Trust God & Do the Next Thing
By |   February 18, 2015 |   in Blog, The Big Questions |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

The book Abandoned to God, the biography of Oswald Chambers (who wrote My Utmost for His Highest and many other books) is full of wisdom as well as being an interesting story. One of Chambers’ favorite sayings was: “Trust God and do the next thing.” He lived this whether he was starting a new training college or serving as a WW1 military chaplain to soldiers facing the Egyptian desert (many of whom would be dead by the next week). I find myself saying that phrase a lot these days in moments such as these.

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Big Questions are Usually Not Theoretical
By |   February 10, 2015 |   in Blog, The Big Questions |   1 Comment

Jesus the Christ went right to the heart of every matter for each person and situation the Gospels record him in, often in startling ways. For example, I still am baffled by the question he asked in John 5: 5-6

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

Are you kidding me, Jesus? The guy has been lying there for THIRTY-EIGHT years as an invalid and you ask if he wants to be healed?! Yet, there must have been something in the man that Jesus saw with his heart’s eye that made him realize the man may have, in some weird way, been benefitting from his disease. Jesus never forces wellness on us. We have to be open to it as it comes with its own set of dangers and frustrations different, certainly, from those of illness and infirmity. Jesus Christ has not stopped asking those kinds of two-edged sword questions, questions that invite us into more of the life of the Kingdom of God and yet, can cause us to squirm under them.

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Raw Ingredients in Our Formation
By |   February 4, 2015 |   in Blog, The Big Questions |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

“Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become.”  -John O’Donohue[1]

As I step back from the numerous and varied tributaries in the meandering river of my pursuit of meaning, I’m drawn to a few binding agents – the eggs in the dough as it were – that keep things together and unified. One can boil down all spiritual pursuits to a few, simple factors that fuse and simplify all our seeking. If I were to distill the lowest common denominators that provide the ingredients for our slow-cook, crockpot formation I would submit humility and awareness. Let’s talk about one of those.

Awareness is to spirituality what books are to writers. It is the raw material from which all change comes. Anne Lamott says it best, “Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die…And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention.”[2]

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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 |   1 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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