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...]

The Unspoken Prayer

Formulas and language are so much at the forefront of our conversation about prayer, that the mystery of a conversation with the living God is all but lost.  Add our preoccupation with intercession and petition and the mystery disappears completely.  God has become like a stranger --- accosted on the sidewalk --- forced into our homes without prelude or introduction, without relationship or experience, gang-pressed into service, meeting our needs.Don’t get me wrong.I am not opposed to pra … [Read more...]

True Silence

 Silence,true silenceIs not just about the absence of sound. That, in fact, is hard,If not impossibleTo attain. It is about the silence of the heart,A laying to rest,Of self absorptionAnd justification --- Of maliceAnd hubris ---Of the constant chatterWe suppose is grand, Framing our claimsTo virtue,Independence,Superiority,And control. It is a silenceThat … [Read more...]