Tag Archives: journey

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of these things. 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exod 13-21 lead the way, fire

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

As we continue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on Psalm 119, I needed to stop short and consider the next verse at some length. Or rather, consider Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on verse 3.

Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in His ways.

As Bonhoeffer introduced his comments, “God will not allow us to go on any way on which He Himself has not preceded us. The way upon which He calls us to go is the way He has made and that He protects. So it is really His way.” [1]

I love many of Bonhoeffer’s writings. However, I suspect there might be a bit of black-and-white thinking here, both in the psalmist’s thought patterns as well as Bonhoeffer’s. If a person follows after God, they will “never do any wrong.” If a person follows after God, they will “always walk in His ways.” Period. No question about it.

So sorry, but I cannot agree. I am vividly aware of my sinful self, and my fallen nature. Sure, I strive to walk with God day by day. Certainly, I freely admit I am not sinless. However, I strive to sin less and less each day. Each month. And, each year. This verse makes it sound like a follower of God is immediately transformed into sinless perfection. So sorry, but I simply do not think so. (With humble apologies to certain of my seminary classmates, who lean towards Wesley’s doctrine of perfectionism.)

Yet, I fully agree with what Bonhoeffer said about the Lord going before us, as the Lord went before the nation of Israel, leading them in the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exod. 13:21-22)

God does know the whole way. There are no surprises to God. “Whoever sets his foot on this way finds that his life has become a journey on the road. It leads through green pastures and through the dark valley, but the Lord will always lead on the right pathway (Ps. 23) and He will not let your foot be moved (Ps. 121:3).” [2]

I pray that God will be with me throughout my journey, whether I am a prodigal, turning from the way God intends for me, or whether I walk hand in hand with my Savior, even through the dark valleys of life. Dear 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


[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000. 104.

[2] Ibid, 104-05.

Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 15, 2017

Psa 119-1 those who are blameless, road

Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is a psalm that talks about the Word of God. Scripture, the Law, God’s decrees, His way, commandments, statutes, promises, and more. Each verse of this acrostic psalm mentions God’s Word in some way. What a natural passage for Bonhoeffer to write about and concentrate on, since he was so devoted to praying and meditating on the Scripture.

How sad it is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer only finished commenting on 21 verses of this lengthy psalm. Yet, these beginning verses (of 176 verses, divided between the 21 Hebrew letters, 8 verses in each section) give us so much of Bonhoeffer’s feeling and heart for this wonderful psalm. Such an expression of the unknown psalmist’s love and devotion to the existing Scripture of that time.

He wrote this meditation in 1939 and 1940, when he was a teacher of seminary students once more at an out-of-the-way vicarage and again in Pomerania.

Speaking of verse 1, Bonhoeffer concentrates on beginning the life with God. “God has once and for all converted me to himself; it is not that I have once for all converted myself to God. God has made the beginning; that is the happy certainty of faith.” [1] Yes, indeed, all of us are addressed as those who are walking on the way with God. We are all on the journey.

Happy are they—these words speak of the happiness and blessedness of life in the law of the Lord. It is God’s will that it should go well for those who walk in his commandments.” [2] Ah, Bonhoeffer admits there are certain Christians who wish to show that they are more spiritual than God…that they are super-spiritual and holier-than-Thou. Renunciation, suffering, the Cross, all of these are part and parcel of their lives. And, it is true that some people’s lives in this world are not all that easy. Yet, these super-spiritual Christians “lose the full joy of their Christian calling and deny God the thanks they should give for his great friendliness toward us.” [3]

Yes, God’s rich gifts to each of us encompass so much more than anyone can ask or imagine. Thanks be to God, who gives to all abundantly.



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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 95.

[2] Ibid, 100.

[3] Ibid.

PEACE = Serenity

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, February 27, 2016


PEACE = Serenity

Continuing the journey today; continuing the listening tour. I am traveling around to various locations over the next weeks in my efforts to pursue PEACE.

My friend and colleague from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Rev. Joe McInnis, invited me to attend the church he pastors, in Wilmette, Illinois. I was so glad I had the opportunity to attend there this afternoon.

After the service, I had the opportunity to ask several people their opinion of PEACE. What is their personal view of the word PEACE?

Dave Rundell knew at once. He wrote it out immediately. PEACE = Serenity.

He has a ready smile and an engaging manner. He gave me a little more information about this definition. Dave referred to the Serenity Prayer as he was finishing up the sign with his personal point of view. “When I am walking in a right way with God, then I feel whole, complete.”

“Serene?” I asked. Dave grinned at me. “Exactly.”

I can relate. I know well the feeling that things in my life may be spinning out of control. It’s good that I can let go of the things that fall into God’s area of operations.

God willing, may there be serenity and peace in both Dave’s life and mine. Dear Lord, may it be so!


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

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

PEACE is Peace of Mind

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, February 21, 2016


PEACE is Peace of Mind

Continuing the journey today. I am traveling around to various locations over the next weeks in my efforts to pursue PEACE.

My friend and colleague from the Des Plaines Ministerial Association, Elder and Pastor Chuck Reid, invited me to attend the church he pastors, Bethesda Worship Center in Des Plaines, Illinois. I was so glad I had the opportunity to attend there today, after the service at my own church, St. Luke’s Christian Community in Morton Grove.

When the service had ended, I had the opportunity to talk with a number of people in the congregation. We had some lively conversations, and their personal definitions of PEACE touched my heart. I’m going to be sharing them during the next few days.

I will begin with Ne’Cole Fort, whose personal definition of PEACE is Peace of mind.

This lovely woman was camera-shy, but I assured her that I would certainly post her definition of PEACE even if I did not take her photo. And, what a wonderful definition it is, too!

Peace of mind. Ne’Cole said, “If I don’t have peace of mind, everything else seems out of order. My mind is the battlefield.” She talked of the orderly mind, and about how PEACE helped everything internal—in her mind and heart—to be properly oriented and in place.

As I reflected on this excellent definition, I thought of the verse in Romans 12:2 that tells us believers to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yes, the mind is the battlefield! But if God is with us, on our side, we will win the battle (as Martin Luther tells us in his hymn “A Mighty Fortress”).

Dear God, thank You for the opportunity to worship with a new group of believers today. I thank Pastor Chuck, his wife Barbara, and all of the good folks at BWC for their warm welcome. Gracious God, I pray that You might be amidst their worship, empower their prayers, energize their outreach, and anoint Pastor Chuck’s preaching. I thank You for Sister Ne’Cole’s definition of PEACE, and I pray that You might send peace of mind to all those who so sorely need it, tonight. I pray these things in the powerful and peaceful name of Jesus, amen.


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

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

Journey to Soul

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, June 27, 2015

birch wood path

Journey to Soul

Journeying. Traveling. All of us, each of us is on a journey through life. Some are more aware of the fact that each of us has a soul. Some, less so. Our souls are on that journey, too. (According to Benjamin Shield, the author of today’s chapter in Handbook for the Soul.)

I loved the image that Shield gave us in this chapter: that of Michelangelo freeing his marble sculptures from the stone that encased them. “All he needed to do was chisel away everything that was not the completed sculpture, and it would appear. This is the nature of the soul—perfect, yet hidden. Our ‘marble’ can be chiseled away by the passionate desire to know our soul as well as its obstructions.” [1]

Can one “know” the soul? Or, is it best to hold the soul lightly? As I might wear a loose garment? As Shield says, “being completely present with an open heart and open mind.” [2] I see this as being in the ‘now.’ Being open, with no expectations, no preconceptions, no baggage from yesterday. (Or, realistically speaking, as little as possible.)

Clearing the mind is a good way to attempt being completely present. Breathing is another good way. But what if I am focusing too much on negativity? Self-judgment? Especially if I am reactive towards any person, place or thing in my life? The best way to shake off all of this “past remorse or future insecurity” is to let go.

Letting go. I know how to do that. I’ve done that for a number of years, already. Good to know. I appreciate different takes on similar subject matter. Different riffs on the same theme. As Shield said, “Don’t be fooled into thinking you are alone on your journey. . . . It is simply that we take different paths along our collective journey toward the same destination.” [3]

It’s a relief knowing that. As I said before, good to know, God! Thanks! (And I am not being snarky, either!)


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

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

[1] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 171.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 173.

Day #6 – Saying Thank You? Praying, As Well!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 24, 2015

THANK you flowers

Day #6 – Saying Thank You? Praying, As Well!

Today’s suggestion of generosity is one I can really sink my teeth into! As the 40acts post says, gratitude is one of the best catalysts for generosity. Gratitude and thankfulness are closely related. When you and I are thankful, isn’t it natural to wish to share that gratitude? Sharing the blessing(s) we received is often natural, too.

I have been on a journey. A multi-year journey, in which I have traversed emotional mountain ranges, huge spiritual deserts, and rocky denominational terrain. In the midst of it all, I have finally found a home in the Federation of Christian Ministries, an ecumenical, non-denominational association of Christians. This community encourages all of its members in their personal and individual ministerial activities.

After much prayerful consideration and discussion with some trusted, mature spiritual mentors and companions, I put my name (and a whole lot of paperwork) in for consideration with the FCM Circle of Directors. The Circle prayerfully considered me and a group of other members, and I received the joyful news that I—and a number of other FCM members—have been approved for commissioning. That’s the equivalent of ordination. So, in just a few weeks, I and several others will joyfully have a commissioning service at my church in the Chicago suburbs. Thank God!

You better believe I have sent out a number of sincere “thank you notes” to my many friends, colleagues and mentors in the past two weeks! This occasion is a radically joyful one for me. The beginning of a whole new stage in ministry. And, an occasion to let many people know how grateful, thankful and humbled I am for their constancy, friendship, encouragement and support.

So, I am advised to take some time to express my gratitude. (Oh, yes!! Abundant, even overflowing gratitude and thankfulness!) And, I am advised to let someone—even a lot of people!—know they are fully appreciated.

Thankful. And grateful. And so appreciative, too.

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

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

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

Prayer—and Walking the Labyrinth

matterofprayer blog post for Sunday, September 28, 2014

labyrinth, St. John's Convent in Toronto

labyrinth, St. John’s Convent in Toronto

Prayer—and Walking the Labyrinth

I want to walk the labyrinth. I am feeling that, inside of me, more and more.

Some readers may know what the labyrinth is. (That’s great! I am so glad you do. I love to walk, from time to time, too!) I know I’ve talked about the labyrinth here before, but not for a number of months. I know many people are acquainted with many different methods of prayer, and approaches to God, and the labyrinth is another one of these. An innovative one, and at the same time, one that does not appeal to exactly everyone in the Christian community. But that’s okay.

The weather has been simply gorgeous here in the Chicago area for the past week. The forecast is for continued beautiful weather for the next number of days. Absolutely glorious for the last few days of September. But—I see gray days ahead as October approaches. With the coming of autumn, and cooler weather, the days will become shorter. Harvest time is now here, and will continue during the next weeks. And the year will continue to wind down to its close.

Reminds me of the labyrinth. The journey through life, through a place of waiting. A place of almost there, and of not quite yet. A journey of change—like the changing seasons. Yet, entering and exiting the labyrinth is like entering and exiting that journey of prayer and meditation, a journey of waxing and waning in life.

Yes, the weather may be absolutely gorgeous right now, in the last days of September. As October passes and November arrives, the weather will become more changeable. More blustery, wet, even unpleasant. Yet, the outdoor labyrinth I walk from time to time remains. It waits, quiet and expectant. Ready for those who wish to enter. Walk. Experience. Pray. Meditate. No matter what the weather is like. No matter what my experience with that time or place of waiting. Journey of change, of waxing and waning. Journey within myself. God willing, I’ll go to walk again, soon.

Let’s pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for giving us the labyrinth to walk. Thank You for the joy of prayer and meditation with You—and if the labyrinth helps me concentrate on You, on occasion, that’s great! I praise You for drawing me—and so many others—close to You. Thank You for this journey I’ve embarked on. Help me, and help so many others, to walk close to You. Lord, in Your mercy and grace, hear our prayers.


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Doubting? Who’s Doubting What? Who? (Me?)

matterofprayer blog post for Friday, May 23, 2014


Doubting? Who’s Doubting What? Who? (Me?)

I preached on John 20 a few weeks ago, where the disciple Thomas couldn’t (wouldn’t?) believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to the other disciples. About that time, I happened to read a blog post of an Internet acquaintance of mine, Barry, featuring Caravaggio’s intense painting “Incredulity of Thomas.” He gave some indepth analysis of the painting, which shows the risen Christ baring His side to Thomas, inviting Thomas to touch and see that it was indeed Him. In the flesh.

My acquaintance used some excellent Ignatian prayer principles, through inviting his readers to look at the expressions on the faces in the picture. Consider the placement, the movement of hands in this poignant scene. And especially—wonder where you—where I—would be in the picture.

I suspect Thomas was one of those sorts of people who needed concrete proof. Who wanted to know why. Who wanted most (if not all) of the answers.

Using Ignatian prayer and these questions, I could meditate on this picture for a good long time! But my acquaintance Barry didn’t stop there. He ended the post with several thought-questions, to consider. Meditate on. Pray over. One significant question was “How do you feel when you don’t have all the answers?”

Regarding this question, I prefer to have all the information I can. However, after several decades of being an adult and living life, I realize I can’t have all the information! Sometimes, not much information at all. And that’s okay to me, now.

One of my usual explanations I’ve used for some years refers to this concept, precisely. In my journey through life, I sometimes find myself walking through a broad, wide-spread expanse. It’s really foggy. I mean, a pea-soup type fog. I’m holding a lantern. Even with the light, I can’t see more than a step, maybe two, in front of me. But as I said, that’s okay. I know God is right next to me. Even when I can’t see God, I know God’s there. So of course I feel okay about things! (some of the time, at least)

But—what about when the lantern goes out? Darkness. Absence. Unknowing. (What then?)

Periodically, I have been through the wringer. However, I have come out the other side. I don’t know whether you are familiar with 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, but those are two verses that have come to mean much to me. The pain, difficulties and challenges I have experienced are/have been transformed as God has quietly been with me, through them. I can therefore journey alongside of others who are currently or have recently been going through challenging, painful experiences of their own.

Is it easy? Simple? Walk in the park? By no means!! But just as God is with me, in quietness, in that still, small voice, or even in the blessed silence, so I can be with others in their pain.

Let’s come to God and pray. Dear God, One who knows each of us intimately, You understand our hearts. You understand our doubts, our fears, just as much as You understood Thomas. Thank You for Your abundant, forgiving love. Help us—help me to come to You with a trusting heart, and put my hand—our hands in Yours. God, in Your grace and mercy, hear our prayer.

– See Barry’s posts at: http://turningthepage.info/who-are-you-jesus/#sthash.bh6fBLND.dpuf


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Prayer Lessons from Improv? Yup.

matterofprayer blog post for Monday, May 12, 2014

baby and butterfly

Prayer Lessons from Improv? Yup.

Yes, it’s so easy to get all pessimistic and full of doubt. Show (or even think) lack of faith. I know, I know. You don’t need to tell me. Especially when things are rough and the going gets even harder, doubt and lack of faith loom large. That can happen to almost anyone, especially when bad, sad, or complex things get piled up. All on top of each other. Crushing people with their heavy, depressing, anxiety-ridden load.

I’ve been thinking about doubt and lack of faith. (On my other blog, A Year of Being Kind, I even wrote a post about doubt yesterday. http://wp.me/p4cOf8-8Z ) A shortcut way of description is pessimism, in a single word. I don’t care whether we call it doubt, lack of faith, pessimism, or some fancy, clinical-sounding, psychological term. But—what could I do about these big-downer, depressing thoughts?

I hadn’t even gone so far as to formulate a proper prayer about doubt and lack of faith when I was reminded of my two-year experience doing comedy improv here in Chicago, in the 1990’s. My first teacher, Charna, pounded into our heads the saying, “Never ‘No, but . . .’ Always ‘Yes, and . . !'” If, in improv, I say “No, but . . . ” in a sketch, I’m putting on the breaks. Stop! Hold it! <sound of car brakes screeching> The sketch runs out of gas, FAST! However, if I say “Yes, and . . . ” then the sketch gains momentum! It has the potential to go to further, greater heights. Being positive and moving forward helps everything.

I think you get where I’m going. This “Yes, and!” principle applies to everything! Even though I tend to be world-weary and pessimistic now, after several decades on this imperfect world, I still pray for God to make me a “Yes, and!” kind of person. Won’t you?

Let’s pray. Dear God, God of comedy, tragedy, and every other part of life, thank You for comedy and the ability to laugh. Thank You for Your promise to be with us even when we cry, or are lonely, or are feeling crushed by the weight of so much, too many things. Help us—help me to be a “Yes, and!” kind of person, positive, not pessimistic. Help us to get on board with You and go along wherever the journey takes us. Thank You for being with us, no matter what. In Your powerful, positive, life-giving name we pray, Amen!


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net