word become flesh

….Good is the body, from cradle to grave,
growing and aging, arousing, impaired,
happy in clothing, or lovingly bared,
good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell,
glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell,
good is the body, for good and for God,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

  • Brian Wren, from Good is the Flesh (ed. J. Denton, 2005)
    for the whole poem see here.

paying attention

On the night I am remembering, [my father] told me to pull the pale blue blanket off my bed and bring it to the deck. The air was sweet and cool. The sky bristled with stars. After my father had folded the blanket in half, he lay down on it with his hands folded behind his head. …. If he explained what we were looking for, I do not remember….All I remember is lying there beside him looking into a sky I had never really looked into before, or at least never for so long….

More and more stars fell as the night deepened. Some of them made clean arcs across the sky, while others disappeared before they had gone halfway….

I learned reverence from my father. For him, it had nothing to do with religion and very little to do with God. I think it may have had something to do with his having been a soldier, since the exercise of reverence generally includes knowing your rank in the overall scheme of things. From him I learned by example that reverence was the proper attitude of a small and curious human being in a vast and fascinating world of experience. This world included people and places as well as things. Full appreciation of it required frequent adventures, grand projects, honed skills, and feats of daring. Above all, it required close attention to the way things worked, including one’s own participation in their working or not working.

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

[thanks to Agnes for this passage which will be the first of a few from Taylor]

more with less

The ancient Celts said, “The one to whom little is not enough will not benefit from more.”  They understood something about simplicity.  Subtraction is about laying ourselves bare before the Lord.  In fact, Jesus said that we must give up all our possessions to follow him (Luke 18) – that’s very bare, but when we do it, we experience more.

Living more with less is also demonstrated in the mustard seed (Mt 13).  Most people look at a mustard seed and don’t see much.  But when we’re living in a more with less perspective, we can look beyond what is immediately apparent to see the fruitful plant it may one day become.  This posture leads us to celebrate what is present instead of grasping for what we lack.  It sees us letting go with one hand while receiving with the other.  It is a mindset that allows us to revel in God’s presence wherever we see him and leaves us living with a festive sense of enough in the Kingdom of endless possibilities.

– SSU alumnus, Andy Wood, in a post from the Vineyard Justice Network

spiritual pornography

Gratitude and affirmation are in short supply. Sadly, I must admit that I am not only ingratitude’s victim but also its perpetrator. Often I have shrugged off gratitude while embracing discontent. Usually I can justify this in the name of “vision” or “unmet potential”….

How many times have I wished I were somewhere else where God was REALLY moving? how many times have I longed to be in a more beautiful place (with mountains or an ocean) and abandon the urban neighborhood where I live? How many times have I fantasized about the perfect fellowship where everyone got along like a perfect family. What this boils down to is spiritual pornography… creating a mental fantasy of a perfect place or people and not recognizing the good things all around me. This spiritual porn is my nemesis. It’s poison. Thankfully, the antidote is available and accessible: equal parts of gratitude and affirmation.

– Kevin Rains, quoted by Christine Pohl in Living into Community

The Examen

[In the SSU community, one of the most widely used prayer exercises from Ignatian spirituality is the Examen. In the prayer book, Lorna suggests one approach to the Awareness Examen:]

1. In a quiet, private place…

  • light a candle
  • or imagine yourself in a favorite peaceful setting

2. Image yourself in the presence of God…

Take a few deep breaths… as you do this, allow yourself to feel the breath of life filling your whole body… Breathe in all of God’s unconditional love for you. Breathe out any
anxiety or negativity… Be aware now of this loving Presence that surrounds you… Remain centered in this Love for a few moments.

3. Ask the Spirit to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful…

If you could relive one moment today, which would it be? Where were you? What was said or done that is drawing forth gratitude in you right now?… Ask God if there is

anything else He wants to say to you about this experience… Is there any way in which God might be calling you through this particular event in your day?

4. Now ask the Spirit to bring to your awareness the moment for which you are the least grateful…

Ask to see what was said or done in that moment that was so difficult for you… Be with this moment without trying to change it or fix it in any way. Invite God’s love into this
struggle place within you… Wait and ask God to show you how He is present in this experience too… how God is labouring for you there… perhaps inviting you to grow in
some way, to change, to forgive, to let go, to accept something about yourself or another… Be with God who never condemns, but reveals truth only to lead us to more life. Express sorrow if this seems called for – express your desire for saving love…

5. Give thanks for this time of awareness in the presence of God…

Because of what emerged, ask God for what you need or desire for tomorrow… perhaps to bring the meaning of this awareness Examen into your next prayer period… perhaps the need to celebrate someone in some way… perhaps to deal with some issue in your life…
perhaps the grace to discern a particular choice that will help you bring God’s love into a situation…