We’ve Refreshed Our Resources/Links Page!

updated linksAs part of Zoe-Life’s mission
(to facilitate experiences and discussions
about d
eeper-fuller life and living
in individuals and faith communities),
we maintain a resource section on our web site —
pointing folks to a whole host
of internet-based resources and materials
for spiritual formation.
Much of it is ripe for the [free] picking!

To be sure, there’s a lot of junk out there on the Web, too.

All the more reason to have a three-fold test
for the sites and resources that we commend:
a) a sense of theological balance/integrity,
b) an abundance of quality materials, and
c) minimal costs, if any (to engage these resources).

We’ve just finished an update of that section…

  • We’d love to have you visit and sift through the mix.
  • We’d love to hear what resources were worthwhile to you (and why)…
    and what resources weren’t so worthwhile to you (and, perhaps, why)
  • And, we’d love to hear about those online resources that have been a source of blessing and enrichment for you in your journey of spiritual formation!

Happy gleaning!


The Baptism of Christ: “Respect the Union”

Mind The Gap

This last Sunday, many congregations observed “Baptism of Christ Sunday.”

At St. Andrew’s Episcopal (in Bryan, TX), Fr. Daryl Hay shared the story of Dr Margaret McCollum—grieving the loss of a precious voice that once encouraged folks riding the London Underground rail system to “Mind [or respect… pay attention to] the Gap [between the cars and the platform].”

A few external links may tell the story better than I can:

That story seated, Fr. Daryl went on to ruminate about God’s voice speaking over Jesus, there at the Jordan “station”: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

It’s a truth (for me, at least) that while “you can take the preacher out of the pulpit, you can not take the pulpit out of the preacher.”

So that, I found my mind playing with that metaphor in multiple ways:

  • Seeing and framing the words of the Old Testament prophets (or, at least, a significant portion of their words) as a message of “mind the gap”—observe, respect, pay attention to the gap (or the differential) between God and humanity.

  • But, then, seeing God’s words at the Baptism of Jesus as signaling a significant shift — in which the message, now, is “mind the union” (i.e., observe and pay attention to and respect and honor the union of God and humanity in Jesus)!

And we, who sit and wait with Jesus
there at the Jordan…
We find tears gently rolling down our cheeks.
A voice, a word,
once lost to our hearing,
has been restored…
and, with it, our consolation.

Not sure whether I’ll share this addendum with Fr. Daryl or not.
(Not sure whether I’d appreciate another preacher
saying something to the effect of
“hey, look what I did with your story!”)

But, maybe that’s the nature of preaching in and for all of us:
that Deep calls to deep in one
and ripples out from there into the depths of others—
becoming what each needs to see and hear.

Reel Theology: Join the Conversation!

reel theologyRuminations is the name we’ve given to a [free, downloadable] “Seasonal/Quarterly Spiritual Formation Resource, especially designed as a guide for personal or small group retreats-devotions.  (For back issues as well as a link to an article highlighting the basis of “Ruminations” as the title of this quarterly, go to https://zoe-life.net/ruminations/.)

(with its images of light shining on [and through?] things,
illuminating truth for
all the world to see)
seems like a perfect season for us to ponder the power of cinema as an channel of spiritual formation—the basis of our next issue of Ruminations (to be released on Wednesday, January 8).

Page 3&4 of this coming issue
(focused on “Reel Theology: Focused Conversations
at the Intersection of Hollywood and Divine”)
posits a host of our favorite movies
(valued for the ways they spark meaningful spiritual conversations),

Movies for Young Adults and Older (in alpha order)…
* August Rush (2007)
* Amadeus (1984)
* Chocolat (2000)
* The Color Purple (1985)
* Dead Poets Society (1989)
* The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990)
* Grand Canyon (1991)
* Groundhog Day (1993)
* The Help (2011)
* Hoosiers (1986)
* The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
* The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
* Les Misérables (1998)
* Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
* Mass Appeal (1984)
* The Matrix (1999)
* The Mission (1986)
* Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
* Schindler’s List (1993)
* Shawshank Redemption (1994)
* Silence (2016)
* Tender Mercies (1983)
* The Truman Show (1998)
* The Way (2010)

Movies for Young Families
* Radio (2003)
* Rudy (1993)

Movies for Children
* Finding Nemo (2003)
* Frozen (2013)
* Lion King (1994)

Also included in this issue is an invitation to “Join the Conversation.”

And so, we open up the reply section, below—inviting you to…

  • Affirm our choices (of tope films to watch)… and/or register a few of your own favorites.
  • Or, maybe, enter into a discussion about whether the Church/Christians should be hosting such conversations about engaging cinema as a “spiritual discipline.”

A Meditation on the “Longest Night”

longest night2

The Winter Solstice.

No need to get lost in definitions and explanations.  It’s clear: the Sun’s path is shorter as it tracks more and more to the south.  Summer’s 14 hours of daylight (at least here, in central Texas) have incrementally yielded to Winter’s 14 hours of night.  It all culminates in the “longest night” of the year: this Saturday, December 21.  (From there, the cycle renews–as that path arcs northward… and daylight lengthens.)

As we approach this “longest night” of the year,
I find my heart especially drawn
towards those going through long nights of heart and soul:
the individual who must face this Season without a beloved companion,
the individual whose body is racked with the nausea of chemotherapy,
the individual caught in the throes of depression,
the individual who just got laid off,
the divorced parent who must hand off kids, half way through the holidays…

Theirs is the loss of a companion, a dream, a cause.
Theirs are sleepless nights—adrift and alone.
Theirs is the stifling and consuming suffocation of memories, guilts, and fears.

As if that were not enough
(long, physical nights wed to long, dark nights of the spirit),
it’s all compounded and complicated, at least in my mind,
by the popular sentiments of the Season that abound:
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
“I’ll be home for Christmas”
“Have a holly, jolly Christmas”
“May all your days be merry and bright”

For too many walking through the long night of the soul
–for those who have have nothing to give (materially, emotionally),
for those who have no one to give anything to—
it only adds insult to injury.

It helps me (and I pray it helps “them”)
to remember that it was for the very likes of such “outsiders”
that God sent his Son.
And, it was “outsiders”
(like Mary and Joseph, like the Shepherds)
who were in the best position
to see and receive the gift.
“Blessed are…”

In this light,
this really can be a most wonderful time of the year.
Not, mind you, because everything
is merry and bright on the surface.
But, because, at a deeper level,
there’s a faith and hope
which nothing in this world can touch… or provide.

longest night2

The Great Enemy of Spirituality in Our Day…

Dallas Willard once called hurry the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.
And said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life.”
from “Unhurrying with A Rule of Life: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”
John Mark Comer (October 27, 2019)

hurry is enemy of spiritualOn the way to a retreat in Houston, I “made the most of time” by listening to the podcast [linked above] by John Comer on our need to tame the hurry in our lives.  The message is part of a larger series on developing a rule for faithful living.  (Googling around has me seeing a book he’s just released, entitled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World.)

As I am in the homestretch of preparing for an online course on such a “rule,” my thinking was along the lines of “let’s see what he has to say… and how it might inform my own work.”

The irony, of course, is that I was working to fill every nook and cranny of my morning… on the way to a retreat aimed at creating space and silence/stillness — room to listen to myself and neighbor and life and God.

Here, I’d pause for a promotional message or two:

Listening (I mean really taking in Comer’s words) was a perfect set-up to my coming downtime.  (Amazing how God can put something so needful in our way – even when we’re busy chasing something else!)  The retreat was all the more meaningful, more deeply embraced – as Willard’s words echoed in my heart and soul: “hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

There was plenty of other stuff that percolated and simmered in Comer’s discussion.  I loved his quoting Bill Gates–that “busy is the new stupid.”   Or more seriously, there was his citing the conclusion of Michael Zigarelli’s 5-year, worldwide study of “obstacles to [spiritual] growth”: it may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.

But, what stuck with me (beyond Willard’s words), what stood out was his reference to Ruth Haley Barton’s, “Ten Signs You’re Moving Too Fast Through Life”:

  • irritability
  • hypersensitivity
  • restlessness (when you try to rest)
  • compulsive overworking
  • emotional numbness
  • escapist behaviors (alcohol food, binge-watching)
  • disconnected from identity and calling
  • hoarding energy
  • not able to attend to human needs
  • slippage in our spiritual practice
                                                                                 –adapted from Ruth HaleyBarton,
                                                Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, pp. 104-06

Here, I can’t help but think of so many (myself included) – particularly amidst the hustle and bustle of another Christmas Season.  (Oh, how we’ve lost and neglected Advent and its call to creative waiting.)  Some of us: restless, overworking, slipping in spiritual practices.  Others: irritable, neglecting human needs, seeking escape.  The season amplifying our natural (or, rather, our unnatural) inclinations.

It has me wondering about you, dear Soul…

  • do Willard’s words make sense? do they resonate within?

  • and Barton’s “signs”: which are you experiencing?

  • what might you need to drop or let go of these days, these weeks, this month, the coming year?  (Spiritual formation, you see, is as much a matter of subtraction as it is addition!)