Pay Attention. Keep Watch. A Post for Advent.

This is my first year observing Advent. To be honest, in the past I only had a rather vague idea of what it was all about. I associated it with the Advent calendars we had in my family growing up (only one each year, which meant that if you had six siblings, you only got a chocolate every seventh evening and had to suffer the indignity of watching a sibling eat the chocolate on the other six). And I’d been to Lessons and Carols on multiple occasions. But my general impression was that Advent was just the time of excitement and fun leading up to Christmas. Read More

Spiritual Practices That Actually Work

Okay, this title is somewhat misleading, as rather than being a helpful list of spiritual practices that actually work—which is something I’m still trying to figure out—it’s an attempt to start a conversation about the subject. I’d love to hear people’s ideas and experiences about what’s worked for them. I find that I love the idea of spiritual practice in theory (and my therapist, of all people, is constantly telling me I need to incorporate more of it into my life), but I run into a lot of obstacles. (In my case, the challenge is often How to Be Spiritual When You’re Neurotic, but I’m interested in how people have addressed other issues as well.) Read More

Lost Things

I don’t know quite what I think about petitionary prayer; once you raise those sticky questions about God intervening in the world sometimes but not others, it all gets so complicated. But I’m more than a little skeptical of any theory of prayer that treats God like a vending machine who dispenses blessings if only you can come up with the correct combination of change. Rather, I’m drawn to the idea that the point of prayer is relational, that it’s not so much about coaxing stuff out of God as about developing a relationship with him.

That’s how I like to think about prayer in the abstract, at least. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily live that way. Read More