When I need a weak Jesus to be my friend (an encounter with an icon)


Yesterday was a very rich day of healing for me. So many of my readers reached out to me after my last post about feeling myself sliding back into depression again. My district superintendent from Virginia called me yesterday morning less than twelve hours after I'd posted. Another pastor friend texted me a beautiful prayer. I could feel palpably the support of so many prayers. But the richest part of yesterday happened when I spent an hour and a half in a room with an icon of Jesus at the … [Read more...]

How Andrew W.K. messed with my prayer life


The Village Voice in New York City has a weekly advice column by a guy named Andrew W.K. He gives unexpected answers to advice questions that typically come from a secular progressive angle. For example, he went off on the guy who said, "My dad's a right-wing asshole" for the way that he was disrespecting and dehumanizing his father. In this week's column, "Prayer is stupid, right?" Andrew responds to a reader whose brother has cancer and takes offense as an agnostic when his grandmother says … [Read more...]

Spiritual tinkering: good or bad?

We've been having a stimulating conversation at the campus ministry summer institute at Candler School of Theology about the nature of young adult spirituality. Part of the presentation described many millennial young adults as "spiritual tinkerers," a phrase which had a slightly pejorative edge to it and rubbed some people in the room the wrong way. The implicit critique in this phrase is that you need to make up your mind whether you're "in" or "out" instead of just dabbling. Are you going to … [Read more...]

Can we stop using “I’ll pray for you” as a retort in social media?

I'll pray for you. How many of you have tweeted or commented that on facebook when you were in a huff over something somebody else said and you wanted to stick it to them in a way that would show that you're rising above it like a good Christian? I've done it before. And it's time for us to stop doing it, because it mocks God to turn "prayer" into a retort on social media. As Dianna Anderson very astutely observes, "I'll pray for you" often serves as saccharine Christianese for "F*** you." If … [Read more...]

Would Jesus pray at a city council meeting?

The more that I think about the recent Supreme Court ruling defending the use of explicitly Christian prayer to open government meetings, the more it offends me. I have no problem praying in public. I do it all the time walking on the sidewalk mumbling the Jesus Prayer to myself with my prayer beads. When somebody else needs prayer, I don't have any problem laying hands on them in the middle of a Walmart or any other public space. I don't want to be the pastor who says, "I'll pray for you" in … [Read more...]

Some Henri Nouwen thoughts on prayer

A woman from my church gave me a bunch of spiritual books because she was downsizing, including an old Henri Nouwen book about prayer called With Open Hands. Yesterday, I read this book by Lake Accotink since we had the only fifty degree day we're going to have for the rest of January. I underlined some quotes that I wanted to share on my blog. … [Read more...]

We are always praying; the question is to whom

Yesterday our senior pastor preached a thought-provoking sermon on prayer based upon Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6. He talked about the way that prayer is a privilege, not just an obligation, and that it can encompass a variety of behaviors that are done intentionally in the presence of God. What hit me today as I sat in mass at the basilica is that we are always praying; we just often aren't praying to God. … [Read more...]

The voice you long to hear (a gathering at Burke United Methodist Church)

There's a voice of love in the world that is always telling each of us who we really are and drawing us into the embrace of our Creator. The problem is that we are caught up in a swarm of other voices who tell us lies which distract us and keep us from hearing the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7 pm, something beautiful is going to start at Burke United Methodist Church: a series of conversations called "The voice you long to hear," led by our brand-new Barnabas ministry of spiritual … [Read more...]

Is yoga Satanic? E.W. Jackson and Al Mohler think so.

An Atlantic Monthly article yesterday took a look at some comments made by one of the candidates in the race for Virginia's lieutenant governor, Bishop E.W. Jackson, about how yoga makes people susceptible to Satanic possession. Several other prominent evangelicals were quoted, including Al Mohler whose comments are very instructive. My wife does a fair amount of yoga and so far she hasn't exhibited Satanic behavior (but maybe the next time we have an argument I'll bring this up). I thought I … [Read more...]

Prayer: the antidote to suburgatory?

Some of you know that I hate living in suburgatory. I love the friends that I've made over the past two and a half years, I love my church, and I especially love my small group. But I hate suburgatory. I'm not sure how much is my own personal projection and how much is the actual ambiance of the suburbs. Anyway, I'm trying to process why spending the past three days in a spiritual retreat center in the middle of the city in Richmond was like heaven to me. And I'm trying to figure out how to … [Read more...]