Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why do I avoid this blogging?

There a whole bunch of reasons for this: deep seated unworthiness; I'll make a fool of myself; there'll be hate email. You know the drill -- especially when it comes to this kind of writing.The list goes on.

But there are other considerations as well. My theological vision has changed drastically in the last six or so months. I arise early greet the dawn daily and am a student of meditation. I write and compose mandala drawing every morning and have done so for years. The lifelong resources that companioned me no longer seem to bear the deep meaning they once had. Like the Sufi mystic Lalla, I've had to pull back from too much reading and spend time focused inwardly. I'm into a new future -- an emergent paradigm as the religious writers put it.

The other part of my reluctance is the mechanical side of being computer literate. I just don't get a lot of this. I've been without help since my college student Peter graduated last May. He was a patient business major who worked in the university's IT department. After a semester without assistance, I've hired a bright religion major this time who claims interest in the subject and a capacity to work with these machines.

So I'm going to press on and hopefully, not lose my nerve. I, like many of you, choose the life of Silence as a spiritual necessity. It is an intentional thing, i.e, deliberately placing myself "in tension" between past and future within the presence of the heart. It's a huge shift internally from the life of the intellect into the sacred place of coherence. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I don't care about religious politics on either side. Like those hearty souls who opened this path for me (us)in the desert, I'm on the side of an articulate unknowing. I'm exhausted at taking sides as though I actually know what the future holds. At our peril, we ignore the divine imagination's richness in favor of weak abstractions that satisfy the intellect but starve the soul. I must surrender. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much,
very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can
come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within
our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too,
be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni ~

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm b-a-a-a-a-ck again. . .

and wondering where to take this effort. I pick up bits and pieces and practices to share, but there's so much more real content to explore, isn't there?

Just found It's a ministry of the British Jesuits
and definitely worth a look.

I've never written for an anonymous audience before. It's a little terrifying. In a classroom or church setting I enjoy the wonderful "loop" of communication that appears as restless minds and bodies engage challenging ideas with me. Faces tell me whether they've "got" it or now. And all questions are valid. Like Rainer Maria Rilke, I love and cherish the questions. The more difficult the better. I'm not interested in answers any longer. They, like so much of my religious training, comes from the past. And, in my humble view, the past ain't gonna get us to the future.

Years ago I was outside church working the crowd after a Sunday morning liturgy where I'd been homilist. Over the rustle of voices I heard a woman's voice call my name in a thick Richmond, VA, accent. It was that slow intonation that women of her generation and stature saved when they wanted to get their son's attention for something specific. (There's a different one for husbands I later learned.) It was clear Betsy had something that needed my immediate attention.

"That was one of the best sermons I've ever heard." Pause. Her tone was exasperated. Then she started to pound on my chest with her index finger. "You'd have made a wonderful bishop, you know. But you simply won't follow the rules."

That's pretty much the summation of my life and spiritual journey. I won't follow the rules. My years in a religious community were a disaster. I will respect a tradition as long as I'm allowed to question it. Perhaps that's why the solitary life is so appealing to me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Been away and now organizing and academic year. . .

I need a little more breathing room and I'll return to this important bloggin work.

I never seem to get out of the book of Genesis for some reason. Working right now on the nature of human desire, the bodying of life as the continual expression of creation. So much in the Hebrew language that doesn't translate easily. Whew! More than I bargained for.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just found Christine Valters Paintner's work. . .

She's an artist/writer with a gracious, attractive manner of presenting monasticism using only an awareness of the boundaries of the heart. At least that's how I'm understanding her right now. I've listed her blog below at Abbey of the Arts.

My focus has often been limited by adherence to dogmas, doctrine and a moral code that always seemed to escape my grasp. I guess it worked for the people who wrote it but it was never a mirror in which I could see much that was positive or healthy about my own life.

Much of this journey into solitude has been the careful, conscious setting aside of what never worked for me. I maintain respect for all religious practice but realize that a simple way of compassionate awareness, kindred community and profound silence is as much as I can manage most days.

May we worship and live in spirit and truth.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Catching up reflection . . .

There's a nagging feeling within that has to do with a sense of struggle between time and talent and task. How do I make it all fit? I ask myself.

This last month has gone quickly. I've been reading and writing a lot but little of it is probably of interest here even though it's about the emerging shape of the spiritual life. I really haven't found the boundaries of this blog yet because I've never done this before. And I don't want my efforts and opinions to take it over in favor of your interests. But we can discuss that.

I've been getting ready to teach a class in pastoral theology and practice but it's online. I've never done that. The department head assured me that everything would go fine. I'd be introduced to something called Blackboard and, best news for a solitary, I could do the whole thing from home. Still not convinced I can project the content but we'll see.

I read fancy blogs with lots of art work and wonder how they do it when I can barely edit this one. And I know that much written work, especially in academia, is going paperless. Have you priced textbooks lately? Spent last week at my seminary alma mater in Alexandria, Virginia. A simple paperback was nearly $100. But there are few publishers willing to take chances with a long print run.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How do you "pray?"

I'm setting that apart in quotes for a reason. Like me, you may not find most of the conventional ways to your liking any longer. What about liturgical prayer? I know that some use the Divine Office and/or lectio divina.

Are there ways you'd like to share with others? I'm sure there are readers besides me who would be interested.

Next "Raven's Bread" newsletter will be coming your way shortly. . .

So I'm adding a couple of blogs that Karen sent my way. I also submit Meg Funk's work because I like her common sense approach to life as seen through the Benedictine spiritual lense.

Right now I'm reading Field of Compassion: How the New Cosmology is Transforming Spiritual Life by Judy Cannato. ( She had my attention from the opening paragraph:

This book is for mature readers only. It is not a self-help program. It is not
about building self-esteem. It is not intended to convince you that God loves
you. Neither is it an attempt to tell you about the many potentially deadly
crises that beset our world. . . The purpose of this book is twofold. First, I
want to invite you, my fellow human beings. . . to take up. . .the invitation to
transformation that will change the way our species lives. Second, I would like
to suggest ways that we may walk through this new terrain together. . .Karl
Rahner said that we are 'pressured' from within to evolve.

I like her approach and, for me, she delivers on her promise. She's one of the few popular religious authors I've found who is drawing on the work of Rupert Sheldrake and others interested in "resonant field" thinking. We live in a field of activity that forms us all the time. We change or transform because something enters the field and alters the energy that's there.
It's a "detractor" that sets up a new interest or center. The detractor goes by many names and shapes and forms. Religion often sees it as evil because it threatens to upset the way things have always been.

I'm rereading Martin Buber's I and Thou as part of my own research. He leaves me breathless at times with his grasp of Truth. I love reading a book where I just simply have to stop from time to time to allow its absorption to occur. There is no way I could have appreciated him in my 20's the way I can now. Along with it bought Kenneth Kramer's commentary which greatly deepens the reading for me.