Blog posts

PSALMS: Continuing With The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

October 16, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms In our study, we have made a beginning of learning to love the psalms.  We have looked at some of the attractions and difficulties of the Psalter.  We have summarized the great themes, subjects, and emotions of these songs.  We have examined some of the forms and uses of the psalms.  But this book is at best an introduction and invitation to growing in an appreciation of the Psalter.  You need to carry on with what we have started together. One way to continue is through personal reading, reflection, and meditation.  The psalms are invaluable for us as they draw us ever deeper into the character of the Christian life, the movement of the history of the church, and the presence and power of Christ for [...]

EARTH: Following The Good Shepherd by Francine Rivers

October 16, 2018

From: Earth Psalms My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them away from me. (John 10:27-28) In scripture, God often refers to his people as sheep – which made me wonder what attributes I share with the reputedly dumb animal. Sheep are born with the strong instinct to follow other sheep.  Put a bold or curious one out in front and the rest will trail behind.  It’s called “flock mentality.”  All is well as long as the leader isn’t heading for a patch of poisonous weeds or craggy cliffs. Sheep are gregarious.  They stay in a group while grazing and are highly agitated with left alone.  They’re vulnerable too; when on their own, [...]

JESUS CHRIST: A Battle Worth Fighting

October 16, 2018

We can wander into Renaissance Festivals and see people all made up to be people of that time. We can watch the news and see how a group of people have assembled to recreate an historical battle, complete with swords and drums and even working muskets. There was a time when young people liked to dress up as druids and demons just to play a game. And so the list can go on:  People who put themselves into a Sherlock Holmes story; people who dress up as Antony and Cleopatra; even children in a Christmas play, miniature wise men and a pregnant lady. In a way I am one of those people.  Except without a costume. When I am in visions of being back with Jesus, in his time, I am not there physically.  I am not part of the scene. I am just breath [...]

WORDS: Destiny by David Whyte

October 15, 2018

From Consolations Destiny always has a possessor, as in my destiny or your destiny or her destiny, it gives a sense of something we cannot avoid or something waiting for us, it is a word of storybook or mythic dimension.  Destiny is hardly used in everyday conversation; it is a word that invites belief or disbelief: we reject the ordering of events by some fated, unseen force or we agree that there seems to be a greater hand than our own, working at the edges of even the most average life.  But speaking of destiny not only grants us a sense of our own possibilities but gives us an intimation of our flaws, we sense, along with Shakespeare, that what is unresolved or unspoken in human character might overwhelm the better parts of [...]

PRAYER: Petition For The Presence Of The Holy Spirit by Nicholas Ridley

October 15, 2018

Written during his final imprisonment O Heavenly Father, the Father of all wisdom, understanding, and true strength, I beseech thee, for thy only Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s sake, look mercifully upon me, wretched creature, and send thine Holy Spirit into my breast; that not only I may understand according to thy wisdom, how this temptation is to be borne off, and with what answer it is to be beaten back; but also, when I must join to fight in the field for the glory of thy holy name, that then I being strengthened with the defense of thy right hand, may manfully stand in the confession of thy faith, and of thy truth, and may continue in the same unto the end of my life; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ. [...]

POETRY: The Mosquito by Rodney Jones

October 14, 2018

I see the mosquito kneeling on the soft underside of my arm, kneeling Like a fruitpicker, kneeling like an old woman With the proboscis of her prayer buried in the idea of God, And I know we shall not speak with the aliens And that peace will not happen in my life, not unless It is in the burnt oil spreading across the surfaces of ponds, in the dark Egg rafts clotting and the wiggletails expiring like batteries. Bring a little alcohol and a little balm For these poppies planted by the Queen of Neptune. In her photographs she is bearded and spurred, embellished five hundred times, Her modular legs crouching, her insufferable head unlocking To lower the razor-edge of its tubes, and she is there in the afternoon When the wind gives up the [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: One Who Paid Attention—Vincent Donovan by Leighton Ford

October 13, 2018

From The Attentive Life The Masai Chief, the Missionary, and the Lion God Vincent Donovan went as a missionary to the Masai people of East Africa.  He went to teach them the story of God, but instead he found them teaching him. Once he told them how God had led the nomadic Abraham to see that he was the God of all peoples and not just of one tribe.  Could it be, he asked, that they had worshiped this High God without knowing him – the truly unknown God? There was silence.  Then someone asked a question.  “This story of Abraham – does it speak only to the Masai?  Or does it speak also to you?  Has your tribe found the High God?  Have you known him?” Donovan was stumped.  He thought of how in France since the time of Joan of [...]

POETRY: Things To Think by Robert Bly

October 12, 2018

Think in ways you’ve never thought before If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message Larger than anything you’ve ever heard. Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats. Think that someone may bring a bear to your door, Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers A child of your own whom you’ve never seen. When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven. Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s Been decided that if you lie down no one will [...]

THE EARTH: Let Justice Roll On Like A River by Diana Butler Bass

October 12, 2018

From Grounded  In the eighth century BCE, a Jewish farmer named Amos railed against the rich who were manipulating credit to seize land from small landholders.  The woes of Amos’s time were real.  Traditional farms fell into disarray, as the poor were kicked off their native lands.  An extended drought had reduced agricultural production, and people had little water to drink: “One field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered; so two or three towns wandered to one town to drink water,” (4:7-8).  Amos gives voice to those suffering, drawing attention to the link between abundant water, productive fields and vineyards, and economic justice.  He calls for the rich to act on behalf of the poor.  At [...]

A NEW EARTH: The New Earth by John Eldredge

October 11, 2018

From All Things New He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river.  Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free.  All was a-shake and a-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. (Kenneth, Grahame, The Wind in the Willows) I think I remember every tent I ever slept in.  My father owned an old WWII army surplus model; we would take it on fishing trips into the Kern River.  The musty [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: Where, Oh Where, Is My King? by R. Alan Streett

October 11, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth A long series of military rulers, or judges, leads Israel on a roller-coaster ride of moral ups and downs, typified by the words, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes,” (Judges 21:15).  The judges are accountable to God for assuring justice throughout the land, but they mostly fail in this task, leading to chaos.  After being settled in the land for 400 years, the people finally call on the prophet Samuel to anoint a king to rule of them, (1 Samuel 8:5). But instead of choosing a king who meets God’s qualifications, (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), they want one of a different sort.  The leaders explain to Samuel, “We are determined to have a king over us, [...]

BELIEF: Durable Faith by Christian Wiman

October 10, 2018

From My Bright Abyss I am struck by this: “But we can so easily forget what our laughing neighbor / neither confirms nor envies.”  What about these “laughing neighbors”?  Surely we have all had the experience of having an intensely inward perception deflated within us by some non-reaction of the world, by pure indifference.  (Disputatious rage or a kind of clock-minded logic – e.g., the “New Atheists” – is easier to take.  Equally useless in terms of understanding and preserving your experience, but easier to ignore and move away from.)  But the other, the laughing neighbor, this wounds us, and it does so because every genuine impulse of inwardness contains a little propulsion back toward the world and other people.  [...]

POETRY: The Wild Rose by Wendell Berry

October 10, 2018

Sometimes hidden from me in daily custom and in trust, so that I live by you unaware as by the beating of my heart, suddenly you flare in my sight, a wild rose blooming at the edge of thicket, grace and light where yesterday was only shade, and once more I am blessed, choosing again what I chose [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 150 by W. Robert Godfrey

October 9, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms With Psalm 150, we come to the culmination of praise.  Here, we have praise without a shadow or deflection of attention from God.  Thirteen times the call to praise is repeated.  The psalmist is full of joy and delight in the Lord for his great salvation. The fullness of praise in Psalm 150 is a fitting summary of the themes of Book Five of the Psalter, where God’s salvation of Israel is reviewed and the call to praise is often repeated.  At the heart of the first psalm in Book Five, Psalm 107, we read, “Tell of his deeds in songs of joy,” (v. 22b).  At the heart of the first of David’s last eight psalms of the Psalter, we read, “For they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall [...]

EARTH: Something Small In God’s Hands by Francine Rivers

October 9, 2018

From: Earth Psalms “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:31-33) Whenever it rains, earthworms come up out of their burrows and squirm above the ground. Usually, I grimace and toss them back into the garden. Remember the old song, “Worms crawl in, worms crawl out”? Worms used to make me think of death and decay. Not anymore. Much to my [...]

ANIMA CHRISTI: Chapter Eleven (Part One)—In The Hour Of My Death, Call Me And Bid Me Come To You by Marie Paul Curley

October 8, 2018

From Soul of Christ The final petition, which is so rich it will take two chapters to cover, is a prayer for the last moments of our lives.  It reminds us of the eternal purpose for which God created and sustains us. In the hour of my death… Like the Hail Mary, the ending of this prayer focuses on the end of our journey here on Earth, the decisive moments when we are about to enter eternity.  Our faith can be strengthened when we consider the moment of our death, a practice recommended by many saints – from the Fathers of the church up to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  Roman Catholic tradition wisely encourages us to reflect on the “Four Last Things,” which refer to death, judgment, Heaven, and hell. The thought of death reminds [...]

WORDS: Crisis by David Whyte

October 8, 2018

From Consolations Crisis is unavoidable.  Every human life seems to be drawn eventually, as if by some unspoken parallel, some tidal flow or underground magnetic field, toward the raw, dynamic essentials of its existence, as if everything up to that point had been a preparation for a meeting, for a confrontation in an elemental form with our essential flaw, and with what an individual could until then, only receive stepped down, interpreted, or diluted. This experience of absolute contact with an essential hidden dynamic, now understood to be essential to our lives, often ignored but now making itself felt, where the touchable rawness of life becomes part of the fabric of the everyday, and a robust luminous vulnerability, becomes shot [...]

PRAYER: Shine In Our Hearts by Thomas Cranmer

October 8, 2018

O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the sun of the world, evermore arising, and never going down, which by your most welcome appearing and sight, brings forth, preserves, nourishes, and refreshes all things, as well that are in Heaven as also that are on Earth; We beg you mercifully and faithfully to shine in our hearts, so that the night and darkness of sins, and the mist of errors on every side may be driven away; with you brightly shining in our hearts we may all our life go without stumbling or offense, and may decently and seemly walk as in the day time, being pure and clean from the works of darkness, and abounding in all good works which God has prepared us to walk in; you who with the Father and with the Holy Ghost live and reign for ever [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: The Bill

October 7, 2018

This edited reposting was first published on July 10, 2012. For the most part, intuitively, we understand how prayer works.  When I tell you that a prayer must be a telling of a truth, you nod because that makes perfect sense.  When I write that you must be aligned in your prayer, that is, you must want the result of your prayer in your thoughts, in your feelings, and in your actions (after all, praying for a job without going out and actually looking for one proves you to be disinterested, at best), you will respond, “Of course!” The concept of being committed to your prayer, really committed, committed to your knees, is obvious also. But there are aspects of prayer that are not so obvious.  I haven’t written yet on [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (John) by Tom Smail

October 7, 2018

From The Giving Gift Of all the New Testament writings it is in John that the identity and distinctness of Son and Spirit become subjects of conscious interest and reflection.  Where other New Testament approaches major either on the identity of the two or upon their distinctness, John wants to hold both together.  For John the coming of the paraklatos is the going away of Jesus, (16:7) – here he is nearest Luke – but in another sense the coming of the Spirit is the coming again of Jesus, (14:8) – where he gets nearest the Pauline tendency to identify the two.  In the upper room discourses (Chapters 14–17) there is a subtle interplay of the two themes of the identity and distinctness of Son and Spirit in a manner that goes a [...]

NATURE: The Longest Day by Edwin Way Teale

October 6, 2018

From North With the Spring During all the days of our travels – in the Everglades, along the delta marshes, on a barrier island, in the Great Smokies, among the pine barrens and the Lilliput forests of Cape Cod and the green hills of the border – we had wondered vaguely about this final twenty-four hours of spring.  What would the day be like?  Where would we be?  What would we be doing?  In what surroundings, bright or gloomy, would we come to the end of our travels with a season? Now we knew the answers.  This was the final day, the summit of the spring. We awoke before four o’clock.  Already a clear sky was brightening above the birchtops outside our cabin window in Crawford Notch.  By four, robins were singing and the [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Travail Of Christian Ethics As An Unqualified Ethic by Stanley Hauerwas

October 6, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom As we shall see, some Christian ethicists have characteristically claimed universality very similar to that of recent philosophical ethics.  They tend to presume that we have a theological stake in an adequate philosophical defense of an unqualified ethic.  Yet, oddly enough, this assumption makes positive theological convictions ethically secondary.  For if we know what we ought to do on grounds separate from our religious beliefs, then what are we to make morally of those theological convictions?  Usually these ethicists relegate such convictions to a “higher morality” or to the “motivational” aspects of the moral life.  Both alternatives entail a moral psychology which artificially severs agents [...]

POETRY: People Like Us by Robert Bly

October 5, 2018

for James Wright There are more like us. All over the world there are confused people, who can’t remember The name of their dog when they wake up, and people Who love God but can’t remember where He was when they went to sleep. It’s All right. The world cleanses itself this way. A wrong number occurs to you in the middle Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time To save the house. And the second-story man Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives, And he’s lonely, and they talk, and the thief Goes back to college. Even in graduate school, You can wander into the wrong classroom, And hear great poems lovingly spoken By the wrong professor. And you find your soul, And greatness has a defender, and even in death [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Practicing Attentiveness—Sleep by Leighton Ford

October 5, 2018

From The Attentive Life When we are sleep deprived, it is difficult to pay attention: to God, others, and ourselves.  According to the Harvard Health Review, a recent survey found that more Americans are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75 percent of us at least a few nights per week.  And it reported that sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, and the inability to be attentive. Younger ministry leaders often come to Charlotte for a several-day retreat.  When I advise them to take both long walks and lots of naps, they usually look surprised.  But they are almost instantly relieved, because all of them come very tired.  They are so constantly wound up that they become worn down.  When we [...]

THE EARTH: The Threat To Water by Diana Butler Bass

October 5, 2018

From Grounded  In March 2014, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 led to the largest and most expensive multinational sea search in history.  For a month after the plane was lost to radar, investigation experts and sophisticated naval teams from the world’s most developed countries spread out over the Indian Ocean in a desperate search for the airliner.  The media covered it 24/7.  Millions watched, hoping for some sign of the doomed airliner and the lost passengers. At an early stage in the search, an excited news anchor broke into CNN coverage reporting that satellites had picked up a large “debris area” at a distant location in the South Indian Ocean.  For hours, experts speculated about and analyzed this news, [...]

A NEW EARTH: What If? by John Eldredge

October 4, 2018

From All Things New Let me take you back now to the last cup of tea, Luke’s parting, and the ending of our family’s childhood era.  It was the Saturday of his high school graduation.  We had been through two others before and knew the ritual well.  I believe in rituals; they are the last signposts left in a culture of impermanence.  But as we sat in the bleachers, unable to stop the unfolding ceremony, watching Luke slowly approach the stage in cap and gown, I was on the brink of sobbing shamelessly.  How is this not just loss? my heart cried to God.  Tell me – how is everything not just loss?  At that moment everything felt like loss. Jesus replied immediately, Oh, John – nothing is lost. Some of you may have experienced in [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: Settling In The Promised Land by R. Alan Streett

October 4, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth With the death of Moses, the responsibility of leading God’s people into Canaan and establishing Israel as a nation falls to young Joshua.  The task is never an easy one.  Throughout his tenure as leader, Joshua struggles to keep the nation faithful to God.  Despite some good years, Israel is always dangerously close to forsaking its call and becoming like the surrounding nations. In his farewell speech, Joshua exhorts the people to keep the law and warns them not to follow the ways of the heathen nations and not to intermarry with their children, lest they fall into a snare.  If that happens, Joshua says, “The Lord, your God, will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare [...]

BELIEF: Transformation by Christian Wiman

October 3, 2018

From My Bright Abyss Truly being here is glorious. Even you knew it, you girls who seems to be lost, to go under –, in the filthiest streets of the city, festering there, or wide open for garbage. For each of you had an hour, or perhaps not even an hour, a barely measureable time between two moments –, when you were granted a sense of being. Everything. Your veins flowed with being. But we can so easily forget what our laughing neighbor neither confirms nor envies. We want to display it, to make it visible, though even the most visible happiness can’t reveal itself to us until we transform it, within. (Rainer Maria Rilke, The Seventh Duino Elegy) All right: but what does it mean to transform these moments of intense inward [...]

POETRY: The Father by Maura Eichner

October 3, 2018

Luke 15:11-32 Never had the old man made such a journey. His robes enfolded him like driving wind. No one remembered the old man running. Even fire had never moved him. His estates were the light of the town. Yet, there he was, running to a dark figure huddling the road. Love was flood-water carrying him forward. Some tried to dike the water; nothing could hold him. Love loosed a wind of words: “My son is coming home.” Dark grief behind, the father ran, arms open as light. He had to lift the boy before his son’s fire of sorrow burned the father’s sandals. Journey? The old man could remember no other journey but this homecoming: he held his son in the fire of his arms, remembering his birth: water and fire. Servants ran along [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 149 by W. Robert Godfrey

October 2, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The focus in Psalm 149 is on God’s redemptive faithfulness in the covenant of grace.  So Psalm 149 is a “new song,” (v. 1), like the new song of salvation we see in Psalm 98: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!  His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel,” (vv. 1-3a). After the crisis of Book Three, the king and people in Book Four looked for comfort to God’s faithfulness, especially as displayed in creation and in the covenant.  Because Psalm 148 already made [...]