Saturday, March 19, 2011


As I was lying awake in bed last night, I could not stop thinking about how, sometimes, life becomes so busy that we forget to give time to God.  Sure, we may make time on Sunday morning to go to church and might say a grace or two throughout the week, but, how many of us really give a significant portion of each day to God?

Before I go on, let me make it clear that this is not going to be one of those "if everyone gave more time to God the world would be a better place" kind of post.  Also, I have no intention of trying to blame anyone for being "too busy" for God.  I know all too well how easy it can be to get caught up in the cares and stresses of life.  We have social engagements, family time, work, school, more work, obligations we'd love to give up but just can't...  With all of that going on in our lives, it's no wonder God tends to get left out.  We can easily feel like we no longer have control of our schedules.  Because there are no immediate or tangible consequences for neglecting God, we tend to let this fall off of our schedule.  The funny thing about this, however, is that we can easily add God into our schedules without disrupting everything else.

The big thing about Sunday morning is that it is a time where we come together with our church family and share in receiving the sacrament of Christ's body and blood.  There is a great line about this from a song (perhaps an overplayed one) in our hymnal: "Lord, you give the great commission"
Lord, you make the common holy:
"This my body, this my blood."
The song, of course, is referencing the Eucharist, but it also introduces the idea of the common being made holy.  Not even a week ago, I was leading a confirmation class in which we were discussing sacraments.  By the end of the class, we had agreed that a sacrament could be anything that drew us closer to God, whether something special, like one of the seven sacraments, or something more common, like experiencing God in nature.  See if you can find something common in your life and allow it to be made holy.  The world may or may not be a better place for it, but I am sure that you will be.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Possibly one of the greatest aspects of maintaining contacts with Virginia Theological Seminary is that I am never too far removed from a place of learning.  I don't just mean a physical place, but also a mental state.  What a shame it would be if my theological education ended in May of 2009, when I graduated from VTS.

I follow a number of blogs, many of which are either directly tied to VTS or are written by people I know from my time there.  These blogs are very enriching, and I may eventually post a blog that is simply links to other blogs I find helpful.  Today, however, I want to highlight one blog in particular.  Well, today's post from that blog, anyway.

It seems that more and more it is impossible to escape from thoughts of human mortality.  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Pacific, last year's earthquake in Haiti, wars, etc., etc.  Our world just cannot get away from it all.  In today's Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership (ICFL) commentary, Carol Jubinski writes:
It reminds me of Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” While these words speak about the coming of the Son of Man, they also are about our own death. We do not know when death will come, only that it will come in God’s time, not ours.
While it can be easy to start focusing on our own mortality when we are confronted with death on seemingly every side, we should make sure that we do not become fixated on it. Yes, we are in the season of Lent, wherein we are intentional about reflecting on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross, but what a shame it would be if we allowed the story to end when Jesus was placed in the grave.  Instead, remember that, while Jesus did die on the cross, he also rose again.  We do not know when we will die.  All we can do is be prepared.  The best way to do that is to live in the hope of the resurrection.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ - 2 Corinthians 12:9
This passage has always been a struggle for me.  While I certainly appreciate the juxtaposition of power and weakness found here, I could not find a way to get this verse to make sense.  How is power made perfect in weakness?  Power and weakness are, quite literally, the opposite of each other.  I could find ways to see weakness perfecting the "humanness" of someone or making a person or organization easier to identify with.  Wherever I looked, however, I could not find weakness leading to power.  One of my friends and I were discussing this at a clergy retreat a couple months ago, and, because I seemed so drawn to this idea, he asked me to try looking at things in my own life instead of looking elsewhere.  That is when I finally found something.

For the past year or so, I have been meeting with a personal trainer fairly regularly.  The goal was not to end up looking like a body builder, but just to find a way to keep active and stay in shape.  As I have learned more about exercise and fitness, I have also learned about how weight lifting helps build muscle mass and definition.

The stress put on muscle tissues by lifting weights (or any activity that forces muscles to work harder than normal) causes those tissues to break down.  This effectively causes miniature tears in the muscle tissues.  This is part of the reason we feel sore and "weak" afterward.  After we are done putting our bodies through that kind of strenuous activity, the body goes to work repairing itself from the damage we have done.  If we allow enough time to pass before tearing up our muscle tissue again, the tissues actually build back up bigger and stronger than they were before in an effort to protect themselves from a similar assault.  In other words, if you make your muscles weaker through some sort of strenuous physical activity and allow them time to heal, they come back more powerful than they were before.  The power of your muscles are made perfect in their weakness.

So, what does all this have to do with God?  Instead of ignoring the aspects of our faith that do not make sense, I invite you to question them.  Do some studying with others and on your own.  Allow the walls that have been built up around your faith to come down.  This period of "doubting" may temporarily weaken your faith, but I am confident that, if you allow yourself time to rest between your faith workout sessions and don't pull any spiritual muscles, you will come through with a faith much stronger than when you started.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get Out of My Way!

There have been many times in my life when I have had to overcome multiple obstacles to continue moving forward.  In those times, I've often prayed that God would remove these obstacles from my life. Wouldn't life be so much easier if we could all just remove whatever obstacles stood in our way?  If we are doing what God has called us to do, why wouldn't God clear our path?

I remember when I first recognized that I was being called to be a priest.  I told my priest, went to a couple meetings, set up a few internships, and went off to seminary.  The process was slightly more complicated than that, but the road was pretty clear.  Every step along the way was just more affirmation that I was on the right track.  I grew accustomed to that and sort of expected that to be the way things went for the rest of my life (at least the part of my life where being a priest was concerned).  Was I ever wrong.  

I have had many obstacles along the way to being ordained.  Some obstacles were big, like feeling as though I would never understand what my theology professor was talking about.  Others were small, like buying the wrong size collar (this led to a mini panic attack because I don't like things tight around my neck).  Whether big or small, my path was not nearly as smooth as I wanted it to be.  This passage from Isaiah, however, helps me get a better perspective.
For they are a rebellious people,
   faithless children,
children who will not hear
   the instruction of the Lord;
who say to the seers, ‘Do not see’;
   and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
   prophesy illusions,
leave the way, turn aside from the path,
   let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’
-Isaiah 30:9-11
The simple truth is that asking for a smoother path is like asking for a prophet to prophesy illusions.  There was never a promise that the way would be easy.  God often calls us to difficult tasks.  If we truly want to hear God's voice and follow God's direction, we have to be willing to take the path filled with obstacles.  The good news is that God will be with us to help us overcome even the most treacherous obstacles along the way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I find myself continually being pleased with The Book of Common Prayer.  It seems that, just about anytime I'm at a loss for words while praying, I can find the perfect prayer in the BCP.  There is just a wealth of beautifully written prayers spread throughout the entirety of our primary worship document.  Just last night I was reminded of one of my favorite prayers from the BCP.
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
-BCP, p. 836
I think that, of all the forms of prayers out there, we struggle the most with thanksgiving.  Sure, we can offer up to God some things for which we are thankful if we are asked, and we can certainly offer a spotaneous thanksgiving after an averted crisis.  When, however, do we give thanks for the every day aspects of our lives or our failures?

This is what we are asked to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  Even in our disappointments and failures, we can find reasons to give thanks to God.  Today, I invite you to think of your those areas of your life that are not going your way and give thanks to God for the reminder that we must rely on God alone.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Happened to Sunday's Post?

No, I didn't forget to post yesterday.  With blogging as my Lenten discipline this year, I took Sunday off as a feast day.  Some people consider this cheating, but, the way I see it, the season of Lent is 40 days long.  The period of time from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is 46 days long.  There are 6 Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  The math is pretty simple from here.  Math aside, however, I think there is a more Biblical reasoning behind taking a day off each week from the Lenten "fast."
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work. -Exodus 20:8-10a
That's right, I'm going back to the Ten Commandments, and not that 220 minute long epic with Chuck Heston.  God knew that taking a break from the stresses of our lives is important, yet we all to often neglect to do this.  How often do you take a sabbath day?  I try to take Saturday as my day of rest as often as possible.  While I was still in seminary, I got quite good at this.  Saturday was nothing but sleeping in (relative to when I woke up the rest of the week, anyway), college football, and hanging out with friends.  Of course, I usually paid for that by having to stay up all night on Sunday working on papers due Monday, but that's neither here nor there.

On Ash Wednesday, we were invited to observe a holy Lent.  The fourth commandment reminds us that taking a sabbath day should be part of our holy practices.  If you don't already, I invite you to include taking a sabbath day every week as part of your Lenten discipline.  Take one day each week (it doesn't have to be Saturday or even the same day each week) and stop working.  This may mean doing more work on other days of the week, but I am sure that allowing yourself time to relax will be well worth it.