June 23, 2016

  I began this series with a comment about the ways I have often imagined the Spirit as an ayah—a constant companion, teacher, friend, and surrogate mother. While I’ve come to understand and experience the Spirit as much more than that, the ayah image has not faded, but rather intensified. Sometimes when I find the whole Christian story just too much to believe, and the idea of a Father God seems completely mythical and the Jesus-story an impossible fantasy, I… Read more

April 16, 2016

Now that Lent is over, it’s back to life as usual. No more arduous efforts, no more talk of self-deprivation, no more trial and drama and spiritual angstiness. Yay for Fifty Days of Easter! Bring on the chocolate! But let’s not waste our Lent. Recalling our spiritual history might help a bit. We usually remember that our Easter coincides with the Jewish Passover, but we may forget the parallels that continue in the following weeks. After the first Passover, the… Read more

February 1, 2016

In the upcoming movie Risen, billed as a story about “the manhunt that changed the course of human history,” Roman soldier Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes) is commissioned with the task of finding the body of Jesus. First he crucifies him, then he loses him. With all the brutal focus of a calloused Roman killer, Clavius hunts for the hiding place of the apparently absconded body. Confession: I often read the last few pages of a book before I technically… Read more

January 26, 2016

  Working as I do in the wood between the worlds of religion, I am daily immersed in the conversations within various believing and non-believing traditions. Broadly speaking, and with notable exceptions, there are three kinds of essays. Some are conversations within the tradition, either addressing internal matters pertinent to that tradition or commenting on external events, public conversations, or cultural trends from the perspective of that tradition. I call this “dinner with mom, dad, and the crazy first-cousin-once-removed” sort… Read more

January 18, 2016

These are some thoughts on two fellows, disconnected by everything except religious heritage. In the great sweep of biblical history, these two never share time or space, but they come together in my imagination because of their experience of Wind. I obviously have a thing for Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones (Ezek. 37). A vast and desiccated plain, the dead strewn in dust, their bones white and naked and broken apart without sinews to hold them. A gray sky, a… Read more

January 17, 2016

Today is the only federal holiday designated and observed nationwide specifically for the honoring of a single man and his contributions to American life. Our nation’s story is immeasurably better for his having lived, for he helped us to become more of what we want to be. Our nation’s founding was an act of liberty, an act of justice, and an act of opportunity, but it was limited and narrowly envisioned. MLK, by pushing us to extend liberty, justice, and… Read more

December 17, 2015

Larycia Hawkins, employed by my alma mater, has stirred up a hornets’ nest of political, religious, and cultural nuances. And without question, she knew she was going to do so. Professor Hawkins, like many of us, is repulsed by the sheer nastiness and ignorance of many loud political voices on the internet lately who bark about Muslim terror, and we loathe the hateful words and actions that vilify good American citizens. But both her actions and her words inflame rather… Read more

November 9, 2015

Some of the stories from the Desert Fathers and Mothers are just too weird to mean much to me. Or they’re too hard. Or they’re just too hot and windy and covered in sand. But sometimes – and timing is everything in the spiritual life – one hits me hard. And this is the one I’m thinking of lately: Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said, “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, I fast… Read more

October 15, 2015

  To be filled, we must become empty. People talk about a “spiritual vacuum” in their lives, about a hungriness or a longing, and this is the starting place. We who pray Veni, Sanctu Spiritus cannot expect the Spiritus to Veni if we’re already quite pleasantly filled, thank you very much. The Spirit is not interested in being the frosting on our cake. We begin by accepting the barrenness of our lives; we begin, as Jesus reminds us, by knowing… Read more

September 30, 2015

Somewhere in my past, I read a novel about a young boy in India. This child was the son of English parents (set during the British Raj) whose social life was such that a full-time babysitter was in order. In India, this servant was called an ayah. She was a combination of governess, nanny, companion, guide, servant, teacher, surrogate mother, disciplinarian, and best friend. My imagination connected that person with the Holy Spirit, and for years now I have thought… Read more

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