Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, our brilliant (and thoughtful) managing editor Joannah Sadler suggested that we share a gift with our readers. In Issue 8.2 of Conversations Journal, Ruth Haley Barton of the Transforming Center wrote a moving piece on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life of contemplation and action. Below is the text of that article in its entirety, as well as a link to the PDF, should you prefer to read it with the design elements in place.

May the incredible story of King’s life of faith speak to you today.

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The Big Book

Last week I listened to a radio program that made me stop in my driveway and keep the radio on—and so long that my wife came out to see what might be wrong. The interview was with an employee of Hazelden, the most famous of Minnesota’s many drug and chemical treatment centers (a sidenote: Minnesota is known to many by its license plate slogan, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, morphed to us locals as the “Land of 10,000 Treatment Centers”). The show was about a new edition of AA or Alcoholic Anonymous’s “bible” of recovery stories, known as the Big Book.

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An Oxymoron

When our daughter was in middle school, her vocabulary list included the word oxymoron: a figure of speech that seems to be a self-contradiction. God’s invitation to be both contemplative and active seems like an oxymoron. How can I be quiet and contemplative and active and productive at the same time?

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In Defense of One True Thing

In the Fall/Winter issue of Conversations the theme that is addressed is ‘Action and Contemplation.’ Let me first quibble a bit over the choice of terms. ‘Action’ is immediately identifiable as a necessary and valuable dimension of human life. In fact, if I were to split hairs, contemplation itself requires a certain form of action. However, ‘contemplation’ can mean very different things to different people, is a somewhat mysterious term, and is viewed with suspicion by many. In other words, 9 times out of 10 ‘action’ would win the popularity contest over ‘contemplation.’ What if ‘prayer’ was substituted for contemplation? The playing field levels out under those verbal conditions. Familiarity, importance, and biblical foundation for prayer and action are relatively equal. To go one step further: my choice of terms would be ‘communion’ and ‘ mission’ based on the Fourth Gospel’s presentation of Jesus as the ‘sent one’ from the heart of the Father. Enough already with the lexical nitpicking!

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Contemplation, Action & Tradition

I have been around Renovaré, a ministry founded by Celebration of Discipline author Richard J. Foster, for over 20 years. Inevitably, when approached with the idea of balancing action and contemplation I turn to thoughts of Renovaré.

If you are not familiar, part of what Renovaré does is share a “balanced vision for spiritual growth.” This is found in six great Traditions of Christian life and faith that we see in the life of Jesus and the historical Church:

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Finding A Sanctuary For The Soul

I can’t believe I’m blogging. I haven’t been a fan of the sport. In fact, I’ve enjoyed quoting Mark Twain who once described journalism as “literature in a hurry;” and then quickly adding my belief that “blogging is journalism in a jiffy.” But, as was the case with my take on email, texting, and on-line learning, I was wrong.

It actually can be very cool to have a reason to visit the Conversations web site on a daily basis, to “join a daily conversation,” reading and then responding. So, because this provides the chance to hear from you, and so many of our other fiends, I’m in.

The topic for our first month of blogging is the theme of our most recent issue, “Contemplation and Action.” With that anchor point, here we go.

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