Blog posts

EVANGELISM: Street Walking

January 21, 2018

I was born into an Anglican church. And I do realize that my childhood stamped me in very certain ways. I was also born into a small Maine coastal town. Which accomplished even more of the stamping. A number of times a year the rector (chief priest) sat at our dining room table and chatted.  It was an expected visit.  I won’t say it was exactly an anticipated visit.  But it was a given. The curate (lesser priest) was expected to keep lonely widows and struggling families, the shut-ins and church discontents regular company.  Holy Communion was distributed to those who had not made it to the rail to receive it. I grew up knowing to my bones that church was not just something that happened inside a particular building. All the [...]

POETRY: Third Sunday After Epiphany by John Keble

January 21, 2018

When Jesus heard it he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. (Matthew 8:10) I mark’d a rainbow in the north, What time the wild autumnal sun From his dark veil at noon look’d forth, As glorying in his course half done, Flinging soft radiance far and wide Over the dusky Heaven and bleak hillside. It was a gleam to memory dear, And as I walk and muse apart, When all seems faithless round and drear, I would revive it in my heart, And watch how light can find its way To regions farthest from the fount of day. Light flashes in the gloomiest sky, And Music in the dullest plain, For there the lark is soaring high Over her flat and leafless reign, And chanting in so [...]

THE CHURCH: A Ramble About An Unacceptable Situation by Allen Martin Bair

January 20, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest There is a question that is never far from my mind and usually running in the background somewhere.  How do we fix the Church of Jesus Christ? This assumes that somehow it’s broken, or somehow disordered.  Whether or not you agree with that it is, we can argue rings around each other why it is or isn’t, and get nowhere. But I see symptoms of a much greater problem.  I have previously written about the “judgmentalism” of various professing Christians, when Jesus Christ taught non-judgment.  I have previously written about these lost sheep who have run from the church, and whose faith exists in various states of ruin.  Often, the members of the visible church, because of their hypocrisy, [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit Gives New Life To The Mutual Self-Giving Of Husband And Wife by Raniero Cantalamessa

January 19, 2018

From: Come, Creator Spirit All that we have said about the Holy Spirit as gift takes on a very special importance for those who are married.  Marriage is a state of life that occupies a singularly important place in the great processes of creation, “creatures flowing forth from God,” and then, “creatures returning to God.”  For that reason, the Holy Spirit occupies a very special place in marriage. What makes a marriage a marriage is the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses, the gift of their bodies to each other that, in Biblical language, means the gift of their whole selves.  And so it is that, as analogously in any act of donation, the one who has given is no longer master or owner of what is given.  It is no longer the [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 7 by John Berryman

January 19, 2018

After a Stoic, a Peripatetic, a Pythagorean, Justin Martyr studied the words of the Savior, finding them short, precise, terrible & full of refreshment. I am tickled to learn this. Let one day desolate Sherry, fair, thin, tall, at 29 today her life the Sahara Desert, who never has once enjoyed a significant relation, so find His lightning [...]

SURRENDER: God’s Word Written On The Heart by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

January 18, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” says the Apostle, (Hebrews 13:8).  From the beginning of the world he was, as God, the source of the life of righteous souls.  From the first moment of his incarnation, his humanity shared this prerogative of his divinity.  He is working within us throughout our whole lives.  The time that will elapse till the end of the world is only as a day, and this day abounds with his action.  Jesus Christ lived and lives still.  He began in himself and he continues in his saints a life that will never end. Life of Jesus! including and extending beyond all the ages of time! life working new wonders of grace at every moment!  If no one is capable of [...]

SIMPLICITY: Annie Dillard by Philip Harnden

January 18, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (b. 1945) American writer, poet, and pilgrim. Dillard wrote the second half of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in a second-floor, cinderblock room with a window that overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof and a parking lot.  “Appealing workplaces are to be avoided,” she maintains.  “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” In this writer’s cell she kept her fielder’s mitt (for afternoon softball games), some books, a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, two or three quotes taped on index cards, a dozen different-colored pens, some piles of big index cards, and her messy yellow legal pads.  One day she shut the window blinds and never opened them again. [...]

WRITING: Ransom (Part 2) by Pat Schneider

January 17, 2018

From How The Light Gets In One of the great things about working with memory in writing is the way you get to be in two or more times at once.  The far past, the near past, and the present brush against each other and even overlap.  Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.”  As I wrote, the lines of the old hymn, they sang again in my mind – slow, tender, full of the inflection of Missouri country folk.  I was a child swinging my legs below the edge of the porch in the twilight.  At the same time I was this woman that I am now, looking back at the little girl and growing in understanding of the woman she has become.  That work of going into silent, closed places of memory and writing through it again is [...]

POETRY: Revelation by Christos Victor

January 17, 2018

Father breathes with us; true maiden bears a son census in a tribal village hosts herald good tidings acquit sleeping shepherd’s quake to visit scant inn’s trough three sibylline kings seek infant thwart vassal Herod’s cunning route; swathe him in myrrh, frankincense, gold seraph warns Joseph flee to Egypt, in Bethlehem swords sing; first-blood spilled rewind path to Nazareth, carpenter’s son teaches priests; on blighted tree hung spurned lamb’s sacrifice frees dead to receive resurrection; children sing, dance, and open gifts “the happy give don’t take”; jews and “dogs” eat at the groom’s wedding [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 46 by W. Robert Godfrey

January 16, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 46 is a song that reflects the great strength that flows to God’s people from their faith in the strength of God.  The song celebrates God’s deliverance of his people and particularly his defense of Jerusalem, “the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High,” (v. 4).  In this psalm, the theme of Book Two is developed quite fully.  God displays kingship and strength in his Earthly kingdom and citadel.  The central verse of this psalm stresses the powerful presence of God in Jerusalem: “The Lord of hosts is with us,” (v. 7a).  A particular historical incident may well have inspired this psalm.  The most likely candidate is the Lord’s deliverance of Jerusalem from the hand of [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 5:11 by Alan J. Hommerding

January 16, 2018

From Everyday Psalms Let all who find refuge in you be glad; let them always sing with joy. Shelter them; may all those who love your name rejoice in you. The people of ancient Israel were a people who wandered, who lived as nomadic tribes or in exile, even a people who – when settled – spent much time outdoors in the fields, with herds, on the way to market, or to fetch water.  For them shelter was a big deal, whether it was refuge from the elements or enemies.  People who are victims of natural disasters understand this, but many of us don’t live this way.  Nevertheless, there are many things in life from which all of us need “shelter” from time to time.  God, for us, is still that shelter.   PRAYER [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Five) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 15, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Pure Hope Hope, as passion for the possible, gives us a realistic alertness for practical possibilities.  It gives us a youthfulness that sees the possible limited merely by an ever receding horizon.  The princely spirit of hope initiates and determines our moral engagement.  For it is rooted in the heart, where each of us is most intimately united with all others – and so responsible for all.  Everything depends, of course, on how pure our hope is, how deeply it is rooted in the heart.  There is ample room for self-deception here.  So how can we check ourselves. Maybe we could subject our hope to a simple test.  It’s not a foolproof test.  Nor is it very precise.  But it may give us a [...]

MUSIC: Plain And Simple, Rich And Complex by Thomas H. Troeger

January 15, 2018

From: Music As Prayer I remember preaching at a week-long series of services that were part of a conference on worship and music.  We were fortunate to have an excellent organist, who not only gave fine performances of works from the standard organ repertoire but also provided the congregation with exemplary service playing that encouraged robust yet nuanced singing.  Each afternoon, after the services, we had an open discussion with members from the congregation and a panel consisting of the liturgists, musical leaders, visual artists, dancers, and the preacher about the worship of the day, its planning, and its execution. One of our most interesting discussions arose over the wide spectrum of ways that the organist had accompanied the [...]

PRAYER: Epiphany

January 15, 2018

From First Vespers of Christmas in the Greek Church What gift shall we bring to Thee, O Christ, since Thou as man on Earth hast shown Thyself for us, since every creature made by Thee brings to Thee its thanksgiving?  The angels bring their song, the Heavens bring their star, the Magi bring their gifts, the Shepherds bring their awe, Earth gives a cave, the wilderness a manger: and we the Virgin Mother bring.  God before all worlds, have mercy upon us! [...]

UNITY: Of Style And Substance

January 14, 2018

I was born an Anglican. This means that I have always belonged to the church associated with King Henry VIII, of England, and his break from the Roman Catholic Church.  Henry wanted a son.  His first wife, his deceased brother’s wife, didn’t bear him one.  He wanted a divorce from her so he could try begetting a son with someone else.  The Pope agreed that the marriage was invalid because it was against the church law to marry your brother’s wife. Henry had been given a dispensation for that error.  And now was being let off the hook of having made the error in the first place. How convenient for Henry. But the wife he wanted to divorce was from Spain.  And Spain was in the process of providing the Pope with war [...]

SERMON: The Beginning of Miracles by John Keble

January 14, 2018

Thou hast kept the good wine until now. (John 2:10) Epiphany means “manifestation,” the manifestation of God on Earth: the eternal Son showing himself in sundry ways when he had taken our nature upon him, and had been made true Man as we are, of the substance of the Virgin Mary, his Mother. To outward appearance, he generally seemed as any other man; but every now and then tokens of Godhead broke out through the veil of his flesh, as flashes of lightning from a dark cloud; and these were so many Epiphanies, so many manifestations of his true self. The day, which we call the Feast of the Epiphany, is remarkable for three of these manifestations, three of the most glorious and blessed and most exactly set down in scripture. On [...]

THE CHURCH: A Ramble About Lost Sheep by Allen Martin Bair

January 13, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest Some time ago, as I was pulling one-ton pallets though the crowded aisles of the “big box store” I worked at, I got this image in my head from the Lord. There was a rancher who owned a lot of sheep, and shepherds were hired to watch over different flocks.  Some flocks were larger, some were smaller, but all the sheep belonged ultimately to the rancher, not the individual shepherd in charge of them. Some of the shepherds were doing their job well and faithfully.  The sheep were well cared for, and the shepherds had the exhaustion and bags under their eyes to prove it.  Other shepherds however were not.  Some beat the sheep under their care.  Some didn’t feed them properly.  Others overfed [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Make Yourself Gift by Raniero Cantalamessa

January 12, 2018

From: Come, Creator Spirit This truth has direct impact on our life.  If the Holy Spirit is the one who, so to say, makes the act of self-giving of the Three-In-One God present in our world and prolongs it in our history, it must follow that he is the only one who can help us to make a gift of our own life and live it as a “living sacrifice.”  This one truth gathers together and sums up the entire scope of the Christian life and purpose; it is, for Saint Paul, the only adequate response to Christ’s Passover: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship,” (Romans 12:1). The Old Testament laid down [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 6 by John Berryman

January 12, 2018

Under new management, Your Majesty: Thine. I have solo’d mine since childhood, since my father’s blow-it-all when I was twelve blew out my most bright candle faith, and look at me. I served at Mass six dawns a week from five, adoring Father Boniface & you, memorizing the Latin he explained. Mostly we worked alone. One or two women. Then my poor father frantic. Confusions & afflictions followed my days. Wives left me. Bankrupt I closed my doors. You pierced the roof twice & again. Finally you opened my eyes. My double nature fused in that point of time three weeks ago day before yesterday. Now, brooding thro’ a history of the early Church, I identify with everybody, even the [...]

SURRENDER: God Revealed In Ordinary Circumstances by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

January 11, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender The written word of God is full of mystery.  His word expressed in the events of the world is no less so.  These are two sealed books, and of both it can be said, “The letter kills.” God is the center of faith.  All that emanates from this center is hidden in the deepest mystery.  This word and these events are, so to speak, feeble rays from a sun obscured by clouds.  It is vain to expect to see with our mortal eyes the rays of this sun.  Even the eyes of our soul are blind to God and his works.  Obscurity here reigns rather than clear light; knowledge itself is ignorance, and we see without seeing.  The Holy Scripture is the mysterious Word of an even more mysterious God.  And the events of the [...]

SIMPLICITY: Henry Beston by Philip Harnden

January 11, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (1888–1968) American naturalist and writer best known for The Outermost House, his chronicle of a solitary year on a Cape Cod beach. “The world today,” wrote Henry Beston, “is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear Earth itself underfoot.” To immerse himself in those elemental things, Beston had a neighbor build him a small house atop a dune on the farthest eastern reaches of Cape Cod, just thirty feet from the great Atlantic beach.  His “outermost house” measured twenty feet by sixteen and contained two rooms (a bedroom and a kitchen / living room) with a brick fireplace in the wall between.  Its [...]

WRITING: Ransom (Part 1) by Pat Schneider

January 10, 2018

From How The Light Gets In There’s Ransom in a Voice (Emily Dickinson) Nothing can save you / except writing (Charles Bukowski) The life you save may be your own. (Flannery O’Connor) The child watches.  The child learns.  Blackberries hang heavy and ripe on thorny vines at the edge of the field.  They seem to stream in the humid summer air.  The child has a small bucket made from a tin can.  She picks berries one by one and drops them into the can.  She carefully examines each berry to make sure there are no triangular gray bugs on the ones she puts into her mouth. She wants to be saved.  She doesn’t exactly know what that means, but she has heard about it, and she wants it. *** I am afraid to write the story that is at the [...]

POETRY: The Magi by William Butler Yeats

January 10, 2018

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye, In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones, And all their helms of silver hovering side by side, And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more, Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied, The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial [...]

PSALMS: The Character And Structure Of Book Two by W. Robert Godfrey

January 9, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Book Two underscores the importance of the king and the kingdom of God’s people.  Every psalm in this book except one mentions the king and either Jerusalem or the temple.  While the king is central in Book One, especially in his personal struggles of faith, he is central in Book Two in relation to the kingdom of God.  This book seems to have a greater concentration on the corporate dimensions of the life of the people of God than Book One.  The opening psalm, to be sure, continues the very personal expression of spiritual concern in very eloquent terms: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” (Psalm 42:1-2).  Yet that [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 4:6 by Alan J. Hommerding

January 9, 2018

From Everyday Psalms There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!” Ancient Israel had a deep and potent personal relationship with God, and the language of personal encounter imbues their writings.  Yet for the Israelites, seeing the face of God was a frightening proposition: nobody could look upon God’s face and live.  But the countenance of God was life-giving; it was considered a source of blessing, light, and (in this passage) goodness itself.  Only in one context could one look upon the face of God and life: when called to life eternal.   PRAYER God of life eternal, let your face shine upon me. Watch over me, guide me; with your tender gaze bless me [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Four) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 8, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Spiritual Wholeness We must distinguish, of course, between feelings and virtues.  Hope is not merely a feeling.  Hope is a virtue, a firmly established attitude of the heart, a basic bearing of the whole person.  And yet we need only think of despair, the opposite of hope, to realize that feelings play an outstanding role in this area.  Intellect, will, and emotions are all engaged in every virtue.  The virtue of faith, for instance, characterizes every aspect of a faithful person’s life.  And yet here the cognitive power plays a predominant part.  The virtue of love, as we shall see, transforms the whole person.  Yet, at its core, love is an attitude of the will.  In a similar way, the [...]

MUSIC: Unacknowledged Healing by Thomas H. Troeger

January 8, 2018

From: Music As Prayer I once read a brief article that featured a photograph and explanation of “clinicorgans.”  These were small, portable pipe organs that were “particularly valuable in orthopedic treatment of hand and forearm injuries, as well as in restoring muscular activities following certain types of hand surgery.  The organ was primarily intended for orthopedic and psychiatric use in veterans’ hospitals.”  The article reminded me of what an important role music can play in healing.  In this case, the instruments were built so the keyboard could be placed in the patient’s lap, and “the weight of the keys was adjustable.” The image of the organ as an instrument of healing awakened in me memories of coming to [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Epiphany

January 8, 2018

From Celebrating Common Prayer O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the Earth. Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your holy presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Jesus Christ our Lord. [...]

POETRY: Twelfth Night by Phyllis McGinley

January 6, 2018

Down from the window take the withered holly. Feed the torn tissue to the literal blaze. Now, now at last are come the melancholy Anticlimactic days. Here in the light of morning, hard, unvarnished, Let us with haste dismantle the tired tree Of ornaments, a trifle chipped and tarnished, Pretend we do not see How all the rooms seem shabbier and meaner And the tired house a little less than snug. Fold up the tinsel. Run the vacuum cleaner Over the littered rug. Nothing is left. The postman passes by, now, Bearing no gifts, no kind or seasonal word. The icebox yields no wing, no nibbled thigh, now, From any holiday bird. Sharp in the streets the north wind plagues its betters While Christmas snow to gutters is consigned. Nothing remains [...]

POETRY: Epiphany by Robert Fitzgerald

January 6, 2018

Unearthly lightning of presage In any dark day’s iron age May come to lift the hair and bless Even our tired earthliness, And sundown bring an age of gold, Forgèd in faëry, far and old, An elsewhere and an elfin light, And kings rise eastward in the [...]