Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reflections on Lent

I have always loved Lent, and I'm excited about its approach. I remember being in elementary school and learning about the season in Sunday school and giving up ice cream without telling anyone; I only gave in on that commitment once or twice which was pretty good for a fifth grader, I think. Something about a season for fasting, prayer, repentance has always resonated with me. I think part of my interest in the season is the fact that it recognizes the frailty of human nature and our reliance on God. It goes against the notion to pursue happiness and consolation when I'm instead instructed to fast, reminding me that the world is still suffering. For though it has been redeemed, the world still “refuses to acknowledge its redemption,” as Hauerwas writes. But in the midst of fasting, I also need to continue to remind myself of the happy paradox that Lent draws its purpose from the coming joy of the resurrection. Holding onto both at the same time: joy and suffering, peace and repentance, seems to be a bit of what Christianity is about.

I've been reading Julian of Norwich, and she has been very helpful for me in thinking about this. She writes of our human condition that "we have in us, for the time of this life, a marvelous mingling both of weal and woe: we have in us our Lord Jesus uprisen, we have in us the wretchedness and the mischief of Adam's falling, dying." For now, we live in the turmoil between these two. “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well,” she writes. Julian's statement that all shall be well was not a burying her head in the sand or just a feel-good statement about a God who somehow meets all of our desires, no matter how selfish. God is too gracious to always give us what we want, I think. She understood suffering: she almost died at the time when she received her mystical visions. That all shall be well turns out to be an invitation to join with Christ in his suffering, that one day we might share with his joy. So I pray that for this Lent, I might hang onto both, the “weal and woe”: recognizing human frailty, the suffering and injustice present in the world, my own need for repentance; and relying on Christ and the joy of his resurrection, with faith that all really shall be well. Or perhaps, it already is.

-John Orzechowski

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A couple of oppurtunites for our community...

Albright United Methodist Church
2750 5th Ave N
St. Petersburg, FL 33713


Student Price: $20*
Pre-Registration Price: $25
At the Door price: $35

About the Conference:

Much like the “going green” catch phrases out there, the word community gets thrown around Christian circles these days as if it’s “going out of style.” The reality is, a truly missional community is far more than the latest hot topic in the church; in fact, it IS the church at its very core. So why does it seem like authentic community is so difficult to find, even when so many churches use the name community in hopes of fostering it? Perhaps something has been lost in translation. This weekend-long conversation will unite the minds of those who are interested in nurturing a simpler, more sustainable faith within their own faith communities.

Expect to hear the thoughts of Shane Claiborne (The Simple Way & author of "The Irresistible Revolution), Frank Viola (Pagan Christianity), Tim Keel (Jacob's Well & author of "Intuitive Leadership"), and others as they lead a holistic discussion on how to practice faith, spirituality, and church in general without the programs and productions that we find stifling the ability for us to simply love one another.

Interact with these emerging ideas in the context of break-out groups, creative worship, engaging workshops, and, most importantly, by meeting and making friendships along the way. Held at Albright United Methodist Church, in charming St. Petersburg, Florida, there will also be optional events planned outside of the venue such as small concerts, book readings, and other social activities downtown throughout the weekend. Come prepared to learn but also to engage with new friends, as this will surely be a time to do both.


Rick Bennett: Emergent and the importance of sustainability in its many varieties/Is the Emergent Church Sustainable?
Tim Keel: Sustainable Leadership
Brian Sanders: Importance of Biblical Community in Living a Sustainable Faith
Frank Valdez: Contra Mundum: The Church as the Community of Resistance
Bruce Wright: A Movement of the Poor: Justice, Community, and Peace Led By and From the Point of View of the Poor
Rodney Shores: Sustainable Worship: Finding Context within the Story of God
Geoff Kohler: Simplicity Through Obedience
Danielle Shroyer : Stories from Journey/Sustaining Sabbath
Frank Viola: Reconceiving Church: Living Out a Narrative Ecclesiology Rooted in the Triune God
Cozy Dixon: Sustainable Relationships
Matthew Huett: Sustainable Prayer: Lectio Divina as a Spiritual Grid for a Post-Modern/Post-Colonial Context
Chris Haw: Practicing Resurrection (and Sociological Consciousness and Israeli Identity) in Urban Wastelands
Troy Bronsink: Stories from Southeast Emergent/Adaptive Re-Use: Using Everything We've Left Behind
Shane Claiborne: Another Way of Doing Life/Big Beasts and Little Prophets.
Billy Daniel: Eschatological Economics: Trinity, Liturgy and Capitalism
Odon Soterias: Living Eden: A Theology of Cosmic Salvation

*For special student pricing or group rates, email to learn more.

First Baptist Church
1900 Gandy Boulevard N.
St. Petersburg, Florida 33702


Register by Feb. 27th: $109
Student Price: $79.00

About the Conference:

Each of these 11-city events from February through May 2008 will be held from a Friday night to Saturday afternoon. The on-site tour experience will include:

Four opportunities to hear and respond in dialogue to new material from Brian McLaren

  • Book-signing and book-release party for Brian’s newest book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, available at a special introductory price
  • Guided reflection led by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw using the Nude Truths Art Exhibit in Digital form to experience the deep shifts needed individually and communally for Everything to Change (find out more)
  • New music, liturgical experiences, and other resources that you can take home and use in your faith community, created with Tracy Howe (
  • Networking and conversation groups about faith, art, justice, mission, spiritual formation, worship, and community
  • Stories of deep personal life change and the resulting community and global impact
  • Serving Just Coffee, beyond fair trade
  • Local impact: A portion of the proceeds of the gathering will go to help a local peace/justice mission or charitable project (chosen with the help of our host).
  • This is a “green event” – we will seek to minimize waste of resources and energy. We encourage you to carpool to the gathering, and choose the location nearest you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote on Community

I found this quote on Claremont's Process & Faith Lectionary web site while I was researching for yesterday's sermon. The entire article is worth reading, but here is a little teaser. The second paragraph I cut and pasted seems to really relate to livingstones as we begin to invest ourselves in this experiment:

The dialogue between Jesus and John’s followers further reflects the dynamic interplay of call and response in discerning our spiritual gifts and personal adventures. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks. This question is at the heart of spiritual formation, “What do [you] want? What is your goal in life?” The disciples’ response, “Where are you staying?” describes the quest to discern one’s vocation. “Where can we find what we are truly looking for? Among the many paths of life, which one will truly fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts and allow us to live out our evolving vocation?” “Come and see,” Jesus responds, as if to say, “If you follow this pathway with me, and are open to God’s vision for your life, you will see what you truly need in order to experience wholeness, vitality, and purpose.”

“They remained with him.” Spiritual growth requires time and practice. For persons today, these future followers of Jesus are reminders that we need to “practice discipleship” through a commitment to the disciplines of community and spiritual formation. Our congregations are called to be laboratories of spiritual and relational transformation, deepened by prayer, contemplation, healing arts, and service to the local as well as global community. Only a commitment to “remain” in community can nurture the spiritual maturity that we seek.

Here's to remaining together!


Ultra Short Bible Readings

Blessed are the pure in heart
for they will see God.
For years I thought that I should read as much of the bible as I could: I thought that was the way to spiritual growth. The problem was no matter how much I read (and reread) I rarely found anything new. While there was occasionally improvement in my life, there was rarely change, and never transformation (that I can remember). Consequently, I might read chapters and chapters a day or go for months without reading.

But now, more than consuming scripture, I want scripture to consume me. This distinction, of course, is just metaphoric, but I think the contrast is useful. A few weeks ago, I started practicing reading ultra short passages, even just one verse a day. (This type of reading is part of the lectio divina practice.)

I’ve started with the Sermon on the Mount. I am finding much more “meaning” in Jesus’ statements than ever before. Not just intellectual meaning. I’ve heard radical lectures on how counter-cultural Jesus is. But after changing my mind, those thoughts stop changing me. This practice I am experimenting with is about presence.

Beautiful, simple, and confounding, the verse I am reading today says, “Blessed are the pure in heart / for they will see God.” I think that a practice of being present to short passages of scripture can be spiritually purifying. For one thing, this type of reading doesn’t aim at accomplishment, bragging rights, or moral self-affirmation. More significantly, however, we know that only God can work purity in us; much like with silent prayer, this reading practice gives God space to work.

God please work purity in us.

-- Paul Corrigan

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Reflection on Jan. 18th's Merton Meditation

Rickey and Anna are here with me in Tennessee, and I took them to the mountains today where we took a little walk toward Margarette Falls. When we got home I read an excerpt from a collection of Merton writings, and thought I'd share it with the community. It's today's entry and it is titled "An Ecology of Silence." Merton is talking about a walk he shared with Frater Tarcisius.

The beautiful silence of the woods on every side! Frater Tarcisius looked about with such reverence that you would have thought he was seeing angels. Later we separated to pray apart in the thinned pine grove on the southeastern hillside. And I could see how simple it is to find God in solitude. There is no one else, nothing else. He is all there is to find there. Everything is in Him. And what could be more pleasing to Him than that we should leave all things and company to be with Him and think only of Him and know Him alone, in order to give Him our love?

Te be alone by being part of the universe--fitting in completely to an environment of woods and silence and peace. Everything you do becomes unity and a prayer. Unity within and without. Unity with all living things--without effort or contention. My silence is part of the whole world's silence and builds the temple of God without the noise of hammers.
Dec. 29 and Jan. 28, 1953

I love his observation that "Everything you do becomes unity and a prayer." I am beginning to understanding this phenomenon more as I journey. For a long time prayer was a chore for me. Having this deeper understanding of prayer coupled with the practice of Centering Prayer has truly transformed me as a person. Here is a photo of the silent woods we walked/"prayed" in this morning.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Compartmentalization: we are all connected!

Well, I think it's time for me to attempt this form of communication now; we'll see how it goes!  These are some things I have been pondering over for a long time now, albeit in many different ways with many different situations triggering these thoughts.  Anyway, the keyword that ignites this train of thought persistently is "compartmentalization."  
    It seems to me that we are unable to realize life's/reality's oneness.  Maybe it is our never-ending struggle for power, attention, love, money, fame or uniqueness that blinds us to the fact that we are, every single one of us, part of the human race, each made in the image of God, each made individually but collectively making up a part of God's spirit.  (Some people don't acknowledge their role or part, but they are not cut off from those of us who have reconnected to God.)  We compartmentalize families, sexes, races, ages, abilities, etc.  I think that maybe we do this in order to better "handle" certain people; it creates a structure within which we can safely live and remain intact.  But how much strength and passion must we gather in order to reach over and touch someone else's neatly protected soul?  Too much!  It is not intended for humans to live independently; we are one, but we live and grow as fragmented forms of the loving Spirit we have all come from as we strive to be "ourselves."  
   Okay, so we compartmentalize humanity.  Unfortunately, it does not stop there.  We have become so good at it that we set up a well-planned schedule or structure into which we fit our spirituality.  The Episcopalian Eucharist liturgy acknowledges this beautifully by leading us to repent for coming to the table "for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal."  It even leads us as a community to ask for us to be one body and one spirit in Christ.  As one example, it shows how often we set aside certain hours or practices and presume exactly what it should be used for.  (I am in favor of setting aside time for prayer, for example, but I am not in favor of then assuming it should only be used in order to pray for my job or for a friend.)  We bring all of us before God in every moment; forgiveness does not only take place on Sundays when I kneel and repent.  Study and prayer do not only take place on Mondays and Thursdays, but how quickly I find myself directing my spiritual experiences to their appointed places on my calendar.  How beautiful would it be to see my weekly calendar virtually blank because my encounters and talks with God were as natural as eating and breathing!  We rarely confine those things to a place or time-- why would do as much to the Creator of our souls?
    Another example of humanity's compartmentalization crisis, I feel, was portrayed in a conversation I had with a friend over Christmas break.  His girlfriend is very much a humanitarian, but she does not believe that her love or passion for others comes from anything greater, or God, so to speak.  We began discussing why someone would care for another if God did not exist.  I suddenly found that I was asking the wrong question, however.  We had relegated God's love and passion to only people, or humanitarianism-- what about everything else?  Love, passion, desire: these things enable us to do every single thing that we do!  I paint: why?  My friend plays guitar: why?  We all go to jobs: why?  Could it be that this driving passion and love is connected to every single person in the universe and inspires every single act performed?  (I will not go into the twisted ways we have distorted this love and passion--I will only talk about the positive aspect.)  Whether we believe that inspiration to be God or not, it is a unifying force which we desperately try to cover up in order to take credit for our own achievements and actions.  Perhaps my friend's girlfriend could not see her passion as being from God or something greater because she had boxed up the passion as one little gift for one single aspect of her life.  How amazing that this love is so much greater than one aspect of one life!  What credit to God's power and infinite creativity! When all of our compartments have been done away with, I am finding that there is freedom to see that this unbelievable love does exist, and we are, definitely and undoubtedly, connected to and by this love, this passion.  

Thank you for reading; I'm sorry this was so long.  
Jennifer Addis

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Article on Emily Dickinson Posted

I've posted an article titled "Image(less): Emily Dickinson and Spiritual Desire." The article was a term paper for a course on American Romantic Period literature that I took last semester. It deals with elements that demonstrate an awareness of the apophatic in Dickinson's poetry.

Here's a link to the article.

-- Paul Corrigan

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Practicing Silence in the Classroom

While leading the high school students of my Intensive Reading class through what our text calls, “Sources of Wisdom,” a unit which includes short passages from the primary texts of several religions, I was able to spend some time explaining the significance of intentional silence, as I feel it is integral to many faith practices. According to our literature textbook, the guidelines of Zen Buddhism are “meditation and self-discipline.” So on Zen Buddhism Day, after reading the text, I challenged them saying, “If you really want to be radical, create a space for quiet reflection amidst the constant hyper-stimulation of our culture!” After receiving their approval, I initiated two minutes of silence, allowing them to spend their time a) in a form of silent prayer belonging to one of the faith traditions we had studied, or b) slowing down, simply resting in a time of reflection apart from ambitions or goals. I’m not sure I really expected our quiet time to go smoothly; I was certain several students would recognize it as a prime opportunity to act out and steal our attention. Instead, what happened, I think, was a move of the Spirit. Sure, I had to endure a couple of remarks and giggles afterwards about how “strange” or “funny” I looked, sitting in my chair in the front of the room, facing them with my eyes closed, but these comments were also accompanied by: “Hey, I liked that! Can we do this everyday?” and “How about two more minutes?” I think now about those Buddhist monks who committed their lives to prayer and reflection, wondering if they had any idea a bunch of high school brats could find something valuable--if only for a minute or two--in their way of life.

--Daniel Sartin

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Article on "Meaning" Posted

I've posted another article: "The Inescapable Interchange of Faith and Knowledge: A Theory of Meaning, Truth, and Art." It is a paper I wrote for Dr. Cotton's Literary Theory class, and though it doesn't deal with mysticism directly, I think it deals with my philisophical reasons for coming to contemplative spirituality. Here's the link:

-- Paul Corrigan

Article on T. S. Eliot Posted

I've posted a short article on our google docs account: "Some Thoughts on Mysticism in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets." It is something I wrote for and presented in Dr. Cotton's Christian Mystics class Spring 2007. Here's a link straight to the article:

-- Paul Corrigan

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