“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

— Luke [11:28]


While at Drew University getting my Master’s in Divinity, I noticed an unusual woman named Theresa. I had seen her a few times, sitting alone quietly on a bench. Prior to class we students often milled around the school’s front door and shared our weekly stories. Theresa usually sat waiting on the bench. She was a large woman and sat there quietly ignored by her classmates. After noticing this a few times, I went over and introduced myself and asked her how she was doing. She smiled and after a few brief questions about her life, she opened up. She told me she worked at night in a hospital as a chaplain. By day she went to seminary to get her master’s degree. She also ran a successful business cutting coupons that she used to help others save money. There was sitting on that bench an unusual person, leading a wonderful life.

Previously, She had been destitute and without money, shunned by society because she didn’t fit in. She prayed for help, and she felt that God had shown her how to earn a decent living cutting coupons and splitting the savings with her customers. Over time, she developed a sizeable following and began to earn enough money to dress well, feed herself, and pay for school. At night she sat with the dying in a local hospital, guiding them home. Only when asked would she reveal these magnificent experiences of transition. 

“Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman.”

Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman. I frequently ran ideas by her, which helped me with practical insights into theology. We all grew to respect her faithfulness and commitment to God. Just before we graduated, a fellow student, who was an extraordinary artist, created a mural of our classmates that he donated to Drew University. It hangs today in Seminary Hall.  At the top of the mural, bathed in light, is this magnificent woman. 

“There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us.”

How many times have we seen that quiet person sitting alone? Why does that person sit alone? What is deep inside him or her that we should know? Perhaps such a person is blessed because he or she knows God. Perhaps that person has a story to tell. In school and in the marketplace we know these people. In each of our lives there is at least one of them. There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us. Perhaps a person blessed by God. We won’t know unless we ask.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



What is the name of the person we know who sits alone on the bench?

What can we learn?

How can we discover greatness in all that we know?



“Go out and stand on the mountain, before the lord . . . and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence”

— 1 Kings 19: 11–12


A friend of mine, Bob, was in the process of selling an important asset. The sale would be a crucial part of his future and success. Bob was determined to be a good seller. To not hide anything from the buyer and provide the buyer with a product that exceeded their expectations. Bob responded faithfully to all the buyer’s requests and went further than his lawyer or broker expected him to go. But the requests didn’t end. After each obstacle was resolved, another popped up. A meeting was scheduled between all the parties to find a clear path to resolution. 

“He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.”

The day before the meeting Bob’s wife announced that the doctor had found something during her checkup that needed a radiologist’s opinion. The appointment with the radiologist was scheduled at the same time as my friend’s important meeting. His wife told him to go to the meeting and she would be okay. Bob felt besieged. How can I ignore my wife? But how can I secure our future? He prayed throughout the day. He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.  Then he went to the meeting and his wife went to the radiologist.

During the meeting, there were many questions. Tough questions. My friend answered them all honestly. At one point the broker for the buyer became unrelenting. Bob felt a spirit of resolve fall over him and became quietly serious. Normally Bob’s mannerisms were friendly and engaging, but now he became dead serious and firm. Looking firmly into the eyes of the buyer and without hesitation he stated, firmly and in a quiet tone, “If there is a problem, I will pay to have it resolved. It is what I have done to this point and will continue to do.” He left the meeting wondering about his wife and at the same time about the state of this important sale. 

“A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers.”

At home he sat in his favorite chair and waited in silence. A short time passed and he got a call. The broker said, “It is done, you have done everything and had no more to do. The sale is going forward.” Shortly after, his wife called and stated that the radiologist had found nothing serious and she would need some minor medical attention only. My friend rested. A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers. No great bell was rung, no fireworks, just a brief moment and the quiet winds of life had brought his answer. Life was back in balance. 

“But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us.”

How many times have we all worried about life? We go to pray and we are still tested. We hear no answer from God and we wonder where God is. But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us. God talks to us sometimes in sheer silence, when we are open and ready to hear. Not necessarily with loud clanging or grandiose fireworks, but in a deeply personal way that restores our faith. In this moment we know God has passed by like a cool summer breeze. Emmanuel, God is with us. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



What moments of our lives have we heard the sheer silence of God?

How does God let us know that it is him who has answered?

In reflection, how do we think back on those events?



“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

—John [17:17]



I met Bishop Earnest Lyght at Drew University. He was the resident bishop for Drew and was frequently available to the students. When you talked with Bishop Lyght, you could feel his truth. Whatever he said, he meant. When he talked, he talked without agenda. What he believed came from his heart. Not varnished, just a humble recitation of what he believed. He said what he believed with the knowledge that he needed to know more. A conversation with Bishop Lyght was a mutual dialogue. I am sure in silent moments of prayer, he searched his heart and desired only to tell God what was right.

Bishop Lyght was one of the early black bishops of the Methodist Church. He grew up at a time when the Methodist Church was segregated. It wasn’t until 1968 that these separate entities of race were dissolved and black pastors were welcome throughout the church. In spite of this obvious racism, Bishop Lyght continued his ministry with grace and truth. He commonly spoke out for the denied. He worked hard for equal rights of women and the poor. He wrote four books. But when you sat with him, you were with him. He listened and replied. His “thank-you’s” and “good days” were sincere. If something had to be fixed, regardless of the cost, he fixed it. His heart was always centered on the truth.

“Jesus says that our word is the truth.”

Jesus says that our word is the truth. That all we do should be centered on a sanctifying truth. A truth that courses through us to be the only thing we speak and do. In today’s world of fake news,  quick thank-yous that are said as an obligation and sleight of hand, Jesus’s ancient statement still applies. When we meet someone, we should be glad to meet that person. Our thanks in our emails should be sincere. When we tell a story, we should tell the whole story. What comes from us should always be the truth. 

“When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth.”

It is sometimes hard to tell the truth. It can compromise our lives. We worry and fret about the consequences. When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth. We need to be always on guard about where our stories are leading us. Is it to gain favor? Is it to get something? When we say thank you, are we sincere? When we leave out facts, what is our purpose? Each day we struggle to be sincere. Each day we struggle to say what we mean. Each day we desire to be truthful. Some days we accomplish our tasks. Some days we don’t.

I am glad to have met Bishop Lyght. He is, in fact, a beacon of light. He is one of those people we aspire to be. His truth guides us. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



What is truth in conversation?

What is truth in action?

How do we feel after we have been sincere?



“So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

— Genesis [1:27]



George  was raised in a wealthy home and went to Harvard. Instead of studying economics or business, he pursued a path of social advocacy. He eventually graduated with a master’s in Social Work. From there, with his wife, he started an organization called Street Squash, a program that provided inner city youth with access to college. The sport of squash was used to add an advantageous credit for the young people when applying to college, but it was not the primary focus of Street Squash. The students were provided with a place to go after school and study. They had tutors and visited college campuses. The goal was to create access for a segment of our population that needed a head start. George could have been a great investment banker, but chose instead a life of helping.

From his kitchen table George built an organization that has sent thousands of youth to college. And he has helped in the establishment of fourteen other programs throughout the country.   The graduation rate of students from these programs is substantially higher than national statistics. The youth from Street Squash achieve an almost 90 percent graduation rate. Without Street Squash, their chances were 15 percent. George only sees goals. He only sees that the youth are people. He knew that squash gave the students athletic content for their college résumés, and he knew Squash would help him with fund-raising.

“George reflects the Imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.”

Today’s verse comes from the book of Genesis and reflects the earliest statement from God on how humankind is viewed. We are all made in the image of God. Theologians call this Imago Dei. In today’s world of labeling from all corners,  people like George gets lost in the din of noise about racism, liberalism, conservatism, misogyny, and all the other labels we use to describe one another. Our news media encourages labeling because it increases viewership, which in turn increases revenue. All at the expense of the imago Dei. I know George and wish he was better known by others. George reflects the imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.

“There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God.”

In this time of great divide between all the various factions, it is important for us to reflect on what God means with the image of God. There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God. When we label, we diminish the intent of God. The solution to this great divide is turning back to God’s original intent and away from the commercialization of labels.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



How do we see people when we first meet them?

What does the imago Dei look like?

How do we feel when we are labeled?



“All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner”

— Luke [19:70]



I remember meeting Rudy Rasmus in a private room with a bishop of the United Methodist Church. He was a talker. He had stories that were riveting, about his past, his ministry, and the poor. He is a pastor for a Methodist church in Houston, but prior to that he had run a bordello. He would admit he was a sinner. He’d come to face Jesus and turned his life around. After passing his tests to become a pastor, he was given a church in one of the poorest sections of Houston. The church had nine members. Undaunted he moved forward with this small church. In a move of pure faith and to get more people to come his church, he started paying one dollar to anyone who would show up.

Today, the church Rudy serves is over nine thousand people strong. Thirty percent of the people were previously homeless. And it is one of the most culturally diverse churches in the country. Rudy attributes the success of the church he pastor’s, to the fact that it contains a group of people who embrace the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, racism, and sexism and building bridges to experience Christ. The church feeds the poor. Builds housing for the homeless. All through a nonprofit called the Bread of Life. The church and Rudy have changed the landscape in downtown Houston. Rudy doesn’t usually preach these days; he leaves that up to the other ministers. Instead he greets church attendees at the door and welcomes them. 

“For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences.”

In today’s verse we hear people grumbling that Jesus was going to be a house guest of a sinner. This was a frequent activity of Jesus. He dined with sinners. He stayed at their houses. He spent his time in the Judean marketplace helping all who worked there. Jesus views each person as equal. He even converted women of ill repute. Everyone was worthy of God. For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences. We are all God’s people. Jesus hung out with everyone. 

“We are all God’s people.”

When we see a poor person on the street, do we walk to the other side? Do we judge a person or try to understand their circumstance? It is hard to engage on a sincere basis when we meet someone in a situation different than our own. It is hard to not be wary or judgmental. We all wrestle with the idea of hanging out with those who come from a different social stratum. But we don’t know their journey to this point. Perhaps they were once where we are. Perhaps their circumstance arises from an abusive home situation or poor choices from the past. Perhaps they are grappling with a serious medical ailment. Perhaps they were abandoned by their families. We all have one important thing in common: We are all God’s people.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



How do we approach new people in our lives?

What judgments do we make?

Can we see God in every person?



“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seeds fell on the ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

– Mark 4:3-8



Those of us who work in the marketplace often have annual performance reviews, during which our superiors tell us how we did. Some years we do very well, and others, not so well. Some review recommendations we listen to; others we don’t. In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives us a performance review template to help us assess where we are with our faith. The seed that fell on the path is one that never really gave faith a chance. The seed on the rock is one that wants faith, but does little to nurture its faith. The one in the thorns, while faithful, allows the worries of the day to strangle its faith. The seed in the good soil nurtures and is patient with its faith, and allows worries to disappear.

“Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.”

But are we just one of these seeds, or a mixture of all of these types of seeds? We are all affected by our circumstances and by situations we encounter. Our reactions to these circumstances affect our faith. Bad financial situations may cause us to worry. Our experiences with difficult people may cause us to give up our Christian values. When we reach a mental state where we feel we are in the good soil, situations inevitably arise that test our faith.

We all want to be the seed in the good soil, but in tough times we worry, become angered, or otherwise lose our composure. In doing so, we end up on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns. Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.

Donna, a successful business owner I know, told me once that she was prone to anger when confronted with a difficult person or situation. Over time, she learned to identify the triggers that affected her mood and her spirit. When this happened, she would mentally distance herself from the situation and tell herself to simply observe her surroundings, to take in information passively, while letting time and distance quiet her impulsive reactivity.

Peter, a former colleague, would pull me aside during difficult, high-stress situations and suggest the two of us go for a walk. We would head out to grab a snack while we talked about football. This was our way of creating space to prevent us from becoming reactive, which would ultimately move us farther from our goals.

We all want to be in the good soil, and we become frustrated that we aren’t there all the time. Learning to identify and deal with our triggers helps us stay on course. None of us is just one “seed” all the time, and when we find ourselves on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns, Jesus can help us find our way back to the good soil.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



What situations move us from good soil?

How do we react to life’s difficult circumstances?


“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

– Luke [22:42]



A young man in his early thirties, late at night in an ancient Judean garden, asks, “Are you sure this is the only way?” This was the third time during the evening the young man had returned to the garden. Each time with the same request, “Are you sure?” The fullness of his humanity exposed and somber, he was sweating to the point of bleeding. Finally relenting, he gives in to the task by saying, “Not my will, but yours.” He knew what lay ahead. Betrayal by his friends and humiliation in front of his community. A long, agonizing beating that would tear skin from his back. Followed by an arduous trek carrying his cross to a hill. Where he would finally be put to death. A gruesome task he had to accomplish to create a connected relationship for humanity with God. He was creating a flower for humankind called Easter.

How many times in our work lives are we faced with difficult choices? The choice between momentary safety and doing what’s right. While none our decisions have the drama of Jesus’s prayer in the garden, there are strong parallels. We have to tell our boss bad news and bear the burden of delivering the news. We are internally and externally coaxed to sugarcoat what we have to say. Perhaps blame someone else. Or even conceal the news. All these shortcuts will avoid that moment of having to deliver a tough message. The walk to deliver the news will seem like an eternity. Each breath and thought will hang thickly, almost choking us. But we have a choice and we have an example from the garden. We have all been in this spot.

Consider Sherron Watkins, the executive who delivered the bad news about Enron. Shortly afterward she became a pariah with the insiders at Enron. Her daily life was difficult and lonely. As time wore on and the issues she revealed came fully to light, she became a model for corporate integrity. In 2001 she was named one of Time magazine’s People of the Year.

“Not my will, but yours.”

Confronting the natural challenges in the marketplace is an everyday job. Many times tough and uneasy decisions have to be made. We are fortunate we have the example of Jesus in the garden to model. Through our daily prayers and relationship with God, we become emboldened and confident in decision making. Not fearing the temporary pain that is often associated with a tough decision, but sure in our faith that God is with us.

Blessing, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman



What tough decisions do we have to make today?

Do they help our neighbor?

Are we thinking of ourselves or making the right choice?