About Me

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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.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts."

Thanks to my friend Peter Carey reminding me of this quote (From Wendell Berry's poem, Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front, and for his sermon on the prophet Habakkuk posted on his blog. It helps me with the call to engage where we can in the work of reconciliation, in living the "dream of God," as Verna Dozier has called it. I especially like Peter's conclusion: So be joyful, even though you have considered all the facts. And be hopeful, even though hopelessness may surround you. I definitely resonate with that approach to life, and the poem, too, coming from Romero, reminds me that this view of life does not represent a philosophy of disengagement, but of faithfulness.

Here it is: one of those poems that leads us into prayer:

A Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back
And take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
The magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
Which is another way of saying
The kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ramblings on Revelation

In my class on Ideas of God in Scripture and Literature, we've been reading the Bible and looking at the Rabbinic tradition of midrash, and now we're reading and listening to parts of the Qu'ran, using Michael Sells's really helpful introduction, Approaching the Qu'ran. I've been teaching about the Bible and ways that we read the Bible -- especially the Old Testament - in a lot of other venues, and there is something awe-inspiring, deeply quieting that comes to me as I reflect on these traditions. Each time I return to it I am impressed at how one can read the story of the Bible as a story of exile and return, people turning away and God calling us home, grieving, sometimes angry, and justly so - but always, as I read it, it is a story of mercy, of a God who connects with human beings in order to call us to a deeper wholeness that was intended for us, and that we keep choosing against. (See my entry last January, "What I Believe" at the beginning of this blog) I see this story in the Incarnation, in Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and casting out demons and sending out his disciples, in Paul, in Romans and Galatians, struggling over how to imagine and create, in flesh and blood and history going forward, an inclusive community faithful to God's calling, as we're still trying to do in the Church 2000+ years later. It's there in the Qu'ran, too, from the little I've been able to discern. In the haunting chants of the Qu'ran that we listened to, included with Michael Sells's book, there is a divine yearning, a plaintive divine voice, grieving over our sinfulness, our forgetfulness, our willful choices and "reminding" us that there is a better way, though also, in the Qu'ran, with very stern reminders of a definite and final day of reckoning.

I have come to believe that Torah, Jesus as Incarnate Word, and Qu'ran are all expressions of the same revelation. I was excited, in fact, to find that in the Rabbinic Midrash, in a famous passage from Genesis Rabbah, the rabbis, in conversation with each other and with the text, include that the voice that speaks in Wisdom, saying "I was with you before Creation" is actually the voice of Torah -- that God created with Torah as the blueprint for Creation. That reminds me of our Christian understanding of Jesus as the pre-existent Logos in John, who "was in the beginning with God, ;all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." And Muslim scholars, too, speak of "Qu'ran" as both the text we have, divinely inspired, and the revelation beyond all language that is embodied in the text. (This isn't an original idea with me - I've encountered it before, notably in an interesting scholarly book by Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner called God in the World - and elsewhere. But it's been a matter of the heart with me these last couple of weeks, a deeply exciting discovery of what seems to me to be the the profound truth of faith.

In other words, I have been keenly aware, deeply convinced, that it's all the same revelation. That God just keeps trying to get through to us. And each tradition provides us with a way to listen and learn and be transformed inwardly in the process. This kind of interfaith inquiry and meditation actually strengthens my Christian faith and my sense of rootedness in the gospel story and also makes me curious and interested in meditating further on the mystery of the God who loves us and calls us home-- both in the gospel stories and in the idea of the relational Trinity. Probably by some definitions this universalism is heretical. You out there who have more systematic theology than I do (you know who you are) -- feel free to weigh in. But there it is.

For me, though, this is more of a mystical/intuitive theological insight than a systematic one. I find it freeing and rich. It has been a gift to me, and one I continue to enjoy, and want to share!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Voices of Breast Cancer

I'm honored that my short essay "God's Wounds" is included in a new book, Voices of Breast Cancer. The essay is quite personal and may be hard to read for people who know me well (TMI?) -- I'm guessing it may speak more clearly to people who don't know me. Anyway, I'm glad it is included here. The book is one of a series published by The Healing Project, a foundation established by Deborah LaChance, a cancer survivor who knows the healing value of people sharing stories (The series also includes a Voices of Lung Cancer and Voices of Alzheimers.) I just got my copy of this book. Dipping into it, I am reminded of the true healing power of people telling their stories, something I experienced when I led and was part of a cancer support group at my church, over a period of about 7 years. This book captures that mix of voices speaking honestly about an experience that is both shared and unique to each woman. Each voice is distinct, each woman writing claiming her story in a way that adds to our collective experience of dealing with this disease, and with the mysteries of bodily life on the edge of our mortality, and the intensities of fear and celebration that that can lead to.
The essays are short, arranged by different moments in what I've called "The Cancer Journey," from "Finding Out" to recognizing that "I've Changed" to various ways of thinking about what it means to be a "survivor." There are also brief sidebars about medical and treatment choices. I hope people who have experienced or who know someone who has experienced breast cancer will check this out and spread the word.

The book will be officially "launched" on October 16, which is very close to being the 17th anniversary of my first appointment with the surgeon after my diagnosis. 17 years of life and health, which I recognize and celebrate as a gift. I hope people who have been through this experience or who are working or praying with someone who has, will get hold of this book and pass it on.