inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting

john r. harrison

my other websites
The United Methodist Churches of Sheldon, Bronaugh, and Moundville

The Southwest District of the Missouri West Conference of The United Methodist Church

The Rotary Club of Nevada, Missouri

The Beloit, Kansas, High School Class of 1960

The Academy for Spiritual formation #17

books I've been reading
Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership, by John S. Mogabgab

The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath

The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley

Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century: Faith Stories of the Protestant Reformers

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard

movies I'd like to see
American Splendor


Lost in Translation

The Station Agent

Winged Migration

sermons in process
Ruth 1:1-18--"Why Go with Me?"

Mark 12:38-44--"Abundance and Poverty"

1 Samuel 1:4-20--"The Desperation of Hannah"

John 18:33-37--"An Interrogation"

Malachi 3:1-4--"Messages and Messengers"

lectures on tape in my car
Introduction to Renaissance Literature

Dante's Life and Times

Dante's Literary Antecedents

Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

Introduction to Shakespeare


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Saturday, January 5

I am preparing to leave tomorrow at noon for San Antonio. This should be no big deal, but it is. I should consider it no more than a long car ride and a week away from home, but it is more than that. I get so accustomed to being “in place” and knowing where everything is, and assuming that everything is where I want it to be. But now, I’m leaving home. That means that I need to take things with me for that week. And I wander around the house wondering, “What have i forgotten?” Here at home, I don’t worry about clothes. There is a laundry in my house, and clothes are always available. But now I need to pack for a week and predict what I will need for each day and not have a washer and dryer to depend upon. I’m moving out of my comfort zone. Every time I leave home for a few days it seems that I always forget something. Or I pack the wrong thing or forget to pack the right thing.

Several years ago I served as a counselor for summer church camps. This began as a once-a-summer thing, but evolved into three times a summer for two years. I took on packing for camp as a challenge. I actually had a detailed packing list, which evolved from making notes of things I had forgotten to take to previous camps. How can one know whether a week in summer will be extremely hot and dry or cold and wet? You can’t. So, I would pack for all possibilities.

These events make me feel the need to take my house with me. I’m always wondering how I will spend my time. And what if I have time all to myself? How should I plan for that? Obviously, I can’t haul my entire library with me. But I can try to make some intelligent choices. And therein lies the challenge.

I find that leaving home for a week is good for me. It would be good for me even if I had absolutely nothing significant scheduled. However, I don’t take many vacations. And when I do, they are short, usually less than a week. But the reason being away from home for a stretch is good for me is that it does take me out of my comfort zone. By that, I mean that I don’t have to re-think my planning processes as long as I am living in the same house in the same town and serving the same congregations. I fall into a rut. But leaving town, and needing to plan for a week without my comfortable bedroom and bathroom and closets and kitchen, I need to become aware of a different kind of setting.

I also become aware of the suspicions I have of many Christians who have lived in the same community for dozens of years and been a part of the same congregation for dozens of years. i wonder if they are as comfortable as I suspect them of being, and as fearful of change as I am disoriented by planning to take a trip.

posted by John Harrison at 5:30 PM

Friday, January 4

If there were a contest to choose the world’s worst housekeeper, I would enter. I would probably be a finalist. There is nothing I dislike more--and therefore do less often--than clean my house. It takes a major effort of will to clean my bathroom or vacuum my carpet. Maybe that is because my father never did any of this. Anyway, today I have been trying to summon up the will power to do some of this stuff. The bathroom looks the best it has in months. But that’s not saying a whole lot.

I’ve discovered that there are at least two perspectives to how one “keeps house.” I once lived with a woman (I was married to her) who was very conscientious about the cleanliness of a house, but not bothered by disorder. I, on the other hand, could abide all kinds of dirtiness, but I liked things to be neat. She couldn’t understand how I could deal with dust, and I couldn’t understand how she could deal with clutter.

My father, who, in addition to being a teacher and a farmer also rented houses and apartments, claimed that one could fairly accurately determine how a renter would take care of the inside of his or her house or apartment by looking at the inside of his or her car or truck. I hadn’t thought of that until he told me. Then, I began paying attention. There may be exceptions, but I think he was correct. It seems that whenever I have seen the inside of a car or truck or van or SUV filled with clutter, it has belonged to a person who lives in a house or apartment that is cluttered. I was once with another pastor visiting the home of a third pastor. The place was a colossal mess, but I just assumed that might be normal for young families with children. So, I later asked my friend, with whom I had made the visit, “How many children do they have?” He answered, “They have no children. HE is the child.”

So, if our external lives carry consistencies of behavior, do those conditions also reflect our inner lives? I often suspect that outward calm may be masking inner turmoil; but does that inner turmoil exhibit itself externally in other ways? It has been argued that we are not physical bodies that happen to have spirits, but rather that we are spiritual beings inhabiting bodies. So, if that is the case, what messages are we sending to others about our spiritual selves? Yesterday I threw out and organized much clutter in my little office. I amass piles of stuff. And, that may be an indication of the condition of my spiritual self. I let “stuff” accumulate, not knowing what to do with it, or fearful of throwing it out. My dirty bathroom? Even when it is dirty, it does the job of getting me clean. Just because it is dirty does not mean that there is no soap and water being used in that room. And, as far as my physical body is concerned, maybe I’m less concerned with the process and conditions of getting clean than I am with the results.

posted by John Harrison at 1:11 PM

Thursday, January 3

In a bible study this morning, I and a dozen other pastors were exploring the Song of Solomon. Of course, the subject of love is involved, but what exactly does that mean? The word “love” has been so bent out of shape by the contemporary culture that we need an entirely new vocabulary to deal with it. One of the questions posed in the study group was this: “What is your understanding of the idea that human desire for sexual intimacy and human desire for intimacy with God belong together?” Now, that question is a bit clumsy, but let’s pull out the notion of “intimacy.” It is easy to say that we love people and things (like I love my cats and my computers and my car and even my parishioners), but where does “intimacy” enter the picture? Or does it? And if it does, how does it? The next step, then, is to try to figure out what intimacy means to us. How do we know we have a degree of intimacy with people or things or God?

I suspect that most people would define “intimacy” in some way or another as meaning “being close.” We are “intimate” with another person if we are “close” to them. And yet, I suspect that it may be possible to be “close” and not intimate. So, I would add another qualification: “vulnerability.” In our study manual, this position is asserted: “Risking vulnerability in loving and being loved, in knowing and being known, the radical disciple practices lavish self-giving and joyfully receives the self-giving of another.” Again, this may be a bit clumsy, but it seems to me that true love shows up when we are willing to risk being vulnerable in being known by others or by God. The opposite of that is to be closed to others, to never take risks or chances in life, to wall out the world so that we can have absolute control over our little corner of it.

So, does this have anything to do with God? Absolutely. When we “learn to float” we have acknowledged and exposed our vulnerability to God. We probably still want to be on top of things, but we’re willing to turn much over to the Almighty. We’re willing to admit that we’re not in charge. I think genuine prayer works this way. When we ask God for anything, we’re admitting that we can’t get it or do it on our own. When we confess anything to God, we’re exposing our frailties, our errors, our flaws. And if our prayer is genuine, we are turning things over to God. We are surrendering. I say “if,” because only saying the words doesn’t do it. We’re talking attitude adjustment. In fact, I believe that prayer--talking to God--transcends words. For me, it is an ongoing attitudinal relationship. Sometimes I don’t handle it very well, and sometimes I don’t listen to God very well, and frequently, I want to be in charge and dominate the conversation, but the relationship is nevertheless always there.

posted by John Harrison at 3:52 PM

Wednesday, January 2

It’s difficult to begin a new year without somehow thinking that one should be making new year’s resolutions, that it is somehow a moral obligation. Because if we do not make such resolutions, then we will not break them. And how dare we attempt such perfection. I learned long ago that new year’s resolutions were made to be broken. And broken very quickly. That way we could forget about them until the next year. No, it made a heck of a lot more sense to me to restructure my approach to each new year. Instead of making a resolution that was just begging to be broken, why not set goals that could tempt me to achieve them? And, the more difficult to achieve them, the better. One could always think, “Well, maybe next month,” and have a dozen delicious months to work on. And, even if the goal is not achieved during the year, it can always be reset for the following year.

I suspect that we have traditionally looked upon new year’s resolutions as an opportunity to prove our perfection, to prove our purity. Of course, should we discover that we are NOT perfect, NOT pure, the resolutions get broken and discarded and forgotten about. We approach a new year’s resolution like a pitcher going after a no-hitter. Somebody gets a hit in the first inning and it’s all over. Or, we’re a pro football team going after an undefeated season. We lose the second game of the season, and it’s all over. How absurd. The reality is that a professional football team with a ten-win, six-loss record will probably make the playoffs. Is it not better to aim for the ten wins and take our lumps along the way than to seek after some silly notion of perfection?

And so, I have my notions of how I might proceed through 2002. I have no silly notions that anything about my life will be perfect; but I do think that there may be some accomplishments in store for me this year. I also think it is a good idea for us to set many goals at the beginning of a year, and to set lots of goals that we KNOW we can achieve. That way, when the really big ones seem to be elusive and frustrating, we can take consolation in the smaller ones. I also think that it’s OK to continue to set up these goals throughout the year. Why should January get all the attention? I know a pastor who, instead of asking his parishioners to make annual stewardship pledges, asked that they make their pledges quarterly. He asked them to pledge for only three months at a time. That way, if someone got half-way through the year and realized that it would be impossible to fulfill his or her annual pledge, he or she would not just give up and not try at all. No, for many people, three months is a much more manageable time frame. And sometimes, maybe we should just take life a month at a time.

posted by John Harrison at 1:58 PM

Tuesday, January 1

Thomas H. Green, S. J., in his book When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings, speaks of “floating” as leaving everything to God. It would seem to be an act of surrender, an act of giving in. In a spiritual journey it seems appropriate to speak of my efforts as being aimed at “learning to float.” Our culture doesn’t really welcome this sort of thing. In fact, it would seem to be the antithesis of acceptable behavior. Wouldn’t a floater be like a drifter, maybe a person who isn’t doing much of anything and isn’t going anywhere? But therein lies the challenge. Can there be a positive approach to floating? This little corner of the web will be a record of my trying to learn to float, and the questions that floating raises. There may also be odds and ends of ramblings about other aspects of my life.

It has been almost four months since my first session with the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Upon returning home from San Antonio, I was eager to begin a program of personal spiritual disciplines, but I ran into snags. The day after I returned, and within the space of about eighteen hours, two significant things happened. First, I learned that there was next to zero interest in a study group I had been looking forward to doing for many months, a study group that was to last for nine months. It just disappeared. Second, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were crash-bombed. Maybe I could have dealt with the loss of my much-anticipated study group; but the attacks and the responses to the attacks have been hugely depressing. Suddenly God became very popular, with “God bless America” signs everywhere.

Anyway, it’s been tough getting my head straightened out over the past couple of months. Perhaps it is needless to say, but I’ve had trouble floating. I’ve had difficulty just turning all this over to God. In the case of my lost study group, I’m reassessing the place of education and learning in the church. I’ve been told that folks are “hungry for the word.” You couldn’t prove it by me. They are not hungry in my congregations. So...should I just not care about this lack of interest? Should I say, “Hey, God, I tried, and nobody cares”? Somehow, that does seem like an appropriate response. Maybe I expect too much of my parishioners. Maybe I’m imposing my set of values upon them, when I should just letthem go. And maybe, sometime in the future, when the time is right, an interest will show up among them.

I will speak only briefly about our undeclared war against a person and an organization. To read the headlines in the nearest daily newspaper, one would think that folks were infected with a bloodlust. And the male person who lives in the White House declares that he will rid the world of evil. If he is successful, I’m out of a job. With no evil in the world, what will be the purpose of pastors?

posted by John Harrison at 11:41 AM

thinking links

Alan Colmes

America Held Hostile

American Civil Liberties Union

America's War On Terrorism is about oil

The Association of World Citizens

Barnes & Noble



Bush Occupation

Bush Watch

BuzzFlash Report

Common Cause

Common Dreams

A Common Reader



Democratic Underground


Doc Searls Weblog

Earth Education

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Guardian Unlimited

i.e. America Radio Network

International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)

Journal of the Hyperlinked Organzation

Let's talk sense

Liberal Slant

London Review of Books





The Nation

The New York Review of Books

The New Yorker

Nothing Like the Truth

Political Strikes

The Progressive

Public Action, Inc.


The Smoking Gun

Smudge Report




The Upper Room


Young Democrats of America