All HallowTide

Isn’t it interesting how one thought can lead to another and that to another and that … and, yet, at the end of the chain while you have entertained ideas that could seem so disconnected but you still see a connection?

That happened for me this past week.

At 2:30 one morning I found myself very awake and unable to get back to sleep. So I went to the living room, read awhile then went outside and walked to the end of my driveway.

The circle we live on has about seven houses on our side of the circle. I never paid attention to it before but there are four street lights on that side. At either end, the street curves and not only can’t I see past the curve, it is very dark past the curve.

But on my portion of the street with the four street lights, while not bright as day, it is lit well enough so I can see the road well, and could go for a walk trusting that anyone else out at that time of the morning driving down the street could safely see me.

Then I recalled a quote I recently read,

The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for others to see by. The saint is the one who walks through the dark paths of the world, being him- or herself a light.

(Felix Adler quoted in Daily Spiritual Seed, 10/24/2023,

Here I was a few days before the three days of All HallowTide, All Hallows Eve (aka Halloween), All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. A time the Church Calendar calls us to remember the faithful who have gone before us and taking one more step to give thanks for their hand in influencing how we are called to be God’s people today.

Back to the four lights that light the street in front of my house.

Who are four who have helped me, encouraged me, challenged me to faithfully walk with Jesus today. I initially thought of a first grade teacher, a college professor, a pastor and faithful children’s Sunday school teacher.

Why don’t you take some time in this season of remembering the faithful who have gone before us, to name at least four who have personally been a light for you in seeing how to go on to Christlikeness.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Some Ash Wednesday Thoughts on Fasting and Feasting

I came across this prayer several years ago and have posted it many times in the past. I share it again because I find wisdom in it for this Lenten season.

After you read through it and perhaps pray through it, consider what pairs of fasting/feasting you want to add.

Fast from judging others;
feast on the Christ indwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences;
feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute;
feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent;
feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism;
feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
feast on trust.

Fast from complaining;
feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures;
feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness;
feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety;
feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement;
feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress;
feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion;
feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip;
feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God,
during this season of fasting and feasting,
gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.


(William Arthur Ward (1921-1994))

Can It Already Be Lent Again?

Well, yes it can! It’s no use saying Epiphany was too short this year or I’m not ready for Lent. It is happening.

And I am disappointed!

Last year during Lent I sent out an email each day that used the book 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoffer to offer a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer along with a brief Scripture passage, a Psalm portion, some questions for reflection and journaling, suggestions for intercession and a very brief prayer. Most of the Bonhoeffer quotes came from Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. It seemed to me this gave only one perspective on Bonhoeffer’s life and writings. I planned to do a Bonhoeffer mailing this Lent and use material from his Letters and Papers from Prison. A good thought on my part, but it isn’t happening. Hence my disappointment with myself, and my lack of follow through. I simply did not plan my time well enough to bring it about. I “hope” to offer such in the future.

So, what am I planning for Lent 2023?

I have decided to spend some time reading and working with selections from Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith.

The volume has 52 selections from both classical and contemporary writers who address a range of topics on spirituality. The readings are organized around what Foster calls the “six traditions or ‘streams’ that comprise a healthy and holistic life of faith.” I wonder if we might also call them “emphasizes” The six streams are –

  • The Prayer-Fill Life (The Contemplative Tradition)
  • The Virtuous Life (The Holiness Tradition)
  • The Spirit-Empowered Life (The Charismatic Tradition)
  • The Compassionate Life (The Social Justice Tradition)
  • The Word-Centered Life (The Evangelical Tradition)
  • The Sacramental Life (The Incarnational Tradition)

There are seven or eight selections for each stream and additionally there is a chapter entitled “Preparing for the Spiritual Life” which includes eight selections.

During the weeks of Lent I plan to spend a week with a selection from each of the seven sections.

And I want to read selections from writers who are not on my usual reading list. I began my reading on the 19th and I noticed that one of the readings in the section on “Preparing for the Spiritual Life” began on page 19. Well, my starting place was chosen. The reading is entitled “Engagement of the Heart” and the writer is Jonathan Edwards. I’m off to a “good” start. I have never read anything from Edwards except “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” I read that only because it was a required assignment in high school English.

The pattern for each selection is: (1) an introduction to the author; (2) the reading from the selected writer; (3) a Scripture selection; (4) reflection questions; (5) suggested exercises; (6) a reflection on the selected reading written by Richard Foster; and (7) a brief section entitled “Going Deeper’ which is a list of other works by or about the author of the selection.

As you can see the opportunity is offered to spend time with the selection and not to engage in “speed” reading.

Well, that’s what I’ll be doing in part during Lent. I plan to report back from time to time as to what I discover and maybe there will be an opportunity for some conversation.

What is on the horizon for you during Lent?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Formation – Optional or Not?

Many years ago I taught “Introduction to Sociology” at a junior college in South Georgia.

When we got to the chapter on “socialization,” we went over the textbook definition, which went something like what is found at Wikipedia,

… socialization … is the process of internalizing the norms and ideologies of society. Socialization encompasses both learning and teaching and is thus the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained.

Or, to put it another way,

the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society

Then I would add, “So we are talking about the 644 rules you have learned about how to be a good resident of South Georgia.”

Then after another moment, in which some made notes, and some just stared at me, I said, “OK, there are not really 644 rules …” (they were probably pleased I was not going to list 644 rules, some of which might be on the final exam), “but it really is the case that your society, your family, your friends, your schools, etc., do tell you who you are, who you will marry, what kind of work you will do, and where you will or will not go to school. The rules may or may not get that specific but you are presented with an outline of how things are supposed to work.”

Sociologists call it “socialization,” anthropologists speak of “enculturation” and in recent years in congregations and seminaries and books and many in our religious communities have spoken of formation.”

I am not making the case that the three terms refer to exactly the same processes, but it does lead me to think formation is not optional. Society, culture and religious institutions are about us buying into their view of who we are and how we are to behave.

Many in our churches have lamented the lack of intentionality devoted to how they make disciples. But, regardless of their intentions, they are nevertheless forming folk who are called Christian. The formation goes on in the sermons preached, the classes taught, music sung and performed and perhaps even more so in conversations before and after church meetings. There is no doubt in my mind that churches are about the business of “making Christians.”

I recently listened to a podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” I knew the name Mark Driscoll and that he was associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle, but that was the extent of my knowledge. After listening to the podcasts that were produced by Christianity Today, I know some more about how it started, grew and eventually collapsed.

In one of the final episodes (episode 15 at 2:29:07), Mike Cosper (who hosted the podcasts and interviewed many connected to Mars Hill) remarked,

“… some former Mars Hill members will gather in homes doing church very simply as they continue to reconstruct their faith, some can’t walk through the doors of a church yet without physical symptoms of fear and anxiety, some haven’t found spiritual homes at all since leaving Mars Hill and some have embraced a life without faith, others tragically have been captured by despair, grown sick with addiction even taken their lives.”

Formation is what all churches do. Is it not an issue of whether formation happens or doesn’t happen. The issue has always been what are the churches committed to forming in the lives of their congregants.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

An invitation to my posting on the Uniform Series

Please let me have a moment of your time today to let you know about my postings on another part of my website.

Some of you who follow these posts know that I also post reflections on the International Sunday School Lessons (also called the Uniform Series). I post Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at I title them “reflections” but my intent is not to offer my reflections but to offer some observations and questions to encourage the readers to engage with the Scripture. My hope is we can move at times from “reading” Scripture to “listening” for the Word behind the words.

The Scripture passages for February all address the subject of God’s call. If that interests you, please join me at .

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

What I’m Doing – Can You Help?

Have you ever noticed those lists of the most searched words on Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo? Apparently in 2022 the most searched word on Google was “wordle.” I wonder if the folks doing those searches are looking for … well, I haven’t played the game, I do know folks who play it, so I would be searching for the best way to play the game, or for “hints” on how to play it for the best results.

And that gets me to wondering what would the “Religious Word Search Engine,” or the “Church Word Search Engine” show us as the most searched terms.  Assuming of course such search engines exist. Maybe they do, but I am yet aware of them.

Let me offer my suggestions – “discipleship,” “formation,” and “discipling.”

I hear those words a lot in conversations (and sermons) about congregations and perceived “needs” of congregational members.

In fact, I almost fear they have become “buzzwords” and so overused they begin to lose meaning and folk want all talk and discussion of such to be dropped and for us to move on to more important things.

I still think they are not just important words but important and essential activities for individuals and congregations.

So, that is what has launched me on my most recent research project.

While I hear a lot of talk about discipleship and the need for intentional work in formation and discipling, I also see many congregations are at a loss on how to be intentional and consistent in such efforts.

There is material available and I have begun to explore some resources that are available and have been reported to offer us methods and structures for this work.

On my reading table there are nine books all claiming to offer direction in individual and group spiritual formation. 

I am starting by reading the nine books. Not “working” through them and doing the reflections and exercises they might suggest, but getting an overview of the content and methods in each.  I will return later to do the work each presents.

Five of the books come from Renovare. I have a lot of respect for all I see and read that Renovare publishes online and in print.  If you are not familiar with Renovare, go to your favorite search engine and do some exploration.

The four of the books have the subtitle, A Spiritual Formation Guide. They are titled, Connecting with God, Learning from Jesus, Prayer and Worship, and Living the Mission. The fifth book is A Spiritual Formation Workbook.

The other four books are all authored by James Bryan Smith who is director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University and has a long standing involvement in the work of Renovare. Part of that involvement was his authoring the above mentioned A Spiritual Formation Workbook.

Smith’s other four books are, The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ, The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love, and The Good and Beautiful You: Discovering the Person Jesus Created You to Be

Of course, there is other material available. For example, to name only a few, Experiencing God, Disciple: Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study, and Education for Ministry

Now – How can you help?

I would love to hear if you have used any of these resources and what value you see in them.  Were they helpful or not? Did you use them in an individual or group setting? Would you recommend them and to whom?

Additionally, what other resources do you have experience with that addresses discipleship and formation?

Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog post or email me your thoughts.

As I spend time with these resources and others, I look forward to posting what I discover.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Do you Need a Break from Holiday Noises and Busyness?

We have just passed Thanksgiving Day and before some of us had time to take a deep breath the First Sunday of Advent was upon us.

Then there are all the emails and media noise about “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” “Giving Tuesday” and the great things on sale this year that are “too good” to miss out on.

Does your schedule of daily activities get more and more crowded with appointments, meetings, parties and family, work or church events that you feel guilty if you do not show up for?

Do you need a break? Maybe a few minutes of silence and solitude? Or maybe a few hours?

I picked up John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People the other day and in a chapter entitled “An Unhurried Life: The Practice of “‘Slowing’” I found him addressing the need to eliminate “hurry” from our lives and the need for solitude.

While there is much in that chapter worth our undivided attention, I want to share with you a format Ortberg includes for an extended period of solitude.

I suspect it would be very helpful for many of us to think about including such a day during this busy season where so many sounds, activities and persons ask for our attention. I bet the first thought of many, as I suggest such is, “That’s the last thing I have time for now!” And, maybe that is the first clue that such solitude at this moment is essential.

However it may strike you, take some time to look over this schedule and think about how you might incorporate a part or all of it into this season.

Ortberg presents the following format for an “extended period of solitude

Extended Solitude

  1. Find a place where you can be uninterrupted and alone, such as a park or a retreat center.
  2. Spend a brief time the night before to get ready, to ask God to bless the day, and to tell him you want to devote the day to him. This day is your gift to God, but even more, it is a gift God wants to give you. What do you need from the Lord: a sense of healing and forgiveness? Conviction for an apathetic heart? Compassion? A renewed sense of mission? Ask him for this.
  3. Arrange the day around listening to God. The following format is adapted from Glandion Carney’s book The Spiritual Formation Toolkit.

8:00 – 9:00 – Prepare your mind and heart, take a walk, or do whatever will help you set aside concerns over tasks and responsibilities. Try to arrange your morning so you can remain in silence from the time you awaken.

9:00 – 11:00 – Read and meditate on Scripture, taking time to stop to reflect when God seems to be speaking to you through the text.

11:00 – 12:00 – Write down responses to what you have read. Speak to God about them.

12:00 – 1:00 – Eat lunch and take a walk, reflecting on the morning.

1:00 – 2:00 – Take a nap.

2:00 – 3:00 – Set goals that emerge from the day’s reflection.

3:00 – 4:00 – Write down these goals and other thoughts in a journal. You may want to do this in the form of a letter to God. Prepare to reenter society. (pp 83-85)

What do you think about the scheduled nap? Does it strike you as a waste of time or a genuine spiritual insight regarding a certain balance needed in our interior and exterior life?

Give yourself some time to think about a period of solitude. You might find you want to do more than think about it. You might want to schedule it.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Is Everything Ready for Thanksgiving Day?

Just a few days and it will be Thanksgiving Day once again.  

Is the menu planned?  Do you have all the fixings on hand? Has everyone received their invitations and replied? What else? Maybe something (or someone) has been left out?

With all that goes on this time of the year we can fail to be the “mood” for Thanksgiving.

This past Sunday we spent some time in the worship service I attended thinking about thankfulness and gratitude.  Allow me to offer two things that were shared.

First, Belmont Abbey published a short booklet entitled 10 Steps to Gratitude. You can signup for a copy at .

Step 4 is a practice of making a list of 3 things – 

From: 10 Steps to Gratitude


Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. (Acts 4:32)

As step four on our road to gratitude, I’d like to share a daily ritual my mom and I practice each day. It began at a time in my life when I was struggling with anxiety, and Mom suggested that we each share three things about our day in a quick email every night. The email itself could be as simple as a brief, numbered list, but the items – all three – should be blessings we’d enjoyed that day. They could be small things: getting a note on my desk, completing something I’d been putting off, or finding tiny wildflowers out by the mailbox. They didn’t have to be flashy or impressive, but Mom insisted that there were always three things (at least!) to celebrate by the end of the day.

So here are Mom’s “Three Things” rules, in a nutshell:

Keep track of blessings, large and small, throughout the day.
These don’t have to be big,
but there must be at least three. Share them!

It’s beautifully simple, but I’ve come to realize that, not only do I get better at noticing the many gifts throughout my day, I also find a fresh, added joy in sharing them. I love getting “three things” lists that are seven or eight entries long, then sending my own, manifold “three” back. By acknowledging and sharing our blessings, we enrich each other and cultivate a community of gratitude in our own, small way.

The monks have long understood this miraculous quality of community. While human communities certainly come with their challenges, they also fill our lives to overflowing with opportunities for grace and gratitude. Rather than having less room for our individual joys and griefs, we find our capacity for gratitude and comfort multiplied by those of our brothers and sisters.

So, for step four, ask a friend, spouse, or family member to be your partner in gratitude, and allow yourselves to rejoice in each other’s many gifts.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4: 6-7

Second, the following Thanksgiving Prayer comes from Diane Butler Bass’ book Grateful.

God, there are days we do not feel grateful. When we are anxious or angry. When we feel alone. When we do not understand what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. When the news is bleak, confusing. God, we struggle to feel grateful.

But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude.

We choose to accept life as a gift from you, and as a gift from the unfolding work of all creation.

We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that gives life; and for the air we all breathe.

We choose to thank our ancestors, those who came before us, grateful for their stories and struggles, and we receive their wisdom as a continuing gift for today.

We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating and accepting them for who they are. We are thankful for our homes, whether humble or grand.

We will be grateful for our neighbors, no matter how they voted, whatever our differences, or how much we feel hurt or misunderstood by them.

We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.

God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world.

Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth.

We choose thanks.


May you find a time a quietness that opens you to the spirit of gratitude in this hurried season.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Takeaways from forgotten books

Over the past year or so I have been devoting some time to divesting of some of my too large (and too underutilized) collection of books. This has not been easy. And no, this is not a post about downsizing or simplifying one’s life (well, at least, not in whole). It’s in part a post about serendipity, discovery, and excavation.

And yes, I have downsized some. I want to claim I have downsized a lot but others might can judge that better than I. I have donated many, gifted some and sold a few.

And then there are the discoveries. Some books I wanted and didn’t know I already had. I have found multiple titles of others.

And there are others I didn’t remember I owned, didn’t know when or even why I might have gotten them.

But then as I opened a few, I began to discover why they were in my hand and opened for reading.

One of those that got me to thinking (and meditating) is The Devout Life: William Law’s Understanding of Divine Love by Martin Israel and Neil Broadbent.

I knew William Law wrote A Serious Call to the Devout LIfe and had read a few pages of it, but found it slow going at that time and put it aside.

The Israel and Broadbent book, by bringing my attention to Law’s later writings, puts in front of me contrasts between Law’s early and later writings.

They claim that in Law’s early writings you will find “unflagging rigiorism” and “the main characteristic of the earlier Law was his severe harshness.” Further they claim that “half measures would never have sufficed for Law.” (p 20) I would have to say that I did find those elements in A Serious Call but also passages that stood out with such vivid detail they were hard to forget.

Then Israel and Broadbent report that as Law encountered the writings of Jacob Boehme he was introduced to a “new symbolic language through which the narrow, severe intensity of his devotional nature was released into a new freedom of love, joy, and praise.” (p 22)

Law’s volumes The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love are representative of the “later” Law.

All three of these works of Law as well as Boehme’s The Way to Christ can be had for free at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (

This got me thinking – have I ever read anything (or heard anything) that has had such a profound impact on my life and thinking? What have I encountered that led me to “a new freedom of love, joy, and praise,” and away from “harshness”? Or even more important, do I yet come close to such freedom?

May I offer a suggestion?

Why don’t we take some time today and over the next several days, to review our spiritual journeys? Looking back over the years, what changes do we notice? Are the changes for our betterment or not? Can we identify any books, events, people or practices/disciplines that helped provoke those changes?

Take some time to explore your journey. It might even offer something of a “roadmap” for the days to come.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Entering Scripture, one more model of Lectio Divina

Entering Scripture, one more model of Lectio Divina

Several months ago I offered a post on “Entering Scripture” via the steps of Lectio Divina. I intended for the following week to offer another method that is patterned on Lectio Divina but circumstances and time got away from me and it was never posted.

So, today, let’s try that again.

What I post below is found in The Message//Remix: Solo – An Uncommon Devotional, p 208.

What I especially like about his book is how it goes beyond being your typical “devotional” book. The intent is to teach us a method of praying deeply with Scripture; of slowing ourselves so we no longer merely read the words of Scripture but “Scripture reads us.”

Below I have taken one page from the volume that will show you the pattern followed in this way of listening to, and praying Scripture.

Try it out and see what you think. Don’t be surprised if you return to it several times and find depths you did not notice on the first readings.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Read the passage slowly.

Read the passage again, listening for the words or phrases that stand out to you, such as:

– “come to me
– “recover your life”
– “real rest”
– “walk with me and work with me”
– “watch how I do it”
– “keep company with me”

Notice the many different ways Jesus says, “Hang out with me.” Which one do you find most inviting? Why?

What would it feel like to walk with Jesus and work with him? It’s okay to be honest; “freely and lightly” may not describe what you think it would really be like. Instead you might think it would be forced and difficult. If so, what would you desire for it to be like?

Have you feared that a walk with Jesus might require heavy or ill-fitting things? What are they?


Jesus speaks very personally and conversationally in this passage, using phrases like “Come to me.” In fact, I or me occurs eight times, and you occurs five times. So consider that Jesus has been talking to you. What is your reply? What do you need to discuss with Jesus today?

Walk with Jesus, either in your mind or on an actual walk. As you do, turn these words from Jesus over in your mind: rest, unforced, keep company with me, freely, lightly.

What do you think? How did it work for you?

Does it take you more deeply into the Scripture? Do you see things that did not come into view before?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}