Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Is God's Glory?

Inspired by Mark Wills' collaborative/contemplative post and his recommendation of the book Now You See It, I've been thinking a lot about "collaboration based on difference" and the reality of "attention blindness." As a consequence I'd like to try an experiment and ask a question to the Living Stones Community.

The question is simply, what is God's glory?

There a subtext in the way my heritage has spoken of God's glory that has left me feeling that God is vain and needs to be glorified. I'm sure this wasn't the intention, but it has had the effect on me that I've essentially ignored the idea of God's glory. I don't think it's because I want glory, though I do crave affirmation. It's just not a meaningful reality for me, even as I realize that I'm missing out on an important part of knowing God.

I can relate to the idea that nature and sacrificial love reveal God's glory and inspire gratitude, but what does it mean to give God glory? I've recently heard what was described as a more Jewish understanding of God's glory as something that has weight. Which I extrapolated to mean substance and radiance, something one could feel, like the warmth of the sun. This is helpful, but still inadequate. What say you brothers and sisters of The Way?

David Norling

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Practice of Gratitude

Here we are in Lent again, and I’ve been struggling with how to observe it this year. Though it has been meaningful for me to fast in the past, I have no real desire to give something up right now. Perhaps that’s just selfish, but the things I eat and drink and fill my day with are generally not sinful things--they are gifts from God. I have my faults, of course, but I don’t think enjoying ice cream is one of them.

So this year, instead of giving something up, I have decided to try to live with more reflection on and gratitude for the beauties and joys of everyday life, the many gifts from God that sometimes go unnoticed. I will do my best to be mindful of these gifts as I enjoy them, and every night I will pray the
Litany of Thanksgiving and add my own list of things for which I’m grateful--things like tea, ripe strawberries, afternoon walks, music, everyday conversations with my wife, the beauty of car headlights reflected on wet asphalt, the feeling of going downhill on a bicycle.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Sunday Hike

    I feel the tug, especially in this Lenten season, for restful and contemplative moments. While recent days have been hectic and full of distractions, I did manage to get away for a wonderful, short hike with Melissa (my wife) and Dodger (our dog, of course) on Sunday. It was a brisk, dry daynot too shabby for a February weekend. The hike was a familiar one, along a creek with cascading waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Later at home I flipped through some of Annie Dillard's meditations on creeks, their ability to captivate and draw her into the present moment, scanning for phrases that had surfaced in my memory during our hike. I finally landed on this closing sentence in a particular chapter: "...it is the live water and light that bears from undisclosed sources the freshest news, renewed and renewing, world without end."


Friday, February 15, 2013

40 Day Photo Challenge

The United Methodist organization Rethinkchurch.org has created a unique Lenten discipline to be used in social media. I signed on to the project, and I thought I'd cross post a reflection here I made for day two of the challenge. If you are intrigued by this concept visit http://bit.ly/YjMZib for more information.

Day 2: Rest
@umrethinkchurch #rethinkchurch #40days

I took this picture to capture a few of the things that frame my thinking. For one, I'm a geek that grew up on a computer. Ever since I got my first PC back in 1984, I dare say there has been more than a week's absence from the keyboard. I've created millions of clicks placing letters and numbers on a screen. I have also grown up with the Bible. From childhood, it has been a major frame constructing my worldview. Thus, I see and interact with the world primarily through words.

As I am growing up, and maturing, I am putting away childish understandings of God and theology and coming to see the impetus of social justice, love for humanity, and God's mandate for cooperation in bringing God's kingdom to earth (as it is in heaven). Contemplation has become an integral part of my spiritual development, and this verse from Isaiah 30:15 reminds me of the importance of a balanced life. Many times I have come back to the ancient words, rested in God's embrace and embarked on new salvific journeys. Lectio Divina instills this principle in my spiritual formation and realization, and I am thankful for this moment to reflect on these things.

As I studied this digital icon, I was struck by the column of keys: RETURN - SHIFT - CONTROL. God grant me grace to return and shift-control from my selfish, alchemistic hands.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who Is My Neighbor? Some irrepressible thoughts.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

A man in Jacksonville, Florida, got on his motorcycle one beautiful spring Sunday morning, and headed toward I-95. He was totally looking forward to a visit at St. Augustine National Park.

Before he was quite out of the city, an old 1972 Ford pickup rattled up behind him and pushed him into the wall of a nearby warehouse. Three men with knives and chains got out of the truck and beat and slashed the man on the bike. They took his wallet, stripped him of his clothing and all of the valuables he had. Then they left him for dead.

About an hour or so later, the pastor of a nearby mega church drove down the street on his way to worship. He slowed his pristine Honda NSX-R and looked at the man. Then he looked at his Gucci watch and shoes. He looked at the man again, and shook his head. No time, he thought. I have a lot of people waiting for me to open the Word of God for them this morning. And he moved on.

An hour later the head deacon of the First Fruits Bible Church drove down the street on his way to church. He saw the beaten man and stopped. The man’s hair was longer than the deacon’s wife’s. The deacon watched the blood drip over the big tattoo on the man's right arm, and  shook his head. This man couldn’t have been on his way to church where he should have been going; he had practically asked to be mugged. The deacon moved on. He was in charge of the church outreach programs, and they had a meeting before Sunday school that morning.

Within the hour, a Prius came down the street, and pulled over to the curb where the man lay, still bleeding. A gay black woman with a clerical collar and a Latino man who was an immigrant got out and looked at the situation. She picked up her anointing oil , some bottled water and called 911. The Latino went over and put his ear on the man’s chest. There was a faint heartbeat, though he was not conscious. The woman poured water on the unconscious man's wounds, and anointed them with oil. The Latino man covered the unconscious man with his own jacket, and watched over him. They both spoke words of comfort and hope to him until the ambulance arrived.

They  followed the wounded man to the hospital. The woman made a payment in advance on the bill, and the Latino gave all of the information they had to the police. Before they left, the woman gave the ER nurse her number to call if no family could be found, and they would see that he was cared for.

Which of these was the neighbor of the man who fell among thieves?
  Note: This is a joint writing effort with my daughter, Sarah who encouraged me to post it here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Waiting: A Liturgy

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.


The raw beauty of the liturgy gripped me that day.  I was present in church in a way I never before had been, my feet rooted to those wooden boards, my knees gravity-tugged to the ground.  When I stumbled into the sunlight afterwards, disoriented, I could hardly answer the question: "How did you like it?"  I knew then.  God was there.

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires
known, and from whom no secrets are hid...


My favorite part of the church calendar has always been the time from the first Sunday of Advent through Easter Sunday.  The insistent longing of Advent, the sweeping winds of Lenten change, the grand glory of the Easter Vigil.  Strong emotions, sacrifice, beauty.  The Spirit is moving, pulling us in. There is peace in the center of the whirlwind.

...Cleanse the
thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit...


That place of liturgy is now my church.  The faces are familiar.  The words are even more familiar, part of my heart, my mind.  These days I rest in them -- tears occasionally come; most days, though, I say them without thinking, stumble across their holy sheen without remembering to remove my shoes.

...that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy
holy Name...

The season of Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time, that long period that stretches from May or June through the end of November, has always seemed to me a vast, shimmering stretch of burning sand, to be endured rather than engaged in.  Usually by mid-September, I'm checking the calendar, counting the days until Advent, ticking off the weeks like a child anxious for Christmas.  I wonder, was Jesus' life like this?  All of the excitement happening at once, with long times of desert waiting between?  Why don't we spread the loveliness of the high Holy Days throughout the year instead of drinking too deeply all at once, then thirsting for months on end, our parched throats cracking, coated with dust?

Kyrie eleison.

Christen eleison.

Kyrie eleison.


It occurs to me that waiting is Pentecost.  If Christmas is the Birth, Pentecost is the pregnancy, the slow growing, the swelling, the knowing that change is coming.  Pentecost is the sitting alone, the unexpected advent of angels.  Counting days is not new to this season.  

Putting down roots in the present moment is not so difficult during the grand days, the discovery of a new liturgy, the Alleluia, Christ is Risen!  

But strength is in the waiting, finding peace in restlessness, sitting still when your thoughts swing wild.  And now I know.  God is here.


Accept, O Lord, our sacrifice of praise, this memorial of our redemption.


**All quotes in italics are from The Book of Common Prayer.


Friday, February 1, 2013

David Norling (Spiritual Story)

My contemplative journey began in my early twenties when I stumbled onto The Way of the Pilgrim while reading Salinger's Franny and Zooey. Soon after followed a decade of discoveries when one deep soul led me to another. Their names are well known, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil, Annie Dillard, Rainer Maria Rilke, Walker Percy, Frs. Keating and Rohr to name a few. But for the most part, I was alone in my quest to understand and walk the narrow, anonymous way to which my mentors pointed.

Then a few years ago my wife and I were invited to a class at a Vineyard where they had a Spiritual Formation Community with people who had been through the supernatural experiences of the Wimber years only to find themselves mostly unchanged and looking for a deeper way. The class was on de Caussade's Sacrament of the Present Moment, presented by a former minister who had quit his pastorate to become a pool cleaner and student of the sacred present. We never went back to the church where I had been raised, where I had an identity as the son of a renown church planter and pastor to pastors.

In our new community where I could finally say what I thought and there were people who understood, I no longer had any excuses, it was time to give myself over to the way. After several years in this community, leading small groups and practicing silence and solitude, I feel ready to begin again. What my new life in Christ will look like is more of a mystery now than it seemed to be at one time. Mainly, I continue to be intentional about being awake and receptive to everything in life, trusting in the goodness of creation and God's compassionate presence and redemptive activity.

The one part of my spiritual path that seems fairly clear is the practice of spiritual direction, an avocation that perfectly fits my gifting, values, and accidental training. I will complete my three year certificate program this summer, but am already being blessed in my internship by the experience of giving and receiving direction. I've been married for twenty years and have a 16 yr old son. I've owned and operated a Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise for those same twenty years. These relationships and responsibilities have been profoundly important and grounding.

I'm currently seeking to find out what it means to feel called to a ministry that doesn't exist, that is, Pastor of Listening. I made up the title and wrote my own job description, at the encouragement of God's spirit, as far as I can tell. I've sought counsel from several pastors. And while most could see the legitimacy of my vision and even my capacity to fulfill it, there seems to be a consensus that the programmatic nature of modern American Christianity can't conceive of the role that I seek to fill. Growing up as a pastor's kid, becoming a pastor or teacher seemed the most natural career path. But I found that there was something about the way these roles were being played that made them feel wrong for me. Now I am finding that there is something in my identity that might be called teacher and my heart is to pastor, but it's still not clear how I am to live. Except, of course, to remain in the tension, willing, available.

For as long as I can remember I've been praying for eyes to see the imago dei in those I meet. Mirroring this back to people felt like a way I could be a part of the "kingdom come." I've had moments over the years when I felt that my prayer was answered, but for the most part I have been frustrated by what I have come to see as a systemic superficiality that is deeply ingrained and legitimized. The practice of spiritual direction has been the answer to this life long prayer. Some how the intention at the heart of direction allows people to be the complicated and beautiful persons that they were created to be. Waiting and watching with people on the way, this is how I wish to spend the rest of my life.

I tried to define contemplation for a class on the tension between contemplation and action. I thought my definition, gleaned from several sources you may recognize, might say a lot about who I am and hope to be.


Looking without judging, naming, or coming to conclusions.
(Because we can perceive far more than can be contained in a name.)
Letting ones self be affected by the object of attention.
(Being moved to action by a direct experience of the thing rather than thoughts and judgments about that thing.)
Waiting patiently for revelation to be given.
("I do only what I see my Father doing, and in like manner.")
There must be trust in the goodness of creation.
(Trust that God is still incarnate and able to lead through revelation.)

Blog Archive