Good words here from Eugene Peterson out of Eat this book: A conversation in the art of spiritual reading
I want to place personal experience under the authority of the Bible and not over it. I want to set the Bible before us as the text
by which we live our lives, this text that stands in such sturdy contrast to the potpourri of religious psychology, self-development, mystical experimentation, and devotional dilettantism that has come to characterize so much of what takes cover under the umbrella of “spirituality.”
Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love.
Are you living without any margins in your life? No reserves? Right on the edge all the time? Richard Swenson provides the following prescription
He says Margin is the space that “exists between ourselves and our limits.” 42 “the space between our load and our limits something held in reserve for emergencies, the gap between rest and exhaustion.” 69
We need margin to live well, according to Swenson.
Swenson suggests we should live with margin in
What does it look like for you when you have margin in each of these? When you are marginless? Any other areas you would suggest in which we should have margins? Spiritually?
Next: why do we live marginlness lives?
According to Soren Kierkegaard, purity of heart is to will one thing–God. He closes his book, Purity of Heart, with a prayer. Here is part of that prayer:
Father in Heaven! What is a man without Thee!
What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be,
but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee!
What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world,
but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee:
Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all!
So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing;
to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding;
to the will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing;
amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing;
in suffering, patience to will one thing .
Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion,
may Thou early, at the dawn of the day,
give to the young man the resolution to will one thing.
As the day wanes, may
Thou give give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution,
that the first may be like the last,
the last like the first in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.
Decided on Saturday I would read Larry James’ Fixing Hell. James was a Colonel in the Army who was a big part of the clean up of the U.S. facilities at Guantanamo in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Read about this book in a newsletter by Christian Psychologist, Gary Collins. Does not answer all the questions about what went on but at least makes me confident that we are asking some of the right questions now. Very interesting reflections on how to be a doctor and a soldier at the same time–James had decided he would have been able to shoot and kill someone had he been threatened but I think he doesn’t think doctors should be put into that situation. James talked to Dr. Philip Zambardo who was part of the Stanford prison experiment in 1971 which directly informs the solutions James takes. One takeaway for me relates to my dissertation project–I need objective outsiders monitoring things and checking up on my health as well as the health of the group. Not sure how to do that?
Few weeks ago, I picked up Dean Koontz Relentless in the library and read it through quickly. In Relentless, an author flees a literary critic who is out to kill him and his family. When the critic starts out with a bad review, that is only the beginning for his latest victim.
Third book is a 50 page book by Kent Humphreys called Shepherding Horses: Understanding God’s Plan for Transforming Leaders that someone gave to me in February. Humphreys says not everyone in our churches are sheep and want to follow. Some are horses and they require unique strategies. Horses are self-sufficient, affected by a pagan workplace, are strong and fearless in battle, create false hopes and represent man’s effort instead of God’s provision. When trained in the way of Jesus, they can be effective leaders.
What are the psychological conditions conducive to evil? That was the goal for Robert Jay Lifton as he wrote The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide which I should finish reading later tonight. Lifton found there are no easy answers as one physician survivor stated,
“The professor would like to understand what is not understandable. We ourselves who were there, and who have always asked ourselves the question and will ask it until the end of our lives, we will never understand it , because it cannot be understood.”
Lifton’s book focuses on a particular part of the “final solution,” one of the many terms the Nazis used to describe their attempted genocide of the Jews. He writes about the role the German medical profession played in the selection, technology and disposal of the millions killed during WW II. For most of his 500+ pages, he focuses on the events in Auschwitz, a place in which at the height of their “efficiency,” 24,000 people in one twenty-four hour period were killed and then burned or otherwise disposed. For the Nazis, the Jews were a “life unworthy of life” or a disease that must be eradicated and so they attempted to justify their attempt to “heal” the nation. As Lifton says, “Genocide is a response to collective fear of pollution and defilement” (481). “The perpetrator of genocide kills to cure himself as well as his people” (487).
This is a long and tough read and I bought it because one of my profs had mentioned it a number of years ago as a book worth reading. Lifton comes to a similar conclusion as does Roy F. Baumeister, in his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty who wrote about the myth of pure evil (see my post on this). “No individual self is inherently evil, murderous, genocidal. Yet under certain conditions virtually any self is capable of becoming all of these” 497).
On a related note, my wife sent me a link to an article about why our response to hundreds of thousands of people dying is not significantly greater than our response to one person dying or in the article’s case, the life of one dog. I had never heard the story of Hokget, the dog stranded on an abandoned freighter. Worth a read!
But the real point is why don’t we care more? According to research cited in the article, our brains don’t have the capacity for dealing with the death of so many. In fact, Shankar Vedantam concludes, “We are best able to respond when we are focused on a single victim.” Maybe this provides some explanation why we cannot get our minds around the 6 million+ Jews that were killed during WW II. But, that does not make the facts any less true. If you are in any doubt, check out The Nazi Doctors.
From The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman and William Pentak, a summary of their lessons. A small book worth reading.
- Know the condition of your flock
- Discover the shape of your sheep
- Help your sheep identify with you
- Make your pasture a safe place
- The staff of direction
- The rod of correction
- The Heart of the shepherd
To be honest, I picked up The Process of Forgiveness by William Menninger because his name sounded familiar and on the back cover was written, “Going beyond Lewis Smede’s classic Forgive and Forget” Now I am not sure he is beyond Smedes who is one of my favorites on this type of book but it was not a bad read.
A couple of useful things. Useful chapters on the “Stages of Forgiveness.” Since I have studied a bit about the enneagram, his nine chapters on the challenges of forgiveness for each of the nine enneagram types was unique. Ends with chapters on lectio divina, compassionate meditation, centering meditation and focusing.