“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Five: Corner Shops

Mary Beth, over at RevGals offers this Friday Five:


1. If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be? I'd offer holistic health care that paid the therapists a living wage and made the treatments available to everyone. We'd have yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, Reike, shiatsu, chiropractic, sauna and steam rooms, and a whirlpool, health classes on vitamins and diet, meditation classes, religion and spirituality resources, and a tea room where one could eat a simple healthy meal, drink delicious tea, and read.

2. What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most? I can't think of anything. However, what I wish for is a good old fashioned vegetarian restaurant - although we have lots of veggie options of the Middle Eastern variety, I'd love a vegetarian restaurant like we had in Chicago: Blind Faith or Heartland.


3. What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make? I'm really not a business person. But if I could create my own business I'd do what I mentioned in #1. Although maybe I'd add one more component to that response: I'd also offer silent retreats with walking paths and labyrinth.
 

4. What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in? Like portions of Chicago thirty years ago, there are portions of Detroit that have been devastated by the economy. This makes them ripe for some creative innovation to take over - but so far it seems that there is still too much crime and corruption.
 

5. We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out? See my first answer....that's my idea of a cool place, although not necessarily disparate ideas being combined....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King: expressing God's love in a diverse world...



A reflection on the readings for Christ the King, Last Pentecost


The other day I was doing some work around the church building. It was quiet and I was all alone. Suddenly I heard a scrambling sound and went to investigate. Down the hall from my office, I came upon a squirrel. The squirrel froze in place and looked me in the eye. Without comment the squirrel turned and bounded down the hall, tail switching. He took a left toward the entrance to the parking lot, and then because the doors were closed, circled through Bobs office and then back down the hall the other way toward the church. Following it I closed interior doors along the way, minimizing its options.  I opened the exterior doors hoping the fresh air would guide it outside. I finally arrived in the church where I found the squirrel hiding under a pew in the choir loft. It scampered past me down the stairs and into the church hiding under pews in the front couple of rows. Around and around we went; me and the squirrel.  Jan arrived and we worked together to minimize the direction the squirrel could take. Suddenly it went out the door, down the hall, and down the stairs toward Chapel Day. Then, suddenly there it was, behind me once again, heading toward the church. With a swish of its tail it made it a right hand turn out of sight. The last I saw of it, the squirrel was jumping off the ramp into the grass. 



I'm grateful the squirrel found its way out the door I propped open. I really didn’t want to lose it in the building, call animal control and set traps, or worry about what mischief or harm might ensue from its captivity.  

Since Pentecost we have been in the season of Ordinary Time, also known as the Season after the Pentecost. Today we celebrate the last day of this season and of the liturgical church year – which is known as “Christ the King.” Christ the King is a relatively new feast day established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a response to increasing dictatorships in Europe, the end of World War I, and the church’s loss of power. 

The feast was initially set for the last day in October, the day before All Saints Day. Later, in 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast to the last Sunday before Advent. Placing it on a Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year increased its importance.

The feast day was created to remind people that salvation comes through Christianity. However, now, in an increasingly global world, this concept is complicated. 

Perhaps it helps to know that every tradition claims - at least in principle - that salvation comes through that particular faith.  Hindus see Jesus as a manifestation of the timeless Brahman; Buddhists claim the universality of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path; and Muslims freely interpret Hebraic and Christian scriptures in light of Allah’s revelation to Mohammed. [i]
 
Claiming Christ the King - in the context of other world religions - reminds us that God reveals God’s self in the world in many ways.  Different cultures and ages experience the divine in unique ways.[ii] 

By the creativity in the world around us,it seems that God loves diversity. Take for example, the many different kinds of squirrels, which come from a rodent family called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are divided into five subfamilies, with about 58 genera and some 285 species. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. 

We have some very brave squirrels around the church property – not only the one that found its way into the church, but a whole variety of tree squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks that live in the backyard of the rectory and entertain us endlessly with their antics. 

Variety is an expression of God’s self –in creation, of which squirrels are just a tiny example -  and in the varieties of religions and religious experience.

In light of global world religions and cultural diversity what can we claim on this feast day of Christ the King?
Our scripture readings this morning remind us that God’s love for us and all creation is formed in an everlasting covenant of love and compassion. God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. As Christians we know God’s love as it is manifested in and through the life of Jesus.  Jesus expresses God’s love in acts of compassion for all people.

Today we come to the end of our year of learning what it means to know God’s love in Jesus through the lens of the Gospel of Mark. Since Advent last November, we have read Mark, and we have pondered the question Mark’s Gospel seems to address –  “Where do we find God?” 

Where have you found God this last year?

 In what act of compassion has God been revealed to you? 

When were you the hands and heart of Christ to another?


Friday, November 23, 2012

RevGals Friday Five: Left-overs...

Deb, over at the RevGals blog offers this post-Thanksgiving Friday Five:

.... let's think about leftovers today..

1. What has SURPRISED you in this season of Thanksgiving? My husband and are parents of grown children. Our daughter is 24 and our son is 20. Our daughter lives 300 miles away and is involved with a man who may become her life-partner. As a result she needs to share the holidays with his family and with ours. I am taking the approach my mother-in-law always took - go easy on yourself. Don't spread yourself so thin trying to engage with ALL of family that you can't enjoy any of it. That means that this year she and Keith did not come here for any part of the Thanksgiving weekend. Instead she went to Keith's family and then stop by and visited some extended family (her aunt - my husband's sister, and cousins). And, it was okay. We called each other via "Face Time on our iPads and talked for a bit.

My husband, son, and I spent the day together and had fun. We drove to the country and cut a fresh Christmas tree. Made a delicious Thanksgiving meal, walked our dogs, and decorated the Christmas tree. Even our son commented on what a nice Thanksgiving we had. 



2. Share a recipe or a favorite way to use up all the extra food from a big holiday meal! What's your specialty?  When I was little it was my job to clean the carcass of the turkey so we could make soup or a casserole. I really hated that job. As an adult I simply don't do it. I throw out the carcass (I know it's wasteful, some would say). I am not a big fan of  left-over turkey casseroles or soup. Tonight we will have a repeat of last night's meal and that will use up all the left-overs. Then any turkey that is left over I will add to a pot of black bean chicken/turkey chili that I plan to make. (I have saved the broth from a recent crock-pot chicken and a lot of the left over meat). I plan to:

Soak black beans over night. In the morning I will rinse them (again) and then boil them for an hour or so. In a skillet I will saute onion, celery, and green pepper then add that to the boiling pot of beans. I'll add the chicken broth and chopped chicken/turkey and season it with cumin, chili powder, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper, some diced tomatoes or a can of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce or paste (depending on how liquidy it is. I may add a can of corn.  We'll eat it with some grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.I'll make a batch of corn bread to serve with it.



3. We have a Sunday in between Thanksgiving and Advent this year, (to which all the preachers say, "THANK YOU!") Are you wrapping up Thanksgiving, preaching about Christ the King, or having "leftovers" with someone doing pulpit supply? It will no doubt be light attendance with the kids present for the entire service. I will have an all generations sermon focusing on thanksgiving and the Reign of Christ (as our Feast of Title day). I will probably talk about the squirrel I encountered IN THE CHURCH on Wednesday and have pictures of squirrels for the kids to color. I have no idea how I will connect the squirrel to the feast day and thanks-giving...but I think it will be something along the lines of enjoying life in the simple ways.

4. Do you give the holidays their due? Or are you tempted to rush past the fall festivals for a love of Christmas? I think we made a nice transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas in the same day.

5. Is there some THING, some TASK or some ONE who gets the "leftovers" of your attention?
In my busy life it seems there is always some thing, task, or person getting the left-overs of my attention. But eventually everything moves UP the list and gets my attention, it just might take awhile...that, or I have to let it go (usually not a person, often a task gets let go of)...

BONUS: A photo of your last holiday spread, family/guests or soup pot. Or those who are begging for the same. 

No photo of our holiday spread....




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

 Today will be a simple day for me and my family. At the moment I am nursing a sore throat, sitting by a fire in the fireplace and sipping coffee with raw honey.

Our daughter will not be here, she and her boyfriend have to go back to work and time is limited. So, they will spend the day with Keith's family. My husband, son, and I will head out later this morning to cut down a fresh Christmas tree. I have already made an apple/pear/cranberry/blueberry/raspberry pie and a pumpkin pie. The onion and celery and fresh sage are ready for the stuffing. I made the cranberry relish and baked the sweet potatoes. So after we get the tree all we have to do is put the turkey in and make mashed potatoes, and dinner is ready. Later tonight we'll decorate the tree. Mostly we'll just enjoy the day.



A couple of quotes and a prayer for this Thanksgiving Day. Where ever you are may your heart be filled with gratitude and peace.


Johannes A. Gaertner
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.

Cynthia Ozick
We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

Melody Beattie
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.


Litany of Thanksgiving

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.
For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.
For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the  Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, Pg. 836

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ultimate Substance...philosophy 101

A week ago I was immersed in a restful Pre-Advent retreat with two other clergy-women friends. The three of us decided we really needed some time away, time to rest and just be together. We brought in my Spiritual Director who offered us some gentle yet thought provoking reflections on Adventy-themes: emptiness, anticipation, vulnerability, waiting, fullness, birth. We went to a retreat center about two hours away, spent two nights there, appreciated someone else cooking the meals and cleaning up afterward. We drank tea, colored mandalas, prayed, walked, talked, enjoyed a glass of wine together.

Of course, as usual, the return was full - each of us launched back into church life and family life and pre-holiday plans. I have barely been able to catch my breath. So it is, the life of a parish priest.

I'm slowly getting back to the book on philosophy (Philosophy:Something to Believe In by Richard Paul Janaro, Glencoe Press,1975). I am determined to read the entire book and have a better sense of this discipline.

Chapter two delves into the starting point for philosophy, according to Janaro: "Ultimate Substance." This refers to that which underlies or forms the basis for all existence (page 21).
"It is that beyond which the philosopher cannot go in (her or) his thinking. Beyond it there is nothing. Before it there is nothing. To venture a specific explanation, a definition of what substance actually is, means making a major commitment of one's thought in a certain direction. If one believes, for example, that God is ultimate substance and that God is spiritual or nonmaterial in nature, then one is really saying that matter and the laws governing matter will never help us to understand what existence is all about."
In contrast one can also believe that all of life is made up of matter or energy and therefore the ultimate substance of life can be determined, along with how it started and where it came from. Janaro then reflects on the relationship between and the influence of science and philosophy on the thousand-plus years discussion of Ultimate Substance. Janaro thinks that engaging the idea of Ultimate Substance and pondering our ability to understand, or not, the point at which reality truly began, is the greatest concern of philosophy.

Philosophers such as Socrates and his student Plato pondered the concept of Ultimate Substance and wanted to know whether all things in nature re reducible to one original material. And if so, how did the diversity of things come about? Is there a "fundamental law" governing all of life - or is change accidental, random, and hit or miss? Or perhaps change is part of an orderly process directed by something inherent in the original material from which everything else arose? Is the Ultimate Substance "divine" or "intelligent"-  and if neither of these is true, then how could there be an observable order to creation such as night and day, the seasons, etc.?

Philosophical thought moves from Socrates and Plato to Thales, who attempted to answer the question: "What is the world made of?" Thales believed that water was the ultimate substance from which all of life and the world derived. Anaximander, a pupil of Thales thought that it was just as likely that any of the four basic materials - water, earth, air, fire - could each be considered the ultimate, in which case none of them were. He posited the idea that fire, earth, water, and air came from something he called the "Indefinite." The Indefinite was infinite because it did not come from anything but it contained the seeds for the four basic materials.

Heraclitus, born around 430 BCE in Ephesus, was the first philosopher to seek an Ultimate Substance that was not material, but instead was a principle. Heraclitus called this the "logos" and defined it as the "formula or element of arrangement common to all things." (page 28). The "logos" as a non-material Ultimate Substance could be exempt from characteristics of other known substances - it could be alive or generate its own life and be responsible for all other things - AND - it could be exempt from the fundamental law of cause and effect  - it could be conceived as always having been in existence - where as everything else must have an origin from some preceding cause. This is the Judeo-Christian concept of God - that which has always existed, was not created, but from which everything else has been created. Heraclitus further developed his idea by stating that when logos, since it could do anything - embodied itself in form - then the earth was created.  Christians have adapted this idea to explain the Incarnation - that the logos further embodied itself and took on human form.

Janaro considers many other philosophers and in their pursuit of the Ultimate Substance: Pythagoras (mathematician who tried to link mass and numbers to describe a stable system with a universal common denominator), Parmenides (Eastern thought that describes "reality" as the ultimate substance - there is either Being or non-being); Zeno, Anaxagoras, and David Hume are others discussed in this portion of the chapter. He then moves on to Aristotle, Aquinas and Spinoza and concludes with Einstein and Whitehead.

Aristotle developed the concept of a "system" model - the Ultimate Substance and what comes from it co-exist, without beginning or end. For Aristotle the ultimate is no less than the entire system of nature working as it must. (page 39). Aristotle did not need to explain "how" order came into the universe because the universe "was" order. Thomas Aquinas adapted Aristotle's beliefs into Christian terms, but instead of the system being the ultimate substance for Aquinas, God is the ultimate and God brought the system into being.  Augustine first described God as creating the world out of nothing, Nothing because that then did not impose limitations on God as creator - anything was possible. Aquinas builds off of Augustines idea and expands it - since God is distinct from the universe and since humanity is made in God's image, human beings are also distinct from, apart from, the system (nature).

Janaro, seems to care deeply about the environment and the impact of human life on the world. He describes the philosophical implications of this line of thought - that humans, because we are made in God's image and there for distinct and separate from creation - have "dominion over" the world, are causing irresponsible destruction of the environment. (page 41). Remember, this book was published in 1975. And now, almost 38 years later we are suffering from mega-storms that truly seem to be the result of global warming.

Spinoza develops the idea that God and creation are less the idea of a "source with part"s but rather that creation is the "way" God expresses God's self. God's primary mode of expression is in thought and extension - Spinoza wanted to acknowledge that thought is a form of God's expression as well as creation.

Janaro's section on Einstein and the importance of physics in pushing philosophical thought deeper is interesting. Also interesting is the section on Whitehead - who developed the concept of "process" - that parts interact but ultimately the interaction has limitations. Janaro summarizes that we can no more explain the limitations articulated by Whitehead anymore than Einstein could explain how the universe is curved. (the curve idea from Einstein suggests that if we were to head out into space for all eternity we would eventually return to our starting point because the universe is curved - at least I think that's what Einstein said).

Ultimate Substance Do you think that all that is comes from a single source, an original material? Do you call this source, substance, origin - God? Divine? Creator? Universe? - or something else?





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Is It

What is it about 2am
that beckons me;
pulls me out of a deep
sleep?

Three nights
in a row the hour
calls me to
awaken.

Not from anxiety,
my usual insomnia.
More like a
check in.

How is the state
of your soul?

How goes it
with your spirit?

True, some anxiety
in me. From busyness
and rushing and always
preparing to offer some
piece from myself -
a teaching, a sermon
writing or a meal.

It seems, however,
these three nights
of a crescent moon
are just a time
to waken

and make a tiny assessment -
stretch my legs and toes
try not to wake too much,
just slightly conscious,
and give thanks.

Thanks for breath,
and peace,
and retreats
with colleagues.
And joy in little things.

2am beckons me.

it's rather funny
three mornings in a row.

So I'll not make
more of it than it is.
Just accept it
as some kind of gift
or request or
awareness.

Before too long
I'm asleep again,
morning sun comes
and another day begins.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baptism Yearning



I was nine years old when my parents finally relented and arranged for me to be baptized.  I wanted to be baptized because I yearned to belong to a community of faith that I knew and loved. I wanted to be part of my ancestry and heritage.

My uncle baptized me with full immersion in a font the size of a swimming pool, dunking me three times into the deep water.

Years later my family and I left that church and I found myself without a faith community. That was okay for a while – I was a teenager and then a college student and it was after all the 1970’s – a lot of cultural change was happening and I was trying to find my way through it.

By the time I was 31 I was married with a new born baby. My husband was raised Roman Catholic, and it was important to him that we have our precious baby baptized immediately. So we entered baptism prep classes at the local Roman Church and had her baptized at six weeks of age.

By the time our son was born four years later we were active members of a neighborhood Episcopal Church, a church very different in practice than the church of my childhood. During communion, for about six months I just watched, feeling too uncertain and suspicious of the Eucharist to participate.  

Finally, on Easter Day I went up for communion. The priest looked at me, hesitated a moment, and then placed the wafer in my palm with these words, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” Afterward the priest approached me at coffee hour and asked me about my baptism.  I responded, “My uncle immersed me into a pool of water three times and said ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’” That was enough to assure the priest that, despite the fact that I was raised in the Mormon Church, my baptism was official and counted. 

Baptism and Holy Communion are profoundly connected to one another in Christian faith. Baptism is the ritual that identifies us as Christian. We are baptized into the Christian family of God and Jesus. We are not baptized Episcopal or Roman Catholic or Lutheran. We are baptized Christian – that’s why my baptism, even in the Mormon Church counted. There was a big discussion by the World Council of Churches in Lima, Peru in 1982,[i] which affirmed the bond and unity of baptism for all Christians.  

Each week, as we receive the bread and the wine of Holy Communion, we are reminded of our baptism and our desire to live as Jesus teaches. The Episcopal Church defines how we are to live as Christians through the baptismal covenant, which we will say shortly. Essentially living as Jesus teaches means that - with God’s help - we will care for all people, treat everyone with dignity and respect, work for justice and peace, share our resources with others and continue to learn and grow in our own faith.

What drew me to baptism and what called me back to Church after a sixteen year absence, was a desire for community. I yearned to be part of a community of people who were wrestling with the issues of life and making meaning out of the various ups and downs of life through a common set of teachings. I needed the teachings to be broad enough and expansive enough to accept my questioning heart and mind and yet anchored enough in the tradition of the church universal to give me a solid foundation from which to question and seek understanding.

My yearnings may mirror some of your own desires. Certainly my desire for community, belonging and meaning making, find cohesion in the story of Ruth and her mother in law, Naomi. Naomi’s husband has died, leaving her a widow. Her two sons have also died, leaving her daughter’s in law abandoned as well. Previously Naomi encouraged her daughter’s in law to return to their families. But in a famous passage used in many wedding ceremonies, Ruth states that Naomi is now her family and she will stay with Naomi, where ever she goes. So Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi’s homeland. There they are befriended by Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Under the guidance of Naomi, Ruth follows the custom of the land, and is soon married to Boaz. This union affords both women a place to belong, safety and security. It further helps that Ruth has a baby boy, ensuring them both a lifetime of security. The story concludes by reminding us that Ruth’s son is the grandfather of David, who becomes the famous king of Israel. David is known in the Christian story as the ancestor of Jesus.[ii]

The story reflects the reality of women in the ancient world, unable to survive without a male family member’s protection. But more to the point the story is about family, belonging, and community – of tragedy and new life. And that is what we are doing today – baptizing two babies into the family,  so that they will have a community of faith to journey with them through the ups and downs of life.

Today, in addition to baptism, we will commission a group of parishioners who, on behalf of the Vestry, are going to travel to Liberia to work out the details of how we can partner with a church in Monrovia to build an Episcopal school. This is a project of our "Undesignated Gifts Fund" grant process. These parishioners will live out their baptismal ministry in a very particular way through this journey, reminding us, that through baptism we are each, in our own way, called to be the hands and heart of Christ in the world.




[i] http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/i-unity-the-church-and-its-mission/baptism-eucharist-and-ministry-faith-and-order-paper-no-111-the-lima-text.html

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mystique of Knowing




 A few days ago I wrote about my pursuit into the study of philosophy. I am reading, for the first time, a book I purchased at least a decade ago. “Philosophy: Something to Believe In” was written by Richard Paul Janaro and it seems to be a text book for a community college course. It was published in 1975. The end of the first chapter summarizes his thesis:

“Philosophy is good for humanity because it is the practice of asking questions and developing the art of reflective thinking in order to understand something about what we believe and why.

Philosophy is the discipline of reflecting upon the consequences of human action and the sense of responsibility which the social nature of humanity seems to require.

He posits the notion that many of our beliefs exist “just because we must have belief….The act of believing, he writes, is a form of experience bringing about its own peculiar and profound pleasures. Even the momentary anguish of confusion, of knowing what to believe can be worth the trouble in the long run…”

Or as Mary Oliver wrote in one of my favorite poems:

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

I have faced directly into life altering challenges, and hated every moment of it. The fear, despair, and anxious uncertainty fueled by a real sense that God was gone or did not care. Challenges of this nature rock my belief in a present and loving God who cares for each human being. Such experiences force me to examine my beliefs and look deeper into my life, my thoughts, my experiences, often grounding this “examination” in a Christian discipline like prayer and meditation.

Janaro goes on to write that because one has beliefs one then creates systems of belief. He compares and contrasts the idea of “spontaneous” unreflective thought and lifestyle, built off of one’s intuition with the practice of reflection and examining one’s thoughts. Intuition is certainly a good factor, it leads to inspiration. But one must always examine one’s intuition, exploring where one’s beliefs conflict or contradict themselves. Putting our beliefs together, creating a system, he argues, has huge implications for acquiring greater self-awareness.

My daily practice of meditation is not a discipline of self-examination. It is a practice of silence into which I hope God will speak. Typically God does not “speak” to me with words or thoughts that rise up in the meditation. God speaks to me later, as I return to the actions of daily life, refreshed from a practice of relaxation. This practice is not just about relaxation, it is also about creating the means by which I can become open and aware of what is going on around me because I am less tense. I have managed to get off the hamster wheel of my emotions and reactivity and centered myself in peace. From that interior place I am able to see and understand more fully. I know I function better as a human being when I practice daily meditation. And, on those days when I am feeling particularly stressed out, that says a lot – or rather that says nothing as I practice the art of keeping my mouth shut and letting the emotions settle before I speak. Meditation is part of my discipline of earning to “respond” from a thoughtful place and not “react” from my emotions.

But in addition to a daily practice of meditation I spend time writing in the morning. I have found that writing on this blog, on my computer, is a much more effective method of reflecting than writing by hand. It just works for me. Most mornings I aim for a little time to read, think, reflect, and write. Examine my life and consider it from the inside out and outside in.

I appreciate this book and the manner in which it is connecting my daily practices with the process of philosophy. I had no idea that what I was doing was philosophical. I have always thought that one needed to be abstract and heady and intellectual to be a philosopher. But according to Janaro, that is not so. One is a philosopher when one practices a process of asking questions, examining one’s beliefs, searching for conflicts within the beliefs and seeking to understand them, and working to create a system of belief that guides one’s life. That is also the “work” of a religious person.

One reason I returned to church was to anchor myself in a tradition of belief. Prior to returning to church I engaged in a whole array of “New Age” thought. I was definitely searching. But what I began to notice in New Age thought was a lot of, “anything goes” and no real system of belief. Or at least very loose systems of beliefs that enabled one to believe almost anything one wanted too. I wanted more. I wanted a system of belief that anchored me and yet still encouraged me to question, explore, examine, think, and be reflective. 

For many years, due to my Mormon upbringing (and their system of belief) and my little exposure to Christianity through Southern Baptist revivals (I lived in Texas at the time, 1970), and the Roman Catholic Church – I was fairly certain that Christianity held too narrow of a belief system. Which is why I was exploring alternative forms of spirituality – I wanted a relationship with God that would sustain me through the challenges of life and help me make sense of it all.

It still surprises me, at times, twenty-three years later that I found a progressive form of Christianity. Who knew that such a thing existed?

In the world around me there are a lot of people who feel the same way I did about Christianity. The dominant public voice is loud and clear. I find it very sad. I hope we are changing that paradigm, that people are beginning to be aware that there are Christian voices that mirror the hopes and ideals of “New Age” (does anyone use that term anymore? I think not – I think it’s now known as “Spiritual but not religious”)….but instead of being loosey-goosey in its beliefs and belief system – Progressive Christianity is anchored in solid teachings of the historic church. 

There is a long history of church thinkers who support the progressive Christian understanding of Jesus as the fullest expression of God’s love for humanity. And that the primary belief is: Love God, love self, and love others as yourself. First and foremost. And the rest is just food for thought. Perhaps the mystique of knowing is really an invitation into exploring what it means to be human? The true mystique of knowing maybe actually be a reminder to love others, and to trust that there is a Divine being, the creator, who loves us first and from whom we come to understand the full meaning of love.

 For me, this mystique of knowing has come through being part of the Episcopal Church, an historic Church and community of faith, that has woven my many loose threads of faith into a rich tapestry of religion and spirituality.