Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seeking the face of God

Artist: Viktor Vasnetsov

My favorite psalm is Psalm 27 which, as it happens, is appointed for today's Eucharistic celebration. I had the following verse printed on the invitations to my Solemn Profession back in 1994:
One thing have I asked of the LORD;
one thing I seek; *
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days
of my life;
Here are two other verses that I particularly cherish:

You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face." *
Your face, LORD, will I seek.
What if I had not believed
that I should see the goodness of the LORD *
in the land of the living!
The Rev. Dr. Agnes Norfleet considers this to be a "psalm of thin places" You can read her reflection about that right here.

Reciting Psalm 27 in church this morning brought me once more to an experience of great thanksgiving for the grace of my vocation. Deo gratias!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mother of a thousand blessings

Artist: Marianne Stokes

I love the way John Chrysostom uses one metaphor after another here. It's as if he's struggling for a way to articulate the loveliness and wonder of prayer and nothing will quite do and so he tries again and again:

Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings.

- Saint John Chrysostom

The word, "Chrysostom", by the way, means "golden-mouthed". You can see why he was called that!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two on forgiveness

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean.

Forgiveness means that you do not hold others responsible for your experiences.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When tears come...

Artist: Rembrandt Peale

Lent is meant to be a time of reflection, of self-examination, of spiritual housecleaning. Sometimes that process enables us to see things that trigger considerable grief. Here's something to remember:

When tears come, I breathe deeply and rest. I know I am swimming in a hallowed stream where many have gone before. I am not alone, crazy, or having a nervous breakdown . . . My heart is at work. My soul is awake.

Mary Margaret Funk in Thoughts Matter

Monday, February 22, 2010

Valuing the ordinary

Artist: Heinrich Uhl

It saddens me when I hear people de-value small things, ordinary things. I so agree with the following:

We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. All it may take to restore someone's trust in life may be returning a lost earring or a dropped glove.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Try sitting with the feeling..."

Artist: James Carroll Beckwith

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. My own take on the custom of Lenten disciplines is that we are thereby invited into a greater mindfulness. I was interested to learn that Barbara Brown Taylor seems to think so too:

That hollowness we sometimes feel is not a sign of something gone wrong. It is the holy of holies inside of us, the uncluttered throne room of the Lord our God. Nothing on earth can fill it, but that does not stop us from trying. Whenever we start feeling too empty inside, we stick our pacifiers into our mouths and suck for all we are worth. They do not nourish us, but at least they plug the hole.

To enter the wilderness is to leave them behind, and nothing is too small to give up. Even a chocolate bar will do. For 40 days, simply pay attention to how often your mind travels in that direction. Ask yourself why it happens when it happens. What is going on when you start craving a Mars bar? Are you hungry? Well, what is wrong with being hungry? Are you lonely? What is so bad about being alone? Try sitting with the feeling instead of fixing it and see what you find out.
See what you find out. What a radical thought. Find out more about yourself, how your mind works, how your impulses get triggered, instead of just putting gratification first.

The above is from a Christian Century article that you can find right here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The soul's home

Artist: Rembrandt
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

-- T.S. Eliot (from Ash Wednesday)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday

I hope you all have had a wonderful day and have enjoyed your pancakes or King cake this evening! May each of us greet the morning with sober joy as we begin our Lenten observance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

To lay down one's life

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

I got the following quotation from an email sent out by Sojourners today. It's about less drama but more real sacrifice in the truest sense of that word:

When we think about laying down a life for another we usually think in terms of a singular event. But it is possible for us to lay down our lives over the course of a lifetime, minute by minute and day by day. And it is the work of the Spirit to empower us as we seek to lose ourselves in acts of lovingkindness and sacrificial living.

- Elaine Puckett

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In honor of Saint Valentine

Love sought is good, but giv'n unsought is better.

- William Shakespeare

Friday, February 12, 2010

Trailing clouds of glory

"Saint Panteleimon the Healer"

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

-- William Wordsworth

Don't these words, "trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home", touch you in a very deep place? The image is sublime and fortunately, humanity was given Wordsworth who was able to verbalize it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Artist: Gustave Courbet

I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of the year to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, if we would only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick over again today, and adding tomorrow's burden to our load, before we are required to bear it.

-- John Newton

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A very timely prayer

Artist: Alfred Sisley

This was sent out in an email today by the folks at Sojourners:
God, we remember all those who have been adversely affected by inclement weather, including heavy rain in California, and heavy snow in the D.C. area in particular. We pray for all those who have lost electricity and whose homes have been damaged. But we pray especially for those who have no homes and no shelters in times such as these. We ask that your hand would protect them and keep them safe. May our paths cross with theirs so that we might have an opportunity to love and serve them. Amen.
Yes, may it be so.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reinhold Niebuhr's influence on the president

Whatever your political persuasion may happen to be, I'm sure you'll agree that knowing about a strong theological influence on the president of the United States is a valuable thing. I want to call your attention to a CNN article entitled "How Obama's favorite theologian shaped his first year in office". Here's part of what it says:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

It is now known as the Serenity Prayer. It's been adopted by 12-step recovery programs and cited in numerous self-help books. Yet few people know who wrote it. His name is Reinhold Niebuhr, and he was a Protestant pastor in the mid-20th century whose words tended to unsettle people, not offer comfort.

Niebuhr is getting attention again because he has a fan in the Oval Office.
Niebuhr was a blunt critic of morally complacent Christians. He thought the church was full of idealists who believed that progress was inevitable and that love alone would ultimately conquer injustice, some Niebuhr scholars say.

"He said there was a difference between being a 'fool for Christ' and a plain damn fool," says Richard Crouter, author of the upcoming book Reinhold Niebuhr: On Politics, Religion and Christian Faith.
Niebuhr distilled his view of human nature in his monumental book, Moral Man and Immoral Society. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cited the book in his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail." Former President Carter is also an admirer of Niebuhr's.

People are capable of doing good, but groups are driven by "predatory self-interest," Niebuhr wrote.

"As individuals, men believe that they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other," Niebuhr wrote. "As racial, economic and national groups, they take for themselves, whatever their power can command."
I do recommend that you click through and read the article. To my mind, it explains a lot.

As an aside, I studied Reinhold Niebuhr when I was in graduate school but I was more influenced by his brother, H. Richard Niebuhr - also a theologian - who wrote the groundbreaking Christ and Culture.

Friday, February 5, 2010

About devoting time and intention to prayer

Artist: Sergei Vinogradov
Image from Wikimedia Commons

This actually makes so much sense:

If we are willing to spend hours on end to learn to play the piano, operate a computer, or fly an airplane, it is sheer nonsense for us to imagine that we can learn the high art of getting guidance through communion with the Lord without being willing to set aside time for it.

-- Paul Rees

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Comic relief!

I don't usually offer comic relief posts on this blog but the following photo is just too good to pass up!

Shamelessly nicked from our good friend, the Mad Priest and he got it from Paul A.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Artist: Fra Angelico

Today's feast is also known as "The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple".

Here's a little tidbit about it:
Candlemas primarily focuses on Jesus’ early life. Many Christians believe that Jesus’ mother Mary presented him to God at the Temple in Jerusalem after observing the traditional 40-day period of purification (of mothers) following his birth. According to a New Testament gospel, a Jewish man named Simeon held the baby in his arms and said that he would be a light for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). It is for this reason that this event is called Candlemas.
It's from a little article about today's date found right here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Something about evil

Statue of Pascal
Personally, I think we need to remind ourselves of the following on a fairly regular basis:

People never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.

- Blaise Pascal