A Meaningful Prayer

Apr 07, 2021

 

I came from a faith tradition that highly valued spontaneous prayers and devalued liturgical prayers. If a prayer arose from one’s own heart and mind, that meant it was real. Praying someone else’s words didn’t seem as genuine.

 

This preference for extemporaneous prayers is based on the assumption that anything spontaneously arising from my present mindset is actually real. Except sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes what I thought was heartfelt spontaneity was...

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Truth in Advertising

Mar 17, 2021

I shop therefore I am. (fabric)
Remodeling is happiness. (design company)
The 5 basic necessities of life: movies, TV, video, music & books. (magazine)
Give your day a little lift. (candy)
Acquire a taste for the ultimate compliment. (appliances)
Wear it and be happy. (fragrance)
What is comfort? (shoes)

Each of these slogans is a direct quote from an advertising hook in a magazine. What follows in parentheses tells you the product being marketed.

In this list, you are promised everything from...

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Preparing the Soil of Your Soul

Mar 03, 2021

Awhile back, during a time of journaling and prayer, I perused the notes from my first training in spiritual direction. I had packed two folders with worksheets, practices, and handwritten notes from multiple lectures.

 

My plan was to read through everything so I could recall and glean from the spiritual wisdom those pages contained. However, I made it through only half of one handwritten notebook. I barely scratched the surface. Reading through my notes in a soulful way turned out to...

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Grace Strikes Us

Feb 24, 2021

When our lives feel like painful blow after painful blow, we need a sense of the reality of God. I recently revisited a book I read in seminary thirty years ago or more by my preaching professor, Ian Pitt-Watson. In it, he shares some lines from Paul Tillich about experiencing the grace of God.

 

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our...

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Podcast 163: Where Prayer Becomes Real (Alan with Kyle Strobel)

Feb 22, 2021

Most of you in our listening community are people who pray. Or at least people who have prayed. You may be grateful for the opportunity to come  into the presence of God. Your prayer may feel fruitful and life-giving.  

 

Or, you may have become disillusioned when it comes to praying. You might feel like you’ve come to pray but God didn’t seem to come to listen or respond. It’s not an uncommon experience. But, in the end, you probably still want to be a...

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Fitness for Your Soul

Feb 17, 2021

Over the years, as I engaged in exercise, I’ve collected some random tips from various fitness instructors. I’ve been able to narrow some of these ideas into an acronym that may help you as you continue to lean into this new year.

 

Just remember ARC: Ability, Rhythm and Core.

 

A is for Ability – The instructor would often say things like, “Listen to your body. Only do what you can do. Stretch yourself, but not to the point of pain.”

 

This is...

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Restoration, Grace and Salvation

Feb 10, 2021

Restoration, grace and salvation are all words of good news. Don’t we need a bit of good news these days? There has been so much hard news over the last year.

 

I caught a vision for these words thanks to a prolific songwriter in the days of King David. He was a sort of musician-in-residence in those days because of his grace and skill. Listen to this chorus from one of his psalms:

 

Restore us, God Almighty;

...

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Podcast 145: The Possibility of Prayer (Alan with John Starke)

Oct 19, 2020

There are so many reasons we might feel that cultivating a deep life of prayer is just impossible. We feel too busy. We feel we don’t deserve such a life. We imagine that kind of prayer is for someone more spiritual than me. But today, John Starke, author of The Possibility of Prayer, will remind us that prayer is always possible because prayer is a gift we receive more than a life we achieve. 

A mentor of mine, Chuck Miller, often reminded us that prayer isn’t so...

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Slow Me Down, Lord!

Sep 23, 2020

I love when I cross paths with kindred spirits in the unhurried life. I’ve been grateful to cross paths a number of times with such a fellow traveler in Wilkie Au. I’ve enjoyed reading his books, and Gem and I have had a few group dinners with Wilkie and his wife, Noreen.

 

I love this quotation from his little book The Enduring Heart. I think you will, too. I recommend taking your time with it. Savor it like a fine chocolate.

 

“We need, for the sake of our...

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Still Thirsty for God

Aug 12, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some personal reflections from Psalm 42. This post continues that journal entry:

My tears are my food, by day and by night,
and everyone asks, “Where is your God?”
I remember how I went up to your glorious dwelling-place
and into the house of God:
the memory melts my soul.
The sound of joy and thanksgiving,
the crowds at the festival.
Psalm 42:3-4 (JB)

 

Instead of feeling nourished and refreshed, this psalm writer grieves and feels abandoned by God....

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