The Question of Size

Churchsize

For years now Protestant churches have been locked in an endless debate over the issue of size.  At the extremes, there are a few mega-church leaders who have touted the virtues of congregational growth and who argue that their size is a sign of their faithfulness.  On the other side of the debate --- the leaders of shrinking denominations have made a virtue of their reality by asserting that small is beautiful, arguing that prophetic churches inevitably drive people away.But the debate among c … [Read more...]

God forgive us

Confession

My wife has assumed responsibility for a new parish and she was doing some housekeeping in the office.  Among the things she discovered was “A Form of Confession for Boys an Girls.”  Wow.It’s old and yellowed, but I have a feeling it isn’t old enough, let alone dead and gone.  This little gem, which is probably less a page of text reads as follows:SAY: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.THEN SAY: Bless me Father for I have sinned.THE PRIEST WILL BLESS … [Read more...]

The Misery Sweepstakes

misery

“You may be dying, but you should hear what’s happening to me.”“Well, enough about me, what do you think about me?”People don’t really say that kind of thing, do they?  Actually, yes, they often do.Maybe not in so many words.  But, if you listen to the shape of many conversations, you will often find that someone threw out a lifeline, looked for hope, searched for a friend, or tried to get to the bottom of something that was troubling them, and all they got in return was competition for the … [Read more...]

Be careful what you pray for

prayer

A student of mine drew my attention to this story from Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray:The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. T … [Read more...]

Are demons real?

Demons

Are demons real?  Yes.Are they Individual, identifiable and possess a power of their own?  Are they able to override and overrun the innocent without their cooperation, as in the film “Rosemary’s Baby”?  No, I don’t think so.A physician who is both a student and a friend observes,“…all of this talk of the Enemy and demons can be uncomfortable for me, living in the current century and after formal study in the scientific method.  Most demons and devils I have encountered in patients within m … [Read more...]

A dog’s life

IMG_0074

Bob Erskine, who is a cartoonist, recently featured a drawing in which a fortuneteller is sitting across the table from a dog.  Peering into the crystal ball before her, the fortuneteller says to the dog, “I see a series of short-term romances, a number of territorial disputes, some questionable food choices and a lot of naps.”The quick identification with the dog’s fortune that the cartoon invites is, of course, at the heart of its genius.  On days when our lives seem overwhelmed by the humdru … [Read more...]

The thing is we all have our thing

Toys

I have a friend who is addicted to all things Mac.Steve Jobs announced the arrival of the new Mac Air Book two days ago and yesterday my friend negotiated his Christmas present.  As a fellow Mac devotee, I am keenly aware of how strongly attractive this all is.  In fact, I've often thought it is more than a little scary that the company logo is an apple with a bite taken out of it.  Great shades of Adam and Eve.  But I take refuge in the knowledge that the Hebrew doesn't actually say it was an … [Read more...]

Cream of Wheat in a Pop Tart Culture

CofW

My wife worked for a major advertising firm in Chicago and one of their clients was Cream of Wheat.  In the face of a culture that was increasingly given to things that were sticky, sweet, and easily prepared --- like Pop Tarts --- the folks at Cream of Wheat struggled to market their product.In working with the firm it became clear that one of the challenges they faced was that they were trying to sell Cream of Wheat --- instead of selling its experience or its benefits.  What finally worked f … [Read more...]

What goes around comes around

recycle

In a world where we are accustomed to fixing or replacing things, it is not surprising that we find ourselves wanting the same thing in our spiritual lives.  We want our spiritual struggles ended now.But typically, what goes around comes around.    All the biggest issues in our spiritual lives are usually defining for us.   They revolve around early, formative experiences and relationships or around life-shaping characteristics.  And for that reason, they can’t be fixed and forgotten.  Some exa … [Read more...]

From the Director’s Chair: Bad Guilt

guilt

Not all guilt is good guilt.  Good guilt is temporary.  It alerts us to spiritual danger and provides us with a way back to God.  Good guilt is not a way of life.  It is a way back to life.  That’s a good thing.Bad guilt has nothing to do with God’s desire for us.  It hangs around, makes a home, and drives us away from God.There are at least two kinds of bad guilt.One kind is false or unreasonable guilt…a sense of remorse or responsibility for things we have no power to change.  People who … [Read more...]


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