It’s not an alien life form. It’s a red potato. I found it on the floor in the pantry behind the recycling bin. Who knows how long it had been laying there in the dark, sending out shoots, looking for life. It’s another image in my series of pictures on growing in adversity — how living things (including people) are able to survive and grow in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
Last week the UPS truck came by my house and dropped of a box of my books, The Uncluttered Heart. It was probably best that I didn’t realize what the package was or I might have asked the delivery guy to let me get a picture. <grin>
Since then, I’ve received a beautiful, framed book cover from the Upper Room book department. And I’ve gotten a book signing lined up at SOULfeast at Lake Junaluska in July.
How strange — it’s 98 degrees today in Nashville — and I’m thinking about Advent. I guess it’s never too early to start promoting. So, in the name of shameless self-promotion — be the first to get your book from Amazon or The Upper Room Bookstore. (I’d love it, too, if you feel led to add a customer review to either The Uncluttered Heart or Child of the Light.) Thanks for celebrating with me!
It’s not too late to register for SOULfeast, a spiritually nourishing event at Lake Junaluska, NC (July 12-16). I’m honored to be a part of the worship planning for this Upper Room event. Right now, we are in the throes of finalizing the services and the worship design. The worship team includes Jay Voorhees, Karla Kincannon, Trevor Hudson, Marjorie Thompson, Pamela Hawkins, George Donigian, and Stephen Bryant. It’s been great to work with this creative group to plan the 5 services of SOULfeast.
The preachers for this year’s event include Trevor Hudson, Jasmine Smothers, Vance Ross, and Marjorie Thompson. Music will be led by Elise Eslinger. Really — think about coming (if not this year, think about next year).
Here are some images from last year’s SOULfeast:
This Spring marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of Penuel Ridge Retreat Center’s 25th anniversary. This special place is on 135 acres in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Backed up against a wildlife preserve, it’s a beautiful place. Two ridges frame the back edges of the center, and in the center is a beautiful lake. For 25 years, we’ve called it “the lake.” But at the first event celebrating the anniversary, the lake was named Lake Joyce. Joyce and Don Beisswenger were the founders of the retreat center. They had the vision, purchased the land, and called together a group of us who could help discern its direction. Joyce passed away several years ago. She lives on in our hearts and now in this beautiful lake, a companion to those who seek rest and solace through retreat.
Prayer of Blessing upon “Lake Joyce”
Gracious God, we come in remembrance of your child and servant Joyce Beisswenger. We recognize her love for you and all of your creation. We celebrate her devotion to life’s spiritual journey and her kindness to those who walk it. As a witness to the legacy of her love for Penuel Ridge and its purposes, we joyfully bestow upon this body of water the name “Lake Joyce.” To you be all honor and glory. Amen.
Last week I got a call from my book editor, Rita Collett, who told me my book, The Uncluttered Heart, had come off the press. She had a copy of the book on her desk and I could come and visit it. So — I went for a visit, held the book in my hands, and took a picture of it. It looks great!
When a book is finished with its printing, a few copies come to the publisher. These are precious copies that go to various people and departments — the book editor, head of publishing, production (for their files), etc. The rest of the books are sent to the The Upper Room’s fulfillment center in Georgia. In the meantime, the book is put into inventory. So it’s time for a little more waiting before the book is ready to be released to the general public.
For me, it’s an exciting time — a time of gratitude and personal fulfillment. Thanks to everyone who has had a part in this birth of an Advent resource.
I got to meet Sr. José a few years ago during a week’s session of the 2-year Academy for Spiritual Formation at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She called us together for sessions with the beating of a drum and tried to teach us how not to be late to the sessions (a sign of disrespect). She had us howling like wolves and dancing in the nave of the chapel. She told stories. One that made a big impression on me was that she asked a carpenter friend of hers to make her a wooden casket. She had him fit it with shelves and then kept it in her house as a temporary bookcase. She kept us laughing even as she taught us about God, about prayer, about life.
Earlier this year, she passed away. And since then, I’ve been learning even more about her amazing life. I knew she was a Seneca elder and Franciscan nun. But I didn’t know that she knew some of the modern-day leaders in the faith. A friend of hers, John Dear, recently wrote an article with stories of Sr. José’s encounters with some these people. Dorothy Day went to Sr. José for retreat. During an event they were doing together, Henri Nouwen asked Sr. José to talk with him each day about the death of his mother.
Sr. Jose taught at Matthew Fox’s institute. Below is a trailer for a documentary called Holy Rascals, which presents a different way of thinking about religion and human spirituality. The trailer has footage of both of Jose and of Matthew Fox.
This week on NPR I listened to a fascinating series called The Science of Spirituality. NPR religion correspondent and author of the book Fingerprints of God, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, created the five-part series on All Things Considered.
Hagerty explored questions such as:
- “Is an encounter with God simply a chemical reaction in the brain?“
- “What’s going on in the brain when someone has a spiritual experience?“
- “Can prayer reshape your brain?“
- “Can positive thoughts help heal another person?“
- “What about near-death experiences?“
My favorite part was the description of how the brain changes when people engage in regular prayer and meditation. People become more connected, more compassionate. United Methodist minister, Scott McDermott, is featured in segment three. Researchers did a scan of his brain while he was engaged in intercessory prayer. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson said that after two weeks of meditation, there were distinct changes in the brain.
That’s what I want — for my spiritual practice to be such a regular part of my life that my brain actually changes. It takes “spiritual formation” or “participating in the mind of Christ” to a new level, doesn’t it?