New additions to The Little Poor Man’s Library of Saint Francis arrive just about every week, with six new catches “fresh off the boat” added today alone.
These new books cover the 800th Anniversary of St. Francis, the San Damiano Cross, The Rule & Testament of Saint Francis, and a brief history of Franciscanism, and include:
All of these books are currently on the shelves and ready to be checked out at The Little Poor Man’s Library of Saint Francis, along with these other wonderful titles. Questions? As always, feel free to contact me anytime.
Before highlighting a few of the resolutions I’ve made for Nexus Prayer and myself for the New Year, let’s take a quick look at last year and the resolutions currently trending in the United States for 2019 according to Inc. (Thank you, Statista!) You will find more infographics at Statista
Notice anything missing? As in previous years, you’ll find no resolutions (less than 10%) to spend more time with God through increased church attendance, Scripture reading, or prayer among Americans priorities. No surprise there. Equally unsurprising is that prayer in general, and nexus prayer in particular, are both at the top of my New Year’s resolution list. As promised, here are a few personal goals and plans for Nexus Prayer in 2019:
And what about you? What dreams do you dare to dream? What goals has God given you? How will you stretch, grow, serve, and love both God and your neighbor in 2019? What audacious projects will you take on in the coming year? Only you and God know the answers to those questions, but whatever your resolutions, my prayers are with you. However, know this: the answer is ultimately found in Matthew 6:33.
“But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things will be added unto you.”
NOTES & REFERENCES
2 Photo Credit: Happy New Year 2019 by NordWood Themes in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.
REMEMBERING THOMAS KEATING
Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O.
7 March 1923 – 25 October 2018
Requiescat In Pace
Editor’s Note: Father Thomas Keating¹, Co-Founder of centering prayer and a pioneer in contemplative prayer, Christian spirituality, and interfaith dialogue died yesterday, October 25, 2018, at age 95.
It was at one of his lectures back in 1998 that Fr. Keating set me on the contemplative path and introduced me to centering prayer. And because his teaching and writing have had such a profound influence on me over the years, I feel a deep, personal loss. Fr. Keating may no longer be with us physically, but there is no doubt in my mind that his ministry and spiritual legacy will continue until the end of time. May he rest in peace.
Born in New York City in 1923, Thomas Keating attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, where he graduated in December 1943. He entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (also known as Trappists) in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, in January 1944. He was appointed Superior of St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado, in 1958, and was elected abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1961. He returned to Snowmass after retiring as abbot of Spencer in 1981, where he established a program with retreats in the practice of Centering Prayer, a contemporary form of the Christian contemplative tradition through the auspices of Contemplative Outreach.²
I remember it like it was yesterday. While serving a local Baptist church as associate pastor back in 1998, 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, his hands gently folded as in in prayer, 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 in amazement of what I had just heard with a well-fed soul, an armful of Keating’s books, and a commitment to God to learn more. And learn more I did during the next several years through his lectures, more than 40 books and videos, and dozens of centering prayer and silent prayer retreats I participated in at Villa de Matel, in Houston.
Today, with more than twenty years having now passed since my introduction to Christian “meditation” (thank you, Fr. Keating), I’m now the one standing in front of people teaching and spreading the “good news” of contemplative prayer. And along with thousands of other disciples and people all over the world, I express my appreciation for the profound influence of Father Keating on my life and give thanks to God for the enormous spiritual legacy he has left behind for generations to come.
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 R.I.P. Father Thomas Keating | National Catholic Reporter (NCR)
2 Thomas Keating Bio | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
3 Photo Credit: Fr. Thomas Keating | Public Domain by Christopher [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I’M A CANDIDATE!
Once again it is election time in America. Pray for me because I am now a candidate. A candidate for what you may ask? Please continue reading…
UNITED STATES MIDTERM ELECTIONS
Yes, at the time of this writing, midterm elections are exactly two weeks from today with the million-dollar question being: “Who will control the House and the Senate?” once the last ballot has been cast and the votes tallied. Of course, as Christians, I believe it is our daily duty to pray for our President, elected leaders, and our country…and I do. But over the next two weeks we must prayerfully consider the candidates, their proposed policies and platforms, then GO VOTE!¹ The results? Only God knows. But something else that only God and a few select individuals know is that I, too, am now a candidate, but not the kind you may be thinking of. Please let me explain.
As many of you know, for more than twenty-five years I have considered myself a contemplative Christian with a heart for prayer (which is partially responsible for the birth of Nexus Prayer.) I am also very active in my local parish and serve as an advocate for various local causes in my community and beyond. But following a season of prayer this past January, I heard God calling me to deeper waters by joining a religious order and making vows dedicating myself to serve the most vulnerable of our society. Yes, I am already heavily involved at church, and in teaching, and sharing nexus prayer wherever I can, but I believed God was inviting me to a higher calling – a calling to a vocation that took into consideration the needs of “the least of these” – especially with all that is happening on the political and social fronts of America today. Us versus them. Matthew 25:40-45
MONK OR FRIAR?
That part was easy. I desire to serve. The hard part was narrowing down what “kind” of religious order would be the best match for me and me for them. Generally speaking, friars are different from monks in that they are called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience) in service to society, rather than through cloistered asceticism and devotion. Whereas monks live in a self-sufficient community, friars work among laypeople and are supported by donations or other charitable support. A monk or nun make their vows and commits to a particular community in a particular place. Friars are often part of a dispersed community (a monastery without walls as I like to think of it.) Friars may also commit to a community spread across a wider geographical area known as a province, and so they will typically move around, spending time in different houses of the community within their province.²
BROTHER CANDIDATE: A FRIAR IN FORMATION
When it came to my personal decision, dozens of orders were considered, but God helped me narrow it to two: the Benedictines and the Franciscans – the first known for their dedication to prayer, silence, and solitude (a good match for me) and the latter known for both their prayer life and service. The Benedictines serving God within the confines of the cloistered monastic walls (monks), and the Franciscans serving both God and man outside the same walls (friars) – even helping tear down the walls of intolerance, hatred, injustice, bigotry, racism, poverty, and more. In the end, God showed me that the Franciscans and Franciscan Spirituality were the path and The Way God intended for me. But then… which Franciscan order?
Since the time that Saint Francis founded his first order of brothers some 800 years ago (The Friars Minor, OFM, or the Lesser Brothers as they are sometimes called), many diverse Franciscan orders with different charisms have emerged in both the Roman Catholic Church, as well as orders of friars (and sisters) that exist in other Christian traditions, including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans and the Order of Lesser Sisters and Brothers.
In the Anglican Communion there are also a number of mendicant groups such as the Anglican Friars Preachers, The Society of St. Francis, and the Order of Saint Francis. It is this last (but certainly not the least) order, The Order of Saint Francis,³ that has both accepted me as a candidate and placed me in formal formation.
ORDER OF SAINT FRANCIS
As a contemporary expression of Franciscan tradition within the Anglican Communion, the Order of Saint Francis is unique among other Franciscan orders. That’s because although it is an active, Apostolic Christian religious order within the Anglican Communion and in communion with the See of Canterbury, it is not based in an enclosed communal setting, Instead, OSF brothers live independently in different parts of the world, with ministries based on the needs of their local communities. Members are baptized men who have been confirmed within the Anglican Communion who voluntarily commit to live by a set of professed vows for a term of years or for life. Like all Franciscan orders, every OSF Brother continues his spiritual pilgrimage under formation within the order regardless of their status: candidate, postulant, novitiate, professed, or life professed. The order was founded in 2003 by Br Nicholas Kis and is currently blessed to have about 40 vowed brothers serving Christ across the world.³
Needless to say, although I am quite humbled and joyful about this exciting development and personal transition, there is much more to share, and I will do so here soon. I certainly would appreciate your prayers. But for now, … GO VOTE!
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 GO VOTE | League of Women Voters of Texas (Non-Partisan)
2 Monk or Friar | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
3 Order of Saint Francis | OSF Summary Content Copyright ©2012 in perpetuity by Order of St. Francis (OSF). All Rights Reserved. Used by Nexus Prayer International with express written permission of the Order of Saint Francis.
6 Photo Credit: Saint Francis of Assisi |The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. | In Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons and License Art Libre.
7 Photo Credit: Order of Saint Francis 2018 Convocation | OSF Photo Copyright ©2012 in perpetuity by Order of St. Francis (OSF). All Rights Reserved. Photo used by Nexus Prayer International with express written permission of the Order of Saint Francis.
CAIRNS OF PRAYER
I recently reached a new milestone and marked it with another cairn. A cairn of nexus prayer. A cairn on my prayer timer.
Cairns¹, from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn, are human-made piles of stones that have been used from prehistoric times and that are still being used today for many and varied purposes, including landmarks, milestones, monument markers, and sometimes for ceremonial purposes such as identifying a famous gravesite or significant battle ground. For example, cairns or milestones were used to mark key distances and landmarks along the Appian Way² (Rome’s oldest road), and are still used today to indicate important or dangerous paths along remote jungle, densely forested, or mountainous areas such as some of the trails I’ve hiked leading to a few sacred spaces in Switzerland. Interestingly, for centuries historical monument markers were so prolific in Europe that in ancient Roman religion the Romans even had their own god, Terminus³, whose sole purpose was the protection of boundary markers. Of course, in everyday circumstances from the time we enter this world to the time we depart it, the term “milestone” is used in more casual ways to mark special occasions along our journey in this life such as the birth of a child, graduation, an engagement or marriage, job promotion, or significant awards and achievements.
All of that said, and as mentioned earlier, I have a personal cairn of my own to share – a cairn of prayer. Please know this is no humblebrag (though it’s true I’m both happy and humbled), but just last week I surpassed the 5,000 mark for completed individual nexus prayers. Sure, there’s good reason to celebrate because, after all, it took me the better part of three years of multiple daily nexus prayers to reach that number. However, the primary reason I’m so happy to have hit that marker is not because five thousand is the largest isogrammic³ number in the English language, but because it means that while on my nexus prayer journey over the past 1,453 days, I have spent almost 800 hours making a personal connection with God using nexus prayer. And surprisingly, most of those times of prayer were done in five-minute increments – the 5-minute nexus prayer.
So why am I writing about this milestone and sharing it with you here? The answer is because the most common excuse I frequently hear from people (Christians and non-Christians alike) about prayer in general and nexus prayer in particular is “I’m just too busy to stop and pray.” Of course, we all know that we make the time for the things that matter most to us – time for work, meals, sleep, romance, sporting events, recreation, television, social media, family time, and sometimes even church. What or, more importantly, who is missing in that litany of activities? God. God gives us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to use as we choose. I’m simply challenging all of us to prayerfully look at our daily lives – our schedules and action lists – and find a five-minute time slot at least once a day to just “be” with God in the quietude of nexus prayer. To listen to God’s still, small voice.
Five minutes doesn’t sound like much, but even a single five-minute nexus prayer once a day – every day – will provide you with more than 30 minutes spent in quality, one-on-one time with God each week. Do that twice a day and you just spent more than one hour with God that week. I encourage you to make this a part of your regular daily routine, leaving markers along the way, and before you know it you too will have 5,000 cairns of prayer – cairns that will continue to lead you to the heart of God. Cairns that will show others the Way.
NOTES & REFERENCE
1 Cairn | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
2 Appian Way | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
3 Terminus – Ancient Roman god of boundary markers. | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
4 Isograms| An isogram (also known as a “nonpattern word”) is a logological term for a word or phrase without a repeating letter. | Source: Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia.
6 Photo Credit: Design for a stained glass window with Terminus Hans Holbein | Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Modified with permission – Nexus Prayer International,
7 Photo Credit: © Copyright 2018 Nexus Prayer Timer 5K by Allen Aaron White. | Used with permission Nexus Prayer International.
President Barack Obama reads Psalm 46:1-11 including Psalm 46:10 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Pa.
Read my personal journal entry honoring the 17th anniversary (September 11, 2018) of 9/11 here.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AT THE NEW YORK CITY SEPTEMBER 11TH 10TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION CEREMONY
National September 11th Memorial
New York City, New York
8:47 A.M. EDT
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea.
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake
with its swelling,
there’s a river
whose streams shall make glad
the City of God,
the holy place of the Tabernacle
of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her.
She shall not be moved.
God shall help her
just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged,
the kingdoms were moved.
He uttered his voice.
The earth melted.
The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come behold the works of the Lord
who has made desolations in the Earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the Earth.
He breaks the bough
and cuts the spear in two.
He burns the chariot in fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the Earths.
The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 President Obama reads Psalm 46 | 9/11 Memorial Service 10th Anniversary via YouTube
2 Remarks by President Obama | 9/11 10th Anniversary Commemoration via the White House Briefing Room
A PERSONAL INVITE
Departing from a normal journal post today, it’s hard to believe that our humble nexus prayer group meeting at Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church (Houston) is already celebrating its 1st anniversary, but it’s true!
Over the past twelve months we have thoroughly examined Psalm 46, learned and practiced nexus prayer, and have made some life-long friendships. Thanks be to God! Now with Summer almost completely in our rear-view mirror, I hope you will consider this “open letter” your personal invitation from me to come join us for nexus prayer as we begin our Fall kick-off. Our Sunday morning gathering continues tomorrow morning (and every Sunday morning) at 10:15 in room #315 of St. Dunstan’s Bentley Educational Building as we begin our second year and new semester of prayer.
What’s new you might be asking? Everything! Well, almost. Although our fellowship time that includes coffee, tea, and biscotti remains the same, our group now has a new name (Nexus Prayer Circle), new format (more prayer, less talk), new and improved website (you’re feedback always welcome), and a new vision (sneak peek!) that will be explained here in detail in the weeks to come.
Below is an overview of our new class format. New to nexus prayer? Whether you come once, weekly, or anytime you are able, visitors are always welcome. I look forward to greeting all of you personally as we continue our pilgrimage of prayer by learning to “be still, and know that I am God” week after week through nexus prayer.
NEXUS PRAYER CIRCLE | FALL 2018
SAINT DUNSTAN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
MEETING TIME & PLACE
Sunday Mornings | 10:15 | BEC 315
Nexus Prayer Circle – Led by Allen White
Deeply rooted in Psalm 46:10, Nexus Prayer is the biblically-based, contemplative prayer that both increases our awareness of God’s presence in our lives, and helps us to better hear God’s “still, small voice” in a busy and noisy world. Through our prayers, responsive readings, and lessons from Scripture, God is speaking; we are listening. Come pray with us in sacred silence.
Nexus Prayer Circle
10:15 – Fellowship (Conversation, tea, coffee, hand-crafted biscotti)
10:30 – Psalm 46 (Group responsive reading)
10:35 – Nexus Prayer (15 minutes of silent prayer; 5m of intercessory prayer)
10:55 – *Dismissal (For those attending the 11:00 Worship Service)
* Following class dismissal, all are welcome to linger a little longer for additional fellowship, coffee, and convo. A brief orientation and introduction to nexus prayer for visitors, as well as free brochures and helpful Nexus Prayer literature are always available immediately after class.
NOTES & REFERENCES
Photo Credit: Nexus Prayer Circle | © Copyright Allen Aaron White / Nexus Prayer International. Used with permission.
JESUS, SAINT FRANCIS, & NEXUS PRAYER
A WINNING COMBINATION
So, today, Saint Francis joined Nexus Prayer. (Or did Nexus Prayer join St. Francis?) You decide. Either way, our mission is the same – trying to authentically live out the Gospel in our daily lives while sharing the love of Jesus with our generation.
Nexus prayer has been a part of my daily spiritual activities for more than three years now. During that time, God has been ever-so-slowly transforming me from the inside out as I’ve spent quality one-on-one time just listening to him in prayer. As a result, I believe I’m a kinder, gentler, and wiser version (he said humbly) of my former self. That’s not so surprising since I’m convinced that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.
But what has been surprising this year is my increased awareness of and interest in all things Franciscan. Perhaps I should not be so shocked by my attraction to Saint Francis as I’ve worn a San Damiano cross for over twenty years and, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, most of the spiritual mentors who have been busy planting seeds in my soul for years are all Franciscans – John Michael Talbot, Richard Rohr, and Murray Bodo to name just a few. I just never thought of myself actually becoming a Franciscan. Until now.
“The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.”
The Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, along with their companion values of simplicity, humility, harmony, compassion, service, and prayer all resonate with me, albeit with a modern-day twist. Those admirable qualities notwithstanding, there are several important reasons why I am compelled to embrace a Franciscan lifestyle today, and why since the middle of July I have been prayerfully discerning a call to a Franciscan vocation (Anglican or Secular Order) in the near future.
All of these Franciscan virtues (Jesus’ virtues really) will be explored in future posts to my journal. For now, however, suffice it to say that there are several important reasons I feel compelled by God to continue my walk with Jesus, but now have St. Francis as my traveling companion:
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
First, because perhaps like no other time in the history of our country (at least during my lifetime), many of the government leaders and people in our society (including Christians) seem to reflect the divided states, rather than the United States of America. Whether the issue is immigration, race, gun control, religion, gay rights, women’s rights, or the plethora of other human issues and societal ills, the current social and political climate have never been more polarizing. Us versus them. Still not convinced? You need look no further than the current controversy surrounding the Supreme Court to know that what I am saying is true.
THE NEED TO DO SOMETHING
Second, thanks to nexus prayer, I believe I am closer to God than ever before in my life and clearly hear His call to be obedient to step forward as an advocate for all the disenfranchised and most vulnerable members of our society wherever I am able. I desire to be a voice of love, peace, compassion, and reconciliation in contrast to so many who are stoking the coals of hatred and the flames of bigotry and racism. I can’t do everything, but I can do something and believe it is my Christian responsibility to do so. James 4:17 This is just one reason why my wife works in the mission field of sex and human trafficking at Redeemed Ministries and why I’ve recently begun volunteering and teaching at the Hope Center – a ministry that serves the homeless men and women in the North Houston Area.
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Finally, although I will never measure up to the examples of Jesus, Thomas á Kempis, and Saint Francis, I feel led to walk this path today because I believe as Christians we are called…
Prayer is good. Nexus prayer is great. But as the Apostle James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:14-17 To this end, I’ve already taken baby steps in my life to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ to my generation (more on this later), just as I believe Saint Francis did for his. In other words, the prayer not written by, but usually attributed to Saint Francis has also become my prayer:
Image Credit | Saint Francis of Assisi
The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. | In Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons and License Art Libre.