Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Category: prayer (Page 1 of 2)

Imaginative Prayer: Am I a cosmic dolphin?

“I was kind of like a cosmic dolphin,” I said to my friend as I described the waking dream I had while meditating. Angela Lam of Jesus Collective had led us in a time of imaginative prayer. She had painted us a scene in which Jesus was present in some way that I forget, but I did not forget this very strange vision that is steadily sinking into a long-term meaning-giving moment.

I had this vision many months ago now, and since I can’t shake the image I am asking myself and God, “Am I that cosmic dolphin?”

“Was this vision more than a strange coalescence of associations?” I am leaning towards answering “Yes,” which is why I am writing this blog post.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:27 “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” This blog is kind of my roof.

I hate the financial metaphor, but I am taking this vision to the bank because I am an inheritor of Morton Kelsey’s legacy. Here’s a taste of his wisdom to help you listen under him with me for a minute:

“God, the very creative power at the center of the universe, is loving and caring like a truly devoted parent. This love is not one aspect of God….but the very organizing reality at the heart of things. God is love. — Morton T. Kelsey

Morton Kelsey influenced my parents, and me through them. I actually haven’t read The Other Side of Silence, but I ought to, and probably will soon. My dad wrote this helpful summary on his blog a few years back.

In The Other Side of Silence (and elsewhere), Morton Kelsey pointed out that when we are still, images will appear naturally, as they do in our dreams. There is a vast, mostly unexplored territory in our unconscious, that impacts us deeply. It is a territory where God is much needed and very available. We can follow the revelations in our literal dreams or our waking dreams, listen to them, and find meaning in what they reveal about our deep places where God is relating to us Spirit to spirit. On the way to being quiet, we will need to dismiss many distractions. But we can recognize deeper images that arise from a place where we are communing with God. — Rod White

So I think this cosmic dolphin arose from a place I was communing with God. Here’s the full vision.

In a sudden flash I was swimming in a stream — rushing with a current not terribly unlike the Bifrost in the Marvel movies but much more watery. I was so fast I could speed up in the lightning current which jetted through a cosmic landscape — a multicolor milky way bursting with laser show like anomalies, but just as vast and void as infinite space might be. I didn’t have a tail  but I kicked as if I did and breached as if a pointed nose and dorsal fin sliced the water with each smooth splash.

The cosmic stream  didn’t have a bottom. there was no bed to channel it, and  thus it was inherently fathomless. Instead of a bottom, it had two tops — an above surface of the water that rippled beneath the laser light show sky, and a below surface of the water which can also be called above since it rippled just as its counterpart. There was no under or over, but I was certainly in, except when I launched myself into the cosmic air, dripping rainbow droplets in slow motion flight that could have been free fall but for the gravity seemingly centered in the core of the stream.

A crystalized moment of realization occurred as I skimmed the underside of the surface looking up (or down) through the water into the rushing light from without, when suddenly switching focal lengths as one often does when looking out of a window, I saw my own startling face reflected back at me from the underside surface of the water.

Renewal is unfathomable reorientation.

Writing Through This Holy Week

Catch up on Holy Week with me, or just see if any of the images that came to me so far each morning also are coming to you.

Holy Week Sonnet Number 7 – Holy Saturday

April 3, 2021

Today I read part of the Gospel of Nicodemus, also called the Acts of Pilate. Chapters 12 through 21 are a weird account of “the harrowing of hell” when, some say, Christ descended into hell between his death and resurrection to free those who had died before then. I’m not sure what to think, but in my sonnet I highlighted the redemptive hope that would be part of such a monumental Exodus if it were necessary. The New Testament only has slight allusions to Christ’s descent into hell (or, more likely, Hades, which is simply the realm of the dead), so it’s hard to make heads or tales of it. Many early Church leaders believed it, so, that’s saying something. All that being said, here’s a poem that takes the story at its word (which I do not exactly)

Some say Pilate soon repented when
He saw what he had done. Centurion
Reports were strange, undoing him, and then
He set himself to searching, hurrying
To know the Truth, and not just what it is.
He learned stranger tales -‘ sages in hell
Who met the Truth come claiming what was his —
And sons of dead men who were dead themselves
Recounted Satan’s failing Hope that Christ
Could never come to hell — alive as light
To burgle darkness — brilliance come to heist —
He walked right in, not needing any fight,
Took Adam by the hand, and all then came
Behind, and hoped that Pilate do the same.

Holy Week Sonnet Number 6Good Friday
April 2, 2021
Not many anymore have had to lift
A body. This sacred duty resides
In institutions staffed by those on shift.
When loved ones die, we call, and stand aside,
And others feel their weight. We have our own,
In head and heart, the pain is very hard.
We feel, but rarely in our limbs and bones;
And so our death may stay abstract and far
Away from facts like pounds and cubic feet.
I’d guess Christ weighed one hundred fifty pounds
At least when Joseph got him off that tree,
By setting ladder from the cross to ground,
Could he, up there, receive on shoulder’s heft
The burden of that body life had left?

Holy Week Sonnet Number 5 – Maundy Thursday

April 1, 2021
Luke 22:7–71

“I have desired this moment eagerly,
And here, at last, we are together, friends.
Sit at my table now to eat with me;
It is the last of our beginning’s end,
Until it’s finished I will not partake
Of food, or drink, or any comfort’s kind.
My ends lie far beyond what fills or slakes;
My purpose for this body, heart and mind
Lies on the other side of human being.
I, too, shall be an empty cup and plate,
And yet, my poured-out, famished, vanished seeing
Will nurture newness from your soles to pates.
I’ll fill you far above your love cup’s brim,
And much more than five thousand up again.”

Holy Week Sonnet Number 4 – Wednesday

March 31, 2021
Matthew 26:6-13 and Luke 7:36-50

“In memory of her,” the Lord declared,
That all will call to mind her act of love,
Whenever his own life and love are shared.
The best disciple’s name’s not spoken of
How strange! I want so much to know her name —
To right the wrongs against all womankind,
And honor she who honored through the shame
Uncorked upon her broken beauty’s glass
With jeers and judgment made from keeping-score.
Aware of this, he took those men to task.
She knew that death was knocking at their door
Because she listened unlike those to whom
He had revealed the most his path through doom.

Holy Week Sonnet Number 3
I learned today that the oboe is the instrument to which the whole orchestra tunes.

March 30, 2021
Luke 20:5-22:2

Lord, all the things you warned us all about
Have now begun to sound in string and throat,
Discordant tuning strengthens towards a shout,
Of oboe-started-harmonizing notes.
The band is struck and so are all of us,
The world is over, as we knew it was,
All rumors, famines, earthquakes, lawlessness —
They catch us in a culminating buzz.
Again, again, you tell us not to fear,
And ever always we are terrified,
The music far too awful not to hear
Pleads us trust in only what we’ve eyed.
“But this is but the warm-up, my dear friends,”
You say, “I will be with you through the end.”

Holy Week Sonnet Number 2 – Monday

March 29, 2021
Luke 19:48-21:4

If all this weren’t so deadly serious,
We might hear all he said and have a laugh.
Because there’s almost nothing clear to us,
We’ll rush to easy insults as a raft.
They’re wrong, he’s right, so, as big winners, we
Ride on down river with our muscles slack —
Our ease resting nicely in enmity,
We gleefully watch him splash back attacks,
And float through temple talks, taking his quips
To Sadducee, Scribe, Pharisee alike
For borrowed buoyancy to leaky ships
That now careen toward the stone soon to strike —
The stone we boat builders gladly reject
Built wreckage as the vessel for us to connect.

Holy Week Sonnet Number 1 – Palm Sunday

March 28, 2021
Luke 19:28-44

You’ll do everything short of making us,
But, no, you won’t sort broken hearts by force;
Refusing to coerce, forsaking thus
The automatic lovers you could source,
You choose dramatic tragedy to show
Us who you are and whom you know —
It’s us, it’s me, and all our half-bent knees.
Before time till now, you’ve seen everything,
And so you know how most could know you now:
You would have us see you in your suffering —
A bleeding love from hands, feet, side and brow.
And as you die we ask if we must too,
“Do as I say, and also as I do.”



I have successfully kept one of my New Year’s resolutions to my birthday. It feels good. I describe the resolution in this video I shot for Circle of Hope’s midweek reflection #sundaysarenotenough.

WORD-ing makes things more real. It makes my insides more real to me. It makes me more of who I am, and better, it makes me more of who I want to be. My imagination shapes my direction, which points my present. George MacDonald is my literary and spiritual hero. I call him my grandfather, so my New Year’s resolution was to spend the year WORD-ing with him.

Each morning (or afternoon or evening) I write the words of the seven line poem he wrote for every day of the year and published in a collection called A Book of Strife in the Form of a Diary of an Old Soul.  Then I reflect on what the poem says to me, or just try to give shape to what is happening inside of me or in the life of my community.

George MacDonald’s WORD-ing

Here’s an example from February 19, 2021

Here’s what Grandfather  MacDonald said that day

Lord, in thy spirit’s hurricane, I pray,
Strip my soul naked—dress it then thy way.
Change for me all my rags to cloth of gold.
Who would not poverty for riches yield?
A hovel sell to buy a treasure-field?
Who would a mess of porridge careful hold
Against the universe’s birthright old?

My WORD-ing

And here’s what I had to say. You might notice that the two do not have much to do with each other, but the rhymes and the bowl borne food. Yeah, that’s how it is. This was about feeling kind of sleepy and struggling to remember my dreams in hopes that they were theophanic. It was also about being hungry and wanting to be satisfied by something other than food, as the MacDonald poem clearly suggest — so I guess there is a real connection. You can listen to me read my poem on my soundcloud where I have recorded all the poems that appear on this blog.

February 19 

Still hoping breakfast breaks benighted limbs
So locked in an unconscious grapple hold —
A wrestling rest with someone — could be him
Who wrenched the hip of Jacob so it’s told;
If only trust for dreams uncontrolled
Could pierce the soul of my confusing, dim
And dumb born dawn, here in my breakfast bowl.

I wrote this poem before breakfast but made sure that my breakfast was out of a bowl. It was a grapefruit. Thanks for reading. Maybe you’re inspired.

Poolside – a love poem to many moments and a prayer


Heat baking up
Through terry cloth towel —
Drying me up as the sun dried me down.
And red-yellow dancers
Amorphously moved
Between the backs of my eyelids and eyes.
Seal slick hair,
Tufting up in the air
As I turned back from fish into boy.
Sometimes so hot
If I lay there too long
I’d roll right back into the pool.
It must be just right
This transforming heat —
A boy body needs fine attention.
And nothing is new
With memories so old —
I still need that warm transformation.


You can listen to me read it here

Bible Verse for When I’m Feeling Down?

Many people turn to the Bible when they don’t know where else to turn. Even my friends who haven’t been to a church meeting in years, or maybe ever, often revere the power of this holy book. That’s one benefit of living in a culturally Christian country. The Bible is everywhere, and that’s not such a bad thing. I think God has done amazing things with the Bible. It’s incredible. I love it, and I would love it if all my friends loved it too. If you’re feeling down, depressed, anxious, grieved, hopeless or tired, the Bible is a great tool. But how do you use it? How does God use it? How can you find some comfort or relief in the Bible?

What are these words going to do?

It’s a tool. It’s not just the words that change you it’s what we (us and God) do with them. If you google the title of this post you will get 100’s of sites with lists like this one. I think that’s a pretty great place to start. But it’s not like just reading through 100 verses will make me feel any better. It might actually make me feel even more discouraged. I might be like “Yeah, I know that this is how it’s supposed to be. But it does not feel like that right now!” And what if it hasn’t felt like that for a long time? What if you have never read the Bible? How are these words supposed to mean anything?

We can’t just cram our head with new thoughts and expect the old ones to fade out. There’s no such thing as “believing enough.” When the darkness of our lives seems to crowd out the light we used to love, words alone are weak. It has been easier for me to do something with the Bible. I need to get it into me as a way to relate to God. I don’t need the Bible. I need God. One way God has used  the Bible to good end with me (and many others) is with a meditative prayer.

Bible mantras

Breathe by McKayla Smitson

I suggest taking just a little bite. Whether you are new to this or coming back for forty-thirds, one way to read the Bible is to breathe it. Sure, start at “100 Bible Verses About When You Feel Down and Out” on google. Or some paper Bibles have suggestions like that in the back. A lot of different passages can work, follow whatever you’re drawn to. If it strikes you it might be the right word for you. All that really matters is that it resonates with you.  Maybe whatever you remember from when you were a kid. John 3:16? “For God so loved the world” ? The Lord’s Prayer? “Our Father in Heaven”?

Slice off a little nub of Bible and chew on it. Make it into a little mantra that you can put on repeat. One of my favorites is from Romans 8:38 “Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.” It’s a mantra if you can breathe it. Breathe in “Nothing can ever separate us.” Breathe out “From the love of God.” When I’m feeling down I need something that does not require me just to change my mind. A Bible mantra is something I can just do. When I’m not in such a tough spot, I keep at the mantra, building a foundation to stand on for when the darkness returns. There’s a recording at I made that might help you get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

You’re life is bigger than the Bible

It might seem counter intuitive that taking just a little bite of the Bible actually makes it bigger, but it does. And if you’re like many of the people I know, the Bible needs to be bigger for you. Not like more important but bigger, more expansive, more pervasive. The Bible needs to fill you up and it can’t do that if it’s just a book. It can’t even do that if it’s just better ideas than the ones you have. The Bible is usually too small.

And it’s too small because it’s just a book and you are a human being. You are in possession of a vessel that the creator of the universe chose to use to communicate infinite love to humanity. Jesus had a body a lot like yours. And Jesus’ bodily life couldn’t even fit in any book (John 21:25) let alone his resurrection life that lives to include all of humanity in it. Your bodily life is too big for a book too. It’s hard to even explain everything that happened in one dream you had to anybody else. You feel me?

The quest of the poets is to try to say one true thing about the essence of the human experience, and they’ve spent thousands of years and billions of words trying. One human life is bigger than the Bible. So the Bible needs to be brought into your life to be rightly sized. It fits you by filling you. Breathe it, live it, do it, love it. Then it will be big enough for you when you need it.

This is hard to do of course, especially when your motivation to do anything is sapped, or you’re on the edge, or you’re desperate for relief. Bring the Bible to your breath, or maybe even a song (try out our songs at Circle of Hope Audio Art). Give yourself something to do with the Bible that could be as big as you are.

Just reading, or trying to change your mind by wrestling with the cognitive dissonance doesn’t often do the trick. Try this practice and let me know how it goes. Or if you’re a regular practitioner, fill in what I missed!


Palm Sunday at Midnight in Washington DC

Washington DC is not solely responsible for the numbed-out, gotta-buy-my happiness-and-can’t, bickering-by-default, coercive domination we all suffer as 21st century human beings. Our despair about the way the world is going wasn’t born in the Capitol building, but it is a big bright target in the skyline of our thinking and feeling that is worth some of our spiritual energy. (Other targets include Wall Street, wherever the pornography mecca is, and the Executive Offices of Time-Warner)

praying at the capitol in Washington DC

Jerome Stafford, one of our pastors, leads in porayer

When Jesus went to Jerusalem back in 33 AD (or whenever) he was finally showing himself to the authorities after building a movement that he thought could survive what was about to happen next. On Palm Sunday he rode into Jerusalem to say to that powers, “Here I am!”

We went to one of our seats of powers and made a house of prayer there. Adapting one of our favorites from the Psalters, five us sang on the Capitol steps, “Many are those who pray, crying out at midnight in Your name./And You, Oh Lord, are a shield to all who suffer/Give us our daily bread/Rise up, Lord. Rise up! And deliver us from all that oppresses.”

For me, this tune has always been charged with the full circuit breaker of my conviction, yet somehow, now that it’s been channeled through this experience of praying on the Capitol steps at midnight, it is even more electrifying.

Jane and Scott Clinton were staying with friends near DC, so they were the first to join my cause. One friend who was supposed to come with me wasn’t able to, so I went to 1125 S. Broad Street as their 7pm meeting ended to find a replacement. Gift Koama lived up to his name and said, “I love adventures.” Then Jerome Stafford called me and said, “Don’t leave without me!” It was a bona fide road trip!

MLK Memorial Mountain of despair

The moon from the “mountain of despair” at the MLK memorial

We got to DC in time to make a quick pilgrimage to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, something I’ve wanted to do since they built it 6 years ago. It was like a warm up for my heart. The “mountain of despair” we exited through was very appropriate. Washington is the source of much despair, but we are a circle of hope!

We went to the steps and found Jane and Scott, then we prayed that the people who worked their would find ways toward peace and mutuality. We prayed for impossible things because that’s what hope and prayer are for. It was invigorating.

I bring you back my hope in these words we read from Colossians Remixed

“In the face of the empire
in the face of presumptuous claims to sovereignty
in the face of the imperial and idolatrous
forces of our lives
Christ is before all things
he is sovereign in life
not pimped dreams of global market
not the idolatrous forces of nationalism
not the insatiable desires of consumerist

Christ is before all things. Christ is all and is in all. He was in us as we prayed on the steps. He is in you as you read this post. He is in those who work at the Capitol. Yes even in that broken system. But He is sovereign over it. All things have been placed under his feet and he loves us and serves us from that place of power. The powers in Washington will never wield their authority like Christ, but we, as a circle of hope, will. We have power to grasp how wide and deep is the love of Christ, and death has been disempowered over us. So we face the seat of empire with Jesus unafraid and full of hope.

Come to 3800 Marlton Pike tonight at 7pm for the anointing at Bethany! Full details at

Swimming Under Niagara Falls with Jesus

At the Lent retreat this weekend we were led to practice prayer of imagination. Here’s a story I wrote about my experience:

I’m on the Maid of the Mist, the boat that takes tourist into the clouds at the base of Niagara Falls. If the light is right, there are rainbows everywhere. The light wasn’t right. It was a gray day. I am seven years old and not too old to pout a little. But I am still captivated by the thundering water. Who wouldn’t be?

Everyone is wearing Maid of the Mist branded blue ponchos. As we motor out toward the thunder I lean against a familiar pair of jeans. I look down at the wet deck of the boat and I am startled by the fact that the shoes on these legs are wrong. I jump back and I can’t meet the eyes on the face of the strange man looking down at me. I think he smiles but I’m swiveling away to find my Dad who is not the guy in these jeans. Dad is three feet behind me. He saw the whole thing. He widens his eyes to say, “Here I am.” I retreat to the correct jeans for a moment.

But now Jesus’ story from Matthew 19:13-15 is at play here too. I’m reading the account of Jesus telling the disciples to “Let the little children come to me.” The guide for my prayer retreat asks, “What do you see? … People’s legs?”

“Yes,” my imagination answers with the flashing memory of those mistaken pants. And now I’m on the Maid of the Mist jostling on deck to get close to Jesus. I’m on a pillow breathing deeply, swaying a little in Circle of Hope’s building in Fishtown, but I’m on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls thinking, “Jesus is here.”

My Dad gives me a flip of his hand on the back of my blond head, suggestively flinging me forward through the legs in front of me. “Go,” he says silently, and I trust him. I weave past the wrong jeans, also sandals, bare skin, skirts and shorts. I get to the prow of the boat and Jesus isn’t here. The magnetism I feel in the crowd is focused on the falls so I figure he must be there. I strip off my Maid of the Mist branded blue poncho and climb up onto the first rail. I look over my shoulder. Dad is three or four rows back giving me a smile and a wave. He switches to a thumbs up. I grin back. With one foot up now on the top rail, I wait one more moment so as not to be surprised by the roll of the water beneath the boat and slip. When the time is right I duck out of my Donald Duck T-Shirt and dive off the boat and into the churn below.

Underwater, I don’t need to breath so I can dedicate my full attention without limitation to getting behind the waterfall. That must be where Jesus is. My thinking is I have to go really deep–way down deep below the power, and the clouds, even below the current that penetrates the surface. So down I go until I think this must be deep enough. I back up like a cartoon rearing to run and dart at the curtain of current that is still there this far down, but hopefully weak enough to penetrate. But it tumbles me back like a crashing wave. After tumbling backward I try again with the same result. Again and again, but it’s always the same.

Back on my pillow in Fishtown my sway has a gentle tumble to it. Again and again, head nodding in a gentle whip remembering summers at Huntington Beach getting tossed by the surf and loving it. But I don’t love this.

“Why is it always like this?” I cry in a soundless underwater shout. “Why are you so hard to get to, Jesus?! You’re supposed to be here.”

I’m still in the tumble and sway in Fishtown. “How does this story end? How does this little child get to Jesus?”

I slowly stop my subtle pillow dancing and I am still. And the Niagara river is suddenly still as well. Turning away from the tumbling current, I look up. The surface of the water, far above me is now calm and I can see by the gilding around the Maid of the Mist’s silhouette that the sun has begun to shine. I look over my shoulder at the impassable barrier, then back up to the boat eclipse. I am still in the water, floating in the depths without effort. My eyes fall slowly from the surface tracing the steady fade from a blue that’s almost white to a deep, deep blue at my eye level. I stare into this darkness, “How does it end?”

classic 70's snorkel maskThen something touches my shoulder and I wiggle away. Kicking madly toward the surface in fear, I look down and there is Jesus waving to me in the deep blue. He’s wearing one of those snorkel masks that’s just an oval from the 70’s, big fins on his feet, and a speedo. Yes, with the classic hippie hair and beard, but also hair all over his body. I swim down toward him and he darts away, though not too far this time. He lets me catch him and now it’s my turn to be pursued. We circle round beneath the Maid of the Mist ascending through the shades of blue and I am so happy. Jesus and I are playing tag beneath the Maid of the Mist in the Niagara River. “And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.”

Eulogy for the Pinelands

Today I wept tears as I saw the writing on the wall of the Crowne Plaza Ballroom in Cherry Hill. So many of us were there to say “no” to a proposed pipeline conceived to send freshly fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania through the Pinelands to a coastal power plant in Egg Harbor Bay; and yet I knew that the commissioners of the New Jersey Pineland Commission were going to say “yes.” Yes to bottom lines and short term gains. I had my two sons with me. Two boys who I am currently trying to teach how to love the woods. Oliver, 6, asked me when we left before the vote was cast (He had to go to afternoon kindergarten). “What are we going to do if they say “yes.” I told him, “We’ll just have to keep saying ‘no.”

The pipeline is going under a road or in the shoulder for much of it’s 22 mile encroachment in the preserved area. It is likely that much of this landscape of my adopted state will remain preserved during construction, at least until the pipe leaks. I will be able to teach Oliver and Theo how to love the woods there still, but I feel weak against the logic of consumption, and the potential meaninglessness of my “no”– of our “no.” The forest will survive this, but I still feel like something or someone is dead. The foolishness of this vote brings to mind 1 Corinthians 1:18. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I’m smelling some perishing. There is rot in the air. I’m worried it’s in me, terrified it will be in my boys, certain it is in this decision and most of our governments decisions, and slowly becoming resigned to the reality that it is in New Jersey’s Pinelands.

And so I offer this poem as a eulogy and a prayer for the Pinelands:

The sandy soil soaks up sound,
And the needles in the trees don’t shake.
The stillness there is haunting
So bring out your Devil stories.

But the stillness is a welcome cure
To city folk like me
Who need some quiet whispers
And tannin tea stained shorts.

At the summit of a hill named after pie,
Where the sky and trees are endless,
I can smile and in my smaller way can say
That so am I

The Devils live in bottom lines,
Spreadsheets and excellent lies
Of those who should say no
But die instead with yes.

I pray with all the people
Who want more than just what’s theirs;
Who want what’s ours and what’s my sons’:
Trees, water, birds and air!

May your no be no,
And your yes be yes.
You said these words yourself.
Jesus, this time my no is no.

Resolving not to suck sucks

I love New Years resolutions.  Any opportunity to change is my favorite, because my whole life is about transformation.  Walking the narrow way that Jesus recommends to us requires some healthy self evaluation on a regular basis.  I spent some time in my twenties “just trying to do better,” constantly plagued by a dissatisfaction I couldn’t shake.  I wanted to live up to my potential.  I wanted to serve God in a big way.  It wasn’t until I got specific about how I needed to change and what I would do to change that I got out of a cycle of self defeating criticism that crippled my capacity.

We can’t just resolve not to suck anymore.  A vague sense of dissatisfaction is deadly for the plans that God has for us.  Feeling bad about ourselves for our sin or our shortcomings usually makes us sin more and come up even shorter.  Shame cycles us into inaction and in our idleness we are rendered inert and evil prevails in us and in the realms that we might have triumphed (I’m sounding really conquistador-ish here). Exposing our darkness and our weakness to God’s healing light is the best way to escape cycles of self -defeating shame and move forward.  This requires identification of specific patterns that we would like to change.  How do you think you suck?  (Saying you suck at anything probably isn’t very self-loving- just for the record).

And that’s why I love New Year’s resolutions.  Just making the resolution exposes whatever the opposite pattern may be to the light.  For example, I resolve to not hit the snooze button this year.  This reveals my laggardly waking habits and resultant abridgment of prayer time.  I want to change that.  I’m seizing the opportunity to change my behavior.  The Roman calendar is an arbitrary but for some reason very motivating event for me.  This year, I will not suck at waking up!  I have a couple of other resolutions because I really like to pile them on.  Luckily, Lent, a much less arbitrary event, comes on February 18th, and if I’ve failed at any of them by then (which I certainly will) I will be ready for a reset.

Why I take pictures of the sky

I took this picture of the sky 2 years ago and I still remember how giddy I was as I raced up Washington Avenue under this shimmering shelf of clouds.  I had a little echo of that joy as I crossed the Grays Ferry Bridge tonight under a slightly less spectacular (in relative terms) evening wonder.  As the sun was setting the sky seemed so big on account of the tiny island clouds that stretched innumerably to the horizon, and the sky/sea was so perfectly fading from a rich blue above to a golden orange below.  As I huffed over the bridge’s crown I gasped aloud, somehow still surprised, “It’s beautiful every day!  Thank you, Lord…thank you… thank you… thank you…” and the Schuylkill shimmered below in countenance.

I joined instagram almost 3 years ago and it has greatly increased my joy.  The prospect of sharing my wonder adds a liveliness to each moment of awe.  I am inherently generous in my delight.  I grew up with a twin bother who, whether he wanted it or not, was privy to every ounce of fascination I encountered or mustered; and suffice it to say there was much fascination.  I am accustomed to shared joy to the point where quiet, lonesome joys are disciplines I strive to inhabit–but they are, in my emotional geography, more clearings hacked out of the undergrowth than naturally occurring ecosystems.  And so instagram provides a way for me to share and that sharing heightens and multiplies my own joy.  I keep looking because others will see what I see–others will gain from my growing attention.  Many look to the sky for glory; I don’t presume to be essential.  I claim that in sharing my vision, I create a repeating and intensifying pattern of seeing that happens joy upon me in regular bursts of sweetness.  I keep seeing greatness in what is dangerously close to mundane.  I want more of that joy and I find it in the sharing as much as in the moment of seeing.

Multiply your joy at Circle of Hope

I do the same with the joy I find in Jesus.  My compulsion to share my experience with Jesus stems from Jesus’ command to make disciples, but it snowballs from there.  My experiences with God are intensified, multiplied and repeated in the process of living them, remembering them and sharing them.  I strive to communicate the often unnameable essence of love and hope as it has touched me in a way that actually connects with another.  (I’m trying to do it right now and it’s hard!)  What is it about the joy of life in Christ that I can tell in a relatively intelligible or relatively beautiful way?  The world can crumble as it is wont to do and my hope survives the deterioration. My friends are more whole after we form a group around Jesus and spend time trusting Him and each other.  I find a larger place in me for patience.  And the sky is still beautiful. Thank you.. thank you.. thank you.

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