The Secrets

Thomas Merton reflects on the mystery of secrets in this devotional:

God does not tell His purest secrets to one who is prepared to reveal them. He has secrets which He tells to those who will communicate some idea of them to others. But these secrets are the common property of many. He has other secrets, which cannot be told. The mere desire to tell them makes us incapable of receiving them.

The greatest of God’s secrets is God Himself.

He waits to communicate Himself to me in a way that I can never express to others or even think about coherently to myself. I must desire it in silence. It is for this that I must leave all things.

Christian Wiman alludes to this idea in his marvellous book, “He Held Radical Light“. At one point he writes about abstractions “entering a poem the way God enters a poem, apologetically almost, or worse, automatically, in any event with an air of failure to it, a big sign posted next to a big abyss that says  This Way to All That I Cannot Say.”

What is it about the mysteries and secrets of God that draws you to Him?

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In Us, For Us, and From Us

It is necessary that the Spirit of Christ be in us, that [he] may pray in us and for us and cause us to pray, and may unite our minds and hearts to God, and immerse [them] in his infinite ocean of divinity.

Anna Maria van Schurman

Though we are ever novices in prayer, it is also true that as we mature in prayer we discover that Christ is both the subject and object of prayer: He is both the inspiring source of prayer, and He is the one to whom our prayers find their home.

Van Schurman appears to be enamoured by this notion of being immersed in “the ocean of divinity” – in which we find ourselves to be merely a drop:

Altogether other is the mind of the Christian… who considers his very self and all his own as nothing, or as if, gazing upon a tiny drop of the ocean, only then judges himself blessed, when immersed in the measureless ocean of divinity, enveloped, penetrated, and filled, by that goodness and happiness.

Far from diminishing the worth of that one drop, we are rather found invaluable to the One who made us that one drop.  Is this what Bob Marley meant when he sang, “feel it in the one drop“?  Is this what Bruce Cockburn meant when he prayed, “I want to be a particle of your light“?

Here is an excerpt of Cockburn’s lyrics from “Hills of Morning”:

Let me be a little of your breath

Moving over the face of the deep — I want to be a particle of your light

Flowing over the hills of morning

The only sign you gave of who you were

When you first came walking down the road,

Was the way the dust motes danced around Your feet in a cloud of gold

But everything you see’s not the way it seems — Tears can sing and joy shed tears.

You can take the wisdom of this world And give it to the ones who think it all ends here

Let me be a little of your breath Moving over the face of the deep — I want to be a particle of your light

Flowing over the hills of morning


Therefore… Come Holy Spirit and inspire prayer that finds itself at one in the ocean of Your divinity.

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The Practice of Gratitude

In his 51st letter from a hospital bed, my friend and mentor James Houston recalls a time when he was teaching at a conference of business leaders in Brazil when a question came from the audience: “to what do you attribute your long life?

Without much thought and with no reference to matters of nutrition or genes or an absence of unhealthy indulgence, I simple replied with one word, “gratitude!” I do not believe it was what was expected by my questioner…

… I spend very little of my life considering the past, my own past that is, and no time wishing I were somehow transported back. [My children] tease me that some of my best friends have been dead for millennia, and that is quite true…Origen, Augustine, Teresa, and long before them, the prophet Jeremiah caught my attention and affection as a young teen. But to reflect on and explore the past is not to live there, not to regret its losses, not to find the present and the future less compelling than some distant and now gone past. I think the practice of gratitude is what allows us to leave the past and its hurts, its wounds and even its joys as belonging to a past that is gone and to anticipate a future that has not yet unfolded. Yet, some of us find the practice of gratitude deeply troubling because we are in such emotional pain from past wounds. Perhaps, if I might encourage you, the pursuit of gratitude and the revealing of its obstacles, might lead you to places that need and can be healed by the Great Physician.

Our God has a remarkable quality that pertains to our need for gratitude; He makes all things new. Much of what we consider loss, once in His hands, becomes gain.

Houston wisely and graciously warns us that it is not always that way:

… Sunshine does not always follow rain such that we can easily give thanks with good reason. Today, as I write, I know of deep struggles in the lives of many for whom I care, both within and outside my own family. I find many in my place of residence are hampered in their practice of gratitude by the overwhelming sense of loss that being ‘old’ has inflicted. There is much that I can no longer do that was once much easier or even possible at all. Yet, the invitation still sounds to enter each day grateful for sleep, for breath itself, with a sense of what it is that is good, not what is missing, lost or even bad. There is something profoundly simple and yet essential in giving thanks for food before we eat. I hope, in some way, where you are in time and place, you can join me in simply giving thanks!

To read the entire letter see “Letters from a Hospital Bed #51

Let this new year impress the practice of gratitude. Grace to you.

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Simply Being True

In his weekly devotional, retired pastor Lee Eclov shared some insight about finishing well:

I don’t think pastors fail because the burdens are too heavy or the enemies too fierce. I wonder if the difference between finishing and failing—the one test that is up to us—is simply being true.

The silent, secret pressure upon pastors, in ways no other Christians face, is to fake it. To put on our preacher voice, our shepherd’s bathrobe costume, to let prayers roll off our tongues having never passed through our souls, and to preach sermons we ourselves haven’t heard. We don’t have to be legalistic Pharisees to slowly become hypocrites.

Being true is more than a singular individualistic endeavour, it is the enterprise of the community of persons. No person can run alone in this life; we need encouragement; we need someone to pick us up when we fall; we need each other. Being true is more about increasing honesty with ourselves, with others, and with God about who we are at this moment.

Though Eclov writes to pastors, it is the exercise of every Christ-follower to pray as Augustine confessed:

Let me know you, O you who know me; then shall I know even as I am known.

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To You we say, “Come…”

A Prayer for people walking in darkness yet seeking light:

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,

Send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas:

We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day;

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us;

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom;

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence;

We are you people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light;

To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

A prayer by Henri Nouwen

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Little things with great love

Little things with great love

(Written by Audrey Assad, feat. Madison Cunningham)

In the garden of our Savior no flower grows unseen

His kindness rains like water on every humble seed

No simple act of mercy escapes His watchful eye

For there is One who loves me – His hand is over mine


In the kingdom of the heavens no suffering is unknown

Each tear that falls is holy, each breaking heart a throne

There is a song of beauty in every weeping eye

For there is One who loves me – His heart, it breaks with mine


O the deeds forgotten, O the works unseen

Every drink of water flowing graciously

Every tender mercy You’re making glorious

This You have asked of us:

Do little things with great love – Little things with great love


At the table of our Savior, no mouth will go unfed

And His children in the shadows stream in and raise their heads

O give us ears to hear them, and give us eyes that see

For there is One who loves them. I am His hands and feet

This is a plaintive melody with such an inviting first line… “in the garden of our Saviour no flower goes unseen…” To be seen, to be known, to know the One who knows you – all this resonates with us and speaks to how God has set eternity in our hearts, but we have not fathomed it.

In June, 2017, musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from around the U.S. gathered together in NYC to collaborate on a series of worship songs for a new worship record themed around faith and vocation. This song was written by Audrey Assad, with additional lyrics and melody by Isaac Wardell and Madison Cunningham. It is a meditation on the words of Mother Teresa

“God does not call us all to great things, but calls us to do small things with great love.”


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Centered on the Potter’s Wheel

Image: Roger Charity/Getty Images

Centering, writes Mary Caroline Richards, is the act that ‘precedes all others on the potter’s wheel. The bringing of the clay into a spinning, unwobbling pivot, which will then be free to take innumerable shapes as potter and clay press against each other. The firm, tender, sensitive pressure which yields as much as it asserts’.”

Lauren F. Winner, Creative Nonfiction Editor for Image Journal made these observations from reading Mary Caroline Richards’s Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person:

“None of this [reading] is quite the same as taking a class and sitting at the wheel. But it’s nonetheless helpful as I look at the various clay jars and jugs wedged onto my bookcases. And it’s been helpful as I consider the biblical trope of God as potter in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Romans: God is a potter, and the people God has elected for peculiar intimacy are God’s clay, being shaped by God into pots. Most of what I’ve read about that biblical trope treats it straightforwardly as a picture of one-directional sovereignty and control: to be the right kind of pot, we need to yield to God’s plan. Perhaps. But that is not quite how it seems to me after listening to actual potters. Their process entails potter and clay pressing against each other; the pressure of the potter’s hand yields as much as it asserts.”

If centering is the act that precedes all others on the potter’s wheel, then no matter how I press against the potter’s hands, I confess that I did not put myself there – I was placed with care at the centre, and there:

I want to enter into this peculiar intimacy of being shaped by the One who made me for Himself;

I want to find that unwobbling pivot wherein I discover the shape unique to me and not hidden from God;

I want to begin where all pottery begins: at the centre of God’s intentions.

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