Tag Archives: christ

Faith and Fear

A two part series on giving birth
to redemption in your time and place.

Part One – Mary and Cousin Carl

A-annuncia_Fra_Angelico

Most every epiphany or showing of God in scriptures is met with fear. When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary saying,  “Rejoice, O highly favored one. The Lord is with you,” Mary does not break out in ecstatic bliss. Instead she is greatly troubled at the saying. As Luke tells it, she considers in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And well she might. It was probably not the first time some itinerant ladies’ man claiming to be an angel had come on to her.

The angels in the Bible get some of the worst lines. They are hard to pull off with any authenticity. Enter one angel Gabriel with a flourish of wings and heavenly splendor who must make believable both his incredible presence and the words: “Rejoice, O favored one.”  Smile, God loves you. This is your lucky day! Any virgin with an ounce of sense might consider in her mind, “Right sweetie. Have I ever heard that one before.”

The immensity of the heavens is about to invade Mary in a mysterious and awesome conception that will defy rational explanation and accomplish an incarnation that ushers in the redemption of the world. Yet before Christ is born, Mary must face her fear and make a choice. And so it is with us. When God’s cheery messenger meets us with the news that we will conceive and bring forth the fruit of salvation, fear rather than joy is likely to be our first response.

A-Annunciation_da_MessinaMessengers sent by God to announce God’s saving love often wear camouflage. They have a hundred disguises. Can we trust that they are who they say they are? This seed of hope they want to place within us, dare we believe it, receive it? What if we are mistaken and this is all a dream or a product of our own egotistical imaginations? What arrogance makes you think you can bear sacred saving gifts into the world? This is no angel, but Cousin Carl dressed up in Aunt Edith’s chenille bathrobe with some tinfoil wings and a halo made out of a pie pan!

In real life angels rarely look like the ones in paintings. And yet, does it matter if the angel really is Cousin Carl? To me, what matters is that we believe that holiness and salvation are afoot, whatever ridiculous disguises they wear.

Prior to the advent of God’s redeeming love in our lives and world comes a courageous act of faith. The birth of Christ is contingent on the belief of a young girl with an imagination creative enough to envision the impossible and a sense of her worth strong enough to defy fear and anxiety. She places her whole being in jeopardy as she lays out her life and all that she holds dear on the gamble that there is a God in the heaven who might have some business to do with her.

We are to rely on faith rather than evidence, Ian Matthews writes in his interpretation of St. John of the Cross. Yet, here’s the kicker: the danger St. John warns of “is not so much that we shall trust in the wrong thing, but that we shall stop trusting at all; that, while we may never say it in so many words, we shall cease to believe that we are factor in God’s life.”

Matthews continues:
Survival demands a certain skepticism. We are trained to cope as social beings by keeping our desires within realistic limits. But where God is concerned, the problem lies in our desiring too little, and growing means expanding our expectations; or rather, making [God’s] generosity, not our poverty, the measure of our expectations.  – Ian Matthews, The Impact of God – Soundings from St. John of the Cross

Mary, sizing up her heavenly visitor, is moving from the rather safe place of conventional norms into a new realm where few of the old rules will make much sense. No one else can judge for her the validity of that grinning angel holding out joy like Aunt Edith’s peanut brittle. Should she take a bite? She hasn’t forgotten that incident in the garden with the serpent. What is truth? How can she be sure this is an invitation from God?

There are no books she can read, no wise men and women she can consult. She alone must determine and act on her own truth. How will Joseph or her village ever believe what is happening to her? Yet what others will think is not her ultimate concern. Her concern is obedience to the living God, to hope, to the possibility of wonder that lies beyond what the eye can see.

Joseph and the others must come to their own conclusions. They, along with the rest of us, are given that freedom. In W. H. Auden’s poem, “For the Time Being”, Joseph says to Gabriel:

All I ask is one important and elegant proof
That what my Love had done
Was really at your will
And that your will is Love.
Gabriel responds:
No, you must believe;
Be silent and sit still.

Weighing the odds, Mary asks one question, “How shall this be since I have no husband?”

“No problem,” guarantees the angel. And citing the case of barren Elizabeth, he assures her that with God nothing is impossible. Mary’s question raises a far from minor point. The participation of a male is a basic ingredient for conception. When God sends a divine messenger to us announcing that we have been chosen to bring forth some saving work, it may appear that some major components for success have been omitted. How shall this be since I have no money? Since I have no work? Since I have no education?

“No worry, it’ll be a cinch,” says Cousin Carl, snapping his fingers. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”

Finally it is up to Mary. The redemption of the cosmos is resting on the consent, the free choice of this mortal woman to have faith, to believe that what she is experiencing is true, and to claim and live out her experience of that truth by conceiving the fruit of salvation.

What will be your answer to Cousin Carl?

 

A_Annunciation_Collier

_______________________

 To be continued ~ watch for part two of this two part series. Will Mary say yes?  And what’s faith got to do with it?

This post is adapted from my book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Chapter 38

It Begins with a Howl – Redux

shepherds 001blue

It begins with a howl

a muffled sob at midnight
a “Help me!” filling the dark alley
with terror
a fist banging on the door
a blank stare and a hand clenching
a ball of tissue
a sudden lurch and collapse, face down in the open field.

This is how it begins, what we call Christmas.
Salvation is summoned by its negation.

The raw expression of the creation’s need calls out its savior –

the scream
that rises from the soul shattering collision

of what is with what should be.

Christmas begins when God hears

And God heard the voice of the boy… Genesis 21:17

I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Exodus 3:7

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Luke 1:13

Christmas begins when God sees

 I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt.  Exodus 3:7

My tears will flow without ceasing, without respite until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees. Lamentations 3: 49-50

She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!”

“Yes, he saw me; then I saw him!”
That’s how the desert spring got named God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring. Genesis 16: 13-14

Christmas begins when the earth turns,
writhes, and convulses in its lamentation.

When the protest of the human heart joins its sorrow
with the heart of the One acquainted with grief,

Holiness steps out of the forest
into the clearing

“Here,” bending over our
our small shaking bodies
our hopeless cynicism
our little hands grasping at straws

“Here is my answer,” Holiness says,
and places in those hands
a child
wet and wild.

“And the name of the child shall be Love.”

This post is an edited version of a post which was first published
November 29, 1011.

This post is an edited version of a post which was first published
November 29, 1011.

Morning News Pre-Empted by Older Story

Today while listening to the morning news, I heard an old hymn edging its way between the story on the election and the update on survivors of the hurricane.

I will tell you what it was in a minute, but first I offer you my Op-Ed.

I am not counting on my vote getting the leadership I want us to have. Nor am I counting on getting my views on our responsibility to the suffering of others to prevail.

What I count on and lay down my life for, is the goodness of a Reality larger than politics, economics, global warming, war, and corporate interests. I am putting my support on a Being greater and more graceful than the tiny brains of human beings. My candidate is the invincible  Substance of things hoped for, which sees beyond what is, yet dwells in the midst of our chaos and sings in the human heart.

Under my fears I can hear the wondrous freedom song that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not human sin, stupidity, or weakness, not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8: 38-39 CEV)

The Holy One dwells as ground beneath our feet in astonishing humility – wiser, brighter, and kinder than we are – who will hold us up and see us through.

In this season of distress, polarities, and uncertainty, I am banking on the hidden connections among our species, those channels of mercy that run deeper than ideologies and seep into the crevices of our vulnerability, which is both our great flaw and our greater glory, penetrating down into the solid rock of compassion, imagination, and strength.

The world does not need our anger, our outrage, our fear, or our grasping need to get others to believe as we do. I believe the world needs our humility and our faith.

For my part I can think of nothing better to offer this little piece of history than these simple gifts of the soul.

Now, here is the hymn which intruded into my morning news:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
                                          Edward Mote

Exploring Solitude: Leaving Solitude, Gone to Galilee

“Don’t be afraid.  I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross.  He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer.  You can see for yourselves that the place is empty.  Now—on your way.  Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee.  You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”

They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming.  Stunned, they said nothing to anyone. (Mark 16: 6-7  The Message)

Contemplation is the world becoming luminous from within as one plunges breathlessly into human activity, wrote paleontologist, and priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Eventually, that which calls us into solitude will also send us out of solitude. Communion with God by ourselves leads to communion with God with others and everything that is. The longing to connect with God returns us to all that is in God.  As Jesus prayed:

 I pray that they will one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us…I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. John 17: 21-22 

 

Solitude deepens our appreciation and concern for all that is in God’s creation. Thomas Merton wrote that it was in solitude where he became capable of deep love for others.

I do not mean to imply that entering solitude means that we are without companions there. A jostling, rowdy, crowd of the saints and angels may join you from time to time. I believe the saints approve of our going off alone to pray and will show up to share their love, make wise cracks, and steal our cookies. Or – maybe it is the mice you hear in the night, muttering and munching your Cheetos. Yet other energies come and go – ancestors, spirits, the great chorus of prayer lifted night and day throughout time and space, the Trinitarian exchange of love that holds the stars in their courses.  Call it what you may. We are never alone. Yet one day, an angel of sorts will intrude on your cozy peace and tell you to go back to the crowds of Galilee.

Time to Go?
Many of us may live for long stretches with little major change in our lives. We complain and fret about the way things are, but we are comfortable in our complaining. Some kind of restriction, suffering, or limitation has become as familiar and predictable as on old friend. Or perhaps, we have grown beyond a wineskin, which once served us well, yet we continue to conform to it, cramming and squeezing ourselves in something which no longer serves us well.

Ways of living end. Even the lovely gifts of solitude come to an end. And it is time to go back home, or wherever home will be for us now. I have come to recognize an organic sense within me, which sits up, looks around, and begins to think of the world beyond my solitude. New energy, clarity, and purpose quicken within me. I know it is time to go back to the world. I am ready – rested, realigned, and serviceable for God’s good pleasure.

Or perhaps we wake one morning, rub our eyes, and say, “Well this is enough of this!” Maybe it’s the cross we are stuck on, clutching at our suffering, reviewing, blaming, nursing resentment, and bitterness.

So, we put down our fork and decide to stop eating sour grapes. And we go out to see if there is somebody who needs a hand to help them climb down from whatever they are hanging from or hanging onto.

Or maybe, you are stuck, numb, and passive in the tomb, playing out some kind of death drama. Then one day you sit up, look around and say, “Oh Rats. Guess I better get up. This is just plain silly. The door has been wide open for days. And I am missing out on all the fun.”

The Summons to Life
The Word of the Lord goes out to the mountains, the lake shores, the forests, and deserts. The Word of the Lord seeps under doorsills, writes itself upon your mirror, and grabs you by the throat in the doctor’s office.

Come, come! Follow me. I am not here. I have risen! Come plunge into the heart of the world, the hurly burly, the bustling shove and rush of life. Come, dive into the chaos. Let go of the death in your life. Follow me down the main streets crying, “Life is winning! Love is winning!”

And you, once basking in the silence and beauty of your Love, now ignite, burn incandescent, and, running with fire, immerse yourself in the midst of the darkness, blossoming like the night sky on the Fourth of July.

Isn’t this why you have been made, to be a rag, soaked in God, burning hot with truth and molten laughter? What good is all your suffering, your losses, and solitude, if they do not thrust you into the throng, wearing the fragrance of God?

People can tell you know, that fragrance, that scent of holiness, that wafts from you, when you have been spending time with God. Dogs and children will follow you. Birds will sing for you. And love-starved souls will line up at your door.

The world does not need your knowledge, your money, and competence. The world does not need your fear, your anxiety, your worry, your pitiful soul sagging from a cross, and your grim tales of death and woe.

The world needs your faith. The worlds longs for one authentic God-smitten soul, who can no longer hold back the Spirit, rising like an orange sun, like a soaring bird, like a great flag unfurling, shouting from every cell, “He is not here. He is risen. He is gone. Gone. To Galilee!”

Get over yourself. Stop sniveling and cringing.

Be a flame in the darkness, faith in the unfaith, hope in the despair, love in the hate, laughter in the gloom.

Go ahead. Rouse the dead! Stomp your foot, and cry, out, “Live!”

Pass out roses. Prepare a feast. You have died and risen with Christ. Nothing can stop you now from bearing grace into the world with every breath you breathe.

So good is this Good News.

So good is this raucous community filled with light.

 

 Solitude Practice:

  •  In a world full of fear, anxiety, and efforts by many to amplify that fear, how and where do you convey a different message?
  • Have you noticed ways in which your solitude practice helps you to love others more?
  •  What has you sniveling or cringing? Is it time to let it go for faith and trust in Christ?

 

This is the last post in the Exploring Solitude Series for now.  I am sure I will take up this topic again in the future.  Thank you for all the likes, shares, retweets, comments, and emails. You are each a beautiful treasure to me!

 Next post:  Something You Do Not Want to Miss   :  )

___________________________

 Praying Life Readers,

I am leading a workshop this month here in Topeka. Hope to see you there!

Look and See: Nurturing a Shining, Festive Life of Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2012
8:30-12:00
$20.00
First Congregational Church
1701 SW Collins, Topeka, KS  

www.embracethequestions.com

Please register early to assure a place by calling or emailing First Congregational UCC. 785-233-1786; info@embracethequestions.com

 Related articles

Exploring Solitude: Tomb Time

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still, because God has fallen asleep in the flesh, and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. 

 – from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday used in the monastic tradition

 

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is one of my favorite days of the church year. I want to savor the richness of this day, but our rush to Easter Vigils, Easter Sunrise Services, Easter Breakfasts, Easter Cantatas, Easter Dramas, and Easter Egg Hunts does not give one much opportunity to enter the soundless, solemn peace of Christ asleep. I want to halt the parade of Easter soirees to discover the grace of this moment in the story of saving Love.

Such a pause doesn’t seem to be in our nature.

Over ten years ago US News and World Report solicited readers’ answers to the question, “Does America have ADD?”  According to the article, “Since 1965, the average news sound bite has shrunk from 42 seconds to just 8. The average network TV ad has shrunk from 53 seconds to 25. Fifteen second ads are on the rise. Multi-tasking is in. Downtime is out.” Millions of children and quite a few adults have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, a brain imbalance that is thought to be the root of unusual hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor concentration. Wired magazine calls ADD the “official brain syndrome of the information age.”

What does it take to sit us down, stop us in our tracks, and shut our mouths? When have you been brought to your knees and cast face down, prostrate, by some overwhelming mystery of suffering love? Have you been able to stop the frenzied round of your life’s demands without feeling guilty, lazy, or neglectful?

What is alarming to me about our culture’s distracted, harried quality is that, as I understand redemption, transforming love requires a lot of focus and concentrated effort. I really cannot participate with Christ in his death and resurrection, and simultaneously answer my E-mail, pick up the dry cleaning, plan supper, and listen to my teenager.  Not that any of these activities cannot hold saving power, but servants of transforming love need to be able to act with attentive one-pointed concentration, and a wholeness of mind, heart, and body that require our doing one thing at a time. What is implied in such loving attentiveness is that this task, this person here, now, is worthy of my entire attention. As I am able to set aside or die to other competing calls for my concern, greater love and healing may pour through me.

Rest

Tradition holds that after Jesus died on the cross, he went to preach to the souls in hell and retrieve Adam.

16th century Russian icon of the Descent into ...

I certainly hope not. Hadn’t he already done enough preaching, enough sacrificing?

I’d rather think he rested. After all it was the Sabbath. Surely his ministry and the hard saving labor of his passion and death had worn him out. What  wondrous grace then to be placed in a soundless chamber safe and secure from all alarm – not to mention, answering machines, faxes, cell phones and pagers.

Not all silence is the graced silence of Christ’s tomb. Silence is the expression of a multitude of experiences: embarrassed, sweaty-palmed pauses, numbed shock, dissociated trauma; dull tedious droning; the excruciating stillness of shunning, loneliness and betrayal; the thick pouting silence of blame and resentment; the angry choking silence of the oppressed; and the isolated silence of the deaf.

In contrast –

The silence of the grave has a solemn feel.
After great pain a formal feeling comes-
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs, wrote Emily Dickinson.

The solemnity of Holy Saturday carries a weight that presses us down to the earth where we are no longer able to flit and flutter away from truth.

The flimsy props we use to hold ourselves upright slide to the ground and we along with them. Like sheets stretched across a sagging clothesline until the wet and windblown linens drape upon the earth, the weight of death drags us down, lays us down in a voluminous sweet surrender.

The Resurrection Power of Truth Telling

Truth is a friend of this silence. The silence of God reveals what is false, what words confuse, conceal, deny, or destroy. I love how Jesus just stands there when Pilate asks, “What is truth?”  Truth is right before us, standing in this present moment. Truth simply offers itself. It does not argue its case, defend itself, or plead. It just gives itself to us in love for those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to know. As I embrace the truth of the present moment with love, the next moment is redeemed.

“The power of the kingdom is the spirit of the Risen Christ seen in the strength of truth as it continues to break through human limitation and sinwrites Jacqueline Bergan. The Risen Lord enters my world with his redeeming grace and power through the door made my truth telling. What truths have I entombed in silence? I meet the Risen Lord as I speak truth as best I can moment by moment.

Freedom

The silence of the tomb is full of freedom. One feels a releasing and relaxing throughout one’s whole being – like taking off your shoes, loosening your belt, slipping into comfortable old clothes. You are not in charge. You do not have to make things happen. You do not have to figure things out. This silence is the celebration and sanctification of being itself – your being.

So how do we get there- off the cross and into the tomb? How might we enter into such a silence and know its sweetness and its eternal freedom? I do not think we do a very good job of teaching ourselves how to surrender. We may move through lent and Eastertide watching and reflecting on Jesus who dies for our sins – trying to figure out just what it really means and what difference it makes, working up an appropriate attitude of contrition and sorrow – yet somehow distanced from it all.

Lent and Easter become a sort of mythic cardboard backdrop to our lives as unreal and one dimensional as a child’s drawing. What we may miss is that the paschal mystery played out before us in scripture, hymn, and ritual is simultaneously going on in our own lives and hearts. Jesus is dying and rising in the circumstances of your life. Knowing that, believing that transforms your every act, every thought into something holy with sacred potential to give new life.

So to what do we surrender? Evil, sin, death – a rabid crowd roaring for someone to crucify? We surrender to Love – to how Love is having its way with us in our lives – through the tedious, joyful, painful days of getting up in the morning, fixing breakfast, setting out to do what needs to be done. I know many saints who quietly surrender to love and love’s inscrutable purposes day after day, until spent with loving in the simplest, most unassuming ways they are drawn into Love itself.

Home

A freight train sounded its mournful whistle as it rattled past my father’s window at the nursing home. Sometimes a light behind his eyes would ignite and for the briefest second he remembered trains. Love had hallowed him out. He was getting ready to enter the final tomb. Every time I see a hawk I remember when he told me how he loved to lie in the fields as a boy and watch the hawks ride the currents of the wind.  My mother called the place where my father waited for God, the “rest home.” Its actual name is Pleasant Manor Care Center. We have modern names for these places – skilled nursing facilities, residential care, assisted living. I rather like rest home myself.

The tomb of Holy Saturday is a kind of rest home where we wait to be lifted into resurrection.

Go ahead.  Surrender to Love.  You have nothing to lose, but death.

 

Images in this post are from Liturgical Art, Meinrad Craighead, 1998, Sheed & Ward

Solitude Practice:

  • Look around the tomb. What truths have you hidden away?
  • Do one thing today slowly, attentively, mindfully. Perhaps you prepare a meal, listen to a child, take a walk or a shower. Open yourself fully to the task with loving generosity. What do you learn?

Next post in this series –  Exploring Solitude:  Leaving solitude, gone to Galilee.

______________________________________

  Praying Life Readers,

I am leading a workshop this month here in Topeka. Hope to see you there!

Look and See: Nurturing a Shining, Festive Life of Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2012
8:30-12:00
$20.00
First Congregational Church
1701 SW Collins, Topeka, KS  

www.embracethequestions.com

Please register early to assure a place by calling or emailing First Congregational UCC. 785-233-1786; info@embracethequestions.com

 

Re-tired: Embracing the Call to Solitude

I need to be still for a while.

I need to savor and integrate a month of bounty, a year of gratitude.

I need to listen long

to the captivating resonance of relationships,

that singing bowl of community.

A Japanese rin marks the beginning of moments ...

I recently made a big change in my life and how I will spend my hours in the coming years. I retired. When I hear this word, retire, I see myself driving my car over to the repair shop and saying, “Hoist me up, Mike, and put on some Michelin Pilot Sport Pluses all around this dune buggy. I need something sturdy that will hold me to the road in all weather. Mike, my man, I got places to go and things to see.”


As the old year closed I said goodbye to a community I served for over twelve years and began my retirement from traditional parish ministry. The Sanctuary Foundation, which I founded over twenty years ago, will continue. In the coming year I will offer spiritual guidance, teach a little, and finish a new book.


Most importantly, I will practice what I have preached. I will allow the stillness to feed the hunger of my heart, and offer my life with greater integrity to what I feel most deeply called and what the church, regardless of all its good intentions, seems least able to support.


Mind you, I do not leave parish ministry burned out, beaten down, or resentful as some do. This may be because I worked part-time. I also did not carry the same responsibility, which a head of staff carries. And I continued my long established practice of taking a day a week for solitude and prayer through those twelve years. Besides, even though they work hard and balance multiple tasks and responsibilities, clergy continue to show statistically that they are among the happiest professionals. 


I continue to believe in the church, which is to say, that I believe in the wonder of people stepping out of their daily lives to come together to sing, and to lift their hearts and minds to something beyond their own manipulation and control. I believe in the miracle of people, who seek to love, forgive, and work together in spite of their differences. I believe in the Power that inspires their faith and surrender to One kinder and wiser than they. I believe in the Grace which meets us in vulnerability, admitting failures, and in opening our lives to the scrutiny of a loving God. I believe in the Compassion that leads people to acts of justice and mercy and the Love that empowers them to lay down their lives for each other.


In this sense church is a singular, unique mystery, which has grasped the human species. It startles the wits out of me every time I walk into or stumble upon such church in one of its many manifestations.


To leave parish ministry and my particular community of faith felt like parts of my heart were being pulled out by the roots. So deep was the love we shared and the goodness of God in our midst.


So why leave? Over the past thirty years of my service to the church I have found the traditional forms of ministry, as much as I have loved the work, have always seemed to require a compromise of what I hold most deeply – a life lived prayerfully, mindfully, steeped in the substance of the living God. Too often the church seemed to ask me to live more of the world, than in the world. The church, like each of us, is deeply influenced and captive to the values, practices, and gods of a secular culture. I find it very difficult to stand against that tide of endless production, pragmatism, and focus on self and survival.


Instead of becoming of the world, Paul calls the church to a transformation of its mind, its self understanding as it exists in the world.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12: 2 The Message

I never fit in. My personal tension with the church is not because the church has failed. It is a because I am a monk, albeit a gregarious one. Monk, which means solitary is in direct conflict with church and its sense of gathering. And there’s the rub and the glory.  Service, whether in the hermitage or in the pulpit, on one’s knees or at the bedside of a suffering soul, listening to the pain of the poor or raising money for mission,  always requires a death, a sacrifice of some desire or another. I do not blame the church for this, but, rather, the church has educated and purified me through the very conflicts which tried and tempered my soul.


I, alone, am responsible for following the call of God in my life. I am grateful to my denomination, Presbyterian Church(USA), those intelligent, imaginative, decent and orderly ones, and the Presbytery of Northern Kansas  for making space for their solitary, monkish sister. Now at the end of her service and the beginning of her honorable retirement, she will embrace what called her out of darkness and back to the church thirty three years ago, in a way more congruent with her heart’s deepest desires.


So as you can see, I have some things to mull over. I need time to downshift and decelerate as I make for myself a life more congruent with the word of God as it sings in my heart and speaks to me in the ancient texts. Besides I have a big pile of thank you notes to write, and I need to get over to Mike’s and get those new tires.


I will take a couple weeks off from writing The Praying Life. And I will be back  before you know it. In the meantime I will post occasional thoughts and links here and on the 
Sanctuary Foundation Facebook page.

Holy God,
in your will is our peace.
In this moment is your will.
Here, now.

Let’s hit the road.


With deep love and gratitude to The Reverends Paul Waters, Ron Schultz and Rob Winger and the members and friends of Crestview UMC in Topeka, Kansas.

Dear Reader, I am interested in hearing from you. What do you need? How might this blog speak more directly to the hunger of your heart in the coming year? Email your ideas, questions, and suggestions here , or comment below.

I am looking forward to the journey ahead!

It Begins with a Howl

 It begins with a cry            

      a muffled sob at midnight

      a “Help me!” filling the dark    alley with terror

      a fist banging on the door

      a numb, blank stare and a      hand, clenching and     unclenching a ball of tissue       

 a sudden lurch and collapse, facedown in the open field


This is how it begins, what we call Christmas.

Salvation is summoned by its negation.

The Savior is called forth by the raw expression
of the creation’s need,

the howl
that rises from the shattering
collision of what is with what should be.


Christmas begins when God hears

 And God heard the voice of the boy… Gen 21:17

I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Ex 3:7

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Luke 1:13

Christmas begins when God sees

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt.  Ex 3:7

My tears will flow without ceasing, without respite until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees. Lamentations 3: 49-50

She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!” “Yes, he saw me; then I saw him!” That’s how the desert spring got named God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring. Genesis 16: 13-14

Christmas begins when the earth turns, writhes, and lifts up its lamentation. When the protest of the human heart joins its sorrow with the heart of the One acquainted with grief,

then

you step out of the forest
and into the clearing
to place in our hands

a child
wet and wild.

Here is my answer, you say.
And the name of the child is

      Love.