De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A refreshing take on a familiar passage.


October 20
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."
Matt 16:24
Take up your cross - Part One

"We will never create anything more powerful or significant than our lives." Erwin McManus.

I posted this quote on Instagram a few months back, and I copped a little heat for it. Someone said that they felt this was the most selfish statement they had seen on our account. I encounter tension around this in communities of faith, and within myself, all the time. We embrace the idea that we are loved, purposed, created, designed, precious - so much so that Christ endured the cross for us all - sinner and saint alike. But at the same time, we deem ourselves unworthy, unholy, inherently evil - nothing without Christ and that he alone is the only good thing about ourselves.

I struggled with this when I was younger and consequently, I grew up with a warped sense of self. Unless I was giving myself fully to "The Kingdom," I felt like I was wasting my time. Sacrifice was of high value to me, but I took it too far. Fast forward to my late twenties and what I thought was sacrifice turned out to be neglect. I neglected my health, mind and heart.

I agree with Erwin McManus. The most powerful and significant thing we will ever create, nurture, curate, and take responsibility for is our own lives. If I am not healthy, I cannot produce health. If I produce outcomes at the expense of my own heart, mind and body, they will be unsustainable and short-lived. The best gift I can give myself, those I love, and the community and world around me, is a healthy me. Heart. Mind. Body. Spirit.

God has entrusted us first and foremost with our own lives. When he was speaking to the disciples in Matthew 16 about what was to come and hinting at for the first time what he would endure, he encouraged them to turn from selfishness, to shoulder the cross in their own bodies and to follow him with their lives.

This is not an act of turning away from yourself, your desires, dreams, health and rest. Rather, it is the return to these things in their most pure form. It's death and resurrection all in one.
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Prayers for Paris

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” - Victor Hugo. Photo by Mathieu Rivrin.

Where do we go from here? There will be counter-measures, there will be further drone strikes and other retaliations and there will be further volunteers flying out to the Middle East... How do we break this cycle? It's pretty much impossible to imagine the hearts of the people ready to carry out such atrocities ever changing despite all the prayers in the world. But we must keep on praying: for ourselves and for them, for us ALL. 

Are we heading towards a larger scale conflict? Is it inevitable? If it is, it will be a conflict like no other in the past and the thought of how it might pan out frightens me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Prodigal Son

This isn't the first reflection to try and understand the position that the eldest son finds himself in, but it does manage to get to the heart of the question of family dysfunction in a fresh way, I feel.

October 17
He was angry and refused to go in.
Luke 15:28a
Parable Series 4 - Part Six


Luke 15:25-28a "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and refused to go in.'"

Finally, we meet the elusive oldest son. And like his younger brother, Jesus' audience would have been surprised to find out that he is not a typical oldest son. He is no Cain, or Ishmael, nor Esau... he is not a conventional older brother as far as their stories were concerned.

Largely due to hearing this story over and over again from childhood, our almost immediate reaction to the older son is disdain. We see him as a whiner and a winger. Someone who refuses to celebrate the miraculous return of his brother. But if we set aside our inherited views and preconceived ideas of the oldest son, we might find that we have empathy for him. While the father called the whole neighborhood to come and celebrate, he neglected to find his oldest son and invite him too. I wonder how many times that had happened before? The oldest son's anger is not misplaced.

Sibling rivalry and family dysfunction are not at all uncommon in Biblical stories. In fact, these notions are central to most of them.

Luke 15:28-30, "So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he replied to his father, 'Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.'"

Finally, this parable starts to emulate the first two. The first time the father goes in search of something that is missing and lost is when he goes out from the party to find his oldest son and plead with him to come in. Unlike the sheep in the first parable that can be lifted up and taken to wherever the shepherd wants, or the coin that the woman found and placed in its rightful spot, a person is not passive. Returning the lost son (the oldest son) to his rightful place by his father's side at the celebration proves much more difficult.

Perhaps the father did not know which son was truly lost until this moment. Could it be that son lost to him was sleeping just a few rooms away all these years? Once he sees what is missing, like the shepherd, and the woman, he seeks to make his family whole. And the father does what he should. He let his son express his turmoil. Human relationships, family breakdown, are more complicated to bring to completion than lost a sheep or misplaced a coin. It takes time, humility, vulnerability, and courage. And it takes great love.

Don't give the eldest son a hard time here. After all, he's right. He's not the one who was off sleeping with prostitutes and he didn't waste his father's fortune. He had been working hard all these years hoping for a fraction of the love he gave his younger brother. You guys know what it's like; when there is a child or a person with a problem or an issue or is more rebellious and wild than the others, they seem to garner the most attention. All the while, the others go less noticed, perhaps even unseen. It would be easy to feel forgotten and less loved than the child getting all the attention. And in this, the son was right to express to his father what he was feeling and perhaps reveal to him the real rift in the family.

These two brothers were at odds with each other and the father is only just beginning to see what is really happening in his household.

To be continued…

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"Tears In Your Eyes" - Ivan & Alyosha

Just such a beautiful song. Ivan & Alyosha's 2 albums are full of such likeable, classic songwriting, great lyrics and topped off by Tim Wilson's stunning voice.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A forgotten man - Peter Norman

My birth was just one of many earth-shattering events (he he...) that took place in 1968. The following article tells of another... the remarkable story of the forgotten man on the Olympic 200 metres podium the night of the famous black power salute by 2 black American athletes and the friendship that developed with their fellow medalist, Australian sprinter (and still national 200 metres record holder) Peter Norman.
Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and it certainly deceived me for a long time.

I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him as a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong....

The rest of this wonderful article by Riccardo Gazaniga can be found here.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Contemplation in action

I like the way this writer expresses the these two apparent opposites as facets of the same reality (this is indeed an echo of the spirituality of our Founder Father Jean-Marie De La Mennais):
"For [mystics,] contemplation and action are not opposites, but two interdependent forms of a life that is one--a life that rushes out to a passionate communion with the true and beautiful." --Evelyn Underhill