Real power

We are invited to follow Jesus to the Cross every day of our lives, but no more so than on this day, Good Friday.

EDIT MDTP Good Friday notre dame fireJesus death on the Cross was an exercise of what appeared to be power on the part of the Romans, but instead was an expression of fear. Mary DeTurris Poust, in her book of Lenten reflections, Not By Bread Alone from Liturgical Press offered a powerful thought for this day, and I leave that with you for your prayer and contemplation. Once again the Cross at Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire provides us with inspiration and hope.  This is an image how real power resurrects, even in the midst of the worst death.

What will we die to today? Our ego? Our hubris? Our fears that puff us up or tamp us down? Our distractions or addictions? Whatever it is, we in one way or another have prayed to be transformed by Christ during our Lenten journey in the desert with him. How willing are we in the end to be transformed? Are we willing to trust the small turns of transformation of each Lent and each day of our life as we die to the lure of some overnight event, such as winning the lottery or suddenly no longer wanting to take a drink? Or are we still hoping for something that will externally change our lives? All the while Jesus continues to beckon from within.

Transformed or not, we are all called to remember that in our daily lives and exercises of power and our use of, or response to fear of the power around us. In God is the strongest power, the power that saves into eternity. We must remember that, especially today.

Many people object to the symbol of the crucifixion, many Christians even. But without crucifixion there can be no resurrection. One is entirely dependent upon the other, they cannot be separated, although it is the Cross that triumphs. If we are left uncomfortable by the Cross, maybe it is time to die to our literalism and to be born in the hope of the Cross. God does not choose to punish us cruelly. We all do a bang up job of doing that to one another and ourselves. God invites us to eternal life. That is real power. Are we ready?

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New thing

EDITIsaiahLilacBud copyHaving attended a 4pm liturgy on Saturday, I heard a good homily, but I was left wanting. After hearing a young woman proclaim the First Reading from Isaiah with such gift and passion, and then to hear another woman proclaim the Second Reading with similar style, I felt so hungry – starved actually – to hear a woman’s preaching voice.

For the record, and to the chagrin of many, I do not support the women’s ordination movement as it exists today. Sorry, that’s another story for another day perhaps. Those of you who actually know me know that this is how I feel, what I believe, others – you will have to take my word for it and maybe I will go into it another time.

Anyway, these women’s proclaiming voices snapped me into a kind of openness and attention that left me vulnerable. Thankfully the homily was OK. The kind of homily an old friend might have described by saying Continue reading

Bread and desert living during Lent

downloadAs is often the case, my desire to blog is confronted with the reality of daily life – result, no time for blogging. Work has been busy, I have been dealing with a sick cat, and also working on some other projects. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That said, I have a few minutes today and I’m wondering about how your Lent is going? What are you reading? Have you altered your prayer life? Many of us have obsessed over what to give up or take on, or both, but too much obsessing means a focus on the self and not God. Essentially giving up or taking on should be about creating more space to encounter God.

For the first time in a long time I am at peace with how that is unfolding this Lent. Various things had occurred that had my typical prayer practices disturbed, resulting in limited prayer. I was not at peace with that and have struggled for some time to find a new rhythm. Lent has provided me with a way to do that. Also, I am spending time each morning reading some wonderful texts, beginning with Give Us This Day. In full disclosure Continue reading

Desperately Seeking Something

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This post – a book review of Desperately Seeking Spirituality by Meredith Gould,  along with an author Q&A was all set to go for Monday. Then Orlando happened. The senseless and tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub was on everyone’s mind, so I postponed this until today. Now I am doing a little rewrite because no matter what, it seems like many of us are desperately seeking something.

91c84649763ac9c3518749992a8937e1In the face of a tragedy some people gravitate towards faith or religion, others decry it. This grows even more complicated when the killer claims that he acted in the name of God. And it grows even more problematic when many mainstream religions overtly or covertly condemn LGBT people. Yesterday I was struck when I watched NBC anchor Lester Holt interview Pulse shooting survivor Joshua McGill, because at the end of the clip, McGill talks about how he prayed with another club patron, one who was badly wounded. This scenario is one of many reasons that I think that the book I’m here to talk about today really essential.

DSS.489x750Prolific author Meredith Gould has once again written a book for the very present moment with her latest work, Desperately Seeking Spirituality, A Field Guide to Practice. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 136 pp, $16.95)  Not surprisingly, she shows up with just the right words at just the right time.

The book is compact and easy to read, with each chapter interspersed with boxes that are chock full of helpful information and insights. For both the church-goer with a curious mind, and the church avoider who is inquisitive, and everyone in between, this book offers rewards that are both practical and spiritual. In short, many seek the sacred, whether in a traditional church or elsewhere and the author offers refreshing pathways to grace and renewal.

This review is brief and ends with an editorial review that I wrote prior to publication:

The image of a seeker standing before shelves of books looking bewildered can now be replaced with an image of a seeker happily holding a copy of this book. Meredith Gould has written what will certainly be the go-to volume for many; both those who search for a spiritual practice, and those with a practice, but who wish to go wider and deeper. With her trademark brand of experience-based wisdom infused with humor, the author offers readers smart, practical, and refreshing options as they make their spiritual way.

KERN-.GouldHeadshot.500pxAlso for today, Meredith answered a few questions that I prepared so that those of you who are not that familiar with her would gain some insights. As for those of you who, you will enjoy her trademark wit and perception that never dumbs us down, and always leads us deeper.  With that – here is Meredith Gould!

DSS is a different kind of book for you. Was writing this one significantly different from earlier works?
For people who know me because of church communications, I suppose Desperately Seeking Spirituality might seem like a different type of book. For me it’s a return to an early and persistent call.

I started writing about the spirituality of everyday life during the late 1980s, primarily for magazines. I continued exploring the mystical mundane during eight years of blogging and then in my first four books, even in the one about working from a home office! In The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today, published in 2008, my focus shifted to church communications. I had my reasons!

After working as a part-time pastoral associate, I realized just how much we needed to recognize communications ministry as a core ministry. I also discovered Twitter in 2008. In 2011, I created the church social media hashtag (#chsocm) and launched a weekly Twitter-based chat, and the rest is history but not necessarily destiny.

A couple of years ago, I felt a familiar tug to write about spiritual life thanks, in part, to working with churches and clergy.

How – if all – did your own spiritual practices change or grow during your writing of this book?
Desperately Seeking Spirituality is about why and when traditional spiritual practices stop working. I’d been hearing stories about discouragement with traditional spiritual practices from other self-identified spiritual seekers. Oddly comforting. To provide a context for readers, I write about my own spiritual journey and gradual transition from enthusiasm to ennui.

By the time I proposed this book, I’d basically stopped doing formal spiritual practices and was exploring what it meant to actively be spiritual. I zeroed in on five core spiritual practices – willingness, curiosity, empathy, generosity, and delight. Writing about these spiritual practices of being meant I had to get honest about my own commitment to practicing them. And so, each chapter drew me deeper into the practice I was writing about, which was challenging and exhausting in ways I did not anticipate.

I also rediscovered the extent to which writing is spiritual practice that invites me to connect with and surrender to a power greater than myself.

Along those lines, what is your favorite or most enriching spiritual practice?
Curiosity has been my go-to practice for years for all the reasons I list in the chapter. Curiosity slows down reactivity; opens new gateways to wisdom and knowledge; generates enthusiasm for inquiry; and substitutes light for heat. Things go much better internally and externally when instead of acting out of outrage my prayer of first resort is, “Dear God, what’s up with that?”

As for traditional spiritual practices, I always experience anchored transcendence when I chant or walk a labyrinth. I suspect this is because these practices give my body something to do that relaxes my mind enough to open a connection to the Holy Spirit..

Do you have a favorite part/chapter of this book?
I confess to you and Almighty God that I probably had too much fun writing endnotes. In addition to typical stuff like citations and resources, I add semi-snarkastic commentary thus providing yet another glimpse into my thought process. Readers tell me they rarely other authors’ endnotes but always read mine.

I also loved creating “Know Thyself” questions for contemplation and discussion, and am planning to develop workshops – probably webinars – based on them. I have two favorite content boxes. First is the one about orthopraxytosis, a toxic condition I’ve identified and named. The second introduces readers to “spiritual bypassing,” a defense mechanism that has been characterized as “avoidance and holy drag.”

What’s next for you? Is there another book already in the making?
I should probably stop declaring that whatever book I’m writing is the last one I’ll ever write. Two days after sending the manuscript for Desperately Seeking Spirituality to Liturgical Press and vowing I’d never write another book, I started making notes about the next one.

I’m currently writing that book and the working title is, Transcending Generations: A Field Guide to Collaboration In Church. I’m focusing on issues shared by people of faith regardless of chronological age, lifecycle development, or generational cohort. I’m keen on helping readers remove false barriers between generations while honoring authentic differences. It’s going to be my last book! Kidding. Maybe.

This, not that

Burnout.Quote.TwitterIf you are a regular reader, you know that I am a person of faith, blogging about the intersection of faith, spirituality, and everyday life. You also know that I am a Roman Catholic who also works for the Catholic church both in her day job, and as a freelance writer, and more. While church is alive and vibrant for me and many others, for some church means boring, routine, rigid, rejection and more – even when the call to something greater than oneself exists.

In 1990 I returned to the Church after an 18 year very conscious absence!  When I left church I was DONE and overdone with formal religious practice. To say that my return was reluctant would be understatement. All those years that I was away I frequently felt the pull of church, but I felt the planting of being fine with where I was as a non-belonging member of anything even more strongly. My desire for sacredness and spirituality never left me in those years, but I did not want to be part of any formal practice.

RAp3eT0Many seekers or would be seekers think – I want this, not that – meaning, sacred and spiritual are indeed part of your landscape. Maybe your desire for such things helps to see and understand the world, but there is no context for such things in your life. While I have many arguments about why faith in community is vitally important, I also know that words telling me that would have never sent me back to church. In fact, such words would have had me fleeing at high speeds. Buh-bye! What’s a seeker to do?

DSS.489x750In my day there were few books or resources – maybe zero resources – to help direct anyone not only to spirituality, but to an exploration of spiritual practices. That’s why I was thrilled when Meredith Gould told me about her current writing project, Desperately Seeking Spirituality.(Full disclosure, she’s my dear friend, we are mishpocha. And yes, I offered an editorial review of the book found inside of its cover.)

Next week I will share my review of this book on the blog, along with an interview with Meredith. I hope you will check out my posts, because I really would like to see this book widely read. Not unlike The Nones are Alright by Kaya Oakes, these are important volumes for our times, for the churched, the unchurched, the seekers, searchers, and others. (See my review of that book here.)

Desperately Seeking Spirituality is an important book that I would like to tell you more about, and Meredith is someone I’m pretty sure you will want to get to know.  See you on Monday!

 

Lent Resource Reviews

7056_ImportantUpdateIMPORTANT UPDATE… please take note!
It has come to my attention that even though Amazon is offering Not By Bread Alone. The page for the book says that it is out of stock, will ship later – but they are NOT selling the book. Please go to the Liturgical Press website to order!

That got me thinking, what if that is also the case for Sacred Space for Lent? It also shows as out of stock. Anyway, that can be ordered via the Loyola Press website.

If you visit the Ave Maria Press website you will find Sacred Reading for Lent and the Living Gospel.

And how could I have forgotten two important resources? I did! One is absolutely free – go to the USCCB Daily Readings page to sign up for an email of each day’s Scriptures. Video reflections are also offered and can be found here.

Last but not least, I highly recommend a subscription to Give Us This Day. Yes I have a bias, I do write for them, but before that day ever dawned, I was a charter subscriber. Go have a look at their subscription page, you can even request a free sample.

 

Lent-631x295While it was my hope to have had this post out earlier, here it is at last! Lent begins on February 10, a little more than two weeks away. As has been my custom, I would like to offer up some ideas for your Lenten prayers and reflection.

Sometimes we feel too busy for Lent, but most of these resources are small enough to put in a pocket or purse, and are short enough for brief periods of prayer. The idea is not to add stress, but to create spaces, however “small” they may seem, to invite the peace of God into our lives. At Lent we truly are on a “journey” through the desert, as we make our way towards Easter. It is good to have one or more resources to accompany us – maybe think of these books as road maps pointing us toward the Triduum.

In no particular order, I present to you:

While it was my hope to have had this post out earlier, here it is at last! Lent begins on February 10, a little more than two weeks away. As has been my custom, I would like to offer up some ideas for your Lenten prayers and reflection.

Sometimes we feel too busy for Lent, but most of these resources are small enough to put in a pocket or purse, and are short enough for brief periods of prayer. The idea is not to add stress, but to create spaces, however “small” they may seem, to invite the peace of God into our lives. At Lent we truly are on a “journey” through the desert, as we make our way towards Easter. It is good to have one or more resources to accompany us – maybe think of these books as road maps pointing us toward the Triduum.

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In no particular order, I present to you: Continue reading

An invitation

act-in-faith-not-fear(This reflection is on the readings for the day before Advent begins, the very last day of the liturgical year, and appears in Give Us This Day. Please see the end of the post for further details.)

Our world seems to run on the fuel of fear. Simply watching or reading the news can fill our tanks with enough anxiety-provoking material to keep us running for days. Work and family concerns, fretfulness over jobs and money, disquiet about health, and apprehension over other things can turn us into nervous wrecks. Constant worry is exhausting, and that exhaustion typically leads to more angst.

Jesus offers a clear warning that might be easy for anxious people to miss. Do we think we’re off the hook because we are not out “carousing” or getting drunk? Not so fast. It seems that the “anxieties of daily life” are on the watch list as well, and that is a net likely to catch many.

It could be easy to take Jesus’ words Continue reading