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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An Oxymoron
By |   December 6, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

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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The Big Book
By |   December 1, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

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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Before It All Starts, Stop
By |   November 26, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

I am one who, as my father liked to say, was “vaccinated with a phonograph needle.” I love to talk. I HAVE to talk to process certain conundrums. I sometimes am not sure what I even believe until I’ve heard myself say it out loud. For me, contemplation can be very difficult at times. My words are often flowing before I realize what I am going to say.

This can be a good thing. Often it is not.

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Comparing Beauty
By |   November 23, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

Or, How Visiting Italy Introduced Me To The Concept of ‘Contemplation & Action’

“This time last year.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that?  Perhaps this time last year you were just entering a new stage of your life? Maybe this time last year you were starting a new job, or finding yourself without a job?  This time last year could have been the beginning of a really difficult year—and you didn’t know what was ahead, so as you reflect on this time last year you find yourself wanting to go back…

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Shut Up And Be Still
By |   November 19, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   11 Comments

We have no time or space to deal with contemplatives in our world.

Voluntarily squandering time in nonproductive activities is an affront to those of us who daily bow to the God of efficiency and hurry.  Few evangelical denominations know what to do with contemplatives.  Spirituality with no concretely defined goals and objectives is threatening for most of us.  We almost always value purpose over mystery.

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The Bellies of the Poor
By |   November 17, 2010 |   in Action |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

In the following selection, Augustine contemplates the parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:13-21) in light of Prov. 13:8 “The redemption of a man’s soul is his riches.”

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Contemplation, Action & Tradition
By |   November 16, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

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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In Defense of One True Thing
By |   November 15, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

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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Fanning the Flame
By |   November 11, 2010 |   in Action, Contemplation |   1 Comment

Jesus’ life offers great hope to me because I struggle to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. God-guided, Jesus’ action was always love-inspired and full of compassion. In the eye of the daily storm, he knew the inner quiet of peace and focus. In the center stage of engagement, he would withdraw. In the midst of being with others nonstop, he knew quiet and solitude.

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