Happiness List

A stark departure from my morning’s post, but by looking at today’s entries, you get a pretty good idea of Who Emily Is–yes, it’s a curious and intense combination.  Pray for me.

1. an app that makes falling asleep, keeping track of my day, breathing deep, and staying calm all DOABLE (there are 10 or so free meditations that give you a sense of the offerings.  Dozens more meditations for lots of different subjects are available with a subscription–which I’ve bought & highly recommend.  I’ve never been asleep faster than when I use the “sleep”ones; they’re especially great for travel, late nights, or when your mind is spinning).

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2. Quercus by Penhaligon’s.  You’ve probably experienced the great power of scent-memories; when I traveled to London in June, some of Penhaligon’s Lavandula was at the top of my international shopping list.  A promotion allowed me to try a new shower gel for free, and wanting to try something very different, the clerk suggested Quercus.  Without really meaning to, I used it almost exclusively through our travels–now a whiff of the scent takes me straight back to long evenings in little French towns, sunny days inside and outside cathedrals, and field after golden field as we drove through the countryside.

Scent-wise, it most reminds me of Cefiro, by Floris, another English perfumerie, another spicy unisex scent.  Quercus’ lively smell at the beginning fades to a comforting woodsy, mossy scent–perfect for late summer and the shift to fall.  2014-08-02 22.11.13

3. Sewing.  My dear little Singer, bought 3 years ago on Craigslist (oh, Durham Craigslist–and even more, St. Louis Craigslist!–I miss y’all!!), has taken the plunge into quilting with me.  For the perfectionist among us, quilting is exacting, but also artful.  Attacking my first quilt for a gift, as mentioned in last week’s Happiness List edition.IMG_0054.JPG

This morning, I also re-edited a skirt I made for our French adventure–you just can’t buy Julia-Child-style-frolicking-skirts anywhere anymore.

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Happy weekend, friends!

Quotation of the Day – Henri Nouwen

“The various disciplines of the spiritual life are meant for freedom and are reliable means for the creation of helpful boundaries in our lives within which God’s voice can be heard, God’s presence felt, and God’s guidance experienced.  Without such boundaries that make space for God, our lives quickly narrow down; we hear and see less and less, we become spiritually sick, and we become one-dimensional, and sometimes delusional, people.  The only remedy for this is the intentional practice of prayer and meditation.”

Spiritual Formation

Soaking It Up

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Since the first seeds dove into the soil the end of February, the weather has been rather dramatic.  There are strong, sunny days when heat seems to rise off the dark soil, and I imagine the seeds waking up warm and cozy, opening themselves to the nutrition of the dirt and the affirming warmth of the sunshine.  There are lots of chilly, wet, very cloudy days, when I imagine the seeds soak up the wet, even soggy, nourishment floating around them, loosening the hard seed covers, encouraging the seed’s stretching and growing–like those little sponges that start out as colorful pills but become great animals for bath times.

The little seeds–and me!–don’t get to choose which are sunny days and which are cold, rainy days.  They’ve got to just keep doing their thing, growing and stretching and taking in what they’re offered, using all the resources of the moment to help them grow.

How are you using the resources you’re being offered this very moment to help you grow?

To Be, Rather Than to Study

A few weeks ago, there was a mindfulness retreat in Asheville, led by the yoga teacher who made it all click for me last summer, and though I desperately wanted to learn more from her, I couldn’t go (you know, occupational responsibilities, like, Sunday morning).

After the retreat, she posted about the weekend on facebook, commending mindfulness as “where it’s at.”  I lay in bed with my phone very early Sunday morning, wishing I could have been there and learned something with that community, and I commented, “what should I read to learn more?”  I could almost see my teacher smiling compassionately as her comment appeared, “find a quiet place, sit comfortably, breathe, let go!”  I rolled my eyes–of course!–I wanted to study the practice of meditation and to learn about mindfulness, but doing the actual thing?  Learning by practicing?  No, no, that was too hard.  It was much easier to let my mind just run about while I dove into a book, or let my thoughts wander around while I discussed the theory.

That’s what Paul’s telling us this afternoon about the cross (1 Corinthians 1:10-18).  For many reasons, we’ve become a people who believe that knowledge is power.  We’ve seen how our medical advances save, or at least prolong, life.  We pay lots of money for diplomas on our walls that symbolize years of reading, writing, and testing.  Our obsession with study and learning, while they are goods, can begin to blind us to the Gospel.  I do not believe that being a “thinking church” or the “church where you don’t have to check your brain at the door” is a badge of honor; it is a condemnation.

God did not come into the world as a scholar, though he has all knowledge.  When God the Father sent his Son to be among humanity, and to be human himself, he did not set his kid up in the hotbed of intellectualism, or in the most prestigious city in the world.  God showed by his example in Jesus’ life that knowledge is not the core of our faith.

A former rector of mine always used to say that, “the Episcopal Church is David dancing before the Lord.”  We understand grace; we depend on it–we dance because of it!  What a beautiful gift for our brothers and sisters in other denominations in Christ’s regrettably divided body.  However, as Paul said elsewhere, though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23); sometimes our deeply-held belief in the grace poured out for us, we think that we decide to believe whatever else we want, because of the grace safety-net.  We can slurp up the newest theories of Jesus’ wife, or find the “real person”-Jesus behind the text, we can obscure the view of Jesus’ death on the cross all together with the more pressing, more important matters of social justice.  Again, Paul says, “while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Our first charge as disciples of Jesus is to sit at the foot of the cross.  Jesus’ sacrifice of love through his death on the cross is the foundation of our faith.  “The wisdom of the cross stands against worldly wisdom” (Feasting on the Word Commentary, Year A, Volume 1, pg 282; Timothy F. Sedgwick).  We understand God’s love not by reading about it, or by studying the details of the Gospel accounts; we learn by practicing. We sit, and stand, and bow, and kneel in front of the altar, the most-ancient symbol of sacrifice.  It is at the altar, the table–the cross–where God, through Jesus shows us the Good News.  The Gospel is that we are no longer helpless to evil, there is no longer any reason that we should drown and die in our sins.  The one person in the history of the world who had the power to fight evil from the beginning, the one person who lived a perfect, blameless, sinless life–he died a violent death for each of us.

Jesus taught using words on the Mount, in the Temple, on the road, and on the sea, but we do not spend every Sunday remembering any one of those places or moments.  The most important moment was not when disciples’ minds were being given a work out, the most important moment was when Jesus gave himself up to death, even death on a cross, because of God’s great love.

When the church tries to argue its way into converts, it will always lose.  Our world doesn’t set us up to understand the Gospel as making sense and as the respectable thing to do.  Our world is a place of division and dissension; just as Paul talks about in the Epistle lesson today–how the church in Corinth was prioritizing their spiritual lineage over their identity as Jesus’ disciples.  I wonder how much we prioritize our lineage as Episcopalians, or as Methodists, or as Roman Catholics above our identity as belonging to Jesus Christ because of his life in backwoods-Nazareth, his death on the cross and sacrifice on the altar/table, and because of his resurrection from death, the complete triumph over evil on Easter Day.

Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we gather together, sitting quietly at the foot of the cross, waiting for God to reveal himself to us again, to enlighten our hearts with his saving grace.  May we be ever-humble, knowing that we do not have the whole picture, eager for the reunion of all the disparate pieces of Jesus’ body, the church, throughout the world, and placing our trust and faith in Jesus Christ alone.