Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes: 9/19/10

Not having attended BCUCC in a while, I was drawn last night to study Chapter 14, "Nonfiction vs. Fiction vs. Cosmic Illusion". Bra~Brah~Dum! It turned out that was what we were to read....

We right away spoke of our answers to the author's pop quiz, a series of paragraphs we were to categorize as either fiction or nonfiction:
"All the quiz was nonfiction." - Rose Bailey
"The author's message was to point out that writing isn't necessarily fiction or nonfiction." -Pastor Dan
"Only science & math approach is nonfiction." - Tom Ward
"Only science & math approach finds truths, not necessarily solutions." -Pete Bailey
"Yeah! I'm enthralled by to find out the latest science. Check out - Scientific truths are all hypotheses, as we don't know all like the Creator does." -Day Murti

(Hmm... Is there a Creator? We digressed to question the retired Cambridge University physics professor Steven Hawking recent assertion that a Creator wasn't required for the Universe to occur. Find out more at -

Pastor Dan brought the group back to the book, noting "It is human to want facts and clarity, but the reality is that there is a lot of mystery. We create mysteries and then we try to solve them. The author of "God Laughs & Plays" is intrigued by the Christian paradox that by losing your life, you gain everlasting life."

There was a long discussion of the conflict provoked by a Gainesville Florida pastor burning Korans. Check out David Horsey's insightful cartoon -

NEXT WEEK: Chapter 15, "Assailed - Improvisations in the key of cosmology"
NEXT BOOK: is authored by UCC pastor John Indermark and will be passed out next Sunday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes: 7/11/10

Today, we brought up more questions than answers relating to Chapter 4 reading, "When Compassion Becomes Dissent":
- Upon the pastor's inquiry, we sought to unveil the best bible discussions of compassion and decided that the "Love Your Neighbor as yourself" quote reflected most clearly Jesus' views on compassion.

We talk in church about how to influence society with Christ's teachings:
1. We agreed that it is hard to sort out a "truth" in anything nowadays in this multi-paradigm global culture. We debated the question of whether possible to do anything positive for good in the world nowadays given the complexity. It was so much more clear earlier....

2. Given that there is so much that can and needs to be done in the world and everything is controlled by the battle over resources, why not restart a global Marshall Plan (rebuilding plan from World War 2) currently?

3. "We have to keep going in the direction of hope, not destruction." (Rose)

4. "We need to all hug trees!" (Day)

5. "We wouldn't have all these problems if we had education."

* Read Chapter 5 (p. 77) "Ashes & Dirt" to discuss next week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes: (6/27/10)

Today, the group discussed the chapter, "Unsaying the word of God":
--"We humans learn best when we can relate new knowledge to what we already know." (Rose) When we try to frame God through out word symbols, humans often have a tendency to become dogmatic and fundamentalist, boxed in by our own thoughts. When we approach God, we should use intuition to not limit and become bound by the thoughts we use to learn about God. For this reason, Francis (dark-haired) remarked that "The book's author, David James Duncan, takes a Dr. Seuss approach to diagnosing the contemporary American spirit."
* Our group feels that BCUCC is different than the churches that Duncan is critical of. "BCUCC gives confidence in your faith because it expands your thinking, giving windows, not walls." (Rose)
* We do not feel our church is that unique in this regard. "There is hope for common vistas between viewpoints in and among churches. For example, recently a Southern Baptist was on National Public Radio mentioning that loving Earth is loving God, and that he wanted church-goers to take the Earth seriously as one of our spiritual goals." (Charles & Francis)
* "Speaking of woo-woo though. Meister Eckhart, a mystic who lived in 13th century Europe) was considered apostate (a non-believer) by the Catholic church." (Bob)

We related to the author's discussion of a soul's hunger at the end of the chapter:
"On loving God: In the period of preparation for loving God, the soul loves in emptiness. It does not know whether anything real answers its love. It may believe that it knows but to believe is not to know. Such a belief does not help. The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry. The important thing is that it announces its hunger by crying. A child does not stop crying if we suggest to it that perhaps there is no such thing as bread. It goes on crying just the same. The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is bread, but lest by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying, for the reality of its hunger is not a belief, it is a certainty."
(by Simone Weil, p. 31)

(The group had a broad, complex, in-depth discussion of the nature of God & the human necessity of belief in God's infallibility. I was unable to properly transcribe its nuggets to notes.)

NEXT WEEK: Read Chapter 3 "What Fundamentalists Need For Their Salvation" (p. 33 ->)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes (6/20/10)

Today, the group discussed the first chapter of God Laughs & Plays:
- Author David James Duncan is a writing professor, who lives in western Montana and home schools his children. He experiences the Grace of aloneness and God in nature, but has allergies to organized religion from a poor childhood experience in church. Thus, he hasn't been to church in 35 years! As a church going group, we decided that his vantage and perspective was initially at odds to our own. We defended the value of our church discussions and fellowship and queried, "If against organized religion, is one also against community?"

WONDER: We relished the chapter section on the spiritual benefits of wonder. Wonder is unknowing experienced as pleasure. Wonder doesn't have room for fear and anxiety. Like Grace, wonder defies rational analysis.
"As a facial expression, wonder is the letter our eyes and mouths make when the state itself descends. O: God's middle initial. O: because wonder Opens us. O(ld) becomes new. Wonder is anything taken for granted - the old neighborhood, old job, old buddy, old spouse - suddenly filled with mystery. Wonder is anything closed, suddenly opening..." (p. 9)

YOGI: This section reminded us of a few things:
1. An intuitive response is not so scripted. As listener to this response, it is more important for us to look at the unscripted comments for the place from which they come.
2. The dance of life is a balance between careful attention to high quality practiced endeavor and explorative openness to newness of perception & wonder.

GLADLY: My twin nieces are visiting Seattle right now. After church, I, my sister, nieces, and mom used "Skype" (internet video telephone) to call my dad for Father's Day. It was a wonderful example of the power of the "gladly" section. My mom, sister, and I had deeper questions about the nuances of Dad's life. Dad appreciated the contact, but I noticed truly came alive when Josephine and Thais, my 8 month old twin nieces became enthralled by how the computer screen was actually the grandpa that they had hugged and new well from earlier. The babies were pure and bright. Their glad enthusiasm was wholesome & healing for the family.

FOR NEXT WEEK (6/27/10):
Read the chapter two, "Unsaying the Word, "God", p. 17 ->.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes (6/13/10)

(11 participants)
Thanks to Charles Cressey Saturday delivery, everyone has received their books, "God Laugh & Plays" by David James Duncan, and have started to read the forward and preface.

There was general agreement that the author knows the relation between metaphors and compassion, e.g.:
"Unsaying the word of God"
"To define is to limit the unfathomable mystery of God. When very one names God, you give a slant and relationship."

There were two superb quotes that elicited discussion:
1. "Evangelism as embodied by Jesus does not remotely suggest the close-minded zeal of proselytizers claiming that only their interpretation of scripture prevents eternal punishments and pays eternal rewards: it implies, on the contrary, the kind of all-embracing love evident in Mother Teresa's prayer, "May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in." Not just her fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, potential converts. The whole world."

The whole world, for example, seemed to fall into the heart of Mahatma Gandhi. He repeatedly acted upon what his stated belief "I am a Christian, I am a Hindu, I am a muslim, I am a Jew."
(Author's Preface, xxv)

2. We the peoples of Earth, need a new cosmology that can effectivelyl embrace both our innate thirst for deeper, often obscured and intuited meanings as well as the necessary rigors of our intellectual life. We need a cosmology that can feed our souls and our questions about the meaning of life and death, while embracing the realities of our biological and ecological selves." (Forward, xi)

For next week (6/20): Please read Chapter 1, "Wonder; Yogi; Gladly" (p. 5-16)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes (6/6/10)

We discussed the last two chapters today:
1. "Who Are Those Christians?" (p. 219)
- This chapter discussed the messiness we call religion. The author described a number of Christian versions in the modern world. Choosing a church today is kind of like the blithering variety of choices offered in sex ed classes, e.g., rhythm method, condoms, or virginity 'til 33. It is necessary to enter a version of the Christian paradigm when one commits to a new church. Many new church goers are going towards religious extremism to simplify the multiple paradigm complexity of modern choices.

2. "At The Hinge Of History: Post Modernity" (p. 226)
-Modern technology embraces individuality, whereas post-modern converts re-seek community.
-On p. 229, is a interesting quote. "Modernity turned Christianity, a religion of grace, into a religion of good works and achievement. I don't mean, of course, that Thomas Jefferson himself did this. I do mean that the attempt to accommodate Christianity to modernity did. Spirituality, with its faith in the miraculous and mysterious, was lost or repressed. The end result was thin fare, a moral code without transformative power. It is religion as obligation, but lacking much in the way of motivation or motivating power."

** Our next book, "God Laughs and Prays", by David James Duncan will be delivered, probably by this Friday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group Notes (5/26/10)

** We first discussed the chapter, "In a Time of War" (starting on p. 195) **

For churches to develop an activist voice on larger social issues such as war, we must kindle a debate within, similar to our Adult Spirituality Group intellectual exchange. (As Pastor Dan mentioned, the church is designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.)
-For example, during the height of tensions during the Korean War, an American flag stood side by side to a Christian flag behind the pastor as he gave sermons in our church, from 1955-57.

The group discussed how we have a different situation today. Terrorism isn't from a clear enemy target that one can polarize towards to burgeon a large scale response, such as Americans could against the Nazis in Germany during World War II. Defeating a terrorist "enemy" seems to require a much more subtle nation building response nowadays. (This involves social, military, and education problems).

** We secondly discussed the chapter, "The Gay Divide" (starting on p. 201) **

In the early 600 BC Jewish church, homosexuality, circumcision, and temple cult like sexual rituals) were outlawed by higher priests to make the Jewish church distinctive from other groups. The Christian New Testament has changed the focus from simple external activities to the more subtle heart and mind, as evidenced through one's immediate relationships, which were at the roots of external activities.

In modern society, there is vastly less moral stigma around being gay, celibate, or child free. Bob Squalia sees both liberals and conservatives having different perspectives, but as one gets older one sees those identities as boxes that don't encompass one's true broader living perspective.

Chapters to discuss next week:
1. "Technology & Human Values", p. 207
2. "Holy Stories", p. 213

Monday, April 26, 2010

religious leaders as connectors and community builders

Our discussion of the next 2 essays in the book (Notes on a Field-based Scholar and Community) focused on the sense of community in our church. We celebrated our diversity of ages and roles and observed how the smaller size of our congregation leads to more mixing of groups that might not mix in a large congregation. We nurture relationships by working together to keep our small church vibrant through spiritual, social, musical, and even maintenance activities. And our efforts are wonderfully tended by Dan, our pastor, who has such a talent for unearthing our hidden gifts and encouraging us to test them in new ways.

Next week: Problems with Pluralism and Grievance Gluttony... (From Common Grace by Anthony Robinson)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group notes, 4/18/2010

We discussed two chapters -
"WHAT ARE FATHERS FOR" (p. 140 - 144)

To answer the above chapter title, Francis' husband noted that the fundamental biological difference between the male and female gender (egg vs. sperm) is only to first create a baby. More is required to assist the mother in raising a child to adulthood with the skills and qualities to be able to pass on his genes over time. The below quote from page 143 was mentioned:
"The mother's blessing seems to have been imparted long ago, at the womb, and requires no conferral. Yes, clearly there are many exceptions to this as a pattern, but the pattern itself stands. In this sense, it is the father's love that is more of the growth-prodding and demanding, while a mother's is more of the accepting and letting be."

The group reflected upon the author's use of the 'fatherhood' gender to describe the set of traits discussed in this chapter, which seem to fit old gender stereotypes and was not really correct. For example in Day's family, often Mom was the "whip" to instill my tiger-like discipline and character to claw and pounce on also things I don't have a conscious attraction towards. Dad more often nurtured my inner development through meditation and math.

Francis brightly summarized that everyone grieves death in their own way. Some benefit more than others from a formal grieving process, like attending funerals. Public memorials are very important for people outside of the family, e.g., co-workers, to get closure that a person is truly dead. Day made note that his aunt in India had such a long and unending period of formal expected grief for her son's death, that she later laughed that she was still alive and it was morbid to grieve too much or for too long.

For next week (4/25), please read the chapters:
• "Notes of a Field-Based Scholar: A View of Ministry, p. 154
• "Community", p. 159

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adult Spirituality Group notes (3/28/10)

All ten adult attendees rejoiced in the chapter, "Being a Grownup", since it felt personally relevant. Pastor Dan crowed, "A brilliant chapter!" (Soon afterward, the momentary gleam of sunlight that we all took notice of, faded into Seattle overcast....)

We bubbled over the insightful quote, "The capacity to know and affirm and live from the conviction that "it's not about you" is a crucial marker of grown-up-ness." (p. 104) Babies learn to cry and coo and sign language to get mom and dad to eventually figure out their needs. When we attain adulthood, we learn the communication tools to get attention, services, and things, much more effectively. Not only do we learn to specifically articulate our desires, but also gain a complex sophisticated understanding of what we really want.
--For example, Day's father Ajit has learned the complicated skill of communicating in a way that doesn't skip past social graces. Ajit has learned to take time & space for personal development, e.g., meditation, to center himself for his divergent interactions. By opening up to our common spiritual core, he is better able to relate about difficult topics via our commonness. "The art of being able to say something unpopular lies in doing it in such a way that those to whom you are saying it know that you still care about them and that you are in it with them." (p. 106)

Many men are socialized to get angry as a way to express their emotions. Many women are instead socialized to cry. How to manage in balance so that we can both articulate the nuances of our mature perspectives as well as communicate our personal relationship to the perspective? Day feels that Pastor Dan like his father has predominately learned to manage his emotions, e.g., expressions of tears and anger during his sermons in a effective way to impart his message.

Next week, we'll discuss:
1. "The Prayer My Father Taught Me (p. 108)
2. "Friendship" (p. 112)
3. Marriage: What's the Point? (p. 119)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

BCUCC Adult Spirituality Group Notes: (3/21/10)

We all had insights about the Common Grace “Hyperparenting” chapter, especially Francis:
  1. “There has got to be a balance – All things in moderation, including moderation. The rule is simplicity in life.” – Georg Myers
  2. Parents foster their children’s development through “accepting love” and “transforming love”. (bottom of p. 98)
  3. Parents should determine what their goals are so that they don’t merely react to divergent opportunities for their children.
  4. Kids often have too much structured time. Instead they need down time to construct on their own and be creative. This doesn’t mean passively veg in front of the TV but, e.g., have a quiet walk in nature (to explore the subtle complex ecosystem and sort out and distill their minds).
  5. There’s a Slow Parenting movement. The philosophy is basically that “maximizing” a child’s structured exposure to new learning and resources is not helpful. It’s as important for the family to spend time together to bond, e.g., to sit down for a meal. It’s important to give time to foster the parents’ relationship. Check out -
  6. Finland has a great education model. Until children reach age 7, the emphasis is on social relationships and exercise, not on school learning. Early on, Finland students are dead last, but later are at the top! (Day’s sister will base her children’s development on the Waldorf Answers at, which has a similar approach.)
  7. A way for working parents in the U.S. to maintain influence in their children’s development is to send children to YMCA and neighborhood centers, as well as post reminders and inspirational note cards around the house.
* Next Sunday, we'll discuss these chapters:
1. Being a Grown Up, p. 102
2. The Prayer My Father Taught Me, p. 108
3. Friendship, p. 112

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tony Robinson Visits!

How many book groups get to meet with the author?! We did last Sunday, 2/28. All agreed it really enriched our already rich experience reading his book, Common Grace. We also agreed the time went way too fast and we had more questions for Tony. Some of the questions/comments topics we discussed with him included the effective way he relates parables to current life issues. Several of us have found ourselves quoting from his book during our everyday lives. I actually posted his comment about parenting being a sacrificial act on my Facebook page - it felt real to me at this stage of my life! I invite others from the group to comment on their thoughts from the meeting. I also invite others to pose questions and we can try to forward them to Tony for more input since the time went so fast.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday Adult Spirituality Group Notes-January 31, 2010

1/31/2010 - Notes by Jane Witmer
We discussed two chapters – Revelation and Dreams in the current book Common Grace by Anthony B. Robinson.  Also, one should note that this author is scheduled to join our group in person on Sunday, February 28.
Conversation centered on the author’s discussion about choice.  He asserts that we do not have choice over what comes our way.  Tom Ward expressed concern about those who feel life’s events are preordained and when things go wrong, lose faith.  Several members commented that we may not have a choice about what events come at us in life, but we have a choice in how we respond or deal with those events.  The last two lines of the chapter supported our discussion and are as follows, “For the most part, we can’t control what life brings us.  It is, however, up to us how we respond to life.  Something is being asked of us.”  We also discussed the importance and the challenge of slowing down enough to allow ourselves to experience a revelation.  In other words, slow down and listen, because God is still speaking!
The chapter called Dreams helped us link subconscious awareness of God’s messages to conscious awareness in the form of a revelation.  We discussed whether or not people can control or direct their dreams and what impact that might have.  Frances G. talked about developing an awareness of the theme of your dreams.  Once again, ask yourself, “Is God speaking to me?”
Thea, Charles, and Dan talked about practicing “praying the scripture” as recommended in previous chapters.  Ask if you are curious about what that means!
The next session will focus on the next 3 chapters.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

BCUCC Adult Spirituality Group Notes (1/10/10)

Our next reading is Common Grace, by Anthony B. Robinson, minister at Plymouth UCC and former writer of a weekly column for the Seattle P-I newspaper. (See the book's description at Amazon - .)
**Charles had passed out copies of the first chapter as he's having trouble ordering the book so far via Until he obtains books for the group, he'll continue to pass out copies of upcoming chapters we're to read.

Discussion Gems:
1. Practically, an unexamined faith doesn't exist. We must realize our faith through conscious questioning.
2. In the Old Testament, there are dramatic stories of God's active interventions in external events, such as when he parted the sea for Jews escaping from Egypt. Jesus preached the more subtle powerful ways that God intervenes in the affairs of man -> through his heart.
E.G. - Giselle brought up a traumatic experience when it hailed ruining her 700 acres of wheat fields in Nebraska. As a result, she learned that when you pray, you get the strength to be able to live through hardships.
3. When we pray, we normally expect results. The ego is the chooser, based on all influences. It is important as an element of God to keep "Heart Up", to consciously be a channel for God's varied works and love. We ought to have thanks in prayer, not just ask, if we have Jesus' higher vision that God has the whole of creation in mind, justice, and heart.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

BCUCC Adult Spirituality Group notes (Sunday, 1/3/10, 6th week of Advent)

BCUCC Adult Spirituality Group notes: (Sunday, 1/3/10, 6th week of Advent)

(9 people attended)

Reading : "Close to God's Heart" Focus Scripture: John 1:(1-9), 10-18

Two spiritual concepts were brought up:
1. The rich bounty of our Adult Spirituality Group’s discussion reminded Pastor Dan of his collegiate discussions with his mentors about the eternal nature of Grace upon Grace embodied in Jesus. In recent times, whirlwinds of thought have surrounded theological debates about the Scandal of Particularity. How could it be that a single individual man (Jesus) could be the savior for all men?
2. A related word, “Panentheism” was also brought up for discussion. Panentheism is a constructed word composed of the English equivalents of the Greek terms “pan”, meaning all, “en”, meaning in, and “theism”, meaning God. Panentheism understands God and the world to be inter-related with the world being in God and God being in the world. It offers an increasingly popular alternative to traditional theism and pantheism. Panentheism seeks to avoid both isolating God from the world as traditional theism often does and identifying God with the world as pantheism does. Traditional theistic systems emphasize the difference between God and the world while panentheism stresses God's active presence in the world. Pantheism emphasizes God's presence in the world but panentheism maintains the identity and significance of the non-divine. Anticipations of panentheistic understandings of God have occurred in both philosophical and theological writings throughout history (Hartshorne and Reese 1953; Cooper, 2006). However, a rich diversity of panentheistic understandings has developed in the past two centuries primarily in Christian traditions responding to scientific thought (Clayton and Peacocke 2004).

** Pastor Dan has not resolved this discussion in his entire lifetime. Instead, he has chosen to focus on Jesus as his beam to find God.

Dan noted that Catholics focus a lot on the Holy Spirit as that is what lives. Tuning into Grace is turning down our personal “volume”. It is making God’s reality conscious, not just living on habit and non-purposeful delusions. Grace isn’t what most people think. Grace is a higher wisdom to face and cope what one is facing. True wisdom to face and cope with what we are facing. Supplicating to God in prayer is to center and “let go and let God.”

I was enthralled by the group’s discussion! :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Adult Sprituality Group Advent notes, 12/27/09

BCUCC Adult Spirituality Group notes: (Sunday, 12/27/09, 5th week of Advent)

13 people attended.

Reading:"Who is this child? Luke 2:41-52 (Focus Scripture)

From God, mother Mary knew before Jesus' birth that Jesus was special.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a world to raise a God man such as Jesus! At age 12, Jesus argued with church authorities, just as nowadays teenagers first develop our own perspectives and self understandings by acquiring new experience and speaking out.
--Day's father, Ajit Murti, noted that there is little information about Jesus until the 3-4 years before his death at age 33. Among Indian & Western scholars, it is believed that Jesus came to India sometime between age 12 and 29 to acquire knowledge and develop as person.

Jane Whitmer goes to church weekly for spiritual focus. Everyday life chips away at one's spiritual confidence.

Charles Cressey highlighted the Colossians reading as a nice summary of the Advent season, because it puts the focus again on the heart.
-- "...And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's you basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it." (Colossians 3:12-17, by Paul)

NEXT WEEK (Jan 3, 2010), the last Advent reading, "Close to God's Heart" will be discussed. The focus scripture is John 1: (1-9), 10-18.