Today’s find: Descent

The Spirit stirred a bit in a city park yesterday. So why am I surprised?

It had been a long time since the group of us had gotten together in person – eight weeks? Ten? (I mean, really: who can keep count anymore?)

Even as we gathered, I was viscerally aware of what we had lost. Our Saturday morning faith-sharing group had never before had to practice “social distancing,” for example. Nor had we ever resorted to holding our meeting outdoors.

The headcount was down significantly, too: Just seven or eight of us showed up – about a third of the crowd our weekly meeting has typically attracted over the past 16 years.

Presence…in the park.

Despite all this diminishment, I found myself savoring the human presence – recalling, as it did, this memorable moment recounted in the Acts of the Apostles: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”

Indeed, it was good to be gathered with my brothers-in-Christ at the park, even if elbow-bumps had replaced our traditional hugs and handshakes. It made a difference to me – the chance to bridge a kinesthetic divide that a Zoom chat is powerless to address.

…tongues as of fire came to rest on each of them…

As our faith-sharing continued, this presence manifested itself as a gift of the Holy Spirit – to me, anyway. Deep into the discussion, I found myself unpacking a particular spiritual defect that I’ve noticed rearing its head in recent weeks – anger. All kinds of things, indignities large and small, seem to set me off lately. And each time I rage against the machine, I notice how it tends to darken my heart and poison my spirit.

Intriguingly, while I spoke of “anger”, my brothers heard some entirely different things coming from my lips. (Another Pentecost gift, perhaps? “…they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language…”)

As I confessed my anger…my brothers instead heard things like “fear” and “entitlement” and “ingratitude.” Guilty, on every count, I realized. Especially that last one. When I focus on loss, it utterly blinds me to the manifold blessings in my life. I lose sight of the forest for the trees.

And so then as I sit with, and ponder, this gift I received in the city park on Pentecost eve, I am moved also to share it with you.

As the Spirit descends…yesterday, today, and evermore…let us begin by declaring our dependency on our loving God for each heartbeat of our lives, for every breath we take.

And then let us lift our eyes, in gratitude.

Even in our groanings, we lift our eyes to You, O Lord, in gratitude.


Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.


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8 thoughts on “Today’s find: Descent

  1. Mary Kopuster


  2. Mary Heinsz

    Call it what you want: anger, fear, ingratitude…frustration! Some days I feel like a “human volcano” and all the lava, hot mess feelings, come pouring out! Hopefully the Spirit guides the lava flow and not too much damage occurs in the process. You did give me an idea for our prayer groups–hadn’t thought of a pavilion at a park. They should be pretty empty at 7 am!! Bring our own chair and coffee!

    • We had good luck with the pavilion strategy…of course, the weather was beautiful, so that helps, too! 😇

  3. This one really hit home. Thanks John. We always seem to need help, so one of my daily prayers, is asking for help today, because I can’t do it alone…… I don’t want to do it alone. Can you let me know when you’re meeting. I like to try and fill your ranks.

  4. Thank you John. Words of wisdom as usual. I feel so frustrated with myself these days. It seems I move between fear and anger. I was thinking about the passage in Matthew where Peter walked on the water. He stepped out of the boat and walked, but he let the storm frighten him and he began to sink. This seems to be the story of my life right now. When I focus on the storm and turn my eyes from Jesus I begin to sink. The Spirit continues to send me hope through people like you. I am reminded of the blessing our God gives us each day. Gratitude seems like a simple thing, but sometimes so difficult to practice. We need these reminders.

    I am enjoying your book! It is a blessing.

    • I appreciate your comments, Dan…
      I think there’s a lot to be said for “fellowship” and “mutual encouragement” these days. We do draw strength from each other, perhaps because the times make us feel our utter powerlessness whenever we try to go it alone. That’s what being part of the Body of Christ is all about, I guess…
      Hang in there, my friend…and let’s keep each other in prayer!

  5. rev john reiker

    thanks john for courageous sharing which does hit home for us all
    –i agree with rohr: ” we come to god by doing it wrong” and “trust (jesus) is working in us … transforming our every cross into resurrected glory”
    –and might i add in our troubled times of racism: “community forms when ego-focused concerns recede in favor of shared agendas and a more universal identity”

    • Yes, agreed … although this community-forming thing is very hard work. Praying for the grace to stay engaged in the process…and perhaps to bring others along. “In gratitude!” 😇

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