inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting

john r. harrison

my other websites
The United Methodist Churches of Sheldon, Bronaugh, and Moundville

The Southwest District of the Missouri West Conference of The United Methodist Church

The Rotary Club of Nevada, Missouri

The Beloit, Kansas, High School Class of 1960

The Academy for Spiritual formation #17

books I've been reading
Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership, by John S. Mogabgab

The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath

The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley

Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century: Faith Stories of the Protestant Reformers

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard

movies I'd like to see
American Splendor


Lost in Translation

The Station Agent

Winged Migration

sermons in process
Ruth 1:1-18--"Why Go with Me?"

Mark 12:38-44--"Abundance and Poverty"

1 Samuel 1:4-20--"The Desperation of Hannah"

John 18:33-37--"An Interrogation"

Malachi 3:1-4--"Messages and Messengers"

lectures on tape in my car
Introduction to Renaissance Literature

Dante's Life and Times

Dante's Literary Antecedents

Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

Introduction to Shakespeare


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Saturday, January 12

This is going home day. We have our last two lectures from Bob and Don, our last morning prayer service, our last eucharist. And we won’t see each other again until after Easter. Some notes I took on Bob’s final presentation: “There is evidence in the Hebrew Scriptures that God changed God's mind and God changed God's laws. God's wrath and mercy has changed. No other species on the planet is so dumb as to think that it has nothing to learn from its ancestors. The Bible is conversation in which the various parts are talking to one another. The difficult psalms tell us about our dark side. We are meant to be assertive and aggressive in Christ. Jesus invites us to pray for the enemy so that the enemy will stay human. Prayer is about getting into the flow of God. Practicing Psalm-Prayer: Read a psalm and pray ourselves through it. Hatred is a very high virtue for some. Their virtue is on the pages of the psalms. Bob considers himself a liberal progressive traditionalist, rooted in the past, but not bound by it. In public cathedral prayer, the church has always edited and trimmed. Scripture makes you wise, not perfectly informed.” It was a wonderful final lecture, with lots of stuff to chew on. Highlights from my notes of what Don had to say to us: “Acts 2:37-47 include the four basic practices of "being church" (1) devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching; (2) fellowship (3) praise (4) breaking bread.” These are ramblings on my part--Six things: (1) To worship God over time--use of the lectionary --daily/mealtime?--dwelling with and under the word (Expand the hymn repertoire of the church) (2) Keeping the feast of grace --baptism and communion (3) Keeping time (4) Invoking God at all times (5) Without God we cannot; without us God will not. Living the Liturgy of Jesus: words and deeds and life poured out for the life of the world. Many of my fellow students disappeared after the final eucharist. There didn’t seem to be many that stayed around for lunch. In September, I left before lunch myself. However, today, since I wasn’t heading for home immediately, I had time to kill. So, I stayed for a leisurely lunch. Then, I decided to see a tiny bit of San Antonio before I left, and I went to visit a mall. Of course, one could argue that if you’ve seen one mall, you’ve seen them all, but I would make two exceptions. For one thing, architectural designs do vary, if only slightly. And for another, people DO vary from region to region. The ethnic composition of San Antonio is decidedly different from that of Joplin, Missouri. After the tour of the mall, I headed for Kerrville to visit my cousin and her husband. They took me on a tour of the town and the area. They live on a hilltop with a grand view of the valley below. They took me for a dinner of--what else?--Mexican food.

posted by John Harrison at 9:21 PM

Friday, January 11

This is the last full day of the Academy, the day of the “unstable.” Yesterday was the last day for an evening prayer service. On Wednesday, I took these notes from Bob’s presentation: “Creation comes out of chaos. Chaos is unformed, unshaped.” This prompted me to ask him a question about the relationship of chaos to order, and he suggested that I bring it up in the response period. Well, I didn’t, because I thought I had figured it out for myself. Later--was it yesterday morning?--after the morning prayer service, he reminded me that I had not asked the question. I told him that I thought I had figured it out, and he asked to what conclusion I had come. I said that in my understanding, within order one can find chaos; and within chaos one can find order. He agreed, and as we walked to breakfast, he elaborated on that. I also got to babbling about my interest in chaos and complexity theories, and in related meta-theories, like Ken Wilber’s “Theory of Everything.” Bob then asked if I had read his “Spectrum of Consciousness.” I had not, so there is another book to add to my list. This morning Bob continued his exploration of the Psalms. He identified various ways in God is named by the Hebrews: God Most High; God the Mountain; Lord God of Hosts; Helper; King; Upright; The Great; The Exalted; My Refuge; Fortress; Shelter; Rock; Redeemer; The Primeval; The Eternal. Of course, God is both named and not named. These are not really names for God; they are attributes of God, metaphors for God. And, perhaps that is as it should be. We too often think of naming as simple labeling. But for the Hebrews, a name encompassed all that a thing was. Thus, to their way of thinking, there was no name that could do justice to the being of God. But I have to wonder about all these names. Might they not reduce the naming of God to a job description? Does God become what God can do for us? This afternoon Don discussed prayer, liturgy, and theology. This showed up in my notes: “Prayer is a theological act. It shapes our spirituality. Every prayer is an act of hope. "Your will...your kingdom." “Kingdom, power, and glory.” "the conviction of things not seen." And it occurs to me that when I am wondering whether a worship service makes any difference, I am short-changing the power of the liturgy. In every one of my services the parishioners recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the Gloria Patri, and a Doxology. In each of these instances are we not expressing an act of hope? And every time we celebrate communion, we make a confession and we proclaim, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Are these not acts of hope? And the uniqueness of the worship service is that it is the ONLY kind of setting in which people regularly express, as a community, their faith in the future.

posted by John Harrison at 8:49 PM

Thursday, January 10

We’re past the half-way mark in this session of the Academy. This morning Bob discussed the psalms of lament, and noted that the underlying reality in these psalms is anger, an anger prompted by the belief that God had broken God’s promises. But is this the case with OUR laments? I think that much of the time my laments are my feeling sorry for myself: “How could this happen to ME?” “Don’t I deserve better than this?” And, I don’t think that I often consider God the source of my upsetness. Rather, I think I would prefer to blame other people. Of course, that is probably not fair; but we live in a world in which we are constantly trying to figure out what is fair or not. Bob provided us with a vocabulary for the psalms of lament: “petition,” “entreating,” intercede,” “strike against,” “judge,” “meditate,” “ask,” “smooth down,” “deprecate,” “praise,” “whisper,” “want,” “interrogate,” “wish,” “call,” “pour out.” He also noted that psalms of lament are “feisty,” but I don’t know if that has a Hebrew translation. I think I might add that, at least in my psalms of lament, “whiney” might be a good descriptive label. And, I might add “whimper” and “bemoan.” When we hear the expression that someone “laments the fact that...,” what does that mean to us? Might that mean that someone “regrets” that something is the case? If so, I suspect that it may be a lament at arm’s length, rather than one in which we are intimately involved. Don took us through the component place-markers of worship in the church. I don’t remember that he called them that, but that’s okay. (1) Rites of Conversion/Initiation (baptism) first contact with hospitality in the church. We might also call this the first sacrament of the church. And, for many, it seems to be the last; at least for those who soon become inactive. (2) Eucharist--Holy Communion. And this is the second sacrament. It’s too bad that we United Methodist’s can’t make it a weekly practice. Still, it’s better to be able to do it monthly than quarterly. (3) Daily Prayer. Don had much to say about how we might revive daily morning and evening prayer services. I wanted to tell him about my experience with daily morning Lenten services, but I think those are a special case. (4) Cycles of time--church year--temporal sanctual cycle (cycle of the saints) I wonder if this means anything to pastors and churches that do not observe the lectionary? Of course, they know when Christmas and Easter are, and what the major seasons of the year are, but what holds that temporal structure together for them? (5) Rites of Passage--Funerals --Reconciliation--Weddings--Commissioning new ministry. Ah, yes, those events that fill the church. We marry and bury. And, occasionally, observe special birthdays and anniversaries. For many, these are the only times they will be seen inside churches. Maybe we need sermons for weddings--I don’t do them--and something more than eulogies for funerals.

posted by John Harrison at 8:43 PM

Wednesday, January 9

I think I’m discovering some of the source of my experiencing high and low points at the Academy. I really enjoy the lectures. It seems that I almost always get something new and exciting out of each lecture. And, I always enjoy the meetings of my covenant group. The time seems to fly when we get together. On the other hand, I have problems with the worship services. We use three (3) hymnals, often all of them in one service, and I find it a nuisance to be juggling three books while I’m attempting to worship. I can either hold them all at the same time, or put two of them on the seat when I stand up, or put two of them on the floor under the chair when I sit down. There is no pew in front of me with a rack to hold the books, so that is not an option. We do morning prayer, evening prayer, and afternoon eucharist, all of which have the structures outlined in one of the hymnals. However, it is often difficult to figure out what is going to be included or excluded in the options for the services. I also have a problem with the pacing. There are frequent periods of silence, and I guess that’s OK; but they feel more like dead space, and during those moments I find myself wondering when they will end. My hearing is not good; and when folks with very soft voices do not use microphones I find myself to understand what they are saying and what hymn number they are instructing us to turn to. Of course, I realize that each person has a different way of reading liturgy, and my style of doing that is no better than that of anyone else. However, when different people do it for every service, I find myself uncomfortably readjusting to each new style. Much of the music is new to me, but that’s okay. What is not okay for me is music that is written with a high melody line but not bass or treble line. Who writes this crap, anyway? Are they assuming that the world is filled with nothing but sopranos? One line of music seems to keep showing up in our morning prayer service: “All night long I think of you, O Lord.” As a person who has enough trouble sleeping, I find this offensive. I think God would like for us to get eight hours of sleep each night; and if we don’t, we’re going to be falling asleep or catching naps during the day. I really don’t believe that God would have us THINKING all night. If we do, we will NEVER sleep. So, maybe this is one of my problems with the Academy: the conduct of the worship services. I’m also going to try to avoid taking part in leading any of the eucharist services. I can’t believe those dopey pink stoles. I’m sure there will be no problem finding others to wear them.

posted by John Harrison at 2:50 PM

Tuesday, January 8

The first full day of the Academy. We have two excellent lecturers in Robert Morris and Don Saliers. Morris’s course is “The Spirituality of the Hebrew Community” and Saliers’ course is “Liturgy and Spirituality: Formative Dimensions of Corporate Worship.” Morris got things off to a roaring start by proclaiming that the Hebrew Scriptures are the Bible and the New Covenant is commentary. He also noted that we need to learn to read that commentary through Jewish eyes. Morris tells us that the psalms formed the core of traditional Christianity. He outlined his five presentations dealing with the psalms as focusing on (1) yearning and satisfaction, (2) the covenant--Torah, land, and people, (3) the cry of the heart--lament and outrage, (4) the messianic reality, and (5) how do we deal with the problematic psalms? Saliers will be covering (1) praying together and praying alone, (2) daily prayer: origins, historical development, and contemporary life, (3) baptism, eucharist, and the sacramentality of human life, (4) liturgy and prayer, liturgy as prayer: the language of the human heart at full stretch, and (5) the Christian life as living the “liturgy of Jesus in the Spirit.” Saliers opened his first session by defining liturgy: (1) the glorification/sanctification (of all that is holy); (2) speaking-listening, touching-coming close, and enacting-encountering the memory of God; (3) ongoing prayer, word, and deed of Jesus Christ in his body and in the world animated, made alive, by the Holy Spirit. As Saliers presented this, I had a sense of prayer that is focussed on, directed toward, God and/or Jesus. But it occurred to me that prayer might take another focus. It might be upon our RELATIONSHIP with God and/or Jesus. I am reminded of the words of part of a eucharist liturgy: “We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own goodness, but in your unfailing mercies. We are not worthy that you should receive us, but give your word and we shall be healed, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” To say that we cannot trust in our own goodness, that we are not worthy, is to confess the inadequacy of our relationship to God. And, it would seem that this is a necessary part of liturgy. Saliers also noted that too much praising of God can be self-serving. We may be reminded of the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other people, especially lowly tax collectors. The Pharisee makes no confession or mention of any flaws he may possess. Rather, he brags about what he does to keep the law. I’ve noticed that I bounce between high and low points during my time at Academy sessions. Just when I’m getting very excited about some new learning or understanding, something happens to really irritate me and throw cold water on my attitude. Maybe these things will all sort themselves out after I get home. I just hope I can hang on to the high points.

posted by John Harrison at 2:41 PM

Monday, January 7

The second session (of eight) of my Academy for Spiritual Formation #17 has begun. I arrived early, just before noon. An added bonus for showing up that early was lunch. I had not expected that at all, so it was a really pleasant surprise. Since nothing official happened until eucharist at 5:00 P. M. I had all afternoon to unpack, get settled in, and do some reading. I also did some sleeping, since I was rather tired from driving 500 miles yesterday and another 200 miles this morning. The weather today is quite nice. Yesterday, almost the entire drive was under overcast skies. Today the skies were clear. Although I did finish all my reading in preparation for this session of the Academy, I must confess that it was difficult; at least, more difficult than completing the similar assignment for the previous session. I had four books to read: Worship and Spirituality (about 90 pages); Answering God (about 150 pages); Israel’s Praise (about 200 pages); and Participating in Worship (about 220 pages). The books themselves were not difficult to read, but it seemed that I was constantly getting side-tracked, tempted to read other books and magazines. I need to work on my self-discipline in this area. The members of my covenant group seemed happy to see each other once again. It’s amazing how much can happen to folks in such a short period of time: deaths in the family; changes in jobs; relocations; disappointments. We spent almost all of our time--an hour and a half--just catching up on these things. We didn’t decide where we would go from here. I, personally, am curious to hear what others believed to be significant learnings they have gained in the past four months. Others would like to have the group more focused on the day-to-day activities of the Academy. Still others would like to raise the question of “Where is God in our lives?” Four months ago I brought my electronic keyboard with me. This time I left it home. It was too much trouble to lug along, and besides, I didn’t really have time to play it. I think I did a much more realistic job of packing this time. About the only item I brought which I have doubts about is my digital camera. I’m not much of a picture-taker. However, I still may take pictures of my group before this session is over. As I mentioned earlier, I did not bring my running stuff. However, I think that next time, in April, I will. That is, if I can get back into the habit of running. I also need to transfer my stuff from my three-ring binder to a one-inch or one -and-one-half-inch binder. The three-inch binder is a mess to haul around. I also need to re-think how I pack all my books and papers into my shoulderbag. Or if I need that bag at all. It seems to do a pretty good job, but I put too much stuff in it. posted by John Harrison 2:22 PM

posted by John Harrison at 8:31 PM

Sunday, January 6

This morning a parishioner commented, “I know that you’re taking a week for continuing education, but I’m suspicious that you’re going south for warmer weather!” Well, maybe. Normally at this time of year the high temperature in Sheldon, Missouri, would be 40 degrees, and the high temperature in San Antonio would be 60 degrees. But in the real world, there is no such thing as normal. It is a statistical aberration. In the middle of next week the predicted high temperature for Sheldon will be 60 degrees, 20 degrees above normal. Next week WILL probably be warmer in San Antonio than in Sheldon. However, the forecasts I’ve seen indicate that San Antonio’s temperatures will be about 5 degrees above normal, while Sheldon’s will be about 10 degrees above normal. Maybe I should stay home! Also, for some reason I felt motivated to do a lot of housework in the past few days, as I mentioned earlier. So when I left the house this noon I left a house that was cleaner than it had been in months. The office/work area actually looked well-organized. I could, for a change, walk through the bedroom that I have turned into a storage room. (You have no idea.) In the past, there have been times when I have left the parsonage for a week with the office in a total mess. I would look at it before I walked out the door and think to myself, “I really should stay home.” But in some of those situations I had already committed myself to help someone with something, and staying home was out of the question. Today, however, as I looked around at my really well-ordered house, I again thought to myself, “I really should stay home.” So, what’s the deal? The same response to two opposite situations? Yes, but for different reasons. One was a guilt response and the other was a pride response. When things need fixed, I feel guilty if I haven’t fixed them. In this case, I felt guilty about a messy office. On the other hand, when I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, in this case a neat office, I like to enjoy it. Four months ago, when I first attended the Academy, one of the questions we discussed in our covenant groups was this: “What have you left at home to be here?” This time I can definitely say that I left cold weather. In early September Missouri and Texas are both warm. I can also say that I left my parsonage in better condition than I left it in September. In September I left my congregations, expecting them to hear preaching by our local lay speaker. This time, I’m not sure what the plans are. My pastor-parish relations chairperson is in charge of that, and those plans were not final when I left home. In September I packed my car with running gear, planning to run while I was in San Antonio. This time, I left that stuff home.

posted by John Harrison at 8:20 PM

thinking links

Alan Colmes

America Held Hostile

American Civil Liberties Union

America's War On Terrorism is about oil

The Association of World Citizens

Barnes & Noble



Bush Occupation

Bush Watch

BuzzFlash Report

Common Cause

Common Dreams

A Common Reader



Democratic Underground


Doc Searls Weblog

Earth Education

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Guardian Unlimited

i.e. America Radio Network

International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)

Journal of the Hyperlinked Organzation

Let's talk sense

Liberal Slant

London Review of Books





The Nation

The New York Review of Books

The New Yorker

Nothing Like the Truth

Political Strikes

The Progressive

Public Action, Inc.


The Smoking Gun

Smudge Report




The Upper Room


Young Democrats of America