Showing posts from May, 2012

Solitude, a spiritual practice

Solitude, and a life of solitude are two different things, writes Chittister in the eighth chapter of "Called to Question." Both are spiritual disciplines and practices in many faith traditions. The Christian faith has numerous saints (Julian of Norwich, for example) who lived a life of solitude, alone in a dwelling on the grounds of a convent. People who live a life of solitude spend their days and nights completely alone, except for the occasional visitor who comes seeking spiritual advice.

Solitude is a desire for some time out, a space to soothe the soul and enable one to become useful again.

I have never had a desire to live a life of solitude. The idea of being perpetually alone completely unsettles me. In fact for part of my life I couldn't handle being alone for more than a few hours or a day. I hated being alone at night. I didn't know what to do with myself. I couldn't read because the aloneness was deafening. I couldn't work because the alonesnes …

The Path of Life

"You show me the path of life; in your presence these is fullness of joy." (Psalm 16) The path of life is a circuitous one. Chittister describes this in the seventh chapter of "Called to Question," but I understand this reality from my own life. I spiral through times of joy and sorrow, fear and anguish, delight and peace. Sometimes the spiral feels out of control, sometimes it feels like a gentle path.

"The path of life is much more than a simple career placement. It is an attitude of mind, an orientation of heart, a quality of soul, a sum of all learnings." (Called to Question, pg 59) Life is about learning, growing. More than the reality of the situations we are in, life is about what we learn from the circumstances. It is in the learnings that we grow and become fully human. Life tests us and we should test life back. Ignatius called this process, "self-examination." He wasn't talking about looking at one's hand or face. He was talki…

God Calling

Yesterday I read chapter six in Chittister's book, "Called to Question" - which focuses on being called. She anchors this reflection in two snippets of scripture:
"For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29) and"You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Spirit of God.' (First Peter) From this chapter I launched into what I thought was going to be a reflection on being called. I ended up going elsewhere with that reflection and so return today to the notion of being called.

Chittister says, and I agree:

"...everybody lives to do something that only they can do. Everyone of us is called, by virtue of what we love and what we do well, to give something to the world that will bear the stamp of our presence here. We are called to add something to the creation of the universe." The baptism rite in the Episcopal Church, and the teachings about baptism, point to this same c…

Irrevocable Call

"For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29)

The summer of 2006 was spent in high anticipation, with the hope that I would receive a new call. I interviewed for, what I thought, was the perfect position. I was one of two finalists and really wanted the position.
So it was terribly distressing to me to not be the one called. In God's good grace, and some six years of hindsight, I can say with all confidence that I would have hated the job. That it would have felt confining and stifling, and that my gifts would not have been enabled to flourish.
How very hard it was to trust the Spirit when doors were slammed in my face and I feared that the flaw was in me, (surely I did something wrong in the interview process?) rather than, perhaps, the idea that God had my back.
In my despair, that hot summer of 2006, I found myself searching for "what next?" The parish I was serving, a community I had grown to love deeply, was nonetheless feeling like sh…

Inside Out, God

A little girl was visiting her grandmother one beautiful spring morning. They walked out into grandmother’s flower garden.As grandmother was inspecting the progress of her flowers the little girl decided to try to open a rosebud with her own two hands.But no luck! As she would pull the petals open, they would tear or bruise or wilt or break off completely. Finally, in frustration, she said, “Gramma, I just don’t understand it at all. When God opens a flower, it looks so beautiful but when I try, it just comes apart.”“Well, honey,” Grandmother answered, “There’s a good reason for that.God is able to do it because God works from the inside out!”

God works from the inside out. Today, the feast of Pentecost, we celebrate God working in as and through us.

Traditionally we say that Pentecost begins with the story we heard in our reading from Acts this morning. But, we might say that Pentecost actually begins, with the words of the angel to Mary, in the Gospel of Luke: “"The Holy Spirit …

Friday Five

Sally, over at RevGals offers this Friday Five - a quick one!

 1.What has encouraged you? I have been searching, or actually yearning, for a new Spiritual Director for sometime - every since I left my long time SD in Arizona. Yesterday I had my first session with the woman who I think will be my new SD. I'm excited to begin the journey. It's always good to have someone to companion with and help process life. After some fourteen years with one person and three years without an SD, it's good to get back on track!

2. What has inspired you? I'm reading Joan Chittister, "Called to Question" and am appreciating the way she articulates the "Spiritual/Religious" paradigm. It's provoking me to think somethings through for myself. (See previous posts, and please comment if you are inclined, I am curious what others think).

3. What has challenged you? I have some unbloggable stuff going on in my personal life which needs my attention, a reminder that once …


Prayer is what links the spiritual and the religious, the inner and outer parts dimensions of life. - Joan Chittister, "Called to Question" pg. 44  Chapter five of "Called to Question" is a reflection on prayer. Chittister tells the story of novitiates in the convent becoming weary of the busyness of life - from chores to worship to chores to worship -no time for ones self was exhausting. The old nuns would laugh as they told the story of women leaving after six months of this busyness because they could get no rest. Chittister says it took her years to get the "joke" to understand why the old nuns laughed in telling the story.

Prayer, for the novitiates who left, was work, an intrusion into private time. But for those whose life is centered in prayer, prayer is time resting in God.

It seems to me that one reason people don't come to church is because it takes too much work to get ready, to drive or walk over, and to sit in the pew for an hour. It…

Mystery..a poem

Mysteries, Yes Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood. How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem. Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads. ~ Mary Oliver ~ (Evidence) 

Messy Church Teachings: more thoughts on spiritual and religious

Yesterday I reflected a bit on "spiritual" and "religious," ideas that have spurred several books recently from well known church thinkers. Ideas that seem to point to where "we" are as people of faith - are we spiritual not religious - believe in God in some form but not in the institution of the church? Or religious but not spiritual - believe in the rules of the church but not in the mystery of an unknownable God (well, that might be minimizing the statement, but it points to the essence of the criteria)? Or spiritual and religious - living in the tension of mystery and ambiguity while finding some footing in the teachings and practice of faith community?  My reflection was spurred by Joan Chittister's thoughts on this topic, nuanced by the idea that women have been invisible in much of the church's teachings on God, religion, and living a life of faith.

This morning, while reading chapter four of "Called to Question" I am captivated…

Spiritual and Religious

After several weeks of setting aside Chittister's book., "Called to Question," I have once again returned to reading it. I am only on page 22, plodding through slowly as every paragraph calls my attention and stirs my thought process. For the most part I appreciate the way in which she is drawing the conclusion that religion and spirituality are intertwined. For example she writes:

The very purpose of religion is to enable us to step off into the unchartered emptiness that is the spiritual life, freely but not untethered. We have under our feet the promise of the tradition that formed us and the disciplines that shaped our souls. We can then wander...religion gives us the structures that weld the habits and disciplines of the soul into one integrated whole. Those same structures can also, however, smother the very spirit they intend to shape...spirituality is a commitment to immersion in God, to the seeking that has no end.
No doubt I left church because the structure, d…

Friday Five: Pests...

Jan, over at the RevGals is having issues with fleas and other weather-affected pests. She offers this Friday Five:

1.What kinds of pests are in your neighborhood or area? We have a ginormous raccoon that frequents the garbage bins for the church, which share a driveway/parking area with me, the church, and the resident caretaker. We have lots of ground squirrels, tree squirrels, rabbits, and deer, which mess with our gardens, trees, and bird feeders. And, a couple of huge woodchucks that live under our deck.....and, because the house was empty for two years and then remodeled, we have had a lot of spiders - constant white house spiders, mostly. Which are no big deal...

But, really nothing all that serious. Much different from the toxic pests we had in Arizona - poisonous spiders, scorpions, snakes, Javelina, coyotes, mountain lion,...

2. Is there a time of year or day that increases their activity? Weather affects their activity or not? The deer and tree squirrels are here year round…

RevGal Friday Five: Random

In an effort to get to know one another a littel better RevKarla, over at the RevGals, offers this Friday Five on Randomness:

1. What is the first thing that comes to your mind (right now) that you want to share about yourself.  My mother used to tell me that we are related to Mary, Queen of Scots and that one of my paternal ancestors was an Apache who married a man from Ireland. I've never been able to prove either one, but I have always wished I had Navajo ancestors. I value their peacefulness and beautiful baskets and pottery. Apache, at least as they were portrayed in my childhood, were warriors, which is not my thing.

2. What is your favorite piece of jewelry or accessory? Why? For my birthday this year my husband gave me a sterling silver necklace with a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit. I wore it every day. A couple of days ago I lost - somehow the clasp had opened and it fell off. Thankfully he found it near my desk at the office. For Christmas he gave me a couple of ster…

God Questions: Stunted Growth, a metaphor

As I mentioned yesterday I am reading, again, Joan Chittister's book, "Called to Question," in part as a response to the NPR "Talk of the Nation" interview Theresa McBain, the UMC minister turned atheist. "Called to Question" is a sometimes brutal reflection on the differences and connections between "religion" and "spirituality." Chittister considered this eight years before Diana Butler Bass, Brian McLaren, and Marcus Borg, took it up. Actually, because the book is the culmination of five years of journaling and then the creation of a book she probably started considering this question in the late 1990's. A Roman Catholic nun much of her scathing response to religion is the result of living in the confines of the Roman church and the limitations imposed upon women and laity by the teachings of the church. I appreciate much of what she writes.

This morning I am reading the second chapter of the book. Taking it slowly, ponderin…

Called to Question

My Facebook and blogging friends have engaged in a conversation following the NPR interview with Theresa McBain which aired on Talk of Nation  with Neal Conan on Monday, May 7 (I tried to create a link to the transcipt but it won't work). McBain is the United Methodist minister who decided she was an atheist and left the ministry. Apparently there is a movement afoot, some 200 former clergy who have joined a cause called "The Clergy Project." Reading the transcript of the interview with McBain was a reminder that in this country we tend to think that Christianity looks a certain way, follows only certain dogmas and doctrines. The religion correspondent for NPR, Barbara Bradley Haggerty, perpetuates this idea, sadly. For me, the real issues that we ought to ponder here is not the shift to atheism, but the idea that people define themselves as atheists because the do not believe the limitations of Christianity as they know it. (And, I suppose this would also be true for th…

The Sun

Yesterday it rained, slow and steady, with a chill in the air. It was the kind of day that beckons one to stay indoors, curled up with a book, or knitting. It was my day off and I didn't do much of anything. Today the sun rises, and it's back to work. But first a moment of prayer, and a poem.

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone -
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
of every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance -
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love -
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too turned from this w…

RevGal Friday Five: Birthdays

Kathrynjz over at RevGals offers this Friday Five, with the disclaimer that while she is celebrating the birthday of an adult family member, she is not fond of birthday celebrations:

1.) What is the first birthday you remember? I know my parents always had a simple family celebration for each of our birthdays - usually the birthday person got to choose the meal, either at home or at a restaurant. I do remember my sixteenth birthday, I got a bunch of blue irises from my parents and dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with my bf.

2) Do you recall a favorite gift? Usually I get a gift certificate for a massage (one of my fav), or other little treats. Nothing huge, just nice tokens of affection.

3) Has anyone ever tried to surprise you for your birthday? Did it work? Was it fun? It was my 50th birthday, a day I spent a year preparing for by creating this one I was dreading. Which is weird, because typically birthdays and aging don't really affect me. Anyway, as a fa…


It is over. What is over?
Nay, how much is over truly.
Harvest days we toiled to so for;
Now the sheaves are gathered newly,
Now the wheat is gathered duly.

It is finished. What is finished?
Much is finished known or unknown;
Was the fallow field left unsown?
Will these buds be always unblown?

It suffices. What suffices?
All suffices reckoned rightly;
Spring shall bloom where now the ice is,
Roses make the bramble slightly,
And the quickening sun shine brightly,
And the latter wind blow lightly,
And my garden teem with spices.

by Christina Georgina Rossetti. We celebrated her feast day from "Holy Women Holy Men" last week, and reflected on the text of her beautiful hymns in the Episcopal 1982 Hymnal (On A Bleak Midwinter, for example).

I am thinking about gardening. In part because we blessed the church garden last Saturday. I enjoyed the process of doing research on Rogation Day and creating a liturgy for blessing the garden. I have planted some produce in the garden, but …