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...]

Three Ways to Navigate Anniversaries of Loss

 In a world of people that are regularly divided into “the glass is half empty” and “the glass is half full” kinds of people, I tend to be one of those people who is inclined to say, “Look, it’s 4 ounces, no matter how you look at it.”Part of that reaction is professional socialization. Academics are charged with thinking hard about a subject and then producing the evidence for the case that they want to make. (Or that’s the way it is supposed to be, anyway.)And part of that reac … [Read more...]

5 Reasons Spirituality is No Longer Important to the American Church

There are isolated and scattered signs of spiritual vitality in the American Protestantism. There are people and pastors who believe that spiritual practice is indispensible to the life of the church. There are a handful of denominational programs and an occasional bishop who emphasizes the spiritual life. And a handful of seminaries have given one kind of attention or another to the spiritual preparation of their students.But there is also evidence that the emphasis on spiritual practice is … [Read more...]

Mark Burns illustrates how not to pray

Some years ago I was invited to a Congressman’s office along with leaders to discuss legislative issues that impinged on religious communities. Having concluded our conversation, the Congressman finished by observing, “If you ever want to pray in Congress, let my office know, and remember, don’t be afraid to pray in the name of Jesus.”I’m not afraid to pray in the name of Jesus – or the Trinity – and I do all the time. But I was embarrassed by the Congressman’s remark, and I wondered why his … [Read more...]

4 Ways the Culture Misunderstands Spiritual Formation

For much of the late 20th Century and all of the early 21st Century, an increasing number of people have described themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”Even if that trend left the church at some disadvantage in speaking to the needs of a growing segment of the population, the development was a welcome one. It was also a wake up call to a church that had allowed an important dimension of its experience to slip to the margins of its life.The church’s failure to do that work, howev … [Read more...]

Rare Prayer: Cries of Lament

According to Rebekah Ann Eklund a “lament is a persistent cry for salvation to the God who promises to save, a prayer that in a situation of suffering or sin,” is lifted “in the confident hope that this God hears and responds to cries, and acts now and in the future to make whole.”  “Lament,” she notes, “calls upon God to be true to God’s own character and to keep God’s own promises, with respect to humanity, Israel, and the church.”Eklund’s book (and the dissertation on which her book is bas … [Read more...]

No Cause for Celebration: Question Five of Ten

   Taking The Dave Test during the Holidays                                    Question Five: “Can I give up trading in magic and superstition?”                                             Introduction to the seriesMuch of the last year was thread through with considerable loss.  My brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died this last January as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his disease.  He would have been 58 years old in O … [Read more...]