Pamphlet

A Life of Prayer

(A four-minute read)

Some days I wake up with unanswered questions. These aren’t questions for research, but they are life-changing. Or at least perspective-changing. They’re questions God pops into my head. They’re questions I can’t immediately answer. They are meat to be chewed until the flavor comes through in the form of insight.

A Life of Prayer

Today’s question is about prayer. Do I have a prayer life, or do I lead a life of prayer?

No simple question, and it immediately leads to more questions:

– How would I tell the difference?
– Is the former adequate?
– Is the latter more desirable?
– If I have the former, and want the latter, how do I get it?
– What transforms me from a man who prays, to a praying man?

Inevitably, I have more than a mouthful; it’s now turned into a meal.

The apostle Paul told the Thessalonian church to ‘Pray without ceasing.’ 1 I get a vision of someone on his knees from morning to night, getting up only for food or relief.

There are stories told of great prayer warriors who spent so much time in prayer that there was a groove worn in the floor where they knelt, and a rubbed-raw forehead-sized spot on the wall. Or they would kneel in the snow long enough to come away with bloody knees.

Do I really need to do any of that to ‘pray without ceasing’?

I could. But not necessarily. There may be a more subtle answer.

Some Useful Advice

Theologian N. T. Wright describes the verses in and around ‘Pray without ceasing’ as a type of memory device for the young Christians in Thessalonica:

‘Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies.
Examine all things.
Firmly hold onto what is good.
Abstain from all appearances of evil.’ 2

Wright says in his ‘Paul for Everyone’ series that these are aids such as we’d use for learning grammar rules, like ‘I before E except after C’. The reason we have them, he says, is so we learn them until they become second nature to us, and we no longer have to think about them.3

Back to my original question then. Do I have a prayer life? Or do I live a life of prayer?

A Life of Prayer

The term ‘prayer life’ describes something I take on and attach to my inner world through some motivation. Like my ‘sleep life’ or my ‘eating life’ or my ‘work life’ or my ‘sex life.’ I’m involved in these things, but they are, in a way, detached from my personhood.

So a ‘prayer life’ seems like the rest of them. It’s like a garment, something I can don or doff at will, as it seems convenient, when it suits me.

A ‘life of prayer’ – now that sounds different. Internal. Personal. All-consuming. Imagine it in relation to the idea of a ‘life of sleeping’, or a ‘life of eating’, or a ‘life of work’ or a ‘life of sex’. All of them sound pretty radical, and would eventually lead to various levels of dissolution!

A ‘life of prayer’ though, would be in a class by itself. Because it’s not about being obsessed with prayer to the exclusion of all else. Rather it’s looking for God in all the places of my life, even the broken ones (especially the broken ones) so that the idea of prayer infiltrates all these other ‘lives’ that I live and builds them up.

In other words, I bring my prayer life (which is my conversation with God) into the parts of my life that seem on the surface to be ‘non-God’: work, eating, sleeping, marriage, exercise, tying my shoes, taking out the rubbish, complaining, fearing, lusting, apathy, judging, scorn.

Yeah, especially those last ones. Prayer is the only tool I have for making progress against them.

It’s not coincidental that ‘Pray without ceasing’ is sandwiched between ‘Rejoice always’ and ‘In everything give thanks.’ Being grateful and full of praise leads to a light heart. And that makes the conversation of prayer much easier.

Now, to work on ensuring it’s a two-way conversation.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
3. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, Tom Wright, pp 130-131

At Van

Reconciliation on Wheels

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree.

(A three-minute read – part of a year-long series on the Ministry of Reconciliation)

There’s an Art Van in my neighborhood. You know about Art Cars, right? The ‘Cartist’ will modify the vehicle in a unique artistic way. To inform, entertain or for personal expression.

My local art car represents Reconciliation on Wheels. The owner may not have conceived of it that way, but it’s there. Can you see it in the VanRogue rules below?

ArtVan instructions

Taggers may consider themselves free to make art wherever they wish: on private buildings, rights of way, bridge abutments or postal boxes. But they also need to be responsible for defacing property.

ArtVan gives them a safe place to ply their trade and be artists – without being vandals.

Can you dig it? The vehicle is sacrificed as a canvas so other private property can be respected.

Art Van

I can be an artist without being a criminal.

Art Van

Graffiti is seen as a £100 million challenge here in London.

Art Van

So – this is one small step for a van, one giant leap…

Art Van

In the end, artists just want to be loved.

Art Van

Don’t they?

Reconciliation is always present. We just need to look closely.

Blank male Facebook profile

Through the Looking Glass

(A three-minute read)

I’m not the first person to duck out of the social media sphere, and I won’t be the last.

It’s not about Lent, really, although I’m observing it. It’s about a larger need to withdraw from the relentless shallowness of my life online. I’ve been there since 1996 and a quarter-century is quite long enough.

Besides, you and I can pull off a meaningful relationship without instant access to each other’s opinions, moods and outbursts. Can’t we?

If we’re connected, we’ll stay connected.

With some people I love, once a year is enough to keep the flame burning. Not because I dislike them, but because I know them and I trust them.

If you and I can only connect through social media, were we really that connected in the first place? If not, why continue the fiction? This isn’t meant to be harsh, just an honest, loving question for myself.

If I read every rant, meaningfully responded to every prayer request, or dove down every rabbit-hole I run across daily online, I’d do nothing else. My life would be full, but my spirit would be empty. My time would be used up, but I’d have nothing to show for it, really.

Meanwhile, the invisible algorithms push me more and more toward thoughts and ideas they think most represent me. Or at least the digital avatar they have built of me. They push me further and further down a narrowing tunnel. I’m suffocating.

It’s time to emerge. If I stayed, I’d remain connected with hundreds of you all the time, but only by a digital thread. These two-dimensional relationships are truly looking through a glass, darkly.

If I leave, I’m more free to choose and to think and to believe, and to seek meaning. I’ll have more time to stop for the one who’s in front of me.

So, it’s time for me to step back. If you want to stay in touch by subscribing here – great. I love you and always will. If it’s too much bother – I understand; I’ve felt that way too. Meanwhile, I love you and always will.

Pleasant Lines is not about building a dynasty, or an edifice, or a career, or something worthy of promotion. I merely write because I’m called to write. You can read if you are called to read.

So – even though you won’t see links to my pieces on Facebook any more, the pieces themselves will still be here, every week, usually on Thursdays. Sometimes on Fridays when I get busy with other stuff.

Like right now, I’m working on a novel. Well, a series of books really. It began as a novel, then expanded into a set of four as the story grew. Now the outline looks like six books. The outline for Book Five is almost complete. I have 8,113 words down in Book One, as of this writing. There’s a long road ahead.

Fortunate Child began as a simple coming-of-age story set in the 1970s. It has now grown to have a strong romance sub-plot as well, and some serious multi-generational conflicts. If you subscribe here, you’ll eventually get some samples, after I get farther along in Book One.

I have a collection of poetry that’s slowly coming to completion. Some of what’s already on the site may be included, perhaps in a different form.

The other thing I’ve been researching is a series of historical novels about Iron Age life in Britain. Why not? It lies all around me here. The pre-Roman period is largely unknown, but recent archeological finds and theories of the last quarter-century make for a vivid backdrop against which to set a sweeping saga.

Braveheart it ain’t. No woad-painted bodies. I hope to begin writing that before the end of this year.

So that’s what I’m up to.

What are you up to? Write me and let me know. Comment here, or use the contact form found on this site. You might even know my email address or telephone number.

I’m not hard to find, when you choose to find me.