Saturday, May 31, 2008

The parlors of heaven

This is one of my favorite Walt Whitman passages:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A prayer of praise


How great is your goodness, dear Lord!
Blessed are you for ever!
May all created things praise you, O God,
for loving us so much that we can truthfully speak
of your fellowship with humankind, even in this earthly exile;
and however virtuous we may be,
our virtue always depends on your great warmth
and generosity, dear Lord.
Your bounty is infinite.
How wonderful are your works!

-- St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prayer for a true heart

Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart,
which no unworthy affection may drag downwards;
give us an unconquered heart,
which no tribulation can wear out;
give us an upright heart,
which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God,
understanding to know you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

-- Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The importance of preparation

I just came across the most marvelous statement by Abraham Lincoln:
If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax.
It reminded me of the story about Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was asked by a reporter how much time he devoted to prayer every day.

"One minute," replied His Grace. Then, in response to the reporter's shocked look, he added, "But I spend fifty-nine minutes preparing to pray."

I've always loved that story. It points out the importance of meditation - of settling and quieting the mind.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

Christ, no one on earth really wants the pain and horror of war. We do not want to kill or be killed, to hurt or be hurt. But we all see injustice, and sometimes it makes us angry and we see no other way to right the wrong except by war. Christ, teach us the ways of peace! Calm our angry hearts and grant to all peoples and their leaders patience in the search for peace and justice. Help us to be ready to give up some of our comforts and power and pride, so that war will leave the face of the earth and we may work for you in peace.

by Avery Brooke, in Plain Prayers in a Complicated World

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grace and Acceptance


Grace overcomes shame, not by uncovering an overlooked cache of excellence in ourselves but simply by accepting us, the whole of us, with no regard to our beauty or our ugliness, our virtue or our vices. We are accepted wholesale. Accepted with no possibility of being rejected. Accepted once and accepted forever. Accepted at the ultimate depth of our being.

— Lewis B. Smedes in Shame and Grace

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Keeping sabbath time


I really want to urge you to go read an article entitled Reclaiming the Sabbath by Jane Carol Redmont over on Daily Episcopalian.

Here's an excerpt:

One of the greatest challenges to us as church is to go against the culture’s use of time as a commodity, its business model of program evaluation, and its focus on production and consumption. God loves us. God saves us and makes us whole. God rests on the seventh day. If we decide to embody this as church, what will the shape of our time look like? How will we operate differently from the culture around us?

I am not about to cancel the work of the diocesan
anti-racism committee which I chair. I do wonder whether, in addition to an anti-racism audit, we in the churches also need a “Sabbath audit.” The “audit” language is, of course, hardly countercultural. But it helps make my point. My intuition is that in addressing the problem of overscheduling and the struggle for Sabbath, we will get to the root of our vocation in the world as surely as we do when we address an issue of justice. The lack of time for rest and contemplation is, in fact, a matter of justice –among other things. Protecting Sabbath time may remind us that contemplation and action for justice are neither opposed to one another nor mutually exclusive. Each withers in the other’s
Brother Roger, founding prior of the Taizé community, knew this when he spoke of lutte et contemplation, struggle and contemplation, in one breath.

I have no easy response to the Sabbath struggle and the overscheduling of churches. I have only an assessment, some intuitions, and some questions. I also know that the solutions, like the problem, are likely to be systemic and economic as much as “spiritual.”
My own Rule of Life requires me to keep sabbath and I'm so glad. Otherwise, we are very prone to burn-out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another comment on the Trinity

I really love this:

What is God but Creator? What is creating but reaching out? What is reaching out but connecting beyond self? What is connecting beyond self but loving others?

Creating, reaching, connecting, loving -- these are what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all about. It's what God is. It's who God is. It's how God is. It's what God does, and why. The three-in-oneness of God is how the followers of Jesus describe what we experience about God - to describe how God creates, reaches, connects and loves us.

What Jesus teaches his followers is that by following Him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit: we will create – within and beyond; we will reach – within and beyond; we will connect – within and beyond; we will love – within and beyond, and that's how we'll follow Him into unity with God.

-- Greg Jones

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Teach me, Lord, to be generous

Ignatius of Loyola

Today, I had a meeting with the pastor and some members of Bethany Lutheran Church here in Tusla. They have asked me to lead a workshop in Ignatian spirituality later this summer. We discussed what sorts of information needed to be included in the publicity for the event and I found myself quoting this prayer by Ignatius:
Teach me, Lord, to be generous,
To serve you as you deserve.
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to ask for rest,
To labor and not to seek reward
Save that of knowing I do your will.
It's important not to interpret this prayer as meaning that we shouldn't take care of ourselves. Remember, Ignatius was a soldier. In the heat of battle we can't stop and take it easy. But our ongoing training requires that we maintain our health and well-being. This prayer is truly about deep generosity - about not making self-interest our highest priority ALL of the time!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Growing toward meaning


Back in the late 70s or so I had the very great privilege of attending a series of lectures by Ann Bedford Ulanov at Virginia Theological Seminary. She was riveting. Here's something she said that I just found:

Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it.
(Ann Bedford Ulanov, M.Div., Ph.D., L.H.D., is the Christiane Brooks Johnson Progessor of Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary, a psychoanalyst in private practice, and a supervising analyst and faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York. She is the author or co-author of over a dozen books, including The Feminine in Christian Theology and in Jungian Psychology and Transforming Sexuality: The Archtypal World of Anima and Animus.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grief and joy

"Spring Radiance"
“Precarious” comes from the same Latin root as the word “prayer.” Here prayer does not mean pleading with a distant deity who may or may not pay attention. It may not even be a request at all. Prayer in this sense means rather that we reconnect with the very Source from which we come. We open the eyes of our heart to the inner light abiding in everything. We feel connected to this Source – through a hovering hummingbird, a toddler’s giggle, the aroma of fresh-baked bread – yet in a flicker, the connection seems gone and we are plunged into grief. This teaches us to let go, courageously, again and again. None of us would have the heart for this task if we did not begin to see that the light has a steady presence in spite of appearances. With joy we realize that the radiance we glimpse flows steadily and illumines all creation in an everlasting glow.
This is from a marvelous essay called Grief/Joy on the site.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Prayer to the Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery.

-- Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday

Does the Trinity make any sense? Yes, but not as a kind of celestial mathematics. Trinitarian theology makes sense as a continuation of a biblically initiated exploration into experiences of redemption and into an apprehension of God that is part of saving faith. It describes the Christian community's distinct experience of faithfulness and new life, and it points to the God who is beyond our comprehension.

-- Douglas F. Ottati

Saturday, May 17, 2008

To see things as they are

It is in times such as these that mystics emerge who strive to seek a sacramental life that makes all of life sacred. True discipleship calls each of us "to see things as they are" and to refuse anything and everything that defies the will of God for all of us. This is what challenges us to live authentically and to live in solidarity with all who are marginalized. Jesus incarnated this, which in turn motivates us to turn the "world as we know it" upside down. This is what Gandhi meant by "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." To do so is to experience the HOLY much more as an encounter with the sacred presence of God.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unconditional love

I found the photo here.

Unconditional love is enlarging the self, and an act of will. It is not a feeling or an emotional reaction. Think of the difference between falling in love, and growing in love through all difficulties and conflicts. Unconditional love is an act of mental and spiritual will, it cannot and does not take place upon the emotional level, which is where the problems first register.

Unconditional love is extending oneself in the service of the spiritual growth of oneself and/or another, independently of reward or the behavior of others.

-- Dr. Guy Pettit

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prayer for Lambeth

Canterbury Cathedral
Pour down upon us, O God, the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that those who prepare for the Lambeth Conference may be filled with wisdom and understanding. May they know at work within them that creative energy and vision which belong to our humanity, made in your image and redeemed by your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pentecost in action

What we would like to do is change the world -- make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do.

-- Dorothy Day

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pentecost and change

Every time we say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit," we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.

-- J. B. Phillips

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I know I've blogged before on the sermons of Lutheran pastor, The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York. I'm very, very impressed with her. Here's an excerpt from one of her Pentecost sermons:

Pentecost often ends too soon. The first part of the story is thrilling. The sound of a mighty wind. The tongues of fire. People from all over the Roman Empire hearing their own languages spoken by ordinary Galileans. The promise of the Spirit poured out on young and old, including slaves, both women and men. Pentecost means all of that. As the story goes on, Peter stands up to preach, and he preaches such a powerful sermon that over 3,000 people are baptized. Pentecost means all of that too. But Pentecost ends too soon if it has nothing to do with possessions, with wealth and poverty, with what we call economics. Economics is from the Greek word oikos, which means household. How do we live together in God's household? Well, I know economics is a subject so complicated that our eyes glaze over at the mention of the word. But God is very interested in economics, about what we do with our possessions and portfolios.

* A Pentecost church will reach out to people of every language and tongue.

* A Pentecost church will call young and old, women and men to prophesy.

* A Pentecost church will preach and baptize, but the story always ends too soon if a Pentecost church isn't concerned about economics.

A few years ago I talked with a friend of mine who's a pastor in New England. "How's your building program going?" I asked. "Oh, we ran out of money before we got to the worship space," she said. I thought to myself, "What could be more important than the worship space?" But I kept my thoughts to myself. "We renovated the basement," she said. "You know, we have a shelter there for homeless men. We put in new showers and renovated the old kitchen. The basement was so drab, and the showers-well, there was only one shower and it was lousy. On the Sunday before the shelter opened, the worship service began as usual in the sanctuary. When it came time for communion, the people carried the bread and the cup downstairs to the basement. The whole congregation gathered around the empty beds. They passed the bread and the cup around the circle. The body of Christ given for you. That night the shelter beds were full, and the worship space still needed a lot of work." The church calendar still said it was the first Sunday of Advent. But people in that congregation knew that Pentecost wasn't over. Pentecost shaped their life together, and it had everything to do with economics.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Finding what is real

The first thing people do when restoring old chairs is strip — strip right down to the bare wood. They do this to see what the original might have looked like and to determine if the thing is worth doing over. They strip away all the years of grime, the garish coats of paint piled one on top of the other. They get rid of all the junk that's been tacked on through the years and try to find the solid, simple thing that's underneath.

I'm like an old chair needing that stripping process. Every now and then I have to take a really hard look at the illusions I've built up in myself and my society, see what I've gotten myself into. Illusions? Yes, illusions; the excess baggage I carry around, the unnecessary, the socially expected, all that keeps me living off center too long. Stripping myself of all this is an intentional letting go of these illusions. It is a spiritual act of personal forgiveness. God lets us let go.

It's hard work to let God forgive me. I have to discover the original under all these coats I've added, strip away all the cynicism and anger I've build up, get rid of the junk I've taken on, defy my disappointments, and find what is real again.

-- Donna Schaper from Stripping down: The Art of Spiritual Restoration

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lady Julian

Today is the feast of Julian of Norwich. Here's something about her:

Julian of Norwich was most likely a Benedictine nun who lived a life of seclusion in Norwich, England during the later part of the 14th century. She is thought to be one the greatest of English mystics. At the age of thirty, suffering from a servere illness and believing she was at the point of death, Julian passed into a trance and had a series of intense visions in which she was led to contemplate the nature of Divine Love. These revelations brought her great peace and joy. For twenty years she meditated on her visions in a small cell close to a church in Norwich, where she devoted her life to prayer and contemplation. She wrote the results of her meditations in a book called 'Revelations of Divine Love'. During her life many sought her advice in spiritual matters. Since her death, many more have found help in her writings.

The precise date of her death is uncertain.
And here is something she said:

Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God. From these two comes the third, which is a holy, marvellous delight in God, who is love. Where truth and wisdom are, in truth, there is love, coming in reality from both of them, and all are of God's making. For he is endless sovereign truth, endless sovereign wisdom and endless sovereign love, all of them uncreated.
And let us not forget that she kept a cat!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Make friends with the angels

Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.

--Saint Francis de Sales

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The real reason for persisting in prayer

I've admired Frederick Buechner for a long time but only today have I come across this:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it... Be importunate, Jesus says -- not, one assumes, because you have to beat a path to God's door before he'll open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there's no way of getting to your door.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Some sweet lyrics

Jesus’ hands were kind hands,
Doing good for all.
Healing pain and sickness,
Blessing children small.
Washing tired feet
And saving those who fall.
Jesus’ hands were kind hands,
Doing good for all.

Take my hands, Lord Jesus,
Let them work for you.
Make them strong and gentle,
Kind in all I do.
Let me watch you, Jesus,
‘Til I’m gentle, too,
‘Til my hands are kind hands,
Quick to work for you.

Margaret Cropper (1886–1980)

I found this on Susan Russell's site. This was sung by children in her parish.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

William Byrd - Ave verum corpus

Hail, true body,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Truly suffered, sacrificed
On the Cross for mankind,
Whose pierced side
Flowed with water and blood,
Be for us a foretaste
In the trial of death.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Lord is present and living

The announcement is the great joy that the Lord is present and living in the world: that the Lord is with us. Dominus vobiscum, the Lord be with you. This is what we are constantly announcing in the liturgy, that the Lord is present in the world.

Thomas Merton

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Ascension of our Lord

The following is an excerpt from an Ascensiontide sermon by The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad:

Not long ago I saw a wonderful picture of Jesus' ascension. It was a black and white woodcut print finely etched. In the picture Jesus is rising up as the disciples watch him disappear into the clouds. If you look closely at the picture, not in the clouds, but on the ground, you can see footprints on the earth. The artist has carefully etched Jesus' footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open. Perhaps the artist was simply imagining a homey detail that isn't in the text. Or, perhaps, the artist is pressing us with the old question, "Why do you stand looking up into heaven? Look at these footprints here on the earth." Jesus' muddy footprints are all over the pages of the gospels.

* Can you see Jesus' footprints in the wilderness? Each time he was tempted to claim earthly power and glory, he reached up and touched the words of Torah. One does not live by bread alone. Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.
* Can you see Jesus walking on the wrong side of the street with the wrong people?
* Can you see Jesus walking up to a sycamore tree, then looking up at Zachaeus, the tax collector, perched in the branches? "Come down, Zachaeus," Jesus said, "let's walk over to your house for dinner."
* Can you see Jesus walking, then riding, into Jerusalem?
* Can you see him stumbling toward Golgotha, loving us to the very end?
The book of Ephesians poses an interesting question: "What does it mean that Christ is ascended but that he also descended... and now fills the whole universe?" So this doctrine is really a teaching about the ubiquity of Christ. Christ is everywhere at all times. Christ cannot be limited. Ever. That's what this day is all about.