Frank Laubach was a missionary who spent his life among the Mindanao and Moro people groups of the Philippine Islands, ministering to them while furthering education with a highly successful literacy program. While my experience with Laubach and his writing is minimal, I was impacted by this excerpt from his journals, an instance of a person actively set upon practicing the presence of Jesus. It reminds me that submission to the Lord is vital throughout my lawyering days, in all tasks, at all times, even as “I pound the typewriter keys.”
April 22, 1930
This morning I started out fresh, by finding a rich experience of God in the sunrise. Then I tried to let Him control my hands while I was shaving and dressing and eating breakfast. Now I am trying to let God control my hands as I pound the typewriter keys. There is nothing that we can do excepting to throw ourselves open to God. There is, there must be, so much more in Him than He can give us. It ought to be tremendously helpful to be able to acquire the habit of reaching out strongly after God’s thoughts, and to ask, “God, what have you to put into my mind now if only I can be large enough?” That waiting, eager attitude ought to give God the chance He needs.
Oh, this thing of keeping in constant touch with God, making Him the object of my thought and the companion of my conversations, is the most amazing thing I ever ran across. It is working. I cannot do it even half a day—not yet, but I believe I shall be doing it some day for the entire day. It is a matter of acquiring a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s presence so much that when for a half hour or so He slips out of mind—as He does many times a day, I feel as though I had deserted Him, and as though I had lost something very precious in my life.
More excerpts of Laubach’s journals are available at Interacting With Jesus.
I’ve often lamented the busyness of life in law school, that the experience preys upon our desires for success and leads us to forsake the more important things. “I don’t want to waste the opportunity God has given me to attend institution,” says one student, making the slide toward compromise that much easier. It can be a subtle shift in priorities, but one that has ghastly results for our spiritual lives.
How to counteract this creep? In parts one and two to this series, I’ve touched on other non-negotiables for the Christian law student, and now, it’s time to offer yet another:
Contemplation and Sabbath Rest. Continue reading
How time flies! It was already over a month ago that I offered up the first part of my response to the law student’s question, “What are the five things we can’t compromise on in law school?” Now, I return with number three of my remaining “non-negotiables,” hoping they might help Christian students following in my footsteps to avoid a misstep through the spiritual minefield that is law school. Onto item number three!
Loving of Neighbor. In the student meeting that prompted this post, we discussed the story of the rich young ruler and the parable of the Good Samaritan, passages that let wonderful, weighty questions bubble up, like “who is our neighbor today?” and “what bearing Christ’s call to the ruler to give away his wealth and follow him have on us?”
In my prior post, I alluded to the loneliness and isolation of study in the law, but there’s another type of isolation that’s also dangerous, and it might seem an unexpected one to many: the separation from the “other.” Continue reading
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. -Ephesians 1:7-10
Photo of Conor McBride by Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times. Original image available by clicking the photo.
I recently read an article from the New York Times Magazine by Paul Tullis, and it’s powerful.
Entitled “Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?,” it tells the tale of a senseless and stupid murder carried out by Conor McBride, a 19-year-old, against his defenseless fiance. He almost immediately turns himself into police afterward. Continue reading
Filed under Faith, Justice
I recently came upon a excerpt from one of C.S. Lewis’ lectures entitled “The Inner Ring,” and I thought I would share it. It speaks to the common desire in the legal profession to seek and belong to exclusive communities, ones which so easily warp our identity, priorities, relationships and morals. While this portion of the talk deals with him diagnosing the illness, you’ll want to read the rest of the address, available here, where he prescribes the antidote. The added emphasis below is mine.
…I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that “Society,” in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside. Continue reading
“What are the five things we can’t compromise on in law school?”
I was asked this recently on a visit to a group of Christian law students who happen to be struggling with faith in an environment that often does not encourage it nor see its value.
I’ve talked about my struggles in law school in a series of posts and why I nearly decided to drop out. One of the greatest dangers of that milieu is, I think, that it’s soul-numbing. It plays with your priorities. So much of my experience in the institution was conditioning me to choose wrong things and getting rewarded for it. Compromise, then, is the real, true villain. Becoming lukewarm. Gaining the world but losing our souls.
So when faced with this question, I mumbled a few off-the-cuff answers. I’ve since had time to reflect and see my thoughts coalesce, and so I’ll share below. So, in no particular order, I offer two of five things on which we mustn’t compromise in law school: Continue reading
“Most of us spend considerable time putting off the things we should be doing or we would like to do or we want to do–but are afraid to do. We are afraid of failure. We don’t like it, we shun it, we avoid it because of our inordinate desire to be thought well of by others. So we come up with a thousand brilliant excuses for doing nothing. We put things off, waste the energies of life and love that are within us. . . .”
“Each of us pays a heavy price for our fear of falling flat on our face. It assures the progressive narrowing of our personalities and prevents exploration and experimentation. As we get older we do only the things we do well. There is no growth in Christ Jesus without some difficulty and fumbling. If we are going to keep growing, we must keep on risking failure throughout our lives.”
-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 169
We are petrified by our fear of failure.
Manning’s words are relevant to those of us who still try to derive our value through our merit badges, awards and degrees rather than the abiding love and grace of God. Continue reading
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
The past few weeks have seen some ruminations on forgiveness and the legal profession. There was first the call to never lose hope in conflict, and to forgive the unforgivable. Then, there was talk of lawyers being agents of forgiveness. As I’ll be moving on to other topics soon, I wanted to offer a few scattershot thoughts and resources for the forgiving legal professional. Continue reading
Can you be a “good” lawyer and one who fosters and promotes forgiveness?
A forgiving lawyer—one who forgives and leads others in the same direction—seems oxymoronic considering common lawyering stereotypes. It needn’t be.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the call to forgive the unforgivable, but this isn’t something we can will ourselves to do. It is supernatural, requiring God’s strength. It is communal, requiring communities where forgiveness is a discipline, exercised as often as shared meals.
Now, belief that forgiveness and lawyering are at odds comes from sentiments inside and outside the profession. Continue reading
Seeing as few media outlets or blogs can seem to avoid the fray of U.S. electoral politics these days, I thought I’d follow Daniel Colbert’s post on Politics and Christianity and highlight a compelling Christian voice seeking to stimulate theological reflection on our political choices.
Credit for this post goes to a friend of mine, Tim Hoiland, who recently posted over on his blog about an interesting project by theologian Miroslav Volf as Volf tries to articulate 20 different values of Christians, provide a speedy scriptural context for the scope of the debate around these issues, and promote discussion, all via his own Facebook page.
Tim had some great comments of his own on voting and values, so I’d encourage you to visit his post here before jumping to Volf’s own page. Continue reading
…and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
Célestin Musekura was a seminary student in Kenya when his native Rwanda descended into 100 days of genocide in 1994.
A pastor and founder of ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry), he has gone on to preach on the vital need for forgiveness in post-conflict contexts. His ministry was put to the test when most of his own family was murdered in reprisal killings between Hutus and Tutsis in 1998.
How to process such horrific news? How to try to find the capacity to forgive those responsible for the deaths of so many loved ones? And how to handle the memory of those evils after forgiving the perpetrators, to remain free from poisonous bitterness and thoughts of revenge?
I was recently introduced to the “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” an old Irish hymn whose lyrics are attributed to Patrick though the words likely weren’t his own. Translated and set to music in 1898, the hymn took on a new life and reached a new audience.
In my legal work, I often struggle to “practice the presence” of God, getting lost in my busyness without taking time to invite Christ in. I’ve found the Breastplate to be a wonderful invocation for protection against the slings and arrows of life in the trenches of providing legal aid, but also as a way to acknowledge God’s presence and work within me and in the world around me, from my cluttered office to the harried streets of Philadelphia and beyond.
The hymn’s most famous lines, which I’ve highlighted below, are often recited for this very purpose, to acknowledge the Lord’s presence and offer him his rightful invitation into our lives. I hope it speaks to your life today.
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three. Continue reading
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
-Isaiah 53:3 (NKJ
Sorrow. Pain. Grief. Lawyers either avoid them at all costs, deal with them poorly when they come, or embrace them and burn out. Christ shows us yet another way. Continue reading
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
-Psalm 103: 8-12
We recently held an expungement clinic at Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia, and these are proving to be blessed times in the life of our legal ministry, a sort of regular event marked by commemoration and commiseration.
We–clients, lawyers and volunteers–are all brought together to confront our sin. Continue reading