Remember Algebra class and “solving for x”? A puzzle. An Unknown. A math mystery. Turns out, math and the spiritual life are not so far apart. In fact, in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, x is a symbol for “The Mystery” — the spiritual home for the great mystics and a vital part of every spiritual journey. Mystery, or the “Great Unknown,” invites us to make room in our souls for mystery, intrigue, and the ineffable “more-ness” of the spiritual adventure. But like math class, could part of that lavish landscape of spiritual unknowns include not only sacred mysteries, but very worldly ones as well?
To be honest, if I were given a word association test with the word, “Mystery,” I would surely blurt out “Agatha Christie!” As an avid fan of classic Whodunnit mysteries, I sometimes wonder if these entertaining books about clues and suspects and puzzling out the truth are contributing anything to my spiritual life. Does the murder mystery sleuth and spiritual sleuth have anything in common? . . . . Click here to read entire essay
When I was thirteen, my friend Debra and I would walk to her house after school, plop down on the floor in front of the TV and glue our eyes on the spooky soap opera Dark Shadows. We were so engrossed by the evil vampire, Barnabas Collins, we hardly paid attention to the snacks Debra’s mother had ready for us. After a day of muddling through math problems and sentence diagrams, nothing less than this delicious dish of melodrama — now considered a cult classic — could suffice. In my parents’ childhood, evil “lurked” on the radio show The Shadow, which provided the same devilish entertainment. I knew it was all fantasy and fun. Not until I grew older did it dawn on me that the shadow was real. It may not drink our blood and cast curses, but as Carl Jung reminds us, “everyone carries a shadow.” And it features prominently in the spiritual journey. That is why, in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, “S” is for shadow. . . MORE
“In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.” ― Cynthia Rylant
For many of us, the end of November is littered with tall yard bags bulging with dry, brittle leaves. The heavy-laden bags are set out at the curb and picked up by big trucks in the early morning. We dust off our hands and heave a sigh of relief mixed with sadness. It’s over. The brilliance of fall waves goodbye in windy gusts of brown detritus. Nature now transitions—with a decided edge of melancholy—to ever-colder, darker days, culminating in the Winter Solstice.
The attenuated light seems to mirror our declining hopes for holidays-as-usual. In fact, this year will be quite different. We feel that instinctive need for family and friends more than ever this year because it has been, by all accounts, a tough year; yet, we know that to have loved ones outside the home around us now would be to perpetuate the virus and endanger everyone’s lives. Oh, the injustice of it all! But our cries get no sympathy from COVID-19. . . MORE
“We are more alive when we are actively involved with questing and questions. Keep moving. Keep crossing inner and outer borders. Keep asking.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy
Over the years, Q, that once innocent letter of the alphabet, has been cruelly besmirched. Back in the 1980s, Star Trek began featuring a dastardly extra-dimensional being, Q, who could manipulate reality on a whim. Recently, Q has been co-opted by an unsavory conspiracy-theory group, QAnon, whose greatest accomplishment is illustrating the downfall of rational thinking in the U.S. To see Q continually fall to the dark side is disturbing beyond words, and so I feel the urgent need to restore Q’s good name. . . More
In De Musica, Augustine described beauty as “a plank amid the waves of the sea.” From the perspective of process theology, the experience of beauty not only offers life-saving rescue from the storms of life, but also serves as a glimpse into the very nature of God and the world.
Writing this book during the coronavirus quarantine offers new meaning to the phrase, “waves of the sea,” as waves of the virus sweep across the globe, ravaging lives and livelihoods. This new catastrophe layered atop systemic racism, economic injustice, and the existential threat of climate change, catapults Augustine’s words into a new world on the brink of drowning. How can beauty be a plank against such waves? How is beauty relevant in such times as these? What part does beauty play in the transformation of our exhausted and beleaguered world? And how can beauty tend to our aching souls in these times of crises on every front?
These are some of the questions I address in this short theology of beauty, inspired by process theology, scripture, experience—and in loving companionship with poets, philosophers, artists, mystics, musicians, and the mother of all teachers: nature herself.