Category Archives: prayer

Some interesting things elsewhere VIII


If you want to get rid of an evil by means of a revolution, work for finding a way of life completely without that evil. Anything just built on reactions to that evil is still bound to said evil and is never going to take its influence away…

I didn’t have the time to finish my first capitalism post yet (it’s getting too long anyway) but I hope it will be ready for this wednesday. Things have been hectic again, and to make up for not that much interesting stuff here I present you the resurrection of the ‘some interesting things elsewhere’ series, with various dreadlocked guys, feminists, fundamentalists, and even the gospel coalition…

Let’s start with some music: The most interestpsaltersing band on the planet (and one of the most distinct bands in the galaxy) has its music available on bandcamp now: the psalters! (Not all albums are there yet…) If you don’t know the psalters, just listen…

Philip Ryken on the Gospel Coalition with ‘how to discourage art in the church’ has some very interesting points.

And then from the ortodox side this article by Father Stephen on Prayers and the One God of all that I’m still processing.

From the feminist side: Libby Anne is blogging through some weird American book called ‘created to be his helpmeet’ which like me looks like the manual for spousal abuse and more disaster in marriage, and she as a non-christian is a lot beter at exegeting proverbs 31 than the writer of that book. This confirms my idea that some things that go under the name ‘fundamentalism’ might say that they take the bible serious, but actually just follow their own (very weird) tradition and use some bible verses here and there to back it up…

Speaking of feminism and women in the church, this breaks my heart. Something is very wrong with how women are viewed in our society, including Christian circles. Be sure to also read this post from just beloved. It is beyond my understanding why women are judged so easily because of their looks, but it still is a very pervasive evil!

Speaking of evil: Roger Olson about ‘satanic realism’ (part 2)

Andrew Jones AKA tallskinnykiwi, the grandfather of Christian blogging, has a 10 year anniversary for his blog so he decided to start again with a whole new blog here.

15 things Jesus didn’t say

Totally unrelated: mosses frozen inside a glacier dating from the little ice age 500 years ago are still able to come back to life!

I leave you with some dreadlocked guy who reads you what he considers the best sermon ever:

peace

Bram

fallible language III: experience of God?


Let’s go back now to a series that I’ve begun last winter but left unfinished, about fallibility of language (find part I and part II here, as well as the apophatic interlude featuring our Friend Rollins) in which we were looking at the way in which language fails us sometimes. This was not (as you would expect from a postmodern like me) from a postmodern viewpoint, but I started from the thought of G.K. Chesterton and mostly from the classical Orthodox tradition, on which I was reading a quite good book, and the church fathers.

I have been writing about the fallibility of language, and about how difficult it is to speak about God, as a created being. One of the most important things here is that we as Christians are in the first place not just expected to know about God (which requires human language) but after all and more important, we are to know God Himself. Christianity is not a gnostic sect in which we are saved by mere knowledge, but a restored relationship with the Source of all Creation (‘God’) through Christ… And relationality entails a completely different sort of ‘knowing’ than academic publishing!

I could say a lot about this, but other people have said much more intelligent things about this subject than I’ll ever do. I do know that in certain protestant circles knowledge of God by any form of ‘personal experience’ is frowned upon, while other traditions, from the Charismatics and Quakers to the Eastern Orthodox, see it as normative in very different ways. Surely, not only experience is important,without wisdom and guidance we don’t even know what we’re following, so we need reason, tradition, scripture and experience or are in problems. But experience is in no way unimportant here. Let’s for example go back to the Orthodox tradition, where speaking about God is considered to be utterly impossible by one who has not experienced God:

Personal experience is requisite to any valid talk about God, from an Orthodox perspective. Such mystical experience of God in the divine energies not only draws us to God, it also confirms within us the appropriateness of both positive and negative theology. We must speak about God because we are Christian; but we must also rise above these concepts, because God is transcendent. Personal experience of God draws us into union with him about whom theology speaks. Without that experience, any such talk about God is vacuous and presumptuous, according to Orthodoxy. (Payton, Light from the East, p 84)

We have to notice here that the goal surely is not just to talk of God, or to be able to make money by writing books about God; He is the Ultimate Reality… And the goal of our life is to be united to Him, and outside of Him we or anything else cannot even exist…

I got a gut feeling that the more we experience of God, the less we will be able to talk about it and the less intellectual systems we will be able to proclaim with absolute modern certainty… Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest minds of the middle ages, wasn’t able to write anymore after a mystical experience with Christ. When they asked him to resume his writing works, he said that he couldn’t because ‘”all that I have written seems like straw to me”

And this leaves us not with less, but with even more problems in speaking about God, and the paradox of Peter Rollins:

“That which we cannot speak of is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking”

Which might make it quite complicating, but who did ever say that it was easy??? It isn’t, and I have a long Way to go here, and maybe not much right to say anything about God… Who just IS beyond all we can say or understand…

What’s your experience here?

shalom

Bram

Teach us to pray O Lord


The disciples asked their Rabbi ‘Teach us to pray’, and it’s a very important question indeed. If our good news of salvation means, among other things, being redeemed into in unbroken relationship with our Creator again, and prayer is communication with God. (Both are very standard ideas I’ve learned as a Christian) then we can’t underestimate the role of prayer. You can’t have a relationship if you don’t have communication, and if you have a relationship with someone you love one of the things you want to do is communicate with him/her.

So prayer is very important to us as Christians. Paul even says somewhere that we should ‘pray without ceasing’, which does not seem like a very simple task (quite impossible even), especially if you have ADD like me, but it’s undeniable that the salvation that Jesus brings, lived out in all its fullness, means a life that is in every moment connected to God, that is in every move informed by the spirit, and that results in the coming of Gods Kindom through our lives, on Earth as it is in heaven, as the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him that big question.

But, like I said, I’m a human who is very easily distracted. I struggle with prayer, even though I know and feel that I need it. I know I need to find more dicipline, and some kind of prayer rhytm, but at the moment I’m not there. So, ironically, one of the things I pray very frequently these days is ‘teach me how to pray’.

Here is a beautiful prayer from Christine Sine that expresses my struggle, and what I would want to see in prayer much better than I do:

Teach us to pray O Lord,
Draw us closer to you, to your world , to each other.
Teach us to pray, O Lord,
With compassion and love and forgiveness.
Teach us to pray, O Lord,
Until all that we are and all that we do,
Becomes a gift of prayer to you.
Teach us to pray O Lord,
Draw us closer to you, to your world , to each other.
Teach us to pray, O Lord,
With compassion and love and forgiveness.
Teach us to pray, O Lord,
Until all that we are and all that we do,
Becomes a gift of prayer to you.

what do you all think?

shalom

Bram

The imago dei, or very very basic Christian humanism…


A Japanese orthodox Facebook friend posted something quite beautiful this morning, that fits perfectly with something that I’ve been contemplating lately:

Question: Do you know why Orthodox monastics bow to the ground when they meet someone?

Answer: Because they see all they encounter as Icons of God, and honor the image of God in every person by bowing to them.

I don’t think bowing for everyone would be very practical, but I love the idea behind it, and I think it points to something we should learn about more as Western Christians: honoring the image of God in every human being.

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.

(Gen 1:27, NET-bible)

I would call this ‘basic Christian humanism’: the idea that every human being is of infinite worth, because he or she carries the image of God. This idea of the imago dei was behind the first wave of what was called humanism in the Renaissance time (think people like Erasmus). It’s only much later that humanism and Christianity were disconnected from each other, and that ‘humanism’ became associated with atheism.

Every human might be fallen and affected by sin, but it’s also true that every human bears the image of God. From the mightiest president and the noisiest rockstar to the poorest immigrant and the tiniest baby. All of them. And that makes all of them, even the ones we can’t help but dislike or hate, worthy of respect. Even enemies deserve our love, as Jesus taught us.

No human being is worthless,
no human being is disposable.
Treating any human like that is blaspheming Gods image!

God, open my eyes,
let me see Your Image,
in everyone,
let me see Your fingerprints
on all of Creation
let me honor all glimpses
of Truth and Beauty
they are all Yours,
everything good and perfect
comes from You
praise to Father, Son and Spirit,
Three-in-one,
Amen

what do you think?

shalom

Bram

Prayer for today (E. Stanley Jones)


Michael Frost posted this prayer by .E Stanley Jones today on facebook. I think it fits well with my posts about language being fallible, especially with the ones that aren’t finished yet probably… E. Stanley Jones has done very interesting things in India in the 20th century, so if you have the chance to read anything by him, do it! (I think ‘Christ of the Indian road is a recommendation, even if I’ve only I’ve read it in weird old-fashioned Dutch…. The English version is probably much more interesting…)

“O Christ,

I know that Thou art greater than all our descriptions of Thee.

When we have said all, then we stand in mute adoration

before the wonder of Thee – the Inexpressible.

But I see enough of Thee to love Thee

and to give my heart to Thee fully.

I do so, and I do so now.

I thank Thee. Amen.”

E. Stanley Jones

shalom

Bram

I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.


The wonderful people of Internetmonk reminded me of this beautiful prayer by the Irish Saint Bridget with their very informative article about her.

Irish beers are fantastic (only served a bit too cold for my taste, which does suppress some of the taste) so I do know why she wants to give a lake of beer to God.

I’ll just let you meditate on this one:

I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I”d give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer
to every man.

I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men contented for their own sake
I’d like Jesus to love me too.

I’d like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I’d sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

(this translation from “Vox de Nube” by Noirín Ní Riain and the Monks of Glenstal Abbey)

what do you think? Would God like a lake of beer and could you drink every drop as a prayer?

shalom

Bram

A prayer


This prayer comes from Christine Sine at Godspace. It made me slow down and think and look for Gods fingerprints in all of creation, and I hope it might be inspiring to you too… I’ve been thinking about God being omnipresent and holding everything together, but I’ve not been able to express it well with words. This prayer does a better job than a blogpost would….

God may we look and see,

Each plant, each creature, each handful of dirt,

God breathed, God inspired, God created.

May we look and see the beauty,

And know that God says “It is very good”

shalom

Bram

on Sodomites, (false) prophets, and dying birds…


I was kinda bewildered with a statement that a friend of mine quoted from someone elses facebookstatus, asking for my opinion:

God gives up a man or a state when she makes laws to accommodate sodomites

My first reaction was that I didn’t agree with the use of the word ‘sodomites’. The sin of sodom in genesis is not about what we would call homosexuality, but about a breaking of the guest right with a gang rape. Ezekiel even has something different: This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ez 16:43) So using the word sodomite for homosexual is very unbiblical, even if it might be traditional.

(or should the sodomites in the saying be seen as those who don’t aid the poor and needy? even then I don’t think God gives people up. I hope so, I’m not always too good at it either…)

My second reaction was where this way of thinking comes from. I have no clue why God would be concerned with giving up states for ‘accomodating sodomites’, interpreted as giving rights to homosexuals I guess, when there’s actually not much about this subject in the bible (our way of thinking about sexual orientation is not that old). Should He not then react much harder to the things the bible is clear about? There’s a lot of warning from the prophets about oppressing the poor and other unjust violence, or for the worship of idols.

I also would say that God is more concerned about His Kingdom that comes among His children instead of being pre-occupied with the Kingdoms of this world. God cares about His Children inside an evil empire, be it the Roman or American or European one, more than He expects the empire to be Christian…

The weird thing about this saying is that I had just some minutes before had seen something similar on the dutch satiric Christian site goedgelovig.nl, from the ‘prophet’ Cindy Jacobs. I must confess I was just baffled by this little video.

Maybe I’ve been out of the hypercharismatic stuff for too long. Or maybe I should take some LSD to be able to understand the logic of this weird conspiracy theory stuff about how the repeal of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy in the American army would lead to birds falling from the sky. But I don’t think that’d be worth the effort.

If God would kill birds for giving gays the right to serve in the army, then what kind of animals does God kill for the crimes against humanity the army commits outside of American soil? Or for the way the army even destroys its own people, when more American soldiers die of suicide than in battle! Would He kill raccoons for the worship of the powers of dollar, capitalism and consumerism? Would He have killed most of the buffalo’s for the way the natives of the continent have been treated? I don’t think so. So what kind of creature is dying for all those poor that are uncared for? What kind of creature is dying for all the lies and propaganda on your TV, the internet and other media ?

Wait, maybe the dying of animals in the gulf of Mexico is the price for the government allowing multinationals to have their evil way not caring for anything but their profit? Okay, maybe nature is telling us something when birds are falling from the sky: maybe some evil circumstances that are unhindered by the government are destroying creation! Or am I getting too logical and outside the realm of homophobic conspiracy theories?

The thing that bothers me most is that she is considered to be a ‘prophet’.  I do consider myself as a charismatic Christian, and I do believe in prophecy, and I do believe God does speak to us today in many way. But we also should test everything… And still there’s a lot of stuff in some ‘prophetic’ circles that in no way seems nor biblical, nor supported by common sense to me. And I’m not just talking about all the times or the coming back of Jesus or some great revival was predicted, sometimes even predicted with a date…

I wonder what would happen if false prophets would get stoned, like in the old days. But they seem too stoned already…

One more question: if this unbiblical unchristlike nonsense is not of God, what are those so-called ‘prophets’ channeling then?

Should I be scared?

Maybe it’s better to stay close to Jesus, and pray:

Oh Spirit of Wisdom
shine Your light
and lead us in the way
of Jesus Christ the Master
who gave His Life
to defeat death
so that we can live
the Life of the resurrection
Father, Let Your Kingdom come
and Your will be done
here on earth as in heaven
let us not be concerned with the kingdoms of the world
but with the transnational church,
that transcends all of our human borders, Your bride
Jesus, transform us
renew our minds
to Your Love
In the name of Father, son and Spirit
Amen

Shalom

Bram

prayer, distractions, and stuff…


I’ve been thinking about prayer a lot lately.

One of my prayers lately has simply been ‘Lord, teach me how to pray!’

I know that when the disciples asked that same question to Jesus, He taught them the ‘Lords prayer’, and I’ve been indeed praying that prayer a lot lately. But just saying, mumbling or even shouting words alone is not praying. Prayer is supposed to be communication, connection to the Supreme  Author of Everything and more…

So what I need is not to learn to say words, but to connect with God more. To learn how to communicate and be together with God, from within my soul. I’m tired of asking for stuff and telling Him stuff that He most probably already knows, I want to be with God.

And the contemporary evangelical worship music isn’t working that way for me right now most of the time. Ironically, as a vineyard worship leader I’m better at bringing people into worship with music than connecting to God myself while I’m playing that same music. I know I have the gift of letting the Spirit work through me this way, but sometimes it’s like like me as a channel being unaffected… I don’t know much about how those things work…

And my ADD is distracting me like always. It’s always harder for me to focus, except when I’m 100% interested and get into hyperfocus… Which doesn’t happen that often when I’m praying I’m affraid.

The strange things is that when I’m in crisis situations I tend to be so awara of God being near, and it’s natural for me to communicate with him.? How come that in the most hopeless situations I feel God closest? Why is my mind and spirit so blurred all the time, as if I’m living in automatic pilot mode? I’m wrestling with that… I need to have my heart and mind and soul renewed, and I need to let the Holy Spirit guide me. But in the end I’m just lost in pointless hazy thoughts…

Why is it so hard for me to focus????

Hmm, I’ve asked that question before. Time for a musical flashback, an old Bram Cools song in which I even sang choir myself, some kind of experimental lo-f/indie worship song, and one of the songs I do still playat those occasions I do perform live, as long as I have at least one person to do backings…

by the way, here is an interesting article with the weird title “prayer = sex with God” that I really like. Only for those who are at leat a bot mature both sexually and spiritually I guess, but I can connect with  what it says very deeply.

(and you are all allowed to pray fom me in this…)

shalom

Bram

dry inside after being soaked for centuries…


Once when I was in the Himalayas, I was sitting upon the bank of a river. I drew out of the water a beautiful, hard, round stone and smashed it. The inside was quite dry. The stone had been lying a long time in the water, but the water had not penetrated the stone. It is just like that with the “Christian” people of the West. They have for centuries been surrounded by Christianity, entirely steeped in its blessings, but the Master’s truth has not penetrated them. Christianity is not at fault; the reason lies rather in the hardness of their hearts. Materialism and intellectualism have made their hearts hard. So I am not surprised that many people in the West do not understand what Christianity really is.

These words come from Sadhu Sundar Singh, a unique person in the rich history of Christianity. He lived around the year 1900 and was a indian Christian holy man, who possessed nothing but a new testament, and led a rea christlike life. And how true and relevant his word still are if I look to my de-christianised country, or to my own heart and life.

I am not really a man of prayer. I don’t exactly follow Jesus with all my life, and most of the time I don’t even know how I could follow. How can I say that I do love God with all my heart, mind and strength, and my neigbor as myself? Do I even love myself? I can read all the books by the church fathers, the contemporary evangelicals, the emerging  church, the medieval mystics, whatever. It wil not necessarily bring me closer to Jesus.

He is Truth, and Light, and Life. And all those books, even the bible, can be a distraction. The truths of man are incomplete, only very dim we see, an vague is our knowledge… They are a finger pointing to the moon, and I’ll never see the moon if I don’t stop staring at the freaking finger. And I loose my way when staring at all those fingers, and listening to all those people who tell me where the fingers point to.

Oh God open my eyes to see Thee…

More from the Sadhu:

I never advise anyone to consult theologians, because all too often they have completely lost all sense of spiritual reality. They can explain Greek words and all that, but they spend too much time among their books and not enough time with the Master in prayer. … You must stop examining spiritual truths like dry bones! You must break open the bones and take in the life-giving marrow.

Auch!!

Let me see with the eyes of the Spirit, Lord; and open my eyes.

My heart is restless, it needs to find rest in You…

God have mercy upon me, sinner

shalom

Bram