Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Instead of Worrying...?

Mindscape, What to Think About Instead of Worrying is by Timothy Z. Witmer, who is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and pastor of a church in the area. Witmer is also author of several books on pastoral ministry. Mindscape is published by New Growth Press and is available at www.newgrowthpress.com. Witmer says his book is "written for everyone who has ever worried about anything." That would be quite a few of us, I think. And, being who Witmer is, it's also "written from a biblical perspective." He reminds us that the Bible is "not irrelevant to our current worries, struggles and desires." Lately I've been noticing that almost any story we read in the Bible sounds very much like struggles that are going on now. Anywhere in the world we might hear of similar struggles. That surprises me, and I am ready for some encouragement.

Witmer asks us to think about the "landscape of our minds---mindscape he calls it---and asks how do you deal with day-to-day anxieties? Do you worry? "Your condition is not hopeless," writes Witmer. And he has answers that may help. Witmer suggests that the Holy Spirit gave the Apostle Paul the right words we need so that we will not be worrying. Those words come from Paul's Letter to the Philippians, and in English they sound like this: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things. (Phil. 4:8, NIV, 1985). Paul isn't saying "stop worrying," he is saying change directions. "Be anxious for nothing." Instead, stop, when something is worrying you, and bring it to God in prayer. Prayer, about everything, sounds like it is the answer.

In the next chapters Witmer discusses each of the qualities Paul has offered and meditation on each is suggested. Witmer claims a new mindscape will result. As you "think on these things," and practice, you will be changed. It will take time, but the Holy Spirit will guide if you ask. Witmer concludes that you will see progress in your mindscape, as you "replace worry with peace, as you replant hope in place of discouragement, as you weed out doubts, and as you grow in faith in the Gardener who is determined to transform you."

---Lois Sibley,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One More for Lent...

Meeting God in Mark, Reflections for the Season of Lent,was  written by Rowan Williams when he was Archbishop of Canterbury. Actually, these are part of a short series of talks he gave at Canterbury when we were in Year B in 2010. I'm glad for the privilege of having them now and will enjoy them through the rest of this season of Lent. Published by WestminsterJohnKnox, the book is available at www.wjkbooks.com. By this time in Lent, as usual I have gathered quite a collection of readings for Lent and I don't want to miss anything so I try to squeeze them all in.

Williams, who is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, reminds us that Mark is a bit different from the other Gospels. Mark doesn't tell us much about "Jesus' early life nor his teaching ministry and resurrection appearances." But Mark does offer "deeply theological perspectives," and he includes "these insights in skillful storytelling techniques and turns of phrase." Williams says that "offering simple stories requires enormous skill, and Mark is a great artist in this respect."

Meeting God in Mark begins with "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God...."  and tells the stories of John, coming as an important messenger, and Jesus, who came to John to be baptized,while God himself introduced his beloved Son, with whom he was "well pleased." Williams says that Jesus came to bring "change." "Someone's new reign was about to be inaugurated," writes Williams. So in Mark's Gospel, suddenly Jesus is there---and he is bringing great change.

Williams cautions readers to read slowly and he hopes we will "go back and let it work afresh" on us so that we will find that Mark gives us "the sense of a living Presence at work," that is, Jesus. May it be so.

---Lois Sibley,