at this table

Happy Sunday! I want to share with you all an exquisite photo essay by my friend Susan Licht.
Some of my most cherished memories are of sitting at my grandmother’s table, listening to the grown-ups talk…I absorbed a lot of wisdom and love on those Sundays sitting at grandma’s table.

Licht Years

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Perhaps the World Ends Here
~ Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars…

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seeing with new eyes

The technology, speed, and busyness so prized by our Western culture foster a habit of blindness. For all the bustle, a dreary sameness comes to mark the places where we live. We forget that there is a vast depth beneath the apparent surfaces of things.

The eye of aesthetic spirituality sees more than other eyes. Art in general, and photography in particular, helps to facilitate this awakening by granting epiphanies through its transfigurations of the ordinary. We come to know more than what appears within our line of vision.

–Christine Valters Painter, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice

There is great truth in this. I know I have come to see the world differently since I started photography…I was so blind to all of the beauty around me, in everyday things I never saw before and completely took for granted.

I remember when my mom had cataract surgery, a number of years ago. It was a joy to drive her home afterwards, for she was like a small child again, exclaiming that she’d forgotten how beautiful the world was, how lovely all of the colors were; my mom was experiencing the world in a completely new and unique way, at the age of 76. Cataract surgery–having the film removed from one’s eyes–is a prefect metaphor for a new way of seeing reality. A way of seeing with wonder and amazement.

That’s how I feel when I am  photographing, for instance, purple flowers from a five dollar supermarket bouquet. Take, for instance, the lovely flirty ruffled curve of their petals, their soft, velvety textures, their gorgeous deep and rich purple tones…I live my life immersed in beauty, chronic pain and depression be damned! The ordinary is indeed transformed.

Photography has helped me to be grateful for the beauty of this glorious, fascinating world God has given us. Sometimes just the act of photographing a flower, a sunset, the smile on my husband’s face (oh my, do I love his dimples!), becomes a prayer of gratitude in itself.

What about you? If you like photography, do you find it has changed the way you see, and participate in, reality? Or is there another spiritual practice that transfigures your world, your everyday experiences?

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation Dinner Reflection

At our graduation dinner last night the other four Master’s in Theology graduates and I were asked to submit short reflection related to our time as students and now graduates of the Theology Master’s Program at St, Catherine University. I wound up writing mine straight from the heart, so I’m afraid it was less about my favorite class or my most uplifting experience, but at least it had the virtue of being honest.

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I must admit that last week’s graduation was bittersweet. I was thrilled to be graduating, oh my goodness, yes, especially with my family there, and with my friend Sherri (who was absolutely glowing and stunningly beautiful); but at the same time I was fighting a migraine and on some fairly heavy-duty painkillers (!) and my fibromyalgia had me so sore that we went straight home afterwards instead of going out—where I sat around in my brand-new academic robes and hood and gorged myself on takeout pizza and watched bad WWII movies on Netflix with my husband George. Okay, so that part was fun, actually, and I wish we had thought to take photos of me stuffing mushroom pizza in my face wearing my graduation regalia!
The bittersweet part is that people keep asking me what is next, and I stumble around, trying to come up with something funny to say, and I’m at a loss. The dream that has kept me going, through the myriad of chronic pain conditions that has required me to drop classes and seek numerous extensions and medical leaves of absence (thanks Bill! (our super-understanding theology department head)) has been pastoral ministry, especially the idea of chaplaincy. That’s the whole reason I entered this program. And now these chronic pain conditions are making it impossible for me to hold down even a part-time job. Or be a reliable volunteer, much less work full-time as a hospice chaplain. So there is triumph in the degree, but grief and uncertainty when i contemplate my immediate future.
Still, there are several treasures  I will take away from this outstanding program to help guide me in my coming journey. I have met so many amazing, compassionate, loving people here at St. Kate’s, both faculty and students, who I am honored to count as role models, mentors, and friends. I know that your prayers go with me, just as mine go with you, and that our journeys together do not end here, but in many ways have only just begun. I am excited to continue growing as both a scholar of theology and as a pastoral minister. My studies here have opened so many doors! I feel I have only dunked my toe in the water. And, too, I will take all of your stories with me. I have had a rough time, yes. But I am not the only one. So many of you have done battle with your own pain, and done it with immense grace and courage, and I cannot tell you how much I admire you and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Finally, I take with me the knowledge that I need to trust in the process, as Deb (my mentor and pastoral ministry prof.) told me recently. This is very difficult for me, (trust is not my strong point) but I know she is right—I need to learn to take better care of myself, and learn to trust that the Holy Spirit will lead me in the right direction, even if I don’t know where in the heck I am going now, beyond more physical therapy. After all, Someone helped me through comps!

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