Tag Archives: community



Drawing her arms
through the salt sea
legs straining
giving her body
to the task

she swam among
the floating limbs
reaching after them
before they turned
to sink slowly down

to shocked shipwrecks
astonished clams
coming to rest in a cloud
of silt, the softly yielding
residue of other remains.

She heard no sound
but her breath
and the slip slosh of sea
as she ploughed the
surface of their sorrow.

She thought
she could retrieve them
gather the fragments
siphon up the spilt blood
return to all donors

bring mothers
their sons and daughters
wrapped in seaweed

take this leg, uprooted,
to the young man
Here it is yours, she’d say.
I found it in the sea.

So deep, so wide the wound
of flesh and bone
so piercing, urgent the ache
to be re- membered.


for those whose lives have been blown apart
for those who must pick up the pieces

Loretta F. Ross, 2013

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.


 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
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.

sweet breath and the lungs of creation,
eternally giving,
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: https://theprayinglife.com/2010/05/30/a-god-who-dances/

Spineless Christians and the Courage to Be

Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.  John Wayne

“Church people are too nice to each other. They need to grow spines,” a friend said to me the other day. My friend was commenting on the surface relationships, which exist in some faith communities, where we all want to get a long at almost any price and work really hard at being nice. A member’s problematic behavior is tolerated, at the expense of developing a healthy community. Neither the deep needs of the member, nor the needs of the community as a whole, are addressed, and both suffer.

Perhaps you have heard someone comment about a member who is overbearing, controlling, or in some other way hard to take, “Oh that’s the way he is. That’s just how he does things. He means well. Don’t take it personally.”

From my vantage point of thirty years of pastoral ministry and thousands of hours spent listening to church members and pastors in spiritual direction sessions, people do take it seriously, when they are run over, ignored, or otherwise misused. They take it very seriously. I have watched new people walk away and never return after a hurtful encounter. I have seen older members pull back and clergy stymied by power struggles. I have observed churches stuck in relational impasses for years.

Why does no one speak up? Why does a church system seem to harbor and implicitly support bad behavior in the body of Christ? Where did we get the notion that following Jesus meant that we were supposed to be nice? The word nice originates in a Latin word meaning ignorant, literally, not + knowing. In its original use in the thirteenth century nice meant foolish, stupid, or senseless. Today nice means agreeable, pleasant, or satisfactory.

Jane Austin captured the tired, feeble sense of the word in this passage from Northanger Abbey:

“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?” “Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.”

When Christianity is reduced to being nice people, it loses its spine and the energetic power of Christ among us.

Many factors may foster spineless Christians. Maybe I am related to the irritating individual or live with him. Perhaps the person has influential friends, or contributes a lot of money. We keep still, because we are afraid of offending others, or being attacked, or rocking the boat.

 We also may be enmeshed as integral parts of a codependent church system in which we find ourselves manipulated by another. Codependency is a psychological condition, which develops when one’s behavior is controlled or determined by another, who is ill with an addiction to a substance or a behavior.

In such cases we walk on eggshells, work behind the scenes, have parking lot conversations, protect, and placate the person in question, while the system stays stuck. We help perpetuate the dysfunction and become sick ourselves.

Most people do not like confrontation. We shy away from speaking the truth as we see it, because it doesn’t seem safe. Instead we swallow our truth, question our own perceptions, try to make do, and from time to time acquiesce to bullies.

Of course, there are times, when we have good reason to be afraid. And, likewise, there may be occasions, when it is best to not confront someone, who contributes to problems in congregational life. There are times to step back, pray, and wait on the Holy Spirit to resolve impasses. There are times for us to grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. We always will see only part of what is going on, and our particular analysis may be incorrect.

Further, it is important to note that the so-called problem is not with the so-called problem person. The issue is not what we need to do about him or how we can control or manipulate her. The issue is ultimately with us, who are experiencing it. The issue rests with my particular and limited view, and my responsibility and willingness, not to change someone I do not like, but to share my perspective with humility and love in service to the greater community.

My responsibility is to be an expert witness to my reality and experience. Such witness might sound like this: when Susan does this or says that, I feel like this – angry, controlled, sad, hurt, left out, etc.

Such responsible truth-telling with love and humility may open doors of deeper understanding and freedom for everyone.  Fear can grip an individual, a family, or a community in such a way that the fear becomes a lie, which obscures or distorts a larger truth. Such a lie may seriously compromise the mission of a church. Whenever fear and its expression in “being nice,” become a bigger motivator, than love and honesty, something is seriously amiss.

Jesus offered a different answer to a religious establishment and an empire, which used fear, threat of ostracism, and power to control its members. Instead of becoming terrorized, or becoming a terrorist, Jesus “set his face like flint,” as he turned to Jerusalem to look fear in the eye, calmly grounded in a sense of something larger, more loving, more powerful, and stronger than fear, which would sustain him and the whole world with him.

And then he said to those who watched, “Follow me.”

What would the world look like, if we were motivated by faith and love, instead of fear?  The fear response, lodged in the brain stem, is primal and necessary to survival. Yet what does fear motivate us to do – circle the wagons, huddle together, adopt a world view of scarcity, and become rigid, defensive, offensive, and suspicious?  Such postures hinder generosity and imagination. Faith, which requires trust in the unseen, is blocked by fear. Without faith, the flow of the Spirit through hearts in love with God is obstructed.

I am not sure that we know how to speak our truth and disagree without resorting to anger, blame, and attack. I am not sure we really believe there is a common ground beyond our dissent. Deeper truth is revealed as smaller truths are shared with courage and love. Discovering God’s will for our communities requires all parties to surrender to something greater than their individual points of view. We need, both to hear individual perspectives, and to bow to a larger more encompassing vision, which asks something heroic of each one of us; namely, to give up our way, even our lives, for the larger good of the whole.

I believe there are Christians with spines and with the courage to be Christian, who create spaces where the bullied and the bullies, the controlling and those who feel controlled, the powerful and those without power come together in mutual appreciation and surrender to the One beyond fear who offers abundance and sanctuary to all her children.

We all need to hear and be heard, to listen and to speak. The Holy Spirit with her bright wings dwells in the naked soul of each member of the body of Christ. We dare not silence any voice. It only takes a few divinely inspired souls to change the course of history or the climate of a local church.

May we all find the courage to set our faces like flint against the ghostly shroud of fear, which diminishes us and turns our spines to Jell-O.  Then let’s saddle up and head out toward the Reign of God with possibility, love, freedom, and justice for all.

God Goes to Podcamp

Looking around the room, I saw a lot of smart phones, iPads, laptops, as well as salon haircuts, and expensive eye glasses with predominately black frames.  I picked out grungy geeks, staid state employees, hip local media moguls, and a few old dudes like me among the crowd. One stunning young woman arrived, wearing tight black leggings and a short black jacket. Her stiletto boots with open toes showed off her bright red pedicure. She carried an equally beautiful baby on one hip.

I sat down at a table with two young web design entrepreneurs from Iowa. College students and high school buddies, they had made the nine hour drive to spend the day at of all places, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

The event, sponsored by my local public library, is the brain child of librarian, David Lee King, who is definitely nothing like Miss Mabel Hrencher, who presided at the check out counter in the library of my childhood. PodCamp Topeka, billed as the “best unconference in the Midwest” is “Topeka’s annual low-cost unconference focused on social media, podcasting, audio and video production, and the web. Our goal? To learn about social media from social media experts, to network with fellow bloggers, podcasters & social media creators … and to have a blast!”  Which, as far as I am concerned, we did. Though I skipped the Tweet-Up event at a local bar at the end of the day in order to walk my dog, I left thinking, “Wow! Topeka, Kansas just keeps getting better and better.”

I purchased a new TV remote a month ago after my dog, Elijah, ate most of my old one. The new remote still sits in its box, because I can’t figure out how to get the darn thing to work. So how did I come to be sitting among tech cool, social media movers and shakers, learning tricks for emerging web technology? What was I, a hermit, solitary type, who needs large, sustained doses of silence, and thinks about God a lot, doing here? What could the keynote speaker, social media guru, Patrick O’Keefe, owner of I Froggy Network , have to say of interest to me? The last Froggy I had heard of “went a’courtin’” years ago.

Why did I go? Simple. The event was all about communication,  joining together, communion. This, you may recall, was a particular concern for Jesus. In the intimate moment in the gospel of John, where we listen in on Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, we overhear Jesus’ deep yearning that somehow, someway his followers might taste and enjoy the communion and oneness he shared with the Creator, whom he called Father. “Please let them be one, as we are one, not just kind of one, but completely, perfectly one. And Father,  I don’t want just these here, my disciples, to be part of this joining together, I want also those, who believe in me through my followers’ words about me, to be one with us. (John 17: 20-22, paraphrase)

Part of the nature of the Holy One and those created in God’s image and likeness is the ability to communicate – to extend oneself out of oneself in order to interact in some meaningful way with another. An infant expresses his needs and learns trust, as his caregivers respond to his cries with comfort and nurture. Hopefully, the infant learns that when he expresses a need, someone beyond him will respond with kindness. The child experiences the deep satisfaction and relief of being heard, and understood. If for some reason its need is not met, if the infant is unable to successfully connect, to attach to another, and get his or her needs met, the baby may waste away and develop a host of difficulties in communing with others.

Communication forms the basis of human community and a reflection, for the believer, of the Trinitarian nature of God. Theologian Miraslov Volf in a recent article in Christian Century writes:

If the One God is utterly unique and beyond number, why do Christians speak of divine triunity? Christians believe the word [God’s communication] was made flesh in Jesus Christ. From this belief it follows that the one utterly unique God who is beyond all counting, is internally differentiated as the Speaker, the Word and the Breath.

We live in the midst of the praised and condemned transition from print and broadcast communication to digital communication. This is one more passage in the long journey that began at the campfire, where we gathered to hear the hunters tell us the story of how they stalked and killed our supper. We have now arrived at the blog, podcast, and webinar to tell our stories of conquest and to instruct others in monetizing, ROI (return of investment), and how to put supper on the table. According to M. Rex Miller, author of The Millennium Matrix, the movements from oral communication, to print media, broadcast, and digital media have each brought about sweeping changes in how we believe, how we know, how we live together, how we see beauty, and how we work and trade. Our institutional structures, our architecture, our religions, our art, our self understanding, even our brains have been conditioned by how we communicate.

What is an unconference? you may wonder. According to Wikipedia, “an unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term ‘unconference’ has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.” An unconference moves away from a top down, gathering of authorities, experts, and hierarchical structures. Power in the form of information and know-how is no longer controlled by Miss Mabel Hrencher with her tight grip on your library card.

We, along with the Holy One yearn to know and be known, to receive another and to be received, to see and be seen. We find deep satisfaction in that moment of mutual apprehension: the yes! the nod, the I-get-you-baby. We seem to never tire of the joy of recognition, affirmation, acceptance, and to be heard and understood. “Hey, Mom, watch. See how I do this! Dad, look at me!”

The glance of another is a blessing beyond words, the bestowal of understanding is a gift of great price. During a break at the Podcamp, the hip young mom came toward me down the hall. I stopped and told her, “You are just beautiful.” She smiled and her baby looked at me and crowed.

At Podcamp most of us contained our look-at-me tendencies, but they were not far below the surface. The longing to enter into the sweet and deeply satisfying experience of communion runs like a subtext of desire through many human interactions. The man, who came for the fall check up of my furnace, the day after the midterm elections, visited with me a bit about politics and the state of the nation. At one point I said, “It sounds like you have thought deeply about these things.” The earnest, intelligent fellow perked up and talked for another half hour. Somebody cared.

It takes so little in the dance of communication – a comment, response, the slightest gesture of recognition, the click of the Like button. We possess great power to enlarge one another or to diminish and demean.

Prayer, as I understand it, is communication with the Holy One, an exchange in which we speak and listen ourselves into ever fuller being and carry with us our whole community into that fullness.  We reach beyond ourselves and our essential isolation to enter another’s reality, and in that moment of communion, however momentary, virtual or real, is the opportunity for expansion, mutual exchange, and transformation.

A warning: death is involved in such communion. Life changing communication requires a dying to self and an opening out in trust to the other. I die to my personal exclusivity as an authority or expert, as I reach out to the collective, communal wisdom of my brothers and sisters. I find I am dying all the time, as I bump up against my perceptions, opinions, and personal critiques of those around me, only to discover just how dead wrong I am and how much more is going on in the realm of the Spirit, than I am aware of, or which I discount in my arrogance.

There is no room for a cozy “me and Jesus” theology in such communion. Theologian Miroslav Volf explains,

Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of three persons, faith leads human beings into the divine communion. One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God- a “foursome,” as it were– for the Christian God is not a private deity. Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God. Hence one and the same act of faith places a person into a new relationship both with God and with all others who stand in communion with God. After our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity

The words, love, forgiveness, God, and Jesus were not mentioned at the unconference. Those young men at my table might have moved if they knew I was an ordained minister, not a popular profession in many circles. There was some bowing before the God of Technology. However, there was also an awareness of boundaries, rules, and internet etiquette:  Act nice, or you will be deleted.

Some final words from M. Rex Miller:

The internet is fundamentally about connecting with people of common interest, facilitating person-to-person conversations, collaboration, assistance, and collective learning. The internet inverts the power curve away from centralized control and content to distributed power and member-generated content. The internet is about the exponential value of networks, the power of conversation, and liberation from past obstacles of time, location, gender, age, ethnicity, disability, and tradition.(The Millennium Matrix, p 205)

Though Christ, in whom St. Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, is not mentioned in this description, digital communication offers, for those with eyes to see, a mortal and incomplete reflection of the image of  self-giving communion we find in the Trinity. The heart of digital communication sounds a lot like like church to me. That’s why I went to PodCamp.

As for God, I figure the Almighty, having created the people who made it, must love digital communication, and is surely showing up in black leggings toting her son at every Podcamp she can.

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A Crisis of Contemplation

The latest issue of Holy Ground is out. This little reflection on the contemplative life comes out quarterly. In this issue I write about our struggle to be prayerfully present to our work, our tendency in a crisis to rely on what we can know and do, rather than on what God may be offering us, and the revolutionary effect of digital media on how we function in our society and churches. Goodness, that is a lot to cover in one essay.

Here is an except:
After worship we got down to business. However, I felt I wasn’t finished worshipping. I wanted to say, “Wait a minute. God is still speaking.” I wanted to keep pondering the texts, and to listen and reflect together about what we were hearing. The day’s agenda initiated a shift in the attitude and attention of the group from an intentional awareness of God to the task at hand. This is precisely why I had been asked to pray for the group: to serve as a visible reminder of our communal connection and listening to God. One man, thanking me after the meeting said, “I forgot that you were here. Then I happened to look over and saw you praying. It meant a lot.”
I wonder how things would go, if someone were kneeling or bowed in prayer at all our tasks and business. Try it in your imagination. Look across the room. See someone, Christ, a friend, or stranger praying for you there. Is the person sitting in a chair, kneeling, or prostrate? What happens to you when you see this? Ah, a softening of the shoulders maybe? A sigh. Some of the strain releases. A hush of peace. The comfort of trust.
We struggle to be simultaneously present to God and to our work. So we bookend our days and activities with prayer, often a perfunctory invocation and a quickie closing prayer “to get us all on the road.” We are split in a way which sickens, wearies, and drains the life out of me. I struggle every day to bring an attentive awareness of the holy God into all I do. I fail over and over. I know when I have failed by the tension in my neck and shoulders, the eyelid twitch, the strain that comes over me when my ego has been bossing and shoving me around. I know I have failed when the space in my head has been crammed with words, ideas, opinions, fears and there is no room for Jesus. I know the deadening effect of too much talk, too much human need trying to meet human need, and no silence and space for God to meet any of it. …
The capacity to be simultaneously present to God and the task at hand is nurtured in many spiritual direction training programs. Such steadfast awareness of Christ is something the Holy Spirit accomplishes within us, not so much taught as encouraged by those who help us trust and let go into God. Such a deep integration of Christ and abiding at all times in his peace, wisdom and gentle love is God’s will for us all.
Still, mostly, I fail. I turn my back on Jesus in a way that feels brutal and violent to the Spirit within me. My rebellion consists of the bullying intrusion of myself into events, relationships, and conversations, as a mean little god, insisting on its own way and trusting only in itself.
Bringing a conscious awareness of Christ into whatever I do requires me to release power, die to myself and my way, and bend low. It means I move more slowly and mindfully. I stay in the present moment. I rest in trust and faith in God. And I have the capacity to be useless and to not know. All of which is to say, I am contemplative.
Writing nearly fifty years ago, Carlo Carretto, noted,
When there is a crisis in the church, it is always a crisis of contemplation. The church wants to feel able to explain about her spouse even when she has lost sight of him; even when, although she has not been divorced, she no longer knows his embrace, because curiosity has gotten the better of her and she has gone searching for other people and other things.
Where might curiosity be getting the best of you?

What if we expanded Carretto’s words to other situations? What if the oil crisis, the terrorism crisis, the health care crisis, and the environmental crisis were seen as crises in contemplation? How would that temper and affect how we respond to the issues we face?
What if we could see Jesus kneeling down in high level talks, on the barges of clean up crews in the gulf, and in mountain villages of Afghanistan?
Perhaps the crises we face are not a failure of human integrity or intelligence, but a failure of imagination, that eternally creating, mother of faith.


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Tracking Holiness – Newsletter
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A God Who Dances

A honey suckle vine extends herself into space in a graceful flourish. Reaching into nothingness, she dangles from hope and her own inner nature for making a connection to something beyond herself.
I have been reaching out into cyber space with The Praying Life blog for over a year now of weekly posts. Time for a bit of review and evaluation.
This time of year many churches celebrate the Trinity, a notion that makes a lot of people scratch their heads and squint.  English historian Edward Gibbon, famously called the Trinity, “perhaps the deepest and darkest corner of the whole theological abyss.”
Undaunted, some pastors will boldly attempt to explain how a God can be one, and three. The scholarly ones will use the ancient words of the church to describe the Trinitarian nature of God:  circumincessio, Latin for sits in a circle, and (my favorite) perichoresis, Greek for dances in a circle. Both words refer to the relationship of the inner parts of God, a relationship of intimacy, reciprocity, and circularity.
If I were preaching about the Trinity, I would pass on what Meister Eckhart says. “Do you want to know what goes on in the core of Trinity?  I will tell you. The Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and the gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.”
The Trinity speaks of a dynamic hilarity and self giving in the heart of God’s nature.
God is a community, an interactive exchange of love. As creatures made in God’s image, we also are profoundly connected and communal. I just wish we could laugh more about it.
Blogging has heightened and deepened my awareness of the bounty of community in the shared experience of our life in God together. The opportunity for exchange and conversation has shaped, formed, and reformed me.
For me personally, the past year of the praying life has been the slow and only work of conversion, of turning and re-turning my heart to the One who summons beauty, justice, and truth from our souls, bids us to love, and marries us to Mercy. A life focused in prayer keeps revealing those things in me which struggle against God’s Spirit. You know – the pride, selfishness, envy, fear, doubt, ambition.
Internet ministry is ripe for all these sins to distract and flourish. Who commented on what? How many viewers did I get? Does my blog have “authority”? Oh look at how good his blog is…. I wish I could write like her. Blah, blah, blah. God, set me free of me!
Blogging has invited me to loosen up, to be more present – in this world of fleeting impressions, and swiftly passing fancies. Instead of trying to grasp, preserve, and set in stone, as print media encourages, I have been invited to tune into the streaming presence of God and to become more streaming myself, more open and influenced and shaped by this dance.  
Twelve months out, reaching for a handhold, streaming a life in God, I hope you are stretching into the unknown. I hope you are laughing and giving birth to joy from your branch on the vine.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out, reading and commenting, for sharing the blog with others, for praying and sharing your own praying life.

For such delight we have been created.
Shall we dance?

Read more about prayer at www.fromholyground.org
Tracking Holiness – Newsletter
Contact Loretta at lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary
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Done with Great Things and Big Things

leafSeptember is stepping over the doorsill. A change is in the air. Futurist M. Rex Miller (The Millennium Matrix – Reclaiming the Past, Reframing the Future of the Church) writes about the revolution in communication brought by digital media. Digital media, both expresses a desire for, and makes possible authenticity, community, connection and something simpler and more intimate. “New sensibilities are rising. The connected nature of digital communications has already created a shift back to community:  to more open and connected neighborhoods, town centers, and urban revitalization, as well as smaller, more human-sized services that go along with them.” (p. 120)

Miller makes some startling claims about the successful growth model used in our society and mega churches. “We are beginning to realize that much of our churches’ emphasis on growth has produced the spiritual cousin of suburban tract homes, strip mining, and fast-food franchising. Unfortunately, many hungry churches are still buying into the fast-growth premise and promise without fully understanding the side effects.” Miller cites two of these side effects: “Rapid member turnover and staff burnout within many such churches keeps them forever having to replenish their congregations and leadership core.” This successful growth model has come with a price: a lack of relational cohesion. (p. 121)

In my work as a spiritual director with clergy and church leaders, I see many people trying to cope with the negative side effects of the growth model with its exhausting emphasis on numbers, productivity, and efficiency.

Near the end of the nineteenth century American psychologist and philosopher, William James, wacorn_sproutas also sniffing a change in the air, when he declared, “I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.”

I find in James’ words a prescient and powerful description of the yet to be invented world wide web.

In the spring of 1978, I stepped over the door sill to a new way of living and made a choice for the tiny molecular forces over the great institutions and big success. With only a vague sense of what the consequences might be, I took the less traveled road of a life of prayer and attention to the things of God. As I walked to the parking lot of Glen Oaks Community College, where I worked as an administrator, I was absorbed by an acute sense of my own seeming insatiable need for importance, for making a name for myself. I was weighed down by a restless dissatisfaction, the urgency to figure it all out, and get my life right. Mostly I was just so sick of myself and my whining. Out of that moment of personal honesty and weariness, I heard a call to ministry. I know. It sounds weird. A voice, which sure didn’t seem to be my mine, said, “Be a minister.” I was a church drop-out. I had never considered such a vocation before.

road-to-Ra-bbit-Ridge-web-vYet I turned my back on great plans and big success and set off on a path of downward mobility. I confess that I am still not entirely converted. I am easily diverted by hype, glamour, and the allure of various definitions of success. Like my puppy on a walk, I get distracted by some new smell and go off the path to investigate. Before long I have forgotten my original intent and have become lost in the tantalizing tastes and odors of the swirl of big things, big tasks, and big impressions.

Ministry of course I soon discovered is not immune to big success. In fact we frequently get off the path and fall down before various idols – our organs, our windows, our buildings, our music department, our youth program, our pastor, our mission, our doctrines….

Here is William James again, writing to his friend H.G. Wells: “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess Success – that – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.” 

Early in September on the threshold of a new season in the digital age convergence of William James, M. Rex Miller, and my own story I find a synergy of hope and resonance. May some pieces come together for you this season too.

 Here is a prayer, an inoculation, if you will, against our national disease:

Oh, my God in heaven, save me from significance. Yank me by my collar from snuffling and slobbering before the bitch goddess, success. Help me to have more faith in things I cannot see, than things I can measure and bank and drive around town in. Teach me to trust those tiny bursts of energy jumping from person to person as slivers of grace, kindness, wisdom, and cheerfulness. Deliver me from my own insufferable self importance. Oh Indestructible Goodness, lie me down in the soft green pastures of humility, where I can spy your kingdom come, grinning and creeping through the crannies of the world.  Amen


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