Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Visionaries Wanted

I have been reading a wonderful little book by Brennan Manning called "Ruthless Trust."  In that book he makes a wonderful provocative comment.  "Sacred scripture is too important to be left exclusively to biblical scholars.  Theology is too vital to be consigned solely to the province of theologians.  To explore the depths of the God who invites our trust, we need the artists and mystics."

To that I would add, and farmers, teachers, housewives, househusbands, electricians, and . . . . well you get the idea.  Recently some of the most powerful spiritual lessons I have gained have come not from sophisticated intellectuals, or written profundities, but from people whom I have found in my path, day by day.

The other day my brother-in-law Dan was diagnosed with ALS.  My mother died of a variant of this illness almost 20 years ago.  I know how hideous this illness can be.  And so does Dan.  On Easter Sunday I went out to have dinner with he and my sister.  We were talking and I was prepared with all kinds of theological wisdom and pastoral insight.  I asked Dan how he was doing and he replied.  "Fine.  I am not focusing on death, but Sue and I are just going to live as much as we can!"   Wow!

Later than same week I was talking to an older woman.  She has had more than her fair share of tragedy and sorrow, and for her life is never easy.  We were talking about prayer and she was talking about her many family members who are in crisis. I said something about praying "for" them, and she startled me by saying "I never pray for people."  When I hear someone say they are praying for someone, I think it means that they have decided what is wrong with that person, or their situation, and that they believe they know what that person needs.  Then they start telling God how to act and behave. I don't know for sure what a person's needs are, or what wound is present in their heart.  And it is not my job to tell God what to do.  So I just place people in my prayers.  I say 'Oh, and God, there is John, or Jane, or, whomever. Be with them.' "  Again, wow.  I wish I had learned that in seminary.

Brennan had it right!  We need the artists and mystics, the farmers, the people who have the experience of God, and out of that experience, can whet our appetite for the divine.

Thank you my friends
A supposed theologian and scholar


  1. Well, you got one! In my seminary (Interfaith) our teacher taught us about the contemplative life. In it, I discovered that those qualities that we saw in the Christian mystics, ancient and contemporary rang a true note with my own heart.

    Thank you, Stephen, for your willingness to put yourself out there in this blog. I'm glad you're on the face of the earth.


  2. Nancy. . . yes, the "big" moments spiritually speaking seem to come in small moments, objectively speaking. Grace abounds, but not so much at worship services, retreats, and in the tomes written by the supposedly sage, but in the daily moments. In the sun coming over Mt Joseph, in the antics of a young filly, in the smile of a friend, in joy breaking through in the life of a person with mental illness. It come in the wind, the spring flowers (which we don't have yet), and even a late spring snow (which we do have). And it comes through the wisdom that flows through our common humanity!

  3. Wonderful thoughts...and I love this, because it makes me believe that God is waiting...for me, you know?: "To explore the depths of the God who invites our trust, we need the artists and mystics."
    I don't pray "for" others, either...I lift up a name, and know that God has the details in hand...
    In any case...keep seeking, and sharing about the journey.