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.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lenten Thoughts - Revisiting Julian of Norwich

I haven't posted much except for my Episcopal Cafe pieces. Part of my Lenten practice has been to try to delay the sign-on to the computer until after prayer time and some kind of morning movement - walking or workout. It is helping to restore some balance in my life -- it's so easy to get the feeling that I MUST be on email all the time because there are so many important demands on my time. It's good to find that there is time for other things. And surprising what a challenging Lenten discipline it has been. But it also means that blogging (which I wasn't doing much of before Lent either) has seemed like a luxury.

Some insights, though, to note as we round the bend past mid-Lent. Once again, I'm seeing that the whole story is about Love. Not a cheruby, greeting-card love but a strong, fierce love that will not let us go, and wills our wholeness even when we don't. And that love is somehow associated with the Cross, and that's the mystery I am contemplating for this season. I've been returning to Julian of Norwich, startled to find myself resonating in new ways with her vision of the Cross, which at other times I've experienced as somewhat bizarre. But on divine love she is incomparable She prays for three "wounds" -- two of them she asks only if God wills it (a vision of Christ's Passion, and an experience of mortal illness -- and of course she gets both of those things and sees them as gifts: this part of Julian is hard for most of us to grasp).

But I can relate to the third "wound" that she desires unconditionally -- that she insists on in all her prayers -- the wound of "an endless longing for God" -- a wound because this longing can sometimes be painful, but she knows that this is what connects us to the One who made us and loves us: our longing (and God's returning longing). So this passage from Julian, which I've read before, is even more striking for me today. From Frances Beers's translation of Julian of Norwich:
"At the same time as I saw this bodily sight, our lor dhowed me a spiritual vision of his matchless love. I saw that, for our benefit, he is all that is good and comforting and helpful to us. He is our clothing, who for love wraps and encloses us, embraces and encricles us, clings to us for tender love, that he may never leave us. In this vision I understood truly that he is everything that is good."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Coming Home to Lent

(also on Episcopal Cafe)

On the Sunday of the Transfiguration, February 22, I began my day in summer sunshine, sitting on a patio in Sidney, Australia watching the sailboats and ferry boats that were just beginning their day, and reading, for my morning devotion, the story of the Transfiguration. We spent those last 12 days of Epiphany “down under,” -- away from the awful brushfires though they were very much in our awareness all over Australia, a national tragedy—and mostly by the sea. For us it was a sojourn into summertime, a conference by the southern beaches (our reason for going) along the Great Ocean Road, and four days of pure vacation on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef, living alongside Creation at its liveliest – with nesting birds and turtles, and a whole colorful and unimagined world right under the surface of the water, off the beach, on a part of the reef that still seems healthy and beautiful. It was a time of reconnecting with my “summer self” – the me who spends time each morning in summer on the patio, writing poems and watching the birds, claiming that season as the time of regrouping and regeneration that the summer is for those of us who live by the academic calendar.

Even sitting there that Sunday morning I knew it might be hard to remember my “summer patio self” by the end of the day. Because the end of the day would be almost a day later. Before February 22 ended for us, we would be back in Washington, in freezing cold weather, and ready or not, called to jump back into the busy life of teaching and formation that is characteristic of my winter-time --- AND it would be Lent 3 days later!

Now, a week later, after a wonderful whirlwind weekend of teaching, barely recovered from jet lag, I look back on that time on the patio as a quiet example of what the Transfiguration story gives us: a lamp shining in the darkness, the letter of Peter calls it; a moment on the summer patio, sipping tea, resting in the quiet of a Sabbath morning on the harbor, reflecting on what it means to be invited into the presence of the living Christ and seeing, just for a moment, that it’s all true. I wonder if those disciples connected, just for a moment, with their own deepest selves, the part of themselves that was called out and loved – as he showed them, just for a moment, that ‘yes – it’s all true”; and they heard “This is my Son, the beloved” – before they headed back down the mountain to discover how much work there was to be done, how much the world needed healing, and dealt again with their own inadequacy to the task of healing and reconciliation that called them back down the mountain.

This Lent, the vastness and smallness of the world, revealed through the time of travel, offers a special gift to me: I am hoping that the memory of my “summer self,” sitting with Jesus on that patio down under, will stay with me this season, as I enter the swirl of activity that this season inevitably brings for someone engaged in retreat and formation work. Perhaps that time as my summer self is the “lamp shining in the darkness” that I’ve been given, this Lenten season.