Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Conor Grennan, Interview #121

Your Name: Conor Grennan

Where you live: New Canaan, CT

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Writer; President of Next Generation Nepal (nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting trafficked children with their families in Nepal)

Your two favorite books:
Lit by Mary Karr
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Your two favorite songs:
Amsterdam by Coldplay
Just by Radiohead

Why you are interested in spirituality?
Even before I knew what I believed, I felt deep inside that there was something greater than myself, mostly because when I thought about that Something, I felt a kind of peace. I loved being in Nepal, living among Buddhists, taking care of Hindu children. But when I read the Gospels of the Bible, I knew that for me, Christ was everything – it struck me like a lightning bolt.

Your favorite quote:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Mark Twain

Your favorite web sites: - Don Miller’s Blog (author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) – The Onion

Your hero?
Farid Ait-Mansour, co-Founder, Next Generation Nepal, for what he’s done for trafficked children in Nepal.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
How to put faith above all else, in good times and bad, so that fear melts away in the knowledge and understanding that we are in the hands of a loving God.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
I feel connected whenever I am in fellowship with other members at my church, Grace Community Church in New Canaan, CT – it can be anywhere in the world.

Editor's Note: For more about Conor's work, see: and

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eric Nelson, Interview #120

Your Name: Eric Nelson

Where you live: Los Altos, CA

What you do as a vocation or avocation?  I work as a Christian Science practitioner (available to the public, not just Church members, for prayer-based treatment) as well as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.  When I’m not doing that, hopefully I’m outside hiking, or biking, or enjoying a walk with my wife and new puppy.
Your two favorite books:  Definitely the Bible… and a “companion” book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.  As the name implies, the latter helps me to understand the deeper meanings and significance of the Bible.  I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a day in the last umpteen years when I haven’t studied and been inspired by both.  It just never gets old!

Your two favorite songs:  Number one would have to be Beethoven’s 9th.  It’s uplifting, affirmative, powerful.  And… the “Ode to Joy” section just happens to have been one of the featured pieces at my wedding.  Number two on the list would be Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert (not really a “song” but a series of “songs”) – an entirely improvised composition that combines jazz, pop, and classical elements like no other.
Why you are interested in spirituality?  You’re going to get a different answer from me every time you ask.  Today what interests me most is the connection between increased spirituality (what I see as one’s understanding of God and their relationship to Him/Her) and the positive impact this has on one’s mental and physical health.  Paying attention to the spiritual (and most essential!) aspects of my being has afforded me a lifetime of growth, inspiration, and healing.

Your favorite quote:  Again, you’re likely to get a different answer each time you ask.  Today I’d say that my favorite is from Phillips Brooks, former rector of Boston’s Trinity Church: “God has not given us vast learning to solve all the problems, or unfailing wisdom to direct all the wanderings of our brothers’ lives; but He has given to every one of us the power to be spiritual and by our spirituality to lift and enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch.”

Your favorite web sites: This is a tough one, but if you were to gauge this purely on the number of times I visit throughout the week, it would have to be, home of my all-time favorite baseball team (I grew up in San Diego).  However, as they relate to my work as a spokesperson for Christian Science, here are a few of my other favorites:
Your hero?  Actually, two come to mind: Indiana Jones and Jesus Christ.  I’m not kidding!  The first was smart enough to avoid snakes whenever possible and the second taught me how to destroy them whenever they happen to cross my path. (I should explain that I often use the word “snake” as a metaphor for any thought or situation that would challenge the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful, and ever present God.)  Get rid of the “snake” and you begin to get rid of the problems (e.g. sickness, disease, sin, and so on) that result from believing it’s myriad claims.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  No doubt God has plenty of lessons in store for me – and I’d like to think I’d be receptive to them all.  But the one thing I aspire to more than anything else is to heal others as effortlessly and consistently and effectively as Jesus.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Yosemite.  Grand Canyon.  
A bike ride in the Santa Cruz mountains.  Walking along the beach.  Alone with my thoughts.

If you want to find out more about my work, the best places to look are…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tyler Core, Interview #119

NameTyler Core

Where you live:
 Chicago, IL 

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
As a vocation, I am a headshot photographer for actors in the city. I also make websites throughout the internet-sphere. Both of these began as hobbies, then turned into careers.

Your two favorite books:
All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque

Good Poems - a modern collection of solid, life-affirming poems edited and arranged by Garrison Keillor

Your two favorite songs:
That answer is as mercurial as they get, so I can't easily answer it. Whenever someone asks me whose voice personifies your life, I go with early Stevie Wonder, hands down. But three artists are always in the mix of my life: Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Sufjan Stevens.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
Well, when it comes to telling a story, I always like to find the through-line, that one string that unites the disparate elements of the piece. I find spirituality to be that string, that pull on people's lives. My faith is what grounds me in my art.

Your favorite quote:
Once again, this changes too. My current desktop quote is attributed to the great Winston Churchill:
"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.

Your favorite web sites:
Since I am a massive web nerd, I cannot consolidate a worthy list for you. What I can offer you is a sample of design that I think the world if begging for:

Simple, message-driven. Poetic in its simplicity. I love this site. 

When I'm forced to focus on nothing, my mind defaults to my faith and the direction of my life. Long ago, I latched onto a simple goal: make all efforts to live of a life of love, grace and good work. Luckily, in the span of history, there is a precise definition for this I've found in Jesus Christ. You lay out His life and can't deny the indelible impact of His teachings on compassion, love and sacrifice. It's stunning, really, and as timely as ever as our world grows steadily inward and hands recede into our coat pockets.

Your hero?
I don't have one particular hero but I have been shown heroism through so many touching stories and people. My mother is a constant source of perseverance and father, of sacrifice. 

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Basically, finding that through-line of life. On the human level, we all wish to connect. For example, I love to day-trip downtown and wander aimlessly. Downtown Chicago forces people to bump into each other and interact. There are flare-ups and laughs and misunderstandings and pick-up lines and sorrow and excitement: every aspect of the human experience occurs on these trips. It rounds me out so much and places my life/problems in context.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
There's a spot on the lake-facing side of the Adler Planetarium, downtown. On a sunny, windy day, you can take in this sweeping waterscape, with the sun bouncing off the waves. It's a sight to behold.

People can catch up with me in a series of ways:

My website for headshots:

My website for song lyrics & such:

My story website that I'm currently re-launching:

My most-updated photography portfolio:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Elizabeth Drescher, Interview #118

Your Name:
Elizabeth Drescher, PhD

Where you live:
San Jose, CA; originally from Western Pennsylvania

What you do as a vocation or avocation?

I write about the spiritual lives of ordinary Christians today and in the past. I am a regular contributor to the online magazine Religion Dispatches and other popular and academic publications. My most recent work has focused on how new digital social media like Facebook and Twitter are impacting spiritual practice as ordinary believers have new abilities to access resources that were previously available mainly to religious and academic elites, to collaborate with one another, and to distribute their ideas globally. My new book Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation 
(Morehouse, 2011) explores new digital technologies from a cultural perspective, linking the practices they inspire to ancient and medieval Church traditions.

I’m currently researching a book on the spiritualities so-called “religious Nones”—people who answer “none” when asked with what denomination they identify but who nonetheless think of themselves as believers or seekers.

I teach religion and pastoral ministries at Santa Clara University, and also deliver talks and workshops on everyday spirituality for churches, colleges, and community organizations around the country. You can learn more about what I’m up to at

Your two favorite books:

I could never limit it to just two, but I have an abiding love of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse with it’s stream-of-consciousness dialogue that exposes the personal and relational perceptions of the shift from Victorian to fully modern ideals. I also rarely lose my interest in The Book of Margery Kempethe first autobiography in English that was dictated to scribes by a married mother of 14 children who had mystical visions of Christ and the saints that inspired her to negotiate a chaste marriage from her husband, travel Christendom on pilgrimages, and speak of her faith despite constant harassment from Church authorities and disapproval from many of her neighbors.

Love these two though I do, I’m not sure I could last long on a dessert island without a little bit of Emerson and a good helping of Alice Walker. (And, I’d probably have Maggie Anderson’s Years That Answer or John Ashberry’s A Wave hidden somewhere in my gear!)

Your two favorite songs:

Again, two is hardly enough. But I have long taken Dar Williams’ “My Friends” as something of a personal anthem ( The final lines—“I act like I have faith, and like that faith never ends, but I really just have friends,” expresses so much of my experience of God.

Ani DiFranco’s “Up Up Up Up Up Up” 
( has always served as a deeply meaningful expression of my understanding of spirituality as practice.

Why you are interested in spirituality?

I’m not sure if I can say “why,” but I can say that what interests me is how people make use of what’s around them throughout their lives—as friends, as partners and spouses, as parents, as workers—to make sense of who they are in relation to the Big Questions of meaning and value that have, I think, defined humanness since the beginning of (human) time. You know, when I started studying theology while I was still working fulltime in a corporate job, people came to me all the time to talk about their own struggles to reconcile sincere faith with the demands of their workaday lives. That everyday spiritual struggle and the telling of it has always been more interesting to me than the loftiest of theological treatises. To the extent that my own research and writing helps to give voice to how ordinary believers today and in the past have tried to make sense of their relationship to God, their neighbors, and creation in the context of challenging life circumstances, I am deeply awed and humbled.
Your favorite quote:

Since I already quoted Dar Williams above, I’ll go with my most recent favorite: “I have come to believe that 'believing in God' is not a description that helps us know much about what it means to be a Christian.” ~Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child

Your favorite web sites:

Religion Dispatches (
Experimental Theology (

Your hero?

I know it sounds hokey, but my friends are all heroes to me. My friend Wanda Guthrie, for instance, has done social justice work through the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, PA ( for years and years with a generosity I cannot fathom. My friend Ellen McGrath Smith ( inspires me with her commitment to her poetry and her teaching almost every time I visit Facebook. My cousin, Bruce Harter (, has lived a life defined by joy and hope that I wish I could half emulate. I could go on and on, but I guess the thing is that I really try to recognize the heroic in all the people around me rather than valorizing someone who maybe has better press than most of the rest of us.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?

How to recognize the abundance God makes available to us in the simplest ways—“God’s oath to sparrows,” Emily Dickenson called it, recalling Matthew 6: 25-34.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"

My partner and I have a little enclave in the backyard framed by trees where we sit in the hot tub at night and watch the stars. Our good old dog curls herself up on a chair and a statue of the Hindu goddess of abundance, Padma, pours water into a small pool. Most nights, we hang out there, talking about how the day went, what’s ahead, and whatever else comes to mind. Or, we just sit together in silence, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood floating around us. It all seems to come together there.