A Little More About Me
MY SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE
In 1998, while serving a local Baptist church as associate pastor, I received a sign from God. Well, in a manner of speaking. As I recall, it was a tiny classified ad in the Houston Chronicle’s Religion Section that, at first glance, appeared to be either a typo or an oxymoron announcing that a Trappist monk would be speaking at a Baptist church. As it turned out, the ad was legit. The church was River Oaks Baptist Church. The monk? Also legit – Thomas Keating.
Intrigued, I attended Father Keating’s lecture on prayer that evening where he stood, front and center on the stage, speaking for about ninety minutes without the use of a podium or notes. He spoke both extemporaneously and compellingly to a packed-out church on the importance of taking the time out of our busy daily lives and schedules to make a connection with God. (Keating likened it to sending God many short emails throughout the day. Today we would just text or FaceTime God.) To my ears, it sounded like a Christian version of meditation; he referred to it as Centering Prayer. I left the church that night with a well-fed soul, an armful of Fr. Keating’s books, and a commitment to learn more. (Editor’s note: Father Thomas Keating, who was a pioneer in his teaching of centering prayer and interfaith dialogue died yesterday, October 25, 2018 at age 95. He has had such a profound influence on me for so many years I feel a personal loss. Although he is no longer with us physically, no doubt, his ministry and spiritual legacy will continue for years to come)
Today, with more than twenty years having now passed since my introduction to Christian “meditation” (thank you, Fr. Keating), I’m the one standing in front of people sharing the “good news” of contemplative prayer. During that period of time, I have immersed myself in the scriptures; absorbed the writings of both the Desert Fathers (and Mothers) as well as modern-day theologians; studied and practiced prayer of all types and methods, attended countless silent prayer retreats and seminars; been personally mentored by a spiritual director, and led contemplative prayer groups locally.
“So, what?”, you may be asking …
THE MAKING OF A FRANCISCAN FRIAR
First, lest you get the idea I’m trying to make my case for sainthood here, let me quickly dispel that notion. Having been born to an unwed mother, spent most of my early childhood in either a Roman Catholic orphanage or foster homes, lived a rebellious life as a youth and a skeptical one as an agnostic college student, and having experienced an ugly divorce as a young adult, well, the first half of my life was more than a little messy. Thankfully, God specializes in cleaning up messy lives. I John 1:9 My complete personal testimony and journey with Christ will eventually be shared elsewhere on this site, but for now, suffice it to say I am ever-grateful for the unconditional love, grace, and mercy of God. Now older and wiser, can I do anything less than extend that same love, compassion, and tolerance so perfectly embodied by Jesus and exemplified by Saint Francis to everyone that I meet?
Second, my study and practice of prayer in general, and contemplative prayer in particular, have not only brought me closer to God, but have been literally life-changing. As a result, over the past twenty years, my music ministry, now limited to private devotion and occasional church and small group gatherings, has almost completely been replaced with the “prayer of great price” Matthew 13:45-46 – Nexus Prayer.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” ~ Psalm 46:10
Third, in the summer of 2015, I felt God leading me to begin a year-long (literally 365 consecutive days of prayer and study) of Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Although the study continues to this day, that commitment was successfully met in August of 2016. The end result is what God gifted me and what I have named Nexus Prayer. It is what has brought you here today, and primarily to what I credit my intimate relationship with and connection to God.
NEXUS PRAYER INTERNATIONAL
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I’m not much on labels (us versus them), so whether you consider me a contemplative Brother, a Franciscan Friar (I’m actually a candidate in an Anglican Order currently undergoing formation), or a bi-vocational minister like the Apostle Paul who was both a missionary and tent maker Acts 18:1-4 , those closest to me know that I’m all about prayer.
To make that possible, while I, along with my wife, own and operate our small collectibles business and gift shop, my wife, Leslie Ann, works full-time for Redeemed Ministries, a local non-profit organization that specializes in ministering to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Working together, this helps underwrite my prayer ministry and social enterprise known as Nexus Prayer International, while also providing the additional income, time, and flexibility I need to pray, develop Nexus Prayer, write (a book is currently in the works), volunteer, speak, compose, and minister to the general public – all free of charge. (Freely you have received; freely give.) Matthew 10:8
So, there you have it. A snapshot of my past and present. But what of the future? Of course, I can’t say for certain, but having spent significant time talking (and listening) to God in prayer and discernment this year, I have a pretty good idea…