Monday, January 19, 2009
Published in the May/June 2003 issue of Crosswalk, a newsletter from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. That issue is no longer available on line so I have reproduced it here. Likewise, I can't show you her photo of a completed cincture so here is the one I have in progress:
I had a neighbor take some pictures of me crocheting stitch by stitch. Take a look and see if they help. One thing that confused me in Sue's instructions is that she describes the 'stitch in the ditch' as being horizontal. As I hold the piece to work on it, the stitch is actually vertical. If you aim the hook in the trough between two raised spirals you will be able to pick up the right stitch.
Click on this photo for a slide show in which I try to demonstrate how to hold it and which stitch to pick up:
Sue Sanders instructions:
During March, I attended the Quiet Day at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Columbia. My friend Cookie, who attends that church, told me that she had been going to a convent in New Jersey twice a year to attend a needlework workshop there. They make altar linens for the convent, and they learn how to repair old linen. One of the sisters taught participants how to make crocheted cinctures.
I was fascinated by the idea of crocheting a rope, so Cookie came to my house one afternoon and showed me how. One interesting thing that she did was cut off about four inches at the beginning of her “rope” so I could start mine. Cutting the cincture does not hurt it at all. It’s like a “friendship cake” that calls for sharing the “starter” with a friend to keep the receipt going. The “new” end piece will not unravel.
Cookie told me that all you have to do is look for the back hump of a single crochet – the one stitch that runs horizontally – or the “stitch in the ditch”, as the sister calls it, and then single crochet. She also told me that she was not taught how to start the cincture from scratch. Well, I’ve been crocheting many years, so I decided to play with it. I did, and found out that all you have to do is chain 6 and join with a single crochet in the beginning loop and single crochet around until you see the stitch in the ditch. I found it best to single crochet in the back of the stitch or the “hump”, which makes it easier to see the stitch in the ditch once you get going. I’ve had times that it was difficult to get the cincture started, but patience has always prevailed. You will see a tiny hole in the center of your work. This will let you know that you are doing it correctly.
After making five cinctures, I decided to go to the Internet and see what history there might be. One site in particular, www.newadvent.org gives a history of the cincture that goes back to the ninth century. Here are my instructions for making a cincture:
Start with one 300-yard ball of white Speed-Cro-Sheen which will make one cincture approximately 12 feet long and a size two or a size B needle. (Note: this product no longer seems to be available. I substituted DMC Senso crochet cotton.)
Chain 6, join with a single crochet in the back hump of the first chain. Do not crochet too loosely. Crochet around until you see the “stitch in the ditch”, or the one stitch that is horizontal to the rest of your work.
Crochet until the rope measures 12 feet or the desired length, depending on the size of the person you are making it for. (Most priests and chalice bearers can tell you how long the want their cinctures.)
Tie a monk’s knot in each end – not easy to do at first, unless you have the help of a seasoned sailor. From the end of the cincture, fold about a foot of the cincture up, and wind the short end around the main rope three times and bring the end back through the wound part and through the first twist, pulling it tightly and adjusting it so the very end piece doesn’t stick out too far. The monk’s know, too, gets easier with practice, in case you are not a sailor.
Sue very kindly sent me some crocheted starter pieces. I cannot start a rope from scratch. The starters make it very easy to get going. If you want one you can contact me at svhagen at verizon dot net.
A Samsonite camera case, Model 708BK. I've seen them on Amazon for about $20 but picked this up at TJ Maxx for about $12.
|From Communion Kit|
eBay again, this time from a vendor of lab glassware. I have since found this source, SKS Bottle. I stenciled the gold cross with Pebeo glass paint and baked it on in the oven. It's supposed to survive the dishwasher so should stick with ordinary handling.
|From Communion Kit|
eBay at a riduculously low price for a group of 10. I've seen them on the web at Bolivia Mall for a much higher price.
|From Communion Kit|
The corporal is a luncheon napkin, already hemstitched. I embroidered the cross. I hemmed and embroidered the little purificators.
|From Communion Kit|
Dupioni or Thai silk, embroidered with silk thread. Jerusalem crosses on one side, crosses patonces on the other. Hands that do gardening are not all that suitable for handling soft, ravelly silk fabric and floss!
|From Communion Kit|
The whole set. The cup is one of a set of tiny Jefferson cups I received as a wedding gift and never used. The paten is a pewter ashtray I found on the web but the site no longer sells retail.
|From Communion Kit|
Everything all stowed away.
|From Communion Kit|
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Mustard Seed Medicine
From Long Ago and Many Lands by Sophia Fahs
This book excited me more than anything I've read in a long time. Why do people need each other? Because we're mammals.
A General Theory of Love
by Lewis, Amini, Lannon
- Clarify what the passage is saying. What do the words in the passage mean? Why do certain translations use different words? What do commentaries say about any obscurities in the passage? What nuances do the words have that may not be apparent in English?
- Clarify why the passage was preserved. What was the significance of this passage to the community that preserved it? What were the issues they were dealing with at the time? How did this passage speak to those issues?
- Reflect on what the passage means for us today. What is the passage calling us to do?
Close with prayer.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
To pray is to work and to work is to pray.
Psalm 90: 17
May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.
Robert Frost "Two Tramps in Mud Time" (1936):
"But yield who will to their separation
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
As Kingfishers Catch Fire
As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
St. Theresa of Avila:
Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours;
yours are the eyes through which is to took out Christ's compassion to the world,
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good,
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
The religious liberal publicly expresses his or her faith through what Jews call Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world. They commit charitable acts and fight for justice. They act in their public lives in accordance with private morality, but do not seek to force their concept of morality upon others. Instead, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick. They march for the common dignity of human beings, for peace or economic justice or women's rights or gay rights or the environment. They do so because their religious beliefs demand it.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
When we are not living up to our true vocation, thought deadens our life, or substitutes itself for life, or gives in to life so that our life drowns out our thinking and stifles the voice of conscience. When we find our vocation—thought and life are one.
God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us. We cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do we really know ourselves, and the fact that we think we are following your will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire. And we know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road, though we may know nothing about it. Therefore, we will trust you always though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. We will not fear, for you are ever with us, and you will never leave us to face our perils alone.
Dorothy Sayers, Unpopular Opinions
Work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction. The first demand on a carpenter’s religion is that he makes good tables. What use is anything else if in the center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry?
Verna Dozier, The Dream of God
Jesus was a carpenter for two decades, and I wager the yokes he made rested like a blessing on the oxen and inspired his invitation, “take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy…”
Do you want to follow Jesus? Or are you content just to worship him, and postpone for just a little longer the fulfillment of the dream of God?
Questions immediately arise. “How do you follow Jesus?” “What would following Jesus look like” We are always asking for prescriptions. We want to be safe, to be sure we are doing the right thing. That to me is the voice of the Tempter.
Kingdom-of-God thinking calls us to risk. We always see through a glass darkly, and that is what faith is about. I will live by the best I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out I was wrong. Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed by being wrong. The God revealed in Jesus whom I call the Christ is a God whose forgiveness goes ahead of me, and whose love sustains me and the whole created world.
Nothing scares us more than freedom. We are always afraid that freedom will degenerate into chaos – as it often does – so to escape chaos we flee to authority, which means authoritarianism.
The urgent task for us in the closing years of this turbulent century is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community. We are a chosen people, chosen for God’s high purposes, that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized.
In her 1991 book, The Dream of God, Verna Dozier wrote “God has paid us the high compliment of calling us to be coworkers with our Creator, a compliment so awesome that we have fled from it and taken refuge in the church. The urgent task for us is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community…that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized."
And from a sermon by Verna Dozier:
“Don’t tell me what you believe – tell me what difference it makes that you believe.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you've presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you've missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you're bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren't helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Then I ran across the old Quaker saying, "Let your life speak." I found these words encouraging, and I thought they meant: "Let the highest truths and values guide you." I lined up the loftiest ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque. But always they were unreal, a distortion of my true self--as must be the case when one lives from the outside in, not the inside out. I had simply found a "noble" way to live a life that was not my own.
Today, some thirty years later, "Let life speak" means something else to me, a meaning faithful both to the ambiguity of those words and to the complexity of my own experience: Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.
Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.
from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee:
Not rudely, as a beast,
To runne into an action;
But still to make thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.
A man that looks on glasse,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
And then the heav’n espie.
All may of thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture (for thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for lesse be told.
"I am the Lord your God and you shall not have strange gods before me.' This is the greatest and the first commandment.
And, the second is also like the first one, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'"
Corporal works of mercy are those that tend to bodily needs.
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the Homeless
- Visit the imprisoned
- Visit the sick
- Bury the dead
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) enumerates such acts -- though not this precise list -- as the reason for the salvation of the saved, and the omission of them as the reason for damnation. The last work of mercy, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ’Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ’Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?’ And the king will answer them, ’Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’”
The spiritual acts of mercy provide for the needs of the spirit.
- Instruct the ignorant
- Counsel the doubtful
- Admonish the sinner
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Forgive offenses willingly
- Comfort the sorrowful
- Pray for the living and the dead
Our EfM group considered the task of being Christ's hands in the contemporary world and added this list:
Works of Mercy, Contemporary Additions
- Build self/community sufficiency
· Assist to discern needs of community
· Teach/train members in needed skills
· Provide needed resources
- Permanent housing, Habitat for Humanity’s approach
- Peace Building
- Eliminate corruption
- Preservation of environment
- Care for animals
From the Book of Common Prayer
Q. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
A. I will, with God’s help
Outline of the Faith
Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.
Q. How does sin have power over us?
A. Sin has power over us because we lose our liberty when our relationship with God is distorted.
The goal of the spiritual life is to increase in these loves:
- Love of God
- Love of Neighbors
- friends and family
- the poor
- Love of Creation
- Love of Self
3 P’s: Possessions, Pleasure, Power, a..k.a. The World, the Flesh and The Devil
When these things are abused they are obstacles to grace, distortions of the truth. They carry so much energy that when they become our ultimate goals, they become like evil spirits. Because these things are good and attractive, we tend to make them an absolute good, to idolize them. They are ways of seeking security in an insecure world. These are the fundamental spiritual conditions that are at the root of the deadly sins.
These involve the three basic relationships around which our whole life revolves. Think about how these distort our relationships.
- Pleasure – ourselves and bodies. Do we make our bodies little gods?
- Possessions – our neighbors. If we’re concerned with acquiring more possessions we may fail in our duty to love and serve others.
- Power – attitude to God. Do we try to usurp God’s authority?
The Desert Demons – Jesus temptation in the wilderness. Confronting Satan, wrestling with each of these dilemmas.
- First temptation: turn stones to bread. Satisfy bodily pleasure
- Second temptation: possession of all the earth in return for worshiping Satan
- Third temptation: power over nature. Leap from the pinnacle of the temple. A wrong use of power and act of pride.
Jesus told his disciples that some evil spirits can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.
Prayer – we acknowledge our dependence on God’s power. We recognize our total dependence on God. We acknowledge the truth about our motives and actions. We submit our will to God’s will.
Fasting – we bring our attraction to sensual pleasure under control. Self-discipline. Moderation in food and drink.
Almsgiving – we become detached from our excessive love of money and possessions. This is generally synonymous with the love of neighbor. We need to share our gifts with others. We need to give our money but also our time and talent.
Deadly Sins - Abuses of love
Pride is the beginning of all abuses of love. The exaggerated love of one’s own excellence to the contempt of God. Showing contempt for God by treating him as a thing rather than a person. Treating other people with contempt or using them for our own purposes. Being wrapped up in our own interests and having no time to be concerned about anyone else. Having an excessive desire for the approval of others.
There is legitimate anger directed against real evil. It becomes evil when it is uncontrolled or used to defend our egos. The desire to attack violently anyone who is a threat to us. Threatening our high estimate of ourselves or our possessions. It may be provoked when something shows us faults or weaknesses in ourselves. Rather than face these, we turn the anger outwards against the person troubling us.
A modern term for covetousness is addiction. The covetous person has such an overwhelming desire for the things of this world that he will go to any extreme to obtain them. It points to a deep insecurity, emptiness, dissatisfaction that has to be filled up with things.
Gluttony: The excessive desire for the pleasures of food and drink. We need to learn moderation about food and drink as an exercise in self-control.
Greed: The exaggerated love of money and material goods. This is a sign of our insecurity. We need to try to counteract it by increasing our confidence in God.
Lust: The exaggerated desire for the pleasures of sex. Sex need to be balanced with unselfish love to redeem it.
Sloth: “The evil sadness that overtakes us at the prospect of the hard labor required to attain something good” (St. Thomas Aquinas). Growth to maturity requires hard work. Sloth shows itself as boredom with prayer, procrastination about anything requiring effort, resentment at anyone, including God, who makes demands of us.
Envy: “The evil sadness we feel toward the success of others” (St. Thomas Aquinas). Someone else’s accomplishments or good fortune offend us, diminish us. We feel pain at hearing someone else praised. We may try to hurt the other’s reputation. Envy can easily grow into hatred.
Traditional and Contemporary Deadly Sins
Most of this material is taken from A New Day, by the Rev. Msgr. Chester P. Michael, The Open Door Inc., Charlottesville, VA
Music: Kate Campbell, Ten Thousand Lures
Gerald May, Addiction and Grace
Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Faith & Reason: Time for both sides in the war debate to tell the truth about evil and oil”
Scott Peck, People of the Lie
And if you’re really ambitious:
Second Book of Homilies
04. Of good Works, first of Fasting
05. Against Gluttony and Drunkenness
06. Against Excess of Apparel
07. Of Prayer
11. Of Alms-doing
19. Of Repentance
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
- Your Vision/Mission/Values
- Goals, Short and Long Term
- Practices you will undertake in pursuit of the goals
- How you work for balance in your life
Some Rules of Life:
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Prefer nothing to the love of Christ
Obedience – Listening for God
Stability – Commitment to one community
Conversatio morum – ongoing conversion of life, fidelity to the Benedictine values
Msgr. Chester Michael's Personal Growth Plan
God is love and we were created in the image and likeness of God. The whole purpose of our existence on earth is to love. This love with be expressed by six relationships of love: love of God, love of other human beings, love of self, love of nature, love of enemies, love of the poor.
Each morning, we should begin the day thanking God for another opportunity to practice love in each of these six areas.
Secondly, we should spend five or ten minutes discerning how we might do a good job today in each of the six areas of love.
Thirdly, we need to petition God to give us the grace and help to fulfill the resolutions of love we have made.
Fourthly, during the day we should fill any free moments with gratitude and love of God and with intercessory prayer for our loved ones and all people in need throughout the world.
Each evening, we should take a few minutes to review the day, thanking God for the grace to have practiced love in each of the six relationships and asking forgiveness for any failures to love.
LOVE OF GOD:
Head – how can I grow in wisdom and knowledge of God today?
Heart – how can I increase my desires and expectations of God?
Hand – what actions can I do today to express my love of God?
LOVE OF OTHER HUMAN BEINGS:
What individuals can I show a special love today?
Is there anyone I need to forgive?
Is there anyone of whom I need to ask forgiveness?
What can I do to reform and help the communities to which I belong?
What are the needs of society which are not being fulfilled?
What God-given talents do I have that might help fulfill these needs?
LOVE OF MYSELF:
What can I do to develop my inner self today?
What part of my unconscious shadow do I need to make conscious?
How can I maintain a good balance today in all my activities?
What can I do to take good care of my body today?
LOVE OF NATURE (earth, environment, creation):
How can I show a love for animals today?
How can I make a wider distribution of food among the "have-nots" of the world?
How can I do a better job of preserving natural resources of earth?
What beauties of God’s creation can I enjoy today?
LOVE OF ENEMIES
Who are my enemies?
How can I love them in a Christ-like way?
"Be you all inclusive as your Heavenly Father is all-inclusive" (Mt 5:48).
LOVE OF THE POOR
The authentic sign of a true Christian
© Michael Anne Haywood, 2003
I chose to teach at least one class of freshmen for most of my 44 years as an English professor. I enjoyed exposing myself to a wider sample of student intelligence than I found just from English majors. In do so, I found that few assignments worked well generation after generation, but some did, and I never tired of reading what students wrote in response to them.
In one of these, I gave each student 10 blank index cards and asked them not to put their name or any recognizable self-identification on any card Then I asked them to write on each card a separate action they would feel guilty doing. "Don't think much about these at this point," I counseled; "write just the first 10 things that come to mind. No one will ever know who writes what."
3-5 minutes later, I said, "Now stack your cards, putting on top the action that you would feel most guilty doing. Then one by one descend to your bottom card, the action you would feel "least guilty" doing. Then number each card in this stack 1 (most guilty) to 10 (least guilty).
1-2 minutes later, I said, "Now stack your cards differently. This time put on top the action you find most tempting. Descend to the bottom card with the action you find least tempting. Letter those cards thus stacked 'A' (most tempting), 'B' (next most tempting...... Use an 'X' if the action really is not tempting to you at all, regardless of how guilty you would feel doing it."
Only after all had completed both sets of ratings did I say, "Now please create a short code name for yourself and put it on each card so that your cards may be reassembled after the exercise. Also, on each card indicate M or F for your gender......" Occasionally I would ask for other variables, such as "How many weeks out of the 52 in a year do you attend some form of public religious worship?"
Then I collected the stacks of cards and shuffled them.
"You have just re-written the Ten Commandments," I pointed out. Here's a copy of Moses' stack. How did your cards stack up against his, or if you believe it, God's? We'll discuss those question tomorrow. Meanwhile, read........."
Whether in a secondary modern school in the London slums, in a black college in the rural South, in a foreign language institute in Beijing, in a University in Hong Kong, or in state universities in Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin, or New Jersey, no one -- NO ONE -- ever came close to matching Moses' big ten. Many wrote lists much more sophisticated and morally challenging for our time than Moses did -- at least that was the consensus of most who participated in the assignment. Many more revised their own lists radically when they had the opportunity to be persuaded by their classmates' lists or by Moses'.
Students were rarely bored. Often they wrote much better prose than they had demonstrated in other assignments of the course, especially when they took at random a stack of someone else's anonymous 10 cards and wrote an essay on that person's moral values.
How different the outcome would have been had I said at the beginning of the class, "Now you will read the Ten Commandments and write an essay on whether you agree or disagree with each one."
Those who defend the faith must work very hard to keep it a faith, not a set of edicts from on high mindlessly (or fearfully) absorbed and consented to.
God is alive and well. She made our brains and She expects us to use them.
Few people violate the third commandment so routinely as those of us who are 'religious' and glibly speak God's name without respect for the Creator, for Creatures, or for Creation.
Lutibelle/Louie Newark deputation
Louie Crew, 377 S. Harrison St., 12d, East Orange, NJ 07018. http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew
I believe that Jesus opened for us the door to God. God is no longer inaccessible to us. As another human he is able to form the vital connection with us and show us the way to connect with the Spirit directly. We are mammals and mammals cannot live in isolation. When the veil of the temple was torn, it was torn for all time, allowing us into the very sanctuary of heaven. I think this is what Jesus was describing in John 17: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
I imagine the Trinity as it is shown in Rublev's Old Testament Trinity icon. Three people around a table, engaged in a fellowship of love, in a creative and living conversation. I think of overhearing it and edging closer, hoping to be drawn into their fellowship. I believe that all of creation comes from this creative interaction. I know that creativity is playful. When people share in creation, energy flows between them and something new is born out of the flow. I believe that energy is the Holy Spirit of God.
I believe that sacraments are a model or a map of the design. They give us a taste of the Holy. Through them God uses stuff to connect with us. We need to touch and be touched. In the Eucharist we touch and taste Jesus. Sacraments are not enough without an individual, direct experience of God but in the dry times, they are something to remind us of that experience.
I believe that God created a world, not a theme park. Actions cause reactions. Choices have consequences. I believe that God does not control or punish but nor does he prevent the consequences of our actions.
I believe that the atonement is about reconciliation between God and man. Christ was crucified to awaken compassion in us. I think that often we are very angry with God for how harsh this existence is. On the cross, God bared his throat and said, 'Go ahead and kill me, get it out of your system'. I think that it's impossible to look at the suffering figure of Jesus on the cross and to stay angry. I believe that we are also stuck in shame at our own sins and failures, unable to look God in the face. I think the crucifixion may also have been a desperate gesture by God to shake us loose from that fixation. He says, 'All right, if you're certain that your sins require a death, I'll be the one to die.' I believe that there is no limit to God's mercy and grace. I know that he is far more forgiving than we are. I know that he has taken the worst of my mistakes and sins and used them to show me his mercy. We say, 'Lord, I am not worthy'. He says, 'That's true, but you must let it go now. Come sit at my table and let's be friends.'
I believe that truth and humility are two words for the same thing. Without truth, nothing else works. The spiritual life must be a constant search to know the truth, about yourself, about your relationship with God and with other people. We can only see the truth about ourselves with the help of God and other people. We can only bear that knowledge with the help of God and other people. We learn over time to bear more and more of the truth. We can choose to bear the tension between our desires and beliefs and actions. The result is that we grow and become able to bear yet more knowledge and more tension. We are called to make choices and to know that we will try and sometimes fail. Sometimes we have to give up our image of ourselves as good people. This takes a self-emptying that is very painful but it is the only way to make room for God. This all has to be freely chosen. You can't force anyone to see the truth until they are ready.
I believe that the goal of the spiritual life is to increase in three loves: Love of God/intimacy with God, Love of self/personal transformation, Love of other people/ministry to other people. Prayer should increase in us love in these three areas. I think of them as forming a wheel. You can grab hold at any of the three points and begin to move around the perimeter. Different people will find it easier to grab hold at different points. Love always is about a flow of energy and as energy in one area grows, it should spill over into the other areas. We long for God and God longs for us. He woos us and tries to draw us to himself. We respond and experience him feeding and filling us and that give us enough energy to love other people. As we open ourselves in love and confidence to other people, we are able to bear the very real misery in this life. When we love other people, it becomes harder to see them in need without trying to help. As we become more open and trusting toward each other, we may increase in our ability to love and respond to God. Most people will never know the love of God until they have been loved by other people. We are mammals and mammals need other mammals to survive. Infants need touch to thrive and grow. Bereaved people can really die of a broken heart. In the Incarnation God became a mammal to connect with us this way and we are now his vital link to other people.
I believe that saints are the ones who do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with God. They give us a glimpse of what it means to love God with your whole heart and mind and strength. If Jesus has opened the door to God, the saints are ones who have opened a door to Jesus, and we see some of God's light shining through them.
I believe that our goal is to be able to see God face to face in all his Glory, to bear the light of his presence, to bear the truth about ourselves. One lifetime does not seem enough to prepare for this. I have read intriguing accounts that suggest that reincarnation may happen. I think Purgatory may be a freely chosen state when we agree to bear the suffering that comes with acknowledging the truth of our lives and deeds. I think that Hell may be the state when we encounter light and truth and cannot bear them and so refuse God. God is the Divine Lover and has only himself to give us. It is exceedingly uncomfortable to be pursued by a Lover whose love we reject. This is all purely speculation. I don't know what life after death is going to be like except that it's all right. "All shall be well, and all shall be exceedingly well."
I have two gardens. There's the one you would see if you visit me, where young trees and newly planted shrubs are years away from their full size. Where weeds get ahead of me and are the most flourishing things in the yard. Where insects and black spot and drought stunt and blight the plants. There is also the garden that exists in my mind. It's the garden of Someday, and Not Yet, and A Few Years From Now, and When I have Time. I believe the Kingdom of God is like this. There are our halting attempts to live life ‘As If’ the Kingdom were among us now and there is our hope for the Kingdom to Come, when the Kingdom as it exists in the Mind of God is fully realized.
I believe that in Heaven, altos get to sing the descants.
I believe in the holiness of everyday life. Before enlightenment, pay bills, do laundry. After enlightenment, pay bills, do laundry.
Msgr. Chester Michael writes, “Worldview refers to those unproven and unprovable assumptions which one makes regarding all reality and especially ultimate reality. Ordinary human reason proves one statement to be true by asserting another more basic statement. This more basic statement is then proven correct by a still more basic statement. This process of human reasoning has to stop somewhere. The final statement is accepted as true on blind faith. We satisfy our conscience by stating that the truth of this final statement is self-evident. What we mean by this is that we are ready to accept the truth and validity of this final statement on blind faith without having to prove it. These assumptions of truth which we accept on faith without further proof constitute our total worldview.”
My own thoughts about worldview include things like:
- The nature of reality
- The basis of your faith
- What do you mean when you talk about God
- How you think the universe is constructed and works
- What it means to be a human being living in that universe
- Things you accept without having any objective proof or justification
In our discussions I think we have most often explored the Tradition and Culture sources. This will take us deeper into the Position source. This packet includes some things that may help you explore your ideas about worldview:
- a discussion of worldview from a secular point of view.
- a quiz about worldview from Quiz Farm. You may enjoy going to the website and taking the quiz.
- a selection of essays from the NPR “This I Believe” series.
- the grid from the EfM “Mapping Your Theology” exercise.
- Some perspective questions about creation, sin, judgment and redemption
Write a one-page statement describing your Worldview. You can use any format that appeals to you. We’ll take two weeks to work on this. For the class on 3/26 please bring a copy for each class member.
- You might write it as your version of one of the historic creeds.
- It can be an essay like “This I Believe”.
- You can take a blank Mapping Theology grid and fill in as many squares as you have an opinion about.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Benedictine Sisters of Virginia
A Roman Catholic community near Gainesville
Benedictine Pastoral Center
9535 Linton Hall Road.
Bristow, VA 20136
A note from their website:
Spiritual direction is an opportunity to find a path to the power and comfort of a life where your soul is nourished and your inner voice is at ease. Explore obstacles to being at peace with yourself and learn how to build your spiritual plane. Direction is offered with retreat if desired, or individuals may schedule direction – usually one hour a month – by appointment between 9 AM and 4 PM, Monday through Friday. Although no cost is set, a donation is appropriate. Individual need regarding the nature and time for direction, as well as a typical range for donation, can be discussed either during the first meeting, or when inquiring about an appointment.
Blue Ridge Ministries
This is an inter-denomination ministry for spiritual formation. Their website is not up to date and does not include contact information. It is a good resource for guided retreats and individual direction. I can get a phone number if you want to contact them.
The Open Door, Msgr. Chester Michael
In 1989, Monsignor Chester Michael, a Roman Catholic priest, founded the Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI), a two-year program designed to teach lay Christians the art of spiritual direction. A list of his graduates is available:
Eastern Mennonite University
Spiritual direction is available for the local community through the CRC. Those interested in receiving spiritual direction should contact Kevin Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (540) 432-4217. A form to request spiritual direction is also available in the CRC.
Richmond Hill is an ecumenical Christian fellowship and Residential Community in Richmond.
Shalem - In Maryland
Spiritual Directors International
Bibles & study materials
Lectionary & Commentary
History, Theology and Ethics
Daily Office/Praying the Hours
Phyllis Tickle's Divine Hours
Daily Office from the US Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
CDs for guiding and timing prayer sessions
Introduction to Centering Prayer by Melanie Calitri Holden
The Contemplative Way
Invitation to Silence: An Aid for Centering Prayer from episcopalonline.org
Contemplatio - a downloadable timer that runs on your computer
Online timer Also available on CD or MP3 download
Prayer and Temperament Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Msgr. Chester Michael
The Word is Very Near You, A Guide to Praying with Scriptures By Martin Smith
Education for Ministry, affectionately known as EfM, is a program of theological education-at-a-distance of the School of Theology of the University of the South. Students sign up one year at a time for this four-year program. It covers the basics of a theological education in the Old and New Testaments, church history, liturgy, and theology. Students meet regularly, usually once a week, in seminars under the guidance of trained mentors. The program grants a certificate at the completion of the four years and 18 Continuing Education Units for each year's work.
The EfM group has been active since 2000. Susan Hagen, a member of Emmanuel, and Warren Strickler, a Lutheran pastor, are trained mentors and lead the group. Here is a summary of the program:
• There are no 'lone' Christians
• We listen for God in community
• We do theology in community, reflecting on our tradition and contemporary issues
• We discern the call to ministry in community
• We worship in community
• The EfM course is mentored, not taught. Mentor and members share learning and insights
• Our current group has members from Emmanuel and from Muhlenberg Lutheran. We may extend an invitation to other groups as well. Members bring different perspectives to our discussions.
EfM is a powerful way to enable lay ministry. This program is not for the neophyte Christian. Rather, it is for Christian seeking to solidify an understanding of how God may be calling them to a ministry of Christian leadership within or beyond the parish. If this program is of interest to you, contact Susan - svhagen at verizon dot net.
The course materials are designed for self-study and discussion in the group. The group's theological reflection is informed by the text studies.
Year 1 - Old Testament
Year 2 - New Testament
Years 3 and 4 - Church history and theology
We begin each year with an exercise in spiritual autobiography. In our text studies we look for God’s presence and action in scripture and our shared tradition. In developing a spiritual autobiography we look for God’s presence and action in our own lived experience. We reflect on the people, times and incidents that have been significant in our spiritual lives. We are looking for the things that have made us the spiritual beings we are today.
These may include:
• Encounters with God (mystical, conversion, charismatic, contemplative, experiences of mercy, nudges, pursuit – like the poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’)
• Moments of repentance
• Crises of faith (doubt, disobedience, depression)
• Crises of circumstances (breakup, death of parent, fired from a job, illness)
• Experiences of growth (intellectual, emotional, relational, service)
• People who have been ‘Christ Bearers’ for us
What is Theology?
Theology = God Talk
'theos' which means 'God', and 'logos' which means 'word'
talk about God, and relationships between God, ourselves and the world
Four Key Sources – these all reveal something to us of God, ourselves and the world, and how they are related:
• Tradition, and
So 'doing' theology is going to involve:
• reading, studying and reflecting on Scripture, that is the Bible,
• using our intellect and current developments in understanding to Reason out what we think and believe,
• learning about and taking account of different Traditional understandings and insights throughout the history of the Christian church since the New Testament times,
• and understanding and reflecting on our own and other peoples' particular context and Experience in relation to these things, so that our theology is relevant
What is Reflection?
Reflection is a basic human process that is going on all the time, even as you read this, where one looks back on what has happened and analyses it in order to make sense of one's life experiences. This process of reflection involves four distinct stages:
• 'Experiencing' something - it can be any event in life no matter how small
• 'Identifying' that experience - subconsciously or intentionally describing the event
• 'Analysing' that experience - the actual reflection on the event
• 'Generalising' from that experience and analysis - determining future action
What is Theological Reflection for?
To have a structured conversation
• About something significant
• Examine what your tradition, culture and personal beliefs have to say about it
• Resulting in insights (an Ah Hah! Moment)
• With implications for action
• To take a look at our faith and beliefs and actions and see where they are congruent and where not. Sometimes we believe one thing and act another way. The idea of TR is to live with integrity: beliefs are examined, and lives are examined, and sometimes transformation occurs.
Members take turns preparing and leading worship. Some things we have done:
• Evening Prayer or Compline
• something related to the texts we're studying
• poetry or music
• prayers for the special concerns of the group
• prayers for the season, like a special Litany for All Saints
Frederick Buechner says that vocation is "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
• We take the things we learn about ourselves:
• Tastes, skills, concerns, beliefs
• Things that move us to compassion, to anger
• Things other people perceive in us
And decide what we are called to do about it
• Jackie serves at Muhlenberg as a Stephen Minister
• Jean completed a degree in religious studies and is moving to Rwanda to help start a secondary school
• Warren continues to mentor the EfM group
• Lynn continues her service to Emmanuel and expands her work on outreach
• Susan mentors the EfM group and trains parish discernment groups for the diocese.
18 continuing education units for each year of study
No academic credit
No papers or exams
Costs and Commitments:
You commit to one year at a time for four years. You can interrupt your course and restart it later and you can transfer to different groups if you move.
$340 for the year – this is less than cost of cable TV or a couple of restaurant lunches a week
• One night a week, for about 2 and a half hours
• 2 – 4 hours of preparation a week
Willingness to be challenged:
• To question your understanding and beliefs
• To learn about and develop your personal spirituality
• To be called to action, ministry
• Show up regularly
• Prepare ahead
• Be willing to share ideas, personal information
• Be respectful of other people's feelings and confidences
This site has some of the best material I have seen explaining what theological reflection is and how to do it.
If that link doesn't work, try http://www.youthministry.org.nz/ and look for Groundwork for Christian Faith.
From Saint John in the Wilderness in Minnesota. There are whole courses posted here in Word and PDF formats. Topics covered include scripture, theology, sacraments, spirituality, ethics.
Episcopal Diocese of Iowa e-Seminary
This is a site one church set up for its EfM classes. It’s a good starting point for a lot of other material.
Holy Cross Abbey, Rte 2, Box 3879, Berryville, VA 22611; 540-955-3124. Weekend retreats from Friday dinner to Sunday lunch; weekday retreats from Monday 3:00 PM to Friday 9:30 AM, suggested donation of $200-300. Retreats may be silent; individual retreats are not programmed, but spiritual direction could be arranged.
If that link doesn't work, try http://www.youthministry.org.nz/ and look for Groundwork for Christian Faith.
Autobiographical Introduction to the Four Sources
Where is your spiritual life and practice right now?
What movie, news item, advertisement, book, current event has affected you recently?
What is one event or experience that stands out in your current life?
What ditch have you died in/stand have you taken this year?
This is some information I hand out as an introduction to writing a spiritual autobiography.
We begin each year with an exercise in spiritual autobiography. In our text studies we look for God's presence and action in scripture and our shared tradition. In developing a spiritual autobiography we look for God's presence and action in our own lived experience. We reflect on the people, times and incidents that have been significant in our spiritual lives. We are looking for the things that have made us the spiritual beings we are today.
These may include:
Encounters with God (mystical, conversion, charismatic, contemplative, experiences of mercy, nudges, pursuit – 'The Hound of Heaven')
Moments of repentance
Crises of faith (doubt, disobedience, depression)
Crises of circumstances (breaiup, death of parent, fired from job, illness)
Experiences of growth (intellectual, emotional, relational, service)
People who have been 'Christ Bearers' for us
An Introduction by Richard B. Patterson:
What is the point of writing an autobiography, especially for those of us who are not bound for fame? As with journaling, the autobiography can give us a sense of theme and pattern in our lives. So it is with our spiritual side. Writing your spiritual autobiography can give you a good sense of those themes of your spiritual world which have shaped you. It can also give you an idea as to which questions have pursued you.
The best way to approach your spiritual autobiography is to first of all simply tell the story. You might want to begin by telling the story of your parents' religious background and general spiritual approaches. Your early life might include early messages that were communicated to you (for example, "God loves you" or "You're bad and the devil will get you!"). Of importance, too, are early experiences that had great impact on your subsequent spiritual journey. In my case, for instance, I lost two sisters to spina bifida. This raised the "Why?" question for me at a very early age. That question has dogged me ever since.
You can then explore your early experiences with organized religion and any particular events that may have impacted you. You may want to talk about persons who influenced you spiritually. You may also begin to explore your experiences with the concept of sin. My own thought at this point is that each of our faith experiences is a story about community. My own spiritual autobiography is made up of many stories, not so much about dogma, but about people.
As you work through your teen and early adult years, the notion of doubts may take center stage. Similarly if you have traveled through midlife, this spiritually tumultuous time may require much reflection.
Spiritual Autobiography: Important Markers Method
Quickly list the important markers of your life. This list should not be made with careful consideration and extensive reflection. Rather, it is a "this is what comes to mind when I reflect upon my life."
experience of finding God in your life
experience of prayer, church, sacraments, etc.
experiences of school, work, volunteering
frailties and weaknesses
significant decisions you have made
Significant events in your life
significant persons in your life
significant turning points in your life
struggles and conflicts
successes and failures
talents and accomplishments
people who ministered to you, taught you, helped you grow
Note: an event is a one-time episode: the birth of a child, graduation from college, a wedding day, the death of a parent. An experience is a process: pregnancy, your first job, serious illness.
On a second day join the people, events, and experiences in a chronological sequence. Include only those persons, events, and experiences that seem significant to you now.As you make these connections between people, events, and experiences, look for:
Trends or patterns;
Ways that God is active in your life;
Principles you use to evaluate whether God is active in your life.
You may also include your reflections of:
An understanding of your relationship with Christ;
Theological concepts that have been illumined by your life experience;
Commitments you have made as a result of your experiences;
A sense of Christian vocation that has developed;
Ways that you have matured in your spiritual life or a pattern in your devotional life;
Areas in life that represent successes, and areas that remain ongoing concerns.
Take an intuitive leap into your future:
What do you see as forward directions to be pursued?
Are there goals to be achieved or commitments to be made?
Spiritual Autobiography: Life Line Method
Develop a lifeline in any manner you wish (examples might include a line, spiral, diagram, or timeline). Focus on transitions, changes, decisions, new directions, marker events.It is often helpful to show location, school or work setting, role status (child, single adult, married), significant figures and events, and the pluses and minuses of each period.
Identify key transition periods.
Evaluate each one as easy or difficult on a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (difficult).
Think about the reason for each rating (examples might include "Not ready to move on," "A disturbing external event," or "Experienced much inner suffering."
Reflect upon your timeline using the following questions:
Where did I experience God's presence or absence?
Over which transitions did I have the most control? The least?
Where were the high points? The low points?
What issues were dominant during various periods?
Where any issues left unresolved?
Are there patterns or trends?
The writing of one's spiritual autobiography should be a joy and not a chore. It is a good way to begin the process of reflective thinking and leads into the discipline of journaling.
Some things to think about
From the Journal of John Wesley for May 14, 1738
"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
Have you had times when you felt or knew beyond doubt that God was real? That God loved you? That you love God?
The Orthodox call Mary "Theotokos" which can be translated "God-Bearer". One who brings God into the world, one who bears the imprint of God in her flesh.
Who is a God-Bearer for you?
An angel is a messenger, someone who is sent . In one of Josephine Tey's mysteries, one character chides another for his disbelief, saying that he is expecting an angel to have wings and feathers when it is just as likely to be a scruffy man in a bowler hat.
Have you been visited by an angel?
Saints and Icons
Someone said icons are a window through which we can see an image of the divine.
Have you ever asked what it would look like if someone really loved God with her whole heart and mind and strength? Or truly loved his neighbor as himself? I think that if you can point to someone and say, "There, it would look like that", then that's a saint.
Who are your saints?
Bernie Siegel, MD, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles, reports that he once had a flat tire that caused him to miss a plane to a speaking engagement. When he got to the airport, no one was at the ticket counter to assist him. He was harried and upset … until he found out that the plane had gone down. When he told this story to an audience, one listener commented, “Maybe coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
There are disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way.
What 'flat tires' have occurred in your life?
Some famous spiritual autobiographies:
St. Augustine, Confessions
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Thomas Merton, Seven Story Mountain
I am a Benedictine Oblate, a lay person affiliated with a religious community. My monastic home community is the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, a Roman Catholic community in Bristow, Virginia.
Are you a Heretic?
Write an essay suitable for NPR's This I Believe series. See the archives for ideas.
Write Your Own Creed
Write Your Own Commandments
I have instructions for cinctures crocheted from cotton thread. The pattern forms an attractive spiral design around the cord.
Crocheted caps for cincture tassels
A home communion kit I made for a friend.
I have made and shipped several dozen of these:
Sand scarves and cooling scarves for soldiers
Knitting for outreach