27 February 2011

Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany

Most loving Father-Mother, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Child Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

20 February 2011

Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany

O God, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is the true bond of peace and of all virtue. Grant this for the sake of your only Child Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

13 February 2011

Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayer; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of you grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

11 February 2011

Are you interested in getting a new computer? Are you wanting to try Ubuntu (and why wouldn't you?!)? Well, have no fear! Ubuntu released their Certified Hardware page on their site! It shows different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), along with various hardware components (video cards, wireless cards, web cameras, etc. The site breaks it down so you can find a desktop, laptop, netbook, or server and which version of Ubuntu works with which hardware.

So, if you in the market for a new system, and your interested in giving Ubuntu a spin, I recommend using that list as a guide.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack +, LC

10 February 2011

Another Ubuntu Update...

A great interview about Food for the Hungry and Ubuntu can be found here.

06 February 2011

Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Child our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

05 February 2011

Why I use Ubuntu...

Or, why Open Source Software is vital for moving forward as a global community.

As anyone knows who has been reading the blog (or the old one for that matter), I am very passionate about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). But why is this? How did I get here and why do I think it’s critical for our future?

Since i have blogged about this history before, I won’t go into the details here. Let me just say that it was because of Mac OS X that I ventured into the world of Open Source Software and stayed there, like any new relationship, after a few minor hiccups.

I started testing Ubuntu around October 2007 and starting using it regularly the following year. And by regularly, I mean that I no longer used any other Operating System (OS). Ubuntu was the only personal computer OS I used. This also means that I have used about 8 different releases (I am currently dual-booting between the latest release - 10.10 - and the Alpha release of 11.04). But, again, why?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. To me, it’s the ethos of using FOSS that is of the most important. And that ethos is community. It’s about putting the needs of the community before ones personal needs. And, to me, that spells service. The ethos of the FOSS community is one of serving. And that reminds me of Christ. Let me flesh this out a bit more.

I used to believe (like so many in American culture) that the goal was individualism. That is, the only thing that mattered was my personal salvation - of Christ being my ‘personal savior’ and my ‘going to heaven when I die’. No idea about the community or my responsibility to serve others. That wasn’t my job. My job was to ‘lead other people to Jesus’ (which in turn became a numbers game and, coupled with my giving, was a way of ‘evaluating’ my faithfulness to Jesus). There was nothing in my early life up to adulthood about service. That is, not until I had to face the reality that something was not right. Things that I learned as a young person no longer worked for me as an adult. So I started searching. And as many of you know, my searching led me to a completely new way of seeing, one based on an ancient way of seeing. And with this new way of seeing, the scriptures opened in a new way - a way that emphasised doing good works (meaning social justice work) and thinking more of the needs of others (and not just saving their souls). I started seeing the sacred and the secular as being so integrated that they can’t be separated. If we remove the sacred from the secular, the secular will be destroyed. With this new way of seeing, FOSS, especially Ubuntu, became all the more important.

See, Ubuntu is all about the needs of those they serve - the men and women who use computers on a daily basis. One of those needs is financial. That is, there are plenty of people (more than 2/3rds of the worlds population) that can’t afford Windows or Mac OS X. According to Ubuntu’s philosophy page:

Ubuntu software is free. Always was, always will be. Free software gives everyone the freedom to use it however they want and share with whoever they like. This freedom has huge benefits. At one end of the spectrum it enables the Ubuntu community to grow and share its collective experience and expertise to continually improve all things Ubuntu. At the other, we are able to give access to essential software for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it – an advantage that’s keenly felt by individuals and organisations all over the world.

Another neat things about this freedom is the fact that Ubuntu has been translated in to more than 50 languages. This not only includes the language of the system itself, but the various support material as well. And, because it is Open Source, people from all over the world can translate Ubuntu into their own languages if one is not available.

This idea of sharing, of giving of ourselves for the betterment of others, is so much of the Christian ethos as well. Here are a couple of passages to illustrate this:

Matthew 14.15-21. That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

Acts 4.32-35. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

This is exactly what the Ubuntu community does (maybe not ‘testify[ing] powerfully to the resurrection of . . . Jesus’ but you never know!). And that’s what’s so exciting about it! Even I can share. I don’t know how to develop (or program) applications but I can help people with their simple issues like wireless cards not working, or getting their new mp3 player to work, or just helping someone start using Ubuntu. Those little things add up. And it’s the little things that really make a difference to people. The smile, the cup of warm coffee, a simple prayer, a listening ear - all of these things matter and matter a great deal to those people who are hurting.

Now, granted, I can do all of those (little) things when helping a person with Windows or Mac OS X. But, a lot of the time, I am dependant on the developer even releasing the software to work with those OSes. And that’s true of Ubuntu as well. But here is the big difference. Since Ubuntu is Open Source, that software is already available to the public. And if the developer hasn’t released a new version, then someone else can! And she doesn’t have to worry about getting sued or paying huge licensing fees. The software is made available for all to help all.

And that mentality, that ethos, is the key for us to move forward as a species. We have to get away from the idea of ‘us vs. them’. Sure it worked for a while (I think that really depends on whom you ask), but we didn’t think about the long term effects of such a worldview. And because of that, the effects have been building up and are now reaching a critical stage. And I’m not even talking about the ecological ramifications of our actions or lack thereof. I’m just talking about the human element. But, in all honesty, we can’t talk about the human element without taking into consideration the ecological and economic situations of the people who suffer. Again, life is too complex to be divided into such neat little packages. All things are dependant on all things.

In summary, I am seeking ways of incorporating these two things. More specifically, I am looking into ways of getting more people to use Ubuntu, especially those who are non-profits and religious traditions who share this way of seeing. I have already contacted Ken from Helios in Austin. It’s a great program and I’m wondering of something like that might work here.

Lastly, if you get the chance, take a little time and browse through Ubuntu’s philosophy page and see how it fits with your personal philosophy. Also, if you are so inclined, maybe take Ubuntu for a spin and see what you think. It think you will be pleasantly surprised.

In the Name of the Three in One,

Jack+, LC

02 February 2011

Reflection: 01-11

‘But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father-Mother in private. Then your Father-Mother, who sees everything, will reward you.’ - Jesus

This is the basis for this month’s reflection, Open Mind, Open Heart, by Fr Thomas Keating. It was quite an interesting read with plenty of great practical guidance on centering prayer. I won’t go into much detail about the practical but will, instead, focus on the experiential part of the book. For if ‘centering prayer’ is anything, it is experiential.

This book is about leading the follower of Jesus into the tradition of contemplation through the tool of centering prayer. For years, especially here in the US, contemplation and meditation have been looked down upon. It has been seen as an ‘Eastern’, non-Christian, even demonic, practice with which the true Christian has no business. However, this has not always been the case. For almost the entire history of the Church, contemplation and meditation have been a part of the every day practice of the followers of Jesus. And not just for the clergy or those with a special calling from God. No. ‘[Contemplation] is a fundamental constituent of human nature and hence available to every human being’ (Ibid.)

‘Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century . . . described contemplation as the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love. For Gregory, contemplation is the fruit of the reflection on the word of God in scripture and at the same time a gift of God. It is a resting in God. In this resting or stillness the mind and heart are not actively seeking [God] but are beginning to experience, to taste, what they are seeking (pg. 141, An Overview of Contemplative Prayer in the Christian Tradition).

Further on in this chapter, Fr Keating shows that the more Christianity became an institution, the less it was about contemplation. ‘Around the twelfth century,’ he writes, ‘a marked development . . . took place. The great schools of theology were founded. It was the birthplace of precise analysis . . . Unfortunately this passion for analysis in theology was later to be transferred to the practice of prayer and bring to an end the spontaneous prayer of the Middle Ages based on lectio divina with its opening to contemplation’ (pg. 142).  And by the time of the Reformation and beyond, prayer had been divided into ‘compartmentalized units entirely separate from one another . . . The organic development of prayer toward contemplation did not fit into the approved categories and was therefore discouraged’ (pgs. 143, 144).

In any case, the post-Reformation teaching opposed to contemplation was the direct opposite of the earlier tradition. That tradition, taught uninterruptedly for the first fifteen centuries, held that contemplation is the normal evolution of a genuine spiritual life and hence is open to all Christians (pg 149).

But it seems to me that contemplation is making a comeback in a very strong way. Especially among those who would classify themselves as ‘spiritual’.  I must confess here that I fell into that category I mentioned earlier that saw meditation as something other than Christian. It has taken me some time, but I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with it. But why was I like this?  Why was something that was ‘taught uninterruptedly for the first fifteen centuries’ such an issue for me and is still an issue with most followers of Christ in this country? I think it has to do with several reasons.

If one were to go to any local Christian bookstore (or even perhaps those online) and looked through the many books on prayer, one would be hard pressed to find any mention of mediation much less seeing it as an ‘organic development’ of prayer. Second, and this is in direct relation to the first, our clergy (for the most part) don’t teach classes or give homilies (or write the afore mentioned books) about contemplative prayer and meditation. I’m not certain of this but I think this may be more so in Protestant traditions than other Christian traditions. But, as I stated previously, the practices of contemplation and meditation are swelling among spiritual practitioners world over, and, like those who are flying coach, Christians are now getting on board and rediscovering this ancient practice. And centering prayer is but one part of this tradition - the introduction, if you will.

So, what is ‘centering prayer’? Centering prayer is ‘a movement of Divine Love designed to renew the contemplative Christian tradition’ (pg. 2, Introduction). It is ‘an exercise . . . of intention’ (pg. 27). That intention is the key. The intention of centering prayer is union with God.  ‘Divine union is the goal of all Christians’ (pg. 18). The intention, therefore, is that we are saying to God, ‘Here I am. Do with me what you will’. We are not looking for special knowledge or feelings or whatever. We are expecting to find God deep within us. The point is that through centering prayer, we are intending to be united with God.

By meditating on the words of Jesus quoted above, the great contemplatives saw that this ‘going away by yourself and shutting the door’ was an interior thing. And as I was reflecting on that, some passages came to my mind (I’m sure you could add some more):

Psalm 37.7a. Be still in the presence of [God], and wait patiently for [God] to act.

Psalm 46.10a. Be still, and know that I am God!

Isaiah 28.12. God has told [the] people, ‘Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.’

Mark 6.31. Then Jesus said, 'Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.'

This quiet place, then, doesn’t need to be at a specific location - like your study or a cathedral or a ‘prayer closet’, though, when beginning, this would be beneficial. But it is the place where one goes to become united with God. And that, Fr Keating, along with the great mystics of old, tell us, is internally. In Chapter 12, Guidelines for Christian Life, Growth, and Transformation (pg 158ff), Fr Keating states, ‘Solitude is not primarily a place but an attitude of total commitment to God.’

This may all sound interesting, but how does one do centering prayer? Fr Keating recommends two twenty minute sessions - once in the morning and once in the late afternoon or early evening (or, if you can’t do the later one, extend the morning session). Find a comfortable place that is relatively quite. Sit in a comfortable position, preferably a chair with good support (but a bench in a park or a grassy hillside will do just as well or better than well). Sit up straight with your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes (The reason for this is that a lot of what we think about actually comes from what we see). Next:

Reflection on the word of God in Scripture and in our personal history is the foundation of centering prayer. The spontaneous letting go of particular thoughts and feelings in a prayer is a sign of progress. Centering prayer is characterized not so much by the absence of thoughts and feelings as by detachment from them (pg 27).

When these thoughts come, do not dwell on them - just let them ‘float’ by like clouds in the sky. But, if you find yourself dwelling on a thought (or thinking, ‘Hey, I’m not dwelling on thoughts,’ which, of course, means that you are dwelling on that thought!) Fr Keating suggests a ‘sacred word’. A word of one or two syllables but without emotional content. When we seem to become attached to a thought, gently say the sacred word inwardly. The sacred word is to show your intention. ‘The sacred word is the symbol to consenting to God’s presence’ (pg 65). To say, in essence, ‘I am here and waiting to be with you Loving God.’ The point of these times of centering prayer is not to expect anything or do anything. It is about being. Being in God’s presence. Wanting to be in complete unity with God. Of making oneself available to God. No other intentions. No other reasons. Just to be with God. And, once this become a habit, we will start being aware of God with us at all times. Just as we don’t think about the air we breath until we need it, the same takes place when we intend to be with God. Then, we will realize that God is with us.

This book is a great read for those who are on the journey and looking to go deeper. Those who know that there is something missing in their lives, the practices in this book (and I have just brushed the surface here) will start one on a great and grand adventure. I mean, what could be a greater adventure that being united with our Loving God?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack+, LC