3 Reasons We Find it Difficult to Lament

Prayers of lament wedge their way into the American psyche from time to time, much of it in the form of music. One thinks of Mahaila Jackson’s rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Lauryn Hill’s version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” and Eric Clapton’s “Holy Mary:” Holy Mother, where are you? Tonight I feel broken in two. I've seen the stars fall from the sky. Holy mother, can't keep from crying.Oh I need your help this time, Get me through this lonely night. Tell me please wh … [Read more...]

Lent is not a tightrope, it’s a journey.

Popular assumptions about Lent come from a variety of places. Some arise out of the historical excesses that have surfaced from time to time in the life of the church. Other assumptions about Lent arise out of misunderstandings or a lack of familiarity with Lenten observance.In both cases, Lenten practice looms large, but the purpose of Lenten practice is lost. When that happens, Lent has all the spiritual allure of New Year’s resolutions – only longer and religious. Dint of effort, resolve a … [Read more...]

The Barking Dog of Congregational Vitality

Congregational vitality is still on the front burner in conversations about the church. Noting that on average, 9 churches close their doors everyday, the Episcopal Church Building Fund has launched a recasting process, designed to help parishes evaluate their communities, reevaluate the deployment of their resources, achieve a sustainable budget, and rediscover a measure of relevance to the communities around them. The goal is to create a “thriving parish.”The chaplain for the process obs … [Read more...]

What do you do after a “mountaintop” experience?

In a Facebook post a week ago, a friend asked, “What happens after a “mountain top” spiritual experience?” The question got me thinking, because most of us are find ourselves in that position from time to time, however we might define that “mountain top.”Understandably, one of his friends simply replied, “Reality,” and I think that we all got a good laugh out of her terse observation. But, of course, that’s precisely the issue. What happens when we come rolling back down hill?Here are som … [Read more...]

The Immorality of Partisanship

At the SAG Awards this last week, David Harbour, star of Stranger Things, called for “a more empathetic and understanding society.” Then he promised to “punch some people in the face” with “soul, heart, and joy” – offering an obvious illustration of at least one of the moral problems with partisanship: i.e., the ease with which a certain brand of partisanship justifies immoral behavior in the name of a greater good.Harbour obviously sees his “party affiliation” as one with those who favor emp … [Read more...]

2 Questions that Could Change Your Life

One of the central practices in Jesuit devotion --- the one that Ignatius of Loyola considered indispensable --- was the prayer of Examen. Ignatius felt that the key to spiritual growth was to cultivate an awareness of when and where God had been present in the course of the day. It was so important, in fact, that he urged his followers to do the Examen, even if it cost them the little time that they might have for prayer.One writer calls it “rummaging for God” in our lives. Rummaging is a wo … [Read more...]

4 Ways to “Future” the Church

In a recent article on “Futuring” in The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims observes: The art and science of futuring is fast becoming a necessary skill, where we read signals, see trends and ruthlessly test our own assumptions.” “’ It’s clear,’ he notes, relying on the work of Scott Smith, that “we’re not going to make it through [our complex environment] as passengers.'"Futuring, Mims, notes is not about predicting the future. That task is one that amateurs undertake. Experienced “future … [Read more...]

4 Reasons for Abandoning New Year’s Resolutions

On one level, I have no specific objection to New Year’s resolutions. Any opportunity for change and improvement is a welcome occasion.Evidently, countless cultures have thought so as well. As far as I can tell the practice goes back to the Babylonians and has been renewed somewhere in the world ever since.From a Christian perspective, however, there are good reasons to be a bit skeptical (apart from the statistics that suggest we aren’t terribly good at following through on the reso … [Read more...]