Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spiritual Rhythms and Medievalists...

I have always enjoyed and benefited from the wisdom and the sharing of resources of Christine Sine's blog, Godspace.  Her most recent entry is on spiritual rhythms that create resilience.  I commend it to you, dear readers, as it reminds me that I need to recreate my sacred space which I have had to move due to changes in the domestic rhythm of Sequoia House [the name given to this house that had a giant sequoia planted in its' backyard in 1947 by the original owners and is not more, since 1999].  These are very wonderful and happy changes, but still there is a need to maintain one's center.  This article regarding spiritual practice and how such practice helps us to bounce back to a holy balance no matter the changes going on in one's life.   To read it all, please click on the link above to Godspace.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

The response to my post Enhance Your Spiritual Resilience – Five Practices that Make a Difference made me realize that this is a topic that needs to be fleshed out in more detail. This post is designed to help flesh out some of the practices. It draws from my book Godspace which specifically addresses some of these issues.

According to Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert there are two types of rituals, habits or practices we need in our lives, what he calls rituals of restoration and rituals of transformation.

Rituals of restoration are the most common. These are the practices that restore our faith in the beliefs that order our lives. They also connect us to and anchor us in the religious communities in which these beliefs are expressed. Restorative practices are highly structured & do not change from day to day or year to year. They reaffirm our sense of order & meaning in the universe, our community & our own lives.  Most importantly, they intentionally connect our daily activities to the life, death & resurrection of Christ.

Possibilities include a rhythm of prayer that reaffirms what we believe, sabbath practices, weekly church gathering, taking communion, following the liturgical calendar and the use of liturgical symbols like the sign of the cross, candles, and incense. I even find that writing prayers for Facebook each morning and preparing my blog posts is a stabilizing and restorative ritual.

The thing about Medievalists is that they find nuggets of wonder in history, art, music and philosophy that we rarely touch upon.  I was delighted to find an obscure link that someone posted on Facebook that lead me to their FB page and also their website where I could sign up for a weekly newsletter.  Oh, now I remember.  FB friend Barbara B had posted a link that led me there.  The articles have left me wanting for more, and more I shall receive!  The articles touch on all aspects of life as we know it, but in the Middle Ages, some of the ideas were borne of interaction with foreign countries and the ideas of those places...for instance:

Theorizing the Crusades, The Jew Who Wasn't There, Medieval Pet Names, and Real Tennis and the Civilising Process.  True, not the most tantalizing-sounding topics, but then I didn't include all of each is truly amazing stuff, gems of history, of life that brought us to the present as we know it, and yet we don't know it all.

You can read more on all the various aspects of how we got to where we are by visiting the website, and reading all the obscure good stuff yourself.  

Spiritual rhythms of resilience and reading about the Middle Ages...I personally can't think of better stuff to read or write about at the end of a long day.

Humbly, your servant,

Credits:  the image of the candle and icon are from Christine's blog post of July 11, 2013, and the series of stained glass windows are from Hakuba.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Living in the Mercy...

It is 12:51 am this very early Tuesday morning.  This insomniac night happens when I have a lot on my mind, or in my heart and body, when thoughts refuse to hear the last bedtime story with any solace, and begin murmuring after the lights should go out, but they don't, and busy themselves with suppressed little jobs like posting an entry to a much neglected blog...and of course Thoughts think they can help moping moaning Muscles to lower their voices, so here is where those busy little thoughts have brought me.

I pulled a book of poetry off the library table in the living room, careful not to knock over or bump this candle, or that tiny brass incense burner, seemingly and haphazardly placed alone along the spines of books by Oliver, Shelley, Cummings, Spenser, Wyatt, Browning, Hopkins, Rumi.  Dickinson, Donne, Milton, Tennyson, Housman.  No,  I choose Levertov.  And here is what she said to me because the Spirit spoke it to her, and she had to pen it down:

To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees.  How far the stems
rise, rise, 
               before the ribs of shelter

To live in the mercy of God.  The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort.  Stone, elbows of 
stoney wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

and awe suddenly
passing beyond itself.  Becomes
a form of comfort.
                            Becomes the steady
             air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest sepths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
              as salt water
              would hold you,
                                      once you dared.

To live in the mercy of God.

To feel vibrate the enraptured

              waterfall flinging itself 
              unabating down and down
                                                     to clench fists of rock.
              Swiftness of plunge,
              hour after year after century.
                                                           O or Ah
              uninterrupted, voice
                                             To breathe
              spray.  The smoke of it.
              of steelwhite foam, glissades
              of fugitive jade barely perceptible.  Such passions~
              rage or joy?
                                                 Thus, not mild, not temperate,
              God's love for the world.  Vast
              flood of mercy
                                         flung on resistance.

 Much mercy has been shown to me these last 2-3 years, especially from very close friends and from my parish.  I know I would not made it in many ways without them and their apparent love for me.  So, the mercy shown to me, experienced by me, has reached sunless depths within my heart, soul and mind.  It is my prayer and hope, I can really begin to give back and reciprocate all of the kindnesses shown me.

Right now others deserve very special kindness with the loss of loved ones, living the memory of they who will await our arrival at the Gate.  The Stream and the Sapphire is a volume I recommend highly.   Much to point to and ponder, pray about and contemplate.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Be Lethal" by Judith Schulevitz

We now know how it can ravage the body and brain. Judith Shulevitz is the science editor of The New Republic.

Here are excerpts from her astounding and revealing article:

Sometime in the late ’50s, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann sat down to write an essay about a subject that had been mostly overlooked by other psychoanalysts up to that point. Even Freud had only touched on it in passing. She was not sure, she wrote, “what inner forces” made her struggle with the problem of loneliness, though she had a notion. It might have been the young female catatonic patient who began to communicate only when Fromm-Reichmann asked her how lonely she was. “She raised her hand with her thumb lifted, the other four fingers bent toward her palm,” Fromm-Reichmann wrote. The thumb stood alone, “isolated from the four hidden fingers.” Fromm-Reichmann responded gently, “That lonely?” And at that, the woman’s “facial expression loosened up as though in great relief and gratitude, and her fingers opened.”

Fromm-Reichmann would later become world-famous as the dumpy little therapist mistaken for a housekeeper by a new patient, a severely disturbed schizophrenic girl named Joanne Greenberg. Fromm-Reichmann cured Greenberg, who had been deemed incurable. Greenberg left the hospital, went to college, became a writer, and immortalized her beloved analyst as “Dr. Fried” in the best-selling autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (later also a movie and a pop song). Among analysts, Fromm-Reichmann, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. She figured that loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She once chastised her fellow therapists for withdrawing from emotionally unreachable patients rather than risk being contaminated by them. The uncanny specter of loneliness “touches on our own possibility of loneliness,” she said. “We evade it and feel guilty.”

Her 1959 essay, “On Loneliness,” is considered a founding document in a fast-growing area of scientific research you might call loneliness studies. Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists. And as they delve deeper into the workings of cells and nerves, they are confirming that loneliness is as monstrous as Fromm-Reichmann said it was. It has now been linked with a wide array of bodily ailments as well as the old mental ones.

In a way, these discoveries are as consequential as the germ theory of disease. Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

The psychological definition of loneliness hasn’t changed much since Fromm-Reichmann laid it out. “Real loneliness,” as she called it, is not what the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard characterized as the “shut-upness” and solitariness of the civilized. Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure. It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person. Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause. Loneliness, she said—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy.

Today’s psychologists accept Fromm-Reichmann’s inventory of all the things that loneliness isn’t and add a wrinkle she would surely have approved of. They insist that loneliness must be seen as an interior, subjective experience, not an external, objective condition. Loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness,” writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject. Cacioppo privileges the emotion over the social fact because—remarkably—he’s sure that it’s the feeling that wreaks havoc on the body and brain. Not everyone agrees with him, of course. Another school of thought insists that loneliness is a failure of social networks. The lonely get sicker than the non-lonely, because they don’t have people to take care of them; they don’t have social support.

To read the rest of this fascinating and revolutionary article, please go here. What you learn ought to make you think twice about that cheerful person who seems to have it all together but really doesn't. That cheerfulness hides a deeper grief, a loneliness so profound as to create in them ravaging physical and emotional pain.

"Priesthood: Religious Leadership and Clericalism" by Lauren Gough+

The following is a revelation, an expository delineation of what the priesthood really is, and what it should be; what it was intended to be. It is also, in my view, how it is kept from those truly deserving of it, and given to those who perhaps ought not to have it. Power is the key for those who seek it, and means little to those who pursue the priesthood for the sake of others and not of self. How easily things get derailed when on the right track...

Lauren Gough is an Episcopal priest in Texas and author of the blog "Stone of Witness". The following is an excerpt from her latest post.

In the 1970’s, following Vatican II, there was a study done among religious orders, especially men’s orders that did not ordain their members, on the importance of the priesthood. I was teaching in a combined Ursuline and Christian Brothers school in Galveston. I remember reading the document and it raised many questions about the efficacy of priestly orders and was interested that priestly orders were considered really non-essential to the communities of men who embraced celibacy. Except for liturgical duties, priests among the community were seen as a detriment to the community life of the brothers. The status of ‘priest’ was considered an impediment to the common life.

When I attended the Kellogg lectures at EDS last week, this conversation was being reprised. The issue of clericalism is a big one in the Church these days. It is my contention that the schism that we have been experiencing over the past 15 years is a clerical one. It concerns not the people in the pew, but it concerns the clergy and bishops of a minority in the Anglican Communion. It has much to do with control and order, not theology or even basic faith. And after what I have seen here in Fort Worth following the split of the diocese, clericalism is alive and flourishing in this part of the Church militant.
The discussion at EDS was clearly on the side of abolishing the priesthood. But the

panelists were all NOT ordained. They were professors or academics who do not celebrate the Eucharist or absolve sins. Now, I know some of the members of that panel and some of them have their own ax to grind, BUT I do know what they are trying to get at. They are trying to address the excruciatingly difficult problem of clericalism that faces, I believe, all churches with the exception of the Quakers. And while I know that the Methodists, Presbyterians and the Reformed churches do not have priests, they still have clerical leadership that have power that can subject others to their will.

Here in Texas we have a preponderance of independent non-denominational churches since the break-up of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of those Baptist churches claim themselves as non-denominational these days but they still carry on Baptist theology and ethos. Some of the churches try to hide their Baptist affiliation by renaming themselves Gateway, or Heartland, or Harvest rather than being ____Ave. Baptist. But when you attend them even though they have screens and guitars, they are still Baptist. And the pastor still ‘knows best’.

Religious leadership is difficult at best. When your primary role model is Jesus who spoke of the Good Shepherd, it is so easy to fall into the habit of thinking that the people you are called to serve are sheep to be pushed around. The bishop carries a big stick to drag the sheep back into the fold. And yet the reality is much different. As a priest one is called upon to represent Christ (as any baptized person should) but also act as an agent of the institution of church. I have always understood that priestly orders give me the Good Housekeeping seal of approval of the Church to speak of God AND the organization. It is why we make vows to obey our bishops in matters of faith and morals. But it IS a crazy-making position. Those who lead are mortal and fallible. We have feet of clay and make huge blunders in our efforts to lead the people of God in the way of faith. And those of us who are priests--the ‘middle management’ often do not get to advocate for our flocks as we would like because the ‘shepherds’ who are in charge think of us as sheep as well.

To read the rest of her wonderful and revealing post, please go to her blog here.

Sometimes it is best to hold onto the thread of a calling, than to let go of it entirely.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on gun violence

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
Call-in on Monday, February 4; UPDATED February 4: Call 1-888-897-0174
Friday, February 1, 2013
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement.


The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown was horrific, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot.

It is abundantly clear that Americans are ready to grapple with the complexities of gun violence. The Spirit is moving across this land to mobilize people of faith to act. I urge the United States members of this Church to call your federal legislators on Monday 4 February to express your concern and your expectation that gun violence be addressed. The outlines of the necessary policy decisions are clear and widely supported: limits on sales of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, effective background checks for all gun purchases, better access to mental health services, and attention to gun trafficking.

We believe all God's people should be able to live in peace, as Zechariah dreams, "old men and women shall again sit in the streets...And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing." The prophet reminds his hearers that even if this seems impossible, with God it is not. [Zech 8:4-6] I urge you to add your voice to those clamoring for peace. Call your legislators and sue for peace.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"When is your next post going to be?"

I'm hearing this a lot lately...

When I can find time to be STILL, I will put my mind to it and pen something...

Like...keeping track of patients as they are moved around the hospital...or outside of it...

Answering pages on codes only to find out it's a faulty fire alarm...

Finding friends where I least expect them...but limited to the hospital itself, just stumbling upon them and feeling like I should have known they were there but then, everyone is entitled to their privacy...

Trying to decide what my happy and sad dollars ought to be at my Rotary Club meeting...

Remembering to put fresh water in the communal animal watering dish outside the gate...

Giving my kitties a new catnip corrugated cardboard scratching thingy and watching them go bananas over it...

Talking to my dear cousin in southeast Texas only to learn his cancer is back and he's too weak to go to Catholic mass...but hearing him tell me he loves me so much means so much to me...

Finding a tremendous gift in a renewed acquaintance from the past / new relationship in the NOW...and feeling the blessing of it...

Getting ever closer to the elusive MVA settlement that will relieve a lot of my current stress...

Yeah, I'll write about this stuff, sooner or later...