Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Thinks

1) Haikuapalooza continues full-steam ahead. Here's the deal... I just want to find out who all of you wonderful readers are, so send in your name, where you are logging in from, and a little about yourself, and I'll write a Haiku especially for you. All entrants are also get their name in a hat to win an Asbury Seminary Mug OR Shawnee UMC Mug AND a pound of Bourbon Chocolate Fudge from the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky (more on the monks later).

Here are a few more Haiku's...

From: Amy Walters of Goshen, Indiana
Buchers to Goshen
or just Aimee and the boys
that would be fine too

From: Brother Luke of Trappist, Kentucky
i enjoyed the blog
hope God blessed you at our home
be at peace brother

From: My Grandmother of The Nest
The Great One misses
her wise smart handsome grandson
Aimee and the boys

2) This past weekend we spent a couple of days hanging out with the Cistercian Monks at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky (see the link to their website above). The monks have been practicing their simple life of prayer, work, and reading of the scriptures in this rural location for more than 150 years. Home of Thomas Merton, a famous Christian writer from the 50's and 60's, Gethsemane is a place of peace and silence, hence this sign in the lunch room...

thus, if you go to Gethsemane, you don't say much, which at first is disconcerting. But, after some time to decompress from the noise, the pace is actually quite nice. I spent some time doing some praying, journaling, taking a long walk or two, singing the Psalms with the monks, and sleeping. All in all, a very nice weekend.

3) Things I learned from the monks: I find it interesting that an order of males, mostly middle aged to older, hold up in high esteem a character from scripture, The Virgin Mary, very unlike themselves. As a matter of fact this projection of a feminine ideal shapes the values of their community, which is nurturing, non-violent, centered on intercessional prayer, and dedicated to the poor of the world... all things you would expect out of a femanine ideal (as opposed to a male-ideal which would emphasize NASCAR, loaded firearms, and wrasslin'). To project an image of the divine that is NOT in the image of yourself is a difficult idea for Protestants because largely the God preached from the pulpits of their churches largely call for persons to discover their purpose in who they are as a creation of God, as opposed to losing themselves in the ongoing work of God. Maybe those are just two sides of the same coin, but, then again, maybe they aren't.

"To find yourself, you must first lose yourself. To live, first you must die. He who wishes to be first, must become last. He who wants to be a leader of all, must first become a servant of all. Blessed are the meek." Take a look at our lifestyle... Who takes these words of Jesus more seriously: us or the monks?

4) Things I Learned From the Monks #2: The monks worship together seven times a day (yep, you heard that right, seven) at 3:15am, 5:45am, 7:30am, 12:15pm, 2:15pm, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. Their worship includes the singing of the Psalms (they go through all 150 of them every two weeks), prayer, scripture reading, and hymn singing. Now, to be honest, the worship is not, in and of itself, all that exciting. The monks, for all their singing, aren't all that accomplished as singers. Nobody has jazzed up any of the music from it's original Gregorian style (hence there are no culturally-relevant "rapping-monks" or "contemporary worship monks" and the like), and the services are largely pretty repetitive.

But I realized a major difference between Protestant worship and that of the monks: Protestants come looking to be filled or enlightened in a worship service. The quality of their experience is largely defined by the quality of music, the sermon (whether or not it was interesting and/or applicable), and if their younger, the children's ministry. Protestant pastors, in turn, largely measure the quality of a service by the reaction of the congregation, either in the verbal or non-verbal cues expressed in the service, and through a more existential measure as to whether or not "the Spirit was moving". Worship, then, is largely based out of a CONSUMER mentality which says, "How was the message expressed and received today?".

The monks' aim, in contrast, is to give themselves in praise and worship of God. The quality of a monk's worship is largely based on whether or not they felt like they were able to give all of themselves in adoring God. They beat themselves up for not having been attentive or present in the moment of worship, as opposed to anyone else. Thus the quality of the worship is measured by what is given, as opposed to what is received OR it's not about what they get out of it... it's about what they give.

5) Things I Learned From the Monks #3: The similarities and differences between the monks and the Amish are striking. Both live in closed communities which largely eschew the modern conveniences of the world (although we had air-conditioning and electricity in the retreat center). Both have hierarchal structures and a lot of rigid rules for daily living.

But the monks, unlike the Amish, see themselves as a community who through worship, prayer, their work, and study, are dedicated to the redemption of the world. As a result more than 7,000 people from all over the world, of all faiths, come to Trappist, Kentucky every year (and many more are turned away due to a lack of space) looking for healing and restoration, and the monks are fine with whatever form it comes. Reject their theology and sleep all weekend for all they care... just as long as you've experienced grace, peace, and healing in the time you were there.

The Amish, on the other hand, are all pretty sure we "English" are headed for hell. People come to buy their noodles, quilts, and furniture, but unless you renounce everything you have believed, and embrace the ways of the Amish in every facet, you have been deceived by the world, and are thus, hopelessly lost. How different the two Christian sects are in their outlook and connection to the world.

6) The highlight of my weekend actually happened in about the first 20 minutes. After we first arrived, the director of the Beeson program asked us to take our stuff to our room, and come right back down into the lobby of the retreat center so that he could give us a tour. Because I walked up the stairs, when I came down on the elevator I got off on the wrong floor. Twisted and turned around, instead of heading the right way, I ended up in an office in a part of the monastery we weren't allowed to go. Upon arriving, I saw a monk on a computer, surfing the internet (I'm not making this up... stick with me). I turned around to try to get out of the office without being noticed, when I heard a voice speak.... "Who's there?"

Embarrassed, I made a beeline for the door, but before I could get to it, the monk got up from his desk and said, "Hold it right there! Once you come through that door, there is no leaving. Your family, your friends, all that you know... you have now left it behind."

I'm sure with eyes the size of saucers, I gutted out the only thing I could say, "Well, then could I sit in that chair?"

The monk, dies laughing. I mean, literally I thought the guy was going to have a stroke. He introduced himself (Brother Luke), and then he said, "Hey, come here. I want you to see this." On the computer screen was something called monk-e-mail (here's the link: Brother Luke was trying to send monk-e-mails to some friends of his... needless to say, we was quite smitten with the concept. Then, he took me back to my group.

Now, how could I have made that up?

7) Another interesting thing about Brother Luke... on our way back to find the rest of the BP's, I asked him if he'd be willing to come meet the rest of the gang.

"Why?" he asked. "Why on earth would they want to meet me?"

"Well, you're a monk. You don't get to meet a real, live monk every day where we come from."

"Oh.. that. That's no big deal. Besides, these people didn't come here to meet with me."

And then he disappeared. I think Brother Luke has a pretty good idea of who it is people come there to meet.

8) bizarre situation here at Asbury Theologically Seminary... the Seminary President, Jeff Greenway, has been put on indefinite leave by the Board of Trustees. Apparently, a difference of opinion between himself and the Board has resulted in some sort of impasse which was so sudden and dramatic that as late as Thursday morning of last week, nobody saw this coming. What's more, the fallout couldn't come at worse time, as all of the students who are not Beeson Pastors, are now moving on to campus to start this academic year. Please pray for the school, the Board, and Jeff as they seek what to do next in this somewhat tragic situation.

9) One more thing about monks... they don't follow college football. I had to read about OSU's big win in the paper today.

10) Finally, the two older boys and I will be back in the big city of Lima next weekend for the big "Back to School Blessing". It'll be good to back home, especially since it's the weekend of the big game with Texas. I look forward to seeing you all, my church family, at worship next Sunday.

Miss Dorothy was right
there is no place like home (dude)
you and I are blessed

No comments: