We are always praying; the question is to whom

Yesterday our senior pastor preached a thought-provoking sermon on prayer based upon Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6. He talked about the way that prayer is a privilege, not just an obligation, and that it can encompass a variety of behaviors that are done intentionally in the presence of God. What hit me today as I sat in mass at the basilica is that we are always praying; we just often aren’t praying to God. Continue reading

The voice you long to hear (a gathering at Burke United Methodist Church)

There’s a voice of love in the world that is always telling each of us who we really are and drawing us into the embrace of our Creator. The problem is that we are caught up in a swarm of other voices who tell us lies which distract us and keep us from hearing the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7 pm, something beautiful is going to start at Burke United Methodist Church: a series of conversations called “The voice you long to hear,” led by our brand-new Barnabas ministry of spiritual companionship. The hope is to discover together how to listen to God and thus gain a much richer and deeper taste of the eternal life that He is constantly offering to us. Continue reading

Is yoga Satanic? E.W. Jackson and Al Mohler think so.

An Atlantic Monthly article yesterday took a look at some comments made by one of the candidates in the race for Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Bishop E.W. Jackson, about how yoga makes people susceptible to Satanic possession. Several other prominent evangelicals were quoted, including Al Mohler whose comments are very instructive. My wife does a fair amount of yoga and so far she hasn’t exhibited Satanic behavior (but maybe the next time we have an argument I’ll bring this up). I thought I would share Jackson and Mohler’s comments and add my own thoughts. Continue reading

Prayer: the antidote to suburgatory?

Some of you know that I hate living in suburgatory. I love the friends that I’ve made over the past two and a half years, I love my church, and I especially love my small group. But I hate suburgatory. I’m not sure how much is my own personal projection and how much is the actual ambiance of the suburbs. Anyway, I’m trying to process why spending the past three days in a spiritual retreat center in the middle of the city in Richmond was like heaven to me. And I’m trying to figure out how to carry the rhythm of prayer that I had down there with me to this suburgatory to see if I can create my own personal monastery here in the land of soccer and traffic jams. Continue reading

Why you need to listen to Brian Zahnd

I’m about to leave on a youth retreat so I don’t have time for a full post on this, but Brian Zahnd’s Friday night and Sunday sermons from last weekend blew my mind. He is the pastor of non-denominational Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO and a leader in the exciting movement among evangelical churches to embrace the sacramental and spiritual practices of the ancient church. In his Friday sermon “Ring them bells,” he talks about the way that church bells used to serve as the city’s call to prayer before they became passe to churches seeking to be “relevant” and modern. The church bell is a metaphor for a public Christianity that is prayerful and prophetic rather than entrenched in worldly political power. Then in his Sunday sermon “The Mount of Beatitudes,” Zahnd talks about the Beatitudes, closing with a fascinating account of how every single beatitude is in play among those gathered around Jesus as he was being crucified. Zahnd says, “The kingdom of God will only come through little reenactments of Calvary.” I have a lot more to say but I don’t have time so go listen. Peace.

A prayer for peace and integrity at the polls

Lord, we take many things for granted in our country, but the fact that we are able to accomplish a peaceful transfer of governmental power every two years is truly a blessing for which we should thank you. We thank you for the judges who were able to put their partisan affiliations aside and rule justly concerning measures that could have compromised the integrity of our voting process in Ohio, Florida, and other places.  We thank you for all that you have accomplished in our nation throughout our history by compelling your people to face down mobs, water hoses, and dogs in order that everyone would have the right to vote. We thank you for the way that you have softened our bigotry so that we could have a presidential election in which we have one Mormon, two Catholics, and the only Protestant is a black guy. Continue reading

My Mondays with Mary

As I’ve shared before, I spend my Mondays in the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, which I call the basilica for short. I haven’t known exactly what to think about the dozen or so statues of Mary that are in the various chapels surrounding both the cathedral sanctuary and the crypt. In a different phase of my life, I would count them as proof of the idolatry of Roman Catholicism and a blatant violation of the second commandment, but I’ve decided not to judge what I don’t understand. I know that I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence quite strongly in the basilica. Something is going on in that place. Very devout Christians in the past have somehow had an experience of the Spirit that caused them to develop the ideas about Mary that the Church has today. So I decided to talk to Mary. Not pray to her, just to say hello. Continue reading

Helplessness: the foundation of prayer

My prayer life sucks! There, I admitted it. I don’t pray nearly enough. I even forget to pray for the people who I say I’m going to pray for. Some days I’ll be walking along and remember that I told somebody I was going to pray for them, so I kind of think about their situation for a moment and say “Lord, have mercy,” in my head, which doesn’t seem like it “counts” because I didn’t sit down and talk to God out loud. Anyway, I started doing this small group on prayer and the book we’re reading called Prayer by Ole Hallesby is awesome so far. Continue reading

My zeal wears me out: Monster-psalm Meditation #18

My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139

I resonate with this verse way too much. Isn’t this verse the battle-cry of all the angry, sanctimonious Christian bloggers whether we’re raging against those liberals or those fundamentalists or those mainliners or those evangelicals? Since my enemies ignore “your” words, God, I will SCREAM LOUDER. Continue reading

Agonizing Over the Will of God

When I visited my grandfather’s church in Corpus Christi, Texas a few years back, there was a pastor named Bubba who announced one day from the pulpit that he’d had a dream from God. He described this dream in way more detail than any dreams I ever remembering having. He then laid out a plan for an elaborate outreach and prayer ministry. This public unveiling of Bubba’s vision from God was the first communication about it that he had made to the church. He had not talked to the deacons or anybody else prior to sharing it with the whole assembled congregation. A few months later, there was a new pastor in the pulpit at First Baptist Corpus Christi. Continue reading