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Posts by Ruth Haley Barton

Part 3: The Nature of the Spiritual Journey

You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of this eReflections series. Then he said to them, “How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) If you ask people to…

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Part 2: Welcoming the Stranger

Part 1 of this eReflections series can be found here. Part 3 can be found here. “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’” —Luke 24: 16,…

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Part 1: The Road Between the Now and the Not-Yet

You can also read Part 2 and Part 3 of this eReflections series. “The Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Luke’s account of Resurrection Sunday includes the story of two dazed and distraught disciples traveling along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It was Sunday, the third day of the most traumatic weekend of their lives, and they…

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Practicing Lent: Ash Wednesday as a Way of Entering In

Click for guidance on using the lectionary Lectionary Readings for Ash Wednesday Year B: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Today is Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Church’s observance of the Lenten season.  At some point throughout this day, many of us will experience the symbolic gesture of receiving the…

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Preparing for Lent – Returning to God with All My Heart


Click for guidance on using the lectionary Lectionary Readings for Ash Wednesday Year B: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “‘And yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart . . .’” – Joel 2:12 This year Ash Wednesday comes early! Whether we feel ready…

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Leadership that is Transforming or Deforming?

For the last few weeks I have been pondering what one journalist calls “The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill Church.” For those who may not be familiar, Mars Hill is a mega, multi-site church in Seattle whose high profile pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned in October amid “an avalanche of allegations, ranging from charges of bullying, to…

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Reveal: Finding God in the Ordinary


Click for guidance on using the lectionary. Epiphany of the Lord: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12 “The incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life.” – Macrina Wiederkehr Today, in the rhythm of the church year, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany—the manifestation of…

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Spiritual Transformation in the Church

Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH WHEN IT COMES TO SPIRITUAL FORMATION IN CHRIST? Barton: The Church (capital C) is the body of Christ on earth now and it is the primary context in which we grow up in every way into him who is our head (Eph. 4:15). In Pauline writings, instructions about…

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How Silently, How Silently, The Wondrous Gift is Given

Christmas Eve:  Isaiah 9:2-7 Psalm 96 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-14 (15-20) Christmas Day:  Isaiah 52:7-10 Psalm 98 Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12) John 1:1-14 Click for complete Advent calendar (Cycle B) and guidance on using the lectionary. “Christ is born to us today, in order that he might appear to the whole world through us.” -Thomas Merton…

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With Gratitude for Pastors Everywhere

With gratitude for pastors everywhere

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.”  Psalm 138:3 Several years ago I went to a particularly difficult memorial service with my daughter, Haley. It was the funeral for one of her friends from high school who died in a complicated way from causes that were not entirely…

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The Practice of Keeping Vigil During Holy Week

Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother Mary, and the apostle John stayed near the cross and kept watch as Jesus suffered and died.

Scripture for Good Friday (April 18, 2014): Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42 “Who can stay awake in this night of God? Who will not be as if paralyzed by it? Christ’s struggle was with God. This was his real agony. He overcame it through his self-surrender. That was his victory, and our hope.” …

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Season of Returning: Rain at Winter’s End

Winter's end

“Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea!” —I Kings 18:44 I love the way the rain comes at winter’s end hosing down the sooty earth, washing away the dirt that comes from who-knows-where. Oh God, I need a cleansing rain in my life, sullied as I…

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An Invitation to Walk With Christ on Good Friday

Invitation to Walk with Christ on Good Friday

Prayerfully walking through the stations of the cross is one way we can keep vigil with Christ during these holy days, and as a part of our Holy Week observance we are inviting you to keep vigil through our Stations of the Cross Prayer Guide. Traditionally, there are fourteen Stations of the Cross—most of them taken…

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Ash Wednesday: Crossing the Threshold into Lent


Scripture for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “‘And yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart . . .’” —Joel 2:12  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Church’s observance of the Lenten season—six weeks that are set apart for…

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Season of Returning: A Leader’s Journey into Lent


Scripture for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “Lent is a time of returning to God.  It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace, and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us without really finding what we desire. …

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Presidents Day: What We Know for Sure


“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.  Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.  This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”…

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Christmastide: From Waiting to Wonder

Advent candles

Lectionary Readings for Christmas Eve: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14 (15-20) for Christmas Day: Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12), John 1:1-14 Advent Calendar (Cycle A) and guidance for using the lectionary “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”—O Little Town of Bethlehem Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent…

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Advent 4: Joseph And The Walk Of Faith

Joseph and his walk of faith

Lectionary Readings for December 22, 2013: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25 Advent Calendar (Cycle A) and guidance for using the lectionary “Sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we see and…

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Advent 3: Gifts In The Wilderness

Desert Sand

Lectionary Readings for December 15, 2013: Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11 Advent Calendar (Cycle A) and guidance for using the lectionary “The desert of which I speak is a desert of the spirit: a place of revelation, conversion, and transformation… It involves being ‘made over’, being made new, being ‘born again’… In…

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Advent 2: Joyful Preparations

Baby Jesus

If you are joining us for week 2, you might want to also access other eReflections in this Advent series: Read Advent 1—The Importance of Waking up Lectionary readings for Dec 08, 2013: Is 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Rom 15:4-13; Matt 3:1-12 Click for complete Advent calendar (Cycle A) and guidance on using the lectionary. “Our spiritual life depends…

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Advent 1: The Importance of Waking Up


Lectionary readings for Dec 01, 2013. Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Rom 13:11-14; Matt 24:36-44 Click for complete Advent calendar (Cycle A) and guidance on using the lectionary. “God comes to us like the sun in the morning—when it is time.”—Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes My favorite time of any day is the pre-dawn moments before the…

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Sabbath in Late Fall

Sabbath in the fall

For everything there is a season… Sometimes on the Sabbath all you can do is settle into the soft body of yourself and listen to what it says. Listen to the exhaustion that is deeper than tiredness the hunger that is for more than food the thirst that is for more than drink the longing…

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Part 5: Leading in Rhythm: Discerning and Doing the Will of God

beach path

If you are joining us for Part 5, you might want to also access other eReflections in this series, Leading in Rhythm: • Part 1—Beyond the Bondage of Busyness  • Part 2—Rhythms of Work and Rest • Part 3—Solitude and Community • Part 4—Three Moves in Self-Examination “Spiritual leadership springs forth in grace from our very…

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Part 3 Leading in Rhythm: Solitude and Community

Sunlight breaking through clouds

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community…But the reverse is also true: let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer In this paradoxical statement from his book Life Together, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulates one of the…

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Part 2 Leading in Rhythm: Rhythms of Work and Rest


“A Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God…Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest.” —Hebrews 4:9,11 Sabbath-keeping is more than just a day of rest; it is a way of ordering one’s entire life around a pattern of working six days and then resting on the seventh. It is an…

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He is Risen! Hallelujah!

Resurrection of the Lord Acts 10:34-43 OR Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12 Song of Praise Psalm 118 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His steadfast love endures forever! The Lord is my strength and my song; and he has become…

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Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday: 
A Prayer for Entering into these Holy Days

Maundy Thursday Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35 Good Friday Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42 Holy Saturday Job 14:1-14  OR Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42 “Stay together, friends, don’t scatter and sleep. …

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Week 6 An Invitation to Walk with Christ

Sixth Sunday in Lent Liturgy of the Palms: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Luke 19:28-40 Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49 “The whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is…

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Week 5 Suffering: Dying That We Might Live

Lectionary Readings for Fifth Sunday in Lent Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8 “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”                              …

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Week 4 Confession: Leaders in Lent

Lectionary Readings for Fourth Sunday in Lent Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32  “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord…’”  Psalm 32:5 I have many big dreams, but there is one dream I have…

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Week 3 Repentance: Cleaning Our Messy House

Lectionary Readings for Third Sunday in Lent Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let us return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on us, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7…

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Week 2 Self Denial: Setting Our Minds on Things Above

Lectionary readings for Second Sunday in Lent (Cycle C) Genesis 15:1-12, 17-28; Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1a; Luke 13:31-35 Come my heart says, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, do I seek.     —Psalm 27:8 Most years I don’t feel quite ready for Lent with all its demands and disciplines—especially the call to self-denial and fasting. I…

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Week 1: Crossing the Threshold into Lent

Scripture for First Sunday in Lent: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13 The season of Lent derives its structure and its themes from Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, where he fasted, prayed and faced Satan’s temptations.  This was not punishment; in fact he had just experienced God’s public affirmation of his true identity as “my Son,…

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Lent: A Season of Returning

Stations of the Cross

Scripture for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; II Corinthians 5:20-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “‘And yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart . . .’” —Joel 2:12 Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Church’s observance of the Lenten season—six weeks set apart for the purpose of drawing…

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Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land!” —Martin Luther King, Jr. Is it possible for a leader to have encountered God so richly that no matter what we are working toward here on this earth, we know…

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Epiphany: A Dangerous Journey

Lectionary readings:  Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12 Lectionary Calendar (Cycle C) and guidance for using the lectionary This Sunday officially marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the season of Epiphany—the “showing forth” or “the revelation” of God’s presence to unlikely people in unlikely places.  On this…

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Advent 4: Saying Yes to God

Lectionary Readings for December 22, 2012: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55 Advent Calendar (Cycle C) and guidance for using the lectionary In the fourth week of Advent we begin to move beyond waiting and preparation to a deeper sense of the immanency of Christ’s coming. Anticipation is high. The fourth Sunday of…

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Advent 1: Season of Desire

Lectionary Readings for December 2, 2012: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; I Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36 Advent Calendar (Cycle C) and guidance for using the lectionary Apparently American consumerism has reached a new low. As one news article described it, “The gravy was still warm. The Dallas Cowboys were still in uniform.  Thanks were still being given across the…

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Seasons of Transformation: Advent 2012

The seasons of the church year are meant to teach us something about the spiritual life we need to learn.  Beyond mere information about the spiritual life, they offer us the opportunity to practice some of the key disciplines of the Christian life and to do it together as a community of faith. The Advent season,…

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Dreams and Visions

Twenty years ago, as a young minister in my early thirties, I hit a wall in my spiritual life.  I was exhausted.  I was driven.  I was disillusioned. I had sucked every last bit of marrow out of the dry bones of traditional quiet times, noisy church services, chatty small groups, and Christian self-help books.…

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