Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spirituality for Mii

I'm breathing out the deep sigh of relief that hits pastors post-Easter, and breathing in some spiritual practices for the coming 40 days.
We got Cheryl and Wii Fit for her birthday last week. It's a total hoot, with all kinds of silly games that, if you follow the instructions, actually give you a good workout. The games include some yoga movements -- most of which cannot actually be done in our basement without crashing fingers into the ceiling. But the ones that can be done feel surprisingly good. I've long thought that yoga would be good for me because I am among the least flexible people ever. I suppose I make up in "closed-bodyness" for my open-mindedness! In any case, stretching and breathing deeply is a lot more invigorating than I would have guessed.
Alas, my Wii Mii is a rather squat fellow because the sweet voice of the Wii tells me that I need to loose weight. No surprise in that, but did my doppelganger have to get so rotund so quickly?
Ah, well, perhaps by Pentecost he will have slimmed down a bit.
In the meanwhile, I'm stretching body and spirit in a 40-day journey with Sister Joan Chittister. I'm following a little book that is one of Augsburg Press's 40 Day Journey With ... series.
I began this morning, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the first reading concerns the nature of spirituality. Sr. Joan writes, "Spirituality is about the hunger in the human heart. It seeks not only a way to exist, but a reason to exist that is beyond the biological or the institutional or event the traditional."
Those words leaped out at me this morning because I'd just read Michael Gerson's column in the Post, in which he responds to neuroscientist Andrew Newburg's new book, How God Changes Your Brain.
Gerson writes,
Using brain imaging studies of Franciscan nuns and Buddhist practitioners, and Sikhs and Sufis -- along with everyday people new to meditation -- Newberg asserts that traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and breath control can alter the neural connections of the brain, leading to "long-lasting states of unity, peacefulness and love."

In other words, some combination of my reflections with Sr. Joan and Wii Fit breathing my lead me to be more loving. Hm ... time will tell.
The more challenging part of Newberg's findings, as Gerson reports them, comes with the insight that the kind of God one imagines determines the part of one's brain that is strengthened through religious practice. In other words, if one imagines a God of love, the part of one's brain where empathy resides. On the other hand, if one imagines a God of wrath the part of the brain where aggression resides is strengthened.
As Gerson puts it, "The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not."
As for me, I'm holding fast to the God of love I know through Jesus. No other god is worthy of my time -- especially if such a god is going to get inside my head and rot my brain!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am SO glad, Pastor, that you are breathing a sigh -- a deep sigh -- of relief.

Unfortunately, there are some people who do not get that chance.

See this link: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25340979-23109,00.html

It tells of how things have not improved at Guantanamo since Barack Obama became president.

People are still being held -- and tortured -- at Guantanamo.

Is this the "change" we "hoped" for?

Will you be silent as the President of the United States allows such things to happen, or will you denounce the President, and march on the White House to demand an end to such torture?

RobMonroe said...

I'm confident that I know of several times, David, that you've marched since 1/20. Oh well to Anon.

My Mii is awful when we get to the WiiFit. Even worse is that it's pretty close to true... Hope you get to cracking through the fun levels on your WF!

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, if one imagines a God of wrath the part of the brain where aggression resides is strengthened.
As Gerson puts it, "The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not."
As for me, I'm holding fast to the God of love I know through Jesus. No other god is worthy of my time -- especially if such a god is going to get inside my head and rot my brain!
"

I rather think that Scripture reveals God to be a God of both love and anger.

God, I think, is angry at human sin and human brokenness. Jesus got angry at the money-changers, and he got angry at the Pharisees. That tells me that God does not tolerate sin or brokenness -- that God gets angry at things like self-centeredness and brokenness in all its forms -- greed, busy-ness, sexual sin, lack of care for the hungry -- things like that.

In fact, it is precisely those things -- the brokenness and sin -- that God hates so much, that are the reason God, out of God's immeasurable love for us, came to us as a human being who knew every temptation we know. It is because of those things that make God angry that God, in love, willingly went to die a horrible death on a cross.

And it is because God died to cure our brokenness and forgive our sin that suggesting that God cannot transform a person from a life that is not pleasing to God to a life that does please God really diminishes God's love. God loves the sinful and broken people -- whether the sin or brokenness is greed or sexual sin. But God really does hate the sin, and really desires to have people's lives transformed.

Not recognizing that God is a God who is truly angered by sin and brokenness, and especially considering that such a God will get inside your head and rot your brain is, in my view, to believe in a God that "loves" greedy people so much that he just winks at their greed and says "Their greed is OK with me....after all, they were born that way, and there's nothing that can be done to change them, so it would be unloving of me to expect them to leave greed behind."