Copy of an email I sent Saturday evening to my spiritual director. The links are embedded; a couple of minor illiteracies are cleaned up; the paragraphing is endlessly tinkered with (an integral although unnecessary part of my creative process); and a long excerpt from last month’s post to this blog on an Episcopal table grace that keeps coming back to me is set off by centered asterisks — like this * * * above and below the quote. Otherwise it’s as I wrote it.

Hi Sister —

A note to confirm our meeting Monday, Oct. 7, at 2:30 p.m. And to give you the usual heads-up on what I’ve been up to since the last time we met. It’ll be short, since events have kind of overwhelmed me and spiritual formation has taken a back seat to more urgent matters. I’ve done quite a bit of reading, though. Finished Rohr’s “Universal Christ” and I’m working on Ilia Delio’s “Christ in Evolution,” which I find much easier to follow than the first book. I think it’s starting to cohere, and it’s answering some of the resistance I’ve had to the pop culture image of Jesus I’ve carried with me over the years.

I’ll quote a little, and include the links, in case it suggests anything you think would be worth following up on.

Otherwise, I think I can stand to keep working on prayer, and I’ll quote below from something I wrote about that. I’m back in a mode of “foxhole spirituality,” and I’ve been praying — and thinking about praying. And it keeps leading me back to what I learned growing up in the Episcopal Church. I guess it’s more a part of me than I’d thought.

But first I’ll link to what I sent you last month, before I had to postpone our meeting because of … (I don’t remember what the exact crisis was, there’ve been so many, but I think it was a couple of days after the services for Debi’s mother in the Quad-Cities area). Anyway, there’s something about Franciscan spirituality that’s been sticking with me. Quoting from Delio’s review of Rohr’s “Cosmic Christ”:

We are not God but every single person is born out of the love of God, expresses this love in his/her unique personal form and has the capacity to be united with God. It is for this reason that the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure described the mystery of Jesus Christ as a coincidence of opposites. Because Jesus is the Christ, every human is already reconciled with every other human in the mystery of divine so that Christ is more than Jesus alone; Christ is the whole reality bound in a union of love.

Then I blogged about it on Sept. 24, under the headline “Of a gentle nudge from Jehovah, a Scots-Irish folk hymn and a childhood table grace on the interstate north of Lincoln,” The references were to the organ prelude, an arrangement of “My shepherd shall supply my need / Jehovah is His name …” in the Southern Harmony; and the pericope (1 Timothy 2:1-7) from the Sunday morning service at Peace Lutheran the week before.

I’ll excerpt it here at length:

* * *

So between the prelude, the reading from 1 Timothy and Pastor Mary’s sermon, which was about prayer and the things we pray for, it all added up to something like a gentle nudge from Jehovah … kind of a still, small voice saying hey, pal, I know you’ve had a lot on your mind lately, but you’re kind of falling down on developing your prayer life, aren’t you? Just a little? When’s the last time you prayed the Examen, for example?

Well, truth be known, I haven’t lately.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been trying to pray. Life has been kind of tempestuous, but I certainly had occasion for intercessory prayer when Debi’s mother passed away and we went up to northern Illinois several times to visit her as the end drew nearer, and for then the visitation and funeral. And … now that I think about it … I revised an old table grace as sort of a general prayer of thanksgiving. Turned out we had a lot to be thankful for. And plenty of reminders that each new day is a blessing. Anyway, the table grace is something I learned growing up in the Episcopal Church. I remember it like this:

O Lord, bless this food to our use, and us to thy service; and make us ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.

It came to me when we were driving home from northern Illinois one night. I was thankful for something — what? I don’t remember exactly, several things turned out to be unexpected blessings (even a ball game we watched with Debi’s mother as the Cubs beat Milwaukee 7-1). I didn’t have internet access in the car, so I couldn’t Google an appropriate prayer. But if I took my childhood table grace and substituted “gifts” for “food,” then I might have something that matched what I was feeling. Besides, I was conscious like never before that each new day is a gift from God, and it was high time for a little thanksgiving. It was getting late that night; we were on the last leg home; and as we were passing the wind farm off I-155 just north of Lincoln, red lights on top of the turbines slowly blinking as we peeled right onto I-55 and headed down toward Springfield, I tried it out in my mind:

O Lord, bless your gifts to our use, and us to your service; and make us ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.

It worked. Each new day is a blessing, and here was another. If nothing else, I was successfully adapting the language of a prayer. https://ordinaryzenlutheran.com/2019/09/24/prayer-pentecost-xv/

* * *

Seems like it all does keep coming back to what I learned as a kid.

I think that little table prayer is like a distillation of the “Great Commandment” I heard every Sunday morning at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Norris, Tenn. [Another Franciscan that keeps sticking with me?]:

“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as they thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Here’s a link that preserves the language of the 1928 edition of the Episcopal prayer book I grew up with: https://www.azdiocese.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/3188707.

Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll see you at 2:30 Monday at the motherhouse.

— Pete


Peter Ellertsen, 2125 S Lincoln Ave, Springfield IL 62704. For random notes on dulcimers, history, hymnody, cultural studies and all kinds of music, visit my research blog “Hogfiddle” at hogfiddle.wordpress.com.

3 thoughts on “Spiritual direction notes — August-October

    1. Oops! I just tried replying to you, but typed it into the wrong field. So the next comment below this one will have my thoughts on it … along with contemplation, I need to start making time to learn WordPress.

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  1. Good question — I’ve been thinking about it off and on since I saw it several days ago, and don’t have a good answer! Ever since I read James Martin’s book about Jesuit spirituality about a year ago, I’ve been trying to cultivate an awareness of the presence of God in ordinary things. With limited success, but I guess that’s better than no success at all. But I tend to do everything on the fly, and I fall down on the contemplative job as well as the prayer job (like the way you put that, by the way). I still tend to experience the presence of God the same ways I always did — in church (or through Word and sacrament, as Lutherans like to put it) and in music. I’ve been mulling it over, and think I may do an entire blog post on it since it fits in with something I’ve been talking about with my spiritual director.

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