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Friday, April 26, 2013

What do Thomas, Rohr and O'Donohue have in common?

In my last post I mentioned that I am doing an on-line retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault on the Gospel of Thomas. Only recently have I even heard of the Gospel of Thomas! And I probably wouldn't have bothered to explore it without the guidance of Bourgeault whom I know to be trusted guide! Essentially The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus. Many of them are essentially the same as sayings in the four canonical gospels. A good number are new. Some critics say it isn't really a "gospel" because it contains no narrative of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It's true, it doesn't. But if gospel basically means "good news" I think finding sayings of Jesus old and new is good news! Like all of the synoptic gospels there are translation and interpretation challenges. That's where a good translation and a seasoned guide are invaluable.

Personally I am finding a daily meditation on one saying fruitful and enriching. There's a freshness that can be lost when I am so familiar with the canonical gospels. There's a focus that sharpens as the saying stands alone without surrounding narrative.

Of course discernment and prayerful reflection are just as important as with any of the more familiar scriptures. Today I had a sense of synchronicity as I "just happened" to read today's saying from Thomas, a daily email from Richard Rohr and the piece I was up to in John O'Donahue's book Divine Beauty. Here they are - see what you think!

Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus says,
I am the light 
shining upon all things, 

I am the sum of everything, 

for everything has come forth from me 

and towards me everything unfolds. 

Split a piece of wood 
and there I am, 

pick up a stone 

and you will find me there. 

Part of Richard Rohr's daily email:“The divine, it seems, wants to manifest itself in visible form. (Colossians 1:15-20)
…The Eternal Christ’s role is to forever hold together matter and spirit, divine and human, and to say they always have been one, but you just don’t know it yet. So God is going to hold them together in front of your face until you do.”

And this from John O’Donohue in Divine Beauty
“But the thought of Aquinas is remarkable in its continuous insistence on the real, sensible presence of things. Each stone, tree, place and person was in its depths the expression of a divine idea. … According to him each thing, secretly and profoundly desires to be known.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Quiet! I'm on-line..."

I'm halfway through a fascinating book by Susan Cain: Quiet. The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. I was number 47 on 147 requests for it at the local library! That says something about the number of people who relate to the title.

I have known for a long time that I am high on the introvert side of the Myers Briggs scale. I have trained in MBTI and read a lot about personality type. I find it helpful personally and in my work with people. However, Susan Cain's book goes much deeper than anything I've read before in researching the roots and fruits of introversion.  I highly recommend it!

Synchronistically I am currently experiencing one of the things she talks about. I am immersed in an online retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault on The Gospel of Thomas. (I may say more about that in a subsequent post).
What I'm finding - somewhat to my surprise - is that I am very much enjoying the online forum where participants share their reflections on the sayings of Jesus we meditate on each day. I thought I wouldn't participate in that side of the retreat much. In true introvert style I expected to prefer to "do my own thing" quietly and anonymously at my own desk and at my own pace! But, as Susan Cain alludes to, online communication is perfect for introverts. I'm discovering that I can take my own quiet reflection time before I post my thoughts - much better than being in a group where we are going round the circle "sharing" on the spot. It is also possible to remain as anonymous as one wishes. Some participants post their photos in their profile - others (like me) choose a logo or picture, not their own face! In reading the responses of others I'm aware that we are "hearing" many more people and at much greater depth than is usually possible in group - especially one this big. (I don't know how many people are participating but it is a lot more than you would normally get at a face to face workshop. And of course it is an international group.)

So many thanks to those who run the website Spirituality and Practice. A variety of retreats are available here and at a very low cost. That's another advantage of online retreats!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wabi Sabi - The Magnificence of Imperfection

Here's a 14 minute TED talk that is truly inspiring.

If you don't know about TED talks at all I recommend exploring the site. Click here.

"TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference on the West Coast each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TED Talks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize." From About TED

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A flag for the future

My recent blog posts seem to be mainly about passing on inspiring things I've read or heard about. As I reflect on that I've come to the conclusion that that's just fine! Spreading the word about things that are "truly worthwhile and worthy of praise" (see Philippians 4:8 CEV) is something I can do - even if I'm not up to polar expeditions! This is from GreenPeace (pictures added by me). I take my hat off to the courageous young people. Do watch the 2 minute You Tube clip and you'll see what I mean! :

Right now, a small group of young people from around the world are preparing to head north in a historic expedition to the North Pole. They will ski for up to 8 hours a day in temperatures that could drop below -31°F in order to plant a ‘flag for the future’ and tell world leaders and future generations that when the time came to save the Arctic, we were here.

Watch this beautiful trailer for the North Pole expedition to meet the team and find out more! 

An oil spill in freezing Arctic waters would be even worse than the Deepwater Horizon disaster because it is one of the most extreme, fragile, and isolated regions on the planet. Oil companies have publicly admitted they cannot prevent a spill, meaning they’re putting the amazing Arctic landscape and its wonderful creatures like polar bears and Arctic foxes at risk.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't lose hope. With hope you can always go on.

The following piece is from the monthly newsletter of Spiritual Directors' International. I think it applies to all of us, not only spiritual directors:

"Teenage feet. Female feet. Muslim feet. Atheist feet. Dark feet. Light feet. The tattooed feet of a prisoner. These are the feet the newly elected Pope Francis chose to wash on Maundy Thursday.

It takes courage and humility to ignore liturgical laws and break with tradition to wash and kiss the feet of twelve juvenile offenders in a detention center instead of washing the feet of twelve priests in the basilica. It’s the kind of courage grounded in love that Jesus modeled throughout his ministry. By turning upside down our staid assumptions about how the world works, we are freed to imagine new ways of being in relationship.

Washing someone’s feet is a tender act. Kissing a stranger’s feet is an intimate act. Seeing photos of Pope Francis compassionately tending to the young prisoners’ feet brought tears for me. Rather than preaching in a basilica about scripture, the poor, and the marginalized, Francis demonstrated with his actions the love and hope that Jesus exhibited.

Francis explained to the young people at the detention center on Maundy Thursday, "This is a symbol, it is a sign; washing your feet means I am at your service. Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service."

Can you imagine being in the shoes of one of those teenagers? Here comes a seventy-something, gray-haired guy—a religious leader which doesn’t mean much to you as an atheist—who offers to wash your feet. You’ve agreed to participate because it might help your probation. The old man kneels on the stone floor in a vulnerable position beneath you. You are comfortably seated on a bench overlooking him.

As you take off your sneakers, it dawns on you that your feet don’t smell very good. No matter. You are perhaps a tough, street-smart, hard-hearted dude. Yet when the old man touches your feet ever so gently and pours warm water over your calloused heals, you notice that it feels good to be cared for. After drying your toes tenderly with a soft clean towel, he bends to kiss your feet. Then searchingly, he looks you in the eye, saying, "Don't lose hope. Understand? With hope you can always go on." He hands you an Easter egg as a gift.

What a beautiful inspiration for April, for Passover, and for Easter season. Every day, opportunities arise for us to be courageously hopeful. As spiritual directors, we are called to be of service in our world, to stand with and for our loving and compassionate God. May we cultivate compassion by companioning seekers with the courage to say, “Don’t lose hope. With hope you can always go on.”"