Last year for Advent Word, I focused on shooting a black and white photo for each word. This year, it is my intention to use Christmas-related decorations (ornaments, Nativity scenes, etc.) for each word. Wish me luck!
December 1st is the first day of Advent this year, and fortunately, the first photo was easy: Unexpected.
It has been a busy week as we got ready for and attended the 198th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. As Canon to the Ordinary (Assistant to the Bishop), my husband, Frank, and I had to leave early with the rest of the staff to help with preparing our convention site at Georgia Southern University (where my husband and I met as students 37 years ago).
On Thursday, I attended a Creation Care Committee workshop on tree planting at the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University after visiting with my mother and taking her to lunch at a local restaurant. We planted four trees, beginning the Committee’s initiative to plant 222 trees in the Diocese by 2022 (see Revelation 22:2).
That evening, we attended Evening Prayer at Trinity Episcopal Church where I was Baptized, Confirmed, and one of the Diocese’s first female acolytes. It is also the church that sent my husband to seminary and where he was ordained to the Priesthood in August of 2000.
We decided to take a trip down memory lane that night and went to Dingus Magee’s, the restaurant where we had a lot of our early dates. Then we returned to the hotel to rest before the morning’s big event: the election of the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia in which Frank was one of the five nominees.
Following the opening Eucharist, we were led to an empty room to await the counting of the ballots. Imagine our surprise when the entire Standing Committee filed in and informed us that Frank had been elected on the first ballot! It is still sinking in. Frank will be consecrated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry here in Savannah in May of 2020.
Frank and I have a new book coming out for Lent 2020 called A Spring in the Desert:
Jesus stepped out of the water of baptism into uninhabitable wilderness, emerging forty days later to offer the water of life for those thirsting for God’s presence. A little more than two centuries later, a group of Christians withdrew from a spiritually barren Roman Empire to find their faith blossom in the stony soil of the Egyptian desert.
We offer a Lenten journey inspired by the many passages of scripture that use images of water in the desert as a sign of the healing and wholeness that come through God alone. To this we add the distilled wisdom of the Desert Mothers and Fathers and the surprisingly rich inspiration of the plants and animals that thrive in an arid land. Along the way, we share the ways our faith speaks to the barren places in our lives and how those times of drought can be a source of strength.
You can preorder it here: A Spring in the Desert
We have also created a video class to go along with it featuring 20 5-minute classes; See the intro video here:
It’s November once again, and as I often have in the past five years, I am once again participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). That means that I will be writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
This year, though, what I’m working on is a little different than normal for me because . . . I am working on this novel with my husband. Admittedly, that’s not abnormal in and of itself as we have written more than a dozen books together in the past nearly 30 years with our newest due out later this year (that is, soon).
But the novel I am working on during NaNoWriMo, Copycat, is new for us in that I will be doing the lion’s share of the writing while Frank does the lion’s share of the plotting. Interestingly, “lion’s share” comes from Aesop’s fables and not from how lions eat in general. Although, not surprisingly, despite the fact the females do most of the hunting, the male of the pride eats first followed by the females who hunted and then the cubs.
Anyway, here’s a working cover for Copycat:
It was somewhat cryptic, particularly to a ten-year-old (or was I eleven?). Either way, I was completely fascinated by this description of my birth sign—Pisces. I found this “definition” of myself on a colorful book of matches and never forgot it. I liked the idea of being mystic (whatever that actually meant) and a mourner and magnetic and even strange. It is true that I am not sadistic but I never really liked the rhymey-ness of that second line.
As the years passed, I continued to be drawn to the mystic aspect of my sign, and, eventually, to the mystics themselves: Saint John and Saint Paul, Hildegard von Bingen and Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich and needless to say, Saint Francis.
Evelyn Underhill, in her book, Mysticism, wrote: “Of all those forms of life and thought which humanity has fed its craving for truth, mysticism alone postulates, and in the persons of its great initiates proves, not only the existence of the Absolute, but also this link: this possibility first of knowing, finally of attaining it.
Attaining knowledge of, and finally, union with, the Absolute is a journey along a different wilderness road. It is a long, and often arduous, pilgrimage and not everyone who undertakes it will reach their final destination.
“Quid es ergo, Deus meus?” asked Saint Augustine.
What art Thou, then, my God? He proceeded to answer with both the vision of the mystic and the genius of the philosopher, which, according to Underhill “combined to hint something at least of the paradox of the intimacy and majesty in that all-embracing, all-transcending One.”
“Highest, best, most potent [dynamic], most omnipotent [transcendent], most merciful and most just, most deeply hid and yet most near. Fairest, yet strongest: steadfast yet unseizable; unchangeable yet changing all things; never new, yet never old. . . . Ever busy yet ever at rest; gathering yet needing not: bearing, filling, guarding; creating, nourishing and perfecting; seeking though Thou hast no wants. . . . What can I say, my God, my life, my holy joy? Or what can any say who speaks of Thee?”
Underhill said that the mystic knows his task to be the attainment of Union with God; that is, the Unitive Life, which, while it is often lived in the world, is never of it. The self is remade, transformed and has finally unified itself. As Carl Jung might say, the process of transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious being has been completed.
This is clearly not an easy task yet one infinitely worth aspiring to.