Pastoral Series

Prayer: The prayer of St. Francis

As October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis, I try to take time this week each year to reflect on his life. I remember my trips to Assisi, and all I’ve read about him. I have little icons and paintings of him in my house. I wrote a little book about his life…

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Prayer: Roasted Red Chili Pepper

I wish I were a more original, creative thinker. I’m more like a docent in a museum, pointing to amazing things, sharing what I’ve seen, heard and read with you who read these emails. The other day, I was listening (in the car) to Ron Chernow’s terrific biography of Ulysses S. Grant. One night, after…

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Prayer: Handbells or Mop Buckets

My colleague and friend Brian Childers has published a lovely book of devotionals called Ringing Deeply – a great gift to handbell ringers, directors and fans. Brian is an amazing teacher, composer, arranger and visionary when it comes to handbells. His entry in Ringing Deeply for Labor Day has stuck with me, as it includes…

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Prayer: Time, and the Mundane

I was just getting gas, and found myself slightly annoyed at how slow the pump was. Earlier, I felt a twinge of anxiety, as the little errands on my list (dropping off laundry, stopping by the bank, and dropping off a package) took longer than anticipated. I hope you aren’t like me – but I…

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Prayer: Words

Yesterday, I preached on James chapter 3 – in which we overhear ambivalence about the wonder of human speech. Words can bless, encourage, love, praise, reckon, reflect, and pray – but then words can curse, belittle, demean, lie, confuse, and wound. And, probably due to our fallen nature, negative words do their sinister work far…

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Prayer: Praying the Psalms

I’m teaching a weekly Bible study, which has been great fun. Yesterday we looked at one of my favored topics: praying the Psalms. I told how I commenced this practice: Back when I was in graduate school, I was teaching assistant to Father Roland Murphy, the great Old Testament scholar. He asked me to serve…

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Prayer: What God wants us to read

Yesterday in worship we gave Bibles to our third graders. When we did this a few years back, I suggested in my sermon this could just be a colossal waste of time and money – if the Bible rests unread at home, even if it’s situated in a prominent place. It’s not a cute gift,…

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Prayer: Labor as Career or Calling?

What is work about? Is it merely a means to an end – so I do what I do to make money so I can live my true life which is outside work? Is work an end in itself, something I enjoy, a way I express who I am, a means to execute skills and…

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Labor Days

Once upon a time in America, Labor Day celebrated the goodness of work. We might be wise as Christians to recover a sense of the giftedness of work, and how our work (whatever it may be, a career, caring for a family member, just coping, a temporary job) ties us closely to God. God worked…

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Prayer: Neighbors and friends

About 20 years ago, by some astonishing good fortune, I got to have lunch with Frederick Buechner, one of the great writers of this generation. He was utterly humble, accessible, just a guy, way more interested in people around him than in spouting stuff about himself. Somehow the name of the novelist John Irving came…

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