Christians praying for Muslims

After the death of Muammar Ghaddafi, I wondered how I should be praying. Would Muslims want my Christian prayer? It’s a good question for interfaith dialogue, because many Christian churches hold that the true Christian mission is the evangelization of the world. And likewise, many Muslims have made it known that their religious objective is to convert the world. I pulled my thoughts together for a blog on “The Seeker,” for the Chicago Tribune: is.gd/70hCy2

It’ll be good for the world if we help each other think about our best prayers for each other. I’d love to hear more discussion from others on the subject.

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God is for us, not against us

My new “Daily Lift” was just posted, about how God never quits supporting us. That constancy reminds me of a mountain stream that just keeps moving downhill, regardless of the obstacles. It’s less than two minutes. Take a look, and let me know what you think: http://is.gd/axvtgH

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What does ‘healing’ mean?

Episode #33 is a discussion with Barbara Zeman and Shirley Paulson who are trying to find a definition of healing.

Barbara has changed her mind over the years as to what healing really means. When she was young, she said, it meant that something in your body that hurt didn’t hurt any more. But now she thinks it has more to do with the soul and with wholeness. I think there’s a lot more to healing than stopping the body’s complaints too, but I feel rather strongly that healing needs to include the body along with the soul.

Healing is beautiful

We also touched on what healing means in other faith traditions. We recognize that almost every faith tradition has a different understanding of the meaning of ‘healing.’ And yet, we also found some interesting threads among the various ways of thinking about it.

The relationship between prayer and healing is a complex one. For instance, we noted that a prayer of human will is probably going to feel like a disappointment. But the right prayer will inevitably be answered. So, what is the right prayer? What should happen in a prayer? Why is healing an integral part of prayer?

What we most enjoyed in the conversation ourselves was the mutual agreement that the connection between prayer and healing is beautiful. We still have a lot of questions, and we hope our listeners will join in the discussion with their own insights and observations.

Related links:

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Does religion make you happier?

According to a new study published in the University of Illinois Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the relationship between religion, happiness, health, and wealth is a mixed bag. I just posted a blog on this subject on “The Seeker: a personal and professional quest for truth,” which is a blog on the Chicago Tribune. Take a look: is.gd/FFxVDd

Religion has been blamed for so much human agony, and many atheists point this out when they justify their unwillingness to look any deeper. The report claims the association of religion and subjective well-being is conditional on societal circumstances. But I think we would learn more about the happiness factor in religion if we would pay more attention to the good and bad practices of religion.

What about you? It would be great to hear from a variety of thinkers what their experiences are regarding the relationship between religion and happiness. Leave your comments below. And thanks for your thoughts!

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Dalai Lama in Chicago today

Manya Brachear, moderator on Chicago Tribune’s “The Seeker,” asks why the Dalai Lama is so universally appreciated. Here’s my contribution to the discussion: http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker.

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What is spirituality?

Episode #32 is a question Barbara Zeman and Shirley Paulson asked each other. What concepts do we envision when we use the term ‘spirituality?’

It’s an important topic for this website, especially, since the very name of the website includes the term, ‘spirituality.’ I remember when I selected the name, I thought the word was a powerful one, even though just about everyone has a different definition of it. I thought it would be good to discuss its meaning from time to time, to see if we can find some clarification on the subject.

Shirley Paulson and Barbara Zeman discussing 'spirituality'

Barbara starts off by asking what’s driving my passion with these topics? Why do I care so much? I think there is something very deep, very relevant for today, and very beautiful about the happenings in early Christianity, and that something was a type of spirituality. But interestingly, the very thing I find so beautiful seems also to have been that which the early Church was concerned with.

Barbara points out that whatever is spiritual removes us from our material senses and makes us lean on something entirely different. It sure does take us out of our comfort zones, and yet it also brings a new kind of comfort and happiness. Is there a reason to be afraid of it? Probably, because it challenges the authority of worldly ways. On the other hand, it speaks with grace, purity, and compassion. So whatever it is, it doesn’t seem capable of harming anyone. And even though it appears to draw persecution, it can’t be destroyed.

Please join the conversation. If you know of someone who can contribute to this question, would you please pass this podcast along and encourage them to contribute to the comments?

Thanks!

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Women Who Followed Jesus

About a year ago I started noticing an extraordinary parallel between women throughout the past two millennia who devoted their lives to following Jesus. They lived with total conviction in their God-given worth, and they held their ground against society’s opposition to it. Whether they were born in the first, 10th, or 20th century, they lived with unselfish courage and have left their mark in my heart.

I decided to find a way to tell their stories, and recently produced a first-person presentation of 14 of these extraordinary women. Here’s a brief video clip from a live presentation:

Two of the women from the Bible identified Jesus in his unique roles before his male disciples did – as the Messiah and the fact of his resurrection.  It is odd that men get the credit for these “firsts” in the Bible, and the women’s stories are usually forgotten. But of even more interest is an observation on society’s perpetual belittling of women from Mechthilde of the Middle Ages. She noted that women were less tempted by worldly power, and because they were not able to please the powers of the Church, they were freer to nurture their natural affinity for the “love relations with God.”

Her comment provokes a powerful question for all of us, men and women, to ponder: What are those “love relations with God?” Must women always endure shame and persecution in exchange for the gift of this natural affinity? Or, must men always be blocked off, because they are privileged in society?

The full Women Who Followed Jesus presentation is available for rent on DVD. Make check out to and mail $5.98 to “Spirituality and Christianity,” c/o Heather Sholeen, 437 Washington, Barrington, IL 60010. Re line: Women Who Followed Jesus

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The Code of Silence in the Church

Episode #31 is a discussion between Barbara Zeman and Shirley Paulson about an often unknown but potent code of silence in the church.

Barbara begins the conversation by wondering aloud why it is that when women are given the chance to exercise leadership or authority in a shirlnbarbreligious community, men almost always want to dominate. It’s a phenomenon in society, but it seems to be especially notable within the church context.

For sure, this is not a male-bashing conversation, because we both acknowledge there are men who are very supportive of women and their authority. Also, most men we know are kind and good men. There seems to be something working within the system that puts men and women both in the position of having to defend the subordination of women.

As we probed the issues involved, we also asked ourselves what we know of Christ that is bringing resolution. We’re convinced that injustice must be overthrown by the divine law of justice; and that no one is left out of the good given by God. But we also recognize that without saying something or objecting to it, the evil force would continue to suppress. There is a code of silence that preserves the unjust status quo. No one made it up or ordered anyone to agree to it, but it operates in such a way that both men and women feel very threatened by it. We are eager to expose the problem for the purpose of shedding light for the benefit of everyone.

Please let us know what you think about this. We’re convinced Christ is breaking this form of injustice, and we’d love to hear what experiences you’ve had, big or little, that may give evidence of progress.

For related links:


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Mary Magdalene and Catholic womenpriests

Episode 30 is a conversation with Barbara Zeman and Shirley Paulson about the connection between Mary Magdalene of 2000 years ago and the recent Vatican action regarding the ordination of women.

It’s an especially poignant topic for Barbara, since she is an ordained Catholic priest herself. She and I share a special appreciation for Mary Magdalene, as we find her an example of Christian leadership. Scholars are fascinated with this woman, because she exemplifies so many things right and wrong in the history of Christianity.

Here was a woman of obvious spiritual maturity who was a leader of the apostles shirley-and-barbara-zemanduring the time of Jesus and immediately after. But her male detractors succeeded in marginalizing or misconstruing her message and place among Christian thinkers and leaders. But her re-emergence as an important Christian in recent years is causing a great deal of re-thinking among scholars and church leaders.

It is ironic that only two days after the Vatican announced its new policy regarding sex abuse among priests – managing to equate the horror of pedophilia with the ordination of women – Barbara Zeman is giving a homily on the subject of honoring Mary Magdalene. Listen to our discussion on women leaders. We raise the point that there is a critical difference between a servant leader and a servant governed or manipulated by someone else. Both can serve, but the former serves according to her/his own heart. The latter serves due to the manipulation of others. Power and prestige is not the goal, but exercising the authority of one’s own conscience is.


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Dialogue with Buddhist Monk and Christian Scientist

Episode #29 of SpiritualityandChristianity.com is a dialogue with Thai Buddhist Monk, Venerable Direxis and Christian Scientist, Shirley Paulson.

Venerable Direxis and Shirley Paulson at the Parliament of the World's Religions

Venerable Direxis and Shirley Paulson

It was easy to find people to talk to at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and it was easy to find people who have lived religious lives quite different from my own. What rich conversations, everywhere I turned! Direxis and I found easy similarities in our faith practices too, between my Christian Science faith and his Buddhism, even though our languages and cultures are worlds apart from each other. We both take seriously the importance of the movement of our thought. As Venerable Direxis puts it, our thoughts always need to move to a centered place, a place of peace, where healing happens. We surprised each other when we discovered how we both commit our lives to healing others.

Direxis’ life of devotion started earlier than mine. When he was sixteen, Direxis became a novice and by the time he was 20, he became a monk. I always loved God and wanted to be of service to others, but I wasn’t ready to devote my whole life this way until after I had a family. He now spends his life practicing meditation for the Buddha, the God, and I spend my life praying for the purpose of healing. And of course, we’re both interested in listening and learning from others, since we met at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

When we tried to learn from each other the basis of our prayer/meditation and healing, we found such similar concepts with slightly different words. For example, we agreed we need to admit an original mind/Mind, and we both think it’s necessary to move our human thoughts away from the world of emotionalism/self-originated thought. We agree it requires meditation/prayer in order to move from the world of sensuality in order to find the peace and health of the universal love/divine Love.

Join us for a little conversation from people on the opposite sides of the world. I’m happy to discover “it’s a small world,” indeed.

Check out some of these related websites:

Buddhism in Thailand

Monk ordination at age 20

Christian Science practitioners

Photos from the Parliament of the World’s Religions

Please leave a comment. Let us know if you’ve had some similar conversations or discoveries.

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