Dr. Brian Russell is the author of Centering Prayer: Sitting Quietly in God's Presence Can Change Your Life, a uniquely rich resource for spiritual…
It is startling to encounter words that easily puncture what troubles us, in a moment aching for the holy iconoclasm of the poetry of Madeleine L’Engle.
“The thwarting of strategy is an invitation for God to do a deeper work of character.”
“Some of the gestures clergy have pointed out as most meaningful also reflect the particular challenges they face.”
Simply put, “For Ignatius, the ebb and flow of consolation and desolation is the normal path of the Christian life.” There will be times of consolation – when there is a sense of noticeable, personally experienced growth or blossoming, when God’s presence seems close and the means of grace seem easy and quick at hand. There will also be times of desolation – similar to the “dark night of the soul” – when, whether from wrongdoing, or attacks of the enemy, or times of struggle or challenge, God’s presence seems distant or even simply absent, when our growth seems stalled or the habits that sustain us feel unusually heavy.
God always delivers a message in your misery and a word for your wilderness.
I affirmed something that I had said, from the pulpit no less, hundreds if not thousands of times. Something I had quoted in hospital rooms, promised to dying people, swore to college students during pastoral care times, and clung to during some of my darkest and scariest moments. Yet, as I was staring at my wife, who three days before had been diagnosed with what we were told was Stage 3 breast cancer, I no longer had his praise in my lungs, or on my lips.
A few years back during a dark night of the soul, I rediscovered this truth. Hymns I’d long forgotten popped up unbidden in my thoughts. Scripture verses I’d forgotten I’d memorized as a child emerged out of nowhere. Prayers I’d learned, spoken by thousands of Christians over centuries, rooted my thoughts when I didn’t have the words.
Let’s all go around and say what we’re thankful for…
Your year flashes in bits and pieces in front of your mind and you search for a socially appropriate response that doesn’t include “good medical attention after a miscarriage” or “pro bono lawyers” or “insightful marriage and family therapists.”
Pass the stuffing.
I think I am drawn so much to poetry these days because over and above anything else poets are themselves. They speak from a raw, sometimes scandalous place that many of us don’t have access to. As a pastor it can be very hard to be yourself, yet it is essential if you want to have anything of value to communicate.