The Weekend Wanderer: 17 July 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“One million hours of prayer for Olympic host Japan” – Emily Anderson in Eternity: “Christians in Japan are asking the world for one million hours of prayer for their nation throughout the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Japan 1 Million is led by the Japan international Sports Partnership (JiSP) and Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). They are calling on churches, individuals and families across the world to unite in prayer for Japan as it takes centre stage from the Opening Ceremony on Friday, 23 July. ‘What a gift to Japan from the global Church – one million hours of prayer for God’s Glory to fall upon our land,’ said JiSP leader Pastor Keishi Ikeda. When it comes to the good news of Christianity being spread, Japan is the second largest un-reached people group in the world. Less than one per cent of its 126 million population attend church.”


Rene Magritte - The Lovers (detail)“Why We Confess: From Augustine to Oprah” – Elizabeth Bruenig in The Hedgehog Review: “Confession, once rooted in religious practice, has assumed a secular importance that can be difficult to describe. Certainly, confessional literature is everywhere: in drive-by tweets hashtagged #confessanunpopularopinion, therapeutic reality-television settings, tell-all celebrity memoirs, and blogs brimming with lurid detail set to endless scroll. Public confession has become both self-forming and culture-forming: Although in some sense we know less about each other than ever, almost every piece of information we do learn is an act of intentional or performative disclosure. It’s easy to chalk up this love of confessional literature to the seemingly modern impulse to overshare, but public confession itself has an ancient history.”


Jesus-Way“Truth, Justice, and the Jesus Way” – This is an older post from Eugene Peterson at the Renovare blog: “Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is king. If Christ is king, every thing, quite literally, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus. A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things — what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, ‘Repent!’ — is required. We can — we must! — take responsibility for the way we live and work in our homes and neighborhoods, workplaces and public squares. We can refuse to permit the culture to dictate the way we go about our lives.”


“In Kenya, faith groups work to resettle youth returning from al-Shabab” – Fredrick Nzwili in Religion News Service: “In Kenya’s coastal region, interfaith efforts to slow down or end youth recruitment into the militant Islamist group al-Shabab are gaining progress, with some recruits abandoning the extremist group’s training grounds in Southern Somalia to return home. The group — al-Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa — had stepped up secret recruitments in the coastal and northeastern regions since 2011, when the East African nation’s military entered southern Somalia. The radicalized youth, many of them younger than 30, were often sent across the border to train as jihadists. But now, the activity has slowed down, partly due to efforts by the interfaith groups. More than 300 such youths who had traveled to Somalia for training as jihadists had been rescued and brought back to the country.”


Henri, Vincent and Me“Henri, Vincent, and Living in the World with Kindness” – Joseph Johnson in Englewood Review of Books: “Carol Berry first met Henri Nouwen in the bookstore at Yale Divinity School back in the 1970’s. As she recounts in her moving (and brief) book, Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh, he initially appeared like “a man dressed in a well-worn, baggy, moth-eaten sweater with a woolen scarf around his neck” (4). Though Nouwen may have looked like a disheveled, older student, he was actually teaching at Yale at the time, and Berry was deeply moved while sitting in on Nouwen’s lecture on Vincent van Gogh and the nature of the compassionate life. Nouwen is known by many as a deeply kind Catholic spiritual writer, and for me, his writings—and especially letters—have been a real gift. Nouwen felt a deep connection with van Gogh as a fellow wounded healer who desired to connect with other and provide them with comfort, and he worked hard to share this connection with his students (8). As Berry puts it, the hope was that, “Through Vincent’s story, through the parable of his life, we were to come closer to an understanding of what it meant to be a consoling presence” (52). Her book aims for a similar purpose.”


“Sierra Leonean evangelicals approach death penalty abolition process with caution” – Jonatán Soriano in Evangelical Focus: “Pressure from the international community and, above all, NGOs has led to a massive process of abolition of the death penalty in Africa. In 2016, Guinea took this step, joining Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo. In 2018 it was Burkina Faso. In 2019 Equatorial Guinea announced an abolitionist bill, and in 2020 Chad removed capital punishment from its legal system. This year Malawi declared it unconstitutional. As among several sectors of society, within the evangelical sphere in Sierra Leone, abolition is viewed differently.”


Music: Vigilantes of Love, “Skin,” from Blister Soul.

A Prayer of Release and Surrender to God

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6)

With all my joys and gratitude
I draw near to You.
With all my griefs and lament
I fall down before You.

You, Lord, You know me fully
unlike anyone else.
You have made me from the womb
and trace my being as my Creator.

My present is Yours
for You hold it
My past is Yours
for You shaped it.
My future is Yours
for You know it.

All I am and ever hope to be
I release into Your gracious care.
I know stiff trouble will come
just as sharp joy will arise.
In it all I choose to praise You as God,
as my God and my King.

Receive praise this day
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Praying Toward Unity: a simple resource for prayer on our own or with others

Over the past few days, I preached and then have written (here and here) about living as a unified church in divided days. Talking about unity is great, but my sense at this time is that we need more than talk…we need to take a step. And so, I’d like to encourage us to pray about unity. I’m offering a brief reflective prayer tool below that you could use on your own or with others. It is built around a series of questions that could lead you to reflective confession and intercession. But first, I think it is important to just take a moment to be still. So why don’t you take a minute or two (you may even want to set a timer) to still ourselves before God.


First, we know that the essence of our kingdom life is focused on Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So let’s prayerfully consider this question:

How do I need to return to the truth that life is all about Jesus and God’s Kingdom?

  • maybe something else is distracting us at this time
  • maybe we’ve become confused about what is most important
  • maybe there are ways we need to simply say again to the Lord: “it’s all about you…but I’ve lost my way”

Take several minutes to reflect on these questions and consider what you might need to ask of the Lord in your own life or in your church family.


Now, consider with me a second question that is particularly pertinent as we have walked through great seasons of difficulty. Many times we can point the finger at our circumstances or at others as the source of our problems. However, as we continue to let the Holy Spirit search through us, consider this:

What do I need to lay down at the foot of the Cross, specifically surrendering it to Jesus?

  • maybe there is a fear that has gripped our heart
  • maybe there is anger that is stewing within us
  • maybe there is bitterness that has hardened within your soul
  • Regardless of what might be there, what do we each need to lay down at the foot of the Cross during this season?

Take several minutes to reflect on these questions and consider what you might need to ask of the Lord in your own life or in your church family.


Finally, prayerfully consider this question:

How is God specifically calling me to love others and support the unity of the church during this season of time?

  • maybe there is a specific person that comes to mind that we need help loving
  • maybe there is situation or environment that is difficult for us to engage in because of past experiences or hurts
  • regardless of what is there, in this moment let us hold it up to God and ask Him to help us grow in love and unity

Close out your time with several minutes of stillness before the Lord. Let God speak to you about what you have just walked through in prayer. Thank Him for His goodness and grace in your life and ask for His power to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received in Christ.

C. S. Lewis, “Evensong” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is C. S. Lewis’ poem “Evensong.” While C. S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia books and other writings on Christian themes, such as Mere Christianity, Lewis was a scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Amidst all this, Lewis was an occasional writer of poetry, which was edited by Walter Hooper and published posthumously in Poems.


Now that night is creeping
O’er our travail’d senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th’ eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render
Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To Thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber’s less uncertain
Brother soon will bind us
—Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close ’tis drawn:
But amidst that prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And, as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in They dawn.

Crying to God from the Depths: learning to pray with Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
(Psalm 130:1-2)

The word translated in Psalm 130:1 as ‘depths’ refers literally to the deep places of the sea. In Isaiah 51:10, for example, the prophet asks the Lord: “Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?”

Metaphorically, the use of ‘depths’ signifies a place of serious need and vulnerability. In English, we speak of being in deep trouble. Or we say that we’re drowning when we feel buried by the demands of life.

Thus we can easily relate to the cry of the psalmist as he prays ‘out of the depths.’

Think of Jonah’s story, where his descent into the depths of the water – and eventually into the depths of the belly of the great fish – symbolize the depths of his trouble because he disobeyed God. And so he prays:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.
(Jonah 2:2-3)

There are times when we bring the depths on ourselves and there are times when others bring it upon us or circumstances beyond our control in a fallen world bring us into the depths.

God mercifully hears us with his ‘ears’.

The beauty of this psalm is that is shows us that are experience of the depths is not too deep for God. As it says in Psalm 139, verse 12, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

We can cry out to God from the depths. If rebellious Jonah can do it, then certainly we can turn to God in the depths of our rebellion and be heard. If adulterous David can do it, then certainly we can cry from the depths of our sin and be heard by God. If rejected Ruth can do it, then certainly we can cry out in rejection and God will hear us. If the enslaved Israelites can call out in Egypt, then certainly we can call to God from the depths of what binds us and God will hear us. I do not have enough breath to gather all the stories of men and women calling to God from the depths and finding God’s ears open to their cry. 

So, too, God hears our cry from the depths. And in hearing, He validates our cries and our suffering. His hearing tells us that our suffering within the depths is not meaningless. God has open ears to us and that is a sign of His great mercy. As one writer says: “The experience of God’s mercy leads one to a greater sense of God.”

So call out from the depths and let your prayers open the floodgates of God’s mercy of into the shallows of suffering.