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Showing posts from March, 2011

Joy Is Worth the Chase

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Edward Hays' books are like candy, at least for me. Even more than his daily healing therapies in Lenten Pharmacy, Chasing Joy is an excellent devotional companion for any season of the Church year.

I have come to really savor the way Hays can recast a wide range of anecdotes, biblical references, and folk stories with whatever subject is at hand. In the case of this book, it's about pursuing happiness, that historic American virtue. For Hays, joy just doesn't happen. Rather, it's a choice, and even more, it's a practice. Like that of prayer and gratitude, we access joy not by nature or instinct, but by intention.

And myriad disciplines are offered, a sort of "yellow brick road" to enduring joy, most of which stem from what Hays calls the "holy trinity" of I Thessalonians 5:16: "Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. this is what God wants you to do." CEV Some of the more …

Hope in a Difficult Time

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There is something deeper than trouble.
It is mercy.
God's amazing grace.
Carrying, lifting, holding us in all seasons.
There is something more powerful than despair.
It is mercy.
God's amazing love.
Seeing us through dark nights, waves of sadness, mountains of grief.
There is something longer lasting than pain.
It is mercy...

Excerpted from Larry J. Peacock and Prayers for Hope, Upper Room Ministries.

May God's healing embrace in Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit enfold, envelop, and encircle all in trauma and grief.

Alpha or Beginnings?

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The advantages both formats provide is the chance the group has to visit with each other over a meal. This becomes an excellent way to establish a sense of community and a more relaxed and informal atmosphere. The limitation of both Alpha and Beginnings is trying to contain the whole of the Christian faith into a classroom model, as something that is just taught, heard, and discussed. This shortcoming can be improved by incorporating Christian practices and group experiences outside of the sessions. Why? Because the faith and tradition is not only contained in words, but also in doing it.

Both experiences are intended to be longer than your typical 6-8 week block for short term studies. Alpha stresses the importance of going the distance of 12 weeks plus the Holy Spirit overnight or day long retreat, while Beginnings is a shorter 12 weeks (or 9 weeks with an overnight or day long retreat).

There's a sense in which Alpha asks participants to complete the entire course before makin…

To Begin Anew, Herbert's "Lent"

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Lent by George Herbert

Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And good…

Living Water is here for the taking

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Lent is a time of heightening, not deadening, the senses. But the best way to do this is the way of simplicity and uncluttering. Subtracting the spiritual hangers-on, the act of letting go allows us the freedom to move toward more of God and to choose life. Even in the midst of the ashes.

I wish I could have found the poem I was looking for, but in my searching, I discovered a part of one of John Donne's Elegies that I had long forgotten, from a class on the poets of his generation. It's from the last few lines of the Elegy entitled "Change":

To live in one land is captivity,
To run all countries, a wild roguery;
Waters stink soon, if in one place they bide,
And in the vast sea are worse putrified:
But when they kiss one bank, and leaving this
Never look back, but the next bank do kiss,
Then are they purest; Change is the nursery
Of music, joy, life, and eternity.

What in me stinks and is becoming putrified? …

You don't need church to live in denial

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You don't need the church to be the one-half in "Two and a Half Men," but that doesn't mean people don't use the church to escape themselves. You don't need the church to avoid the pain of your own self-destructive wiring. But it can help.

With the opportunity to try out a new spiritual practice or discipline in the coming Lent/Easter season, I hope to take a fresh look at what I need- so that my faith practice, whatever it is, can limit self-delusion and blindness, and can encourage self-knowledge and awareness.

The thing is, we can turn anything, even the good gifts of our tradition, into a self-serving exercise, subverting and sabotaging the holy and life-giving intention of the practice. That's why it helps to be intentional and have the support of another in the journey, such as a spiritual director. The great gift of a Christian spiritual practice is first and always, the freedom Holy Spirit gives us to choose more of God, and less cobbling of the …