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April 28, 2016

Sex. It’s what the Song of Solomon is about. But ancient Christian readers were prudes and couldn’t handle that, so they allegorized it and made it mean all kinds of spiritual things it doesn’t in fact mean, and hundreds of years went by before the text could be recovered by us progressive moderns so liberated and uninhibited and full of the true glory and beauty of sex. If you’re anything like most modern readers, this is probably your impression of… Read more

April 21, 2016

And there in that land I encountered a strange race of people, to whom was the habit of an uncanny ritual. On bits they called paper – an artefact of plant material thinned into a sheet – they made marks. That these marks meant something, everyone believed, and concerning these marks on bits of paper they behaved strangely. As though to make a sacrifice, they folded these papers so as to fit into small coffins – which they called envelopes… Read more

April 14, 2016

So, God said to Job, everything’s over and you need to pray for your friends so they can be forgiven. And Job paused, and thought a moment, and then said, “Yeah, okay, I can do that – I know the power of prayer – I used to pray for my kids. Maybe it’ll work for my comforters too.” That opening zinger is not at all a theologically acceptable interpretation of the story of Job, and I really do deserve a… Read more

April 11, 2016

  In his eminently affable and uncontroversial way, theologian Stanley Hauerwas once suggested he’s a pacifist because he’s a violent son of a bitch. I feel roughly similar about my own commitment to contemplative spirituality. I’m not a peaceful, well-balanced person. I’m not, as they say, zen. I’m not the guy on the inspirational poster. My mind is neurotic and frenetic, humming with noise. And these are all the reasons the Christian contemplative tradition is precisely what I need. Hauerwas… Read more

March 29, 2016

“He is not here.” So were their words when I came upon the tomb and looked inside and beheld in the cave a woman at a wheel and all the world on that wheel. And as she spun it, some went to the top where there were riches and honour, and some to the bottom where there were misery and suffering. And behold, all the people were bickering and quarreling over whether any of them could move the wheel up… Read more

March 25, 2016

“The watchmen that went about the city found me, They smote me, they wounded me; The keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, That I am sick of love.” – Song of Solomon 5:7-8 “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” – Mark 15:38 Like sung thunder reverberant Cut zagging across the… Read more

March 22, 2016

In the prior Lenten post on Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out, we finally reached what is both most fundamental and also most elusive in the movement of spirit traced by Nouwen: the movement from illusion to prayer. And the post ended with a conundrum: the God we worship is beyond manipulation, so it is not as if prayer is a matter of conjuring him as a magician might; but on the other hand, we cannot receive Him without disciplines that make space for Him… Read more

March 15, 2016

In our journey through Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out, we have discussed the transition from loneliness to solitude, and the transition from hostility to hospitality. In these last few weeks before Easter, we come to what is at once both the most difficult and the most fundamental of the movements of the spirit discussed by Nouwen, and this is the movement from illusion to prayer. Of this Nouwen notes: The movement from illusion to prayer undergirds and makes possible the movements… Read more

March 8, 2016

  “This is the what makes Christians walk away.”   I was talking to a friend about a particularly difficult situation that had erupted in the parachurch organization I was a part of. It had ended badly. Our group had skipped over the sheep’s clothing bit and gone straight for the wolves. I was allegedly the young pup in the pack trying to take over from the lead wolf – who advised me that it would be best for me to… Read more

March 1, 2016

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” -Pope Francis In posts I and II of this Lenten series, we have followed Henri Nouwen’s discussion of the transformation of interior loneliness into inner solitude. In this and the next post, I turn my attention to the second and more social component of Nouwen’s conception of reaching out: the transformation of hostility into hospitality…. Read more


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