Reviewing Forest Church by Bruce Stanley

Forest Church: A Field Guide to a Spiritual Connection with NatureForest Church: A Field Guide to a Spiritual Connection with Nature by Bruce Stanley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jesus taught his followers to observe and learn from things like sparrows, lilies, storms, olive trees, mountains and fish. In that same spirit, Bruce Stanley writes a delightful and engaging book about leading groups into nature and hearing what God may be speaking through the created world.

I had high expectations for this book, as I learned of it from Kenneth McIntosh, who wrote the excellent Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life on Celtic Christian spirituality. Kenneth has been leading Forest Church outings in Flagstaff for a year or so now and raves about the experience.

I can see this concept working well as a meaning-full excursion for all faith backgrounds. Equally it would work for a Christian church’s small group. It would also work well for folks interested in earth spiritualities and curious about their intersection with Christianity.

The book contains excellent resources for starting and maintaining a unique approach to spirituality in nature. I have asked a few friends to read this book and then want to sit down and chat about the possibility of doing something similar in my area.

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Iona Pilgrimage recap on A Sacred Journey

Last month I was honored to be the Pilgrim in Residence at Lacy Clark Ellman’s FANTASTIC site A Sacred Journey.

I wrote four posts about my spring Iona pilgrimage:

It was an honor to write for her, and it was a lot of fun to reflect on the journey.  I’ll be doing that for my blog here in coming days.

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Austin Kleon: Show Your Work!

This is Austin Kleon’s keynote at SXSW Interactive 2014. It’s based heavily upon his most recent book of the same title, which I bought earlier this year – actually, borrowed from the library, LOVED, bought, reread, bought the previous book Steal Like an Artist, loved, reread… you get the picture. Austin’s take on creativity and the artistic process is really down to earth and approachable. It has ignited a rejuvenation for me which I’ll touch on in later posts. But for now, I’ll pass this video along to you. Enjoy.

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June 18, 2014 · 9:08 pm

Your summer reading list: Rashida Jones, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill and Melinda Gates and many more share their book recommendations

Here’s a fantastic suggested reading list, straight from a variety of TED speakers. I’ve added several of these books to my wish list.

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Books I’m taking on pilgrimage to Iona

Two weeks from yesterday, I will arrive on Iona for a week of pilgrimage, as I’ve written here recently.

Part of my preparation has been choosing what to read before I arrive, and what to bring with me.

I’ve been spending time with these three books before I leave:

  • A Pilgrim’s Way by Lacy Clark Ellman, a recent graduate of The Seattle School. I did not cross paths with her there, but love what she’s been up to since her graduation. This book is a great look at making everyday activities into pilgrimage.
  • Waymarkers by Mary Dejong, a current student of The Seattle School. This is a pilgrimage guidebook to Iona, a workbook really.
  • A New Harmony by John Phillip Newell. Newell will be our pilgrimage host/guide, and has requested that we all read his newest book before arrival. From my own perspective, I much prefer Newell’s earlier work to his later work, but I am looking forward to discussing his current direction when we are together.

I also plan to read sections of Ian Bradley’s new book entitled Pilgrimage; a section from Brandon O’Malley’s book of resources that describes Iona pilgrimage specifically; and part of Philip Sheldrake’s book on Celtic place and spirituality, Living Between Worlds. Maybe something else.
Because I’m planning to pack simply, I’ve decided not to bring any books with me. Instead, I will bring my Kindle, which has plenty of back reading already. I’ve purchased a few books specificially for this trip though – things that I have in print that I want to revisit there. I purchased Newell’s New Harmony both in print and on Kindle.

  • River Flow by David Whyte. Whyte is British/Welsh and now resides near me on Whidby Island. He’s fast becoming my favorite poet. This is his newest re-release of poetry. I love his poetry collection Pilgrim and would bring it along if it weren’t $9.99 – too much for a brief book that I’d rather read in print anyway. And I may cheat and bring this text – it’s small :-). 
  • To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. I bought this long ago and while I prefer to read the print copy, I need St. John with me wherever I go. And this trip he’ll make many appearances, I suspect.
  • The Case for the Psalms by N.T. Wright. I haven’t yet read this, though I suspect that I’ll start on this trip. The Celtic Christians were famous for their love of the Gospels and Psalms, and their prayers of the psalms in their natural space. Last time on Iona I wanted to imitate the stories of St. Kevin and others by praying psalms while standing in the water, but I only got ankle-deep when I decided that was deep enough. This trip I imagine the same immersion level may happen, but we’ll see.
  • The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. I’ve not read this in a long time, but am using part of it for an upcoming class. As a wonderful text on spirituality and formation, in addition to some consideration of the sacredness of place, I’ll visit this again.

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Want to learn a new skill? Give It 100 Days

A short while ago I ran into a new social network, Give It 100.  It’s a peer encouragement site, so you register and choose to do something for a hundred days straight, and you upload brief (10 second) videos of you doing that thing.  

The site began when one of its cofounders uploaded a video compilation of herself learning to dance over a year.  That video just passed four million views.

http://youtu.be/daC2EPUh22w 

Some people choose new skills – learn to play the guitar, learn to draw.  Some practice mindfulness things – watch my infant grow up; watch the sunset.  You can see some example projects at http://giveit100.com/projects.  One teacher shares something every day that he second graders learned.  An empty nester couple is packing up 23 years of memories from their children.  This guy is telling his wife he loves her every day.

You can decide to quit along the way, or if you hit 100 days, you get a 1 minute video slot to celebrate your accomplishment. You can choose to finish there, or extend to 365 days.  Your project may be teaching others to do something – to paint, to speak a language.  You can do multiple projects in parallel if you want.

What would you like that extra nudge to help you do consistently?

I signed up (because that’s what I DO when I stumble across another new social site), and I’ve been pondering it for myself. 

Through the winter I had an unspoken goal to be able to handstand in the middle of the room (no walls) by my 45th birthday, but then I went and broke my finger and lost 6 weeks.  I’m close though.  Snippets of this have ended up on Instagram – there’s a huge community of yoga//inversions practitioners there.  But nothing this specifically focused.  Maybe I’ll pick that up again (though frankly, setting up the video daily is maybe a bit of a hassle).  

I was also thinking about just committing to reading each day for 100 days, and creating a brief video reflecting on something I’d read.  I’m always reading anyway; maybe just that nudge to respond would invite me to a reflective mode that I sometimes sail past.   

You can follow me at @patl to see what I do.  If you sign up and begin a project, let me know!

Edit: Looks like I’m all-in. Three projects are underway, and all are probably small enough that I can keep them going fairly consistently. Come on over.

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Invitation to two new classes at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

Hey The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology folks! I’m inviting you to check out two courses for summer term.

One is TCE 513, Directed Readings in Spirituality of Place. Dwight J. Friesen and I will co-teach (team-teach? Tag-team wrestle?) that one. You will attend the Inhabitat conference and read these two required books (in addition to single chapters from a broad variety of others) are:
* Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory and Identity – Philip Sheldrake
* Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality: Belden Lane
The dates on the calendar are currently wrong; it’ll be an intensive class but dates have yet to be finalized. We’ll do some classroom discussion about spirituality and place, and we’ll do site visits and liturgies from local sacred sites. You will present something about a spirituality of one of your own spaces and places (handwaving goes here! Dwight and I are still working on this).

The other course is SFD502, Readings in Christian Spirituality. I’m flying solo on that one. It’s an intensive on June 6/7. Readings are:
* Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader by Kenneth Collins
* Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups by Richard Foster.
We’ll look broadly at the streams of Christian spirituality that Foster and Renovare have identified, and the final project will be to choose one of the writers in Christian spirituality from course readings, classroom discussion or another source, explore that spirituality in relationship with an expression of spiritual yearning in contemporary culture (for example, a novel, an album, a movie). For example, a student may wish to research the work of Catherine of Siena and the film Whale Rider’s understanding of tradition and community; or John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and John of the Cross’ writings emphasizing union with Christ; the film Saved! in light of John Calvin’s understanding of holiness; Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge alongside Dallas Willard’s writing on transformative discipleship.

Register early, register often!

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Flood

Snoqualmie Falls near flood stage

A week or so ago, Snoqualmie River, just downstream from my house, was at flood stage. This is Snoqualmie Falls, world-renowned and a wonderful, easily accessible place to see the beauty of nature. At any time of the year it is gorgeous; during winter and spring the power of the falls are a must-see.

A few weeks ago, I began to experience an unblocking of creative energy, the strength of which I haven’t felt in a long while. It’s been due to a combination of reading the poetry of David Whyte (and hearing some CDs of him reading his own poetry and speaking of the creative process); reading and practicing visual notetaking, and reading the creativity work of Austin Kleon, particularly his book Show Your Work.

My challenge for a long time is one of breadth vs. depth. I have so many things that interest me and that I want to pursue – reading, writing, photography, teaching, being outdoors, gardening, playing with my family, leadership, spiritual formation, Celtic spirituality, pilgrimage, playing with wheeled things… you get the picture. And my output is similarly broad. I have this blog, a few other half-launched things, a Twitter feed, more Tumblrs than you can count on two hands. I have four places that host my photography work, not counting Facebook.

I have a terrible battle trying to figure out how to not be overwhelmed by possibility. So I get distracted easily.

But it’s been recently – as I’ve heard Whyte’s poetry, as I’ve found different ways to dump my thoughts onto paper that aren’t just angsty rambling, and as I’ve found Kleon’s encouragement to share the in-process stuff, to use a “so what?” filter, but beyond that, to have broad influences and broad outputs – that I’ve felt unblocked.

Like that river above, I’ve been flowing – murky and outside my barriers, but flowing.

I still don’t really know where this goes. I feel like I’m on the brink of discovering what that one through-line is that unites all of my interests outputs, rather than requiring me to focus and remove that variety.

Just trying to discover the One Thing: What am I here for?  What connects my varied interests and outputs?  #sketchnotes #vizthink #identity

In the meantime, I’m having a blast. Wherever this flood leads, it leads.

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Reflections on Entering Midlife

Although I don’t really believe it, my 45th birthday probably lands well into my midlife era. I would consider myself quite blessed to live to 90, so at least that part of the math indicates that we are here.

I write this from my living room couch, listening to my wife chat with a friend, watching my nearly-eight-year-old son watch a dumb cartoon movie, and after checking in on my eleven-year-old daughter who is taking a rare early evening nap. She must be sick.

i write this in the evening after the last classroom session for the Celtic Spirituality course that I teach at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Discovering this subject was a life-changing experience for me seven years ago. Finishing my doctorate – which I did primarily so that I could teach at the graduate level – was a hard-earned victory in perserverence. Teaching at this particular school has been incredibly fulfilling; the ethos of the school and its students is a magical place of home and of life for me. Today the students did short presentations on Celtic prayer, and we had blessings for making coffee, for serving cupcakes to neighbors, a prayer for my body “(which I hate)”, “a blessing that I need myself to hear” – so many heartfelt engagements with the Sacred, with Beauty, the Trinitarian God. I now have the complementary papers to read and grade, and in two weeks I read another batch of final papers from these students. I no longer am surprised when my eyes tear up reading as students wrestle with this perspective on God and what beauty they are being drawn toward.

I write this with books at my side – three more that I brought to class to recommend. I know that I am now known by my students as an overzealous book-recommender. Today I recommended books on yoga, on doodling, poetry from David Whyte, the challenge of incarnation – to live as human beings – from Michael Frost. I am also surrounded by stacks of books, papers and research for three upcoming courses – a pilgrimage to Iona with these students; a readings in Christian spirituality course that I will teach for the first time in June; a spirituality of place course that I am thrilled to co-teach with a dear peer and deep human being. The unknown of what is ahead is thrilling to me.

I write in gratitude for a “day-job” with a good company and a great team of partners, the first time in many years that I have felt content with a software job, knowing that even if I am not able to transition to full-time teaching/writing/spiritual direction/etc, that I will be happy working in software until I can retire from the industry.

I write eighteen months into daily, chronic migraine. This is a path I would not choose, but it has taught me much about myself and about so many other things. I have learned to trust holistic medicine, to breathe and to move and to meditate, to actively choose to eat and act healthily, to effectively deal with stress. One of my health care providers, on each visit, gives me nutritional input, physical assignments, and tells me to keep an attitude of forgiveness at all times. I have learned to embrace my own frailty, knowing that I may at any moment lose physical or mental or emotional health, but knowing that there is a grounded Presence even when those things occur. I understand more about my body and my embodiment. I am more forgiving of my limitations than I have been in previous years.

I write in awe and in wonder of a much-revisited and much-revised perspective on faith and on God. I no longer am comfortable as I once was in knowing an impersonal and abstract Truth; now I embrace Truth as the embrace of a personal God. I feel little need to discuss ‘correct’ doctrine, much less to argue it. I learn from many who may not land within my expanding understanding of orthodoxy, though I greatly prefer learning from those whose orthopraxy overshadows their doctrines. I love the God of mystery, the God of the mystics, the God of beauty and presence and compassion and kindness. I have little interest in the easily-contained god of bumper stickers and fist-shaking platitudes. I have much less idea how I would label my positional beliefs than ever before, and yet am quite comfortable knowing that even these will change, and trusting that the Wild Goose is leading the way and that I follow on pilgrimage the best I can, and that getting lost is part of the adventure of faith.

In midlife, I am finding contentment in this moment, even though I know I can never stay here, nor wish to.

I finally can say that, if this is all I ever achieve or accomplish, it is enough.

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“There are no women on my theology bookshelf…”

Maggie Dawn describes the contemporary challenge before many women in theological studies.  The article is good, and her list of suggested sources is also quite thorough.

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February 26, 2014 · 11:48 am