Monday, March 9, 2009


It seems that without fail
when I finally pull aside and still my racing mind,
when I choose to quiet all the noise that I allow
within me and without,
that without doubt
I hear the voice of God echo within.

I say “echo within” because
it seems I’m only catching up to words already said,
but in the din of life in which I live
I missed them when they first flowed from His lips.

I guess that’s why I always feel behind.
I only hear the echo in my mind.
Maybe that’s why it isn’t quite as clear as I would like,
reverberations being what they are,
bouncing about and trailing off to silence.

What would it take to hear the still small voice
the first time that it came?
Perhaps time in the cave would clear my mind,
replete with mighty wind and trembling earth
and fiery sign. And then again
perhaps I’d find that it was all in vain.
God’s ways with men are often not the same.

That gnawing hunger for his voice…it’s driving me.
I wish I could say it was “leading me”,
but I suspect that wouldn’t be the truth.
That’s much too gentle for the likes of me.
It seems I need the “hounds of heaven”
rather than the gentle breeze
to get me to the place I’m looking for.

It is the voice and not the echo that I have to hear.
I want to find that place, undenied and undistracted,
Mary sitting at His feet;
John, unashamedly at rest,
all his weight upon the breast of the Word, the Word made flesh,
waiting for the voice.

I don’t want an echo anymore

March 2, 2009
Danny Mullins

Friday, October 31, 2008

SSU October 30, 2008

This is the last of my four modules here at SSU. This has been, without a doubt, one of the most life-impacting events I have ever experienced. For one, it is the fulfillment of a life-long dream to go to school, to study in a challenging academic setting, to be exposed to ideas and thoughts beyond the normal boundaries of my life. That dream could not have been fulfilled in a more profound way.

For another, the personal work that God has accomplished in my life through this course has been nothing short of miraculous. In particular, this module He has spoken to me about some personal areas of my life in such a pointed, specific way that I believe I am moving into some areas of freedom and healing that I have been seeking for a long time. Time will tell if that is true or not.

Speaking of time, I want to close this series of writings with a poem that I received while here at St. Stephens. It is about the processes of life, the processes of change. It is a perfect description for me of these last two years of study at SSU.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally
impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being
on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
And that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually –
let them grow, let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SSU October 29, 2008

It was pitch black. The storm clouds swallowed any moonlight there might have been. The wind was vicious. There wasn't much you could do but just hang on. There was almost no chance of controlling the boat. The will of the waves was reigning.

There was a level of desperation in the voice that hepled it pierce the thundering sound of a violent sea. "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." And the voice of peace replied, "Come."

What in the world was Peter thinking to request such a thing? I can come up with much better questions. "Lord, if it's you, stop the storm!" "Lord, if it's you, get in the boat with us!" But the sensible response was never heard. Instead, an insane request passes Peter's lips: "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water!?"

Peter never seemed to me to be the sharpest tool in the shed. From one perspective, this incident reinforces that opinion, but another perspective has been unfolding in my heart. It is so natural in the time of crisis to seek God's intervention. Why didn't Peter do so? His request is not for intervention. He seems to be asking Jesus to take him from the frying pan to the fire! "Remove me from the relative safety of the boat and put me in an environment in which I have less control than I do right now." How much sense can that make?

Today God rephrased Peter's question for me. "Jesus, in this time of danger I want to be where you are but I can't get there. Will you help me? Lord, if it's you, tell me to come."

Where did this question come from? What possessed him in a time of crisis, a time of imminent danger, that he was willing to attempt the humanly impossible to get to Jesus? The question is not "Jesus come join us!" That seems the logical request seeing as Jesus was already walking on the water. No. Peter's desire was to get to Jesus, and Jesus' response was, "Come."

The question can be stated in other ways. Jesus, empower me to do something I can only do with your help. Jesus, I want to be like you but I can't without your help. Jesus, I want to do what you can do, but it's beyond my ability. Will you help me? Jesus' response? Come.

I'm not sure, in my stormy seasons, I have been asking the right questions or praying the right prayers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SSU October 28, 2008

It's been a wet day in St. Stephens, raining intermittently all day long. It was rather dark and gloomy. I haven't seen the sun all day...yet it was still there, obscured from my sight.

Just a few days after arriving in St. Stephens I received a call from home that our neighbor had been taken to the hospital. Testing revealed he had pancreatic cancer. It's hard to see God in a situation like that. Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal, but we lifted our eyes and looked to the cloudy skies...and He was still there.

Our friend had surgery today at 2 pm. I just received a call. It was great news. The cancer was in early stages and confined. The surgeon believes he removed it all.

I can still hear the rain falling outside my bedroom window. It sounds so much better now than it did today. There's a nice sleeping rhythm to it. It feels like a gift...and it smells like life.

Quote of the Day
"For it is better for them to find you and leave the question unanswered
than to find the answer without finding you."
St. Augustine
The Confessions

Monday, October 27, 2008

SSU October 27, 2008

It was a breath-taking late-October day. The sky wasn’t just blue, it radiated blue. Several frosts had already prophesied the coming of winter and robbed some of the trees of their fall colors. The stubborn ones still held a weakening grip on their gold, yellow and orange. There was just enough crispness in the air to make you feel alive, but not enough to chill you. I was seated on the patio with twelve fellow students as we had accepted autumn’s irresistible invitation to hold our class outdoors. It was just too beautiful to stay inside.

In our last contemplative prayer class (last Thursday), we had practiced an exercise known as “stepping stones.” The goal of the exercise is to allow God, in a time of quiet meditation, to bring up a memory from our past, either recent or distant. We were then to permit God to give us his perspective of that event. We were to allow Him to tell us our story, rather than tell our story to Him. It’s a rather amazing experience. Our assignment over the weekend was to spend some additional time alone repeating this exercise and allowing God to expand on what He was already saying and doing in us.

Today we met again. We were to share with the group what we had experienced over the weekend. Prior to doing that, our spiritual director read the passage she has used as a theme throughout our time here. Joshua 1:3 “I will give you every place where you set your foot.” As she read it, I found God opening my heart to this passage in a way I had never experienced.

I clearly heard God tell me that my past, my memories, every event I had ever experienced, these were the places that I had walked upon, the places I had set my foot, and they were mine. They belonged to me. I owned them. One of the things we often mean when we say we “own” something is that we take responsibility for it. That is not what I mean in this instance. I mean I possess it. My memories were my memories. My experiences were my experiences. They belonged to me.

As these thoughts were racing through my mind, I felt something happening in me. Though I was not yet clear about the implications of what I was hearing, they were nevertheless having an impact upon me. I literally felt something changing inside of me. It seemed as if I had been internally seated and I was slowly standing up.

I shared my thoughts with the group. I did it a little reluctantly as I was not able to articulate it like I was feeling it and I did not yet know what it really meant. I shared it anyway. As others began to share around the circle, some of them began to refer back to what I said. They reported that when I spoke the words impacted them. One person said something exploded in them. Another relayed that they immediately began to look at their past differently.

It was clear that something was happening to others in the group. As each one spoke, it seemed that my understanding increased. I owned the moments of my past, they did not own me. Because I owned them, they did not have power over me, I had power over them. As the minutes passed, it was clearer and clearer that something was shifting inside of me. God was taking me to a place I had been seeking but hadn’t been able to find. I did not belong to those moments in my past, those moments belonged to me. I could do with them what I wanted.

In some ways, I had become a victim of those moments. Though they had occurred many years in the past, I was still attempting simply to survive them. Today…that all changed.

At this writing, I do not yet know the extent of what has happened to me. I have tried in the previous paragraphs to articulate it but feel woefully short of having done so. However, the attempt at this point is important. My sense is that as I continue my attempts to explain it that it will continue to unfold for me.

The real test is yet to come. I am returning home this next Friday. I will walk back into the challenges of life that are mine to live right now. As I live them, I will either be different or I won’t. No one will have to tell me which of those is true. I will, without a shadow of doubt, know. If my experience today was any indication, I am excited at the prospects.

As we closed our prayer time today, I realized that owning my past affected how I viewed my future. There was an anticipation brewing in me regarding my moments yet to be lived. I have a feeling that I will experience them in a dramatically different way than I ever thought possible. They haven’t happened yet…and I already own them!

Friday, October 24, 2008

SSU October 24, 2008

One of the things that we have done this week in our counseling class (the subject is the Addictive Life) is present a paper regarding our experience with addiction, either our own or someone elses. One of the students relayed to us that he had wanted to write something regarding himself, but was not sure what, if any, part of his life might fall into that category. One of his close friends had suggested to him that he should ask those who knew him best what that might be. When he did just that, they were able to share with him what they saw, something that was not evident to him.

Living in authentic community has many benefits. One of them is highlighted by this student's experience. We need community to find out who we really are. We cannot accurately self-assess. We cannot, without bias, receive a complete picture of ourselves from God. We see ourselves through a lens and we hear God's voice concerning us through a filter. We can’t even be who we are outside of community. It is in the context of community that our true self is discovered and released.

I don't mean to imply that we do not have an ability to see things about ourselves. We do have that ability. However, each of us have blind spots, those areas about which we are self-deceived. I don't mean to imply that we cannot hear from God about ourselves. We can and we do, but those same blind-spots become deaf-spots regarding some areas of our lives. Things concerning our attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of which we are totally unaware are very evident to the members of our community. I have no doubts that if we designed a questionaire whose object was to measure people's perspective regarding our life, if we than passed it out to ten of our best friends and insisted on total honesty, there is not a one of us that would not discover some things about ourselves that we were totally ignorant of. That is a remarkable gift the community can give to us if we will receive it.

Such a process is not entered into without risk, but risk is an unavoidable part of the equation. As Luke 19:26 states in The Message: "Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag." Left holding the bag is not where I want to wind up. The risk is worth the potential reward.

Quote of the Day
"He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself
becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may
be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Life Together

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SSU October 23, 2008

The time I spent this morning with the contemplative prayer group I am a part of for this module was probably the most profound time I have ever experienced in a group prayer context. You need to understand that contemplative prayer is not your typical petition/request sort of meeting that many of us grew up in. Contemplative prayer is a completely different animal. It's purpose is to encounter God in whatever ways God desires.

There are many ways to do that. Probably the most common is through scripture. This morning, in addition to scripture, we included a piece of music. After quietly waiting with Him in His word (Psalms 23) and the song, we took a time to share with the group the places He took us and the things He communicated to us.

Before each session, our spiritual director generally reminds us that we are to receive the things that each member of the group shares as a gift to us. In the past, I have experienced that to some degree but it was never more obvious or more profound than it was today. The stories of pain and healing, failure and triumph, weakness and fear were remarkable. They truly felt like gifts from the sharer. The vulnerability before the group was a gift in and of itself. The stories felt like treasures that were being entrusted to us for safe keeping. I really have no words to describe the privilege I felt to be present for the occasion.

An experience like that amazingly bonds you together. It seemed that there was some kind of divine linkage of hearts. I left the room a different person than I entered. I have been in and led many of these kinds of prayer times and have always been changed by the experience, but never so dramatically as today. The memories I take from today have become for me the stones of memorial, much like those gathered by Abraham, Issac and Jacob, erected to commemorate significant encounters with God.

In the second half of our meeting, we encountered God through events of our personal history. In our heart, we allowed him to take us to an event from our past, a remembrance of his choosing. Rather than us telling our story to Him or to others, we allowed Him to tell us our story from His perspective. What a remarkable thing to allow God to give you His perspective of an event or events from your life. Each of us is to allow that process to continue to unfold in our private times with Him over the next few days.

This morning's meeting was worth the entire trip to me. I believe the experience is a living experience and will continue to impact me into the future. The living God speaks living words to living spirits. I'm not sure what eternal life is, but if this isn't it it will do until it comes.

Quote of the Day
"Bearing the image of God is not just a fact, it's a vocation."
N. T. Wright The Challenge of Jesus