March 29, 2019
Howie calls in to help Jim explore the Circular Path. Job 26:10 provides the backdrop for this week's summary:
(God) traced a circle on the water’s surface,
at the limit of light and darkness.
The opening question then is: If we assume that this is a poetic way of saying that God has brought order to the universe, what signs of it do you see around you?
Jim and Howie's reflections range from the maintenance of the piscina to the esoteric realities of people's use of psychedelics in the 1970s. The duo then settles into exploring what is seen and unseen within the wanderings of living spiritually upon a circular path. Jim references a conversation that Krista Tippett's with Paulo Coelho on OnBeing's Becoming Wise podcast. Tippett and Coelho discuss pilgrimage. Coelho says:
I also do believe that we have this possibility of doing a pilgrimage every single day — because a pilgrimage implies — in meeting different people, in talking to strangers, in paying attention to the omens — basically being open to life. We leave our home to go to work, to go to school, and we have every single day this possibility, this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not for the privileged one who can go to Spain and to France and walk this 500 miles but to people who are open to life. A pilgrimage, at the end of the day, is basically — get rid of things that you are used [to] and try something new.
So it is within the seen and unseen boundaries of a circle.
Jim and Howie check out with a "shout out" for Howie's participation in an upcoming running event. Howie's going to get out and run a 5k between Sunday morning worship services on April 7th. Crush Your Run supports Preston's March for Energy - an organization that provides adaptive bikes for children with special needs.
He's also living into "Hitting the Ground Running" - an effort to promote St. Thomas Episcopal Church's congregational life and connections with the community. And it is a way to get out of the usual circle of Sunday church activities as well as to invite neighbors to share in the church's Holy Week and Easter activities. It should be fun and faithful.
In sum, the circular life is an exploratory one - one when and where a pilgrim is willing to leave home, explore the world, see what's going on while knowing that much of what happens is taking place beyond our control or comprehension.
Blessings along The Way,
March 27, 2019
Jim hosts another conversation on Paths. He begins with a reading from John Climacus' Ladder of Divine Ascent. Jim offers Howie's question of the day: "In what ways is love a circle, or does love form a circle?"
Jim uses Howie's writing from the 27th of March "Path" to further explore this question. Faithful people understand that the way of "divine timelessness" nothing valuable is lost or forgotten when traveling upon a circular path.
Jim draws upon Thomas Merton's Wisdom in his poem Hagia Sophia to explore how a circle is a container for living into "hidden wholeness." Merton provides a portal for understanding how Divine Wisdom reaches out and touches us from "a place of wordless gentleness" and flowing grace "from the unseen roots of all created being." Jim transitions then to considering Parker Palmer's wisdom in his book "A Hidden Wholeness." Palmer explains that our yearning to discover our hidden wholeness is soulful work. Our souls desire to keep us:
- rooted in the ground of our being,
- connected to communities of life and thriving relationships,
- speak the truth to us about ourselves, our world, and the relationship between the two, and,
- Give us life and guide us to become life-givers in a world where death is ever-present. (Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness, pps. 33-34)
Jim then shares his thoughts about view the circular path and the circles we abide in as wells. We need good and lifegiving water in the desert, Lenten times of our lives. We need circles of truth, vulnerability, and trustworthy love to offer more depth and reason for our being. Our souls are anchored in Divine Love, as Merton and Palmer, and Jesus suggest through their wisdom.
Enjoy exploring hidden wholeness on today's Path.
Blessings along The Way
March 25, 2019
Jim begins the Third Week in Lent by discussing the vital importance of our cores. Yantras and mandalas offer geometric patterns for understanding the cosmos as well as ourselves. A mandala, circle in sanskrit. offers an observable shape for comprehending life. The mandala core is a bindu. The Divine, Source, God, Presence - whatever definition offers you wisdom for life emanates from the core of our being. Jim offers his perspective as a Christian who admires and appreciates learning from the religions and philosophies that preceded it and stand alongside.
Jim then explores the joy of the Feast Day of the Annunciation:
This joyous day, in the middle of Lent, announces that God constantly reaches out from the core of our faith to remind us of our purpose in life and our connections with God and one another.
Jim then transitions into how a spiritual discipline such as a walking a labyrinth prompts us to seek connections with the core of our circular path. Such patterned rituals focus our attention on the center of who we are as well as the source of our being.
Enjoy and Blessings along The Way.
March 22, 2019
Jim and Howie sit down to discuss what they learned during the curving 2nd Week in Lent. Howie's cat Cato joins in with their exploration as he wanders upon the podcast production table. I wish I would have had a camera.
Howie shares a delightful story of visiting a young parishioner's elementary school class. The young person shares his interest in pouring orange juice onto a graham cracker. You have to listen to Howie share the tale.
Jim then gets much more serious in talking further about his time in Durham's Cathedral.
Jim then invites the duo to spend time chatting about Richard Rohr's concept of living into life's two tasks or halves of life. The first task is to construct a human life thru a process of creating and practicing our identity - especially as our ego understands it. The second task - a more soulful endeavor - is to discern and live into what our identity is truly about in reality and more broadly. Pivotal moments (curves) present themselves as a means or connecting point between these two tasks. The couple quibbles a bit about the truth of Rohr's model. They then chat about Moses' encounter with God and possible meanings for dealing with life's curviness. Jim closes this section from a current conversation taking place on the School of Life's Community page. Jim talks about our minds' needs for controlling the future. We seek security when we're on holy and unstable ground, nonetheless such aspirations provides anxiety that comes from seeking such comfort.
The couple concludes today's podcast by summing up what they learned and what they look forward to with next week's "Circling Path." Check back in for more conversation and contemplations.
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Blessings along The Way, Howie & Jim
March 20, 2019
Today's Path orients us to the importance of seeking out good markers and guardrails. Howie writes: " Finding reliable guides is essential. .... The best guides point away from themselves and toward the goal - on the physical path to safety and the way ahead, on the spiritual path, to Christ." (Sasser, Paths, 2019)
Jim considers the life, faithfulness, and testimony of St. Cuthbert. Cuthbert is perhaps the most beloved saint in Northern England. He was a devout man of prayer, a fearless missionary, especially to impoverished people, and a pious, obedient religious leader. In later life, he wrestled with striving to be a hermit and a bishop at the same time - not an easy feat.
Cuthbert became more venerated and admired following his mortal death. According to the Venerable Bede, Cuthbert's sarcophagus was opened eleven years after his death, his body was found to have been perfectly preserved or incorrupt. Numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession and to intercessory prayer near his remains. Thousands of contemporary pilgrims travel to Cuthbert's tomb at Durham Cathedral.
Jim is one such pilgrim. Jim traveled to Durham a few years ago to attend a conference at Durham University's Centre for Social Justice and Community Action. His purpose was to learn more about Action Research and how to use it in his ministries. While in Durham he and Howie visited Durham Cathedral. It was a transformational and defining moment in Jim's life. It happened at sunset in the Chapel of Nine Altars as the cathedral was closing for the night. He recounts some of that experience on this podcast.
It is important for pilgrims to occasionally look back upon the paths they have traveled to recall and offer thanks for the guides - pragmatic and transcendent who shape our lives and our purpose for living. The podcast's purpose is to shine the light upon one such Saint, Cuthbert, who indeed points toward Christ and opportunities for living a memorable, hopeful life that shared God's love with neighbors and creation alike.
Blessings along The Way, Jim
March 18, 2019
Jim begins the 2nd Week in Lent with a reading from Proverbs. He then offers Howie's March 18th reflection from Paths. Howie raises a key question for finding our path and The Way throughout Lent and beyond. "What qualities or practices enhance our souls' abilities to bend?" (Sasser, Paths, 2019).
Jim considers pop music songs that describe how life winds around. He mentions Sheryl Crow's Every Day is a Winding Road, Bruce Hornsby's Valley Road, and U2's I still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Climbing hills and wandering through fields to find love and God has been a lifelong adventure for Jim. How about you? Augustine of Hippo's quote provides a prayerful compass for such sojourning:
"How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you? " (Augustine, Confessions)
Jim then segues into his trips from Tucson, AZ -> Mt Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest about an hour's drive away from Tucson. The only way to get up the mountain is on the Catalina Highway. it can be a treacherous trip, especially on a bicycle. Yet, many people go up the hill to escape the heat, enjoy their summer homes, and relish the beauty of Mt Lemmon's "sky desert" forests.
Jim suggests that trips up to the mountain to encounter God and ourselves are worthwhile if not risky. Such is The Way through Lent as well. "What qualities or practices enhance our souls' abilities to bend?" (Sasser, Paths, 2019). <in such times and places as these>
Enjoy the podcast. Share it with your friends and family. Offer us feedback that will help us to provide you what you're looking for today and throughout Lent and/or other seasons of your life.
March 15, 2019
Howie and Jim discuss their pilgrimage through the First Week of Paths. Howie speaks to his inspiration for considering straight lines, practically and spiritually. Both guys talk about various automobile and religious adventures they've taken. They then speak about the process of figuring out what internal and external circumstances and experiences may cause someone to remain steadfast or their chosen path in contrast to wandering (lost or otherwise). The guys' conversation concludes with a look ahead to Week 2 and venturing out onto crooked or curved paths - something that all of us are familiar with, especially during Lent.
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Blessings along The Way, Jim and Howie
March 13, 2019
Today's reflection invites listeners to consider how to be joyous with preparing for the wilderness with God - joyfully. Howell Sasser writes "It is tempting to take the widest, most visible path. For some it may be consumerism, for others, fashionable cynicism. But, even for those seeking to follow a faithful path, the easiest of most conventional one may not be the most Godly. (Sasser, Paths, p.8, 2019).
Jim describes his discomfort as well as his curiosity for the wilderness he observes congregations dwelling in during these complicated days. Financial and spiritual deficits are causing church communities strife and despair. Jim references Dwight Zscheile's wise words in The Agile Church. Zscheile writes: "the realities facing the church today are complex and ambiguous, realities for which there are no quick or easy solutions. ... We look to leaders to resolve this ambiguity by providing quick fixes, giving us a clear map of where to go..." (Zscheile, The Agile Church, p.60, 2014).
Jim suggests that Jesus' prayer reminds us to seek daily bread, no more than that amount. Jesus example harkens back to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and the manna God sustained them with each day. Jim references Eckhart Tolle's teaching that gratitude in the present moment provides the key we need to open up the spiritual dimensions of our lives. (Tolle, Present Day Reminder, March 10, 2019)
In sum, contentment, surrender, and awareness of reality as it is and discovering bread for nourishment may be enough to dwell with God as we discern where and how we should be living our lives.
Blessings along The Way.
March 11, 2019
Jim offers a reflection for Monday, March 16th. Howie writes that "It is commonly observed that Nature has little use for straight lines. If this is true, and if nature (including us) is to be seen as God's creation, the the appearance of straight lines in the threads of our lives is all the more extraordinary." (Sasser, Paths, page, 8, 2019).
Jim considers the joy and complexities of wandering around in circular rather than straightforward endeavors. He shares a story of a recent wandering on his way to Delaware. Jim shares wisdom some of Br. Curtis Almquist's wisdom. Curtis is a member of the Society of St. John The Evangelist.
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Blessings along The Way, Jim
March 8, 2019
Today's Podcast introduces Paths' author, The Rev. Dr Howell (Howie) Sasser. Jim introduces Howie. Howie shares a bit about his life's path and pivotal moments. Howie tells us what inspired him to write the book, his purpose in writing it, and hopes for his readers. Jim and Howie then consider together today's theme of setting out on Lent's pilgrimage with full faith. They discuss Jesus' and their own temptations in the Wilderness. We conclude with contemplating how to be faithful without seeing clearly the path we travel. Howie offers a farewell blessing.
Blessings along The Way - Howie and Jim