- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Friday, August 28, 2015
This fall I’m feeling a little “off” the usual academic schedule. My online teaching at Wesley
(Poetry for Spiritual Formation – more on that soon) begins in October so I’m not starting the semester in step with everyone else. So when people ask me “are you teaching this fall,” the answer is, well, yes – but not in the usual academic way, with a course starting next week and running through December. Rather, I have several really interesting teaching “gigs” that intersect with each other, as well as some writing projects. I thought maybe picking up this blog again, after quite awhile “off”, might help me see the connections among these various interesting gigs and so I’ll try to post on some of the different topics I’m teaching
Starting with this week when I’ll be meeting up again with the Pathfinders Young AdultsBible study in Northern Virginia. We also call ourselves a “progressive Christian young adults group”. After a summer reading through my colleagueStephen Cook’s book on Deuteronomy, I’m looking forward to struggling through parts of it with this group of curious, critical, committed young adults that I’ve been working with and loving for 7 years now – especially as this will be my last semester with them.
So – Deuteronomy: Steve’s book has taught me to pay attention to this as a book of the Bible that explores how to live life as the people of God, whose identity and purpose is defined by a covenant. A covenant with a God who loves humankind and desires our thriving.
It comes from an intensely tribal, patriarchal, culture, in a violent time in human history ( has there ever been a non-violent time in human history?) So reading it for the “plain sense” of Scripture can get us into some very dark places, where we can be using Scripture to justify imperialism and oppressions and power trips of all kinds – and it has certainly been used this way.
But read in its context, this book can come to life as an invitation to live another way – to ask what it takes to form a society where people are respected, the poor and marginalized are cared for, wealth is managed with an eye to fairness and abundance is shared and celebrated. It is also a society where people desire to live as God would have them live, guided by the ten commandments – so most of the book is an extensive gloss on those commandments. Some of the particulars get a little crazy – dietary laws and descriptions of sexual “abominations” – but as I read through the larger lens of “how to be the people of God.” Faithfulness to God, fairness to fellow human beings, family, neighbor – and especially avoiding “covetousness” – the wanting of what is not ours that leads to violence and domination.
We will definitely be looking at the parts of this book that make us ask “really? This is God saying this? It sure seems awful?” - but we will also be looking through the “people of God” lens, to see what we can learn by trying to read these rich speeches of Moses in our own cultural context . When we do I think we will see how “counter-cultural” the life of God’s people has always been in Scripture.
Reading this troubling and challenging book of the Bible over the summer, I found that sometimes I got to the core of what it was saying to me by writing a poem. Here’s the poem that came out of reading the first 8 chapters of Deuteronomy: a place I will begin with this fall teaching:
I keep forgetting how
It is all a love story
A God in love with a people
Wooing and cajoling them
Can’t you see, the Moses-story says
This is the Way
Follow here. It is the path of life
There is a way that human life can be
Can’t you see?
We are still a stubborn people
Still beloved. Still free
Singleness of heart
Of soul, of mind and strength
Of each of us in all: being
God’s people – not erased
In our particularity
But drawn together ,one
In the one who loves
Sees as one
The beauty in each one
Draws us together
Without loss of each-ness
Into one beloved One. (c)Kathleen Henderson Staudt 2016
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
It has been awhile since I updated this blog - will try to do better this summer (2015) by including some musings on topics that are coming up in my teaching and retreat work over this next few months.
One of these will be a workshop on discernment for the Doctor of Ministry program at Virginia Theological Seminary. Here's a post that can be a resource for folks in that class as well as for other readers.
“I have come that they might have life,” Jesus says, and that they might have it abundantly”(John 10:10) . How can I tell whether a new idea or opportunity that is attracting is in tune with who God made me to be? What do I do with this feeling of restlessness I’ve been having lately? Where is God in this difficult situation? What am I supposed to do now? All these questions are rooted in the deeper question: what is God’s dream for my life? The Christian practice of “discernment” helps us keep track of that call to abundant life, both for ourselves and the world around us. Here are three core approaches:
Checking in with God – the “examen” One way of practicing daily discernment is a simple practice of checking in with God each day – 5 minutes, just beginning with a few deep breaths, to rest in God’s presence and love, and then ask God “Where did I meet you today?” and “Where did I miss you” – these questions frame the Ignatian practice of the daily “examen.” They help us remember that God is always present in our lives, and invite us to pay attention.
Spiritual Friendships : Discernment is not a solitary practice: We all need companions, whether a formal “spiritual director” or a good friend, who can help us step back and ask “where is God in this situation?” Who is that person in your life?
Discernment in community: The clearness committee, practice from the Quaker tradition, inviting a group of faithful people to come together and listen for God’s leadings, asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions, without giving advice, can help us listen for God’s will in a life-decision.
More resources on discernment can be found on my website, “Discerning Your Way in Life http://poetproph-discerningyourway.blogspot.com/