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.
“And who do you think you are sauntering along five feet up in the air, the ocean a blue fire around your ankles, the sun on your face on your shoulders its golden mouth whispering (so it seems) you! you! you!” — Mary Oliver, “On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145)”
You Are Amazing You are a world of amazement — a universe of jaw-dropping, eye-popping, breathless awe. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you accomplish in this world or who you know or how much you have. You are an original work of art. You are loved. You are accepted. You were created for joy.
I think parents should say this every single day to their children, starting with tiny babies and never letting up through the angst of teen years and beyond. The world is battering. We often feel ashamed, misshapen, misunderstood, and insignificant. For some, these feelings can rise to a crisis point in early years or play out sadly in middle age; they can be cruelly exacerbated by racism and bigotry. There are people who will never accept you as they seek to “put you in your place.” But your place is front and center in the meaning of the universe!
In the spiritual alphabet “Y” is for you because spirituality needs to root itself firmly in the soil of unconditional love and divine inhabitation of you — whoever you are. (click here to read the entire essay)