Amos' Blog:


Transcendence and Fellowship 07-14-2017

When the fully Divine Christ is not at the center, then a charismatic leader, conservative sensibilities, liberal sensibilities, or some other less worthy candidate takes the center. Then our faith is no longer about devotion to our transcendent higher power. Then the agenda of the current leadership becomes central. Then the church has no generations old anchor and becomes vulnerable to the whims of congregation and culture.

As Christian author Eugene Petersen has reiterated, people need two things from worship: transcendence and fellowship (Divine connection and human connection). The Christian Right is all about transcendence, often tolerating community in order to praise God. The Christian Left often enjoys fellowship and tolerates God so they can be together. We need both!

We need vigorous faith that is ultimately not about rights, devotions, and know-how. It is not about knowing something! It is about knowing someone! That someone is Jesus, who mysteriously holds the fullness of the Creator and of the creature in his very being! That someone is transcendent God beyond the bounds of any limited human framework. That someone is also immanent human being, who shares our human limitations!

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Check out Rich’s interview with Dr. Philip St. Romain regarding his course:  Christian Prayer Methods.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

 

Re-claiming The Incarnation Part 3 07-05-2017

Some recent theologians have suggested the incarnation is a metaphor.[1] This is completely out of step with generations of Christian witnesses beginning with the apostles. The incarnation is no metaphor. The incarnation is the jugular vein of Christian faith. Reducing the incarnation to metaphor squashes Christianity’s power. Tens of thousands of apostles and martyrs wouldn’t have risked everything and died for a metaphor.

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Many broadminded theologians reduce Jesus to the status of another prophet. For them the Word has no longer become human, but has merely inhabited a human. Cyril of Alexandria dealt with this very same idea in the fifth century. Cyril’s response to the claim God “dwelled” in Jesus was, “If he became a worker of wonderful signs because the Word was within him, are they not simply saying that he was one of the holy prophets?”[2]

I’ve heard new age Christians say we can become like Jesus. This may be true to a degree, but no matter how blessed we are and no matter how much spiritual practice we do, people will never heal their terminal diseases by touching the hem of our garments (Luke 8:44, Matthew 14:36). The sheer power Jesus radiated is unique to the incarnation. For Christians, Jesus is the only person who could say to God “I am that.” For the rest of us, the spiritual journey is characterized by ever deepening “relationship.”

The emphasis on Jesus’ humanity and denial of Jesus’ full Divinity permeates liberal churches and obliterates Christianity’s power.[3] Author Houston Smith warns, “Liberal churches, for their part, are digging their own graves, for without a robust, emphatically theistic world-view to work within (incarnation), they have nothing to offer their members except rallying cries to be good.”[4]

People yearn for transcendence and seek it in religion. The incarnation is Christianity’s central transendent mystery. 

[1] Some recent interpreters of Christianity, such as Marcus Borg, go as far as to say that Jesus’ designation as son of God was not remarkable—that a number of Jewish healers were referred to as sons of God. This signifies that Jesus is just another Jewish mystic or another prophet like the others. But in actuality the Greek term huios theou, which applied to “sons of God” in the plural ordinary sense, was only used in reference to Jesus three times in the Gospels (Mark 1:1, 15:39, and Romans 1:4). Usually Jesus is described as ho huios tou theou: not just a “son of God,” but “the son of God.” So Borg and others navigate a slippery slope, which doesn’t reflect authentic incarnational Christianity. And the Eastern Church knows the incarnation is where the power is. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have fought over it so vehemently, sustaining tremendous losses to preserve its pure essence: Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). See Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 88.

[2] Cyril, The Unity of Christ, 97.

[3] Another ancient theologian, Arius, taught “once Christ was not,” meaning that Jesus’ nature was not eternal—that Jesus was essentially human. This was considered heretical by the early church, yet many who profess Christianity today maintain this belief. The eternal aspect of Jesus that existed before the historic incarnation and after the incarnation, is The Word (Logos in Greek). See glossary.

[4] Smith, The Soul of Christianityxx.

 

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

Re-claiming the Incarnation Part 2 06-29-2017

Many broadminded theologians today reflect the words of Don Cupitt: “The critical historian no longer sees both natures displayed in Jesus’ life. He sees a purely human Jesus, a first-century man of God in the Jewish tradition.”[1] This new age Jesus becomes a pattern for human life, but is no longer the incarnation.

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Most broadminded theologians miss Thomas Merton’s sentiment in The Seven Storey Mountain,
Jesus Christ was not simply a man, a good man, a great man, the greatest prophet, a wounded healer, a saint: He was something that made all such trivial words pale into irrelevance. He was God. But nevertheless He was not merely a spirit without a true body, God hiding under a visionary body: He was also truly a man.[2]

Contemporary theologians talk of Jesus as “God embodied in a human life.”[3] But, in Jesus God wasn’t just embodied in a human life like other prophets. Jesus was utterly unique: God’s human incarnation. This affirmation of generations of witnesses differentiates Christianity from all other world religions. Some claim “His life incarnates the character of God.”[4] But, “Jesus incarnates the character of God” evades the bold affirmation of the ages: God incarnate; “God in human form” (Philippians 2:8, Colossians 2:9).

“The Word (God) became flesh (human)” (John 1:14). This is the difference between God’s human incarnation and God’s prophets and prophetesses. In Jesus God didn’t dwell within a human like Moses, Elijah, and Deborah. God became human. This is the unique legacy of the Christian testament.

[1] Goulder, Incarnation and Myth, 43.

[2] Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, 209.

[3] Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 88.

[4] Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 88.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

Re-claiming the Incarnation 06-22-2017

Many Christians shy away from Jesus’ name altogether since it has been used to exclude. In the process, they completely disregard the center of Christian faith. There are liberal churches where I’ve been told, “We don’t use the J word here (Jesus). Too many people have been burned by it.” If this is really my stance, I should become Unitarian or Baha’i. But, to remain within the Christian tradition and not mention Jesus is ludicrous.

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Some current theologians refer to Jesus as a Jewish mystic, a healer, a wisdom teacher, a social prophet, and a movement initiator. Yet they never explicitly refer to Jesus as the human incarnation of God, which is the most important claim of Christianity’s two thousand years of witnesses.[1]

Generations of witnesses have claimed that with Jesus something unique and unprecedented happened: God’s human incarnation. Disregarding this unique claim of Christian tradition is an unprecedented break from historic Christian faith (1 Corinthians3:11).

The incarnation is Christianity’s unique testament among the world religions. If we loose this fulcrum, we lose traditional Christianity. We cannot, with integrity, dispense with the central core of Christian faith. We can, however, carefully choose whose interpretation of the incarnation is authoritative for us. For me, The Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers) are the authorities on the incarnation, restoring breadth and depth to Christian theology. For more on their interpretation of the incarnation (The Jesus Paradox) see my book, Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots.

 

[1] Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 89-91. A number of people I’ve talked to have concurred that they appreciate Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity as a corrective to imbalances in the Christian faith, but that it’s not a definitive work because it gives away too much that is uniquely Christian.

[2] Goulder, Incarnation and Myth, 43.

 

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

 

 

Beauty and Poise in Moderation 06-15-2017

Often, people who’re outwardly open and liberal, when pressed on deep seated issues, are in fact rigid and uncompromising. And often people who’re outwardly more structured and intolerant, when pressed, are in fact open-hearted. People who seem outwardly neurotic and broken often actually have it together. And people who seem outwardly pressed, plucked, and put together are often barely holding together their fragmented selves. People have numerous layers and when the layers are peeled back I’m often surprised.

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My most fanatic peers overreacted to growing up in extreme environments. One peer became reactive to his hippie parents whose radical openness (to everything from recreational drugs to an open marriage) threatened his sense of stability and security. In reaction he became ultra-conservative. Another peer is the opposite. Her extremely conservative background in Houston, Texas compelled her to swing to the opposite extreme of misguided utopian experiments, a strict vegan diet, and unbridled Northern California whims, which include giving all of her disposable income to her guru.

Balance prevents backlash. When sojourning down a particular path, there’s a tendency in all of us to overdo. When I started riding an exercise bike three times a week, I started out going for half an hour each session and overexerting. I dreaded the fatigue in my thighs following workouts. So, my good intentions waned, and then were abandoned.

When I began silent prayer I practiced an hour every morning. Soon I burned out. It was too much. Since then, I’ve gotten back into exercise and centering prayer, but now I give myself slack. At present I often exercise for short bursts, realizing the main point is habitual exercise. The same is true of Centering Prayer. I started with twenty minutes every morning and didn’t worry if I occasionally overslept. Because of the moderation at the outset, now both practices have become ingrained habits as familiar as breakfast or brushing my teeth. And as the months and years pass I periodically do longer prayer and exercise sessions. There’s beauty and poise in moderation.

 

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

Check out Rich’s review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain. 

Withholding Judgment – Hearing the Other Side 06-08-2017

Polarizations and strict either/or propositions breed competition and violence. Solutions are found in complex thinking and bridge building.

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May wild-eyed liberals, who’ve rejected all organized religion, become more conservative in the best sense of the word—conserving community, not just families in all their diverse forms, but communal faith. May wild-eyed conservatives loosen their grip on their convictions and withhold judgment long enough to debate the issues and leave room to be surprised, even astonished.

If we can withhold judgment long enough to hear the value in an opposing rant. If we can strain our ears for the cloaked truth, we’ve become ministers of reconciliation. If we can make room for the leper, the prostitute, the extortionist, the gang member with tear tattoos coming down his face, the arthritic uncle, and the Beamer driving sorority sister, the sacred heart of God has seized us.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

Check out Rich’s review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain. 

Moving Beyond Hairsplitting Devisiveness 06-01-2017

In Southern states during slavery days some African American churches separated members with a comb. In these churches, if someone wanted to become a member they were required to run a comb through their hair. If someone’s hair was fine they could run a comb through it and passed the litmus test. Then they were allowed membership. If their hair was too kinky to run a comb through, they were sent to the church down the street.

Some Southern churches also employed the brown bag rule. If someone’s skin was lighter than the brown bag, they were allowed membership. If their skin was darker than the brown bag they were barred. Such practices created ever more subtle divisions among an already divided people. This pernicious divisiveness is the hallmark of the infamous Jim Crow laws (1879-1950).

Divisions take place among people as a result of the most insignificant details. For instance, the Bosnian Muslims and Croats use the Roman alphabet and the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet. Otherwise the languages they speak are virtually identical. This insignificant cultural divide was a pretense behind Serbian violence and ethnic cleansing.

In a town I served as minister there were two Russian German churches. I asked why they worshiped apart. They were both Russian German churches after all. I was told one church had Germans who emigrated from Northern Russia and the other had Germans who emigrated from Southern Russia. Due to this regional variation, the German language they spoke was slightly different. So the two churches worshiped separately.

On any given day any two groups of people can exacerbate their differences and stereotype and demonize one another. Every day most married couples can find reasons to start divorce proceedings. It’s easy to pick a fight. It is harder to humbly ask forgiveness for our baggage (all people and all groups have theirs), swallow our pride, acknowledge our fault, find common interests, and seek reconciliation (2 Corinthians5:19).

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David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

Enjoy Rich’s review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain. 

DARWIN AND CREATIONISM 05-28-2017

In a biography of Charles Darwin I was struck by the fact that Darwin didn’t have a crisis of faith on the basis of his observations in The Origin of Species. His crisis of faith had to do with his inability to reconcile himself with the death of his children.

Darwin simply couldn’t fathom a God who would allow his children to die, for no good reason, before his eyes. How could a benevolent God allow this? Whenever I see a bumper sticker exaggerating the rift between Darwin and the so-called “Creationists,” I wonder how things would be different if Darwin hadn’t lost his children and thereby lost his faith in the God of Christianity? We can’t know the answer to this question, but I’m sure there would be less of a rift between science and religion today if Darwin’s children had lived.

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I too lament the death of Darwin’s children. I too don’t understand why they had to die young. I also don’t understand why religion and science has parted ways in so many people’s minds. As Teilhard de Chardin (d. 1955) and so many others have pointed out, science and religion have so much to offer each other.[1] 

 


[1] The “Intelligent design” debate is another example of the polarization between creationists and evolutionary biologists. It’s a more sophisticated polarization, yet a polarization none the less. The Intelligent design folks don’t give enough credence to the irrefutable basis of evolutionary science. And they don’t give credence to God’s ability to work within the parameters of evolutionary science. For me, this is where the juice is—the scientifically unexplainable series of catastrophic mutations which allowed complex life forms to evolve so quickly. What’s behind these quantum evolutionary leaps forward? My answer: The Holy Spirit!(See the reputable mathematician Fred Hoyle’s book, The Mathematics of Evolution)

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

A Synthesis of Creation & Evolution 05-20-2017

A Bible scholar in the seventeenth century calculated the beginning of time according to Biblical genealogies. He concluded the earth began at the year 4004 BCE.[1] Well, we know it takes longer than six thousand years to explain seashells in mountaintops or the dynamics of Grand Canyon erosion. So, it’s impossible for a reasoning mind to maintain the medieval faith-fact that the earth began six thousand years ago.

Here, we come to an important question. Is the Bible a book of facts? Some would say, yes. But, I believe it’s a book of poetic truth, not facts and figures. Why else would the writer of Psalm 98 exclaim, “Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy.” Did the floods literally clap their hands or the hills actually sing together? Why does Jesus say in Matthew 18 “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out?” Is this to be taken literally? If so, I’d expect to see more people with their eyes gouged in church!

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For me, science can answer questions of how and when well. But it can’t answer the question, “why?” Only religion can do that.

Back to evolutionary science… Currently, the field of evolutionary science is being blind-sided by one simple fact. If evolution followed laws of probability, we would still be at the amoeba stage now. In order for evolution to have taken place as fast as it did, there had to be numerous occurrences of up to seven catastrophic mutations in a single generation of species. The odds of one catastrophic mutation occurring in a single generation of a species’ development are one in over a hundred million. The odds of having three or more catastrophic mutations in a single generation defy all laws of probability.

Evolutionary scientists now realize there’s a mysterious principle beyond chance pushing species to transcend themselves—to make quantum evolutionary leaps forward on a regular basis. Many evolutionary scientists such as Fred Hoyle and F.B. Salisbury[2] have shown that twelve billion years isn’t enough time to produce a single enzyme by chance, let alone our current world with all its diversity. People of faith call the self-transcending guiding principle of evolution/creation “God.”

 


[1] James Ussher, Archbishop of Amagh, Church of Ireland (d. 1656).

[2] Hoyle, Mathematics of Evolution.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

Love Your Enemies 05-12-2017

We’re called to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). Loving enemies means granting our political enemies their humanity. This was Gandhi’s example when he shared tea with English military brass who were directly responsible for gunning down unarmed Indian civilians. This was Martin Luther King’s example when he sat at table with avowed racists and segregationists.

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The other day a colleague of mine said “We never know the burden someone is carrying.” Beneath the layers of every person there’s an unspoken load. When we realize this, patience and gentleness naturally arise. Tyrants carry the unspoken pain of estrangement from themselves. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to dominate others. Martyr personalities often harbor some form of self-hatred. All people— sadists, masochists, rich and poor, are afflicted.  The Hindu saying is apropos: “The poor suffer on the street. The rich suffer in luxury.”

All are created in the image of God and our faith calls us to revere that image in all people (Genesis 1:27). We do this even when that imprint is buried behind layers of dysfunction.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.