The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

Creating a Life with God: The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices
by Daniel Wolpert, a pastor, presents 12 prayer practices with brief portraits of a historical figure most associated with them. "A prayer practice," he explains, "is just that: practice. It is taking time to learn how to listen to God. It is taking time to see the hand of God at work in our lives."

The first chapter covers the practices of solitude and silence as demonstrated by the desert fathers and mothers, early Christians who lived as hermits. He then moves on to lectio divina, or sacred reading, as modeled by St. Benedict. The next five chapters cover practices that are mental in nature: the Jesus prayer, silent contemplative prayer, the examen, creativity and journaling. The concluding practices, designed to put us "at God's disposal," are body prayer, walking toward God, praying in nature, prayer and the life in the world and a praying community.

One of our favorite illustrations is in the chapter on creativity. Hildegard of Bingen is the historical mentor here with her image of the Spirit of God as "glistening life." Wolpert writes: "One simple but beautiful example of creativity is decorating a backpack. A friend of mine who is in school carries her books in a daypack. On the outside of this pack, she loves to put buttons, decals and sew-on labels. Many express her faith; others are just beautiful. What began as a simple daypack has now become a living testimony to her prayer life and, through beauty, to the creative presence of God."

Wolpert has done a fine job putting these prayer practices together with appropriate "traveling companions" from the Christian tradition (Upper Room Books).

Secondhand Lions
is a coming-of-age drama set in Texas during the 1960s. Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is a shy boy whose mother (Kyra Sedgwick) drops him off for an unannounced stay with his great-uncles, Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall). They are wealthy eccentrics who live on a ranch, where they are the source of speculation by the townsfolk about where they got and keep their money. Walter helps them take care of a worn-out lion they bought from a circus that lives in the cornfield.

This film, written and directed by Tim McCanlies (Iron Giant), shows how Walter's stunted spirit is nourished through his unfolding relationship with his two crazy uncles. Garth tells him stories about the adventures they had overseas as young men. And Hub becomes a mentor to the boy, passing on the wisdom he has learned through experience. In one scene Hub says: "If you want to believe in something, believe in it. Just because something isn't true, that's no reason you can't believe in it. ... Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in most. That people are basically good. That honor, virtue and courage mean everything. That money and power mean nothing. That good triumphs over evil. That true love never dies" (New Line Cinema — PG).


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February issue


Embracing diversity