The Five Ways Music Contributes to Our Spiritual Lives

Some years ago I had the privilege of chairing a faculty search for a new professor of sacred music. We were fortunate to find an accomplished musician with a sound record of research, and a love of the church.One of the questions that I asked each of the candidates was this: “Can you explain what role that music plays in worship and in the spiritual lives of those who attend church?” The candidates were all from sacred music programs of one kind or another, so – at first blush – I thought th … [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...]

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...]

4 Ways the Church Misunderstands Spiritual Formation

The journey into God that transforms us and leads us into deeper connection with God lies at the heart of spiritual formation. Formation creates a space for that encounter to occur, and it nurtures the practice and virtues that makes that journey possible.But it is also widely misunderstood, even by churches.In looking back over decades of attention to the task of formation, here is a brief outline of four models for spiritual formation that are important elements of the experience, but … [Read more...]

5 Keys to Surviving Spiritually as a Leader in the Church

Over the last three years, my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Fowler has invited me to speak to his leadership class about the spiritual challenges that a leader in the church faces.It is generous of him.  A deeply thoughtful scholar and practitioner, he hardly needs me to remind his class of the spiritual challenges that attend the task of providing leadership for the church.  But I’ve appreciated the invitation and the event has become something of a spiritual exercise for me. … [Read more...]

Seven ways to avoid getting stuck

Over the years, I’ve seen people get stuck – personally and vocationally.There’s no formal definition for that place in life.  But minimally, I suppose, we are “stuck” when we are profoundly uneasy with our circumstances, at dis-ease with the direction in which our lives are moving, and apparently unable to do anything to change the situation.Some people get stuck in the past, trapped by regret, guilt, or unaddressed injustice.  Some get stuck in the present with patterns of behavior that … [Read more...]

Beyond Partisanship

I've had it. Don't spin me. Don't lie to me. Don't bury me in a mountain of legalize and tell me I'm ignorant. Don't exploit my tax dollars. Don't sell my country to special interests foreign and domestic. Don't tell me you are for a champion of the poor and squire around DC in limos, fly across the country in government-provided transportation, and dine at DC's finest restaurants. Don't tell me you are a champion of the people and focus on getting re-elected over and over again. Don't poor … [Read more...]

The Lenten Life: Falling and Getting Back Up Again

A Catholic parish near our home features this on their home page, front and center: Lenten and Triduum regulations 2015These are the 2015 Lenten and Triduum regulations:FAST AND ABSTINENCEThe holy season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015.Masses on Ash Wednesday will be offered at 8 am 12:10 pm and 7 pm.Both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, April 03, are days of abstinence from meat for all who are 14 years and older. They are also days of fast (one full meal … [Read more...]