In this fourth week of Lent, the author of Ecclesiastes continues to speak to me. I have begun to believe this may be my favorite book of the Bible. Despite the uselessness of any teaching I have ever had on it before (including in my college and seminary classes on it), it has so much to offer.
I’m realizing that while it needs the context of the rest of the Bible to help illuminate exactly what it’s talking about, these 12 chapters contain the core of everything the whole Bible has to offer. It lacks the narrative of God’s people and Christ’s gospel, but the fundamental wisdom contained in both are here.
Read More Meaningless: Reflections for Lent, Week 4
The writer of Ecclesiastes continues to challenge American common sense. The text continues to point toward the worthlessness of pursuing wealth and power. This third week of Lent, as we contemplate the Christ who gave up divinity, who let go of boundless power and ageless life, in order to experience something better, it’s hard not to see the parallels.
Read More Meaningless: Reflections for Lent, Week 3
As we observe the second week of Lent, reflecting on the words of Ecclesiastes, I find myself thinking about the prominent people in our world as I read chapters 3 and 4. I also find reminders for myself. The work I do is important for my clients, and the money I earn is important for my family. The classes I take are important for our future. But if I spend so much time meeting my responsibilities and lose my relationships or let opportunities pass me by, I’m a fool.
Read More Meaningless: Reflections for Lent, Week 2
Ecclesiastes. It’s so little understood. My youth pastor once encouraged a group of us to do a study on it and then apologized a few weeks in because it was just…. Well, what would you expect from a simplistic Bible study curriculum designed for teens? So much angst…
But it’s not the dark, useless whole in the middle of the Bible people tend to think it is. It’s beautiful really. It’s not really about what is meaningless, though it sure seems like it most of the time. It’s trying to show what really is meaningful by contrast. It’s the result of someone’s meditating long and hard about life, about love, about God.
Read More Meaningless: Reflections for Lent, Week 1
Below is an audio recording of a time of prayer and meditation on Jesus’ teaching on loving one’s enemies and praying for those who persecute. It was presented as the morning devotional for a church retreat, and I decided to share it with whoever else decides they might benefit from allowing the Spirit to work in them with it.
Read More Love Your Enemies
Five months. That’s how long I have been practicing meditation and contemplative prayer. It has begun to transform me and the direction of my life. And, providentially, it has saved me as I struggle through balancing and trying to thrive as a student, as a social worker, as a father, as a husband, as a brother, as a son, as a member of my church community, as a thinker and writer, as an American, and as a follower of Jesus.
Read More With All Your Mind, Part 05: Prayer that Shapes Me
Now that Advent has concluded and we have moved officially to celebrating the arrival of Jesus, the beginnings of good news and joy for those looking for God’s reign to take root, it is time to reflect and pray to celebrate the good things God has done.
Throughout Advent, I reflected on the book Song of Songs and paired it with the traditional theme of each week: hope, peace, joy, and love. In that ancient poem about the intimate dance and love affair with Holy Wisdom, all four of those virtues and divine gifts can be found.
In Jesus, all four find their true home.
Read More Christmas Prayer: A Song of Celebration
This fourth week of Advent, the procession of longing reaches a crescendo in love. The whole season of Advent is characterized by hope, by waiting, by longing. We remember Israel’s longing for the LORD’s anointed who was to be many things to many people. We remember Mary’s long wait as a vulnerable baby slowly grew in the safety of her womb. We remember the history of saints through millennia of hoping for the long awaited appearance of Jesus to put the world to rights, and we continue to form that history as we hope.
Read More Advent Prayer #4: A Song of Love
This third week of Advent, we rise above the surface and inhale the sweetness of joy. As we near the winter solstice and the nights grow longer and the days grow colder, joy can be hard to see. This year, as in all years, the fear for our futures, the ever-present suffering of the people of the world, and sadness for what could have been and what ought to be threaten to obscure the gifts God gives even in the midst of life.
Read More Advent Prayer #3: A Song of Joy
The night is long, and we wonder where our hope has gone. This Advent, as in every year, we wonder how things could have gone so dark. The hoped for lover is still a hope, so we band together, because guarding against the terrors that wait in the night makes us feel alone.
This second week of Advent, we reflect on peace. Where in theory, we might hope in solitude for the future relief we seek, peace requires more of us. Peace is possible only when we make it, in the grace and power of the Spirit. Peace is possible only when we join together in forgiveness and grace. Peace is possible only when we guard not against others but when we guard the things that matter for us all.
Read More Advent Prayer #2: A Song of Peace