Archive for August, 2021

August 31st, 2021

Nurturing Body and Spirit

The countless “me” and “our” stories reveal the infinite ways that God draws us—as individuals, communities, and cultures—to God’s Self. None of our smaller stories are complete until they are joined to God’s Great Story. Today, my friend and colleague Barbara Holmes shares the contemplative practices she learned from her family and ancestors. 

On my mother’s side of the family were slaves from the Maryland Eastern Shore. They developed their contemplative practices around meals. I can understand how people who work around crabs and blue fish can develop spiritual practices that marry full stomachs to piety. The informality of kitchen tables took the place of confessionals. Important life decisions were made as salmon cakes were shaped and collard greens were cut. Sunday meals were open to any who wanted to come. Those without families, those down on their luck, would appear for the expected fare. It was almost impossible to tell family from others by the titles attached to their names. Aunts, cousins, and uncles were often unrelated in the genetic sense but embraced and named as family. . . .

Although one could find contemplative nuances in the communal prayers and everyday work of baking biscuits, it is in the legacy of the healers that I found the most overt practices. Aunt Rebecca (on my mother’s side of the family) was a root woman. She cured the community with the herbs she collected in nearby woods. . . . Rebecca was the only one who knew which twigs and plants would fix what ailed you. After an initial diagnosis, a tea was prescribed, and whispered updates were passed after church. . . . It was understood that the tea would only address the physical disorder and that sickness required healing of spiritual disorders as well. Prayers and intercessions took place as the herbal brew was prepared. Everyone knew when someone was sick, and so the healing process became the interest of all members of the community. Since there was no health insurance, no money for medicine or doctors, it was in everyone’s best interest for Aunt Becky to succeed. And so a great deal of attention was lavished on the ailing person. As a consequence, it is impossible to determine whether healings occurred because of the medicinal effects of the herbs or the solicitous concern of the community.

On occasion, there were stories brought back from the “betwixt and between” regions where the ill dwell. These stories of a reality where healing became a tangible activity included their awareness not just of Aunt Becky’s herbal ministrations and the prayers of the community but also of the spirits of the ancestors and divine messengers. Thus, the community received spiritual witness to their beliefs about the multivalent aspects of reality and the multiple conduits to this transcendent space. In these small communities, contemplation was an everyday practice that included nurture of the body and the spirit.

August 30th, 2021

A Journey toward Greater Love

At the end of September, the CAC will host the seventh and final CONSPIRE conference. We are calling it Me/Us/The World: Living Inside God’s Great Story. Our own individual stories connect us to the stories of our larger communities and to God’s Great Story—which includes everybody and all of creation. This week in the Daily Meditations, we will be sharing a “Me” story from each of our faculty members. We hope it reveals how, despite our many differences, these stories are all connected: mine, yours, ours, the world’s, and God’s.

It’s probably not hard to believe that I started teaching early, around the age of six or seven. My parents told me this years later. I would gather my siblings and neighborhood friends and have them sit on a bench in the backyard. I would hold my penny catechism upside down since I couldn’t read yet, and I would pretend to teach “about Jesus.” I must have been a weird little kid, but I was happy too! According to my mother, I would run around screaming with excitement and she would admonish me, “If you want to scream, go outside,” so I would. At some point, that spontaneous joy turned into seriousness. I became committed to being the good boy, the nice boy.

I attended Catholic school where the reward/punishment, perfection/achievement system was used to maintained order. The God I was presented with was no unconditional lover, but that was the whole Catholic world in the 1950s. Reality was shaped by a God who is punitive. It made for conformity and very little disruption since we were all agreeing together to abide by the same laws.

I have often been asked, “So, how did you learn how to love in a more unconditional way?” While I’m not sure that I have, any progress I have made has come simply by meeting people who were themselves loving, and then learning the contemplative mind. I was often surrounded by loving people, but I didn’t know how to be like them. By willpower many of us tried to force ourselves to be loving, as if to say: “Obey the law and you will go to heaven.” But when you are forcing yourself to do the loving thing, it doesn’t feel like love to other people. They can sense the difference.

Until I went to seminary, no one had taught me how to clean the lens of my awareness and perception. Studying the philosophy of Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) for four years had a profound effect on me. Duns Scotus taught (admittedly in rarefied Latin) that good theology maintains two freedoms: it keeps people free for God and it keeps God free for people. The harder task is actually the second, because what religion tends to do is tell God whom God can love and whom God is not allowed to love. In most church theology and morality, God is very unfree.

I know now that love cannot happen except in the realm of freedom.

Absolute Grace and Acceptance

After high school seminary, my [Richard’s] next step toward becoming a Franciscan was a year-long novitiate in Cincinnati, Ohio. In those days we knelt a lot. I had calluses on my knees because we knelt so much. It was not modern spirituality, but it was a wonderful container that kept me in myself, in my inner world, in the silence. Most of the day we had to keep quiet. This was a medieval novitiate still based on asceticism. Before Vatican II, the Catholic Church was still law-based, disconnected from experience, and not incarnational. It all circled around priests and their ministrations.

I was nineteen years old and trying to be the most fervent student possible: on time, clean, reverent, and respectful, like a Boy Scout. “Yes, Father. No, Father. Whatever you want, Father.” I’d had such a good father, and I knew how to be a good son. I didn’t have the usual opposition toward authority figures, but I was still going crazy with trying to be perfect. Fortunately, over time, I discovered it was my definition of perfection, not God’s, so I learned not to take it too seriously. Everyone creates their own definition of perfection that they try to live up to, and then they experience the illusion that they’re either perfectly wonderful or completely inadequate.

Sometime in the middle of that year, I was kneeling in the choir in the Franciscan community’s novitiate house on Colerain Avenue. Suddenly, I felt chains fly in all directions. The Scripture that I had read that day was Philippians 3:7­–9: “What I once considered an asset, now I consider a liability. The law that I thought was going to save me, now is my curse” (my paraphrase). Not coincidentally, I had just read the autobiography of Thérèse of Lisieux. She can change anybody.

Suddenly, I knew that God’s love did not depend on me following all these laws and mandates or being worthy. I knew I wasn’t worthy, and yet here I was experiencing absolute grace and absolute acceptance. The whole system I’d grown up with had implied that God will love us if we change. That day I realized God’s love enables and energizes us to change.

I already had that boyhood secret discovered gratuitously in front of the Christmas tree: where I felt I had been taken over to another world, which was really this world as it truly is. I’d realized, “My God, this is inside of what everybody is living, and they don’t see it!” Now once again, I somehow knew that I was good, God is good, life is good. And I didn’t have to achieve that goodness by any performance whatsoever. At that point, I was—like a good Lutheran—saved by grace. Grace was everything!

In one moment, I got the Gospel! And I knew it had nothing to do with legalism, priestcraft, or punitiveness. I hadn’t studied theology yet, so I had no intellectual foundation by which to justify it, but I just knew that everything was grace. I was very free—inside—after that.

Universal Christ Mystics

August 27th, 2021

Perhaps because the Romans never occupied Ireland and parts of Scotland, the Celtic Christianity that developed there retained its connection to the natural world. The writer John Philip Newell explains how Pelagius (c. 354–418), an early and frequently misunderstood Celtic Christian theologian, saw creation as good and a revelation of God’s very being. Much of Christian history wrongly interpreted this as Pelagius saying we did not need grace to be saved, whereas he was simply saying that nature was precisely created to receive grace! It is all grace from beginning to end! Newell comments:

The most typical mark of the spirituality of the Celtic tradition apparent in Pelagius’ writings is his strong sense of the goodness of creation, in which the life of God can be glimpsed. Everywhere, he says, ‘narrow shafts of divine light pierce the veil that separates heaven from earth.’ [1] To a friend he wrote:

Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. . . . Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly. [2]

Because Pelagius saw God as present within all that has life, he understood Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourself to mean loving not only our human neighbor but all the life forms that surround us. ‘So when our love is directed towards an animal or even a tree,’ he wrote, ‘we are participating in the fullness of God’s love.’ [3] [4]

Thomas Berry (1914–2009), a modern mystic who shares similar insights, was a Catholic priest of the Passionist order as well as a cultural historian and eco-theologian. I have been very impressed with his writings and his call to participate in what he calls “The Great Work” of our time, which “is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.” [5] Berry writes:

In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings. This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.

SPEND TIME WITH ME for the pure pleasure of being in My company. I can brighten up the dullest of gray days; I can add sparkle to the routines of daily life. You have to repeat so many tasks day after day. This monotony can dull your thinking until your mind slips into neutral. A mind that is unfocused is vulnerable to the world, the flesh, and the devil, all of which exert a downward pull on your thoughts. As your thinking processes deteriorate, you become increasingly confused and directionless. The best remedy is to refocus your mind and heart on Me, your constant Companion. Even the most confusing day opens up before you as you go step by step with Me. My Presence goes with you wherever you go, providing Light for your path.

 PSALM 43:4; Then I will go to the altar of God,To God my exceeding joy;And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

PSALM 63:7–8; Because thou hast been my help, Therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee: Thy right hand upholdeth me. |

PSALM 119:105; Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 494). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

August 26th, 2021

Jesus and the Universal Christ

Today Barbara Holmes shares the benefits of believing in a God who is both personal (Jesus) and universal (Christ).

[As an African American woman,] I grew up with a preference for the flesh and blood divinity of Jesus because of the suffering, rejection, [and] redemption of my own people and kindred spirits oppressed around the world. Other theologians have pointed out that enslaved or marginalized people need a flesh and blood and suffering Jesus. The Christ, as depicted by dominant culture, was too polite to intervene on our behalf and too far from reach to help us.

What this meant during slavery was that the master’s wife could ground her faith in a God far, far away without any concern about attending a lynching with a picnic basket. If we take seriously the notion of a faraway, unconcerned God, there are terrible consequences. What this means today is that unarmed Black and brown children could be shot by the police, [at the southern border, immigrant and migrant] babies can be caged, and African American Bible studies, Muslim mosques, and Jewish temples can be attacked with assault rifles while the majority of folks remain largely silent. . . .

The trouble for me was making the transition from suffering Savior to cosmic Christ. Before reading The Universal Christ, I had a hard time translating the personal Jesus upon whom I depend with the everythingness of Christ.

Sure, I accepted it by faith, but curious-minded people like me always want to connect as many dots as possible. . . . After reading The Universal Christ, I understand that the tropes of overcoming that we clung to during the Civil Rights movement are being fulfilled through the embodiment and rise of the Universal Christ in us. Father Rohr says we find God simultaneously in ourselves and in the outer world beyond ourselves.

After I read The Universal Christ, the first dot that I connected was that the particularity of Jesus does not obliterate the universality or the everythingness of Christ. Moreover, the cosmic scope of the Christ is not light-years away, but in every cell of our star-born bodies. The Universal Christ offers the reality that I carry the same divine spark in me that is in every living thing. This spark is seen in the resurrecting power that transformed Jesus into the Universal Christ. (?????) That same force can resurrect and transform me and every living person and thing in creation. Father Rohr reminds us that while Jesus is described as the light of world in John 8:12, Jesus also describes us as having that same light. He says, “You are the light of the world” in Matthew 5:14. . . .

Father Rohr agrees that light is not something you necessarily see; it is something that allows you to see other things. The Universal Christ helps us to see that we can follow the embodied Jesus, accept the suffering fact that “in this life, you will have trouble” [John 16:33], [while also] knowing that all creation is moving and evolving toward more diversity, creativity, and wholeness.

Expanding Our Capacity to Love

August 25th, 2021

To be loved by Jesus enlarges our heart capacity. To be loved by the Christ enlarges our mental capacity. We need both a Jesus and a Christ, in my opinion, to get the full picture. A truly transformative God—for both the individual and history—needs to be experienced as both personal and universal. Nothing less will fully work. If the overly personal (even sentimental) Jesus has shown itself to have severe limitations and problems, it is because this Jesus was not also universal. We lost the cosmic when we made him cozy. History has clearly shown that worship of Jesus without worship of Christ invariably becomes a time-and culture-bound religion, often ethnic or even, in the West, implicitly racist, which excludes much of humanity from God’s embrace.

I fully believe, however, that there has never been a single soul who was not possessed by the Christ, even in the ages before Jesus. Why would we want our religion, or our God, to be any smaller?

For those of us who have felt angered or wounded or excluded by the message of Jesus or Christ as we have heard it, I hope we sense an opening here—an affirmation, a welcome that we may have despaired of ever hearing. You are a child of God, and always will be, even when you don’t believe it.

I opened my book The Universal Christ with a lengthy quote from Catholic mystic and artist Caryll Houselander [1901–1954]. She describes riding the subway and seeing Christ permeating and radiating from all her fellow passengers:

Quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all. But I saw more than that; not only was Christ in every one of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—but because He was in them, and because they were here, the whole world was here too . . . all those people who had lived in the past, and all those yet to come.

I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds. It was the same here, on every side, in every passer-by, everywhere—Christ. [1]

This is why I can see Christ in my dog Opie, the sky, and all creatures, and it’s why we can experience God’s unadulterated care for us in our garden or kitchen, our husband or wife or child, an ordinary beetle, a fish in the darkest sea that no human eye will ever observe, and even in those who do not like us, and those who are not like us.

This is the illuminating light that enlightens all things, making it possible for us to see things in their fullness. When Christ calls himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12), he is not telling us to look just at him, but to look out at life with his all-merciful eyes. We see him so we can see like him, and with the same infinite compassion. Sarah Young………..

IAM THE ETERNAL I AM; I always have been, and I always will be. In My Presence you experience Love and Light, Peace and Joy. I am intimately involved in all your moments, and I am training you to be aware of Me at all times. Your assignment is to collaborate with Me in this training process. I have taken up residence within you; I am central in your innermost being. Your mind goes off in tangents from its holy Center, time after time. Do not be alarmed by your inability to remain focused on Me. Simply bring your thoughts gently back to Me each time they wander. The quickest way to redirect your mind to me is to whisper My Name.

EXODUS 3:14; 14 And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.

1 CORINTHIANS 3:16; 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

PSALM 25:14–15; The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 490). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.


August 24th, 2021

Mirroring the Mind of Christ

For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, everything visible and everything invisible . . . —Colossians 1:16

The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize the divine image in everyone and every thing. It is to mirror things correctly, deeply, and fully until all things know who they are. A mirror by its nature reflects impartially, equally, effortlessly, spontaneously, and endlessly. It does not produce the image, nor does it filter the image according to its perceptions or preferences. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there. 

We can enlarge this idea of mirroring to give us another way of understanding the Universal Christ. For example, there is a divine mirror that might be called the very “Mind of Christ.” The Christ mirror fully knows and loves us from all eternity and reflects that image back to us. I cannot logically prove this to you, but I do know that people who live inside this resonance are both happy and healthy. Here’s how the Franciscan mystic Bonaventure (c. 1217–1274) described this mirroring: “We can contemplate God not only outside us and within us but also above us: outside through his vestiges [creations], within through his image and above through the light which shines upon our minds, which is the light of Eternal Truth.” [1]

Can we then also see the lovely significance of John’s statement, “It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know it already” (1 John 2:21)? He is talking about an implanted knowing in each of us—an inner mirror, if you will. Today, many would just call it “consciousness,” and poets and musicians might call it the “soul.” The prophet Jeremiah would call it “the Law written in your heart” (31:33), while Christians would call it the “Indwelling Holy Spirit.” For me, these terms are largely interchangeable, approaching the same theme from different backgrounds and expectations. In that same letter, John puts it quite directly: “My dear people, we are already the children of God” and in the future “all we will know is that we are like God, for we shall finally see God as God really is!” (1 John 3:2).

The “image of God” is absolute and unchanging; it is pure and total gift, given equally to all. There is nothing we humans can do to increase or decrease it. It is not ours to decide who has it or does not have it, which has been most of our problem up to now—deciding who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, who is “going to heaven” and who is not. Only the tiny mind would want such a strange and horrible “comfort.” The great mind hands such questions back where they belong, to the only mind where everything belongs, which is of course the Mind of Christ.

August 23rd, 2021

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Image credit: Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, National Archives.

Week Thirty-Four: Unveiling the Universal Christ

Unveiling the Great (Christ) Mystery

This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message.

—Colossians 1:26-27, The Message

The Christ Mystery that Paul speaks of in Colossians is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything. Paul was a mystic of the first magnitude, which explains why he was able to see Christ everywhere. When I use the word “mystic” I am referring to experiential knowing instead of just textbook or dogmatic knowing. The difference tends to be that the mystic sees things in their wholeness, their connection, their universal and divine frame, instead of just their particularity. Mystics get the whole gestalt in one picture, as it were, and thus they go beyond our more sequential and separated way of seeing the moment. In this they tend to be closer to poets and artists than to linear thinkers.

Obviously, there is a place for both perspectives, but since the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there has been less and less appreciation of such seeing in wholes. We limited ourselves to rational knowing and the scientific method. So in our time, this deep mode of seeing must be approached as something of a reclamation project. After the Western Church separated from the East in the Great Schism of 1054, we gradually lost the profound understanding of how God has been liberating and loving all that is.

Mystics throughout the ages, however, knew Christ as another name for everything—in its fullness. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335­–c. 394) wrote “For who, when [taking] a survey of the universe, is so simple as not to believe that there is Deity in everything, penetrating it, embracing it, and seated in it?” [1] Rhineland mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1212–c. 1282) proclaimed, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God and God in all things.” [2] And twentieth-century Trappist mystic Thomas Merton (1915–1968) wrote, “Christ prayed that all people might become One as He is One with His Father, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Therefore when you and I become what we are really meant to be, we will discover not only that we love another perfectly but that we are both living in Christ and Christ in us, and we are all One Christ.” [3]

This week’s meditations will highlight various contemporary and ancient voices who have understood the “rich and glorious secret” of Christ inside and out, everywhere, and in all things.

Included from the Beginning

Our Living School faculty member, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, understands the Universal Christ as a grand revelation of love at the foundation of the Universe. She says:

There is so much to be gained if we allow the life space to unveil its mysteries that are often hidden in plain view. The Universal Christ is such an unveiling. . . .

[Love is] the greatest mystery of all. Not love as a warm and fuzzy feeling, but love as the animating force that holds us together. If we can believe that we are loved just as we are and that everything else is equally loved, we unveil a cosmic reality that is life-giving and a Christ-like reality that affirms the goodness of all creation. . . .

I encounter the Universal Christ from the cultural viewpoint of my embodiment as an African American woman, and I want to briefly share what that means to me, although categories of race, ethnicity, origin, or tribe have very little meaning in a cosmos based on original goodness and universally shared dignity. I’ve spent a lifetime working with like-minded people helping to unclog racism, sexism, gender, sexual identity bias. We struggle with the -isms so that justice might finally flow like waters. Our intentions are always good, but often our efforts include the subliminal presumption that if dominant culture would just include others and their established systems, all would be well.

The Universal Christ happily displaces that notion. For if inclusion is to be meaningful, it must be based on the idea that everyone and everything is included from the beginning, not included in socially constructed hierarchies with allegiance to one political system or another, but included in a web of life, set forth from the foundations of the earth. [1] [Italics are Richard’s.]

CAC Board Member Alexie Torres-Fleming also ponders how the mystery of the Universal Christ might affect our work for justice. Alexie asks:

What are the implications of the Universal Christ for those at the margins of our society: the poor, the suffering, those that are othered and oppressed in our world? In [The Universal Christ] Richard says, “God loves things by becoming them.” So when I couple this with my understanding of the Incarnation, how this great Mystery of the universe desired to be completely known; and that God is not just, as Father Richard said, present in us, but also as us, what I see is a radical level of belonging and a recognition of the absolute holiness of the asylum seekers and refugees at our borders, the Black young man in America, the transgender person . . . the gay person . . . the incarcerated person, the Muslim person, the Black and brown woman.

What I understand is that we are loved, we belong, and that we are not a mistake or a problem to be solved or a public policy to be fixed, but a holy part of the Divine Mystery that is the Universal Christ. [2]Image credit: Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, National Archives

Image inspiration: Each blade of dew-graced grass is part of a larger braided design, just as each person is part of a larger whole. The extraordinary glistens in the most ordinary. P

Story From Our Community

I was introduced to Richard Rohr while struggling with the scandals and hypocrisy surfacing in the Catholic Church. Reading The Universal Christ allowed me to let go of operating more out of fear than love. I have come to appreciate that I can embrace my Catholic upbringing and see it is not the only path—there are so many ways to see, know and experience God. As such I find my days filled with ordinary miracles. Thank you Richard and CAC staff.
—Christine A. 
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News from the CAC

Join Barbara Holmes for The Cosmic We

CAC’s newest podcast, The Cosmic We, goes beyond race and racism to consider relatedness as the organizing principle of the universe. Explore our shared cosmic origins though science, mysticism, spirituality, and the creative arts with CAC core teacher Barbara Holmes and co-host Donny Bryant. Listen online or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Art as Service

August 20th, 2021


Few of us feel called to be formal or fine artists, but all of us are called to be creators. Each of us is called to bring creativity, purpose, and passion to our vocation, no matter what it is. Artist and author Julia Cameron reminds us that we will know what is ours to do when we are open to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit in service to others. She writes:

In centuries past, art was made for the honor and glory of God. Viewed in this light, a career in the arts was a career of service, not egotism. There is a cue there for us.

The dedication of our work to a higher cause than our own self-promotion frees the work from preciousness. It becomes not about how good we are but about how good we can be in selfless service to something larger than ourselves. Sometimes we can dedicate a book to a person whom we wish to reach. Rilke’s classic letters to a young poet tapped his own inner reservoirs of wisdom and generosity.

Contemplating a piece of work, we do better to think Whom is this work for? Whom will it serve? rather than How will it serve me? Once we find a path for our work to be of service . . . then our work goes smoothly forward. It is not about “us” anymore. . . . [Richard here: I believe all work can be a work of art if done with both devotion and genuine creativity!]

We used to routinely call God “the creator.” We had a consciousness that our own creativity was a divine gift, an opening for God to work through us. When we enshrined ourselves and our individuality rather than our shared humanity at the center of our consciousness . . . we lost our proper understanding of art as service. We disenfranchised ourselves from our birthright as creators and we lost the understanding that art was an act of the soul and not of the ego. Whenever we take art back to the realm of the sacred, whenever we make it an act of service in any form . . . we again experience the ease of creative flow and the lessening of our creative doubts. When we ask to “listen,” we create works worthy of being heard and we ourselves hear the heartbeat of our common humanity, which is grounded in divinity. . . .

When we make our art in a spirit of service, it lightens the burden of our ego. It makes for clarity of focus, purity of intent, and follows a spiritual law that might be simply stated as “Form follows function.” When the “form” of our work is open to higher consciousness, its function is raised as well.

Art moves through us. . . . A piece of art may originate with us, but we originate somewhere larger ourselves. We are, each of us, more than we seem, more than the sum of our merely human components. There is a divine spark animating each of us, and that divine spark also animates our art.


Sarah Young: Jesus Calling

I AM A GOD WHO HEALS. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers. You cannot live close to Me without experiencing some degree of healing. However, it is also true that you have not because you ask not.

You receive the healing that flows naturally from My Presence, whether you seek it or not. But there is more—much more—available to those who ask. The first step in receiving healing is to live ever so close to Me. The benefits of this practice are too numerous to list. As you grow more and more intimate with Me, I reveal My will to you more directly. When the time is right, I prompt you to ask for healing of some brokenness in you or in another person. The healing may be instantaneous, or it may be a process. That is up to Me. Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun. I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person’s life. Even My servant Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you,” when he sought healing for the thorn in his flesh. Nonetheless, much healing is available to those whose lives are intimately interwoven with Mine. Ask, and you will receive.

JAMES 4:2 KJV; “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have…”

2 CORINTHIANS 12:7–9; Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

MATTHEW 7:7; “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

August 19th, 2021

Receiving Images

Artist and author Christine Valters Paintner explores how we might reconsider traditional approaches to photography. Instead of “taking” pictures, she asks us to “receive” images similar to how we might welcome the presence of God in contemplation. 

Contemplative practice is a receptive practice. We make ourselves available for grace to break in; we open ourselves to listen and ponder. . . .

We often use the word “take” to describe our relationship with photography. Our culture emphasizes taking time, taking what’s mine, and taking a break. What we are endeavoring to do in this process, however, is to receive (rather than take) the gifts around us, to be present enough so that, when the photographic moment arrives, we are able to receive it fully, with our whole hearts.

“Taking photos” is a common phrase, and changing that perception and process (especially if you use a smartphone, Lomo, or other disposable camera) may be hard to break, but I gently invite you to consider what reframing this process might be like for you and what it evokes in you. I invite you to bring a new awareness to how words and phrases can shape our experience and practices.

Rather than “taking” photos or “shooting” them or even “making” photos, we will practice “receiving” images as gift. The traditional words for photography are possessive and aggressive. Yet the actual mechanism of photography is that light is reflected off of a subject and received by the camera through the lens opening. We can create conditions for a “good” photo, but ultimately we must stand in a posture of receiving and see what actually shows up in the image.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke [1875–1926] writes in one of his poems of “no forcing [and no] holding back.” [1] When we are receptive we let go of our agendas and expectations. We allow ourselves to see beneath preconceived ideas. Rather than going after what we want in life, or “forcing,” we cultivate a contentment with what actually is. Similarly, instead of “holding back” and merely observing life or falling asleep to it, we stay awake and alert, participating fully in its messiness and we keep our eyes open for the holy presence in its midst. Photographing in this way can become an act of revelation. One of the gifts of art in general, and photography in particular, is that the artist can offer others this vision of the graced ordinary moment.

August 18th, 2021

A Theology of Making

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me. . . . She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” (Mark 14:6, 8)

I am struck by the deep awe, reverence, and devotion that modern artist and Christian Makoto Fujimura brings to his creative process. In these touching passages, he describes how he takes inspiration from the Gospel story of the “woman with the alabaster jar,” who anoints Jesus’ head with oil (see Mark 14:3). 

I experience God, my Maker, in the studio. I am immersed in the art of creating, and I have come to understand this dimension of life as the most profound way of grasping human experience and the nature of our existence in the world. I call it the “Theology of Making.”. . .  It has become my point of reference for a lifetime of star-gazing into the infinite realities of beauty and the sacred—and then creating. . . .

In the slow process of preparing the pigments and glue, which one must learn to do with the handmade paint that I use, I realized that I was practicing a devotional liturgy of sorts, . . . Through this act, I begin to feel deeply the compassion of God for my own existence, and by extension for the existence of others. My works, therefore, have a life of their own, and I am listening to the voice of the Creator through my creation. I am drawn into prayer as I work.

The impulse toward Making seems embedded in us from “the beginning.” Such an impulse imbeds our vision in actual earthly materials. So our journey to “know” God requires not just ideas and information, but actual making, to translate our ideas into real objects and physical movements.

It is hard work to live into this generative love, and it is what we are made for: to paint light into darkness, to sing in co-creation, to take flight in abundance.

I consider my art to be a devotional act, a memorial in response to this woman’s act [in Mark 14]. I use precious materials such as azurite, malachite, and gold. I have done many paintings and installations based on this passage. . . . “Truly I tell you,” he said to the disciples, “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” [Mark 14:9].

In Mary’s devotion, she expressed the beautiful to Jesus. What makes us truly beautiful? What makes us not just good, not just right, but beautiful? Can our churches be beautiful again, and not just promote goodness and truth? . . . Remember, what the disciples deemed a waste, Jesus called the most necessary. We have much to learn from Mary. What is our frivolous act of devotion today? What is our “art”? Mary’s act of extravagance is what it means to create in, and through, love.

Prayer For Our Community

Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. We pray that you will take away our natural temptation for cynicism, denial, fear and despair. Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another. May we place our hope in what matters and what lasts, trusting in your eternal presence and love. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our suffering world. Please add your own intentions . . . Knowing, good God, you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God. Amen.

Story From Our Community

One morning I prayed to live more aware of God’s presence. So many suggestions have come to me, but I didn’t recognize them as prayerful contemplation until I read Fr. Richard’s words. I danced as a girl and had begun ecstatic dance at home, without knowing what I was doing. I used singing as a way to heal and bless my being in union with God. I guess God has been speaking to me, and how happy does that make me? I am in awe and joyous.
—Jessica K.