Archive for May, 2014


May 29, 2014 5 comments


Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

‘The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone… I will not be with you then, nor you with me’ (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone, in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.

‘If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer , they [the fellowship] suffer with me’ (Luther).

 From Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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quieting the spin

May 22, 2014 6 comments

topA couple of weeks ago, I preached a message at Emmanuel Christian Fellowship entitled, Quieting the Spin. The main focus was on how to best handle the stress and terrors when seasons of trials blow in. Is there a way to best prepare ourselves before, during, or after the $&#* hits the fan? I won’t re-preach it here, but the link is imbedded in the sermon title, Quieting the Spin, if you want to have a go at it.

It is a massive help to us once we realize that our intentionality of being in the Lord’s presence doesn’t necessarily require activity from us—including the forming of words and ideas. I encourage you to ponder the words from the old Lutheran pietist, Ole Hallesby. I’ve included a small sampling from his book, Prayer. If you’ve got the patience to read the following excerpt, you’ll glean a beautiful perspective on what it means to “stop spinning” in God’s presence.   We need this more than we can even imagine.


Prayer is really an attitude of our hearts toward God. As such it finds expression, at times in words and at times without words, precisely as when two people love each other. As conscious personalities we must and should give expression to our attitudes in words one to another. It is this faculty, which lifts the fellowship of human beings to such a high plane and makes it so rich.

But at the same time, let us remind ourselves that life, in the last analysis, is inexpressible. There is something in our lives, also in our fellowships, which can never be formulated in words, but which can be the common experience, nevertheless, of two who share with each other everything that can be expressed in words.

In the soul’s fellowship with God in prayer, too, there are things which can and should be formulated in words.   But there are also things for which we can find no words. Likely it is this to which the apostle makes reference when he speaks in Romans 8:26 of the groanings which cannot be uttered.

My little boy came in one day and stuck his little head into the doorway of my study. Now he knew that he was not supposed to disturb me during working hours. And his conscience troubled him a little on account of this. But he looked at me nevertheless with his kind, round baby eyes and said, “Papa, dear, I will sit still all the time if you will only let me be here with you!”

That he received permission when he approached my father-heart in that way, every father knows.

That little experience gave me a great deal to think about.

Is not that just the way we often feel with regard to our heavenly Father? We do so love to be with him, just to be in his presence! Moreover, we never disturb him, no matter when we come nor how often we come.

We pray to God. We speak to him about everything we have on our minds both concerning others and ourselves. There come times, not so seldom with me at least, when I do have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in words, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I just be in your presence Lord? I have nothing more to say to you, but I do love to be in your presence?”

We can spend time in silence together with people whom we know real well. That we cannot do with others. We must converse with them, entertain them either with interesting or profound things as the case may be. But with our own dear ones we can speak freely about common and insignificant things. In their presence, too, we can be silent. Similarly, it is not necessary to maintain a conversation when we are in the presence of God. We can come into his presence and rest our weary souls in quiet contemplation of him. Our groanings, which cannot be uttered, rise to him and tell him better than words how dependent we are on him.

As evening drew near, and our little fellow had played until he was tired, I noticed that he drew closer and closer to his mother. At last he found the place he was longing for, mother’s lap. He did not have a great deal to say either. He simply lay there, and let his mother caress him to sleep.

We too, become tired, deadly tired, of ourselves, of others, of the world, of life, of everything! Then it is blessed to know of a place where we can lay our tired head and heart—our heavenly Father’s arms, and say to him, “I can do no more. And I have nothing to tell you. May I lie here a while and rest? Everything will soon be well again if I can only rest in your arms a while.”

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one good humiliation

I recently talked to an elderly monk who said, “I’m convinced that the ego is a master of camouflage and disguise.   As one gets older, it requires more clever and sanctimonious ways to feel superior.”

What a wise and humble man. You know that he could only say something like that because he had faced that camouflage in himself again and again. Once a humiliation shows itself, or the stumbling stone causes us to stumble, we will usually retrench ourselves back into an old homeostasis that proves how right we are, and how our humiliation was only an isolated event. I reassert my illusion and continue with ‘business as usual’ because that’s much easier than changing. We’d sooner have stability than grace, because grace always changes us.

So we dust off, reassert our certainties, and take control again.   This is what most of us do. That is why people will not transition into a higher spirituality. Unless you’re practiced in how to handle humiliation, you won’t know how to do it.

If you are successful in any criteria in your life, I want to give you a bit of spiritual advice: Pray for one good humiliation a day. I mean that in all seriousness, and I know it sounds clever. Pray for that humiliation, and then watch your reaction to it. You’ll know you’re getting somewhere when you’re no longer shocked by it. You’ll know you’re making progress when you don’t have to react to not getting your way—your being disrespected doesn’t put you in defense mode. All of that is the pricking of your false self. The true self won’t react, because it can’t be offended. If you’re offended, be assured it is the tiny insecure self that is reacting.

But, it takes practice to recognize this. Practice by allowing that daily humiliation. Watch your reaction to it. Ask, “What part of me is upset? Why am I defending? Why do I have to talkback so strongly? Where is that coming from?”

From Richard Rohr, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

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hope to lose

May 8, 2014 14 comments

In Rohr’s audio seminar called, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, he mentions an encounter between Kazantzakis and an old monk. Kazantzakis asked him, “Do you still wrestle with the devil?” The monk replied, “No. I’ve grown old. The devil has grown old. Neither one has the strength for the conflict. Now I wrestle with God.” Kazantzakis, “You wrestle with God? Do you hope to win?” Monk, “No. I hope to lose.”

What a strange thought to consider. This little dialogue is pretty telling of my life. I started to break free from the first half of life spirituality when I was 43 years old. There was an extended wilderness period that followed, but I didn’t really start exploring second half energy until I hit age 50.

I did my stint to attack the gates of hell, while keeping everyone posted on their hot sins and redundant failures. Much like those poor Pharisees, I thought I was keeping the law, not realizing that it was designed only to bring frustration and fatigue. Why? You can’t keep it. It’s that simple. Although somewhat versed and steeped in scriptural knowledge, God was in front of me the whole time—and I couldn’t always see it. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

The old monk was right. Loss is the great teacher. But, you can’t see it if you view the gospel and kingdom reality through the lens of our needing to win a contest. That’s the first half of life spirituality, and it is understandable and kind of necessary for building containers and foundations. But, Rohr suggests that is a great way to start, yet a horrible way to finish.  Old men who are still building containers made of haughty attitudes, religious platitudes, and unwavering certitudes, have not made the transition.  Life is teaching them, and they’ve yet to see the value of their growth in decline.

A second half spirituality takes all the confusion and disappointment of life, and continues to trust that victory happens despite the fact we didn’t get our way.  God might actually have won, and we’re good and in agreement with that, even though we might lose something we care about.

open-palmsI know this is already long, and I apologize, but I want you to think about what I’m going to share with you now. In that tape series previously mentioned, Paula D’Arcy tells about her meeting with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.   Paula was 27 years old when a drunk driver ran into the car her husband was driving. She lost a husband and her 2 year-old daughter in that accident. The waves of grief were devastating. A debilitating shadow that refused to withdraw.   A friend arranged for her to meet the aged Dr. Peale in hopes that he might offer a few wise words of comfort.

What Paula expected was quite different from the reality.   She was braced for preacher guy to produce a huge Bible, snappy-sappy quotes and quips, with certain answers that solved all her questions. Dr. Peale began their meeting with the last thing she expected, “Tell me your story.”   She hadn’t ever really told the story before, so she poured it out. The tears were immeasurable.   Dr. Peale never interrupted. He cried when she cried. He reached out and took her hand several times.

After she told the story, Dr. Peale said, “Young woman, you’ve got a huge challenge in front of you.” She asked what that might be. “Discovering the purpose of life—your life.” Paula shot back, “I lost the purpose of my life when my husband and my daughter were killed.” Paula reports that Dr. Peale leaned deeply into her, just inches from her eyes, and said “You lost the purpose you wanted, but there is another purpose in life.”

That was it. He didn’t give her guidance on where to find that purpose. There were no more certainties or absolutes. It was a second half of life statement that embraced the mystery that must be played out through a lifetime. He could see that Paula wasn’t in the place where theology would sort it out for her. She was in the place of pain. He met her in that pain with wisdom.

Paula asked him how could he be so sure of that. He said, “Because you are alive. Life has purpose.”

As she thanked him and left the room, he called her back in, and gave her one more line: “The thing that you are searching so hard for—you already have.”

The old monk had transitioned. He hoped to lose. Everything didn’t have to go his way. There was another way—one that he didn’t have to know or control.


ps… if you’re over 50 years old, I highly recommend those cds!  Click the link at the top of the blog for info.

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breadI love the stuff that sneaks up on you when you commit to sitting in a spiritual stew. We like to graze and keep moving, spinning (at least that’s what I like), but sitting with a single thought or idea over an extended period of time is like licking a Tootsie Pop—a methodical, resistant, yet rich flavor that eventually gives way to the stuff you can chew on.

This past week, I’ve sat on a reading from an author I’m not too familiar with. I did a little research, and I really like what Brother Carlo has to say. I’m fond this passage I’m about to share. I hope it ministers to you too! –MDP-

“This vital realization that the sign of bread concealed and pointed out for me the uninterrupted presence of Jesus beside me was a unique grace in my life.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35, NASB).

I realized that HE had died in order that I might stop turning to him with questions about justice, and believe instead, deep within myself, that the scales had come down overflowing on the side of love, and that even though all, through unbelief or madness, had offended him, he had conquered forever, and drawn all things everlastingly to himself.

Then later, so that I should never forget that Friday and abandon the Cross, as one forgets a postcard on the table or a picture in the worn-out book that has been feeding one’s devotion, he led me on to discover that in order to be with me continually, not simply as an affectionate remembrance but as a living presence, he had devised the Eucharist.

What a discovery that was!

Under the sacramental sign of bread, Jesus was there each morning to renew the sacrifice of the Cross and make of it the living sacrifice of his bride, the Church, a pure offering to the Divine Majesty.

And still that was not all.

He led me on to understand that the sign of bread testified to his hidden presence, not only during the Great Sacrifice, but at all times, since the Eucharist was not an isolated moment in my day, but a line which stretched over twenty-four hours: he is God-with-us, the realization of what had been foretold by the cloud that went before the people of God during their journey through the desert, and the darkness which filled the tabernacle in the temple of Jerusalem.

I must emphasize that this vital realization that the sign of bread concealed and pointed out for me the uninterrupted presence of Jesus beside me was a unique grace in my life. From that moment he led me along the path to intimacy, and friendship with himself.

I understood that he longed to be present like this beside each one of us.

Jesus was not only bread, he was a friend.

 A home without bread is not a home, but a home without friendship is nothing.

That is why Jesus became a friend, concealed under the sign of bread. I learned to stay with him for hours on end, listening to the mysterious voices that welled up from the abysses of Being and to receive the rays of that light whose source was the uncreated light of God.

I have experienced such sweetness in the Eucharistic presence of Christ.

I have learned to appreciate why the saints remain in contemplation before this bread to beseech, to adore and to love.

How I wish that everyone might take the Eucharist home, and having made a little oratory in some quiet corner, might find joy in sitting quietly before it, in order to make his dialogue with God easier and more immediate, an intimate union with Christ.

From In Search of the Beyond, by Carlo Carretto

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