Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mind the Gap

On my first trip to London I noticed the very helpful signs that were posted in useful places.  "Look Right" appears at crosswalks so that pedestrians check one last time for oncoming traffic.  And on train platforms the message "Mind the Gap" keeps passengers from slipping a foot into the space between the platform and the train itself.

While contemplating the ancient story of Christ's birth over the past few days, however, a very different application of the phrase, "mind the gap," came to mind.  The whole point of the Incarnation, the whole reason why God sent His Son, as it was taught to me for many years, was to reach across an unbridgeable gulf between God and humanity, and close the gap Himself.  In the same way, the purpose of the crucifixion was so that Christ could pay a debt, our debt, that we could not pay on our own.  Both of these interpretations suggest a separation between God and God's beloved human community that has never made sense to me.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Advent Meditation on Justice

 What follows is an Advent meditation which was shared today with my brothers and sisters in the Lindisfarne Community.  May it be a blessing to others.

Brothers and Sisters,

Many of us are deeply troubled by the violence in our streets.  Race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, even religion, all the things we thought back in the 60s and 70s that we'd confronted and named and faced down seem to be roaring back with a vengeance to divide God's beloved children into warring camps. And yet, the very word, religion, comes from a root that means to bind back together what has been separated.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Returning to the Core

Sure is a busy semester!

How can I tell?  I've only managed to post once each month since September, and it won't get any better over the next month or so.  But that doesn't mean that there hasn't been plenty happening!

Back in September I shared a story about a cosmic 2 x 4, and the resulting understanding that there is an Indestructible Core within me that is God-given, and keeps me safe. And while I've been busy with school work and writing, more has been happening with that image of the Core and what it signifies.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Something Bigger than Oneself

There's been a lot of talk in the media lately about how ISIS is recruiting young men and women from Western countries, young adults who are searching for some meaning in their lives.  They are reportedly searching for "something bigger than themselves" with which to be affiliated, to live for, and to die for.  What they are gravitating to is a 10-cent version of Islam, but while they may perceive their quest to be a religious one, ISIS does not appear to preach any form of Islam that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would recognize.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Indestructible Core

Has anyone else ever received the spiritual blow to your head, or heart, or ego, the one that turns everything upside down?  It's happened to me a couple of times, and I sometimes call it the "cosmic 2 x 4," it can hit that hard.

This one was completely unexpected.  A few weeks ago. the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert posted a quick exchange from a recent interview onto her Facebook page.  At a public event, an attendee walked to the microphone and asked, "What do you know more than anything?" 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to School

It's September, and for us students and teachers, that means getting back to the work of teaching and learning.  For the past several years I have actively been and done both things, teaching in a small college as an adjunct assistant professor in Religious Studies, as well as crafting my doctoral dissertation on three texts that tell the stories of early medieval Celtic (and one Anglo-Saxon) saints.  Both endeavors are stimulating and inspiring, both get my intellectual juices flowing. And what's particularly fascinating is that in both settings I find, in Wesley's words, my heart strangely warmed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Soul & Psyche 4: The New Sacred Awareness

David Tacey concludes his exploration of Jung, spirituality and religion with a short chapter which examines Jung's struggle over time to define his relationship with religion in general, and Christianity in particular.  It was in every way a vexed and painful relationship, covering two thirds of the twentieth century, a time in which religion and the life of the spirit were in great flux, certainly in the West, and arguably around the world.  We are living with the consequences of that flux today as the world writhes with the pain of racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts.  I think there are connections to be made, and I will attempt to make some of them here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Encounters with God

I'm taking a short break from Jung (although he slips in at the end, as you'll see) to share a sermon I was privileged to give at the First Baptist Church of Westwood, Massachusetts yesterday.  It was the second in a two-part series based on the notion of encountering God in various ways.  The first part was preached last Sunday by my wonderful husband, speaking about Jacob at the Jabbok, and I picked up the theme of encounter with the story of Elijah and the "sound of sheer silence."

Enjoy!  Next post will wrap up the series on Jung, religion and spirituality.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Soul & Psyche, 3

Greetings, Dear Ones,

I am returning once again to meditating upon David Tacey's The Darkening Spirit,an exploration of Jungian spirituality and religious life.  In chapter four, which Tacey calls, "Jung and the Prophetic Life," I believe he is making a useful distinction, but using misleading terms to identify the two "sides" he seeks to distinguish.

Tacey describes Jung as a prophet, speaking on behalf of a God who no longer comfortably inhabits the narrow confines of institutional Christian life.  He explains, "...what the Church calls God is not a description of his [God's] character, but an interpretation of his nature. As an interpretation, it is relative, not absolute, and thus liable to error and correction."  It is the role of the prophet, both in biblical history and in the present time, to call attention to what Tacey calls "the provisional nature of religious discourse," and to point beyond that provisional interpretation of God to the Divinity that transcends but still speaks to the human condition.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Soul & Psyche, 2

Greetings, Dear Ones,

This post will pick up from the previous one, reflecting on ideas from The Darkening Spirit, by David Tacey.  Tacey's book is an exploration of the ideas of C.G. Jung on religion and spirituality, and promises a proposal for what religion might begin to look like in the future.  I have read the first four chapters, and find much to savor in these pages, some of which I will be chewing on in this blog.

One initial question has to do with why it is even necessary to imagine "what religion might look like in the future?"  Hasn't the Church always been what it is?  A place for worship and service, where some people lead and most people follow, and between the vestry and the choir and Sunday School most people find a place to fit in?  Well, I haven't been active in any institutional churches for about a decade now, but from what I hear from friends in the field, this form of "being Church," while it is still very much alive and well in some corners, is either dwindling in numbers or chronically tied up in controversy in others.  And all the while the voices of modern (and post-modern) atheism are loudly crying that religion is not only the opiate of the masses, but the cause of much of the pain and misery in the world.  In such an environment, how could religion simply keep on as it has?  Bidden or unbidden, change will come.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Soul & Psyche

Greetings, Dear Ones,

This post is the beginning of something a bit new for me -- a series based on a common theme.  It is sometimes useful to return to an idea over time in order to watch it slowly blossom open, and that's what I'm hoping will happen here.  First, some background.

Many years ago I bumped into Joseph Campbell's book, Hero with a Thousand Faces.  I actually did bump into it, on my sister's bedroom floor.  And she loaned it to me, and I read it, and discovered a whole new way of thinking about God and Jesus and salvation and what ails the human race.  And while I don't necessarily think Campbell was right about everything in the book, the encounter with archetypal understandings of psychology, mythology, and religion has forever changed how I think and feel about the realm of faith and religion.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Greetings, Dear Ones,

It's been a lovely few weeks learning to love what is, integrating the enneagram insights I spoke of in my last blog post.  What I am beginning to notice (you may know this better than I) is how eager the Spirit is to provide what one needs once the need has become conscious.  Let me explain.

Looking at Type One, the Perfectionist, I have had to admit how desperately I punish myself for sins and imperfections, real and imagined.  And at the same time, how desperately I defend myself against criticism, constructive or gratuitous.  It's a bit like having an internal older brother -- I'll beat myself up with abandon, but don't let anyone else take a swing at me, even if I deserve it!!

So, of course, the first thing I do is troll around looking for clues to how to avoid all this pain.  There are some, most of which are terribly obvious and no less useful for being plain as the nose on one's face.  Detach from your inner critic, take breaks from your work, appreciate other people's gifts and contributions (no, you don't have to do it all).  I'm chagrined to acknowledge how few of these I actually recall from having read the list several times in the last week!  But there is one that has really stuck with me -- one that the Spirit seems to want me to pay attention to.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Love What Is

Greetings, Dear Ones,

Another couple of turbulent weeks have gone by.  Back at the beginning of May I finished a chapter of my dissertation, or so I thought.  Then I met via Skype with my faculty supervisors, and got a real kick in the gut.  Short version is, I am attempting a theological interpretation of the stories of saints of long ago, but my original supervisors are no longer with the university, and my new ones aren't theologians.  They are wonderful, accomplished, and caring historians, but each time I submit my work with an interpretation of the meaning of the text as the conclusion, they freeze.  They tell me quite honestly, "It's not what we do."  And they're right, but it is what I do, or hope to do.

It has taken a couple of weeks for me to recover from their criticism, in part because it feels nearly unresolvable (although that's an open question still), but even more because it strikes so deeply at what I feel I'm really good at.  And it's really important to me to be acknowledged for being good at things that I think I'm good at.  See where I'm going here?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Still Becoming

Hello, Dear Ones,

I've been pondering what to blog about lately, which may be why this one's a little late.  There was the weekend I spent at a conference, where I learned quite a bit, mostly about how well I do (or not) when away from home and my usual comforts and disciplines.  There is the dissertation chapter I sent to my supervisors recently, and the resulting shift of focus, from Cuthbert of Lindisfarne to Brigit of Kildare.  And there's the online course in World Religions that I'm teaching this summer -- a course that I've taught many times now, but in a whole new format.  It took a lot of work to get the course built, and we didn't know whether it would actually run or not.  Today is the first day.

And then I saw the illustration at the top of this column,  "still becoming," with that gorgeous embroidered butterfly.  (Thank you, Louise Hay.) And I thought, that's it.  Taken individually, none of these topics is all that compelling, but all together I think they say something important about a life of faith.  At root, it's all about the process of becoming.  How many grandmas do you know who are working on doctorates? How many adjuncts in the humanities are pushing their administrators to allow them to teach their first online course?  How many academics in their late fifties are attending a range of conferences, not to present, but just to find out which ones address their research interests?  Sure, there are some out there, but not many.  Or at least, I haven't met many.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What a Difference Two Weeks Makes

Greetings, Dear Ones,

What a difference two weeks can make, especially in New England in the spring.  I took a walk again today, and now there are daffodils along the road, and the bushes and trees are showing signs of leaves ready to come out soon.  The little lake at the end of my road has shed the last of its ice, and the muddy road is passable, finally!

But the best part of the change was my reason for going out walking. Two weeks ago I went out after admitting defeat.  I wasn't going to get my dissertation chapter done as quickly as I'd hoped, so I walked away from it to clear my head and resign myself to the delay.  This time it was very different.  I've been revising my writing, and checking my footnotes, and lo and behold, the chapter got sent out at 1:41 this afternoon.  My walk up the road to the lake was a treat, not a defeat.

I found myself thinking about Tolkein again, as I'd done last time.  I was asking myself, was the chapter late?  I'd promised to send it in sometime in March, but that didn't happen.  Then I thought surely by Easter, but no, not even Easter.  And then I'd wanted to send it in by the end of April, and I couldn't even manage that.  But was the chapter actually late?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Working and Walking on Holy Thursday

Greetings, Dear Ones,

Tuesday and Thursday are my "dissertation days."  They have been for quite a while now, and I look forward to having regular, dedicated time to write up my thoughts and researches on three wild and wooly saints of the early medieval period in Wales, Ireland, and Anglo-Saxon England.  I sat down this morning with great hopes of giving the chapter on Cuthbert a thorough once-over for grammar, flow, and accurate footnotes before sending it off to my faculty supervisors.  It was, however, not to be.  Writing two days a week in discrete blocks  like this has left me with a very choppy manuscript. After a while it became clear that this chapter would not be heading anywhere for at least another week.

Sigh. I had so hoped.... Realizing that this relieved some of my self-induced stress, however, allowed me to look out the window with new eyes.  A surprise snowfall yesterday had left many of us in New Hampshire worried that Spring had abandoned us far too soon.  But today most of the snow and ice was already gone, and the outdoors was beckoning.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Cleaning in the Household of God

Greetings, Dear Ones,

The temperature finally got up over freezing this past weekend -- warm enough to open the windows and declare a Spring Cleaning day. I did the three bathrooms and the three upstairs rooms.  My husband cleaned out the fireplace, the porch where we stack the firewood in the winter and enjoy the sound of the nearby stream in the summer, and scrubbed out the kitchen.  Oh, bliss!

The day before, I had just heard the news that an old friend had been elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church.  Evidently the election process was a bit messy, but looking at the ballots posted on the internet, it seemed as though the newly-elected bishop had in fact been the frontrunner all along.  And it got me to wondering, how do we 'clean up' in God's household?  It was a day's work for my husband and me to get our little house sparkling and fresh.  Now my friend has been called to be the head-of-household for over 100 congregations.  How does that get done?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Meditation on Gratitude

It was a tough weekend.  I left work early on Friday with a very queasy stomach.  Had to miss a meeting with my supervisor to get trained on some new software that I need to know within the next two weeks.  But it just wasn't worth staying there to learn it.  After spending the rest of Friday enjoying saltines and ginger ale, I was starting to feel like myself a bit on Saturday.

There was some laundry waiting to be done, so on Saturday afternoon I put the first load in.  Midway through the second load I heard a strange noise, and looked over to see water gushing out from under the washing machine onto the carpet in the next room.  Stop the machine! The water kept gushing!  Turn off the valves!  Mop up the carpet!  Pull out the soaking wet clothes and get them on a rack in the upstairs bath tub.  And figure out what to do next.  We've had the washer for almost 10 years, and never a need for repair.  Who do we call?  No idea.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17

Greetings, Dear Ones,

I've been thinking about St. Patrick all day, as I imagine many of you have as well.  Maybe it's the Guinness, maybe it's figuring out what you have in your closet that's green.  Maybe it's just the fun of everyone being Irish for a day that makes this such a popular holiday. But like Valentine's Day, the saint behind the celebration has gotten lost.

The thing about Patrick, of course, is that on the one hand he's been lost to us for a long time.  He lived in the 5th century, and by the 7th century people were trying to tell his story, but for their own purposes, and with precious little to go on.  And on the other hand, we miraculously seem to have two (two!) documents that are genuinely his own testimony to his life, and work, and faith.  Absolutely remarkable, really.  And, whatever we think was important to know about Patrick -- snakes (there weren't any) or shamrocks (no evidence for that one, either), even the lovely 8th century prayer known as St Patrick's Breastplate -- those aren't the things he thought were important enough to write about.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Learning Among Friends

As a lifelong committed Christian, one of the more fascinating aspects of my journey has been the time spent in conversation with persons of other religions, as well as with Christians who approach our common tradition with different perspectives.  Sometimes through books, sometimes face to face, I listen and share across beliefs. And almost always, the interaction has left me both richer as a human being, and more settled in my Christian path.

There was a time many years ago when I studied yoga with a teacher whose understanding of the spiritual underpinnings to yoga tradition was exceptionally wise.  I invited her to lunch one day and asked her to be my spiritual director, someone I could turn to when I needed wisdom and guidance. Turns out, that's not how she saw her role in other people's lives, so the arrangement didn't go forward, but I continue to cherish the experience of studying, and meditating, and chanting with her.

There was a long period of time in which I was closely connected to a Jewish man, one who took the historical and cultural dimensions of Jewish life very seriously. For a while he came to church with me quite regularly.  But much of the language in the New Testament struck him as anti-Semitic, and he seemed always to feel like an "outsider," even at our regular church. His discomfort made me very aware of the sensitive nature of religious language, and the need to be alert to meanings we may not always intend.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Learning from the past

It has been an interesting day so far.  I have followed up some small tasks for work, corresponded with a colleague about the state of things in our department, prepared to teach a Reiki class coming up next week, attempted to mend a fence with a friend (we'll see if that succeeds), made plans to reconnect with a former student tomorrow, and written a section in my dissertation.  It's the writing that is moving me just now.  It's a section on the Life of St Cuthbert, a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon monk who served the monastic community at Lindisfarne.  This monastery was founded by Irish monks who were invited by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria to bring their distinctive form of Christian practice to a largely pagan area of north-eastern England.  In the late seventh century there was a clash between Christian missionaries sent from Rome to convert the pagans, and the Irish-trained monks who were already there.  Rome won, but the Irish communities continued on, and Cuthbert was one of the leaders who stepped into that difficult situation to be a peacemaker, a healer, and a servant among his people.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Greetings, Friends and Companions on the road...

On a short walk in the woods this afternoon, I decided it was time to try my hand at blogging, and see if there's a way to fill in a hole.  The hole is this -- not enough women's voices reflecting theologically on the times we live in and how to live.  There are a few women whom I read and admire, and a few others that I know of and are happy they are out there, but not quite my cup of tea.  Overall, however, there just aren't enough women speaking up from a religious consciousness and commenting on, well, much of anything.

Who am I to start speaking?  A follower of Jesus the Christ, a wanderer among various denominations and communities, a student of the lives of Celtic saints of the 6th and 7th centuries, a teacher of world religions, a priest and (neo)monastic, a wife and sister and grandmother, one who is convinced that there is meaning to be found, and that one must seek diligently to find it. I pray and meditate, practice yoga and Reiki, and try to hold a bit of light out to others that they may find what it is they seek.