Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Manure and a Praying Life

Note to Praying Life Readers:

If you are a subscriber to Holy Ground Quarterly Reflection on  Contemplation  or support the The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer you already have received in your mail the letter posted here. A mistake was made by the printer on the envelope enclosed for you to mail in your gifts. The wrong address is printed on that envelope. The printer is sending a postcard to you with the correct address. We have contacted the post office about this error. If you have already sent the incorrectly addressed envelope, please let us know by email or phone lross@fromholyground.org . We will let you know when it makes its way to the correct address: 1600 SW Campbell Ave, Topeka, KS 66604.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. As for the printer, he is deeply repentant and will be forgiven shortly. I figure another twenty-four hours and God’s grace will have overcome my anxious fretting. Besides a wise person told me when I began this ministry, “Your mistakes and failures are like manure for God’s garden in your soul.” I am anticipating a bumper crop in 2014! 

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The Sanctuary Is Celebrating 25 Years !

It all began with a resounding NO. Twenty seven years ago I applied for a church position as head of staff.  Few, if any women were heads of staff anywhere in those years. Still I held out hope, even though I was warned. The clerk of the Presbytery told his wife (who told me), “She doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that job. And besides, it would kill her creativity.”

When the phone call came and the caller broke the bad news, I wept and stomped my foot. My daughters, who were outside playing, began pounding on the door. Dashing inside, breathless and red-cheeked, they shouted, “Mom. Mom! The wind is blowing. It’s blowing hard. Blowing all over the place. We need something to catch the wind with!”

Laughing in spite of my tears, I reached under the sink and pulled out a couple of big black trash bags. The girls ran back outside. I stood at the door, watching them race up and down the yard with the bags billowing behind them, catching the wind. Their wild exuberance and thrill in the blustery Kansas day, swept away my tears and anger. I felt rinsed clean and surprisingly reoriented.

It would be a while before I fully understood what God was up to in that heartbreaking no. Slowly I began to dare what seemed impossible: to pursue a ministry, which focused on the spiritual lives of people and prayer. As I began to say yes to this deep desire, door after door swung open. At some points I almost wished someone would say no, for I had little idea how to actually accomplish it.

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A ministry of prayer, which included a lifestyle of prayerful solitude, as well as organizational structure, as I envisioned it, was so removed from my denomination’s understanding of what pastors do. There were no models within my tradition. There was no provision for salary, pension, or manuals on how to do this “decently and in order.” I had only something I sensed was missing from many churches – something I and others hungered for – and the will to somehow supply some of these missing pieces.

The work has been challenging. I made mistakes. The Spirit has refined my motives and fine-tuned my sense of what I am to do, and is still challenging me to grow.

I have been immensely blessed. After twenty-five years of listening to people’s stories of their faith, it is still miraculous and thrilling to watch the wind of the Spirit of God at work in an individual soul. I see how personal transformation radiates out into the world, initiating family and community change.

Through the years God has been faithful. Needs are provided for and inspiration given.  You have been faithful too. Once when I was about to give up, one of you who had come for a visit to the hermitage said, “I have faith in you. I believe you can do this.” I have never forgotten those words of encouragement.

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You are why The Sanctuary exists. Your desire to deepen your faith, willingness to struggle with difficult issues, to pray and nurture yourself for service to your church, community, and the world has summoned this little “Roadside Fruit Stand,” as one of our board members called it.

You are also the how of The Sanctuary, for we are nothing without you – a far-flung community of varied faith expressions, people of compassion, wisdom, and love. You provide accountability for this ministry, a community, and a covering of prayer, as you teach us what you need and how to better serve you. You spread the news of this Fruit Stand out here in Kansas through your friends and contacts. Your subscriptions and generous gifts make this possible.  Thank you so very much!

As we celebrate 25 years in the coming year, we have some surprises and good things to share with you. Watch for a new website coming soon. Meet some new board members. Get the inside news on the progress of Loretta’s new book, Account for the Hope. Keep up with us on Facebook and our blog, The Praying Life, Pinterest, and Twitter.

We remind you to renew your subscription as it comes due. (The date of your subscription expiration is on your address label in the upper right hand corner. ) And please donate to The Sanctuary Fund. Your subscription fee allows us to break even on publishing costs. Additional gifts to The Sanctuary Fund enable us to maintain our web presence, offer spiritual direction at reduced rates for those of limited means, pay for business operations, and keep this roadside Fruit Stand open.

If you have questions  about your donation or subscription, let us know. And please keep sharing your feedback, ideas, and comments on how we can best serve you. You can phone us at 785-354-7122 or email at lross@fromholyground.org. We always love to chat with those we serve.

The wind is blowing here in Kansas today. Dried leaves rattle as they tumble down my street. The maple shakes out her falling locks, shedding what is no longer useful, and waves her dark branches to an approaching winter storm. To begin this celebration I am going to reach under the sink, pull out some trash bags, and go catch some wind. Will you join me?

Yours, chasing after the Holy Spirit with love and gratitude,

Loretta F. Ross

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23

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The Dancing God

 

Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity?
I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity
the Father laughs
and gives birth to the Son.
The Son laughs back at the Father
and gives birth to the Spirit.
The whole Trinity laughs
and gives birth to us.       Meister Eckhart

Western Christianity used the Latin word circuminsessio to describe the activity of the Trinity. In contrast Eastern Christianity used the Greek word, perichoresis. Circuminsessio means broadly to sit around in a circle. Perichoresis means to dance in a circle.

 Needless to say, I prefer dancing.

BLEST COMMUNITY

 O Most Holy Trinity
Undivided Unity,
teach us the gentle deference
of your dance of surrendered love
how with infinite tenderness
and utmost esteem
you so gently
adoringly
are present
to one another.

Teach us your perichoresis,
your grand circle dance,
where you eternally birth joy
from the womb of reverence.

Teach us your unending,
enfolding regard
for the pure holiness
you hold and behold.

You,
sweet breath and the lungs of creation,
eternally giving,
empty
and eternally receiving
are filled.

You release and bind,
but never push nor pull.
You hold accountable,
but never blame.

You incline yourselves to one another
as a grove of green willows
bending in the breeze
bowing to each other’s grace
known and cherished
on the broad plain of mutuality.

Deepen our trust, O Blest Community,
that we may enter such intimacy.

                                                                Loretta F. Ross

Once a group of Western theologians traveled to the East to speak with a group of Buddhist monks, and asked, Will you tell us how you do theology?

 The monks thought for a while and then responded, I do not think we do theology.

 We dance.

Here is another post from The Praying Life on the Trinity: http://theprayinglife.com/2010/05/30/a-god-who-dances/

Prairie Lamentation

Driving west on Interstate 70 from Topeka, Kansas around ten in the morning, I plunged into that green swath of oceanic beauty called the Flint Hills. Named by explorer Zebulon Pike in 1806, the majestic sweep of bluestem prairie extends north to Nebraska and south all the way to Oklahoma.

Formed 250 million years ago when Kansas and Oklahoma were covered with shallow seas, the land is compared to the undulating roll of a great body of water. The shallow soil rests on seabed layers of flint, shale, and the fossilized remains of sea animals.

Reveling in the beauty, I was sailing down the road, when I came abruptly upon a sight that brought my heart to my throat and sent a chill down my spine. A huge shimmering whiteness moved off to the north along the road. Bigger than the side of a barn, it lifted and fell back to the ground. It seemed alive somehow, but no animal could be that large.

I slowed, curious and wary. The highway was deserted. Was this a UFO? Maybe I should look for an exit and turn back. I drove a bit further, then coasted onto the shoulder, and stopped about 100 yards away, watching that white thing waving.

It looked like huge wings. One wing spread up the side of a hill, the other lay nearer to the road in the valley. A few iridescent feathers lifted in the wind and reflected the blue sky like mirrors. The wings were rising and falling slightly in a convulsive shudder.

It’s hurt. It needs help. But it’s huge. Would I scare it? Would it attack me? And what is it?

I looked up and down the road. Still no traffic. I opened the car door and slid out. A sudden rush of wind whipped past and slammed the door shut. The air was cool and smelled of grass. The only sound was the soft swish of shuddering feathers. Standing by the side of the road between earth and heaven, I pressed my hands over my mouth and stepped forward. I had taken a few more steps when, suddenly, the thing, the bird hiccupped. It convulsed and heaved in a ragged sob.

I nearly jumped out of my skin, but I saw that it was crying. The beautiful bird had spread herself over the sea of grass to weep. Don’t ask me how, I just seemed to know the bird was a she.

I moved a little closer, wondering if I could be of comfort. May I help you? But before I could finish the thought, a river of grief and anguish engulfed me and I tumbled over and over, gasping for air, drowning in sorrow. A deafening roar of cries and sorrow filled my senses. Then a battering wind and hellish screams pulverized me into tiny pieces, flinging me into darkness. After that, nothing.

When I came back together as myself, I was there in the quiet August morning with the hills, the sky, the empty highway, and the still bird. She seemed calmer now. The shuddering had stopped.

Are you all right? I asked. Are you able to fly? And again, instantly, I was drawn out of myself in a sickening swoop over mountains. We dove into the depths of the sea, peered into the eye of a whale, and crawled with a crab on a shore. I saw the molecules of a heart valve, and plummeted into the shrunken belly of a child in Sudan. We whooshed through glittering palaces of power and stood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She laid those wings over a pile of bodies in Pakistan and sat on the shoulder of a man holding an AK47 rifle. We splashed in a child’s swimming pool with a little girl in a pink and green striped bathing suit. She whispered to an artist bent over a painting, and coursed up the stem of a tomato vine in Fremont, Nebraska.

This time, reeling and breathless, I didn’t want to ask any more questions, or bear the answers. I gazed upon her wings spread over the prairie grass and the reflection of the blue sky, the puffy white clouds, and the tall grass waving. In the play of light and color I caught of glimpse of a woman peering back at me and realized with a start that the woman was myself.

Then she lifted one wing. She drew her head out from under it and turned her eyes on me. A bolt of love and compassion seared through me with the crackle and snap of flames rising from dry wood.

I sank down beside the bird. What do you want of me?

Tell them.
To stop.
Hurting me.

I cringed, shaking my head. I can’t. I am complicit. I have blood on my hands, too.

She waited for me. The wind ruffled her feathers. The puffy clouds moved across the sky. Somewhere a meadowlark called.

Okay. How?

Be brave.
Be brave, she told me.
Be brave.

_____________________________

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Ephesians 4: 29 (The Message)
 
 
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4: 29-32 (NASV)
Prairie Lamentation was first posted on August 31, 2010.


How to Pray

Want to learn how to pray? Forget words. Forget about getting the right name for God. Forget fidgeting about how to sit or stand or hold your hands. Forget whatever you have been taught about prayer. Forget yourself.

And go gaze upon something or someone you love. Look long and deeply at something which gives joy or peace –

that penetrating lime green of the spring woods, and the wet black branches like some ancient language of scribbles and runes scrawled all over the forest

the path of the sun, trailing like a golden ribbon across the floor, climbing up the table and tying itself neatly around your tea cup

the sleeping boy in his Superman PJs, smelling of grass and child sweat

Next: Let yourself be held there in your looking and wonder. Do you feel that subtle magnetic force that seems to gently grasp and suspend you before your beloved?

Breathe. Relax.

Notice what wells up in you and what recedes. Various feelings and thoughts – some positive, some negative. Simply observe the play of your inner life as you gaze upon beauty.

Notice the voice which says, “You need to get moving. There is a lot to do. Should I fix potato soup for supper? I really can’t stand that woman.” Keep returning to what you love. Allow your love and appreciation of this portion of the world draw you in to its Creator and Author, that pulse of the Spirit which animates all of existence.

For that is what Holiness is doing in the creation – luring us, catching us up, and reeling us into the Heart of Reality and Divinity through the things of this world. God threads us through and beyond what we love to deeper love and freedom in the realm of Grace that is called God’s kingdom.

Really. God will use anything, anyone to draw us into God’s self, God’s being, and into  truth, into love, into amazement, and wonder. What draws you into this prayer will likely be something uniquely suited to you, your aspirations, your interests, your peculiar, and particular existence. So specific is God’s summons to you. So beloved are you by God.

All that is required is your consent – your yes, your willingness to take the bait, to bite into creation with appetite and hope.

After looking at God in this way for a while, a word or two, a spoken prayer may emerge from your heart. Something you want to say to God. Something you desire from God. Go ahead and whisper your words to God. Then be silent and listen.

A Peace will come and settle over you, a calm, perhaps, a gentleness, an assurance of some kind.

Afterwards, before you turn back to getting things done, do a little self inventory:

Have you changed in any way after this time of gazing? Is there a difference in how you are feeling or thinking? Is there something from this time you need to stay with or return to? What would you like to say to God about this time? What would you like to hear in response from God?

And this, my friends, is a prayer.

This is a way God speaks.

This is a way the Word Made Flesh calls our name.

This is a way we answer.

Other Praying Life posts on prayer you might enjoy:

What Is a Prayer

Contemplation – Circling a Definition

Paying Attention and Taking Your Time

A Calm and Quiet Soul

You can help support The Praying Life by donating to The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer. Just five or ten dollars will make a difference and help pay some of our costs. Your gift is tax deductible. Donate Here. Thank you so much!

Caring for Souls: The Call and the Cost

I entertain myself by spying on the hidden mystery of how the Holy Spirit shapes, purifies, and refines souls for holy purposes. This work of caring for souls has been my focus for over thirty years. I figure I have spent several thousand hours listening to people tell me about their lives in God.

In some cases I have been privileged to walk with individuals for many years, observing periods of suffering, impasse, joy, and growth. Trained in the practice of spiritual direction, I offer my presence, love, and attention to those, who share with me the intimate and profound desires of their hearts.

I have learned a lot about the way of God in a person’s soul and the way of a human being as he or she struggles, resists, and seeks the One beyond his or her control or manipulation. I have seen the common traps and temptations, and the unfailing grace of Christ. I have learned to recognize  patterns of deepening spiritual maturity. What I have to give, which seems the most important at this point,  are my prayers and my faith.

In this poem I explore Jesus’ final words to Peter on the shore on the Sea of Tiberius (John 23)  and some of what I have experienced in feeding Christ’s sheep.

CHILDREN,  HAVE YOU ANY FISH?

Just after daybreak,  Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them,  “Children, you have no fish, have you?”  John 21:5

After breakfast -

did they push back the plates
brush away the crumbs
and leaning on their elbows
drain the last of the coffee?

when they had finished breaking
the fast
that knot that moored them
to the earth -

did they hear the crack
as lack was smashed
and denial strewn in shards
all round their dawn drenched faces
while Fullness rose before them,
a grinning fry-cook,
presiding at the flame?

So when they had completed that shattering
that breaking of self-imposed want
and self itself
and tasted, savored, chewed, digested
that Fish
who had eluded their nets all night

then Feast asked:

Do you love me?

Peter takes the bait
Yes, Lord.
Do fish swim? Is the sea wet?

 Feed my lambs.

 A second time Feast casts the net:

 Do you love me?

 Yes, Lord. You know.
Peter turns, twisting in the webbing.

Tend my sheep.

And then the charm:

 Do you love me?        

Flailing, inextricably caught
flesh straining, tormented -

I am putty in your hands.  You know me.
Why press me up against the edges of this love
to lie gasping, gills seared by sanctity
on the far shore of heaven?
You who have lured me here,
you know, you know.

Then quick
the deft Cleaver
a swift slash of blade
and he is flayed open
on his soft underside
from gullet to dorsal fin.

And it comes:

Feed my sheep.  Again.

O Peter, Peter
once you swam where you would
through silent green darkness
in and out of rotting keels among the stems
lying in wait for your supper
to enter your heart’s snare.
Now you are trawled
where you do not wish to go
where you will be filleted
in the bright morning sun
for someone else’s breakfast.
O Peter,  Peter there may still be time
run
run!

In some nook
you will lean across a table
called remember
and another’s hunger will tear out your entrails
and you will wash down your cheerios
with each other’s tears.

The line is forming, Peter.
Hear their cries.
See them coming,
heaving themselves out of the waters
like great sad whales
beached on this foreign strand.

Tend them, Peter. They are mine.
Be gentle with their wounds
the raw red
festering places
seeming so incurable.
Teach them to clean
to wrap
to bind up the hurt
with these stained winding cloths.

Give them a poultice
for drawing out the poison,
a potion for a contrite heart.

Wipe their tears.
Sing their lament.
Carry their ache in your heart
long after they leave
and wake to it when you rise.

You will not wish to meet such suffering.
You will look for ways to turn its tide
to swim back to your ancient watery grave
where life eased slowly into you once removed
through gossamer wings you wore waving on each side.

Now your lungs screech
as the air
the air
slams into you
immediate
as this picnic breakfast, Pete.

You have seen me
known me
loved me
now you will be food for them to eat.

                            Sheep

A woman stops on her porch at dusk.
Sifting through the branches
Grace greets her.
Dare she kneel?
What will the neighbors think to spy
her caught in prayer on the threshold?
Grocery sacks spill down the stair
crispy critters, wonder bread,
instant breakfast fill the air.

The man searching for peace
having lost his love
now paces through the word
hunting for the key.

Another flops over and over
trying to get her bearings.
Which way is up?

The shy awkward magician
in a dazzling burst of courage
pulls out the hidden emerald of her heart
and bows triumphant
while drums roll and rabbits scamper all around.

The one who never stops talking
weaves his fear in rambling fables.

The one, awakening, sings possibility and promise
and perches on the edge of wonder,
enchantment, waiting to be opened.

All beached, scarred, encrusted with barnacles
thrust up against each other in the hush of dawn,
gasping, lungs laboring, gulping at the Spirit.

Carried

 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21: 18-19) NKJV

In accompanying others on their journey into the heart of God –
making our way together through the clotted underbrush
the heavy growth of jungle foliage
trekking across the endless stretches of barren tundra
waiting out the storms in bus depots
napping in the meadows –
what seems most apparent now
is the oneness
the mutuality of laughter shared
joy celebrated
and anguish felt.

I have seen myself hesitate on the frontier
holding back
keeping myself in reserve 

Let’s have a nice holy talk and then we can all go home.

But Jesus never was much on talk alone
and like some mother determined to get her children off to a good start
fries up some fish for breakfast
and sees we must take in,
consume redemption
carry it in our bellies,
eat the pain of one another
feel it ease into our blood and bone
and, tasting theirs, so we embrace our own.

Fish out of water,
our task is learning how to breathe in two worlds
to walk the treacherous path
that cuts an ever widening swath in our hearts,
the gorge of sorrows where compassion feeds.

You there singing in your prayer
weeping, screaming,
I do not know where the way leads
into what dark forests, what caves, what dizzy peaks.
I only know I go along
and where once I went alone,
swam girded solitary in the reeds,
charting a course myself
now am lifted
swept by this net of love
and carried
carried
even as I carry you in me,
carried into bright and alien lands
carried toward the One
who ever holds our breakfast
in his hands.

 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of  Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn grey I will carry you.  I have made, and I will bear;  I will carry and I will save.   Isaiah 46: 3-4

Reflection questions:

  • How do Jesus’ words to Peter in John relate to you as you care for the souls of family, friends, clients, and others Jesus sends to you, or sends you to?
  • What have you observed about how people develop their faith and love for God? What seems to be your role in that process? How do you feed Christ’s  sheep?

 

You can help support The Praying Life by donating to The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer. Just five or ten dollars will make a difference and help pay some of our costs. Your gift is tax deductible. Donate Here. Thank you so much!

Somebody Driving You Nuts? Try This

I am indebted to insufferable stinkers for a good deal of the understanding I possess. The people I dislike the most, usually have the most to teach me.

I enjoy nearly everyone I meet, but I have come across some corkers. I think this is because God has so much to teach me about myself and love. When I hit a learning plateau, the Almighty with a sly grin sends a new teacher into my life to help me over the hump.

I work in a profession where my job description is to love everyone, including my enemies. Such an expectation holds one’s nose to the grindstone, as the Holy Spirit sets out to polish and refine her servants in the friction of human relationships.

I am grateful that love is deepened in us in this way, because if I could have discounted the difficult, or avoided the boring I would be far more difficult and boring myself. So I give thanks for all the needy, self-centered, mean-spirited, self-pitying, abrasive, annoying, and crazy, scary people, whom Christ places before me to welcome and love.

Without these opportunities I never would have discovered how much I have in common with such lack luster, irritating souls. I would have felt no responsibility to change my impression of them or curiosity about the source of my aversion. I would have missed out on the wealth of gifts they bring to me in their outstretched arms and infuriating ways.

I think you know the sort of people I am talking about: the ones who enrage you, disgust you, upset you, or frighten you. Among these are people who are so easy to dislike, that you may take a perverse joy in dwelling on their shortcomings and talking with friends about just how awful they are.

Forbearance is a word seldom heard these days, except in its legal sense as an agreement to delay a mortgage foreclosure. As the word appears in the Greek scriptures, to forbear means to refrain from doing something and refers to patient endurance and self-control. Forbearance is the virtue of bearing with another’s sins and weaknesses. Forbearance is more than refraining from saying what is on the tip of your tongue, rolling your eyes, or wringing someone’s neck. Love enables us to bear with one another;  and disciplined prayer and self-examination help us to love.

Sometimes my negative response to another may involve my unconscious projection of some unattractive attribute of myself, which I have not fully accepted. We tend to see our own flaws more clearly, when they show up in others. The offending party mirrors my own vexing habit. Or perhaps the negative feelings I carry for some other person in my life become attached to the person before me, who has some resemblance to my nemesis, and the unwitting soul must endure my unconscious dislike of him.

Or maybe – I just do not know the whole story.

He stopped me at the end of the meeting. He was the kind of person who, if you were in a hurry, you might duck down a hallway to avoid one of his tedious monologues. The man took forever to get to the point and gave you a whole lot of details that didn’t seem all that important and led to long, winding digressions.

As I listened, I felt the impatience and irritation rising up in me. Yet, because I was called to love and accept him, I took a breath, prayed and listened. I watched my internal irritation, wondering what it might have to tell me about the man and about myself.

I began to see that what I was feeling was instructive and likely how others felt listening to him. How hard that must be for him. What was going on here? Why was it so hard for him to be clear and concise?

I sensed in myself anxiety. Was he anxious too? Yes, I could see that now. He was anxious to be heard, fearful of being dismissed, of being devalued, or ignored. I recognized that needy feeling to be approved and valued in myself.

Who had made him feel this way? Where did it come from in me? That was when, in a flash, I glimpsed his suffering and all I wanted to do was give this man my total attention and acceptance. I realized that it didn’t really matter what he was saying as much as receiving someone’s caring attention.  There might be a time later to explore the roots of his digressions. For now I wanted him to know how it felt to be heard without worrying the person you were talking to was eager to walk away.

Compassion rearranged my calendar, and I had all the time in the world to listen.

Rudy Rasmus is the pastor of Houston’s, St. John’s Downtown, a church with one of the most culturally diverse memberships in the country. Speaking to the United Methodist Kansas East Conference in 2010, Rudy said, “The kingdom is big enough for all the people you are afraid of, or think are wrong, or that you can’t love.”

Of the 9000 members at St. John’s 3000 are or were formerly homeless. Part of Rasmus’ success is due to his ability to help his members learn to move past judgment to compassion. In his address last year he asked his audience to practice compassion. His exercise went like this:

With attention on the person [you are judging] say to yourself:

Just like me this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair in his or her life.

Just like me this person is trying to avoid suffering in his or her life.

Just like me this person is learning about life.

Then he shared what his Auntie used to tell him, “Rudy, people only do what they know to do.” The safer and more valued a person feels in my presence, the more they share of themselves and the more compassionate I become, as I grow in understanding and appreciation of the child of God before me.

The words of Oswald Chambers have helped me over and over to listen, to be curious, and open my heart to another, even when I don’t feel like it:

“Of every person there is always one more fact of which you know nothing.”

Put up with each other,
and forgive anyone who does you wrong, 
just as Christ has forgiven you. Colossians 3:13

Disclaimer: Any resemblance here to former or current church members, clients, friends, relatives, or dear readers of this blog is purely coincidental.
All the corkers I have known are now dead or live on Mars.

Christian Atheists

“If yas gonna pray – then yas don haft ta worry.
If yas gonna worry, then why bother to pray?”
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies


Though a majority of Americans claim they believe in God, most of us function in our lives as atheists. Little seems to cause us more trouble than the godless belief that the ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us. Parker Palmer calls this “functional atheism.”

This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who make it happen – a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God.

This shadow causes pathology on every level of our lives. It leads us to impose our will on others… stressing our relationships, sometimes to the point of breaking. It often eventuates in burnout, depression, and despair, as we learn the world will not bend to our will and we become embittered about that fact. Functional atheism is the shadow that drives collective frenzy as well. It explains why the average group can tolerate no more than fifteen seconds of silence: if we are not making noise, we believe, nothing good is happening and something must be dying.

~Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Functional atheism is not a new affliction for the believer’s soul. Remember the story of the father of the epileptic child who asked for Jesus’ help? Jesus said to the man, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 23-24)

The rough and tumble scramble of our daily lives reveals our hidden atheist. Our unbelief makes itself known in our worry and irritability. We see our betrayal of God in the way we clamp down on having things our way and in insisting that we are right. Such unbelief gives us heartburn, high blood pressure, sleepless nights, and anxious days. Try as we might, we will always fall short of being able to be God in our own lives. Such an enterprise only leads to misery.

So, let’s practice belief. Slowly, step by step, stumble by stumble, we can move more deeply into the conversion of our unbelief.

Here is a prayer exercise to try.

Find a quiet spot. Let yourself relax. Take five or six deep breaths in through your nose, and release each one slowly through your mouth.

Now, imagine yourself in a vast open spacious field: a mountain top, a plain, a meadow, and a lake or ocean shore. See the space on all sides stretching into the distance.

Next, put the things you are worrying about: finances, work, family, various tasks, or responsibilities — whatever has you tied in knots, into that spaciousness. Once you have spread out your concerns at some distance from yourself, simply be there, breathing.

Imagine the Holy Spirit is moving among and penetrating the many tasks, people, and issues with a vibrant, pulsating energy you cannot see, but may sense. As you remain in peace, centered in Christ, the work of God goes forth into all your concerns through your faith, your consent, and your belief that God is more powerful and effective in your life and the world, than you could ever be.

Watch. Wait. Trust. If you become anxious, ask God to help your unbelief.

After taking time to be present to God’s activity in your life concerns, ask if there are any specific responses or actions you are to take. Allow God’s response to rise up from your center of peace, rather than your anxiety or fear.

Here in the field of your life the One who knows you better than you know yourself is always healing, creating, mending, and summoning.

Relax. It is not all up to you. You are not alone. You are not even in charge.

You are just part of the field, a member of the family.

Amen.

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