Tag Archives: questions

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.

The Word of God and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bible, open

The Word of God and Meditation

Next, this anthology moves to a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother-in-law and good friend Rudiger Schleicher. The two men had many interests in common, including theology. They did not see eye to eye, as far as theology in general (and especially of Christian life and practice) was concerned. Small wonder that they “feuded,” as Bonhoeffer gently kids his brother-in-law.

“First, I want to confess quite simply that I believe the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we only need to ask persistently and with some humility in order to receive the answer from it.” [1]

Bonhoeffer does not think we ought to read the Bible as we read other books. No, some read the Bible in a way that depends strongly on textual criticism. Bonhoeffer suggests that a good way to read the Bible is to concentrate on what is within the book, not just on the surface.

“When a dear friend speaks a word to us, do we subject it to analysis? No, we simply accept it, and then it resonates inside us for days.” [2] He urges his readers to ponder the word—the Bible—in one’s own heart, and ruminate on it.

This is not the first time I have read this anthology. No, while I was in seminary I read this book, and used it for a text for prayer and meditation. Since I feel so strongly about the Bible (both old and new Testaments), this approach to the Word of God comes quite naturally to me. What a wonderful thing, finding someone who feels similarly (and strongly, in the same way) about the Bible!.

Dear God, help me to read the Bible more faithfully Please, help me focus more closely on Your Words, just as I would read a letter from a dear friend. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear my 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), 35.

[2] Ibid.

God’s Fingerprints on the World

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 3, 2015

bluebird and lilacs

God’s Fingerprints on the World

Today was Wednesday. The day I meet together with a group for bible study. While we were talking in the study, lots of questions came up, including how God made the world. And, I loved each and every question!

I told them I could get all theological and explain different views of different deep thinkers over the centuries to them. Or, I could give them a brief explanation, and we could go back to the topic of the day (the first part of the Lord’s Prayer). The consensus was for the short explanation, then back on topic. As I explained yet again, once we open up the Bible, its various topics are incredibly interconnected!

When I read today’s chapter from Handbook for the Soul, I was reminded so strongly of this explanation. Today’s chapter was written by Rabbi Harold Kirschner on nurturing the soul in the everyday. Yet—what happens when the everyday is normal? Or, so-so? Or, God forbid, less than good? Let’s see what Rabbi Kirschner says:

“We must remember that everything in this world has God’s fingerprints on it—and that alone makes it special. Our inability to see beauty doesn’t suggest in the slightest that beauty is not there. Rather, it suggests that we are not looking carefully enough or with broad enough perspective to see the beauty.” [1]

I need to reflect on the Rabbi’s wise words. God’s fingerprints alone make things special, or of wonderful beauty. Even when God’s creation does not have particular exterior beauty, God still made it. And, that ought to be reason enough for me to marvel in it.

As Rabbi Kirschner said further: “Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted—a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” [2]

I can strive to see the wonder in God’s creation. I can choose to marvel at God’s intricate handiwork. God willing, may I be blessed with the ability to see all the wonder in the everyday.


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), 19.

[2] Ibid.



Meditation and Reflection, the Ignatian Way

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 29, 2015

Trinity - Celtic

Meditation and Reflection, the Ignatian Way

Tonight we look at the next step in a different way of praying, using Ignatian prayer and meditation. I’m using Inner Compass, the book by Margaret Silf. As she says, this meditation and prayer time can be done each night, and can draw the happenings of the day together.

The fourth step in this examination is Reflection. “Reflect peacefully on what has been happening to you and in you today, trusting that your prayer for the light of His Spirit has been granted. Let God show you whatever He may want to show you.” [1]

Silf gives many questions, bullet points of reflection and meditation. Asking things like “How were you drawn to God today?” “Did you bring Christ to those around you?” “Did you come across someone who was lonely, sad, discouraged or in need?” “Did you feel the absence of God in any part of your day?”

These, and many more, are useful prayer points. Points to ponder, and discuss with God.

Certainly, these and many more are points we all need to consider. May God give us discernment, staying power, and openness of heart and mind as we consider. 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 sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 59.

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 7, 2015

meditating Jesus - unknown artist

meditating Jesus – unknown artist

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

I read the passage from Luke 1 again tonight. I still am not too excited about the Annunciation passage, but that was what Margaret Silf next suggested as a prayer opportunity in her book Inner Compass. So, I did it.

This assignment had to do with the “How” circle of my life. (It did not mention the “How” circle of Mary’s life, but I immediately went there.)

What is a “How” circle, you ask? Great question! The “How” circle is that area of my life where I have some ability to exercise some choice, as Silf suggests. Things do continue to happen, it’s true. However, I often have the ability to decide how I will respond to them.

So, given these parameters, Mary had a “How” circle, too. What were her choices, following the Angel Gabriel’s announcement? Fascinating exercise, positing some of Mary’s immediate and long-term choices. (For instance, what would she tell her betrothed, Joseph? And how ought she to let him know?)

As fascinating as that may be, that wasn’t the assignment for tonight. This particular assignment involved me, and drawing several concentric circles around my “Center.”

The outermost circle has the label “Where am I?” and involves all of the things/facts and circumstances in my life that I cannot change. For example, I was born in Chicago to two college graduates, the youngest in my immediate family. I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. I am nearsighted. These are indisputable facts. Simply speaking, where I am.

I’ve already mentioned the next concentric circle, named “How am I?” Last, the innermost circle is labeled “Who am I,” and involves the center of my being where I am who I truly am. In and of myself, and before God. This is also the circle where I am the most true and the most myself. The most stripped away. The most honest and open, if you will.

Yet, my traitorous thoughts keep wandering back to Mary. What does her “Where” circle look like? Is it compounded by the choices she makes, as a result of the Annunciation?

The concentric circles of Mary and my concentric circles seem to be more of a Venn diagram, overlapping. Mingling. Are most things in my life static, and already chosen for me? Were they chosen for Mary? How about both sets of “Who” circles, and how honest and open am I? How honest and open is Mary?

I feel awkward about this meditation. It brings up SO many questions, questions about which I have only a limited ability to answer.

I’m going to pray. You can join me, if you would like. Dear Lord, gracious God, this meditation distresses me, kind-of, sort-of. My mind keeps on flitting away from myself, and going to Mary. But—that’s good, isn’t it? Especially in Ignatian prayer? Lord, help me to orient my mind in this imaginative way of praying. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.


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 sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

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