Friday, November 30, 2007

or personally explored for the first time

ALTERNATIVES TO CYNICISM. A past that poisons the present. An ominous sense of the future. Life lived in despair of any significant purpose. Get what you can while you can. Exude cynicism. So the philosophies and spirit of our times would lead us to believe and behave. Is there a legitimate alternative to these ways that dominate American culture, drive consumerism, and determine personal & social behavior? Is there another way?

FUTURE FAITH. Reflecting the perspective of George Herbert Mead and hope as it is portrayed in the Bible, Sociologist Tony Campolo writes: “What we are is significantly determined by the future… What we envision and hope for impinges on what we are in the present… What God promises for the future is a powerful influence in our lives… What is not yet is more important than what is… Christians do not concern themselves so much with where a person is coming from as where he or she is going.” (from A Reasonable Faith).

MORE THAN A STAINED-GLASS WORD? Do I grasp this as the impact of Biblical hope in my life? Not very well. I'm not sure I've really given hope much thought. Certainly, I have not studied or developed it as a significant aspect of faith and life. Hope hasn't been much more than a stained-glass word that merely points to or complements other Christian graces. That's about to change.

A MONTH OF HOPE. Throughout December, I'm exploring hope afresh. I know I'm supposed to spend one week on hope and then move on with the Lectionary-led progression in Advent. But if what Campolo suggests is true, Christians have been grossly underplaying this grace. We’ve never thought about the future like this. So, I’ve committed myself to stay with hope for the month to explore and share how hope changes our past, shapes our future and gives purpose to our present challenges.

DAILY DOSES OF HOPE. I’ve decided to prepare Daily Doses of Hope and post them here and on our congregation’s website ( I intend these to be Word-centering Scriptures, reflections and exercises that build this grace into daily living. I'm not sure where all this will go, where it will take us, where we end. But the journey's on. Hope you'll join in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


KULTURE KRISMAS IS UPON US. The Christian season of Advent follows hard on the heels of our American Thanksgiving Day. But even before Advent is the onset of "kulture krismas." Thanksgiving Day ushers it in. Macy's parade is the processional. Black Friday lures the faithful expectantly into the holiday marketplace. And we're off!

SPIRITUAL QUANDARY. In this juxtaposition of seasons and spiritual realities, I feel the quandary of being both a Christian minister and an American consumer. As a pastor, I already felt outdone by the big-box stores, which jumped to Christmas sales and songs right after Halloween. Economists will consider it a good Christmas if we will all just spend enough...and a little bit more. And we're not yet to the first Sunday of Advent!

PURPOSE AND PIZZAZZ. I guess I'm a bit jealous and resentful at the same time about this annual scenario. There's no way a local congregation can match the marketplace's glitter in this season. They pitch the purpose but pour on the the pizzazz. I realized this as I reviewed the Advent and Christmas decorations in our church storage room earlier today in anticipation of our "Hanging the Christmas Greens" service tomorrow night. We've got some props and we'll make the place charming, but we can't compete with the mall or Monument Circle downtown. Ours is, for now, the lesser light.

YOU CAN'T BUY MEANING. But Christian faith isn't in competition with the marketplace. The church isn't even in the same league. Theirs is borrowed glory. They'll turn heads and empty wallets and do whatever they do. But when it's all said and done, they'll be looking over the shoulder of the church once again. You can't muster up or bluster up Christmas. You can't buy meaning. You can't market your way into salvation or peace on earth, goodwill toward all.

LIGHTS OUT, LIGHT SHINES. Come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, all will yield. All will fall silent. It will either be not all it was cracked up to be, or something none of the brightest displays and most expensive gifts can touch. When the stores close their doors and turn off their lights on Christmas Eve, we'll be opening ours and letting the Light shine. Some folks will have the wits to bow, worship and adore the Christ in the manger. On that night, let all the church sing! O, let us shout! From that moment, let our sorted sound eclipse all others. And let us welcome, as well, all those who mistakenly thought it could be bought. For the likes of them and us, God in Christ has come!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thank you, Lord,
for those who attempt beauty
rather than curse ugliness,
for those who take stands
rather than take polls,
for those who risk being right
rather than pandering to be liked,
for those who do something
rather than talking about everything.

-- Ted Loder in Guerillas of Grace

Friday, November 23, 2007


Dist: 34.4 mi. Avg spd: 15.4. Cad: 85. Conditions: 30 degrees F, partly cloudy, breezy. Route: E on 56th St, S on Guion Rd, S on Lafayette Rd, E on 16th to Methodist Hospital; S on Capitol Ave, E on Market to Monument Circle, W on Washington St, N on Bridgeport Rd to Chapel Glen; N on Country Club Rd/Dandy Trail. iPod listening: The Eagles, Crash Test Dummies.

Notes: It was the coldest ride of the year--so far. I dressed warmly and it was a relatively pleasant ride. I rode to Methodist Hospital in Downtown Indy to visit a parishioner in critical care. I made a few circuits around Monument Circle, where the holiday lights will be switched on tonight. I rode west to the suburban neighborhood of Chapel Glen to visit another parishoner going through chemotherapy. Then I rode home. A good holiday afternoon ride. My old black touring Cannondale (which I rode 2000 miles through India) is great for such rides.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


A prayer of Ted Loder in his incredible collection of poems titled Guerrillas of Grace:

Praise be to you, O Lord, for life
and for my intense desire to live;
praise be to you for the mystery of love
and for my intense desire to be a lover;
praise be to you for this day
and another chance to live and love.

Thank you, Lord
for friends who stake their claim in my heart,
for enemies who disturb my soul and bump my ego,
for tuba players,
and story tellers,
and trapeze troupes.

Thank you, Lord,
for singers of songs,
for teachers of songs,
who help me sing along the way,
and for listeners.

Thank you, Lord,
for those who attempt beauty
rather than curse ugliness,
for those who take stands
rather than take polls,
for those who risk being right
rather than pandering to be liked,
for those who do something
rather than talking about everything.

Lord, grant me grace, then,
and a portion of your Spirit
that I may so live
as to give others cause
to be thankful for me,
thankful because I have not forgotten
how to hope,
how to laugh,
how to say "I am sorry,"
how to forgive,
how to bind up wounds,
how to dream,
how to cry,
how to pray,
how to love when it is hard,
and how to dare when it is dangerous.

Undamn me, Lord,
that praise may flow more easily from me
than wants,
thanks more readily
than complaints.

Praise be to you, Lord, for life;
praise be to you for another chance to live.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


WHY I QUOTE OTHERS. I’m always quoting others. Sometimes I do so because I want to pass on a real gem of wisdom or “keeper” insight that I happen on to serendipitously. Sometimes I do so out of sheer appreciation for the way a writer articulates a truth or principle or experience. Sometimes I do so because some writing or unconventional perspective has so pushed me beyond my own comfort zone, that it just seems fitting to spread disturbing grace around a bit more. “Disturbing grace.” That’s what the Holy Spirit as “Agitator” (so called by William Stringfellow) offers us from time to time. Sometimes comfort. Sometimes disturbance. The banner for the Daily Oklahoman newspaper states: “To comfort the afflicted; to afflict the comfortable.” Lord knows we need both, in turn, throughout our lives.

PRIMING THE PUMP. Sometimes I quote others, however, because it’s easier than plumbing my own stirrings. Or because my own stirrings aren’t always very “presentable” or ready. Like half-baked cookies or pizza—give them some more heat and time. Sometimes I quote others because my reservoir seems shallow, stale, or empty. In such times, the stirrings, wisdom, poetry and insights of others refresh my mind, replenish my soul, jolt my senses from dullness, or season or redirect my own understanding of daily life. Usually, it doesn’t take much for reading or experiences to percolate a brew of grace. I try to keep from contriving; I’d rather write from what flows, like a gift. Reading and contemplation is like priming the pump of a deep well: the effort yields refreshment that quenches the soul’s thirst.

DISCIPLINE AND GRACE. There is a discipline to journaling as I have engaged in it over many years now. No doubt, I occasionally think about what I might share in “Grace Between the Lines” with friends each week. I bring myself to the laptop most Mondays without much notion as to what the week’s edition will contain. I just go over what I’ve read, recall what I’ve heard, consider current events, connect to a writer, etc. It’s a rather random but invigorating process. I’ve been challenged by a few friends to be more “thematic” in these publications. I suppose I could do that, but it would seem to me less creative and serendipitous if I did. Maybe someday there’ll be time to organize this stuff. For now, I prefer to pull these things from the margins of weekly living.

FROM THE HEART. I can’t explain my process other than writing by heart. It’s what hits me, moves me, connects with me that I try to quote. It’s what is stirring within me that I try to put into words. I find that when someone has shared that way in their writing, it sparks me. It inspires me to write from my heart and my experience—rather than from my head, from my limited authority or knowledge. I think I write from the heart only occasionally. I think others write from the heart only occasionally. There’s an endless sea of pages of heady hyperbole out there. Every now and then, though, you happen onto something heartfelt and genuine and your compass is reset, your mission is clarified, and the journey is reengaged. I pray for such findings, such soundings. When I am graced to find them, I’ll share them.

Thanksgiving doesn’t live in a vacuum;
We do not pluck it from thin air.
We cannot be grateful on command,
Genuflecting at the drop of hat.

Talk is cheap when it comes to thanking,
Yet beyond courteous etiquette
Lies a deeper reality that beckons,
Inviting us to reckon with grace.

Native American graciousness
And Pilgrim hospitality,
Turkey and all the trimmings point
Beyond finely folded, praying hands.

Through and beyond these images
We glimpse a sacred connection,
As generations across time
Hail some gracious provision.

It’s not so much a debt we owe
Or tribute for posterity
As it is a virtue we receive
And reflect into eternity.

We deep-down know we are held
By sustaining, life-giving hands.
Not our own or on our own,
We belong and are lovingly known.

We cannot utter such mystery
Tradition and rite fall short
But these, and we, can point and say
“Thanks” for life and grace today.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Elizabeth O'Connor's books aren't readily available on bookstore shelves these days. Too bad, because her perspective and expression of Christian witness in urban America are incredibly relevant. Call to Commitment and Journey Inward, Journey Outward (1968, Harper & Row) are among the books I frequently recommend. Learn more about Elizabeth O'Connor, her work with the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C., and access her books. The following excerpt comes from Journey Inward, Journey Outward:

PRIMARY TASK. “The primary task and mission of the Christian is to call forth the gifts of others. The reason people have resisted the Gospel is that we have gone out to make people good, to help them do their duty, to impose new burdens on them, rather than calling forth the gift which is the essence of the person himself.”

TO BE AND DO. “We are to let others know that God is for them and that they can ‘be.’ They can be what in their deepest hearts they know that they were intended to be, they can do what they were meant to do. As Christians we are heralds of these good things.”

OUR OWN GIFTS. “We begin by exercising our own gifts. The person who is having the time of his life doing what he is doing has a way of calling forth the deeps of another. Such a person is Good News. He is not saying the good news. He IS the Good News. He is the embodiment of the freedom of the new humanity. The person who exercises his own gift in freedom can allow the Holy Spirit to do in others what He wants to do."

PROPHETIC WORD. “The discovery of the real self is the way to the treasure hidden in a field. The gift a person brings to another is the gift of himself. Talents are the expression of this self. It is the way the self is sent into the world to use the materials of the world, and to be the bearer of the spirit of God, and -- paradoxically -- it is the way the self not only remains behind, but is catapulted into the future, for in the creative act the new breaks forth, and the prophetic word is heard.”

Sunday, November 18, 2007


By Angela Morgan

Thank Thee, O Giver of Life, O God!
For the force that flames in the winter sod;
For the breath of my nostrils, fiercely good,
The sweet of water, the taste of food,
The sun that silvers the pantry floor,
The step of a neighbor at my door;
For dusk that fondles the window pane,
For the beautiful sound of falling rain.

Thank Thee for love and light and air,
For children’s faces, keenly fair,
For the wonderful joy of perfect rest
When the sun’s wick lowers within the West;
For huddling hills in gowns of snow
Warming themselves in the afterglow;
For Thy mighty wings that are never furled,
Bearing onward the rushing world.

Thank Thee, O Giver of Life, O God!
For Thy glory leaping the lightning rod;
For Thy terrible spaces of love and fire
Where sparks from the forge of Thy desire
Storm through the void in floods of suns,
Far as the heat of Thy Presence runs
And where hurricanes of chanting spheres
Swing to the pulse of the flying years.

Thank Thee for human toil that thrills
With the plan of Thine which man fulfills;
For bridges and tunnels, for ships that soar,
For iron and steel and the furnace roar;
For this anguished vortex of blood and pain
Where sweat and struggle are never vain;
For progress, pushing the teeming earth
On and up to a higher birth.
Thank Thee for life, for life, for life,
O Giver of Life, O God!

“Thanksgiving” was found in “The Treasury of Religious Verse” compiled by Donald T. Kauffman, 1970

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Becky turned fortysomething today. Our birthday celebration was to be a family dinner out at one of the finer restaurants at Circle Centre Mall followed by the symphony on complimentary tickets. So, our family was dressed for the occasion and we arrived early to allow time for reasonable waiting (our favorite eatery doesn't take weekend reservations). We didn't realize the national high scchool band competition was in fully swing at the RCA Dome, with thousands band members and enough band parents to pack out the mall. Restaurants were overbooked and the waits were measured in hours, not minutes. We ended up with Plan B...or Plan D: celebrating a birthday at the Circle Centre Mall food court! Hey, at least we had to time to stroll the mall and downtown before the symphony.

Friday, November 16, 2007


MOVING PERFORMANCE. Last evening, Becky, Molly and I attended the Pike High School production of the musical "Aida." One of our neighbor's sons had the leading male role. We didn't know Nate could sing and act. We just thought all he cared about was riding his skateboard. Nate and the entire cast put a lot into their effort. At moments, the performance was quite moving. I like the Aida story and the music by Elton John is very nice.

TOWARD A CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH? This evening, Pike High School is on a different stage. The Red Devils will be playing for a chance to get to the Indiana state high school football championship game. The team has gone undefeated for the first time in school history. With a first-year coach, it's a rather remarkable story. Pike is known for being a basketball powerhouse, not a football heavyweight. The team takes the semi-state stage against perennial conference rival Columbus North tonight up on Zionsville Road. In September, Pike handed C N its only defeat of the season. We'll see if they can do it again. If Pike wins, they would square off with either Carmel or Merrillville in the championship game at the RCA Dome next Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


WITHERSPOON SOCIETY INSIGHTS. I’ve found considerable insight and down-home wisdom in the writings and reflections of Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry over the past ten years, more so in the past four. Berry spoke to the Witherspoon Society in March 2003. The following pithy snippets from his talk were posted on their website (

ON SHOPPING AT SUPERMARKET CHAINS: "We live in an age of divorce, and not just of husbands and wives. We're divorced from our groceries. If you buy your food from Kroger, you don't know where it came from and at what human cost. We're willing to go into this intimate situation in which we eat creatures we don't know."

ON DEVELOPING LOCAL FOOD SUPPLY SYSTEMS: "We've got to reassume economic responsibility. Quit living by proxy. Ask a neighbor, 'What can I do for you?' Ask a farmer, 'Can I get food from you?' Begin to replace abstract services with actual people. Replace unknown substances that we eat with known substances."

ON THE DIVORCE OF UTILITY AND BEAUTY: "We are a society that thinks if a thing is useful, it has a right to be ugly. In this hotel we have picture windows so we can look out on a scene of rather startling ugliness."

ON TECHNOLOGY THAT DOMINATES CONTEMPORARY LIFE: "It's inescapable. It's like original sin; we're in it. The best we can do is hope for grace and forgiveness." Berry, who lives on a farm in eastern Kentucky, admitted that he and his wife each have a vehicle, "because everything we want is far away. We have to drive 20 to 30 miles to get a haircut. ... You're always going to be involved in compromises."

ON TELEVISION: "If you would welcome a seducer, a known swindler, a liar, and a person convicted of violent crimes into your living room, then you'll be completely comfortable having a television" (Berry doesn't).

ON THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS: "I'm a man who enjoys animosity. I like the high you get from feeling wronged and above somebody else. But it's a hole you get into and when you get to the bottom, there's nobody there."

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY: "You can't have community among people who don't need each other for anything. If you believe it's better not to be known, for people not to know your business, you will suffer the consequences. Nobody will know if you're sick or hungry."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This is from Wendell Berry's "Sabbaths" series of poems in his colllection Given (2004, Shoemaker & Hoard)

Teach me work that honors Thy work,
the true economies of goods and words,
to make my arts compatible
with the songs of the local birds.

Teach me patience beyond work
and, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of Thy unresting love
which lights all things and gives rest.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I wrote this poem four years ago. On it goes...

We are told
Coyly cajoled
To anticipate victory

Flags wave
We behave
As if it was meant to be

With every death
Gasping breath
Resolve is supposed to deepen

Till debt is paid
For every grave
We are chided not to weaken

It seems inane
Surely insane
To follow this logic through

We buy the lie
Exchange right
For a tough man’s stunted view

On battlefields
Clarity yields
To prior and distant choices

Ignoring wiser voices

Quagmire ensues
Still we choose
To pursue paths of violence

On it goes
Till who knows
So long as most keep silence

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Veterans Day tribute and a call for discernment regarding war

ARMISTICE DAY - 89 YEARS LATER. Today is the 89th anniversary of Armistice Day, the day Germany surrendered, ending "The Great War." We now observe November 11 as Veterans Day. At least 8,538,315 soldiers died in World War I; there were 37,508,686 total casualties, or 57.6% of all troops deployed by allied and axis forces.

FOR REMEMBRANCE. I've found numerous poems in tribute to those fallen in World War I, but chose the following, called "For Remembrance" by Basil Ebers, to post:

What is it, O dear Country of our pride,
We pledge anew that we will not forget?
To keep on Freedom's altar burning yet
The fires for which a myriad heroes died
Known and unknown, beyond the far sea's tide
That their great gift be no futility.

Faith with the Dead kept through our living faith;
In this alone the true remembrance lies,
The unfading garland for the sacrifice,
To prove their dream of Brotherhood no wraith,
No moment's hope--its birth-pang one with death--
but the fixed goal of our humanity.

HONOR THE WAR DEAD, NOT WAR. A fine line it is, but oh so critical that it be observed and guarded. The line--almost imperceptible when inflamed with hatred toward enemies or drunk with hard-fought victory--will glorify or condemn us. It is the line between honoring the war dead and war itself.

NEVER DREAM OF ITS VIOLENCE. Honor with reverence those men and women who died in battle. Weep and mourn for civilians cruelly caught in the strife. Give due respect for lives laid down in the name of freedom. But never glory in war. Never embrace its horrors. Never savor its torments. Never dream of its violence. Never drink to its return. Never gaze upon its power, lest its illusion seduce you. Lest war lust obsess you. Lest its siren sound lure you into its labyrinthine bowels and you swear allegiance to it, live for it, and your soul die even as you breathe.

NOT ALL WARS ARE EQUAL. Not all wars are equal. A vast majority are not really necessary. This is not so much a reflection on the troops who fought them as it is on those who chose and directed them. The current war in Iraq is an example of an unnecessary war.

VETERAN DREAMS. I know some Veterans and they are men of integrity. Some fought in World War II, some in Korea and some served during the Vietnam conflict. They tell different stories. All are glad to be alive, grieve their lost comrades, and relieved that their service is ended. None I know wish for their sons or daughters the opportunity to fight another war.

A NEW CROP OF HOMELESS VETERANS. I've worked with homeless vets for years. Just when we were getting most of the Vietnam-era Vets connected with counseling, housing, and the costly, life-long resources that are necessary for ones whose minds, emotions, bodies, and souls have been ravaged by war, America starts breeding a new crop soon-to-be homeless Vets. It doesn't take years for Vets returning from doing our government's dirty work to show up in soup lines and missions; think in terms of months. It takes many years, however, to overcome what a few months in front-line action can do.

WAR FINDS A WAY. War always finds some twisted way to justify its own necessity and perpetuation. Once engaged, it plants its gruesome seed then argues for its rebirth in every generation. War is self-perpetuating; few generations can resist it.

ART'S PROMISE AND POWER. Recently, it occurred to me (or at least resurfaced within me) that a way to reveal the hollow way of mammon and violence, and to simultaneously bring light to grace and peace, is through arts and literature. Case in point: the Czech Republic. Political partisanship is getting us nowhere. The evangelical church has lost its witness amid partisanship. But art--the written word, the dramatized situation, the lifted song, and the vision graphically cast--has more power to delegitimate war and cumber, and to bring the possibility of grace into our lives than the currently prevailing methods of choice.

Photo: I snapped this photo during an early-morning visit to the Korean War Memorial

Friday, November 9, 2007


Sam and I cleared leaves in our back and front yard late this afternoon. The trees were aglow as the sinking sun shined through the leaves that remain. I'm sure we still have several weeks of falling leaves and our 18 trees generate plenty of yard work. It felt good, however, to do that work this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Dist: 13.4 mi. Avg spd: 15.3. Cadence: 87. Conditions: 45 degrees, overcast. Route: from Dandy Trail @ 56th Street to WEMO -- W. Morris Street @ Tremont, mostly along Lafayette Road. This is my urban ride-to-work route. It's a pretty busy setting (and I rode it during rush hour) along 56th Street and on Lafayette Road until 30th Street. But there is good shoulder space and it's four or five lanes wide until I turn off onto chock-a-block streets near downtown. iPod listening: Brennan Manning speaking at Seattle Pacific University chapel; SPU's podcasts have some excellent speakers.

Notes: This was my first "ride to work" since my mountain bike accident in June. I want to try to get back in a routine of making the trek twice weekly thru much of the winter. I have most of the gear necessary to keep me safe and warm (or at least not too cold!) for such rides. I might invest in a strong, rechargable NiCad light and new neoprene shoe covers before it gets too dark and cold. I left my bike at the office overnight because of evening activities and hitched a ride back home with my daughter, Molly, after her and Sam's youth group gathering.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


So, after finally running out the last Attorney General who gave the Bush Administration carte blanche to torture "detainees" at will without reference to the Geneva Conventions, Congress is about to approve an appointee who can't for the life of him figure out if waterboarding is torture.

Go figure!

For Judge Michael B. Mukasey's reference: waterboarding is not anything like wakeboarding or snowboarding.

But, Judge Mukasey, you might consider wakeboarding as a preference to waterboarding as a means of interrogation. See, if you introduced "detainees" to wakeboarding or snowboarding, you'd scare the living daylights out of them on their first run and easily get the information you seek. But by the end of the day, they'd be a friend for life: "Dude! When can we do that again?"

Monday, November 5, 2007

Here is one of Robert Frost's most intriguing poems

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Read comment on this poem here.

Instead of offering or receiving more familiar benedictions and blessings, try this Franciscan blessing on for size:

May God bless you with discomfort at
easy answers, half truths, and superficial
relationships, so that you may live deep
within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at
injustice, oppression, and exploitation
of people, so that you may work for justice,
freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to
shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to
comfort them and to turn their
pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough
foolishness to believe that you can
make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim
cannot be done.”

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Dist: 16.2. Avg spd: 18.1. Cadence: 89. Conditions: Late afternoon sun, 55 degrees, breezy. Route: Eagle Creek Park environs. Listening: Colts vs Patriots on WIBC, AM 1070.

Notes: Rode through lots of dry, wafting leaves. These were invigorating circuits on a beautiful Sunday evening. The end of daylight saving time gives a 5:00 pm ride the ambiance of sunset. I suppose I'll have an opportunity to ride at daybreak and late afternoon through fall and winter if I can flex my schedule a bit. I'm enjoying seeing Eagle Creek Park slowly change from green to golden and now dropping leaves and fading to dull brown. I haven't hiked the park's trails lately, but I'll look forward to cross-country skiing them when snow falls in December. For now, I hope to continue to ride through this incredible season.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


“O Holy Spirit of God, so many hurt today. Help me stand with them in their suffering. I do not really know how to do this. My temptation is to offer some quick prayer and send them off rather than endure with them the desolation of suffering. Show me the pathway into their pain. In the name and for the sake of Jesus. Amen.”

FOSTER’S GIFT. This prayer of suffering, offered by Richard J. Foster, is found in his book Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home. A Quaker, Foster first stirred the minds and hearts of many with his book Celebration of Discipline in the late 1970s. It helped steer evangelicalism and the charismatic movement away from shallow emotionalism to respect for--if not celebration of--classic spiritual disciplines that have anchored Christianity from its inception. That life-deepening, arm-linking work now continues through the Renovare initiative.

INWARD, UPWARD, OUTWARD. After years of teaching and touring as a coveted speaker, Foster felt like God was telling him to be quiet for a while. His book, Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home, published by Harper San Francisco in 1992, was the fruit of nearly a year of self-imposed silence. In it, he explores prayer in three movements: inward, upward, and outward. Here are a few excerpts from the chapter titled “The Prayer of Suffering.”

REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING. “In redemptive suffering we stand with people in their sin and in their sorrow. There can be no sterile, arms length purity. Their suffering is messy business, and we must be prepared to step smack into the middle of the mess. We are crucified not just for others, but with others."

ENLARGED HEARTS. “We pray in suffering, and, as we do, we are changed. Our hearts are enlarged to accept all people. The language of they and them is converted into we and us. All the supposed superiority--whether intellectual, cultural, or spiritual--simply melts away. Together we stand under the cross.”

JOY, NOT MISERY. “Joy, not misery, is the compelling energy behind redemptive suffering. It is not that we love pain or are trying to find ways to be martyrs. This is not misery for misery’s sake. It is that God is using us for the greater good of all, which is a rather amazing notion once we stop and think about it. This is why it could be said of Jesus that he "for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). This is why we today can resonate with Peter’s words, "Rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:13).”

Friday, November 2, 2007


GOD AWAITS US IN OUR ACTION. I read from Teilhard de Chardin's Divine Milieu: "The closeness of our union with Him is in fact determined by the exact fulfillment of the least of our tasks... God, in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste about us. Rather, He awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. "

LAY HOLD OF THAT LAST END. Teilhard continues: "There is a sense in which He is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle--of my heart and of my thought. By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end toward which my innermost will tends."

And I prayed:

God, You who are great and beyond my imagination,
Yet so near as to breathe with me,
move in me, work through me,
I acknowledge Your steadfast love for me
in all my doings.

You do not ask me to set aside
my daily struggles for the community
in order to worship You,
to be formed spiritually.
But, lest I lose my bearings, I ask
for eyes and heart to see this daily work
more and more as Your holy activity,
announcing, bit by bit, Your kingdom.

Let my fits of religiosity fall by the way side
if they sidetrack or diminish what is most daily.
Instead, let all formal or focused worship of You
be my expression of thanksgiving and intentionality,
of conscious openness to Word, Sacrament,
and fellowship,
set among days and dailyness of co-laboring
with You in Your vineyard.

Teach me how to live in the world
and to love my life here,
all the while worshipping You alone.

Let me not fear the most tedious and
trivial things of the day as
interferences with Your purposes.
Let me live them as challenges, opportunities,
as means of grace,
for the spiritual formation of my soul
and the movement toward Your fullness,
even for the completion of the world.