Praying for Others

Much of what goes by the name of intercessory prayer is not true intercession at all, but judgment. People pass judgment on others and then use prayer to try to get God to reinforce those judgments. We use our own standards to decide what others ought to be like and how they should change, and then we pray, “Lord, please change these people so that they’ll be more like me.” Once people have conformed to our standards, then (i.e., never) we will love them.

This is entirely backward. We need to love people first, unconditionally, and only then will we know how to pray for them. True intercessors know that they can do nothing to change anyone else. Only God changes people. Knowing this, intercessors abandon all need to exercise influence over others, and out of this abandonment true prayer is born.

If we wish to pray effectively for others, we will never hold their faults against them, never reject them for their failings. It is not that intercessors are unaware of people’s faults — but they are even more aware of the real person beneath the faults, the perfect child of God inside the rough exterior, and this is the person they choose to relate to and pray for. They pray not so much for the outer shell to be corrected, but rather for the spirit within to be encouraged and strengthened. If change is to happen, it will happen from the inside out. People do not change when their knuckles are rapped but when their inner beings are flooded with light.

— Mike Mason, Practicing the Presence of People, p. 196-197

[Photo: Abbaye de Royaumont, November 4, 2005]


This, then, is what I mean by ‘unwrathing of the atonement.’ Yes, every human being on the planet was destined for wrath (Eph. 2:3). Wrath, not the vengeance of an angry God, but as the process of perishing under the curse and decay of sin. And what did God do? He unwrathed us! He freed us from sin’s slavery and unwrapped us from death. How? By wrathing Jesus in our place? No! By becoming one of us and, as Jesus, overcoming wrath by his great mercy!

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 262-263

[Photo: Ladies’ View, Ireland, July 2001]

Each Experience of Love Illuminates Love

You don’t have to love yourself unconditionally before you can give or receive love. This turns the quest for self-love into yet another self-improvement project — an additional barrier to feeling whole and deserving of love.

The good news is that opportunities for love enter our lives unpredictably, whether or not we’ve perfected self-compassion or befriended our inner critic. When we develop our ability to love in one realm, we simultaneously nourish our ability in others, as long as we remain open to the flow of insight and compassion.

Just as a prism refracts light differently when you change its angle, each experience of love illuminates love in new ways, drawing from an infinite palette of patterns and hues. We gaze at an infant and feel our hearts swell, and when we notice it’s not the result of anything the baby has done, we can begin to imagine regarding ourselves the same way. We learn from any relationship in which we’ve made a heartfelt connection.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 112-113

[Photo: Sunset from Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, Virginia, October 22, 2016.]

Eschatology and Theology

There is no more important question in Christian theology today than coming to terms with the doctrine of hell. While that may seem like a bit of an overstatement, regardless of what is said and preached about God being merciful and loving, if the doctrine of hell is not brought into the affirmation in a truly integrated way, then it will leave people wondering if God really is merciful and loving. If we cannot preach and teach about hell in a way that is coherent with the biblical affirmation that God is love, then the lingering image of a vengeful and angry God will get in the way of our proclamation. Here is what I have discovered: Our vision of how things will end is actually what determines what we really think about who God is and what God is like. To put it in words that would make my seminary professors proud, our eschatology determines our theology. This means our exploration of hell is actually nothing less than an exploration into the very heart and character of God.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 29

[Photo: Hug Point, Oregon, November 10, 2015]

Live with Passion

I’ve learned that the secret, ironically, to finding your passion is to start bringing passion to everything you do. And I do mean everything. So no matter what task is in front of you, bring as much enthusiasm and energy to it as you possibly can. Whether you’re making the bed, brushing your teeth, or cleaning the cat box, do it like you really want to do it. This one habit can change everything, because we humans are creatures of habit. You can’t be complainy and miserable ninety percent of your day and expect to feel passionate the other ten percent.

— Marie Forleo, quoted in The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah Winfrey, p. 166.

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 1, 2013]

No Moral High Ground

Richard Rohr says that the people who’ve truly experienced grace — meaning they’re not worthy of it and they still get it — are no longer in a position of being able to decide who “the deserving poor” are. When you realize that no one’s worthy and yet everyone receives (the practice of the church that illuminates this idea is the open table at the Eucharist), where’s the moral high ground that you stand on anymore? The only ground you get to stand on is the ground at the foot of the cross, with all the rest of us sinners. But it’s holy ground. It’s a position of standing in and among, and in solidarity with everyone, and singing praise to God. It’s a very different way of seeing Christianity, I think.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 211

[Photo: Glenveagh, Ireland, July 2001]

Why We Tell Stories

Story makes us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.

— Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock That Is Higher, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase

[Photo: Oregon Coast, August 6, 2014]

Creating Value

Although we have an innate drive to create value, we have to make choices of who and what to value. A sunset has value if, and only if, you give it value — you invest energy and effort to fully perceive it, thus allowing you to appreciate it. While it does nothing for the sunset if you value it, valuing it does wonders for you. The moment of value creation makes you feel more vital, engaged, interested, appreciative — in short, more alive. Life means more to you at the instant you create value, just as it means less to you when you are not creating value. Most positive emotion, passion, meaning, purpose, and conviction come from creating value, and most emptiness, aggression, and depression result from failure to create value.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 57-58

[Photo: Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, Virginia, November 2017]