Sunday, November 27, 2011


Happy New Year! The church year begins with Advent - the four-week period that concludes with Christmas. Traditionally, it was a time for prayer, fasting and penitence. (Today, we’re too busy for prayer, inclined to over-eat and penitence is not exactly top-of-mind.)

The dictionary defines advent (with a lower case a) as the coming or arrival of something extremely important. And that’s what Advent (with a capital A) is all about. The church lexicon is incarnation: the arrival of God on our planet in human form. We were visited by God!

As Paul wrote to the Colossians: (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God…God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. 

(from Colossians 1:15-19)

As John reports Jesus’ own words: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (from John 14:9)

Indeed, we were visited by God. It was a material, physical event - beginning with the birth of Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. The arrival of someone extremely important. It merits serious reflection over the next four weeks!

Lord, I’m ready for Advent!

Candles glow from every window.
1500 mini-bulbs twinkle on my shrubs.
...but I’m in need of illumination.

Help me, Lord, to answer St. Paul’s Advent wake-up call:
The hour has come…to wake up from your slumber…the night is nearly over; the day is almost here…put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

Help me, Lord, to stand in that light, to stand still and quiet in the light of Jesus Christ. To feel peace and joy. To notice the angels, shepherds and wise men that you put in my path each day.

Help me, Lord, to reflect that light, to share that the Apostle John described it:
The true light that gives light to every man… (John 1:9)

Thank you, Lord, for our Savior, your Son,
Jesus the Christ. Jesus the light. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mission Statement

Father, I have slowly - very slowly - come to realize that I’m here to serve. I was anticipating something more grandiose delivered in a vivid dream. However, I accept the assignment with gratitude. It has taken several decades. Finally, I have clarity.

My function is to assist my family, church family, work family and community. It’s a broad charge and I probably miss many opportunities. Selfishness impedes the mission (I prefer to be served) but I seek to discern your will and purpose in all things, to know when to lead, or support, or to leave it in your hands.

To those in my sphere of influence, may I provide a modicum of wisdom and a measure of inspiration. I aspire to model Christian values and pursue Christian discipleship.

As I serve, assist and support, I will rely on your Holy Spirit. May I grow in your grace. Amen.

Photo credit

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I’m still reading Mark’s Gospel with Gerard Kelly’s guidance. Kelly is a founder of The Bless Network, a youth missions agency in Europe. And he writes Bible studies for Scripture Union:

What does it take, we wonder, for a human life truly to reflect the character of God? How can we aspire to the life of goodness, truth and love that God calls us to? The answer is that we must face up to the laziness and narcissism that corrupts our every effort. We must be willing to put to death those aspects of our selves that are destructive to our own lives and those of others. Jesus, incarnate God, has come to show what an obedient human life looks like. He is our supreme example.

I have borrowed some of Kelly’s thoughts and words for this prayer…


We are made in your image.
(Genesis 1:27) That’s encouraging, but can my life come close to reflecting your character? I’m like a seed that’s slow to germinate.

This timeless line from Morning Prayer sums it up:

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.

St. Paul had a profound understanding of our propensity for self-sabotage:

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.
(Romans 7:18-19)

Lord Christ, help me resist every tendency and habit, any attitude or act that distorts your image.

Holy Spirit, help me to live honorably, serve graciously and love generously. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fuel for faith: DOUBT

I expect some resistance to that title. What fuels your faith? Worship? Study? Service? Nature?

Doubt doesn’t seem like the right answer.

...but consider the Gospel story known as “the healing of a boy with an evil spirit.” (Mark 9:14-32)
The child’s father exclaimed to Christ: I believe; help my unbelief! (RSV) I appreciate the paradox.

Gerard Kelly, writing for Scripture Union, contends that our doubts are not an enemy of faith “if we turn them into fuel for prayer.”

I will follow his lead:

Lord Christ,

I sense your grace with my doubts and confusion. You are most likely tolerating some misguided theology, too. I am grateful.

It resonates with me…

…that we read - in the Bible’s very first book - a description of Jacob wrestling with God.
(Genesis 32:24-30)

…that the disciples often missed the point of your teaching. (Matthew 15:16)

…that the father who sought your healing touch for his disabled child proclaimed, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

That’s me. Wrestling. Missing the point. Questioning.

But this doubt is fuel for my faith. Praise God for that!

I’m unable to master the Bible. Let the Bible master me.

I can’t seem to advance a tight and tidy apologetic. Let me advance the faith through worship and service, through conduct and character.

Some seekers walk away in frustration. They want a formula or indisputable evidence.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, that my heart and mind are fully engaged by the Kingdom’s mystery. Continue to fuel my faith. Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Heaven Has No Fist

Rob Bell is my kind of evangelical. His 2011 book Love Wins has been controversial among conservative
 Christians. This gifted pastor and teacher has been accused of subverting Christian 
orthodoxy, of promoting a faith that's too easy and inclusive, a 
theology that's long on love and mercy, but far too short on hellfire and

Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! 

Please watch the Rob Bell video and read about the book via this link to
 USA Today, and here's a favorite passage:

Telling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn’t do or say or believe the correct things in a brief window of time called life isn’t a very good story.

In contrast, everybody enjoying God’s good world together with no disgrace or shame, justice being served, and all the wrongs being made right is a better story. It is bigger, more loving, more expansive, more extraordinary, beautiful and inspiring than any other story about the ultimate course history takes.

Whatever the objections a person might have to this story…one has to admit that it is fitting, proper and Christian to long for it.

That gives us something to think about…something to pray about:

The heavens have no fist.

Great and gracious Lord, I treasure that line of Mary Oliver's poetry. 
It's my prayer for everyone raised on or depending upon a wrathful

Still - as usual - I'm conflicted and confused.

 At times I do cheer for the fist. Pounding on injustice. With a death
grip on evil.

I'm thinking (and praying) that somehow, beyond my understanding, the 
sin is separated from the sinner. That the fist obliterates the damage 
done by evil thoughts, words and deeds.

It's the sin that’s thrown into Revelation's fiery lake of burning sulfur. While
 humanity is cleansed, reconciled and restored.

I'm convinced, Lord Christ, that you extend a loving hand. Behold, how the fist opens with invitation.* Amen.

* - The Fist from THIRST, Poems by Mary Oliver