inspiration

What Sustains Me

Let Jesus Love You, by Tony Campolo

I try to start each day by setting aside about 20 minutes for centering prayer. I empty my mind of the 101 things that are apt to start spinning in my head the moment I wake up. Then, focusing on Jesus, I let him love me. I wait to feel myself enveloped by his presence. I silently yield to being saturated by his Spirit. In my morning prayers, I say nothing to God and I hear no words from God. But in these times of “waiting upon the Lord,” my spiritual strength is renewed.

Secondly, at the end of each day I practice the Ignatian prayer of examen. Lying in bed I reflect on all the good and God-honoring things that I did during the day and thank God for allowing me to be an instrument of love and peace. Following Philippians 4:8, I remember whatever I did that was true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Only then, after such affirmation, am I prepared to review the day a second time, recalling everything I said that was hurtful to others and fell short of God’s will. In accord with what I read in 1 John 1:9, I ask not only for God’s forgiveness, but also for God’s cleansing. I ask Christ to reach out from Calvary, across time and space, and absorb out of me the sin and darkness that accumulated within me during the day.

I believe that because the Holy Spirit is holy, the Holy Spirit is frustrated coming to dwell in dirty temples. Thus, Christ’s cleansing of my temple at the end of the day is a requisite for receiving the infilling of Christ’s Spirit during centering prayer the next morning. Without Christ’s Spirit in me, I lose heart and lack the energy to do justice and evangelism.

Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

Open Yourself to Community, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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Alone

To you who are lost today
like a needle in a haystack, reading this poem alone.
Alone, brother island, sister moon. The ocean is big,
and the sky is bigger, but no one knows your measure—
no one can say where you stop
and the world starts.

And why talk about the world, when you
are yourself the world that contains the world.
The world is alone in you, not you in it.
Can you be tender with the lonesome planet
cuddling it like an infant, enfolding it like an ocean?
It is the child that you were born to love. This creation
of all and everything alone in all and everything.
Only you can soothe it.

Brother island, sister moon,
the ocean is big, the sky is bigger. But love is vaster still
than what it loves—as the thinker is greater than his thoughts,
as the doer exceeds her deeds, as the dreamer is more
astounding than his wildest dreams, as the giver
is larger than her most prodigious gift.

Pour yourself out, therefore, as gift, the world’s
gift to itself, but do not tell the world what you are doing,
that’s the point—be anonymous, like the wind, like the rain,
swelling the boundless ocean, ripping the heart open.
Until nothing remains outside it.

The heart is not a needle
in a haystack. It is the haystack.
And it was never lost.

Richard Schiffman is a poet and writer who splits his time between New York City and New Mexico.

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The Dude Abides, Indeed

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s definitely not my strong suit. I hate to wait. H-A-T-E it. But somewhere back in my teens, I made the mistake of asking God for patience and—because God loves me and also has a tremendous sense of humor—rather than miraculously transform my nature overnight into a blissfully forbearing abider, God has given me zillions of opportunities to practice what I asked for. It’s been a hard lesson learned.

Abide. It means to wait for something, patiently. Abiding is no easy feat, especially not in a culture that is success-driven, instant-gratification-oriented, and pathologically impatient.

Waiting is a part of the human condition. Waiting for the train to come at rush hour. Waiting for the next big break, for regime change in the White House, for the hearts of Americans to turn softly toward their brothers and sisters in the developing world. We wait.

By exercising the spiritual gift of abiding, gracefully or begrudgingly, patience has slowly begun to take hold in me. At the times when I’m feeling the most impatient and the least able to abide, my thoughts turn to Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, the quintessential slacker and big-hearted antihero of Joel and Ethan Coens’ film The Big Lebowski.

The Dude is most certainly a lazy man, but he also may be what the Jewish tradition might call a lamed vavnik—one of the 36 righteous souls so pure that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders (even if they have no idea that it does). In the final scene of the Coens’ 1998 comic masterpiece, the Dude runs into a 10-gallon-hat-wearing fellow known as “The Stranger” at the bar of the local bowling alley. “Take it easy, Dude,” the Stranger tells him, “and I know that you will.”

“Mwelp,” the Dude says, shrugging, “the Dude abides.”

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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A Walk to Remember

I loved that movie with Mandy Moore about a terminally ill preacher’s daughter who tutored a rebellious peer. Both lives (and many other lives) are changed as they learn to see outside their own problems. It takes loving each other to gain that perspective.

Periodically our church hosts a Project Homeless Connect event. Nothing heroic or unusual here, but pretty cool nonetheless. The church simply provides the place and partners with a specialized ministry to the homeless that can help us organize an expo of resources for them. We have everything from clean underwear and dry socks to the state documents they will need to get a job. They are “connected” to the immediate resources they need for health (medical and dental). They receive gifts for their encouragement (free haircuts from top-end stylists) and necessities such as backpacks and tents, along with group home options, employment information, etc.

As a pastor I, of course, love to see the needy filled (we also have a hot meal on site) and clothed, especially when I don’t have to run it. But that is not the best part. You see, every homeless person is paired up with someone from our congregation. There are literally hundreds of church people who walk with those who may be a bit intimidated (the resources can seem overwhelming) or embarrassed (many are recently homeless for the first time). As a pastor, that walk is the most important part of the distribution process. Resources without relationship are just stuff. Receiving without being respected, listened to, and laughed with just results in more to lug around.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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