Pete… I am floored by this. My wife and I are coming up on our 25th anniversary, and I’m a pastor. And I feel like I’ve read almost everything “out there” on marriage. But have never heard stuff like this. Your words about presence, passion, ambition, affirmation… just incredible. I’m more than intrigued at this point. I purchased John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and am interested in learning everything I can on this…….. Thx – to both you and your wife – for sharing and posting. -Aaron …read more
On this Valentines Day I offer this prayer, from the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Center, that Pete and I have been praying regularly for the last few months: Lord, grant us the strength to answer your call to become a living sign of your love. Make our love for each other like your love for us: passionate, permanent, intimate, unconditional, and life giving. May we be as present to each other as you are to us, so that all the world can see your presence manifested in our tender love for one another. Help us stay close to you in the Body of Christ and continue to nourish our love with your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen
Henri Nouwen writes in The Way of the Heart that “solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.” He explores how we can fashion our own desert where we can withdraw (since we are not in a monastery), shake off our compulsions, and cultivate a life in the presence of the Jesus. “Solitude,” he writes, “is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us.” Nouwen notes that since our secular culture does not offer us spiritual disciplines, we have to cultivate our own. “We are responsible for our own solitude,” he argues. I believe the baby step to begin the pathway to this kind of transforming solitude is Sabbath-keeping. I have yet to find a detour around this. Read more.
Marjorie Thompson, in The Way of Forgiveness (Upper Room Books), distinguishes between guilt and shame. She notes that guilt is about what we have done (“I did something bad”) while shame is about who we are (“I am bad”). Recognizing we’ve made a mistake, i.e. guilt, is very different from believing we are a mistake, i.e. shame. This led me, this past year and a half, into an exploration into shame –in Scripture, in my own life, in conversations with seasoned therapists, and to researchers of shame like Brene Brown. Shame is cruel. Like a hidden taskmaster, it drives us to overachieve, overwork, overcompensate, and protect ourselves with a face that is not our own. Shame is, at its essence, demonic. We can’t lead well without resisting the shame-based messages that come to us from the culture, our churches, our failures, and inside our own head. We can’t lead well when we feel deeply flawed. Read more.
Yesterday, at our NLF staff Christmas party, I led a devotional around Bruegel the Elder’s Census at Bethlehem painting from the 16th century. Using Juliet Benner’s guide in Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer, I shared out of the overflow of how God met me in this portrayal of Luke 2:4-5. As Mary and Joseph approach the village to register for the census (See her on a donkey on the center right), we see a crowd of people seeking to get into the inn. We also observe many others carrying heavy loads burdened by the harshness of their lives. Each is so engrossed and absorbed in their own affairs and activities that Mary, Joseph and Jesus are invisible to them. Would I have turned to Mary or Joseph and asked about their story if I were there? Probably not. I suspect I would have been too busy. God is so close. Read more.
During my Sabbatical I slowly read a thought provoking book entitled “A Book of Silence” by Sara Maitland that deepened my understanding of silence and its implications for my own life. I remain convinced that silence, along with solitude, remains one of the most indispensable and neglected spiritual practices today. The following are her insights (out of her journey into silence) that I noted in my journal: 1. Silence has a positive power and presence. It is more than simply “the absence of all noise and words.” It has at least eight effects: 1) intensification of our physical sensations; 2) stripping of our public self as “silence un-skins us”; 3) the hearing of voices; 4) connectedness; 5) a boundary confusion with time; 6) an exhilarating sense of peril; 7) bliss or ineffability and; 8) playful joy. 2. God has created many types of silence. The silence of the snow or the sun or the. Read more.