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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Alex Ness is a writer, poet, and social critic. Recently Alex interviewed me about my book, The Karma of Jesus. Here are some excerpts:

AN: You suggest in your book “The Karma of Jesus” that there is a certain symmetry by which karma works that is broken by Jesus.   What do you mean by that?

MH: I’ll defer to Bono. We know Bona as one of the most recognized icons in the world. In recent years the lead singer of the rock group U2 has leveraged his astounding pop status to become a potent political voice and advocate for social justice and humanitarian causes. At any given moment he might be spotted lampooning a rogue third-world dictator, serving soup at an inner city shelter, doing a benefit concert for a 400 year old pub housed slated for demolition, or spewing challenges to the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Bono claims a moral anchor for this influence on his deep conviction in the necessity of justice in the world, here and now. And he builds this conviction from a forceful, consuming faith in Jesus Christ. Bono sees himself as Jesus’ agent of revolution. In my preparation for writing “The Karma of Jesus” I read Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. Assayas, who is not a confessing Christian, records an interview with Bono in which he discusses the implications, here and now, of the sacrificial life of Jesus. I’ll pass along an excerpt of that interview within this one… 

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics–in physical laws–every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was–the Messiah–or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched…

Bono:… [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.[i]

[1] From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Assayas, Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Page 225-227, 228.

 

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February 12, 2010

Day 42

Weight: 197 lbs

Weight lost: -9 lbs

 

I’ve been focused on food. I’m taking communion every day, just to see what would happen in my life – particularly what would happen in my relationship with food. I love food, I admit. But at times it has come to rule me. I’m experimenting to see if I can satisfy my hunger in another way, with a deeper food, specifically with the body and blood of Christ. The process has me focused on food, almost all the time.

The results are surprising to me. I’m thinking about food all the time, but I’ve dropped 9 pounds since the first of the year. That’s not breaking news, but it’s real and noticeable. And I really haven’t done anything different in my life except share the Lord’s Supper with my family every evening. The change seems to be happening almost naturally, or supernaturally naturally. I just find myself with a different relationship with food.

Still, I also find myself thinking about food more, and finding an awareness of it all around me. When I decide to look for the color red in the room I’m in, I see red. That’s the power of focus. When I decide to intentionally “consume” the real presence of Jesus, I find myself noticing food from a different angle. It’s quite a shift that honestly I haven’t worked to master. It simply is there.

This morning I made waffles for my sons for breakfast. I loved the smell of them cooking. Normally, I would have, without thought, made one for myself. But this morning I didn’t. I considered it, but thought first, with focus. I realized I really didn’t want a wad of white starch sitting in my stomach all morning. I paused for one moment and considered… That is what is new for me. Instead of running on automatic pilot and eating whatever happens to be in my homing device range, I’m focused and considerate.

“God, I don’t want to take for granted your evident work in my life. As this season has me focused on food, I also want to focus on you in and with my food. That really is the point here. I’m not taking communion as a kind of game. I never want to use you and your gift of life as a substitute for my fallen and sinful appetite. Draw my attention to you, naturally, without force or laborious discipline. I simply want to want you. Work inside my desires. You promise to give me the “desires of my heart…” Okay, I believe that. But not only give me the things I desire, give, and mold and rule the desires themselves. Give me right desires, and then the things that will truly fulfill and satisfy those desires themselves. Only you! In Jesus…”

“The Eucharist Diet” adventure is my six month experiment taking daily communion and tracking and posting the results in my personal life, relationships, health, and body fat percentage.

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Earlier news broke that Former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized due to chest discomforts. He has since undergone a heart procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries. Please join us in prayer as we pray for his post-op comfort and recovery.

Heavenly Father,

We first and foremost thank you for the expedient care that our former President Bill Clinton has received following his chest pains. We now pray that his recovery process would be just as expedient. Please touch every part of his chest that ails him with your hands and make known to him that you are the healer who goes by the name Jehovah Rophe. You will heal him stitch by stitch and alleviate any of his discomfort. We pray for the knowledge, wisdom and discernment of the medical staff who is serving him. May they always think proactively about what is best for his health, may they be attentive and may they be careful in all things. For his family, friends and colleagues who are all on the edge of their seats waiting to hear news about his condition and his progress, may you calm them and give them the peace which passes all understanding. For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea Clinton, may they cleave to his side in full support of him during this time and may they pray without ceasing for his healing. May this be a time that brings those together who have been apart, a time for positive thoughts and prayers to be sent all across this nation and a time of healing for former President Bill Clinton. We believe that you do all things well and we truly believe that you are a healer as evidenced in your word. So we close this prayer asking that your will would be done.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen 

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Today, on the first day of New York Fashion week, the fashion world received the tragic news  that British fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, was found dead in his flat in Central London. The avant garde designer was only 40 years old. He was considered a brilliant mind among his peers in the industry and his supporters both young and old. I never had the opportunity to own an Alexander McQueen piece, but having worked at a fashion magazine, I became familiar enough with his work to become a fan. I loved how his clothing spoke volumes. You didn’t just wear his clothes, you made statements in them. If, as William Shakespeare penned in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” Alexander McQueen IS one of the finest costume designer for us bit players. Please join me in prayer for the family, friends and fashion followers of Alexander McQueen.

Heavenly Father,

It is hard for us to put into words how we feel right now in the midst of this great loss, but first and foremost we do thank you for the life that you gave Alexander McQueen on this earth. We thank you for the inspiration and creativity you gave him to create some of the most beautiful clothes we have ever seen. We thank you that because of the inspiration you gave him, he inspired many others. We thank you for all he created that we saw and that which we have yet to see. We thank you that though he has gone on, his fashion house and that which comes out of it will carry on his legacy. We ask right now that you would be with his family, friends, peers, supporters and followers as they grieve their loss. Comfort them in this time of mourning. Let us celebrate the life and work of Alexander McQueen always remembering his fearlessness to be cutting edge and avant garde and let us bring his fearlessness into our own lives so that we may be innovators and inspire the generation yet to come. Many will be tempted to speculate on the reasons for his death, but we pray that their mouthes will be shut out of respect for the family. May all hearts turned toward prayer and may all have positive thoughts for all who have been and will be affected by this tragic loss.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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