The Last Time


"The Last Supper", Jesus Mafa

Scripture Text:  John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sometimes life spins a little out of control. Sometimes things don’t go exactly like the carefully scripted plan we have in our own minds. Sometimes we have to let go or leave behind those in our lives before we’re actually ready to do so. Our lives are full of “last times”, those special, much-too-fleeting moments that we spend with those we love. It is those times when all we can do is trust that the groundwork has been laid for what must continue. That had to be a little of what Jesus was going through on this night. Think about it…he had spent his ministry gathering those around him, teaching them, loving them, and indeed shaping them into who they were. And now…here he was completely out of time…the end was approaching. Night had begun to fall. All he could do was trust that the seeds he had planted in his followers would continue to grow and flourish even in a new environment and a new time. So on this night, he invited all those who love him—this somewhat motley crew of misfits and ordinary ones to sit around the table and enjoy their time together. He knew what was about to happen. He knew that this would be the last.

That is where we enter the story…in the midst of this evening meal…this Passover meal…the last meal. The feast is prepared. The loved ones are gathered together. We have visions of a perfect meal and a perfect time together. But, as all of us know, that is not always the way that family meals come together. This was no exception. Nestled beneath this wonderful feeling of closeness and fellowship were chords of betrayal and distrust, signs of denial and misunderstandings, and an all-too-constant stream of arguing among the disciples. Does that sound familiar?

But in this Passover meal that we have come to call the Last Supper, Jesus chooses to share himself—his very body and blood with all of those that were gathered—this denying, betraying, bickering, and beloved lot. It was a way of giving them something to remember him so that they would not feel so alone without him. He gave them something to hold onto—to touch and to taste—something to do to keep Christ close in their hearts, to feel the very real Presence of Christ forever. On this night, Jesus gives the gift of himself and a way for all of us to remember who we are.

Our culture probably doesn’t do well with “lasts”.  We seem to be always rushing to the next thing, not wanting to hurt or grieve or even hold on to what may be somewhat painful moments in our lives.  We rush to get “over it”, to move on.  As many of you know, I am dealing with my own set of “lasts” right now.  As I prepare to close my chapter at St. Paul’s and begin a new chapter at FUMC, Cleveland, Tx, the “lasts” seem to be coming in a flurry right now.  I am such that I tear up and sometimes even blatantly bawl at the emptiness and, yet, I really want to savor it, to feel every moment of it, to remember it, to make it a part of me, and to leave a part of myself.  That is what Jesus was trying to do.  I don’t think he was trying to “get them through it” and he was definitely not wanting to rush for it to be over.  He was wanting them to experience it, to savor it, indeed, to remember it.  Do this in remembrance of me.  The beauty of this last meal was the intimacy and the relationship.  These were friends dining together–friends who had loved and argued, celebrated and cried, friends who had been called together one by one.  They were all different, coming from different lifestyles with different gifts to offer.  They were us.  We are them.  And this was the moment that they would remember when everything had changed.

For on this night of nights, Jesus drew them in, not to take care of them, but to help them remember. They had to remember enough to hand the memory on.  The Greek word for it is anamnesis.  We would translate it as remembering.  But it is more.  It is not merely remembering those things that happened to us; it is remembering what came before and what was passed on, remembering what was part of our tradition and our heart.  It is finding a memory of what came before that leads you on your journey beyond.  We often tout “institutional memory” as if it is a way of remembering what happened to whom and where and when.  But it is more.  It is a way of imparting what is important, what matters, what gives life to those that come next.  It is a way of giving it wings to fly and breath to survive.  That is why this night was so important.  Jesus did not choose to shut himself off and grieve what was coming but instead immersed himself in a circle of friends so that he could live through them.  Experiencing a “last time” alone is painful; experiencing a “last time” with a gift of friends and a meal will remain forever.

This is the night we remember, the night that Jesus broke the bread and shared the cup, the night that Jesus knelt and washed the feet of the disciples, the night that Jesus forgave betrayal and welcomed life.  A few hours later the soldiers would come and the end would begin.  But the memory of that last time will last forever.  Do this in remembrance of me.

The glad hosannas are no longer heard.  The shouting is over, the palms are gathered; the shadows lengthen; the plotting begins in earnest. Knowing the outcome, we come with heavy hearts.  And what do we hear?  An unchanged and unchanging message of love; God’s love, a poet’s love, a woman’s love.  God’s love, foretold by Isaiah, in the shape of a servant.  (Moira B. Laidlaw)

On this night of nights, we remember.  But we also experience our own “lasts”.  What memories have been imparted to you?  What do you remember that makes you?  What can you impart to those that come after you?  Embrace your lasts, hold them, love them, and then pass them along.

Grace and Peace,






REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When Things Began to Change (Yet again!)

clouds-floating-over-a-mountainScripture Text:  Matthew 17: 1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

And then our journey brought us to the mountain.  We should have known.  Mountains have always been places of change even as far back as Moses and the Commandments.  But we followed.  Maybe we knew that things would change and maybe we were just being naive.  So we followed Jesus up the mountain that day not knowing what was about to happen.  And there was Jesus, his clothes having taken on a dazzling hue, blinding, whiter than anything we had ever seen before.  And he was not alone.  There was Moses.  There was Elijah.  It was the most amazing thing, surely not of this world, surely something miraculous.  Peter was funny, wanting to build a dwelling for the three.  But at least he spoke.  The rest of us just sort of stood there dumbfounded.  What would we do next?  What was about to happen to us?  And the voice!  Who’s voice was that?  I think it was God.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but I think it was God.  It was God telling us to listen, to listen to Jesus, to listen to our hearts, to listen to the journey.  It was obvious that things had begun to change.  We fell down trying to shield ourselves.

And then in a moment, it was quiet.  We looked up.  The light was gone.  Elijah and Moses were gone.  And there was Jesus.  He looked the same and yet he was different.  Maybe we were different.  Maybe our eyes had been scarred by the bright lights.   Or maybe we had finally learned to look at things differently, to see the change we were being called to see, to traverse the journey ahead with new eyes.  We gathered our things together without speaking.  There were no words that belonged in the holy silence that embraced us.  We wanted to stay, stay there on that mountain with memories of the bright lights and that Presence.  But Jesus took our hands and beckoned us to follow.  We began to walk down the mountain.  There, there was Jerusalem in the distance.  Things were about to change.  We knew it.  But we descended from the mountain that day.  Jesus told us not to say anything.  We would understand it later.  But, for now, we had to return to the world.  The mountain was not ours.

Change is hard.  We try desperately to hold on to what we know, to what is safe and secure, to what feels comfortable.  But every once in awhile, we have a mountain we have to climb.  We ascend into the fog and something happens there.  Our world changes.  And for a little while, God stops talking, perhaps waiting for our silence so that we, too, can listen for what comes next.  On this day, we ascended the mountain as learners following a master.  And, looking back, the ones who walked down the other side together were different.  There was work to do and we were the ones that were called to do it.

Jerusalem-First SightLent teaches us that the world is not ours to plan or control. It is ours to embrace and journey through.  Sometimes we will have things that shake us to our core.  And so we descend the mountain in silence listening for God.  There is more to do.  There is more holy work.  And what God has in store for us is nothing short of a miracle.  And so for now, things are beginning to change.  Jerusalem awaits.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, Give me a light that I might go safely out into the darkness. And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be more to you than a light, and safer than a known way. (M.L. Haskins)

On this day before Holy Week begins, we know that things will change.  Embrace them.  Live them.  Change with them.  And walk.  The journey is yours alone.

Grace and Peace,





At the Edge of the Rainbow

The Clifs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Scripture Passage:  Luke 3:21-22a

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

What does it mean for the heavens to open, to somehow, whether literally or figuratively, come pouring into the earth?  When you read that, it’s a little hard to go back to the notion of the separation of the secular and the sacred.  No longer is God or whatever you think of heaven “out there”.  In some incredible, wonderful way, the Holy and the Sacred has poured into where we are.  All is sacred.

On this day when all who are Irish and all who become Irish for this day celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, I thought we’d go back and visit his roots a little bit.  As his story goes, he was born Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  Captured by Irish raiders when he was sixteen, he lived as a slave in Ireland for six years before escaping.  He would later return to Ireland as a missionary until his death in 460 or 461 and by the 8th century would become the land’s patron saint.  St. Patrick is, of course, associated with what we describe as Celtic Christianity.  This is a branch of Christianity that was unique to these Irish people during the Early Middle Ages.  The Celtic Christians unapologetically embraced their Celtic and Druid roots and articulated them through their new Christian lenses, even making some of their Druid gods and goddesses Christian saints.  We’re not completely sure how these Christians even got to Ireland but they were firmly established there by the 2nd century.  One view is that the Galatian Christians to whom Paul wrote (the Galts) were part of those who then migrated to what is now Wales, Ireland, and Scotland after the Roman invasion and occupation. (How cool and connected would THAT be?)

Celtic Christianity always has had a sense of pilgrimage, of journeying.  They were always, as Deborah Cronin describes it, “a bit on the edge”.  I think that would describe their physical location as well as their religious belief system.  But I also think it is where they are spiritually.  You see, the Celtic understanding is that all things are sacred.  Just as the Scripture implies, they had this strong sense that the spiritual world does indeed spill into the material world.  They embrace the image as a “thin place”, a place and time where time matters not and the spirit world is very close, a place where one can almost feel it, almost reach out and touch what is holy and sacred.  Rock bridgeThese thin places, thresholds between what is and what will be, are crossing places between the world and the Divine.  They are embraced as places of growth, as places through which we journey from one place to another, one way of seeing to another, one way of being to another.  So what we think of as ordinary places become sacred and holy as the sacred spills through them onto us.  Bridges, gateways, and causeways reconnect what is divided and make them accessible to each other.   Burial grounds mark the crossing place from life to death, from “this world” to an “other world”, from time and space to eternity and infinity.  And the rainbow?  If you remember, the ninth chapter of Genesis says that God set a bow in the clouds, a sign of the connection, the covenant, between God and the earth.

Burial site of Owen Shannon (1762-1839), Old Methodist Cemetery, Montgomery, TX (my great-great-great-great grandfather)

It is a symbol of the promise that the Sacred and the Holy is not inaccessible or removed from us but has spilled into the earth.  Never again can we become separated or isolated; never again can we close ourselves off and not move forward.

And for us?  We are always standing at the edge of the rainbow, the edge of the Sacred and the Holy.  God is in our midst and everything is Sacred.  The mundane and the ordinary is marked by God’s fingerprints and have become extraordinary.  This Lenten season is a journey of transformation.  We are moving from one way of being to another, from that mountaintop to Jerusalem, from life to death and life beyond.  And along the way are thresholds that we traverse.  We are always at the edge of the rainbow.  We just have to open ourselves to the sacredness that everything holds.  God is in our midst. Heaven has opened and has spilled into the earth.  Everywhere we walk is holy ground.

God rejoiced to see [God’s] Dream reborn.  [God] desired to mark this moment eternally, as a sign to all creation that hope is more real and permanent than despair.  [God] shone [this] perfect , invisible light–the light of joy–through all the tears that would ever flow out of human grief and suffering.  That invisible light was broken down, through our tears, into all the colours of the rainbow.  And God stretched the rainbow across the heavens, so that we might never forget the promise that holds all creation in being.  This is the promise that life and joy are the permanent reality, like the blue of the sky, and that all the roadblocks we encounter are like the clouds–black and threatening perhaps, but never the final word.  Because the final word is always “Yes”!  (Margaret Silf, in Sacred Spaces:  Stations on a Celtic Way)

On this Lenten journey, look around. What holiness do you see?  Where do you see God in your midst?  What thresholds are you crossing in your life?  

Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)




The Pilgrim’s Way

the_journeyScripture Passage:  Genesis 12: 1

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Have you ever noticed that no one spends much time standing still in the Bible?  The story begins with God breathing life into Creation and, in essence, making us a home, a place.  But it doesn’t take but a few chapters before we are on the move–aliens, immigrants, sojourners.  It’s pretty clear that God calls us to be pilgrims on this Way, traveling light and gathering all of Creation together as we move. And along the way, we hear lots of words like “sent forth” and “go” and “follow”.  We are called to be a people on the move (at least figuratively and probably even a little literally), essentially migrating from one place to the next, from one way of being to another.  And most of the time, those that came before us moved freely through their journey without a map, without real plans or even real provisions.  Most of the time they were just journeying to a place they did not know but that they knew that God would show them.

So what has happened to us?  How did we become so planted? How did our lives become so safe?  It was never that way in the beginning.  The journey of faith was a wildly unpredictable one into places unknown. The journey of faith called its travelers to be pilgrims in the wilderness, sojourners through foreign lands.  Oh, we like to think of ourselves as journeyers, particularly we Methodists who readily espouse Wesley’s notion of faith as movement, as, to coin his words, “going on to perfection”.  (Gee, there’s that “go” thing again!)  And yet, we will do everything possible to avoid getting driven to the wilderness or left without everything that we need (or at least the latest technological gadget).  We tend to separate ourselves from discomfort or inconvenience or chaos.  We stick to our plans.  But wildness and chaos often creates a certain energy.  It wakes us up; it makes us pay attention.  This week on the Today Show, Al Roker is doing some sort of “Tech Out” series, meaning not that he techs out but that he TAKES tech out.  He’s going analog and old school and EVEN vinyl.  (Remember those words?  They existed before we became so technologically advanced.  On Monday, he looked at vinyl (yes, vinyl) records.  The interesting thing is that a company that was about to go belly up a few years ago is searching for old LP printing machines because the sale of albums has surpassed the sale of streaming music this year.  Who would’ve thought THAT?  (I mean, because we’re so advanced and all.)

Maybe on some level we really DO crave wilderness.  Maybe that’s why Lent begins in the wilderness.  Have you ever noticed that when you travel you see a lot more than when you’re just driving to and from work?  Is it because there’s more to see?  Or is it that when one is unfamiliar territory, one is more aware of the surroundings, more open to seeing things as they are?  Seeing oneself as a pilgrim, a wanderer, is the same thing.  It keeps our eyes open and our minds alert.  We notice God’s Presence; we notice God’s People; we do not see ourselves as “owners” or even squatters.  We see ourselves as part of Creation.  We begin to see that we are called not to arrive but to journey.  Our faith IS the journey.  So Lent begins in the wilderness and asks us to travel deep within ourselves, beyond our preconceptions, beyond our assumptions, beyond our plans.  We go, open to what God has to show us along the way. (So, maybe it would help if we put down our smart phones just for a little while so that we could see the world!)

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. And when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. (Wendell Berry)

So as we make this Lenten journey, what do you see?  What are you missing?  Where are you being called to go? (And does that have to involve your cell phone?)

Grace and Peace,


Beyond the Wilderness


Moses and the Burning BushScripture Text:  Exodus 3: 1-5

 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

We sometimes miss that nuance when we read this story.  I think I read this for years as if this miraculous burning bush was placed right in Moses’ path, impeding his way, something that he could not possibly miss, perhaps something that he would just trip over if he wasn’t paying attention.  But the passage says that Moses had to “go over” or turn aside to see it, had to actually get off the path that he was on to see this incredible sight.

Here is Moses, who has led his flock to a place “beyond the wilderness”.  I’m not sure what that is.  But it’s apparently a place to which only a journey through the wilderness can take you.  If it’s a literal place, then it’s WAY off any map that we have.  I think it’s more than likely that it’s the place to which you come when you yield to the wilderness, when you let yourself relinquish control and let go of what you are holding so tightly, when, finally, you trust God enough to turn aside to see what God has in store for you.  But, whatever this place is, Moses is leading his flock off the beaten path into a mysterious and unknown place right up to the mountain of God.

And there, off the path, not where he could stumble over it, but where he had to leave his planned pathway to investigate, he sees it—a bush blazing brightly with a fire that did not consume.  This was beyond what was normal.  Well, needless to say, his curiosity was piqued.  He needed to know more, needed to get a closer look.  So he steps toward it.  And then he hears his name.  “Moses, Moses.”  Startled, Moses stammered out a meager response:  “Here I am.”

Now in that moment, I think it’s probable that Moses didn’t even completely understand what was happening.  After all, remember, in early Hebrew thought, if you see God, if you hear God, you die.  And then this great voice tells him to take off his shoes, to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.  Holy ground?  Well, it was ordinary a minute ago!  How did it get to be holy? And then God tells Moses what Moses is called to do.  This shepherd, this ordinary person standing in bare feet on the side of what used to be an ordinary mountain is called to deliver the people of Israel, to lead them to freedom.  This is Moses’ commissioning. And somehow he began to process and understand what was happening.  So, he began to take control of the situation and try his best to get out of what was happening.  After all, Holy Ground is a dangerous place.  For there, you touch the Divine and are changed forever.  There is no going back.

Our Lenten journey is one that will take us beyond the wilderness, to a place where you will see and know things that you’ve never seen and known before, to a place where you will finally turn aside from your plans, from your routine and, there, find yourself standing on Holy Ground.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty if waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. (Macrina Wiederkher, A Tree Full of Angels)

FOR TODAY: Journey to a place beyond the wilderness, beyond the place where you have so far allowed yourself to go. Then turn aside.

Grace and Peace,


Lessons From the Desert Fathers



The Judean Wilderness, February, 2010
The Judean Wilderness, February, 2010

Scripture Text:  Mark 1: 10-13

10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Jesus was baptized by John and then the version of the Gospel by the writer we know as Mark has immediately being driven into the wilderness.  Still wet with the waters of life, Jesus began his 40-day quest filled with danger, temptation, and probably questions about his own identity and the ministry that would come.  We struggle with this.  We often get hung up on the whole temptation thing, trying to come up with reasons why Jesus, of all people, would have been tempted.  But the writer of this version of the account doesn’t offer more than a mere mention of that.  Instead, we have Jesus being driven out into the wilderness and then the story picks up a few sentences later.  You see, no one followed Jesus out in the desert to get the first hand account.  He was on his own, alone in the wilderness.

We’re not big fans of wildernesses.  In fact, we try to do everything we can to avoid them, or at least find one that has cellular reception and free WIFI available.  And yet, Jesus was driven into the wilderness, as if he had no choice.  Jesus was forced to spend 40 days in what is essentially a wasteland.  The wilderness was waiting for him, offering something that the crowds and the towns and even the synagogue could not.  The wilderness, the place that no one owns, the place that no one has tamed, the place that no one really wants to beat, the place that will never become something that it is not offers just that–itself.  Jesus is not the first to wander in the wilderness and he was not the last.  A few centuries after this, orders of monks in Northern Africa began to make their way into the desert, into the wilderness to experience God’s Presence unhindered by what humans have attempted to create, unhindered by expectations and schedules.  It was the place where they went to renew their prayer life, to begin again.  There were those, like Jesus, that returned to their lives but with new eyes and new hearts.  There were also though that chose to stay , even though they would remain visitors in a place that was not theirs.  In the wilderness, nothing exists but you and God, and, uninterrupted and unhindered, God can create you yet again.

Our wildernesses come in all forms.  Some are self-imposed and others are those to which we are driven at a time that we have no control over where we are going.  The wilderness is hard and dangerous and uncomfortable.  Some are filled with grief and despair.  Others are wrought with a feeling that we will never get out.  Sometimes the wilderness seems unforgiving, as if it’s only focus is to push us into vulnerability, to push us into temptation.  But the lesson that we learn from the wilderness is that, when everything else is gone, when the clouds make us unable to see the way out, when we feel that it will never end, God is there.  And we have become someone new.

Most of us will not drop out of society and make our way to the wilderness.  Even Jesus returned to Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel.  But in this season that remembers Jesus’ time in the wilderness, we can learn what it means to awaken to God’s Presence, to be mindful of this Presence that is always and forever with us, to, day by day, strip those things away that have our attention.  We can learn what it means to enter an intentional wilderness, a place and a time where God is all we have. These forty days are our emptying time—the time when we strip all of our preconceptions away and meet God where God is—right there with us.  We do not walk this road alone.  God is always there.  And when we are tempted to once again take control, God will still be there.  Lent is the time when we allow God to work on us that we might burst forth on Easter morning in radiant bloom.

We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only the wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.  We can never have enough of nature.  We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. (Henry David Thoreau)

FOR TODAY:  Think of what it would mean to enter an intentional wilderness this Lent, to, day by day strip all those things away that have your attention until all that is left is God, who is recreating you even now.

Grace and Peace,




Presence of God Scripture Text:  Thessalonians 5: 16-19
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Pray without ceasing?  Are you kidding me?  Think how much we have to do in this season!  I mean, prayer is a good thing, a great thing in fact.  We all know that.  But pray without ceasing?  As in ALWAYS?  So, what do we do with those distractions, with all those who need us to do something?  What do we do with life?  What do you do with all the preparations that the season holds?  How do you fit that in?  Uh oh…Spirit effectively quenched!  Not good…I hate it when that happens!


The truth is, Paul was not telling us that we had to spend our days body-bent and knee-bowed.  The truth is, there is WAY too much work to do.  We’ve got some Kingdom-building to do, after all.  Paul was not calling us to a life spent in prayer but rather to a prayerful life, a life that is sacred, hallowed, a life lived in the unquenchable Spirit of God.  This has nothing to do with counting the number of hours or minutes or nano-seconds that you spend in prayer.  A prayerful life is one that sees everything as hallowed and holy, sees everything as of God, embraces life as a gift rather than a vessel to be filled with things and to do lists and results.  Praying without ceasing is not about “doing”; it is about being. Olga Savin says that “[the Scriptures] tell us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with [God] is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”  And a life lived the way it is called to be lived is the very will of God, the very will of, as the Scripture says, the one who is faithful.  It is prayer–ceaseless prayer.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our Advent waiting, we found a time of prayer, we found a time, as Mary did, to ponder (Luke 2: 19).  Maybe THAT’S what’s wrong with us.  Maybe we’ve lost our ability to ponder, to be attentive to what resides in the deepest part of our soul, to be aware of God’s Presence in our lives.  Maybe this time of waiting is so that we’ll take the opportunity to do some serious pondering, to pray without ceasing.  After all, what in your life is NOT holy?  What in your life is NOT positively bursting with the Divine?  What in your life is NOT a gift from God?  Well, the answer is nothing.  There is NOTHING in your life that is not full to the very brim–spilling-over-chock-full-seemingly-unable-to-put-anything-else-in-brim–with the presence of the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who is ALWAYS there.  Make everything you do an offering to God.  Let everything you have and everything you are be a preparation for God’s coming.  Offer it to God.  G.K. Chesterton once said “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”  Praying without ceasing is probably more about living, about loving, about holy waiting, than it is about prayer as we often define it.  It has little to do with the words we say and everything to do with tuning ourselves to the conversation that God is already inviting us to live.


The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.  (Mechtilde of Magdeburg, 13th century)


FOR TODAY:  Pray without ceasing.  Look around you.  EVERYTHING that you see, EVERYTHING that you touch, EVERYTHING that you imagine, EVERYTHING that you let loose, EVERYTHING that you pick up, EVERYTHING that you eat, EVERYTHING that you love, EVERYTHING that is you…EVERYTHING is full to the brim with God.  Pray without ceasing.


Grace and Peace,