land of rest

Land of Rest is a blog of Peter Jenks. Poems, quotes and photos are by Peter Jenks (unless otherwise noted or I miss noting an older post's photo) and are copyrighted, you are free to use these if you acknowledge their source.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A visit to the mosque

I went to a mosque for the first time. It is very interesting and helpful in all the discussion of different religions and world events to meet people and get to know what is going on firsthand and not just spout opinions.
The first thing that I noticed that caused me to laugh was their address. It is a bit more difficult to find them, and I can understand this, as we live in a country that either feels threatened by Islam or wishes to threaten Muslims. When they emailed me their location and address it looked familiar. It was pointed out to me that it was next door to where my son lives in Orono, and that was why the address was familiar. We live in a small world.
I was impressed by their service. They were a remarkably welcoming and friendly group of people, more than willing to greet me and to have me join them. I was made to feel at home and I stood and sat as they prayed, but did not join in as I am not a Muslim, nor a member of their congregation. There were many similarities that were shared between us as we talked about maintaining a religious community and the issues that arise in doing such. They were planning for a big congregational dinner that night, with all that comes with such an event.
For the worship I felt that they were very similar to the Russian Orthodox in that there were very, very few seats. I was also struck by the much larger ratio of men to women than in most churches. The service was very simple with prayers and a sermon. It was very Protestant in its starkness in space, or perhaps more of a Buddhist simplicity. They would not see it as such, rather an adherence to the teaching of the prophet in the Koran. There was a fair bit of Arabic spoken, which I did not understand. But it was a nice time to be still, listen and offer my own prayers. Many of the people were from different countries or perhaps not mostly white, like most of Maine. I found that very refreshing and a very good thing reminding me of the time I lived in New York City.
Theologically I thought that they had much in common with more evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Both groups look to their sacred book, the Bible or Koran, as the final say that cannot be challenged or reinterpreted. Both feel very certain of the truth and rightness of their holy word and relationship with it. Though both would not want to be associated with the other theologically in any way.
A young woman helped explain much of the practical aspects of the faith and the role of women, which our western society has stereotyped and misunderstood in many ways. There are issues to address and yet so is there everywhere.
The meeting of these good people was a great blessing. I pray that their new facilities and growing community does well. Knowing the people, not just the ideas is very important. I feel blessed for having gone. I also hope to go back with a group of young people in a few months.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Invitation of Change

There is much talk and awareness of the need for change in the church. In fact there is an awareness of great changes going on all around us in our society, in education, healthcare, politics, economics, and our general way of life.

I have time now to look at what is going on in my life and the world around me. Several thoughts have struck me recently. There is great energy being spent on the new directions in the church, where we should go, what does this new way look like and how will it effect us. There is also a goodly amount of energy being spent holding onto what we have been doing, what we have come to know and how we have been doing things.

On a very personal level I am seeing that when change has happened in my life that I would understand to be wonderful, life-giving or of the Holy Spirit, it seems to always reveal more of really who I am to myself. I may come to differing opinions or attitudes but I somehow become more of who I am and enter more deeply into what I know of love. If mercy and forgiveness and understanding are not factors in my change than it seems that nothing really has changed.

My life is defined by an experience of love found in God who has become manifest in our world in who I have come to know as Jesus. This person, this God made flesh is the source of my love and hope. So I am finding that in all the discussions of change within the church and world about me, perhaps this is only an invitation, written upon the events of the world, for me to enter more deeply into this forgiveness and mercy and come to know more deeply my Lord Jesus.

Maybe the words of my prayers might part enough that I might see more clearly the eyes of God looking upon me and giving me strength to look back with a more clear understanding of who I am.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Need to Meet

There is a part of me that delights and wallows in times of quiet and solitude. But I again and again hear in my quiet times with my Lord that it is essential to be a part of the larger body of Christ, to meet with others, hear others, share with others and be there.

The Sabbatical Journey

It is a bit daunting to begin a sabbatical, especially one which is done in relationship with a larger community. At the base of a sabbatical is the need to return and renew, to rediscover the love and passion for Jesus. After years of ministry there have developed patterns of work and ways of getting things done. The simple act of preaching every week is one that develops a pattern of research and a library of thoughts that might be effective but they can become a hindrance to new ways, thoughts, and engagement with God. The comparison to a long time marriage is very helpful to me. Over time a couple develop a style of living with each other, it is easy to simply take the other for granted. After years of such living a retreat or time together to meet each other apart from these established patterns might bring up new aspects and changes that have emerged unnoticed by perhaps both people. How do they fall in love again, will they fall in love again and what changes will that bring? Do I want to face the changes that might emerge from a new look at my life with my God, the love of all that I am. Am I willing to open up again all that I am? It is what will bring me to new depths of love and of myself, I know, but do I really want to go there or do I want to stay in the familiar?

My familiar stresses, concerns, worry and prayers that I have befriended are old companions. I long for God to answer prayers I have held before Him for years, yet do I want to re-think and re-structure my habits and communicate more openly with others about this very private work?
I find myself a bit nervous as well as excited. It is one thing to long to be in love, but then to be in the moment when one needs to act upon it is unnerving.

I am also finding that the letting go of all the details of my work is a hard thing and something that is taking time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


salt without rice sticks
and won't come out when needed,
love without talking.

Anger and Guilt

It seems to me that both anger and guilt can be good things in very small doses but generally they serve as a banner or flag as to where inner work needs to be done in our lives.

When there is a true injustice, anger can be a good thing to motivate us to respond and speak up for what we know to be true and just. Likewise a guilt that gets us to get out of bed and do something or that motivates us to apologize for something we did or said is a good thing.
But most often guilt and anger just gets our minds and emotions spinning around. I have noticed during this last election season that things would be done or said that just ignited an anger in me. Sometimes it was a blatant lie or just a plan stupid statement that was being taken seriously and unquestioned. I would rant for a bit and find myself spinning around and caught up in the seasonal rancor. What was it that was happening, what was in my soul, life or heart that somehow reverberated by the outer circumstances. My experience is that anger in politics or in sports is a great way to get motivated to play and participate, but it can be too easily manipulated and turn on one in the midst of the game or election. Anger is also the great emotion that gets in the way of the true emotion that needs to be heard.

Guilt, likewise, can keep me from doing the things I need to do. It will just fester making me feel more and more inadequate. And when guilt and anger mix it is a very toxic cocktail for our health, as we add stress and frustration to a situation in which we just keep fermenting.

Music and humor are the best antidotes for me. To listen to soothing music or to simply start whistling or humming a song as I walk helps greatly. And most of all to see where and how God is going to twist things is important to me, no matter how badly or frustrated I get in the midst of elections. God’s sense of humor is far greater and more cunning than any crisis or catastrophe we can create. Much of the universe I think is propelled by the laughter of God. It is why the universe is constantly expanding.
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