Sunday, March 30, 2008

Awareness and Transformation

Perhaps as a result of Lent when I found myself deliberately slowing down to pay attention, I’ve been noticing more of my surroundings--the moon glowing and growing so big and then so small again, the fragrant orange blossoms on the tree in my backyard, and the soft way the Spanish moss drapes across the limbs of the trees. Tonight, when I went to sit with Rickey in the yard for a few minutes, he showed me a small "weed" he had pulled out of our lawn. Although it was only four inches tall, it was really the start of an oak tree. It had three green leaves attached to a single stem, but at the bottom was a barely cracked acorn with a tiny bit of dirt and a few fragile roots connecting the whole thing--wow! I was reminded of a wonderful article I read this past week, "Beauty and the Creative Impulse," by Lucy Shaw. She wrote, “The messages of beauty...print themselves on our imaginations and do their transforming work in us, reminding us, if we are aware, of the One behind the messages.” My prayer is to be more aware and to be transformed.
--Anna Cotton

Monday, March 24, 2008

Maundy Thursday

This was my first Easter season in our liturgical church. There is such a rich weaving of the story of our Lord Jesus into the fabric of Holy Week.

One of the arguments I've endured against following the Church calendar, and the liturgy is that people eventually end up going through the motions, and it becomes meaningless. I suppose there is the possibility of that danger, but why deprive everyone of a potentially powerful learning experience for the sake of those who might miss the point in any case?

I had come across the term Maundy Thursday in my reading a few times in the past (probably C.S. Lewis), but had no idea what it was about. Sarah narrated her experience for me after she attended the service last year, but it took the experience of it this year to know. The foot washing moved me to tears. Surely in humbling Himself to wash the dirty feet of His disciples, Jesus also teaches us humility who are receiving the washing of feet. After that, the stripping of the altar, dimming of the lights and removal of all of the furnishings moved me again. I felt completely bereft. Somehow that image has stayed with me.

I'm still processing....

Susan Price

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holy Saturday

Here is a photo from one of my churches. It was taken during our prayer vigil on Holy Saturday. I took a vow of silence Saturday and spent the entire day at the churches. It was nice to center in the sanctuaries of my parish. I had long periods of solitude throughout the day. Occasionally a church member would drop in for a few minutes to pray and then leave. I thought a lot about Thomas Merton and his love for solitude, and I reflected on my Centering Prayer retreat with Rickey at Sewanee a couple of years ago. It was a nice boost to enter intentionally into a day away, especially right before Easter. I had the joy of baptizing two ladies into one of my congregations today. In the midst of all the rich liturgy of Easter, this ceremony really seemed to seal the day. I pray that everyone was able to stop and enjoy a moment in this year's Holy Week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I am the king of the afterthought. I have always known that if I were on a debate team I would come up with the wittiest retorts two hours after the debate. That being said Lent is almost over, and I just thought of the perfect thing to give up. Condemnation and judgement of others. Jesus said, "Judge not lest you be judged." I will just say that this is not my expertise. After saying this he goes on to say, "How do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother. 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." I always love how drastic Jesus' examples are. Your brother has a tiny little "speck" in his eye and you have this "plank" in your own. Yet we somehow find the time to comment on his "speck," maybe as a means to covering up or drawing attention from our "plank." It seems that Jesus chose such a wide variance for more than one reason. Surely it paints a very vivid picture for us as a way of remembering the proverb, but maybe Jesus was saying that many times our "planks" are so large that we may not get to our brother's "speck." Or maybe after the years, months, days, and hours we spend cutting away the "plank" bit by bit, we will finally "see clearly," that removing the speck from my brother's eye can only be done with love.  A love that is beyond the blindness that comes from our "plank." 

Matt Addis

Race and Spirituality

Without endorsing any politician or introducing government politics into the discussions of our community, I would like to recommend that you read the speech Obama gave today about race. Again, I do not want to start a discussion here about politics and I am not endorsing Obama or his speech. But I think that in America in the twenty-first century, questions of race are central to questions of love, compassion, and spirituality. We need to keep in mind--of course--that the primary purpose of the speech is to help the candadate win the election. That aside, I think that Obama adresses some essential issues and does so with a measure of balance.

--Paul Corrigan

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Today, of course, was Palm Sunday. I never thought much about this day in previous years, but in a liturgical church (in which I’ve lately found myself), these special days seem to be everything. I sensed an expectancy in church this morning, a hope that reaches out and towards. The altar linen was changed from a deep, lovely purple to a vibrant red and there were palm fronds and this kite-like dove flying above us with the choir procession. I even saw a red balloon bobbing from a pew bench where a dozen older ladies dressed in purple and wearing red hats sat. I like this church because the sanctuary is so stately and the service so serious and thoughtful, yet there are always sort of absurd things like ladies in red hats or a sermon that consists mostly of sharing about the softball team’s latest victory to make one feel that any blunders she makes will be either overlooked or laughed at good-naturedly. Today John and I sat next to this sweet old man named Charlie who sings very loudly and very badly and who I like immensely just for that reason.

I appreciate Palm Sunday because it reminds me that Jesus comes to save us in a way that we don’t expect, using a means that we may not like or find natural. The Son of God comes riding into our lives on a donkey, preaching a kingdom we never imagined existed, a gospel that is so different from anything we ever expected. And we can either blow him off as a crazy guy on dirty, smelly animal or recognize him as the face and hands of God we’ve been longing for, the Messiah come to rescue us, God who dwells with us. I think I like Christianity because it is so opposite all our rational ideas: to live we must die, to win we must lose, to be wise we must be children. Jesus comes into our lives, teaching us a different way—he doesn’t come like a warrior on a white horse, slashing down our enemies (despite the militant images of God the evangelical church is so fond of presenting); rather, Jesus comes humbly, quietly and deliberately to save us from ourselves, to teach us the way that is himself.

--Erica Waters

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thank You for the Warm Welcome

I was encouraged by your responses to my first post, and came away from reading them realizing anew what a precious gift the Lord has given me in the way that Sarah and I relate to one another. She is more than a daughter, she is also my dear friend. We share many interests outside the realm of the mother-daughter relationship for which I feel blessed.

Paul encouraged me to write a short bio by way of introduction. It is a difficult task to put myself into words on a page, and I infinitely prefer talking face to face. Nevertheless, I will attempt to "speak."

I was a preacher's kid for 13 years of my life. My dad was an independent, fundamental Baptist--but I'm not convinced that it was a good fit for him, and I know it wasn't for me--the God in a Box they offered me was dismally inadequate.

After high school, I got a degree in Bible, and moved to Denver to work in a Christian publishing house. After a year, I moved back to PA to work in a Christian school. Three years later I married my husband--we had dated in our high school years, but had a disagreement which we resolved seven years later. :) He was already the business manager for a mission in Portugal, and he carried me off to Lusitania for 11 years--where, incidentally, our three children were born. In 1990 we came back to the states and in 1999 we moved to Florida in search of spiritual food.

Eventually, we found it in a liturgical church in Ocala in 2006. I went through a long period of cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the fact that I found the Lord, spiritual food, community, and real believers in a place "so far from home" in a manner of speaking. I imagined my father turning over in his grave, but soon realized that he now knows better.

Still, it has been both a joyful, and reluctant journey. Sometimes it's hard to still the voices in one's head who are saying all of the things one has heard about liturgical churches in the course of a lifetime. Yet, my spirit rejoices in discovering that God does not reside in someone's little box, but also in community and in the liturgy. My beloved Lord ministers to the whole of me in this church, and He bubbles and overflows into the rest of my life.

And He has given me employment that complements what He is doing in our church. I am an apprentice teacher at Ambleside School of Ocala
There is room to breathe at Ambleside, and the full complement of the gifts and abilities which He has given to me to use for His glory are useful there.

Susan Price

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Judith Butler

A few weeks ago Mark posted an entry on "spiritual entanglement," drawing an analogy from physics. Below are a few quotes that I think speak in the same direction from psychoanalytic philosophy. Judith Butler is discussing the impossibility of fully "knowing your self"/"giving an account of oneself" in language or with a sense of mastery. She says the reason that we can't know ourselves fully is because we (our (un)conscious selves) are in part made up from our relations to others who we also can't know fully.

The book is Giving an Account of Oneself (New York: Fordham UP, 2005). Though I find much of the material difficult to understand, these are among a number of quite contemplative sounding statements she makes. She says:
If that which I am defies narrative, compels speculation, insists itself as opacity that resists all final illumination, then this seems to be a consequence of my fundamental relation to a "you"--an other who is interiorized in ways for which I have no account. (80)

And so one might say, reflectively, and with a certain sense of humility, that in the beginning, I am my relation to you. . . (81)
--Paul Corrigan

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Talk in the Park about the Paradoxes Related to Experience and Work

Last Sunday I met with Dr. Cotton. After sharing a sandwich at Crispers, we walked out to a bench in Munn Park to dialogue. It was warm and breezy. Among the things we discussed was a chapter by Robert Inchausti called "Postmodern Merton?" Park of our conversation went like this:

Inchausti said (for Merton): "We experience our true selves, our silent selves, only in those moments when grace redeems existence from within our own despair. This is not a theoretical or even conscious achievement, but rather a flash of recognition, followed by a humbling sense that as bad as things may seem to us, all things are in their rightful place."

I said: "A flash of recognition implies conscious experience. I don't think that this should be considered the universal standard. Unless as Inchausti says on the page before, 'This awareness of Being is totally different from an awareness of self-consciousness.' If its totally different, than okay, it isn't necessarily experiential, and 'flash' is just a way of saying what is hard to describe.

"This is important to me because I don't want to feel less spiritual if, say, this past week I was tired and busy. And I didn't make time for silence and prayer, and I wasn't as 'aware.' I don't want to live like that, but I don't want to feel guilty or like less of a Christian."

And Cotton said: "But because the spiritual is totally different from the mental, you don't even know what it is until you experience it. And aren't there 'saints' and 'sages' who we would benefit from being in the presence of? They have a more continual awareness. Jesus lived and ministered with a great level of awareness.

"Paradox is necessary for the Christian life. What you've said, what Inchausti says, what I've said: these are all true."

We strive not. But practicing our spiritual disciplines with discipline is good to do. Awareness of the spiritual is good. But slipping into distraction is not worse. Cotton pointed out to me that Keating says, There is no journey: once we've entered the kingdom of God, we're there. But we keep on going.

--Paul Corrigan

Monday, March 3, 2008

Exciting News

Dear Friends,

I'm writing to share and give thanks for a pivotal opportunity in my life and ministry. I received word last last week that I have received a partial scholarship from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and after talking with my family, Rickey Cotton, and the two churches I pastor, I've decided to take this opportunity and enter graduate school in the Fall. I hope to explore the "spiritual entanglement" of contemplative practices and social justice while there.

I'm grateful for this community, and I'm eager to see the continuing development of our lives together.

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Door Into Aslan's Country

At the end of C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, (the third book in the Narnia series) Aslan meets the children as a Lamb when they reached the end of the world. As they eat roasted fish they discover there, Lucy asked the Lamb, "Please, Lamb, is this the way to Aslan's country?"

"Not for you," said the Lamb. "For you, the door into Aslan's country is from your own world."

"What!" said Edmund. "Is there a way into Aslan's country from our world, too?"

As the Lamb told them that there is a way into Aslan's country from all the worlds, he changed his appearance into the Lion with whom the children were familar. He reassured them that he would be telling them all the time how to get into his country from our world. Aslan told the children that they had come to Narnia in order to know him there for a little in order that they might know him better in their own country.

This morning my daughter, Sarah, led me into my first experience with centering prayer. This evening I sense that it is one of the ways, a gift that "Aslan" gives us, to know him better in our own country.

Susan Price

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