthetic biology. I have no reason to doubt this claim, but it is certainly surprising.

I wonder why this curious silence from the religious communities.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

World-renowned astronomer and prize-winning professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, Alex Filippenko, explores some of the mysteries of the universe at a special lecture at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Filippenko discusses observations of very distant exploding starts called super-novae that provide intriguing evidence that the expansion of the universe is now speeding up. Over the largest scales of space, the universe seems to be dominated by a repulsive "dark energy" of unknown origin, stretching the very fabric of space itself faster and faster with time.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Share Your Love

One of the great powers of love is balance; it helps us move toward transfiguration. When two people come together, an ancient circle closes between them. They also come to each other not with empty hands, but with hands full of gifts for each other. Often these are wounded gifts; this awakens the dimension of healing within love. When you really love someone, you shine the light of your soul on the beloved. We know from nature that sunlight brings everything to growth. If you look at flowers early on a spring morning, they are all closed. When the light of the sun catches them, they trustingly open out and give themselves to the new light. . . .

A person should always offer a prayer of graciousness for the love that has awakened in them. When you feel love for your beloved and the beloved's love for you, now and again you should offer the warmth of your love as a blessing for those who are damaged and unloved. Send that love out into the world to people who are desperate, to those who are starving, to those who are trapped in prison, in hospitals, and into all the brutal terrains of bleak and tormented lives. When you send that love out from the bountifulness of your own love, it reaches other people. This love is the deepest power of prayer. . . . When there is love in your life, you should share it spiritually with those who are pushed to the very edge of life. There is a lovely idea in the Celtic tradition that if you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


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Friday, July 09, 2010

The Inner Wellspring

You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself. There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this is a wellspring of love within the heart. . . .

If you find that your heart has hardened, one of the gifts that you should give yourself is the gift of the inner wellspring. You should invite this inner fountain to free itself. You can work on yourself in order to unsilt this, so that gradually the nourishing waters begin in a lovely osmosis to infuse and pervade the hardened clay of your heart. Then the miracle of love happens within you. Where before there was hard, bleak, unyielding, dead ground, now there is growth, color, enrichment, and life flowing from the lovely wellspring of love. This is one of the most creative approaches to transfiguring what is negative within us.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

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Presence is the journal of Spiritual Directors International of which I am a member. I like the cover picture of a mandala.

Insightful video conversation with Rev. Jane E. Vennard about the value and benefits of spiritual direction and what to expect in spiritual direction. A new addition to the video series "Spiritual Directors International Learns From..."

Two new videos added to the "Spiritual Directors International Learns From..." series. Listen to Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB.

The National Catholic Reporter features spiritual direction and SDI in "An Ancient and Contemporary Pathway to God" by Tom Gallagher.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly episode features "Spiritual Direction."

View the Gratefulness Gram slide show of messages from our members that we showed at the San Francisco Educational Events in April 2010.

Online Seek and Find Guide interactive database helps you to search for spiritual directors in your area. More than 5,000 are listed.

Not sure how to choose a spiritual director? The Seek and Find Guide includes a handy set of review questions to help you.

Watch short YouTube videos about spiritual direction and how to find a spiritual director, also known as a spiritual guide, spiritual companion, mashpia in Hebrew or anam cara in Gaelic.


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20 Years of Armour Publishing

Armour Publishing in Singapore published three of my books and I owe them a book which I have yet to write. This year, they celebrate 20 years of publishing Christian books which is not easy in the publishing business. They have made possible for many local Christian writers to see their works in print. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

We must support our local Christian writers by buying their books.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Anam Cara-Soul Friend

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the "soul friend."

In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the "friend of your soul."

The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship. In his Conferences, John Cassian says this bond between friends is indissoluble: "This, I say, is what is broken down by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part."

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara


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Virtual Mentor on Dealing With Terminally Ill Children

Dealing with the terminally ill is difficult. And it is especially difficult when we deal with terminally ill children. Personally, I find it a challenging and exhausting process.

Virtual Mentor :: American Medical Association  Journal of Ethics |

Virtual Mentor. July 2010, Volume 12, Number 7: 517-602. Full Issue PDF

July 2010 Contents

Pediatric Palliative Care

From the Editor

Pediatric Palliative Care: Born of Necessity
David Buxton
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:519-521.

Educating for Professionalism

Clinical Cases

Nondisclosure and Emerging Autonomy in a Terminally Ill Teenager
Commentary by Sarah Friebert
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:522-529.

“Please Let Me Hear My Son Cry Once”
Commentary by Wynne Morrison
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:530-534.

An Overwhelmed Parent
Commentary by Robert Macauley
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:535-539.

Medical Education

Microethical and Relational Insights from Pediatric Palliative Care
David M. Browning
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:540-547.

Creating Training Opportunities in Pediatric Palliative Care
Laurie Lyckholm and Kathleen O’Kane Kreutzer
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:548-553.

The Code Says

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinions on Seriously Ill Newborns and Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:554-557.

Clinical Pearl

Artificial Hydration in Pediatric End-of-Life Care
Anne Keeler
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:558-563.

Law, Policy, and Society

Health Law

Legal Restrictions on Decision Making for Children with Life-Threatening Illnesses—CAPTA and the Ashley Treatment
Paula Tironi and Monique M. Karaganis
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:564-568.

Policy Forum

Do-Not-Attempt-Resuscitation Orders in Public Schools
Kathryn L. Weise
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:569-572.

Medicine and Society

Trusting Them With the Truth—Disclosure and the Good Death for Children with Terminal Illness
Hannah L. Kushnick
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:573-577.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Can the Soul be Saved?

I am still searching for the soul (or a better understanding of it). Came across Direction, a Mennonite Brethren Forum magazine which has a special issue Fall 2008 devoted to Can the Soul be Saved?

Can the Soul Be Saved?

From the Editor: Can the Soul Be Saved?Vic Froese166-7
Paul on the Human Being as a “Psychic Body”: Neither Dualist nor MonistGordon Zerbe168-84
Is the Search for the Anabaptist Soul a Dead End? Historic Anabaptism Meets Nancey Murphy’s Nonreductive PhysicalismTerry G. Hiebert185-200
I’m a Soul, Man: One Psychologist’s Reflection on Human NatureDelmar B. Epp201-14
Nancey Murphy’s Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? A Review EssayWendy J. Miller215-22
Resurrection of the Body or Immortality of the Soul? Some Personal ReflectionsDan Epp-Tiessen223-27
An Invitation to an Intimate and Transformative Relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:15-22)Laura Neufeld228-37

Some good thoughts here,


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