Friday, July 26, 2013

First Cup—Sacred Space: Warner Pacific College

There are many events, persons, and places in my life that fit in a category named “sacred.” The word has many different meanings but key associations for me are words like holy (adjective—set aside); liminal (adjective—an opening, doorway, in between); pilgrim (both verb and adjective—a person on life journey); journey (both noun and verb—the way on which one pilgrims); and godly (adjective and adverb—of God, i.e., holy). In a sense, every entry in this ongoing blog reflection on my life is a reflection on sacredness. Sacramentalism is essentially a perspective that says that all of life is created—everything and everyone in life is created. And connected. By virtue of this understanding, all of life reflect its Creator. To live life sacramentally is to see all things and all persons as holy and connected—reflections of the One who created it all: trees, seas, whales, persons, ants, flowers, indeed, all.

sacred space—tangible or otherwise—a space/location/place that makes it more possible for those who acknowledge and accept it to feel reverence and connection with the spiritual

Some persons and places take on an even greater sense—an aura—because of the intentionality involved and the personal connection.

The persons I’ve written about (and those about whom I will write) in this on going reflection are persons who do not take their own godly worth for granted and seek in all they do and think—in all of their relationships—to live a holy life. This holiness is defined in various way, but at the heart of the definitions are some key biblical teachings: the mind of Christ and love God and love others. You see, there is a “set aside ness” (holy) that is characteristic of a sacramental perspective—set aside for a purpose (a purpose defined by these understandings).

For me, Warner Pacific College has been/still is such a holy place.

Set aside for a purpose—from its beginnings, designed for the wholeness of humans. Designed for intentional learning that recognizes no off bounds: faith, life, and learning. Not as separate, distinct silos—but as related, connected parts of integrated, mutual, interdisciplinary, relational, paradoxical conversation about what matters most: How then do I live?

Just as persons are holy, I believe that places can also be holy, that is, also set-aside for such purposes. Nearly anyone who has walked into one of the ancient cathedrals of Europe senses this sacred geography, sacred architecture; set aside to serve the purposes of God. A walk in a church cemetery. The Grotto in Portland. A labyrinth at St. Luke’s. For a while, the grounds of the Franciscan Renewal Center, Portland. The ruins at Cluny, France. The Pacific Ocean—the “end of the world” at Depoe Bay, Oregon. The choir at Mt. Angel Abbey. Around dinner tables with good friends around the world. The chapter house at Wells, England. The tomb of the Venerable Bede at Durham, England. Baalbek in Lebanon. Wittenberg in Germany. And, yes, Warner Pacific College, “nestled on Mt. Tabor’s bosom / Glorious Hood in view.”

As a student, I attended WPC from 1962–1965. I returned to join the faculty in 1972 and stayed until 1995. I returned after 15 years and now hang out in classrooms—always sacred spaces for me. This is a holy place and on these sacred grounds,

• I lost and then found Jesus all over again for the first time (with apologies to Marcus Borg’s one-of-the-best-book-titles of all time).
• I was called beyond myself to discover my self. Broken. Then started on a journey
to healing and wholeness.
• I discovered the joy and joys of learning and the life-changing powers of friendship.
• I discovered my gifts and my gifts were used and honored.
• I found the freedom of aligning my self with a person/idea/vision greater than my own needs or wants or dreams or self.
• I found my wants refined, my needs fulfilled, and my dreams enlarged.
• I found the love of a lifetime who shattered in all the best ways the sorry ego of my life.

On those grounds. Walking between those buildings, sitting in those classrooms, coffee here and there, classrooms, those faculty offices, even the meetings, hallways, gardens, with my teachers, my peers, my students (all of whom carry these roles interchangeably and mutually)—I found a faith that lives and grows and changes, is challenged, questioned, and mangled, is hopeful and fearful and stretching. I began a journey that I’d been on all my life without knowing and a journey I’m still walking—I hope, now, with greater intention.

I am grateful for this space—this holy space made sacred by the prayers and thoughts and conversations and ideas and lives of holy people—teachers, administrators, presidents and deans, and students—the latter most likely the most influential through their own struggles, demands, fears, and friendships. And their willingness to invite me into their lives at significant times as if I had something to offer and, together, we learned so much. So many former students—now friends. This place and these people, God and me—we made a life I might not even dream of possible….

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

First Cup—"Interregnum"

Yes, I know: it’s been a long time. Over a month since I last wrote. I’ve titled this entry “Interregnum,” which, defined, means the time between two governments or, simply, a more than usual interruption. I use this big word as a way of saying, No, I wasn’t only being lazy. A great deal has been packed into that month, not the least of which were the two trips.

Judy and I traveled to Anderson for the Global Gathering and, then, I traveled on to Points East to meet up with Joel and head to Points West—as child number one pulled up stakes, packed most of his life up, and headed back home to Portland. I’m fairly certain that there will be some reflection down the road about those trips and all that they entailed. It is enough to say, for now, that the trips were well worth the time and effort.

It was good, so good, to see so many old friends—from all over the world, even though, I qualify, the stated purposes of the Global Gathering left me fairly cold. From my journal:

Oh well, as in nearly every other aspect, no one wants my opinion. These notes will never see the light of day. But the church has gone so wrong in listening to the stories of others rather than its own that I doubt it will ever find its way back to distinctive mission and purpose. We are lost in a thick wood. (Using that metaphor a great deal lately: I said that to Jael the other day talking of American public education.) Yet, it is apt. Something more like Arnold’s view of the world standing at “Dover Beach”:

…for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

And rather than give ourselves to process that God calls us to—discernment—we trust in the wisdom (glibness) of men. Arnold says, “Ah love, let us be true to one another….” Good, but I would write it more like this, Ah love, let us be true to God. The sovereign God who invites us, at great peril and often foolishness, into working out a Plan for the redemption of the world…".

When the appropriate distance has been achieved and the time for more thoughtful entry arrives, I think I’ll title that blog entry “A long, good conversation….” That is the way I characterize these trips. I wrote to someone recently that it felt as if I sat down and people just kept coming by to talk. From my journal:

I have to say, as I have so often in these pages, how fortunate I am to have so many friends. I say honestly I don’t know why I do. I don’t think that I’m a good friend—or not often enough. But I am grateful and, to use the much overused phrase, blessed.

And, a bit further on:

In fact, one way that I’ve described this week: “one long, amazing connected conversation about life, the church, the world, meaning and purpose.” Overall, I’m very, very glad I went. It will not happen again for us, I suspect. In fact, one wonders why it happens at all. Some last vestige, a remnant, maybe, a hope, a stone of remembrance?

And, finally:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 • Troutdale, OR • Home a couple of days, catching up, recuperating. Have already started on class for next Tuesday night—a first for me: Introduction to Literature. Not sure how I might adjust it if I teach it again but, for now, will just follow the syllabus. It will be fun, I hope, to once again engage others about literature….

Well, the details escape me, but the experience will linger on as one of the seriously joyful ones of my long life—to spend such concentrated time with one on my children! Great gift! We traveled by I-70 from Delaware to Pittsburg to Indiana to Illinois to Missouri to Kansas to Colorado to Wyoming to Utah to Idaho and, yes, finally, Oregon. We visited the Warhol Museum in Pitt (a city that turned out to be quite more than I thought); ate well, drank well, slept well; talked and talked and talked; stared at the unrolling beauty of the country, marveling especially at Wyoming and the entry into Utah! Had one of the best breakfasts of my life in Baker City, OR, remembering the joyfulness of an earlier trip and stay in that city with Terry—and the subsequent sorrow. Fort Fred Steele on the North Platte. Microbreweries here and there. Listening to Brubeck. Talking and talking and talking. Really, an amazing journey—a great road trip. Deo gratias!

I have to end this. There is no way, finally, to capture any of this. Just feeling very grateful. Very!

So, I bring this interruption to a close. It is enough for now. My next entry will be back on the 70s reflection track and focus on Warner Pacific College, one of the vibrant holy place of my life.

Veni, Sophia, veni…