Tag Archives: faith traditions

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 19, 2018

St. Paul on Damascus road, medieval

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

As my Lenten devotional, I am reading a book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams. I have such respect for Rowan Williams’ leadership in not only his Anglican Church, but also the wider ecumenical church worldwide.

For years—for decades—I have been fascinated by the Apostle Paul, reading books and articles on his writings and theology. Since becoming a local church pastor almost four years ago, I haven’t had the time to really dig into the life and ministry of Paul. I miss that part of my thought-life, and wish I could revisit more of Paul’s writings, in depth. Since I can’t take the time right now to dive deep into Paul’s thoughts and theology, I felt the least I could do was to read this excellent little devotional on the life of Paul, written by the wonderful theological scholar Rowan Williams.

The reflection for the first Sunday of Lent highlights Saul of Tarsus. He was “staunchly committed to maintaining the boundary between those who were ‘inside’ and those who were ‘outside.’” [1] Of course, this was before his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. It was afterwards, with God’s influence and help, that he became a champion of the Gentile converts to Christianity.

However, I was intrigued and moved by Professor Williams’ expression: maintaining the boundary between those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ How much of the Church Universal today is (rightly or wrongly) committed to maintaining similar boundaries? How much are local churches similarly keeping those boundaries—or walls—or other kinds of barriers firmly in place? I think Williams would agree with my serious questioning of this practice.

I am hesitant to name-call or cast aspersions on other Christians or others of different faith traditions. All the same, two adjectives came to mind when considering those who are ‘inside’ and those who are ‘outside.’ First, shortsighted. Second, divisive. Yes, shortsighted in the sense of missing a goodly portion of what Jesus preached in the Gospels. Yes, downright divisive, because of the innate fear, anxiety and stubbornness inherent in us frail, faulty human beings. Oh, how much humanity has to answer for…over the centuries, over the millenia. (And, I fully admit I am right there, amidst the rest of humanity.)

Dear Lord, are we ever to grow beyond this casting of stones and calling of names? This shunning behavior and distasteful attitude? Lord, have mercy. Help me—help us—to repent of our sins (both inside and outside). Lead us to amend our ways and walk in Your path of truth, righteousness, love, caring and sharing. Amen.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 87.

Amy Carmichael and Social Justice

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, May 30, 2017

social justice, photo

Amy Carmichael and Social Justice

I’ve come to the end of this excellent anthology of a wealth of different faith traditions. Amy Carmichael is the last of these moving snapshots we glimpse in this book Spiritual Classics. Miss Carmichael was born in Northern Ireland in 1867, came to Christ early in life, and developed a passion for social concerns—what today is known as social justice, in some circles.

At 17, she brought together a group of 500 poor mill girls in a church hall in Belfast. Several years after, she felt a call to the mission field, to Japan. She stayed there for some months, but had to return because of ill health. After several more years, she left for the mission field again: this time, for India.

Over the years she remained in India, Miss Carmichael helped to found a large healing and training center. After a disabling fall in 1931, she lived as an invalid, writing extensively for the rest of her life. She particularly spoke out against the Indian practice of dedicating children to temple gods, and worked to get that practice abolished, with the help of a number of people from India. [1]

As Miss Carmichael herself writes, “The subject was new to us. We knew nothing of the magnitude of what may be called ‘the secret traffic of India’—a traffic in little children, mere infants oftentimes, for wrong purposes, and we did not appreciate, as we do now, the delicacy and difficulty of the position from a Government point of view.” [2] She was dumbstruck at the prospect of many, many children all across India enslaved to service in various temples.

Miss Carmichael has a clear and generous view of the rich, multilayered cultural background of the Indian people. She writes “The true India is sensitive and very gentle. There is a wisdom in its ways, none the less wise because it is not the wisdom of the West.”[3]  At the same time, she is so struck with prayer for those children: if the children exist, she prayed that they might be saved. God heard. God answered. She truly believed in prayer, and acted on her belief.

Dear God, I wish I could have just a portion of Amy Carmichael’s faith. Please help me to have just a little faith. Hear me, I pray.

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000, 360.

[2] Ibid, 361.

[3] Ibid, 362.


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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Starting Point for Prayer and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, February 10, 2017


Starting Point for Prayer and Meditation

When starting to pray and meditate, different people have different ways to focus. Different starting points, or prompts. When Thich Nhat Hanh talks about meditation, he is often speaking of mindful meditation, in the Buddhist tradition. Meditation and prayer cross the borders of many different faith traditions and belief structures. I would very much like to practice my type of prayer and meditation as fully, deeply and thoroughly as this Buddhist teacher.

As Thich Nhat Hanh describes the beginning of his meditation and prayer, he talks of a bell. A simple bell, struck once or twice, can be a marvelous focus for one’s mind. After a person hears the bell sound, then the different parts of the human—intellect, thoughts, feelings, perceptions—can come together. It is then that a person is enabled to think with clarity.

This got me to thinking: what kinds of starting points for prayer and meditation was I used to?

I do not believe there is any other audible start to prayer and meditation except “Let us pray.” Not in my tradition of prayer, anyway.  Except—I have borrowed a cross-cultural way of meditation. I have started meditation with a bell a few times. This has been a pleasant and welcoming experience for me. A welcome starting point.

Gracious God, Thich Nhat Hanh has a lot of good ideas, including such a positive starting point. Thank You for such wonderful examples for me in this life. I ask to be as faithful as Thich Nhat Hanh in my prayer and meditation life, today. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Interfaith Walk for Peace, and More

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, September 24, 2016


Interfaith Walk for Peace, and More

Today was the Morton Grove Interfaith Walk for Peace. An event that I have been working on and hoping and praying for, for a bunch of weeks. Such a great response for the Interfaith Walk! All ages, strollers, someone in a wheelchair. Wonderful cross-section of the community in Morton Grove walking with us today.

As I went from one group of walkers to another, I heard bits of conversations—friendly, encouraging talk between diverse people. People from different places and from different faith traditions.

I heard many people today looking forward to another Morton Grove Interfaith Walk for Peace next September! With a nearby suburb having a Peace Festival this weekend as well, I can envision a North Shore Peace Initiative—especially if many of us talked to friends about Interfaith Walks in other, neighboring suburbs of Chicago.

Just think. If people built bridges of peace, friendship and harmony. Just imagine. Less ignorance and misunderstanding. What a wonderful place the Chicago area could be.

Such an awesome start! Let’s keep the conversation going. Dear God, let it be so! Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers for peace, harmony, and an end to conflict and violence. Amen.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Day #9 – Melting Pot? Salad Bowl? Point of Prayer!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, February 27, 2015

children heart illustration

Day #9 – Melting Pot? Salad Bowl? Point of Prayer!

Multi-cultural America is sometimes called the melting pot. This imagery resonates with me especially well because my grandfather emigrated to this country in the early years of the twentieth century. He and his family arrived on a steamer, entering New York City through Ellis Island. (I remember him telling me how vividly he remembered seeing the Statue of Liberty from the deck of the steam ship.)

But, what about another image? What about a big salad bowl? How different flavors “swap around,” as Mark Twain might say. Especially in a large city like Chicago, such diversity becomes second-nature. Automatic.

I think of the hospital where I served as an on-call chaplain for seven years, on the north side of Chicago. That hospital was located in a ZIP code (60625) that was one of the most diverse postal codes in the country. And, that was according to the United States Census Bureau. Multi-cultural, yet also diverse in just about every other way that comes to mind. In terms of ethnic origin, languages spoken, faith traditions celebrated, as well as economic basis. And more. I never knew who would be in that next room I visited. It was an exciting place to work.

In terms of a diverse population, the Chicago suburb where I work is another miniature United Nations. The preschool housed at our church has children from a number of backgrounds and nationalities. And—I love it! As the email from #40acts mentioned today, “we all want a safe, clean and happy environment for our children and elders; decent, affordable homes and satisfying jobs; respect and freedom, peace and health, physical as well as spiritual.” Yes, these are wonderful goals, things to strive for and make a reality.

I try to be friendly to most everyone. I really do. Whether it’s a cashier at the grocery store, the man behind the counter at the gas station, or someone in line at the post office, I do try to be pleasant and courteous. I went out of my way to make conversation at lunch time. I ate at a restaurant near my home. It’s owned by a family of immigrants from Greece. I had a good sandwich with really excellent cole slaw on the side. I complimented the owner as I paid my bill, and told her how much I enjoyed it. I think she appreciated the compliment.

Such a simple thing. Being pleasant, kind, and complimentary. What a way for me to be generous! God willing, I’ll continue tomorrow. I hope so. I pray so.

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(Check out #40acts; doing Lent generously at www.40acts.org.uk )

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .