Building a City of Prayer

A Roman Catholic blogger who is wrestling with the church’s present struggles. All traditions are struggling in a variety of ways, some inflicted from without and some self inflicted. This is an encouragement to prayer – not as a passive escape, but as direct action.

the theological beard

prayer without end - nicolaes maes

There have been constant calls for prayer and fasting in this crisis. It is important to engage in such spiritual warfare as one is able. A soldier who attempts an action beyond their means will find themselves gravely injured or dead. I am not a prayer warrior. In the ever humorous words of a priest I know, “I have other gifts.” Some people are called and are now able to engage in great works of prayer and acts of reparation. For my part, I offer a Divine Mercy chaplet in reparation for the sins of bishops and priests, specifically sins of abuse and cover-up, for their taking right action now, and for the renewal of the priesthood. This small prayer offered faithfully is acceptable to God and efficacious. As for fasting, well, I am given to grumbling when I fast on days that I am not under obedience to do…

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Adrift on National Lighthouse Day

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 is National Lighthouse Day.

The same Twitter that revealed this also guided me to two intriguing articles on culture.  Written from very different starting places, they head toward the same landing, the hope that people can see themselves in the same boat.

The UK’s Economist interviews former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright about her new book, Facism: A Warning.

She warns that facism (which she rightly calls an “approach” to power rather than a specific belief system) is a kind of false lighthouse that runs people onto the rocks of grievance politics,

We must push back harder against the cynicism of both right and left. Fascism thrives when there are no social anchors, when the perception takes hold that the media always lies, the courts are corrupt, democracy is a sham, corporations are in thrall to the devil, and only a strong hand can protect against the evil ‘other’—whether Jew, Muslim, black, so-called redneck or so-called elite…No institution, however well-constructed, can help us if we lose our sense of shared humanity and if people everywhere see themselves as victims with a licence to trample the rights of others in search of revenge.

Evangelical blogger Anne Carlson Kennedy also spots these rocks, seeing them in the way that “earnestness” shreds buoyant humor on social media,

At some point, American life stopped being funny. The fail blog went away, the memes became more obvious, the cat videos became old hat, that porcupine eating a pumpkin lost its luster, and it became radically unsafe for one group of people to poke fun at another group of people. Sincere earnest preaching replaced funny, good natured jest. Which it had to, because in order to poke fun, you have to have some common bread to share, some sense that we’re both in it together, and that commonality has evaporated like the fog on a sultry 90 degree day.

The loss of the mile wide, inch deep Christian moral consensus hasn’t illuminated an adequate replacement.  “Tolerance and diversity” shined for a few minutes but dimmed into cynical ciphers for grievance politics.

Shared humanity (Albright) or common bread (Kennedy), on the earthly, utilitarian plane, make for peace or at least peaceful handling of differences.

On the spiritual plane, the Christian vision of the kingdom of heaven sees all of our differences as secondary to a common identity in Christ,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:28)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes… (Revelation 7:9)

Ships in a storm
Porcellis: Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast

Christ is the lighthouse, in this sense, guiding us past all the rocks of our perishing identities and infatuations toward transformed life in eternity.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

And of course to be gentle with one another on the voyage, even when adrift in life’s various fogs,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  (Romans 12:18)

But/And

My morning readings were heavy with resurrection (In Hebrew, the word for glory is a word for heaviness, so I might say that the lessons were glorious with resurrection).

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection was most specific about resurrection, voicing a radical disjunctive from normal expectations and an even more radical conjunctive to a transformed future.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

What used to be was what used to be, but Jesus isn’t bound by it.  And he’s going ahead of us, expecting to meet us and make known his new reality.

There were also allusions to resurrection in the Psalms I offered this morning.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope.  For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit.  You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.  (16:9-11)

I am dying, not actively but in the general sense that all of us are mortal.  But there is hope because of God’s promises and those promises include life, joy and pleasure beyond anything I can experience or imagine.

In contemplating these scriptures and others, I found a bit of peace and joy (always fleeting in my life, whether by nature or nurture I can’t say).  I noticed that God is active with us, even in the death-like inactivity of sleep,

I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night.  (Psalm 16:7)

But at my vindication I shall see your face; when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.  (17:16)

God is working to guide, enlighten, comfort and transform us when we are “dead” to his efforts.  We sleep, are distracted or even flat out rebellious, but God is faithfully caring for us.  And making us new, ready to meet him face to face, as the angel said in the message to the women at Jesus’ empty tomb.

I am mired in personal problems at present, symptoms and debris from decades of choices made and avoided, whether from nature or nurture I don’t know and, increasingly, don’t care.  But the morning lessons warmed my heart and eased my mind.  And I carry on today in the knowledge that the one who rose from the tomb is out ahead of me, sending messages that lead me toward him, not only in a distant future but in the here and now.

There are little resurrections to be had, from bits of what I’ve been to bits of what I’m becoming – to what he’s creating and recreating even when I’m not aware.

 

Dan Brown Can’t Cite Me to Disprove God — Despite Dan Brown We Need To Continue to Seek To Understand God

A scientist (a professor at MIT, no less) shows the emptiness of the popular “science and reason eliminates God” crowd, who don’t seem to deal much with serious science or reason in their approach.

Peace and Freedom

The novelist relies on my research, but my literary doppelgänger makes bad arguments.

PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

I recently learned that I play a role in Dan Brown’s new novel, “Origin.” Mr. Brown writes that Jeremy England, an MIT physics professor, “was currently the toast of Boston academia, having caused a global stir” with his work on biophysics. The description is flattering, but Mr. Brown errs when he gets to the meaning of my research. One of his characters explains that my literary doppelgänger may have “identified the underlying physical principle driving the origin and evolution of life.” If the fictional Jeremy England’s theory is right, the suggestion goes, it would be an earth-shattering disproof of every other story of creation. All religions might even become obsolete.

It would be easy to criticize my fictional self’s theories based on Mr. Brown’s brief description…

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Put the Fire Out

An excellent reflection by a Christian sitting miserably in church. Our arid seasons might be gifts from God rather than personal flaws – after all, Jesus didn’t blunder into the desert. He was taken there by the Holy Spirit.

BeautyBeyondBones

I have a confession: one that I’m really not proud of.

But tonight at church, and really for the last couple weeks, I honestly have just felt…nothing.

It’s like I’ve been spiritually numb.

But tonight was different. I was actually getting angry.

I was sitting in the pew, and just inexplicably fuming, being critical of every little thing: the priest seemed arrogant. The pace was too slow. I was literally shooting daggers with my eyes at the elderly woman leading the songs. (A capella, I might add.) Who is this monster I’ve allowed in my thoughts and heart?!

But I was just checked out. And the more I thought about it, the worse it got.

I’m going to be honest: growing up, I had a few episodes of… the silent treatment.

I’m not proud to admit that passive aggressive low blow, but I have been known to give my…

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Don’t Call Us

There’s a bit from my book over at my care giving blog. A publisher’s page ran an excerpt. The book expresses our reliance on a greater caregiver,

“Jesus, the good gardener, teaches us that, as insufficient as we might feel, his care for our lives and the lives placed in our care is sufficient. He tends fruitless trees and gives them new seasons in which to flourish.”

Sometimes Care Giving Stinks

Our publisher’s site features a bit from our book today.

If you are grappling with frustration, especially if it’s born of perfectionism and the constant setbacks of care giving, you might find this little selection useful.

pathetic-7If our efforts to raise houseplants have been hit and miss, imagine some of the misadventures of raising a son with autism. Caregiving provides instant and constant experiences of inadequacy. Just as we’ve tried various strategies to keep the plants growing, we’ve sought out an array of therapies, settings, medications, specialists, diets and more to bring out the best in Joey’s life. And even with all that help, there are plenty of withered efforts to report.

It’s not all gloom and doom.  Some of the spiritual uplift (we hope) of the book comes in as well.

Hoping you have some good growth and blooming amid all your fails and weeds today.

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Praying through the Rubble of Wickedness

Source: Praying through the Rubble of Wickedness

Thing is, it’s really bad out there, in the world, and in here, in my own self. Crying out in desperation to the one who holds the cosmos together in his own hand would be such a sensible thing to do, if only I would do it, and the grieving woman in the bookshop would do it, and everybody on the internet would do it, and the people who are picking up the rubble of such a violent wickedness would do it. Because when you call upon the name of the Lord, whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve endured, he will hear you. He will come and save you, most of all from yourself. He will even save you from your own thoughts, from being his enemy.