Mar 27 2011

Visio Divina: Third Sunday of Lent

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Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

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Romans 5:1-11

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

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A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

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Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, `Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

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As the Lenten Artist in Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, I’m reflecting on the weekly lectionary scripture passages and offering a collection of photos in response.

Lectio divina, Latin for divine reading, is an ancient monastic practice of reading and praying with scripture. Visio divina, divine seeing, takes a similar approach to visual art.  The four movements of lectio or visio divina are reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. For a description of the prayer practice, a colorful handout is here.


Mar 25 2011

Friday Florilegium

ONE time our good Lord said: All thing shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see
thyself that all MANNER [of] thing shall be well; and in these two [sayings] the soul took sundry
understandings.
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One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but
also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He
saith: ALL MANNER OF THINGS shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall
not be forgotten.
Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms
taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end. And upon
this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding
of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low,
and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of
the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: THOU SHALT SEE THYSELF if [1] all
manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the
last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.
And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well, etc., I understand a
mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which
the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it
shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.
[” The Goodness and the Love of our Lord God” will that we wit [know] that it shall be; And
the “Might and the Wisdom of him by the same Love will”
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hill [conceal] it, and hide it from us what it shall be, “and how it shall be done.”]
And the cause why He willeth that we know [this Deed shall be], is for that He would have us
the more eased in our soul and [the more] set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous
things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our
Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself:
by which He shall make all things well.
For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought, right so the same blessed Trinity shall
make well all that is not well.

Today’s florilegium is from the 32nd chapter of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love. I recommend reading it aloud–this allows the lovely flow of the prose to aid in deciphering her meaning.

Julian’s anchorhold (a little two-room cell with a garden built against a church) was right on a busy street, in Norwich, a town of over 10,000.  She had one window that viewed the church altar, one window for people on the street through which people sought spiritual direction, and, most likely, a cat. She is the first woman to write a book in English.

Her book is the fruit of twenty years reflection on visions she had of Jesus during a brief life-threatening illness. Julian wrestled with reconciling the love of Christ with a Christianity of hellfire and brimstone, and the reality of extreme suffering. Her local bishop led a bloody Crusade and burned heretics a half mile from her home. She also witnessed the plague kill 80% of the population of Norwich when she was 6 and then 80% of the children (the adults had some immunity from the first time) when she was nineteen, likely losing her own children.

For all that she would have witnessed, Julian’s book is full of joy and trust that God would “make all things well.”

One time our good Lord said: All things shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well; and in these two sayings the soul took sundry [many] understandings:

One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He saith: all manner of things shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten.

Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end.

And upon this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low, and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: Thou shalt see thyself all manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.

And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well,  I understand a mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.

And the cause why He willeth that we know this Deed shall be, is for that He would have us the more eased in our soul and  the more set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous [troubling] things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself: by which He shall make all things well.

For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought [out of nothing], right so the same blessed Trinity shall make well all that is not well.

Friday Florilegium 1


Mar 24 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

Each Thursday during Lent, I offer a vegan recipe as I learn to cook and like vegetables, and as I contemplate what it means to live non-violently.

In my heart, I’m a shieldmaiden of Rohan.

In the third Lord of the Rings movie, when Eowyn confronts the Witch King in battle, standing between the beast and her father, my heart pounds.

The Witch King taunts her, “You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.”

Eowyn pulls off her helmet and cries, “I am no man!” stabbing the the creature that has rained down death and destruction upon so many.

When I first saw the scene on opening night, a loud cry escaped my lips. (I don’t tend to make noise in movie theaters.)  But I wasn’t alone. The entire theater erupted in whoops and shouts and applause.

I’ve seen it countless times now, but it never fails to stir up a sense of power and fierceness and rightness in me that I rarely experience in daily life.  And I wish I could experience it more often.

My response to this scene has been one of the main reasons I’ve never considered myself a pacifist.

Of course, one could say that the Witch King, as evil incarnate, is the proper recipient of Eowyn’s battle rage.

But as I began reflecting on my reaction to the scene and praying about how to reconcile it with the part of me that is broken-hearted by the violence and the destruction of life, God brought a question to mind:

If I lived in a world without violence, where peace was not defined by the absence of violence, but a richer, deeper experience of peaceful life that had only itself as the reference point, how different would my personality be? How different would the world be?

The Kingdom of which Jesus gives us a glimpse is our world almost unrecognizably transformed, its DNA reordered so that love and peace are not defined as opposites of hate and war, but only with reference to themselves.  Christ loves us with this kind of Love–a Love whose reference point and definition is God’s very being.

A world of Shalom, life transfigured with peace and health and wholeness.

Being a shieldmaiden of Rohan would have no meaning in such a world.

It’s truly impossible to imagine.  I can only catch it faintly out of the corner of my eye. But that’s okay. Just trying to imagine it fills me with wonder and hope and trust. It also fills me with a sense of anticipation: who Christ is forming us to be will be both the same, yet different than who we are now at some level, because how we define ourselves will change as the world is transformed.

And every time we love another as Christ has loved us, something happens that is more powerful, more fierce, more right than Eowyn’s triumph over the Witch King. The shalom of the Kingdom is near. The world is healed.

Then the heart of Éowyn changed…’I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy…in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

***

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Few weeks go by when this soup is not on the menu at the Contemplative Cottage. Originally based on a recipe from Molly Wizenberg’s food blog, Orangette, I’ve made some changes, adding chickpeas to raise the protein content, as well as making it vegan.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne or more to taste
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils

1 14-oz can chickpeas

Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste

In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 4 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.


Mar 20 2011

Visio Divina: Second Sunday of Lent

As the Lenten Artist in Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, I’m reflecting on the weekly lectionary scripture passages and offering a collection of photos in response. The photos are displayed during the 5pm worship service each Sunday, with time for people to meditate on them in relation to the readings.

Lectio divina, Latin for divine reading, is an ancient monastic practice of reading and praying with scripture. Visio divina, divine seeing, takes a similar approach to visual art.  The four movements of lectio or visio divina are reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. For a description of the prayer practice, a colorful handout is here.

Second Sunday of Lent: March 20th

Some common themes presented themselves in the images I collected in response to this weeks readings.  Hands are in many of the photos–hands of embrace, of love, of healing.  A hand holds the cross, and is nailed to it.  Jesus’ hands hold onto Mary, child hands hold onto tiny infant fingers (my godson, Ben), and I contemplate along with Nicodemus the mystery of birth and love, both human and divine.

Hummingbirds have always been a symbol of the Spirit for me–much more than the dove.  Their wings by my ear is a typhoon of wind. They are so amazingly agile and unpredictable, flying in all three dimensions of space, and they aren’t timid, often hovering close to observe me as I observe them.

The Collect (prayer) of the Week

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Genesis 12:1-4a

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

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John 3:1-17

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

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Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

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Mar 18 2011

Friday Florilegium

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How to really love a child, from A Creative Companion by SARK

Be there. Say YES as often as possible. Let them bang on pots and pans. If they’re crabby, put them in water. If they’re unlovable, love yourself. Realize how important it is to be a child. Go to a movie theatre in your pajamas. Read books out loud with joy. Invent pleasures together. Remember how really small they are. Giggle a lot. Surprise them. Say no when necessary. Teach feelings. Heal you own inner child. Learn about parenting. Hug trees together. Make loving safe. Bake a cake and eat it with no hands. Go find elephants and kiss them. Plan to build a rocketship. Imagine yourself magic. Make lots of forts with blankets. Let your angel fly. Reveal your own dreams. Search out the positive. Keep the gleam in your eye. Mail letters to God. Encourage silly. Plant licorice in your garden. Open up. Express your love. A lot. Speak kindly. Paint their tennis shoes. Handle with caring. Children are miraculous.

Just for Mom, from A Creative Companion by SARK

Remember when mom what your whole world? Moms are magnets. MOM is WOW upside down. Give your mom flowers on your birthday. Remember the womb. Moms always have kleenex. We only get one mom–we can adopt others. Moms are human too. Waltz in the kitchen with mom. Moms are mythical, memorable, and marvelous. Go curl up near your mom and tell stories… Moms worry deep. Bake cookies and argue gently… Make a list of all your favorite things about your mom. Play cards together, eat M & Ms and laugh until your cheeks hurt. Forgive… Call your mom and tell her you’ll love her forever. Tell her now.

Friday Florilegium 1


Mar 18 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

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(No food photos this week, but instead, an even better example of the peaceable kingdom: a photo of my godson Ben sleeping, just after his baptism this past Sunday.)

Tofu Chili

We all know of recipes that taste even better the next day: this is one of them. It also handles reheating well without mushing together.

2 tablespoons olive oil  in a large soup pot

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1-14 oz package of extra firm silken tofu, cubed

1 1/2 cups, roasted red peppers

2-15 oz cans of your favorite beans (black and kidney were what I used)

1-28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the juice

1 tablespoon chile powder

1 teaspoon cumin, ground

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

a dash of cayenne, to taste

Sauté  onion and garlic 5 minutes on medium high heat, stirring to keep from browning. Add tofu and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add everything else and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to medium low heat (not boiling) for 30 minutes.

For those of you who like creamy chili, and don’t mind losing its vegan character, add a (very small) dollop of greek yogurt. I don’t recommend topping it with any kind of cheese, dairy or non-dairy, or with guacamole, as the taste is already quite rich.

Another variation: top with a small spoon of chipotle or roasted red pepper salsa. Serve with or on tortilla chips.

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