Thursday, July 31, 2008


"What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself."  

--Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov

 I am so indoctrinated by our culture's presentation of reality that such statements sound almost absurd. Am I actually being told not to harness a supernatural, masculine strength and beat my sinful self into submission? Am I really to believe that my sins will disappear through the simple act of observation—looking, seeing, noticing? My aversion to such a statement is rooted in a fascination with ambition, a tricky thing that requires close observation like a young, mischievous child that, if left unattended, will spoil dinner by discovering the candy in mom’s purse. It can often be as much the desire to achieve holiness as the selfishness behind the sins one desires freedom or separation from. Anthony de Mello says it better: 

All you can achieve by your effort is repression, not genuine change and growth. Change is only brought about by awareness and understanding. Understand your unhappiness and it will disappear—what results is the state of happiness. Understand your pride and it will drop—what results will be humility. Understand your fears and they will melt—the resultant state is love. Understand your attachments and they will vanish—the consequence is freedom.

Reorienting one’s position toward sin, guilt, and ambition will require a couple of things which I think contemplative practices cultivate over time: intention and an acceptance of God’s grace. Replacing ambition with intention releases the need to have possession or ownership of the outcome.  Intention, in this sense, is a desire to become Christ (or Christ-like, if you prefer) and to identify less with oneself and one’s accomplishments. To what degree or how quickly this is achieved should be of little concern to the individual, provided the goal or intention stays the same. What remains is an acceptance of God’s grace and a desire to incarnate the same in relationships with others.

 I am reminded of an anecdote I read a few days ago from Anne Lamott. After taking matters into her own hands, failing miserably (as we all do), and realizing her need for God’s love and forgiveness, she testifies: “Grace arrived, like the big, loopy stitches with which a grandmotherly stranger might baste your hem temporarily." Her experience describes what I desire: the humility to confess failure and ambition, the selflessness to fix my intention on Christ, and the buoyancy to accept His perfect grace in the condition of imperfection and foolishness. This, I believe, is the simple act of observation. In the end, as long as I’m not holding on, I’m available to welcome the work of Christ in the present moment.

--Daniel Sartin

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On person-hood

Well, Matt and I have been in England for the past month, and I'm sure it's time I posted on here again!  We've been living in community with people from all over the world, loving, learning, studying and interacting together.  More and more I believe that people are just that: persons.  Slowly (or maybe quickly) we lose our humanity and our personhood in the busyness of life; we go to work and come home, interacting only with those at work or home, and we see people in categories around us.  For instance, at home I last saw 5 teachers, 5 social workers, and 2 bosses, all of whom were women and either married or unmarried.  I've been so blessed to slow down and begin to understand that each of those staff members were people, persons.  I can see that those I'm encountering are people, and they are identified as persons with souls and bodies.  Personally, I am a person.  (haha)  Secondly, I am a wife, a teacher, a woman, etc.  But first, first, I am a person!  And so are you!  And so is the German woman with whom I was just speaking.  And so is the person who runs our hostel, and so is each person at work or in my family or at home.  From there, I can love and relate and trust.  It is special to be so intimately connected to each person around me, while also recognizing that the person next to me has beautiful and unique "accents" to his or her personhood.  

Anyway, that's one of the things I've been thinking about... I miss you all in Lakeland, and am thankful to be able to read everyone's posts on here while we're gone!  

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rereading the Bible

Overall, the preaching of scripture that I have heard and done over years and years comes from a perspective incompatible with the mystical contemplative Christian spirituality into which I have been called. A objectivistic, individualistic, materialistic perspective. Scripture as a guide of what to do, what not to do, what to think, and what not to think. Sermons as patting-ourselves-on-the-back or smacking-you-in-the-butt.

As a contemplative I consider scripture primarily as collected, inspired spiritual wisdom: scripture should offer us insights into ourselves and should offer us transformation at a level deeper than our “to do” list. Because of this view, I mostly favor the poetry and stories of the bible, and I center my theology around certain mystical passages like I am in my father, my father is in me, and I am in you and I pray that you be one, just as I and my father are one. Sadly, many other passages--for example, passages that describe how we should be in contrast to how we should not be--now “do nothing” for me. Gratefully, however, I have discovered the slow process of “rereading” the bible. As a sample of this, I am offering below a paraphrase/ interpretation from James (3:13-18).

Spiritually wise people live in the humility that comes from wisdom. This is the “good life.” Cultural “wisdom” advances the opposite of humility: dichotomies of us/them and you/me, notions of “my rights,” mindsets that allow us to consider ourselves better or worse than others, in other words, “bitter envy and selfish ambition.” If this malicious mindset is planted in our hearts, we should not try to deny or justify it. This mindset is related to “every evil practice.” We don’t need to weed out particular evil practices from ourselves—so much as we need to be healed of this heart condition. Spiritual wisdom is pure, uncorrupted by the cultural worldview of separateness. Because this purity of heart allows movement beyond the ego, spiritually wise people are considerate, submissive, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial, sincere, peace-loving peacemakers. Spiritually wise people sow their lives in peace. This is righteousness.

--Paul Corrigan

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Gift of Fortitude

I picked up my Daily Contemplative Devotional this evening and this was the title of today's entry. Father Keating says, "The Gift of energy to overcome major obstacles in the way of spiritual growth."

I never cease to be amazed at how many times I pick this little book up, and it speaks wisdom straight to my heart. I'm sensing the stress of life and am in need of some Fortitude. I get in the rut of thinking that effort and more effort will help me overcome the major obstacles in the middle of my spiritual path, but Fortitude should come serendipitously, as a result of abiding in God's love. Keating goes on to say that "Little by little, the Gift of Fortitude, in conjunction with the other Gifts, transmutes the energy of anger designed by nature for defensive purposes into zeal for the service of God and the needs of others." The next sentence really brought peace to my spirit..."It sustains difficult ministries and welcomes the vicissitudes of daily life instead of fighting or resisting them or giving way to feelings of frustration."

My, how I have fought, resisted and been frustrated today. I choose to be still with today now. The day was what it was, and this moment of realization makes the hardships of today beneficial.

[Centering Pause]

It's amazing what a little stillness does to your perspective! Thanks be to God.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


If you have never been to a silent (centering prayer) retreat before, the community that weaves itself around and among a group of people who spend the majority of the time they are with each other in absolute silence would amaze you.

I was reflecting on my own recent trip to Alabama for a silent retreat and noted that much of the conversation that I had with my fellow retreatants (when we were not being quiet, of course), involved learning about their spiritual journeys--where they've been and where they're going, and, of course, why they would be crazy enough to join a group of strangers and not talk to them for an entire week (or longer).

A successful community, then, is built with connections among its members and around its purpose. We are not only investing in spirituality here, we are investing in each other as spiritual beings.

With that in mind, would my fellow community members be willing to post about their spiritual journeys? Please share how the Spirit led you into contemplation and where He's taking you through it. I know we've shared basic biographies in the past, and this doesn't have to deal with that material more than is necessary. Just tell your stories of how God has brought you to where you are--here, in this community, investing in spirituality and in each other.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some RSS Guidance

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it is used to be notified when items are posted to blog sites primarily. There are lots of RSS readers out there, but I'll try to give you a run down on the one I use: Google Reader. It is free, and I assume most of you probalby have a Google Account already set up. If not, you can start here to get that going:

After you have your Google Account (username and password) established, you can visit

When you get to the Google Reader page, you can manually add the Living Stones Subscription feed by clicking the "Add Subscription" link and then entering the Posts Atom Link (it's listed at the bottom of our blog): . If everything is setup right, after you start using the reader, you can click RSS or Post Atom links on blog sites and Google will pop up and ask you if you like to subscribe in your personal iGoogle Page or your Google Reader App. I just hit the Google Reader button and all my blog updates can be found in ONE PLACE!!! If you have an iPhone, the Google Reader is really sweet on it!! I do a lot of blog reading in Grocery lines, etc.

I'm not too good at Technical Writing. So if these instructions don't work, or confuse the heck out of you. I can be reached on Skype, {mark(DOT)wills(DOT)tn} and I have a neat Remote Access program I can use to log into your PC and help you out.

More Google RSS Reader help can be found at:
Hope that make some sense.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rocks as Prayers

I’ve shared before about child-raising as a spiritual practice. It’s a tricky thing because it includes tasks that conflict for me with contemplative practices. But it’s also an incredible opportunity because one of the goals of spiritual practice is to cultivate awareness during tasks—to do tasks in the moment.

One of my tasks is to keep Elea awake during certain several-hour stretches of the day to help her sleep at night. We’ve recently discovered a lake within walking distance from our house with a two-mile path around it and a number of walkways that extend over the water. Every day this past week I’ve taken Elea there in her stroller. Unfortunately, the stroller and the breeze off the water help put her to sleep so I have to keep taking her out of her seat and bouncing her. This constant “trying” interferes with practicing presence and awareness. I even hurt my back doing it.

I discovered something today—after Christine told me I need to be more creative about keeping Elea awake. I found a spot where there’s about a twelve-foot slope from the path down to the edge of the lake. I parked the stroller at the top, went down, and sat close to the water with Elea. We were next to a red canoe that was banked upside-down on the shore. I showed Elea some rocks and then tossed them in, and she watched them make a splash. As long as I hold her attention, she stays awake.

“Each rock will be a prayer,” I told her. “Jesus, bless Mommy who is sick in bed.” Amen. Splash. “Jesus, bless ____.” Amen. Splash. When we finished our list, we keep praying but without words.

Amen. Splash. . . . Amen. Splash. . . . Amen. Splash. . . .
--Paul Corrigan

Hello From England

Hey everyone. I feel a little far removed but it is nice to have this non-geographical community to return to. Everything is going great so far for Jen and I. We have arrived at L'Abri which is the community that we are going to be apart of for the next month. I have had some wonderful conversations and prayer times so far. Many of the people are interested in some of the same theological areas that I have been hashing out. I am making a valiant attempt to include mysticism in most of my conversations and am happy to report that I have received very positive feedback. Thanks for all your prayers and emotional support. It means a lot to us to have most of you back home awaiting our return. 

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