Sunday, June 24, 2007

1) Tea time!
2) Stefan & Beer
3) Naomi and Rob, two folks that I adore
4) Ed from Winchester, the Manor House busker
5) Andrew Fellows undergoing the process of Enlightenment (and sharing the results).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Photos and Books

Books currently sitting next to my bed to be read (many of them concurrently--crazy I know). Would love to hear your comments/ thoughts on any of these as I go through them this summer:

1)Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from the Underground (Bill, I am just not getting into it--even after all of your enthusiasm.)
2)Donald Miller: To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father (Christine, thanks for pretty much forcing me into this read. Miller’s writing style frequently infuriates me, but as with Blue Like Jazz, I appreciate the connections he makes, the things he chooses to talk about.)
3) C. S. Lewis: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my first time to read straight through the Chronicles of Narnia--all the ship stuff is making this the most difficult to get through.)
4) N. T. Wright: Evil and the Justice of God(I appreciate so much Wright’s move away from fundamentalist language, even though his stance is clearly evangelical. This book confronts many of the issues I wrestle with--the first chapter was so beautiful that it left me in tears.)
5) Soren Kierkegaard: Philosophical Fragments (absolutely amazing, reading for a L’abri study group.)
6) Blaise Pascal: Pensees (my first time to attempt and read all the way through--in sections throughout the course of the summer. One of the most life changing books--and I don’t say this lightly--that I have ever digested.)
7) Henri Nouwen: Reaching Out (also being read for another L’abri study group. Wonderful, practical, mystical, challenging.)
8) Martin Buber: I and Thou (have wanted to read this one for a while, especially since my last visit to L’abri and hearing Andrew Fellow’s wonderful lecture on it.)
9) C.S. Lewis: The Great Divorce (can’t wait to reread this as my static, modern idea of heaven has been so challenged lately. In a good way.)
10) M. Scott Peck: The Road Less Travelled ( a strange addition to this list, I know. But my tutor here really admires the insights in his chapter on love and wants me to read it. I am a bit scared.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

L'abri: Utopia or Reality?

My beautiful little Brazilian neighbor, Helena, running from the camera:

Although a gift, L’abri is a difficult place to be—especially as it is easy to idealize it, to turn it into a utopia, after leaving here and upon anticipating a return. Then on returning, you once again remember how scary and beautiful it is to attempt and face reality in this environment. L’abri itself is an effort to distinguish between reality and our many illuisions—and that makes it quite terrifying. My first week was very hard—I asked myself over and over again if I had made the right decision in coming back and committing a whole summer (which could be used to work and search for a job for Fall) to be here. This past Friday, it all finally clicked, wonderfully, graciously, delicately and fully—and I began to remember what L’abri is really about---learning to live as one fully human, learning to drink in the fullness of life (life in God, life that is fragile and made more real through both beauty and pain). I know I am meant to be here for now, even though I am spending time having very difficult conversations, thinking over difficult issues—but the fullness of life here is undeniable and irresistible. It is already changing me.

Pascal’s comments (in previous post) about the fear of living in the present moment relate very much to the scariness of L’abri. In the moment is reality, in the moment we meet God—this is both irresistible and very frightening. Although I have many other things back home I need to be thinking about (a job!), I want to make the effort to live here, now, in this present beautiful, sometimes scary, moment. In this effort, I have even made a decision to return the mobile phone I bought to use this summer—I want to focus on being HERE rather than always trying to reach those outside (ironic, I know, as I write a blog post!).
Two Swedish action figures (Stefan and Lois) building a little greenhouse behind the Manor House:

Helena again:

Anita from Mexico, Andrew Fellows (L'abri Worker) and Esther from Hollnd during a tea break:

Kierkegaard and Eternity in the Moment/ The Fullness of Time

Rob from Boston in the L'abri Study Room--Probably reading Kierkegaard!

Still relating to this theme of the present moment, I wanted to share a fantastic, lyrical, quotation from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments in which K explains the very moment of conversion from “untruth” to “truth” from “not to be” to “to be”. He writes:

“And now, the moment. A moment such as this is unique. To be sure, it is short and temporal, as the moment is; it is passing, as the moment is, past, as the moment in the next moment, and yet it is decisive, and yet it is filled with the eternal. A moment such as this must have a special name. Let us call it: the fullness of time.”

I realize that this quote is out of context, needs much explanation (K contrasts the Socratic method of learning to this act of what he calls conversion), but I will not do that right now. For now, I want to just mention Kirkegaard’s focus on the passing, yet still eternal moment of conversion, in which the “divine teacher” creates both the condition (an awakened knowledge of our “untruth”) and the movement to truth. K later emphasizes that this moment can be neither recollected properly or recereated, and that God cannot be “drawn over to our side” again just through our controlled attempts at reconstruction. We experience this movement from untruth to truth in the fullness of the moment. Although Kierkegaard here is referring to the singular defining moment of Christian conversion, I wonder how this also relates to the process of a sort of sanctification, of lifelong miniature movements in the moment towards deeper, greater understandings of specific truths. Learning here can be seen as, in a sense, a mystical experience.

**There is a note in the Kierkegaard text next to the phrase “the fullness of time” that references Galatians 4:4 (and reading this scripture alongside the poetry of this Kierkegaard passage adds to the beauty and the mystery of the point):

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of the woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

A lovely pathway near my little schoolhouse.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

L'abri, Pascal and the Present Moment

So, here I am. At L’abri. It was a good, easy trip over but I am pretty exhausted.
On the plane over, my mind was full, reeling as I fell in and out of that restless plane sleep. During the past few weeks, I have had several enlightening, disturbing, challenging, hard, beautiful conversations with friends (both new and old) about some of the most difficult questions concerning faith. The timing of these conversations is quite striking--although these conversations about struggles, doubts, belief, etc. have contained themes that have been near to my recent spiritual life, have reflected the language of my own recent soul, I feel as if my own questions have been clarified, my appetite for a deeper understanding of the reality of mystery has been whetted.

Because of this, I could not help but read Pascal’s Pensees on the plane--I felt madly driven to do it. Blaise Pascal and Simone Weil have been left some of the deepest imprints on my heart and mind over the last few months. And it keeps happening, especially with Pascal.
Please read this amazing section from Pensees:

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does, so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching.

Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.”
After reading this beautiful passage, I remembered one of my favorite L’abri lectures entitled
“The Sacrament of the Present Moment” by Andrew Fellows. Andrew argues along the same lines as Pascal, but continually makes the point that we meet God only in the present. How does this relate to Pascal‘s comment about the pain of the present? It is so hard, so frightening, to slow down--to wait, to believe in the sacred nature of the present moment. We are always running forwards and backwards--is this running into the future or back into the past another way to avoid God, to be distracted, to avoid facing the painful light of reality? Why? There is a lot I could say about this but this is already crazily long. Would love to hear any of your comments.

On a lighter note, here are two items of interest from my return to England:
1) Victoria Station now has its own Krispy Kreme.
2) I am sharing a little Victorian schoolhouse at L’abri with a Brazilian family. One of the Brazilians gave a lecture on Kierkegaard last night--which I sadly missed.
That’s all for now!