Sunday, June 29, 2008

Morning has broken...

I spent the past week in and around Fredericksburg, Texas at Summer Institute. It is a training program for all Ambleside School teachers. They were long, arduous days filled with taking in information, assimilating it, discussing it. At the end of each session throughout the day, we tried to respond to the material in meaningful ways.

The purpose behind the special teacher training is to help us understand the philosophy behind the Ambleside Schools. There is a strong emphasis on being in relationship with God, His creation, our students, and the text we are using. I had a good mental understanding, but it hadn't penetrated to my heart completely by the end of the week. Until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I woke up early-ish and sat out on the porch of the guesthouse (out on a ranch in the Hill Country) where I stayed at night. I was savoring my first cup of coffee as the sun peered over the horizon. The birds were waking up by ones and twos. The whip-poor-will was recommending castigating poor Will; a cardinal (or a mockingbird) poured out his heart's delight; and some other unseen choristers shared happy chirpings and obbligato descants. There was a trumpet flower vine wrapped around one of the porch columns with a seedpod on it. As the sun kissed the orange flowers, they lit up as if from within. I walked over to examine it closely. There were apparently stationary ants randomly scattered across seedpod and flowers. Suddenly, as if by command, they all moved. I watched this synchronized group ballet several times. Then I sat back down, and continued watching from a distance. An unexpected movement in the tree near the porch caught my eye. As I focused on the movement, I saw it was a wee hummer, who was also deriving nourishment from the trumpet vine flowers. Soon, a second hummer joined the first one. After a few minutes, the two hummers were playing a kind of “tag” chasing each other around the tree branches. Then, a third hummer joined the first two in their diversion.

I was stunned by the beauty of the morning that God had awakened me to see. I realized that these creatures were all in relationship with their Creator, and to varying degrees with one another. Then, it struck me: in waking me early, and suggesting to me that I sit out of doors with my coffee, my Abba taught my heart what I still needed to understand about what it means to live relationally.

How heartrendingly exquisite, even in its brokenness, is the world that God created!


Our Blog as Spiritual Practice

To have a spiritual life of substance and genuineness, we need to have some well-considered core spiritual practices. We need some definite awareness of what we do spiritually and why. There should be some intentionality and consistency. This is true for us as individuals, and it’s true for our community.

It seems to me that to be a non-geographical community, we will need to view and engage our blog as part of our spiritual practices. Our community commitment says that we will visit our community blog at least once a week. I am wondering if we should commit to more than that in regard to the blog, perhaps to posting an entry at least every two weeks, as one possibility. Please share any response you have to this possibility.

In any case, I do think we need to see the blog as part of our community’s commitment to practice spiritual dialogue, and we need to invest in it. We have agreed that our community is tentative, fragile, and experimental. Do we think it should stay at this level? As usual I have no interest in unilaterally projecting onto others or of unilaterally causing something to happen. But I am wondering about these things and looking for reflective dialogue.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pandora Radio and Gregorian Chant

Pandora Radio is a free online music source that creates personalized radio stations for users. You provide an artist name or song title, and it plays songs based on your choice. I have been using Pandora Radio for about a month, mostly listening to Billy Joel and Juanez.

Today I checked whether the database contained Gregorian Chant music. I entered "Gregorian Chant" in the slot for artist name or song title, and several options came up. Earlier this summer, Dr. Cotton played for me a CD of music from the Taize Community. That's what made me think to do this.

I highly recommend Gregorian Chant on Pandora Radio!

I am listening right now, as I write this, being washed over, inundated even, by the music. It is a blessing. I'm a little breathless.

--Paul Corrigan

Friday, June 20, 2008

Community Calling

This morning I want to post a quote from Rowan Williams’s book Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another. I believe it speaks to what we are seeking as we invest in our dialogical community. It encourages and strengthens me in our calling to being a community centered in the Spirit of Christ and faithful to the Spirit's unfolding work. I hope it speaks to you as well.

Williams writes, “The church is always renewed from the edges rather than from the center. There is a limit to what the institutional church can do. Institutions have their own dynamic and their own problems, and renewal tends not to come from central planning. It was Saint Francis who went to Pope Innocent III, not the other way around….The parish structure works up to a point. It is one among a number of ways of being church. For many people, in addition to parochial loyalties, there are cross parochial loyalties and networks that feed and sustain them….As time passes it will be harder to think that the future of the church will take one clear and uniform institutional shape across the globe or even through local communities. In some areas, the church is already beginning to exist in parallel lines, not in sealed compartments but in different styles and idioms and with real interchange. The challenge lies in the discovery of a church renewed in contemplation, across the cultural frontiers of our world” (111-112).


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lightning Bugs

Paying attention is hard. I mean, the kind of paying attention where you actually live--notice the way the sun feels on your skin, the ivy slithering up the tree you pass by every day, the pattern on the cat that lives downstairs. Life is so beautiful, so rich with detail; always an invitation. And sometimes I'm so distracted with myself--with my neurotic fears and anxieties-- that I just don't see the open door, don't hear the voice in the kitchen beckoning, don't even smell the cookies baking. I just walk on by with my hands in my pockets and my mind twisted up in little knots--kind of the way a sheet is sometimes when you pull it out of the wash.

Almost every evening I go for a walk in the neighborhood behind my apartment; it's full of cute little houses with dedicated gardeners, and one of the roads deadends into a creek. Sometimes I go by myself and sometimes John goes with me. I almost always notice something different, something really wonderful--and I go home so full of it I could burst. Once it was a tiny bunny in someone's front yard, once a beautiful blue heron standing among the rocks in the creek, but usually a flower or a tree or a bird; and two nights ago it was lightning bugs. Blinking on and off like popcorn popping; and I was like a child, "Oh, look! There's one!" John and I wondered aloud what the purpose of fireflies is; I said it was just God having fun. I looked it up online when I got home. (Maybe you knew this, but I am largely inexperienced with fireflies)--the lighting up is how they find their mates; different species of fireflies have different lighting patterns so they don't intermix. I read a little more and discovered they were scavenging animals and liked to stalk snails and slugs for fun. I frowned and said to John, "Oh, even the fireflies are all about sex and violence," but I wasn't really disappointed, even if I do have a special place in my heart for snails. I still wrote in my journal that night that they are the most hopeful of things I can think of. Fireflies. Absurd and extravagant gifts.

So paying attention matters. Seeing the world and being grateful that it's there. Natural beauty takes us outside of ourselves and our petty concerns and makes us see how small our problems are, how little they matter in the grand scheme of things, in the face of wild beauty, of life unfolding and living and dying and recreating itself over and over again. I notice the lightning bugs best when my mind is not all tangled up in my own small world. God, help me to live a wider, vaster, freer life.

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, has this wonderful poem called "Messenger" that I like to read when I begin to forget how beautiful the world is and when I forget to be grateful for it. Ms. Oliver is teaching me through her exquisite words and her expansive spirit to love the world better, to be unashamed of the innocence I feel when I am with trees and grass and sky, and to walk through life with wide eyes and an attentive presence. Here's her poem:


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

--Erica Waters Orzechowski

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Today Matt and I visited my parents and spent time with my dad and his dad also.  When we were driving home, I started to think about my dad and the foundational love he has given me and my brother.  I call it foundational because from it, I have been able to live in security and confidence as well as integrity and faithfulness.  He has taught me about both God's love and mystery and modeled for me both steadfastness and abandonment of self to be in relationship with God.  I could probably keep writing for hours, but I won't.  As I was thinking about my dad, I began to realize that God has placed so many incredible 'fathers' around Matt and me.  To all of the dads reading this, I wish you a very blessed Father's Day, and thank you so much for the examples of God's love and support that you all set for those around you.  I am grateful for your willingness to seek God with us and help us on our own journeys.  Thank you again, happy Father's Day!

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