How do we read the ancient text about God by the ancient writers?

In his book, “The Bible Tells Me So…Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It”, Peter Enns wrote:

“Speaking for Christians, capturing land and holding on to it by violence is not a gospel way of living.  Christians today, therefore, have an obligation not to ‘follow the Bible’ here, not allow the ancient tribal description of God in the Old Testament to be the last word.  These ancient writers had an adequate understanding of God for them in their time, but not for all time – and if we take that to heart, we will actually be in a better position to respect these ancient voices and see what they have to say rather than whitewashing the details and making up ‘explanation’ to ease our stress.  And for Christians, the gospel has always been the lens through which Israel’s stories are read – which means, for Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.  The story of God’s people has moved on, and so must we”.

Yes, I do feel the stress as I have had many conversations with people about the violence, the genocide, and many other topics we feel unacceptable.  In this book, Peter has offered many insights to help us to approach the Bible in a different perspective.

The way to have freedom not to surrender to negative feelings

In her book, “Small Bites: Mindfulness For Everyday Use”, Annabelle Zinser wrote:

“The Buddha said that a person who refuses to recognize his or her own suffering is like a mule walking around with a heavy load, unable to get rid of it…If I am able to ask myself, ‘It is possible for me to encounter this anger, despair, or depression with compassion and embrace it with great tenderness?’ then I can guide my mind in a new direction and create the space necessary for transforming the difficult feeling.  I find that using the form of a question is important.  Asking a question isn’t meant to create additional stress or to suggest that I shouldn’t feel anger or fear; instead it should create openness and help me become aware that mindfulness, patience, and compassion will give me the freedom not to surrender to negative feelings.  This kind of internal questioning helps me to stop repeating the story that brought up these feelings in the first place…I started to recognize the old story that had led to the painful feeling, and I was able to change the story…Becoming aware of difficult feelings in a nonjudgmental way allows you to acknowledge them when they arise without being overwhelmed by them.  If you can can embrace them, just as a mother embraces her crying child, then the fear will disappear”.

In my life, I have had so many “old stories” (experiences) caused me to have negative feelings: feeling abandoned, feeling betrayed, feeling guilty, feeling powerless, feeling hurt, feeling….because of someone’s words, expression and behavior.  As I started to commit myself to a regular practice of recognizing my own suffering with my Christian faith of the love of the Lord, I feel that those negative feelings have been gradually losing their strength.

 

my shelter in times of trouble

My friend is a group leader in NA (Narcotics Anonymous).  He gave me one of their books called “Just for Today”.  I found that this book offers many insightful messages for everyone.

I like to share one of the messages: “I know that faith in my Higher Power will not calm the storms of life, but it will calm my heart.  I will let my faith shelter me in times of trouble”,

Do you have any shelter in times of trouble?  What is it?   For me, my shelter is God.  “God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not be afraid…”

Listening with the ear of our heart

I took my car to the auto shop for regular maintenance.    While I was waiting for the service, I opened the book “a life of being, having, and doing enough” by Wayne Muller.  His writing on “listening with the ear of our heart” touched my heart instantly:

“When our attention is bombarded daily, overwhelmed and saturated with the relentless clanging of so much speaking, announcing, sharing, selling, convincing, offering, presenting, discussing, declaring, and demanding – how can ever find sufficient quiet to listen deeply to anything?  When can we fully attend those still, small voices of inner wisdom that reveal to us what is good, necessary, or nourishing?…..prayers of invocation …asking God to “come here, be with us and bless us”…Who are we…to assume God is not here and everywhere already – and worse, that we must call him as we would a family pet, to come?  The more humble, honorable – and accurate – prayer would recognize it is not God who is missing; rather, it is we who need to show up, to open our closed and fearful hearts, to listen with an ear bent toward the divine”.

When I followed the prayer he offered, I prayed with tear.  For a while, I have not been being mindful of God’s presence and I have not been being attentive to God’s voice.  If you are willing, join me to do and experience the following prayer:

“God, I beg you to cleanse our distracted hearts, that we may center ourselves in you, feel you here, guiding us, so we may listen and attend to your wisdom and guidance for us”.