Blog posts

ATTENTIVENESS: One Who Paid Attention—Simone Weil On A Postage Stamp by Leighton Ford

August 17, 2018

From The Attentive Life Expectant waiting is the foundation of the spiritual life. (Simone Weil) I owe a debt to Simone Weil.  The first time I heard of this remarkable French woman, some years ago, I read that she had defined prayer as attention.  Her understanding of attentiveness was fresh and intriguing to me. Weil died in England in 1943 at the age of thirty-three, yet left an ongoing influence in France and beyond as an apostle of the spiritual life.  Many French people, including the existentialist writer Albert Camus, were deeply moved by her life and writings. Simone Weil became a believer in Christ after a profound experience that gave birth to her understanding of attentiveness.  A young Englishman had introduced her to a [...]

POETRY: Two Chairs On A Hillside by Elizabeth Spires

August 17, 2018

“Look up. And tell me what you see.” “I see two chairs on a hillside. What are they doing there?” “Through good days and bad, two sat there having a conversation. Flowers grew up around them, vines twined around their chairs. They didn’t seem to care, but moved the chairs higher or lower to adjust the view of rushing streams and valleys, a town that they both knew. Autumn approached, the hillside changing color, and still they stayed, feeling the change within themselves. Their talk was a thread unspooling, leading them where it would. Sometimes one lost the thread, her mind for a moment blank, and then she’d find herself, again pick up the thread. With the first chill wind, their bare hands touched, as if to reassure. They [...]

THE EARTH: Holy Dirt by Diana Butler Bass

August 17, 2018

From Grounded  On a cool and unusually cloudy day in New Mexico, I drove out of Albuquerque some seventy miles north to the tiny town of Chimayo, known primarily for two things: chilies and a church.  Although this may seem an odd combination, it really is not.  The chilies and the church both depend on the area’s unusually fertile soil, a gift of the sands and springs of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Santa Cruz River.  The ancient Tewa tribe, for whom Chimayo was the location of creation, found the rich red clay of the area the ideal location for growing chili peppers, the best in the entire region. But the church?  In a small building attached to the side of a Roman Catholic chapel, there is a pit of red sand, a well of [...]

A NEW EARTH: What Does Restoration Look Like? by John Eldredge

August 16, 2018

From All Things New Jesus Christ is the forerunner for the Great Renewal, “the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,” (Colossians 1:18).  He died, as everyone has and will.  But on the third day he was raised to life, leaving his grave clothes folded neatly in the tomb.  (A very touching detail, I might add, as if to say, “And that’s that,” like a man putting away his flannel pajamas now that winter is past.)  On Easter morning Jesus walked out of the grave radiantly alive, restored, and everyone recognized him.  The “new” Jesus is not someone or something else now; he is the Jesus they loved and knew.  He walked with them, had meals with them – just like before.  They most striking thing about the [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: God’s Royal Contract With Abraham by R. Alan Streett

August 16, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth In Genesis 15 and 17 God reestablishes his covenant with Abram and reiterates his promises, explaining them in greater detail.  For instance, God gives the geographical dimensions of the promised land, which Abram’s offspring will inherit. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites,” (Genesis 15:18-21). Two chapters later, God charges Abram, “Walk before me, and be blameless,” (17:1).  He then changes Abram’s name to Abraham [...]

POETRY: The Chimes Of Neverwhere by Les Murray

August 15, 2018

How many times did the Church prevent war? Who knows? Those wars did not occur. How many numbers don’t count before ten? Treasures of the Devil in Neverwhere. The neither state of Neverwhere is hard to place as near or far since all things that didn’t take place are there and things that have lost the place they took: Herr Hitler’s buildings, King James’s cigar, the happiness of Armenia, the Abelard children, the Manchu’s return are there with the Pictish Grammar Book. The girl who returned your dazzled look and the mornings you might have woke to her are your waterbed in Neverwhere. There shine the dukes of Australia and all the great poems that never were quite written, and every balked invention. There too are the Third AIF [...]

BELIEF: Where The Joy Came In by Christian Wiman

August 15, 2018

From My Bright Abyss From a Window Incurable and unbelieving in any truth but the truth of grieving, I saw a tree inside a tree rise kaleidoscopically as if the leaves had livelier ghosts. I pressed my face as close to the pane as I could get to watch that fitful, fluent spirit that seemed a single being undefined or countless beings of one mind haul its strange cohesion beyond the limits of my vision over the house heavenwards. Of course I knew those leaves were birds. Of course that old tree stood exactly as it had and would (but why should it seem fuller now?) and though a man’s mind might endow even a tree with some excess of life to which a man seems witness, that life is not the life of men. And that is where the joy came in. I [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 135 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 14, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 135 is the first in a group of three psalms that primarily focus on the enemies of God’s people.  Still, Psalm 135 is an appropriate psalm to follow the songs of ascents.  The pilgrim journey to Jerusalem culminated in the call of Psalm 134:2: “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!”  Now, in Psalm 135, the psalmist stands in the temple, calling on temple workers as well as the priests and Levites to join the king and people in praise.  This psalm, too, begins and ends with sections that call the servants of the Lord to praise him, (vv. 1-2, 19-21).  The intimate fellowship of God and his people in the temple is expressed in verse 21: “Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he [...]

EARTH: Seeking Security by Francine Rivers

August 14, 2018

From: Earth Psalms You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. (Proverbs 3:24-26) A squirrel comes by every now and then. One morning he turned up his nose at the dried corncobs I put out just for him and risked his life checking out the bird feeder, only to find thistle seed. So he jumped back to the deck and began searching for acorns. Unfortunately for him, we had fewer that year. We didn’t want any acorns to sprout in the yard or attract the woodpecker who wanted to drill holes and store them in our walls. So I hired one of our grandsons to [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Person Of The Spirit—The New Testament Evidence (Paul) by Stanley Hauerwas

August 13, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom To answer that question we must turn to the New Testament to see if it will really allow such an abbreviation in our doctrine of God.  Will we be able to say what the revelation of God, to which the New Testament bears witness, requires us to say about Christ and the Spirit, if we regard the Spirit simply as a mode of activity of Jesus? At the outset we need to recognize that these are not questions that the New Testament authors were themselves concerned about, so that the material that they provide for answering them is implicit and indirect, coming to expression as a by-product of their dealing with the quite different questions that occupied their attention. Furthermore, we have to recognize that there are [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Descent Of The Holy Spirit by John O’Donohue

August 13, 2018

Somewhere in our clay remembers the speed of cold, Overtaking the surge of colors with grey breath, And the shudder of fields, as they smother beneath The white infinity of ice paralyzing the world. How swiftly fear touches this relic—cold in the bone. After his second going, they hide from the crowd. Then, like manna from a red wind, a tongue of flame swirls Into each mind huddled there in the fear-filled room. The language caul they lived in falls, leaves them wordless, Then, a kindling, words they never knew they had come Alive out of nowhere sprung with awakening That will not cease until winter sets the heart free. Out in the open now, voices of new belonging, Needing no courage beyond the fire of their [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer Of Self-Knowledge by Stephen P. Morris

August 13, 2018

From Pauca Verba Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I may see beyond my nose. Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I might see through the fog of lies. Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I might see your presence – so close. Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I might see myself rightly; others too. Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I might see the stranger rightly, and be done with otherism. Take the veil from my eyes, Lord, that I might see my way to mercy, compassion, and love. [...]

THE EARTH: The Nature Of Dirt

August 12, 2018

It’s funny how the length of time that I have been studying God (62 years) has shaped my mind.  Like water shapes the stone as it runs through the canyon.  A new way, I guess you could say. So as I type up these writings about dirt and soil, on cleanliness, on health, my mind drifts into its own paths of knowledge. And, for me, the concept of dirt really belongs inside our bodies, so to speak.  In our souls. I see a soul as being like a terrarium, when you take a glass container usually used for fish and plant a little garden in it. If we all allowed ourselves to let this metaphor sink in – really sink in – we would have a better time with our lives. This is because one of our greatest barriers in life – barriers to [...]

NATURE: August—The Green Pasture by Aldo Leopold

August 11, 2018

From A Sand County Almanac Some paintings become famous because, being durable, they are viewed by successive generations, in each of which are likely to be found a few appreciative eyes. I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer.  It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever from human view.  After that it exists only in my mind’s eye. Like other artists, my river is temperamental; there is no predicting when the mood to paint will come upon him, or how long it will last.  But in midsummer, when the great white fleets cruise the sky for day after flawless day, it is worth strolling down to the [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Truthfulness Of Christian Convictions by Stanley Hauerwas

August 11, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom The modern moral and religious situation I have reviewed makes the task of Christian ethics precarious at best.  The temptations and pitfalls are innumerable.  At a time when we are no longer sure our religious beliefs are true, perhaps the most destructive of these temptations is to salvage some significance for religion by claiming it can hold back the moral anarchy that threatens us.  Calling on religion to supply those absolute values we think necessary to support the leaking breakwater of our civilization, we train “religious ethicists” to teach courses in business ethics, medical ethics, and value clarification. But this strategy avoids the most essential question.  We should not want to know if [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Practicing Attentiveness—What Have Been The Stars In Your Journey? by Leighton Ford

August 10, 2018

From The Attentive Life The wise men followed the star that led them to Bethlehem and to Jesus.  Writer Anne Lamott describes the “lily pads” – the people, incidents, life happenings – that point her to God.  A friend of mine speaks of the “clues” to how God is at work in our lives.  Others think of them as steppingstones. In this book I describe some of those key people, events, and stages in my own life.  My spiritual mentor suggested that I write down what the “images” of God have been for me as I have become more and more conscious of his presence.  They range from “Jesus in my heart” as a five-year-old to the picture of a tree I climbed in college when I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a safe place.  For [...]

POETRY: A Blessing by James Wright

August 10, 2018

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies Darken with kindness. They have come gladly out of the willows To welcome my friend and me. We step over the barbed wire into the pasture Where they have been grazing all day, alone. They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other. There is no loneliness like theirs. At home once more, They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, For she has walked over to me And nuzzled my left hand. She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead, And the light breeze [...]

THE EARTH: Soil, Sin, And Salvation by Diana Butler Bass

August 10, 2018

From Grounded  For liturgical Christians, Easter Vigil is the most important service of the year.  Held in the last hours before Easter morning, it begins in the dark as the community of faith waits for the rebirth, the empty tomb that witnesses to the resurrected life of Jesus.  During the service, new Christians – both infants and adults – are baptized and welcomed into the church by candlelight. Baptism is always beautiful, but most especially at Easter Vigil.  The priest pours water from a pitcher into a font amid prayers of blessing.  Infants are presented in Christening gowns, children strain to reach the Baptismal Font, and adults have their foreheads splashed with holy water.  Washed in the water of the Spirit, made clean [...]

A NEW EARTH: Redemption, Not Destruction by John Eldredge

August 9, 2018

From All Things New Many people have the vague but ominous idea that God destroys the current reality and creates a new “Heavenly” one.  But that is not what scripture actually says. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse.  But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be [...]

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: The Calling Of Abram by R. Alan Streett

August 9, 2018

From: Heaven on Earth With the world in a state of rebellion against its rightful king, God’s utopian plan for humankind seems to have failed once again.  The mandate for humans to rule Earth on God’s behalf and according to his will has yet to be carried out successfully.  Undaunted by these human failures, God chooses one solitary man, Abram, to do his bidding.  To this descendant of Terah of the ancient line of Godly Seth, now living in Ur of the Chaldeans, God communicates a command and a promise. Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those [...]

POETRY: In Praise Of Coldness by Jane Hirshfield

August 8, 2018

“If you wish to move your reader,” Chekhov wrote, “you must write more coldly.” Herakleitos recommended, “A dry soul is best.” And so at the center of many great works is found a preserving dispassion, like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective, or the tiny packets of desiccant enclosed in a box of new shoes or seeds. But still the vanishing point is not the painting, the silica is not the blossoming plant. Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains. To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?— Scent of rocking distances, smoke of blue trees out the window, hampers of bread, picked cabbage, boiled meat. Scent of the knowable journey. Neither a person entirely broken nor one [...]

POETRY: Imagist At Coney Island by Maura Eichner

August 8, 2018

One decade into the 20th century, Pound, with his back to Brooklyn, pointed his beard to the Atlantic. Simply to receive the kingdom, Ezra linked arms with John Butler Yeats. Their shoes filled with sand. Pleasure rode the water, solid as Staten Island Ferry. At dusk, lights rose like a fever chart. Coney Island “marvelous against the night.” In the amusement park Yeats rode an elephant on the merry-go-round, “smiling Elijah in the beatific vision.” Pound leaned against a railing Pouring sand from each shoe, words ripening in him in August [...]

BELIEF: The Cry Of Faith by Christian Wiman

August 8, 2018

From My Bright Abyss But the fight is quiet sometimes too.  Even for those in hell.  Bonhoeffer: “It will be the task of our generation, not to ‘seek great things,’ but to save and preserve our souls out of the chaos, and to realize that it is the only thing we can carry as a ‘prize’ from the burning building.” What is the difference between the cry of pain that is also a cry of praise and a cry of pain that is pure despair?  Faith?  The cry of faith, even if it is a cry against God, moves toward God, has its meaning in God, as in the cries of Job.  The cry of faithlessness is the cry of the damned, like Dante’s souls locked in trees that must bleed to speak, their release from pain only further pain.  How much of [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 121 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 7, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 121 is the second in the fifteen songs of ascents.  These songs all relate in some way to the idea of going up to Jerusalem as pilgrims to meet with God.  These psalms are all rather short with pointed themes.  The first of these songs expresses a feeling of being far from God and longing for his peace.  The last psalm speaks of the blessing that Zion gives to the people.  Other psalms celebrate the strength and joy of Zion, God’s blessings on the families of his people, and the full redemption of God. Psalm 121 fits into this group as a reflection on the journey of the pilgrim toward Jerusalem.  In Old Testament times, the journey was a real trip over difficult terrain to a physical city.  [...]

EARTH: An Opportunity For Joy by Francine Rivers

August 7, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing  nothing. (James 1:2-4) We have a lilac bush in our backyard. I planted it ten years ago, and every year I hope to see it filled with clusters of sweet-scented blossoms. Every year I am lucky to find two small clusters on the very top. My grandparents lived in Colorado and had a lilac hedge that filled with purple blossoms.  Rick’s relatives in Sweden had gorgeous lilac bushes with a profusion of clusters.  Why is my lilac [...]

ANIMA CHRISTI: Chapter Eight (Part One)—Within Your Wounds, Hide Me by Marie Paul Curley

August 6, 2018

From Soul of Christ The seventh petition of the Anima Christi prayer is a cry for refuge and connects deeply to the next two petitions.  All of us have moments in our lives when we need strength and encouragement to confront evil, to persevere through the challenges of discipleship, and to love selflessly.  Who better to go to than Jesus, wounded for love of us? Within your wounds… Meditating on the wounds Jesus suffered for us is a way we can take refuge in God’s love.  In moments of weakness, temptation, and frailty, we have one safe place we can turn to: the heart of Jesus.  Jesus opens his heart to us unconditionally, with no limits.  If we need proof of his love for us, we simply need to sit in front of a crucifix and [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Ascension by John O’Donohue

August 6, 2018

With waves the ocean soothes the dark stillness of the shore. With words the mind would calm the awful, inner quiet. Offerings to the nothingness on which we trespass. Our imprint no deeper than breath on a mirror. Though delighted by the wonder of your return, To glimpse you is already too much for their eyes. At your cadence of voice a bird stirs in the heart, Its wings spread such brightness nothing can hold its form. You are no longer from here, yet you still linger In the lightness, wed to the dance you awaken, As if in drudged-down lives, the song of your new hands Could raise the soul towards horizons of desire. You slip through a door of air. Memory comes home, Bright as a dead tree drawn to blossom by the [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer For Humility by Andrew Murray

August 6, 2018

From Humility, The Journey Toward Holiness  The secret of secrets: humility is the soul of true prayer.  Until the spirit of the heart is renewed, until it is emptied of all Earthly desires and stands in a habitual hunger and thirst after God, which is the true spirit of prayer, until then, all our prayer will be more or less like lessons given to students.  We will mostly say them only because we dare not neglect them.  But be not discouraged; take the following advice, and then you may go to church without any danger of mere lip-service or hypocrisy, although there may be a hymn or a prayer whose language is higher than that of your heart.  Go to the church as the tax collector went to the temple; stand inwardly, in the spirit of [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit As Distinct Divine Person, Part Three by Tom Smail

August 5, 2018

From The Giving Gift Proposal 2: The Spirit should be understood totally in terms of Christ. Here we are invited to regard the Spirit not as a third Trinitarian person with the Father and the Son but as the mode of action of the risen and ascended Christ in the church and in the world.  The one who acts when the Spirit acts is none other than the risen Jesus.  The word, Spirit, functions as an adverb rather than a noun; it is a description of how Jesus acts after his physical body is withdrawn.  To say that Jesus now acts through the Spirit is just to say that he now acts in a spiritual way.  One of the chief modern protagonists of this view is the Dutch theologian, Hendrikus Berkhof, in his important book, The Doctrine of the Holy [...]