Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The centrality of prayer

Prayer necklaces in the market of Old Jerusalem

Gordon Cosby founded the incredible ecumenical church in Washington, D.C. known as the Church of the Saviour. Below I've given you the opening words of an article written in 1976 called The Invisible World.

Nothing in the Christian life works unless we get the hang of prayer. Christianity as a theological system, as an ethical and moral system, simply won't do. Unless we can connect with another order of reality, the whole thing is just too exhausting to try to work through.

Prayer is learning the art of the connection. It is the heart of what the Christian life is all about...
I'm sad to say that many people do indeed see Christianity as a theological system and as an ethical and moral system and they view prayer as nice but (if you press them about it) really optional.

Here is a very interesting bit of information about Church of the Saviour:

Never more than 200 members, the church actually seemed to discourage growth. You can only join for one year at a time. If you do not re-apply each year, your membership automatically lapses. But, you have to attend the School of Christian Living one evening a week for two years before you can move from apprentice membership to full membership. No congregation has ever taken more seriously the path of discipleship.

What were the results? Hundreds of faith-based ministries have been started over the years, including a community health center, a residential treatment center for women with AIDS, hundreds of units of low-cost housing, a jobs program that placed 800 unemployed individuals last year, FLOC (For the Love of Children, a movement that revamped how foster care is done in DC), Alabaster Jar (a movement of artists who are people of faith and express faith in their art), the influential Wellspring retreat center, a small college, and Potter's House, what many consider the original Christian coffeehouse ministry which still operates in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood on Columbia Road in Washington.
Something for those people who put "church growth" (as in swelling the numbers) before ministry and Christian formation to think about, huh?

Monday, June 29, 2009


Artist: Horace Weston Taylor

In contemplation of created things
By steps we may ascend to God.

-- John Milton

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pentecost 4

"Christ & the Woman with the Issue of Blood"

Here's a paragraph from a sermon based on this morning's gospel reading:

Reaching through the gender barrier, stretching across the ritual purity boundaries, this woman displays extraordinary faith, and Jesus recognizes it. Unlike the other miracle stories, Jesus does not pronounce any healing words. He does not recoil or regard himself contaminated. Jesus does nothing to bring the attention back to Him. Instead, he overwhelms her with gentleness. Jesus does not do anything but acknowledge her. He simply calls her "daughter;" and in so doing, he not only gives her the blessing that no one else was willing to give, he acknowledges the power of female faith. In seeking the source of the healing, he cites it as being her own faith. Her courage to break through the conditioning of a lifetime, brings her a condition she can barely remember: peace.

-- The Rev. Sarah Jackson Shelton

I'm very moved by this - and inspired, too. "Courage to break through the conditioning of a lifetime." Let us all pray for such courage however it may be needed right now in each of our lives.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Church's survival?

"Metochites presents his church to Christ"

Here's the question: Does the Church exist for its own sake or for the sake of seeking and serving Christ in all people?*

The introverted church is one which puts its own survival before its mission, its own identity above its task, its internal concerns before its apostolate, its rituals before its ministry. Undue emphasis on the static structure of the Church has led to the disappearance of a significant lay ministry in denominational Protestantism.

-- Gibson Winter

*Please take a look at the baptismal covenant in the Book of Common Prayer 1979.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our moral duty?

"Examination of a Witch"
Artist: Thompkins H. Matteson

It troubles me so much that Christianity has turned into some sort of purity cult in many quarters:

There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their neighbors good. One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to my neighbor is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy if I may.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Something about good and evil


I read some Berdyaev when I was an undergraduate and I remember being very influenced by him - although I don't remember coming across the following passage. And I certainly can't say that I understand it. It strikes me as being rather something like a Zen koan -- something you have to tease away at and ponder and let soak in until the rational mind gives up and the teaching or saying simply becomes a part of who and what you are:

For Christian consciousness, paradise is the Kingdom of Christ and is unthinkable apart from Christ. But this changes everything. The cross and the crucifixion enter into the bliss of paradise. The Son of God and the Son of Man descends into hell to free those who suffer there... To conquer evil, the good must crucify itself.

-- Nicholas Berdyaev

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God's great lovers

Artist: Rembrandt

Spiritual reading is a regular, essential part of the life of prayer, and particularly is it the support of adoring prayer. It is important to increase our sense of God's richness and wonder by reading what his great lovers have said about him.

Evelyn Underhill

Monday, June 22, 2009

Art and spirituality

Artist: Paul Serusier

Ah! Here is why I try to give you great (or at least interesting) art:

All art that really draws us to look at it deeply is spiritual. Art accepts all the sadness, and transforms it implicitly affirming that beauty is essentially the presence of God.

Sister Wendy Beckett in The Mystical Now

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Three for Father's Day

Artist: Carl Schweninger
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
~ Theodore M. Hesburgh

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.
~ Sigmond Freud

It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.
~ Anne Sexton


Artist: Ernestine Grindal

Today the summer has come at my window with its signs and murmurs...
Now it is time to sit quiet face to face with Thee,
and to sing dedication of life
in this silent and overflowing leisure.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hearty thanksgiving for cats!

Only today did I find out about St. Gertrude of Nivelles and her existence gladdens my heart.

You can read about her here.

Here is a prayer I found that I wish all would pray with sincerity:
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put to death.

We entreat for them all your mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them
we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.
Amen. May it be so.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The Little Prince encourages his rose

Dear Readers,

Forgive me for my lack a posting the past few days. I have been grieving the loss of my Diocesan position and experiencing the pain of rejection that has gone with it.

I have been encouraged by these words of St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb thee.
Let nothing afright thee.
All things pass.
God never changes.
And also the following by Jack Kerouac!

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
May they be an encouragement to each of you as well!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A current challenge I'm facing

Dear Readers,

Here's an email I sent out to a number of friends and family members last Friday:

Dear friends and loved ones,

This morning I received a certified letter from the bishop of Oklahoma informing me that, for financial reasons, my position with the diocese is being eliminated and that my employment will be discontinued effective December 31, 2009.

I had already begun the process of petitioning for early retirement and was hoping to qualify for medical retirement. That effort now seems to have been preempted unless there is some legal loophole I don't know about.

I'm confident that I can raise enough money to live on through my work at the Center (St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation here in Tulsa). My big concern, of course, is health care coverage. The law gives me 18 months of extended group coverage if I pay what it costs my previous employer. As of today that cost is $611 a month. After that I am essentially uninsurable privately because of my medical history. I will need to come up with some plan to provide medical coverage for myself until I'm eligible for Medicare when I'm 65. (I turn 60 next month, by the way.)

Well, that's the news, folks! Do keep me in your thoughts and prayers and if anybody has any ideas regarding my predicament, I'll be glad to hear them!

Every blessing to you all,

Of course, there's more to this story. The "official" reason the Diocese is giving has to do with budgetary concerns. However the reality is that the new bishop has disliked me from the get go -- for reasons that continue to escape me. It's all very sad.

I will probably say more about this later. For now, this will have to do.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One day nearer

"Road with Cypress and Star"
Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Here's something for those times when the journey seems particularly difficult:


Did you choose the journey, friend?
No, nor I;
But to make it cheerfully,
Let us try.
When the day is dark, I pray,
Sing a song to cheer the way,
For tomorrow we will be
One day nearer to the sea.

Did you choose the journey, friend?
No, nor I;
But we know the end will come
By and by.
All today we bear the load
Up the weary winding road,
But tomorrow we may be
At the Inn in company.

~Ruth Sterry

Please notice that the word "Inn" is capitalized. That's really all I want to say right now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Something about betrayal

Artist: Hugo Simberg

This really speaks to me today. I'll have to talk about why some other time:

The Church, rightly conceived, is the whole covenant people called to serve in the world. The clergy are also part of the laity, and their true function is to help equip the laity to be the Servant People. If they turn aside to rule and to secure their own status, they have betrayed the calling of the special ministry.

-- Franklin H. Littell

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Something about sharing

St. Francis giving his mantle to a poor man
Artist: Giotto

So sad that we seem to have lost this:

The early Christians did not share their resources out of obligation, guilt or in obedience to a new rule called “equality.” They shared their goods out of a tremendous experience of joy and spontaneous offering. They had experienced the Holy Spirit in their midst, and their response was to share everything they had….

-- Jim Wallis

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prayer of utter delight in the Eucharist

Somehow, this prayer never came to my attention before today. I love its exuberance, its joy. I'm especially captivated by the words "torrent of pleasure":

Grant that my soul may hunger after you, the Bread of Angels, the Refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial Bread, who has all sweetness, and every pleasurable delight. You, whom the Angels desire to look into, may my heart ever hunger after and feed upon; and may my soul be filled with your sweetness. May I ever thirst for you, the Fountain of life, the Fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the Fountain of eternal light, the Torrent of pleasure, the Richness of the House of God. Let me ever compass you, seek you, stretch towards you, arrive at you, meditate upon you, speak of you, and do all things to the praise and glory of your holy Name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with readiness and affection, with perseverence even unto the end. And always be my hope and my whole confidence; my riches, my delight, my pleasure, and my joy; my rest and tranquility; my peace; my sweetness; my food and refreshment; my refuge and my help; my wisdom, my portion, my possession, and my treasure; in whom my mind and heart may firmly and unchangeably be fixed and rooted, henceforth and forevermore. Amen.

-- St Bonaventure

Monday, June 8, 2009

What does it mean to pray in Christ's name?

Ancient cross close to Crazywell Pool on southern Dartmoor (England)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, I really want to shout this from the housetops:

Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that "praying in the name of Christ" means simply the addition of the words "through Jesus Christ our Lord" at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions.

-- Charles Gore

The fundamentalists who, on public occasions when the setting is clearly interfaith, make a fuss about tacking those words on have truly missed the point.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity Sunday

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

-- from St. Patrick's Breastplate

Here's a lovely Trinitarian thought:

I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.

-- Henry David Thoreau

Now I want to tell you about an amazing website I found by accident while looking for an image appropriate for the day. It's called The Book of Threes and it explores how "three-ness" shows up in all sorts of ways -- in history, philosophy, mythology, art, humor, sports, and much more!

Go over there and have fun in honor of the day!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A whole new way of looking

An illustration to Milton's “Paradise Regained”

Jim Marion’s suggestion is that the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns the world into a different place.

-- Cynthia Bourgeault, from The Wisdom Jesus

Friday, June 5, 2009

The importance of the inner life

Artist: Piero di Cosimo

I've come across this a number of times and have always loved it:

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

-- Diane Ackerman

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Beautiful things

I'm delighted to have found the following proverb. It is really utterly lovely:

The most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us.

-- Indian proverb

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grace and receptivity

Artist: Francisco de Zurbarán

Sadly, many of us think of grace primarily as a doctrine rather than a spiritual practice. This is largely due to theological controversies during the 16th Century that continue to speak to our divisions in the Church today.

But I want to share with you something from the website Spirituality and Practice about grace:

Grace is a gift of God. Because it comes to us at God's initiative, there are some things we can't do about grace. We can't earn it. We can't control it. We don't have to deserve it.

If grace is out of your hands, so to speak, how do you engage in the spiritual practice of grace? Accept that you are accepted. Practice receiving. Receive objects, love, help. Notice when presents and presence come to you without your effort.
We're talking about both receptivity and humility here. Something very difficult for many westerners - especially Americans.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Something about gratefulness

Here is another wonderful excerpt from the works of Brother David Steindl-Rast:

Day and night gifts keep pelting down on us. If we were aware of this, gratefulness would overwhelm us. But we go through life in a daze. A power failure makes us aware of what a gift electricity is; a sprained ankle lets us appreciate walking as a gift, a sleepless night, sleep. How much we are missing in life by noticing gifts only when we are suddenly deprived of them! But this can be changed. We need some methodical exercise in gratefulness. Years ago, I devised a method for myself which has proved quite helpful. Every night I note in a pocket calendar one thing for which I have never before been consciously thankful. Do you think it is difficult to find a new reason for gratitude each day? Not just one, but three and four and five pop into my mind, some evenings. It is hard to imagine how long I would have to live to exhaust the supply.
It's true. Try it. Really. And I really love this sentence: "How much we are missing in life by noticing gifts only when we are suddenly deprived of them!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Interior prayer

Artist: Theodore Robinson

You know, I would think the following would be rather obvious but, sadly, many church people don't see it this way:

Without meditative and contemplative prayer the sacramental life can become shallow and formal and can lack interior depth. It is essential that the liturgical movement with its great emphasis upon the corporate action of the faithful in worship be accompanied by no less emphasis upon interior prayer.

-- Michael Ramsey

By the way, Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury during my formative years and I admired him very much and was greatly influenced by him.