Saturday, July 23, 2005


Until further notice, I will suspend this daily journal linked to Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours. This fall I will be writing a small volume, Praying with the Church, and this daily journal may be resumed then.

I thank each of of the readers for their comments.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Friday, July 22

This post is linked to The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, pp. 271-273, or click here.

Our Refrain this morning speaks volumes: "Know this, the Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture." This line, from Psalm 100, is a version of the old-old covenant formula that we are to be his people and God will be our God. It is a commitment from God as a covenant to be with us and to protect us -- and that vision of God's covenant presence is finally expressed in Revelation 21-22, when God fully dwells among his people eternally.

To say then that God made us and we are his is not simplistic: it is more than "God made us so we better buckle under." It is saying that we are his people and the sheep of his pasture -- those whom he cares for and worries about and protects.

Today, as I live, I want to know that God is with me -- even when life is running smoothly; today, I want to know that God is protecting me -- even when I am aware of no dangers; and I want to know that God is caring for me -- even when I think the cruise control is on.

From Genesis 1 on, our faith only makes sense when we understand that the Creator God is more than "Maker" but is "Covenant Love" who has come to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Incarnate One.

Thursday, July 21

This post is linked to The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, pp. 266-268, or click here.

James and John, who were with Jesus on the Mountain when he was transfigured into glory before their very eyes, and who know that the heavens and all of nature declare the glory of God, and who saw all that in full display in Jesus, just a few chapters later think that "being on the inside" should privilege them above all other disciples. They want to be the MVPs of the Apostolic Circle.

Now let's remind ourselves one more time: the Jesus who knows the heavens and all earth can declare the glory of God, and who displayed such glory to three Apostles, is the one who became the example of servanthood. What James and John want is the opposite of what Jesus wanted: they wanted glory and Jesus wanted to serve.

How often, I say to myself, do I want glory instead of service? To be noticed instead of just doing what God beckons me to do? To be given an award instead of going on without anyone noticing?

Servanthood is not something we choose once and then are done with it. No, servanthood is a lifetime disposition of four things:

We need to look to see what we can do;
we need to listen to the needs of others;
we need to learn about those needs;
we need to link to others to help them.

These are the "4Ls" of the love that serves. I need to keep them in front of me everyday.

Because our desire for glory sometimes overwhelms our desire to serve, we need to pray to the fountain of wisdom who knows to give us not what we want but what God wants.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wednesday, July 20

This post is linked to The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, pp. 262-263, or click here.

"Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrim's way." This Refrain in our Morning Office comes from a psalm for pilgrims (Ps 84). Pilgrim psalms, and there are others, are prayers written for those who leave home, travel and face danger and isolation, in order to find the greater joy of dwelling in the house of the Lord.

I have never made a specific pilgrimage as others have. Like going off to Israel and being a pilgrim walker or through some terrain in Italy or to sacred sites in France or Poland or Germany or England or Spain. My pilgrimages, to Assisi or to York Minister in England or to visit an author's home, have been short episodes. I've not been in danger, but I would say they have been intense visits with lasting impressions.

But, as you well know, the writer of Hebrews sees our entire life as a pilgrimage. Hebrews 11 is filled with thoughts like this. What pilgrims most long for is strength, and the risk they take and the dangers they face are undertaken with the challenge that they will have to trust the Lord for protection and provision.

Someday, as we pilgrimage our way through this life, we will dwell with the Lord and we will find that "leaving home" was well worth it because the Father's house is not only our pilgrimage destination but what our home on earth was anticipating.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuesday, July 19

This post is linked to The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, pp. 257-259. [The online form is not in sync with my book.]

I love to begin the day with The Concluding Prayer for the Church in the Morning Office. One day I found myself unable to remember it and I stumbled for its words until I hit upon "preserve" and then it all came back to me. Here it is:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fufilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

This prayer, so it seems, brings to a head theme of the Morning Office. The "mighty acts" of God, and "he looks at the earth and it trembles" and Jesus' ability to calm the waters and the "awesome things" God shows us and "the earth is the Lord's."

The reason we can begin in safety, the reason we can summons God to "preserve" us throughout the day, and the reason we can ask God to "direct" us is because the earth is the Lord's.

We are asked to live by faith: when the world seems to be tumbling into chaos, when injustices are so rife, when so few are willing to lay down their differences for the good of the world, we need to remind ourselves and learn to walk to the refrain that the earth is the Lord's.

Today, Lord, give us the faith to live for the Earth Trembler.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Monday, July 18

This post is linked to The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, pp. 252-254. [The online form is not in sync with my book.]

Mary of Magdala (Magdalene) is the focus of the Church's memory this week. In the Gospels, Mary is defined by her location (from Magdala) not by her family, as it would be had she been, say, Mary daughter of Reuben. Her story is an interesting one: she was released from seven demons and was a constant traveling companion of Jesus. She was one of the few (Mel Gibson's movie elaborates too much here) at the Cross and she sees where they placed the body of Jesus.

When she finds that Jesus' body is gone on Eastern Morning, she weeps. Why? Because, and here we are guessing somewhat but the guessing is consistent on this point in the Church, the One who gave her an identity was dead and gone.

She's got nowhere to go. She's utterly alone. She's an abandoned, stranded woman who had placed her hope and future in the hands of the Galilean.

But, as you know, the story does not end with Mary weeping: she sees Jesus! There is hope that fellowship will follow abandonment.

Jesus dispenses her with the commission to tell the disciples that he has been raised. She is the first witness to the resurrection, and one can easily say that the Christian faith rests upon the word of Mary to the others -- not that other appearances didn't take place.

But, still, Mary is the first to announce to the community of faith that Jesus was alive again.

There is no end of surprises in the Bible, but surely the most "common surprise" -- so common it doesn't even surprise us anymore -- is that God takes ordinary people and gives them the gift of witness to his marvelous works.

How about us, How ordinary are we and how often do we get to testify to God's great things?

Sunday, July 17

Each Sunday morning I look forward to reading The Prayer Appointed for the Week. This week's prayer is especially suggestive.

How many times have I prayed, wondering if what I asked for was after all what I should have been asking for? How many times have I prayed with less than full confidence for my request? Often enough.

How many times did my children ask me for something that I knew they did not really want or need. Not long ago we visited my son and his wife in their new home, and we told them we'd like to help them out with some yard tools -- so we went to Home Depot. We said to them both, "Just ask." They did. And we bought a few items: two shovels, a rake, a wheelbarrow. We knew they knew what they needed.

Therein lies one of the mysteries of prayer: "we knew that they knew what they needed."

Sometimes, however, we don't know what we really need for life, God knows that we do not know what we need, and that is why we pray,

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom,
you know my necessities before I ask and
my ignorance in asking:
Have compassion on my weakness,
and mercifully give me those things for which my unworthiness I dare not,
and for my blindness I cannot ask.

If God knew that we knew what we really needed, we'd always get what we wanted. We are broken vessels, we are fallible humans, we are selfish people -- and part of life is to learn that our condition is such that we genuinely need God's Wisdom to walk this life uprightly.

To read this morning's office, click here or see The Divine Hours, pp. 247-248.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Saturday, July 16

To read this morning's office, click here or see The Divine Hours, pp. 243-244.

"Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits," so says our Refrain this morning.

Yesterday's morning office led me to think of what has happened in my life because of the incursion of God's grace into my life, and today the office leads me to think of the "benefits" and how they lead me to "Bless the Lord" from my "soul."

I am grateful today for the fellowship of my Department colleagues, and I am reminded of this because of our dinner together last night. Boaz and Sarita, Brad and Barb, Genevive, Kris and I are trying to get together once a month this summer to be friends, to fellowship around our work, and simply to enjoy one another. So, last night we went to an Ethiopian restaurant and had a splendid time.

We catch up on what we have been doing, on one another's kids, on what we will be doing -- nothing intense, nothing out of the ordinary -- just friends brushing up against the mystery of what happens when human meets human for the purpose of fellowship. We just want to be together.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sees playing and fellowship as similar states. Playing is doing something for the sole purpose of its pleasure. If we convert some game we are playing with one another into winning, the game becomes sport. For it be playful, it must stop at being done for no other reason than the joy that comes to us in the doing.

In the same way, I see the "benefit" of fellowship to be "human playing." But more than this, playing in this sense is exactly what the three persons of the Trinity were doing in Eternity Past: simply put, Father-Son-Spirit were in the dance of love, called the perichoresis in ancient theology, in the three-circled splendor of light of interpenetrating one another.

Having dinner together, fellowship, and playing -- we were not doing "nothing." No, we were enjoying the Dance of the Ages.

Bless the Lord, o my soul.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Friday, July 15

To read this morning's office, click here or see The Divine Hours, pp. 239-240.

Most of us know moments or seasons from our past when had it not been for the Lord's intervention or guidance or help we would have made a mess of things. We join the Psalmist in this morning's Psalm with these words and I will ask you to fill them out:

"If the Lord had not been on our side, then..."

Feel free to fill in that sentence and send me your responses.

Here's my response: "then...

I would have made a mess of my life as a teenager,
I would have missed the wife God had planned for me and our wonderful children,
I would have found a vocation that would not have satisfied,
I would have avoided the opportunity to teach college students,
I would have never had the chance to write Christian books and articles and to speak in churches,
I would not have had the wonderful colleagues that I have had over the years,
I would not have met other Bible teachers and preachers throughout the world,
I would have been a whole harder to get along with than I am now,
I would have been even more impatient than I am now,


I probably would have made a lot more money and not been as happy.

In sum, I would have missed the chance to be who God wanted me to be.

I sure am glad the Lord was with me.

In God's grace, the Lord was with me and I am grateful today.