Four Quotations on Prayer

CBR001323This past weekend in my message “Making Space for Prayer,” the first part of our series “The Art of Prayer” at Eastbrook Church, I shared four quotations on prayer that many people asked me about later. Here they are for your edification.

“The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have set about praying some of the time somewhere.” – Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), 74.

“One of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. . . . We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. . . . And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut.” – John Piper, Desiring God (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986), 150-1.

“Work, work from early till late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther, quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 86.

“One thing I know for sure about prayer these days is that we do not know how to pray. It is only the young in Christ who think they know how to pray; the rest of us know we are just beginners. So let’s try to begin together, which is really all we can do.” – Ruth Haley Barton, “Prayer,” in Sacred Rhythms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 63.

Poet Divine: Gerard Manley Hopkins

GerardManleyHopkinsToday is the birthday of Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the most beloved Christian poets of all time and the poet whose work has spoken to me most personally. Hopkins was a Victorian Era poet, educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and influenced by the Oxford Movement led by John Henry Newman, John Keble, and Edward Pusey. This movement, sometimes known as Tractarianism because of the tracts written by the leaders, was focused on a renewal of the church through recovery of historic thought and practice. Hopkins eventually converted to Roman Catholicism, becoming a priest and a university professor.

Hopkins’ poetry is unique because of his distinct approach to rhythm (‘sprung rhythm‘) and sense of description linked to deeper realities (‘inscape’ and ‘instress’), the latter of which partially reflects Hopkins’ view of God’s presence in human realities reaching its zenith in the sacramental presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. He died relatively early and his poetry never became widely known until much later thanks to the tireless efforts of his good friend, the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.

Here are two of his most well-known poems, “God’s Grandeur,” “Pied Beauty,” and “Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend with Thee”:Read More »

The Beloved and Doomsayers

brennanWhile having a conversation today with a colleague, he shared these marvelous words from Brennan Manning with me. In the midst of our current angst-ridden ethos, I found Manning’s words particularly poignant.

Certainly this is not the only answer to how we address the apparent chaos of these days and times, but it is still a vitally important response that keeps us abiding in Christ and centered on God’s reign.

As we listen to the heartbeat of the Rabbi, we will hear words of reassurance: “I’ve told you all this beforehand. Shh! Be still. I am here. All is well.” In place of end-time agitation and thoughts of doom, Jesus tells us to be alert and watchful. We are to avoid the doomsayer and the talk-show crank when they conduct their solemn televised meeting in the green room of the apocalypse. We are to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God. We are to claim our belovedness each day and live as servants in the awareness of present risenness. We pay no heed to the quacks and self-proclaimed seers who manipulate the loyalty of others for their self-serving purposes.

[Excerpt from Abba’s Child in the collection Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer.]

Solzhenitsyn on Life, Death, and Humanism

83678-004-68442A7BI came across this stunning paragraph from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn‘s 1978 commencement address to Harvard University when re-reading Stanley Hauerwas‘ book A Community of Character the other day. As I was working on my message from this past weekend at Eastbrook, I found Solzhenitsyn’s words a helpful encouragement for the right direction I was going.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of a moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.

The Warmth of Other Suns (Book Reflections)

The Warmth of Others SunsWhen I was at a gathering with ministry leaders focused on the multi-ethnic church over a year ago, Professor Soong-Chan Rah recommended that anyone wanting to better understand the historical background of race relations in the United States should read Isabel Wilkerson‘s book The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.  I finished the book awhile ago, but am only now sharing some of my reflections after reading the book.

In the book, Wilkerson traces the waves of African-American moving from the Southeastern United State to the Northeast, Midwest, and West between 1915 and 1970. While doing so, Wilkerson adeptly interweaves sociological analysis and personal narratives to portray a powerfully intimate and wide-reaching view of this movement. The title of the book is taken from the words of Richard Wright, author of Native Son, in his memoir Black Boy, where he writes:

I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown…
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom

While I would recommend the book to anyone, I want to highlight three ways in which the book impacted me, both as a reader and a Caucasian pastor working in a multi-ethnic, urban setting in Milwaukee.

1. Better understanding of Jim Crow era: While I understood the historical and legal aspects of the Jim Crow era to a certain degree, this book helped me by personalizing those realities through the stories of three people making their way from the deep south to other parts of the country during the great migration.

2. Better understanding of my own setting, Milwaukee, which continues to be one of the most segregated cities in the USA. Milwaukee is a beautiful city, yet it is still deeply shaped by segregation by ethnicity, which was greatly impacted by the Jim Crow era and the great migration. Milwaukee continues to feel the painful impact of ethnic divisions, which are reinforced by numerous individual and systemic forms of prejudice.

3. Increased empathy for the way in which individuals, families, and generations are affected by prejudice.  Even though my grandparents and great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Europe, their and my place in society was not nearly as painfully limited as those who suffered through the slavery era, Jim Crow era, and even today. When I sit with my friend Michael or Walter and hear their stories – and the stories of their forebears – this book has helped me to see with new eyes and feel with new empathy what they face.

There is so much more that I could say, but I’d encourage you to read this book for your own sake and for the sake of our cities and nation today.