Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prayer Study Part 7- Covenant Prayer

An ongoing study of Richard Foster's book on Prayer. Previous studies can be found here and here.

What we need is a desire to know the whole will of God, with a fixed resolution to do it.
-John Wesley

Fear of Commitment
• Covenant prayer is a promise of holy obedience
• Self-discipline is the means to true freedom
• “Prayer is not a free-will offering to God; it is an obligatory service, something which he requires.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
• Duty is “the sacrament of the present moment.” de Caussade
• God, who is merciful, is mindful of our intentions as well as our broken promises

Covenants and the Bible
• God made a covenant with Abraham to bless him, give him descendents & land
• God made a covenant with the Hebrew people through the 10 Commandments
• In new covenant of Jesus Christ, the commandments are to be written on our hearts

• The gift of God who first gives us the desire to obey and then empowers us
• Obedience is the result of falling in love with God
• Means being aware of obeying God in the small things
• A matter of practice—most of us don’t get it right the first time
• Obedience in the small things strengthens us to obey in the large things

A Time Commitment
• St. Benedict urged regularity in prayer
• Interruption of work reveals true priorities
• Reminds us for whom we are working
• Meaning of regularity will vary
• “The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have resolutely set about praying some of the time somewhere.” John Dalrymple
• May choose to be accountable to one another in a small group

Covenant of Place
• Finding a place for prayer gives us focus
• Place may be within a small group—for mutual support

Preparing Our Heart
• Meet God with expectant listening for Kol Yahweh, the voice of God
• Keep silence—”The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Hab. 2:20
• Read a psalm
• Light a candle; pray with your morning coffee in hand

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Team of Researchers Blames Children's Films for Perpetuating "Heteronormativity"

"Heteronormativity"- Like Frankensteins's monster, bad satire comes to life.....

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, June 24, 2009 ( - Researchers at the University of Michigan have concluded that the love stories told in classic Disney and other G-rated children's films – such as the Little Mermaid - are partially to blame for the pervasiveness of what they label "heteronormativity."
"Despite the assumption that children’s media are free of sexual content, our analyses suggest that these media depict a rich and pervasive heterosexual landscape," wrote researchers Emily Kazyak and Karin Martin, in a report published in the latest issue of the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) publication Gender & Society.

Good Grief!

Why Keep An Eye on the Flu- Part 2

A while back I wrote about why we should keep an eye on the new H1N1 virus despite the waning coverage in the press and the mildness of the outbreak here in the states.

Despite the pandemeic declaration there is no need to panic, yet many signs to note in the developing situation. It is why I have kept the Flu blogs and links posted. Over at Effect Measure they rightfully say that this is a teachable moment and a time that we are blessed with to get prepared:

For years those concerned about the consequences of an influenza pandemic from an exceptionally virulent flu virus, like A/H5N1 ("bird flu") have despaired about motivating business, government and neighbors to take it seriously enough to make serious preparations. It's understandable. There's are a lot of potential catastrophes competing for our attention and while each can be made plausible if we can get someone to listen long enough, it's rare we can do this. As I said, too much competition. Now that a real life influenza pandemic has arrived, the concern of some is that the public isn't being told how bad this could become, possibly even 1918 level. My view is different. In terms of stimulating genuine pandemic preparedness, I think we are extremely lucky to have a pandemic that so far is nowhere near worst case scenario (and let's be clear: it isn't anywhere near worst case). The pandemic is no longer theoretical. It is here and tangible. And it is having some tangible effects in unlikely places...

Unlikely places like Hedge funds.

And there are some disturbing trends.

First the flu is not subsiding here in the US as summer begins. Typically the flu viruses taper off or disappear completely in the summer months. The question now becomes what will it look like when the usual flu season comes around in the fall and winter?

Second, the southern hemisphere (currently experiencing winter) is having a tough go of it:

It is still relatively early in the flu season south of the Equator, with the peak not expected until next month, but already Argentina and Chile are reporting serious demands on their medical system.

Elective surgeries are being canceled in some Buenos Aires hospitals, and mobile flu clinics are being dispatched to some neighborhoods. Of 111 people hospitalized in the country’s capital, 75 are on ventilators.
(Avian Flu Diary)

Last but certainly not least is the disturbing news that the virus may be mutating into a more virulent strain:

Virologists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have just announced they have indeed identified a variant of the flu gene after testing samples taken from a 26-year-old swine flu patient.
Lead researcher Terezinha Maria de Paiva, of the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute, says it is too soon to know if the new variant, dubbed the A/Sao Paulo/1454/H1N1 variant, will be more aggressive than the type A/H1N1 that prompted the official declaration of pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) but the patient from whom the sample was taken has completely recovered from his bout with swine flu. The patient began experiencing flu-like symptoms after returning from a trip to Mexico.

This one had a happy ending. As I said, its worth watching.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Father’s Day Story

“Let’s go for ice-cream” his dad had said.
Not an unknown occurrence but strange in this case because it was just him and his dad. Usually a trip for ice cream included the boy’s step-mom as well as any other members of the now extended family who might be around.

It was sometimes a little awkward for the boy to be alone with his dad. His dad had traveled often and regularly for work and military obligations while the boy was growing up. On top of that the boy’s parents had divorced a few years earlier reducing visits to one week-end a month and two weeks in the summer. Still, the boy felt his father’s love even through those awkward moments and was proud of him and sought his approval in all things. For his part, the father sought the best for his son. Stern, but fair, an officer and pilot in the Air Force a role-model not withstanding the indiscretions that first led to the marriage to the boy’s mother and then to it’s end. His father had a strong sense of responsibility that obligated him to marry the boy’s mother when she found out she was pregnant and that same sense of obligation committed him to staying till the boy was 18 years old. Two later pregnancies extended the “contract” and was in effect till another woman entered the picture and caused the boy’s mother to end the relationship. It all seemed somewhat normal to the boy at the time. Only in looking back did it seem to be somewhat “dysfunctional.”

But the boy loved his father and the father loved his boy and that was all that mattered.

The boy’s dad had recently had a heart attack, brought on, in no small part, by years of smoking that at one time had seemed fashionable and reasonable. His heart had stopped beating for a time but the doctors got it started again. The memory of that phone call was already clouded in the boy’s mind such was the pain in hearing that news.

When the boy had visited his father in the ICU of the hospital his father whispered in a weakened voice, “Remind me to tell you something, it was not a dream.”

What he told the boy later, was what he saw when his heart had stopped. The hooded figures kneeling around him praying and the three people walking toward him from the light with arms outstretched. These three he “felt” were his mother and father and sister all of whom had died previously.

Taken with this vision, he told his son over ice cream, that if he ever had the chance again, he would not come back. The boy took in this news as well as any emotional, worry filled, hormonal 14 year old could be expected to.


Years passed and the boy grew and learned more about his father and they grew closer, closer than perhaps they had ever been. The boy began to write and shared his writing with his father. The day his father read some of his work and critiqued simply, “That’s pretty good,” stood out in the boy’s mind. One day after reading something the boy had written the boy’s father said “I want you to write my eulogy.” The boy was very proud.

Later, the boy turned 18 and moved out of the house and attended college. The days of mandatory visits were gone and the artificial importance of new found freedom and social life stole many visits together between dad and son.
One night the boy was roused from fitful attempts to sleep and urged, by what he was not sure, to write the eulogy for his father. He jotted a few lines down but left it undone because of the unreasonable, yet palpable feeling that rose within the boy that once he finished the eulogy, his father would die. With the begging Muse satisfied, the boy drifted into sleep.

Some time later the boy called his dad. These calls had become more frequent than visits since for 20yr olds a short drive of a few dozen blocks was such the inconvenience.

“Did I catch you at a bad time?” the boy asked. It was a fair bet since his dad now worked from the house and it was the middle of the day.

“Kind of busy right now,” his dad replied.

“Well, I’ll just talk to you later then.” The boy said.

This worked out well for the boy as friends were coming over that afternoon anyway. A bit of socializing before the boy’s play rehearsal. Play rehearsal in college took a lot of time, 3-4 hrs everyday and he had a major role. “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You In The Closet And I’m Feeling So Sad,” the longest title ever on Broadway. A black comedy of a man-eating woman who carries her dead husband around with her (in the closet) as she travels, and her man-eating plant, and her stuttering boy (the boy’s part) who is, in the course of the play, seduced by the at first glance virginal “girl next door” who turns out to be anything but.

A few hours later the phone rang. With that phone call, the boy’s life began to fray about the edges, like paper held to close to a flame. His field of vision narrowed much as it had years before when he received that other phone call.

His father had another heart attack. “He’s gonna run out of chances,” he tried to joke, as he broke the news to his friends and they hurriedly and awkwardly made their exits.

The boy drove quickly to the hospital only to be told that the ambulance had gone to a closer hospital. “Can’t be good,” he thought. “Dad would never voluntarily go to that hospital.” He almost laughed at the thought but then reality flooded back like the returning tide.

As he pulled into the hospital parking lot he was met by long faces and tears of family and family friends who had already heard the news and made it there before him. His worst fears were realized and the worst pain of his young 20 years crushed down, crumpling him on the steering wheel in a flood of tears he did not care to hide.

The next few hours were a blur. After missing the first half he showed up at rehearsal much to everyone’s surprise. Nothing else to do he explained and it’s good to be busy.

The scene they rehearsed provided its own black comedy to the evening. The scene was of the seduction, where the “not so virginal girl next door” attempts to seduce the stuttering boy. In the midst of the scene, the closet door opens and out falls the boy’s father. “Who the hell is this!” the girl angrily screams. To which the stuttering 17 year old replied, “Its, my f-f-f father!”

Struck by the irony the boy replied, “Oh wow! Oh, wow!” The director stopped rehearsal and asked to see the boy outside.

The gruff, surly director was pacing. The boy thought he might be in trouble for stopping the scene. For once, the director seemed to be at a loss for words.

“Uh... um.... I realize, um….uh how,... this might seem in light of everything.” The director stammered.

The boy explained that there was no problem. In fact he found it funny. It was one of the few bright spots in the next few days. Those days swam about his mind like a dream. He slept a lot. Cried a lot. And strove to put on a brave face.

They toasted his father at the grave with a bottle of Cold Duck- one of his dad’s favorites.


“Put a bible on the mantle,” his dad had said, “and if there is any way possible to come back, I will and I’ll knock it off.”

The boy looked at the bible hanging limply off the corner of the mantle. He laughed remembering the request, but he did not move the bible.


There were many dreams about his father. Comforting and disturbing all at the same time. It was curious to note that his father did not seem to know him in these dreams, a fact that he brought up to his step-mother, Pam.

A few days later, another dream. The boy and his father were driving down the road a few blocks from his father’s house. The father was driving, the boy was in the passenger seat. The boy’s father looked at the boy and said,
“I understand you’ve been having dreams about me.”

“You’ve been talking to Pam,” the boy grinned in reply.

Many will say that the occurrence was just a type of mourning or wishful thinking but for the boy it was as real as the day was long.

The boy’s father leaned in a bit and said,
“I’ll always know you and I’ll always love you.”


Years later, the boy would share the story with his own sons and remind them that like his own dad and their Father in heaven, he would always know them and always love them. A fine legacy indeed.