Sunday, August 26, 2007


RevGalBlogPals do what they call "The Friday Five," a series of questions on a topic that invite discussion. I haven't played for a while, but happened to look in on their site yesterday and decided the topic was interesting enough to play along late.

This week's topic:
Name a 1) book, 2) piece of music, 3) work of art, 4) film, 5) unusual engagement with popular culture that have helped/challenged you on your spiritual journey.

1) Book: The one that comes immediately to mind is Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. This book found me one of the first years I went to Music and Worship Conference at Montreat, and so was early in my spiritual journey. I'm still learning from this book. It's one of my favorite types of books, one that has an intensely spiritual message without being "Christian lit." The essay "An Expedition to the Pole" is one that grabbed me immediately, especially the idea that we ought to come to church in crash helmets, prepared to be lashed to our pews, because of the danger inherent in seeking an encounter with the divine.

2) Piece of Music: The first piece of sacred music I had the privilege to perform was the Faure Requiem. It was in Florida, with a community choir, very soon after I discovered that I had a singing voice and determined to use it. There's something about this particular combination of text and music that works for me. Maybe it's the sense of joy that it communicates, in contrast to some of the older settings of the Mass that are more about penitence and judgment. I particularly like hearing the Sanctus sung by a youth choir; their young voices make this light setting soar.

3) Work of Art: In Fredrick Buechner's book The Faces of Jesus there is a photograph of a wooden bust of Jesus carved by an unknown African carver. It's a Good Friday bust, with a crown of thorns, a sorrowing Jesus, contemplating the pain of the world. There's something about the way the carver has allowed the grain of the wood to carry the weight of the emotion in the face; it's as though the carver recognized that the art ultimately was God's, not his. It moves me to tears every time I look at it. I paid a very large sum for a used copy of this book so that I could look at this photograph when I need to.

4) Film: "What Dreams May Come." I love nearly everything that Robin Williams has done, but I would love this film even if Robin weren't in it. What draws me into this movie is it's rendering of heaven. First the parts that are created by the wife's paint; the idea that we participate in the creation of whatever heaven may mean as the place we go to after this life is over. Then the city, as the place populated by people with a common vision. I'm always taken aback by the Revelation texts that talk about heaven as a city; somehow we tend to think of heaven more in pastoral terms, as the kind of place where the good shepherd leads us in green pastures and beside still waters. But a place filled with people with a common vision - that sounds a lot like heaven to me.

5) Unusual engagement with popular culture: I'm not sure what counts as "unusual" here. Since I've discovered podcasts, I'm able to listen to Krista Tippet's NPR program "Speaking of Faith"; it's radio, but I depend on a new medium to be able to hear it. There's the audio book by a Buddhist teacher I listened to recently - Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron; this turned out to be one of the best books on dealing with addictions I've encountered lately. There are the good friends I've met while playing computer games online. Any or all of those might qualify.

Tomorrow is Sabbath for me. Tonight I will light the candles and begin the Sabbath with a simple ritual. I plan to spend the bulk of the day in my quilt studio, a place that I've neglected lately, but that usually releases my inner child. I found a turkey breast in the back of the freezer, so I'll cook that for supper, and see if I can round up some friends to help me eat it. I've dealt with the kitty litter and the dirty dishes, so I can start the Sabbath with a clean slate. The rest is in God's hands.

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