Mar 13 2011

Visio Divina: First 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.

First Sunday of Lent–March 13th

The mood of the readings is one of dryness and dust, a curving sin-ward as a result of turning away from relationship with God.Jesus goes into desert and to the cross to turn us God-ward again.

I imagine the desert into which Jesus is driven by the Spirit as both the desert of his own vulnerabilities (the three temptations), and the desert that once was Eden, a place of hope and love, now dry and petrified.

Jesus cannot go back to the beautiful, yet immature, Eden, nor can he accept the world from the hands of satan without denying his very identity. The only path to resurrection is through the cross and death.

Metaphorically, the tradition imagines the Tree of Life in the Garden as both Christ’s presence and as the very wood on which Christ was crucified, which is restored as the tree with the leaves of healing for the nations in Revelation 22:2:

There in God’s garden stands the Tree of Wisdom,
whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations:
Tree of all knowledge, Tree of all compassion, Tree of all beauty.
Its name is Jesus, name that says, “Our Savior!

–Király Imre von Pécselyi, c. 1590-c. 1641

The Collect (prayer)

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lent 1--Withered Tree

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Romans 5:12-19

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

Lent 1--Incurvatus in se

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Lent 1--Cruciform

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Lent 1--Death

Matthew 4:1-11

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Lent 1--Past or Future--Jesus temptation

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.


Mar 11 2011

Friday Florilegium

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This week’s florilegium is from On Religion by John Caputo:

“Let us speak then of love. What does it mean to “love” something? If a man asks a woman…”do you love me?” and if, after a long and awkward pause and considerable deliberation, she replies with wrinkled brow, “well, up to a certain point, under certain conditions, and to a certain extent,” then we can be sure that whatever it is she feels for this poor fellow it is not love and this relationship is not going to work out.

For if love is the measure, the only measure of love is love without measure.

One of the ideas behind “love” is that it represents a giving without holding back, an “unconditional” commitment, which marks love with a certain excess…Love is not a bargain, but unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may.

Lovers are people who exceed their duty, who look around for ways to do more than is required of them.

If you love your job, you don’t just do the minimum that is required of you; you do more. If you love your children, what would you not do for them? If a wife asks a husband to do her a favor, and he declines on the grounds that he is really not duty bound by the strict terms of the marriage contract to do it, that marriage is all over except for the paper work.

Rather than rigorously defending their rights, lovers readily put themselves in the wrong and take the blame for the sake of preserving their love…A world without love is a world governed by rigid contracts and inexorable duties, a world in which – God forbid! – the lawyers run everything.

The mark of really loving someone or something is unconditionality and excess, engagement and commitment, fire and passion.

Friday Florilegium 1


Mar 10 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

On Thursdays of Lent, I’m going to be sharing a vegan recipe as I attempt to learn not only to cook vegetables, but enjoy eating them.  Tonight’s yummy experiment was inspired by reading four different stir-fry recipes.

One of my new loves is rainbow chard–it’s not only beautiful green with veins of red or yellow or purple, it’s flavor is rich and nutty, without the I’m-eating-grass bitterness of spinach.

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Tofu Stir-fry

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 bunch of green onion, chopped

3 large leaves of rainbow chard, chopped

1/2 package of frozen vegetable stir-fry (onions, red peppers, brocolli, mushrooms, water chestnuts)

1 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1 1/2 cups extra-firm silken tofu, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/8 cup whole bean tamari (For migraine-sufferers, this is optional. The jury is still out whether tamari will go on my list of susan-unfriendly foods, but I’m hopeful. It smells and tastes so good!)

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Saute garlic in sesame oils for a two minutes at medium high heat, stirring constantly. Add frozen veggies and green onion.  Stir until veggies are thawed, about 3 minutes, then add red peppers, chard, tofu, salt, honey, and tamari.  Keep everything moving for 5 minutes or less on medium high heat. Veggies should be bright colored and still crisp.  Makes two meals.

Serve over rice.

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Mar 9 2011

Lenten Joy

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In the Celtic tradition, Philip Newell speaks of “listening to the heartbeat of God.”  John, the Beloved Disciple, heard the human blood pumping through Jesus as he rested his head on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper. Such an image is so intimate, I almost want to shy away from envisioning it.  But, just as John, we are all invited into such deep intimacy with God.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day preparation time before Easter, and an invitation to listen more deeply for God’s heart in and for the world.

Lent used to be a pruning time for me, giving up things I felt were unhealthy or distracting.  Now, I focus on cultivation–how can I feed what good seeds are already sprouting.

Certainly, weeds need to be removed, but sometimes it’s hard to know at first what is a weed and what is a young sprout.

The best fertilizer and water for God-planted seeds is JOY–paying attention for it,  passing it along through little, fun gifts.

Weeds don’t tend to grow well on a steady diet of joy.

One of the ways I see and hear God’s heart is when a person’s face lights up with joy and laughs.  It’s musical and warms all who are near.

What are ways you can bring the light and music of joy into situations and relationships in your life during this Lenten season?


Mar 4 2011

Friday Florilegium

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Feeling scattered these past weeks–where did February go?–I decided to collect all the threads and projects of my life into one notebook. If I’m at a loss for where to begin, I simply open it and see what’s next.

But there is more in here than just to-do lists. It also has joys and thanksgivings, and visions for why the projects are important.  Just having it on my desk helps me remember to look with love, nurture relationships, and see the beauty in the tasks before me–even the most daily and ordinary, like meal planning.

Loving is the way to discover an infinite calendar of time and tie together all the seemingly scattered threads of life.

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This week’s Florilegium is a favorite poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, which I often read or listen to when feeling scattered.

Innisfree is not so much a physical place for me, but a slower pace and place of the heart, which I visit by taking time away from screen-life and reconnecting with the trees and birds and wider world outside my window, welcoming a friend for tea, cooking a meal from scratch, getting into a good book, taking a walk with my camera, praying, or writing a snail mail note to someone.

Listen to a lovely sung version of it by Claire Holley


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

–William Butler Yeats

Friday Florilegium 1




Mar 2 2011

Guested by God

I simply sit at my desk this morning, in silence, pen in hand, paper ready for whatever words might come. My pinched heart stretches and expands and trusts a little more, to live a little larger, feel a little more deeply, ask more scary questions, hope more strongly in what I believe.

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The Spirit’s breath is like a hummingbird by my ear and God’s presence surrounds, the Love that weaves all moments of doing and living together.

But then my heart shrinks back from the Presence which is all that is Love and Joy and Beauty and Truth.

Too vulnerable, I whisper, too intimate.

So away from the moment and the face of God I flee, disconnecting and distracting myself with even the best of gifts and joys.

Ferry Flyer by SLF

It is not simply God that I flee, but myself:  All that I am, all I wish I wasn’t and all that I long to be reflected in that Face.

And God pursues me, until I stop and turn and be simply Susan. Here. Now.

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God names, calls, woos, loves us, to the ends of the earth and the farthest reaches of time, always whispering,

“Yes, I see that, and this, and even that, and I love you. I love you. Always. Keep your eyes on me.

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To welcome God’s presence in this moment means welcoming ourselves as well with God’s own hospitality. No posturing, not hiding, no fleeing, otherwise the hospital-now of graced healing cannot do its work.

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be she.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
(George Herbert)

In every moment, we are guested by Love.

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And as we are welcomed by Love, and welcome ourselves, welcoming others becomes a way of life.

Love welcomes the weary and angry hearts, the dry and cracked deserts of lost dreams, the icy wastes of bitter memory, the apathetic spirit of nothing-will-change.

Then sweeping God goes to work with her broom and clears and cleans, finding the lost coins of gifts with laughing joy on her lips.

The shepherd God goes searching high and low for the wandering heart, finding it shivering and cold, alone and afraid, Come with me, little one.

The long-loving  God runs to us and welcomes us home with a feast to this gift of life, and feeds the famished with his own self.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Come, in this moment, sit and eat.

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