Tag Archives: change

Holy Wednesday Reflection (Lent 37)

One of my favorite prayers in my Church’s tradition discusses the eternal changelessness of God. The prayer reads:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The fact that God is changless is a hard concept to fathom. We cannot begin to grasp who God is, or what God is like. Our language and thought capacity fail us, though we try. I believe that the closest we may get to understand God is in Jesus Christ, God’s perfect revelation of God’s self to the world. In Christ’s life, passion, death, and rising again, we are made one with God. Thanks be to God!

Sunset to sunrise changes now,
for God doth make his world anew;
on the Redeemer’s thorn-crowned brow
the wonders of that dawn we view.

E’en though the sun withholds its light,
lo! a more heavenly lamp shines here,
and from the cross on Calvary’s height
gleams of eternity appear.

Here in o’er-whelming final strife
the Lord of life hath victory,
and sin is slain, and death brings life,
and earth inherits heaven’s key.

Words: Clement of Alexandria (170?-220?); para. Howard Chandler Robbins (1876-1952)

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Advent Reflection – 17

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
     the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
     and rejoice with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35:1-2a)

Many places in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament talk about drastic change during the times when Christ shall come to the earth. Christ’s return will usher in a new era of peace and joy. But this is not something that we must wait to happen. We can usher in the reign of Christ in our own lives. We can acclaim Christ as our King and Champion. The wilderness of our hearts can be fulfilled with the love of Christ. Our minds can rejoice with joy and singing at the thought that we are marked as Christ’s own forever. One need only invite Christ in to feel such joy. May Christ be present to you this seventeenth day of Advent, and always.

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The Gun Lobby is no match for the Cross Lobby

Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby. I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle, but I can no longer justify a society that allows concealed handguns in schools and on the streets or that allows people other than military and police to buy assault weapons or that lets people get around existing gun laws by selling weapons to people without background checks at gun shows. As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. The cross is the sign and the seal of that obligation. And we know both from faith and experience that the cross is mightier than the gun. The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.

–Excerpt from a sermon (in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut) from Sunday, December 16, 2012 by the Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral. Inspired by the Lectionary reading from Luke 3:7-18.

Read the text of the full sermon here.

Watch the full sermon here.

Click here to watch the entire service.

The Rev. Canon Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral.

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Where have I been sleeping?

O Lord, my God, where have I been sleeping? What have I been doing? How slowly I awaken once again to the barrenness of my life and its confusion. You will forgive me if it is often that way—I do not mean it to be. How little faith there has been in me—how inert have been my hours of solitude, how my time has been wasted. You will forgive me if next week, too, my time is all wasted and I am once again in confusion. But at least this afternoon, sitting on a boulder among the birches, I thought with compunction of Your love and Your kingdom. And again tonight, by the gatehouse, I thought of the hope You have planted in our hearts and the Kingdom of Heaven that I have done so little to gain for myself and for others.

Forgive me, O Lord, by Your Cross and Passion and Resurrection. Teach me to see what it means that I am saved by Your Church. Teach me how, as a priest, I am to bring others to the knowledge of You and of the Kingdom and to salvation. Teach me to live in You with care for the purity of faith, with the zeal of true hope, and with true and objective charity for my brothers, for the glory of the Father, Amen.

–Excerpt from A Search for Solitude by Thomas Merton, pp. 61-62.

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Filed under My Favorites, Thomas Merton

Luke 14: 25-33

Today, while on vacation in San Francisco, I attended the 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist at Grace Cathedral (September 6, 2010). The service was beautiful, and most wonderful was the Gospel reading from Luke, and the sermon that followed. The sermon was given by Reverend Will Scott, Associate Pastor at Grace Cathedral. His sermon really made me take a step back and think about what, as followers of Christ and children of God, we are called to do. It’s pretty astounding, if you really think about it.

Here is the Gospel reading from Luke (from the New Revised Standard Version), and then you can listen to Rev. Scott’s sermon at the end.

Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Listen to Rev. Scott’s sermon here:


(find this sermon, as well as other sermons from Grace Cathedral at www.gracecathedral.org)

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Through Painted Deserts: Author’s Note

Though this is not a prayer, this speaks to me in a multitude of ways. This Author’s Note, from the book Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller, speaks to life, change, the search for God, and also speaks to thirty years of life. It is for this reason I chose to read this with my friends at our celebration of 30 years of life in San Francisco in September 2010. I hope this speaks to you as well. The entire book is pretty amazing, and speaks to the author’s transformation he experienced when he went out on a limb and just…left.


IT IS FALL HERE NOW, MY FAVORITE OF THE FOUR seasons. We get all four here, and they come at us under the doors, in through the windows. One morning you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out of the window to see clouds that mist out by midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness like God yawning.

September is perfect Oregon. The blocks line up like postcards and the rosebuds bloom into themselves like children at bedtime. And in Portland we are proud of our roses; year after year, we are proud of them. When they are done, we sit in the parks and read stories into the air, whispering the gardens to sleep.

I come here, to Palio Coffee, for the big windows. If I sit outside, the sun gets on my computer screen, so I come inside, to this same table, and sit alongside the giant panes of glass. And it is like a movie out there, like a big screen of green, and today there is a man in shepherd’s clothes, a hippie, all dirty, with a downed bike in the circle lawn across the street. He is eating bread from the bakery and drinking from a metal camp cup. He is tapping the cup against his leg, sitting like a monk, all striped in fabric. I wonder if he is happy, his blanket strapped to the rack on his bike, his no home, his no job. I wonder if he has left it all because he hated it or because it hated him. It is true some do not do well with conventional life. They think outside things and can’t make sense of following a line. They see no walls, only doors from open space to open space, and from open space, supposedly, to the mind of God, or at least this is what we hope for them, and what they hopefor themselves.

I remember the sweet sensation of leaving, years ago, some ten now, leaving Texas for who knows where. I could not have known about this beautiful place, the Oregon I have come to love, this city of great people, this smell of coffee and these evergreens reaching up into a mist of sky, these sunsets spilling over the west hills to slide a red glow down the streets of my town.

And I could not have known then that if I had been born here, I would have left here, gone someplace south to deal with horses, to get on some open land where you can see tomorrow’s storm brewing over a high desert. I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God’s way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn’t all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can’t find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

HERE IS SOMETHING I FOUND TO BE TRUE: YOU DON’T start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I realized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be separate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:

I’ll tell you how the sun rose

A ribbon at a time…

It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

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Filed under Book Excerpts, Misc. Prayers, My Favorites