743. Reading Mystics and Misfits: A Communion of Saints

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In her new book Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, author Christiana Peterson writes about her life in a Mennonite intentional community and also shares a few letters she wrote to Saint Francis. And a letter to Simone Weil. And to Clare of Assissi and Margery Kempe and Dorothy Day. These weren't fan mail letters, nor were they just a narrative device in a beautifully written memoir. She wrote to these Christian saints and mystics, whose own works she'd been reading, out of a need for companionship on the journey through life, out of a desire for mentoring, out of a longing to go deeper with God. Of course, no return note landed in her mailbox, but I imagine an outside-of-time-and-place thing going on, an authentic communion of saints that helped shape and buoy her.

Here's part of her letter to Simone Weil on the topic of attention:

"Maybe that is why I'm not so good at this yet, Simone. I am digging up the darkness inside me, uncovering my shadows, looking at them one by one, and am trying to see that God loves and accepts me even there. I want so much to love others well, but it takes energy and a kind of discipline, yes, attention, that I never anticipated.

Your words have been discomfiting. But I see now that in many ways, you understand more than I do. And I confess that I am defensive because you have poked at my weakness.

Still, I wonder what you would do if you appeared in our community...."

After reading Christiana's book I've started to think about writing a letter of my own. I have someone in mind. To whom would you write?


[Photo: Taken of a page from Mystics and Misfits.]

736. Ashes to go

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A picture in the current issue of Sojourners magazine caught my eye. On a city sidewalk stand two women. One is wearing a clerical robe. The other is a wearing a winter jacket, and, to me, it appears she has the beginning of tears in her eyes. The woman in the robe is marking the woman in the jacket with the sign of the cross on her forehead. It is Ash Wednesday. Instead of waiting for this woman and perhaps a man walking behind her and a couple running to their bus and an untold number of others to come inside a church, the church is going out to meet them. During the last month I've been slowly reading through the gospel of John. Here Jesus is at a wedding, here he is just walking along, here he is in the countryside, here he is getting water at a well, here he is by the sea, here he is walking ON the sea, here he is on a mountain ridge. All the while, he is meeting people where they are.

This short video expands on the story in the magazine picture. You can see the pair I described above at about 45 seconds in. It's quite a moving video; I hope you'll have the two minutes to take a look.


[Photo: taken of a staircase at St. John's University]

735. Choosing hope this Lent

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Lent begins next Wednesday, February 10. For your own spiritual practice during this season, please find at the end of this post a link to a free Lenten devotional, Come Back to Jesus, in which I have an entry. The devotional was put together by Chris Gehrz, a professor at nearby Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Writers of the devotional were readers of the book that he and co-author Mark Pattie have recently written, The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity, published by IVP Academic. I'm happy to say that I had the privilege of writing the entry for the 5th Sunday in Lent, March 18.

Several years ago I attended a seminar taught by Gehrz on the topic of Pietism, a religious movement that emerged in the late 1600s. What I learned that weekend helped me fill in pieces of history to better understand the church denomination that I belong to and was raised in. The Covenant church, which grew out of the Lutheran Church of Sweden during the great "spiritual awakening" of the nineteenth century, was particularly influenced by the Pietism movement, which in turn was influenced by Lutheranism, mysticism and late medieval Catholicism, reformed protestantism, and anabaptism. Pietism has an emphasis on devotional practice, particularly the practice of hope. In fact, hope is the central Pietist virtue. (When I learned that I got a shiver given that my current book-in-progress is on hope.)



In The Pietist Option, Pattie writes, "This decision to put one's faith in God and so to allow hope in the fulfillment of God's promises to blossom and bear the fruit of love is at the heart of the Pietist option.... A living faith out of which hope springs up, inspiring love, directing life, and reshaping the world."

May you enjoy this Lenten devotional. Here’s the link. Please feel free to share the file if you'd like; it has a Creative Commons non-commercial license. (For those of you who receive this post through email subscription, I'm not sure if the link will be active in your inbox. You may have to click through to the web version.)

I also encourage you to read Chris and Mark's book!


[Photo: taken of art at a local coffee shop at which I sometimes write.]