What I promise not to do in 2015
By |   January 12, 2015 |   in Blog |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

Everyone and their dog (they, usually under pseudonyms) have written on the topic of New Year’s resolutions. You know, those slurred declarations, made in a eggnog-fog sitting on the boss’s lap, that “this year will be different.” It is apparently the rage to write clever quips about them, drawing fresh insight; this, despite the fact that all those blog posts are themselves quasi-resolutions to “write 500 words a day” or some such thing. So, in order to keep expectations well and truly low, allow me to be the dog portion of this equation and add yet another.

A new year. Is it just cultural fallacy? Is it a falsity even, to assume that something magical happens at the turning of the calendar from one day to another? Can real hope come in such a demure act? Can such a simple thing add a hint of glimmer and shine to the din and shadow of a year, now passed?

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Musical Resolutions
By |   January 5, 2015 |   in Blog |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

As we think about New Year’s resolutions, here are three hymn texts that might be useful to your spiritual formation in 2015. You could use them as part of your daily devotions, even memorizing them.

“Take, Oh, Take Me As I Am”:

Take, O take me as I am;
summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.

The text is by the Scottish Presbyterian pastor, John Bell (b. 1949). He writes that the text “was written for a weekly service of commitment in Iona Abbey in the late [19]90’s. The service takes different forms but essentially involves people being offered the opportunity in some symbolic way to affirm their commitment to Christ and/or to a specific aspect of discipleship.” Re-committing to Christ and/or to practices that help us follow him better is a good New Year’s resolution.

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The Kind of Person You Can Talk to about Spiritual Things
By |   December 18, 2014 |   in Blog, Emmanuel, God With Us |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

How was Dallas Willard able to act as an informal spiritual director to so many people? Why were they able to talk with him so easily about the primary topic in spiritual direction: how they’ve been interacting with God lately or not?

For example, Dallas did this with me the first time I met him. After one of his talks, I was thanking him for writing The Spirit of the Disciplines. In my earnestness to be authentic, I spoke of not trying to ingratiate myself to him. Then he made a ridiculous suggestion, saying, “Why don’t you try not affirming anyone for a while, and see what happens?” I knew this had to be wrong because encouraging people is a good thing, so I dismissed the suggestion.

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God with an Address
By |   December 10, 2014 |   in Blog, Emmanuel, God With Us |   1 Comment

Protestants love to spend most of their theological time with a post-tomb God. For us, the Emmanuel event/process was merely the warm up act to the resurrection, which is where everything bad is quelled, everything good can begin. The world gets a full reboot. Of course, this is a great idea! However, the downside to this is the temptation to affix lesser significance to everything that happened before it…most of the Gospel history.

Is the coming of God into the world the precursor to the main event or the main event itself? Yes.

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel
By |   December 3, 2014 |   in Blog, Emmanuel, God With Us |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

It was a tough couple of years with a lot of loss in a variety of areas. There were times when Advent’s cry of “Maran atha, Come, Lord Jesus” was all I could manage. My prayers bounced off a brass ceiling. I ran a low-grade depression in my soul similar to a low-grade fever in my body; I just didn’t feel well. I couldn’t get enough sleep. I gained weight from stress-eating. I spent a lot of time on Facebook. Creative pursuits ended up in the trash, half-finished. My whole reason for being on earth came into question.

“If all these doors are shutting, Lord, what are you calling me to do?”


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How Did Mary Become So Adventurous?
By |   November 24, 2014 |   in Blog, Bread & Wine |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

If you were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in a venture that would change the world but cost you a great deal, how would you respond? Would you hesitate as Moses did at the burning bush? Would you agree to do it, but then run away as Jonah did? Or would you ask doubtful questions like Gideon?

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, announcing to her the parenting mission of all time, she asked a question and decided to go for it. Later when her older cousin Elizabeth exclaimed how blessed Mary was, she didn’t say, “Yes, but . . .” (because her being legally unmarried but pregnant made her the scandal of the year—for many years). Instead she poured out a seemingly spontaneous, passionate prayer-song (which is now called the Magnificat; Lk 1:46-55). It is so magnificent that some doubt that an illiterate peasant girl could have composed it. Yet others have caught on that Mary borrowed phrases and ideas from Hannah’s celebration words of Samuel’s birth as well as several psalms (1 Sam. 2:1-10; Ps. 38:6; 71:19; 111:9; 103:17; 98:1; 107:9; 98:3; 132:11). Indeed, girls like Mary often sang Hannah’s song as they did household chores. So Mary may have belted it out many times the way you and I do in the car when our fave song comes up.

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The Universe in a Cup
By |   November 12, 2014 |   in Blog, Bread & Wine |   4 Comments

“So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.”

–John O’Donohue from his poem, The Inner History of a Day

Not unlike any other boy of eight or nine, I was entranced by the world around me – inexplicable, broad and spacious and wild. Atoms just kept getting tinier, stars brighter, planets bigger, forests darker, oceans deeper, plants and animals more strange, and my world more mysterious than the day before. I read everything I could find, a habit that has followed me into late middle age. Astronomy, dinosaurs, oceanography, geology, and theoretical physics (well, Jules Verne really), all found their place among Hardy Boys and comic books. It was a blurry haze of wonderful.

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Big Medicine and Strong Magic
By |   November 3, 2014 |   in Blog, Bread & Wine |   1 Comment

I don’t know and can’t imagine what the disciples understood our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood…I find ‘substance’ (in Aristotle’s sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think…On the other hand, I get no better with those who tell me that the elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ.  They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol of that…and I cannot see why this particular reminder – a hundred other things may, psychologically, remind me of Christ’s death, equally, or perhaps more – should be so uniquely important as all Christendom (and my own heart) unhesitatingly declare…Yet I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) so opaque to the intellect, is nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation.  Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body.  Here the prig, the don, the modern , in me have no privilege over the savage or the child.  Here is big medicine and strong magic…the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand. C. S. Lewis in “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer”

Over the years, the Eucharist has become increasingly important to me. Partaking at least once a week helps me stay connected with the risen Christ. In difficult times especially, I need that tangible reminder that Christ is present and with me, in me. The Eucharist allows me to incarnate Psalm 34: 8–O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him—and grounds me in God, myself, and the world. It saves my faith from becoming purely “spiritual.”

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Switching the Focus
By |   October 20, 2014 |   in Blog, Living Well & Flourishing |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

Because the Renovare´ Book Club and Goodreads is studying my book Madame Guyon Her Autobiography, I’ve been re-reading it. I’ve been particularly impressed by Jeanne Guyon’s peace and tranquility in the face of so much persecution. She was lied about, so much so that her older son and many others were turned against her. Certain people, mostly religious leaders, schemed to get her inheritance and to gain custody of her children for their own gain. One group tried to get her 12 year old daughter to marry a . . .well, “dirty old man,” shall we say? . . . so that it would profit them. Such injustice, especially by Christians, really upsets me. How can they do that???

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The Good Life – Lessons from Brendan the Navigator
By |   October 6, 2014 |   in Blog, Living Well & Flourishing |   2 Comments

“Shall I abandon the comforts and benefits of my home…

Shall I take leave of my friends and my beautiful native land…

King of the mysteries, will You set watch over me?

Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You on the sea?


Christ of the heavens,

and Christ of the ravenous ocean wave,

I will hold fast to my course

through the dangers I must brave…


O Lord, I pray that in You,

I’ll break ground both fresh and new.

As a student let me stand.

Break the hardness of the land

with Your forgiving Father-hand…


Have I the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with God?”*

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