‘Without embittering and embarrassing others’

After the World Vision dustup last week and personal and professional confrontations, it's good for me to return to a prayer I try to offer as often as I recall it."Teach me to act firmly and wisely," it goes, "without embittering and embarrassing others."That can be a tall order, especially these days when important controversies take place without the benefit of in-person conversation and connection.I've been praying that prayer with varying degrees of effectiveness since late … [Read more...]

God can handle your anger–and your confusion, fear and doubt, too

An Egyptian court last week sentenced an author to five years in prison. His crime? Insulting religion. He penned a book entitled Where is God? which some Muslims deemed offensive.Egyptian law, according to one report, "gives all Muslims the right to file lawsuits in cases where an exalted right of God has been violated." But maybe God can take it. At least that's what Ian Punnett argues in his new book How to Pray When You're Pissed at God, a title that might spark similar offense in some … [Read more...]

How to cultivate spiritual peace at work

Things today seem more fragmented than ever. Try focusing on your job, for instance, amid the alerts for incoming email, social media updates, and meeting invites. Add to that phone calls, interrupting coworkers, and elastic tasks stretching past allotted times and squeezing into others. Nice knowing you, margin. And that's just what outsiders impose.Inside the mind there are -- at least for me -- forty-two stray thoughts trying to push to the fore, some succeeding and distracting me while … [Read more...]

Read this before you pray for that Mercedes

Is it true that whatever you pray for, you'll receive it if you have enough faith? Jesus seems to say so. "[W]hatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will," he tells Peter and the Twelve (Mark 11.24).These words followed Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. While hungry, he spotted a fig tree. But after looking over its barren branches in vain, Jesus cursed the tree. The next day, as the disciples walk by, Peter noticed the poor thing, dried up and shriveled. … [Read more...]

Porn and the contemplative life

They don't mix, if you're looking for the answer up front. There are perhaps several reasons for this, but Alain de Botton offers one in The Wall Street Journal worth considering.Certain kinds of suffering are beneficial, even necessary for human flourishing, he says, particularly struggling through periods of anxiety and boredom.Porn diverts us from those struggles. "Our anxious moods are genuine but confused signals that something is amiss," he says, "and so they need to be listened … [Read more...]

Two powerful songs you may have never heard

Everybody knows the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, right? If you've stepped anywhere near Sunday school, heard an old-timey gospel song, or glanced sideways while your four-year-old watched VeggieTales, you've picked it up.It's an compelling story of faith and rescue, and today the Orthodox and Lutheran churches celebrate Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah -- their Hebrew names -- along with Daniel the Prophet. But what many may have missed are two songs, "The Prayer of Azariah" and … [Read more...]

There’s no such thing as private prayer

Modern Christians have a tendency to view their prayer life as a private matter. But as I discovered while researching my book Lifted by Angels, our counterparts in the early church assumed the active participation of angels in believers’ prayer lives. “[T]he angel of each of us prays alongside us,” wrote the third-century theologian Origen in his primer on prayer. How do we know when angels are present? Feelings of comfort, humility, and joy indicate their presence. When those feelings c … [Read more...]