Monday, June 30, 2008

God's "Show and Tell"

"Eucharistic Universe"

I've always loved "show and tell". I loved it as a child and I love it as a grownup. Here's something Madeleine L'Engle said that I had not come across before today. I think it's quite wonderful.

A teacher of small children told us of a child who said to her, "Jesus is God's show and tell." How simple and how wonderful! Jesus is God's show and tell. That's the best theology of incarnation I've ever heard. Jesus said, if you do not understand me as a little child, you will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.
It's rare that we get to thank the writers who have really made an impact on our thinking and way of experiencing the world but I did get to thank Madeleine L'Engle. I heard her speak back in the late 70s or early 80s and told her afterward how much her writing had meant to me over the years. She was absolutely lovely to me and I've never forgotten it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Imitating Christ


My great-aunt, who was a very devout Methodist, always had a copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis on her beside table along with her Bible. I think you can see why:

Ah, Lord God, holy lover of my soul, when you come into my heart, all that is within me shall rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my heart: you are my hope and refuge in the day of my trouble.
Love is a great thing, yes, a great and thorough good; by itself it makes every thing that is heavy, light; and it bears evenly all that is uneven.
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller nor better in heaven and earth; because love is born of God, and cannot rest but in God, above all created things.
Make me large in love, that with the inward palate of my heart I may taste how sweet it is to love, and to be dissolved, and as it were to bathe myself in your love.

-- Thomas à Kempis

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Considering the heavens

Whirlpool Galaxy

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

-- From Psalm 8

Friday, June 27, 2008

A prayer for guidance

Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.

--Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A prayer for troubled times


Dear Lord,
I may not see the sun and moon lose their light.
I may not witness rivers turn red, or stars fall from the sky.
Yet there are times when my world becomes unhinged
and the foundations of what I believe crack and dissolve.
Give me the grace to believe that Your power is at work
in the turmoil of my life.
Lead me to remember that Your power is greater than all evil,
and though the world may rock and sometimes break,
it will in time be transformed by Your Love.

--author unknown

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The horizons of our hopes

I am amazed by this prayer. It is so easy to "dream too little" and to "sail too close to the shore." The question for us all is this: Am I willing to lose sight of the land in order to find the stars? O Divine Giver-of-courage, make me so willing!

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

-- Attributed to Sir Francis Drake -1577

Monday, June 23, 2008


"Grey Empathy"

Lately I've had occasion to think about empathy - its presence, its absence and how it can be cultivated.

Here's a good description of what empathy is all about:
Empathy is the ability to recognize the sentience and suffering in another being. Empathy is the basis of high-level altruism that does not depend on the barter principle. The ethic of empathy is the Golden Rule: treat others, as you would have them treat you. Empathy depends on knowing that the other person feels pain as much as you do or will feel happiness as much as you do if they are well treated. If another human is grieving, you feel their suffering and offer help. If another human is injured, you stop everything to help them and you treat their injured body with care to avoid increasing their pain. This ability to feel the experience of others in your own consciousness is one of the great accomplishments of brain evolution.
It strikes me that cultivating and demonstrating empathy toward the other is crucial to living out one of the key promises of the baptismal covenant - that is "to respect the dignity of every human being." (BCP 1979, p. 305)

Here's an excerpt from The Power of Empathy: A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding, and Lasting Love by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli and Katherine Ketcham that I think is key:
Empathy allows us to see the connections between us, making strangers less strange, foreigners less foreign. When we adopt other people's perspectives, we do more than step into their shoes — we use their eyes, we borrow their skin, we feel their hearts beating within us, we lose ourselves and enter into their world, as if we were them. I emphasize those words once again because they are so critically important and so often misunderstood. With empathy, we do not step into others' experience to see it with our eyes — empathy demands that we see it with their eyes.
That's really what it's all about, isn't it? Seeing with the other person's eyes rather than with our own.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


For those of you who are married or in committed relationships, here is a beautiful blessing I stumbled upon today:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be a shelter for the other.

Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.

Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.

May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years;

may happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.

Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves.

When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship - as they threaten all relationships at one time or another - remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives - remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there.

And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

-- Wedding blessing

Saturday, June 21, 2008

To Come Home to Yourself

"Coming Home"

Kathleen Cairns sent me the following. I was delighted to get it because I have loved the works of John O'Donohue for a long time now:

To Come Home to Yourself

May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.

May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquillities.

May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.

-- from To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue

By the way, do click through "John O'Donohue" link just above. It's a wonderful article about him!

Friday, June 20, 2008


This wonderful story was sent to me by Br. Jim Phillips:

In the Kingdom of God, it is deeds that count, not words. Some of the most Christian events are conducted without words. I once lived with two old Jesuits, Piaras (who was passionate about Irish) and Willie (who was passionate about exercise). They had warm hearts behind exteriors that might have seemed crotchety to a stranger. In fact they seemed crotchety to one another. After years of increasingly cross exchanges, they lapsed into silence with one another, and stopped talking. They could get away with it in a large community. Willie, the older of the two, used spend part of his morning collecting firewood outside and bringing it to his fireplace. But in his late eighties, as he grew more bent and feeble, this became too hard for him. It was as much as he could do to walk outside, much less collect and carry.

One morning he came back from his walk to find his fire made up, and a stack of dry wood beside it. The pattern was repeated, day after day. Piaras had noticed the plight of his old sparring partner, and every day gathered a bundle for him. No words were exchanged. Instead Willie would use his morning walk, once a week, to visit the corner shop and buy a bag of Piaras's favourite sweets. Every Friday he would leave them at Piaras's door, without a word. So the exchange went on, firewood for sweets, week by week till Willie lapsed into his final illness. Piaras came to make peace with him, but talk was unnecessary. They had made up long before.

Thursday, June 19, 2008



I've noticed over the years that many Christians are confused about the meaning of repentance. They think it means to feel really, really guilty about what they've done wong and to make constant resolutions not to do those things again. To repent, however, means to turn around. I particularly like this explanation:

When Jesus said, 'Repent,' to his first disciples, he was calling them to change the direction in which they were looking for happiness. 'Repent' is an invitation to grow up and become a fully mature human being who integrates the biological needs with the rational level of consciousness. The rational level of consciousness is the door that swings into higher states — the intuitive and unitive levels of consciousness. They open us to the experience of God's presence, which restores the sense of happiness. We can then take possession of everything that was good in our early life while leaving the distortions behind.

-- Thomas Keating

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Prayer and the heart

Prayer makes a sour heart sweet, a sad heart merry, a poor heart rich, a foolish heart wise, a timid heart brave, a sick heart well, a blind heart full of sight, a cold heart ardent. It draws down the great God into the little heart; it drives the hungry soul up into the fullness of God; it brings together two lovers, God and the soul, in a wondrous place where they speak much of love.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One world, God's world

"In this painting I used different colours to represent the different groups of people in the world. On the left side of the painting, I tried to resemble the world in my eyes. Groups all separated by different things, with the black lines and white words representing those things. On the right I painted what peace would mean to me, all the groups being mixed together, with the happy and peaceful colours around everyone."
- Shannon Pennifold, 14 years, Red Deer, Canada

Some years ago I read a book on forgiveness by Lewis B. Smedes and found it to be very, very helpful indeed. Today I discovered a quote on the Spirituality and Practice site by Smedes from his book called Choices. I especially like the suggested practice:
"I am personally thankful that we live together in a large moral house even if we do not drink at the same fountain of faith. The world we experience together is one world, God's world, and our world, and the problems we share are common human problems. So we can talk together, try to understand each other, and help each other."

To Practice This Thought: Recount one insight about yourself or the world that you gained through meeting someone from another culture.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Tree of Life

The greatest attribute of God is Love. The Tree of Life is located in the very depth of our soul. The most perfect and abundant fruit that grows and ripens is Life giving Love; it is the great healing force in the world. Love never fails to meet every demand of the human heart. The Divine principal of Love may be used to eliminate every sorrow, infirmity, in-harmony, ignorance and all mistakes of mankind. Love is God; eternal, limitless, changeless, infinite. It is the pulse of the world, the heartbeat of the Universe.

-- Baird Spalding

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's all in how you frame it

"Dusk in the transept" (Chartres Cathedral)

A traveler from Italy came to the French town of Chartres, to see the great the church that was being built there. Arriving at the end of the day, he went to the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked one man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason, he spent his days carving rocks. Another man, when asked, said he was a glassblower who spent his days making slabs of colored glass. And still another workman replied that he was a blacksmith who pounded iron for a living. Wandering into the deepening gloom of the unfinished edifice, the traveler came upon an older woman armed with a broom, sweeping up the stone chips, and wood shavings, and glass shards from the day’s work. “And what are you doing,” he asked. The woman paused, leaning on her broom, looked up toward the high arches, replied, “Me? I’m building a cathedral for the glory of almighty God!”

-- Robert Fulghum

Yes, it's the same Robert Fulghum who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I was browsing in Barnes and Noble tonight and picked up the lastest book by Anne Lamott. In it she quotes Kathleen Norris who said the following:
Prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine.
So we see that prayer is really a risky business. And it is truly the grandest adventure of all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Streets of Haiti

The Spirituality and Practice website offers the following today:

Another practice invites us to bless strangers quietly, secretly. Offer it to people you notice on the street, in the market, on the bus. "May you be happy. May you be at peace." Feel the blessing move through your body as you offer it. Notice how you both receive some benefit from the blessing. Gently, almost without effort, each and every blessing becomes a Sabbath.

Wayne Muller in Sabbath

To Practice This Thought: Send out a blessing of happiness and peace to a stranger.
This is also known as the metta or lovingkindness practice. One form I learned is "May you be happy, may you be well, may everything be well in your life." We can do this for ourselves, for a loved one, for a friend, for a stranger and then, when we have a fair amount of practice, for a difficult person. This is a very skillful strategy for learning to love our enemies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Dietrich Bonhoeffer prayer

"Light in the Darkness"

I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A little break

Hi, folks. I just need a little break from blogging. I'll be back soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008


I just found this poem. Simple. Powerful:

God it hurts

I said 'God it hurts'
And God said 'I Know'
I said 'God I cry alot'
And God said
'That's why I gave you tears'
I said 'God I get so depressed'
And God said 'That why I gave you sunshine'
I said 'God I feel Alone'
And God said 'That's why I gave you loved ones'
I said 'God my loved one is dead'
And God said 'I watched mine nailed to the cross'
I said 'God Where are they? '
And God said 'Mine is on my right and yours is in the light.'
I said 'God it hurts'
And God said 'I know'

-- Amy Louise Kerswell

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Another wonderful Buechner quote

This is so true:

The one thing a clenched fist can't do is to accept the helping hand.

Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

God runs toward us!

"The Prodigal Son"

There's a marquee outside a church on my way to my office that says the following this week:

Live simply
Love deeply
Serve one another
Pursue God
I really like the first three bits of advice. I have to disagree with the injuction to "pursue God", however. God doesn't need pursuing. Rather, God pursues us. Remember the "The Hound of Heaven"?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The angels will dance...

"Dancing Angels"

We can all be angels to one another. We can choose to obey the still small stirring within, the little whisper that says,

Go. Ask. Reach out. Be an answer to someone's plea. You have a part to play. Have faith.

We can decide to risk that he is indeed there, watching, caring, cherishing us as we love and accept love. The world will be a better place for it. And wherever they are, the angels will dance.

--Joan Wester Anderson