Wednesday, December 5, 2012

John Fea, Interview #192


Name:  John Fea

Where you live: Mechanicsburg, PA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Historian, history professor

Your two favorite books: 
How about three?  The Bible, Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow; Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven.

Your two favorite songs
Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run."  Kansas, "No One Together"

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I am evangelical Christian

Your favorite quote
"You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself." --Luke 10:27

Your hero?  Never really had one.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Humility, empathy, and charity

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  The beach at the Atlantic Ocean



Editor's Note: You can see the books John has written  here

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kris "Mrs. B." Bradley, Interview #191


 Name: Kris "Mrs.B." Bradley
 
Where you live: Central New Jersey
 
What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I'm primarily a wife and mom, filled in with stretches of writing.
 
Your two favorite books:
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchet
 
Your two favorite songs:
Lullaby by The Cure
 
Why you are interested in spirituality?
I can't remember ever not feeling that there must be something/someone out there watching out for us.  It took me a long while to put a name to it, but I've always felt that energy around me when I needed it.  Being raised in a home that didn't regularly practice any faith in particular, I was given the opportunity to really explore what spirituality and religion meant to me and find the perfect path for myself.
 
Your favorite quote:
"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." - Henry David Thoreau
 
Your favorite web sites:
I really enjoy Bishop In The Grove by Teo Bishop.  He's always contemplating, always growing and learning - and teaches some important lessons along the way.  It's everything a good Pagan blog should be.  I also really enjoy Facebook, where I participate in a great community of really positive people who come together every morning to share their blessings.
 
Your hero?
Jane Goodall. This is a woman who found her passion and has spent every minute since then devoted to making the world a better place.  

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
I think all lessons are continually ongoing and as changeable as the tides.  One I'm always working on is patience - with others, and with myself.
 
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Near water.  I find the beach to be the perfect balance of the elements, plus it's also a threshold between world (the world of the land and the world of the sea), which makes it a great place to commune with deity for me.

Editor's Note: Kris blogs in a number of locations. You can catch her writing at
"Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom" or at her site: http://www.krisbradley.com/ along with a link to her new book

Friday, November 16, 2012

MeiMei Fox, Interview #190


Name: MeiMei Fox

Where you live: Los Angeles, CA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Author and Life Coach

Your two favorite books:
When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron. No words comforted me more during the difficult years following my divorce and my father's conviction for a crime than hers. The book taught me to sit with uncertainty, realizing that any ideas we entertain about being in control are merely an illusion. I learned to meditate and breathe through my most challenging moments, to feel deeper compassion for all living beings, and to trust that I would be fine no matter what as long as I had my own truth, strength, and love to fall back on. I also find great solace and beauty in poetry. My favorite poets for the past ten years or so have been Mary Oliver, Rumi and Hafiz. If you have never encountered these mystics, lovers of natures, and revelers in the power of God and beauty of spirit, pick up any of their books. I will slide one off the shelf, thumb through, and read whatever poem I open up to when I feel a need for guidance or just comfort.

Your two favorite songs:
I could listen to Bruddah Iz's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which he mashed up with "What a Wonderful World," thousands of times and never tire of it. I grew up in Hawaii, so I find the sound of ukulele music deeply comforting. It's haunting. I also love U2. I listened to the album "Joshua Tree" every night on my Sony Walkman as I fell asleep in high school, and have been to two concerts. "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" may be my favorite song of theirs--though now that I've found what I'm looking for (true love, family, love love and more love for all humankind!), I might have to choose a new one! That song tells of the spiritual journey with such simplicity and honesty.

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
I become interested in spirituality for two reasons. One, I started working, while in my mid-20s, as a freelance editor, ghostwriter and co-author of non-fiction books. Two of my early projects were Buddhism books: Robert Thurman PhD's "Infinite Life," and "The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler MD. The message of Buddhism resonated deeply with me:
Find your own truth by looking inside yourself. Choose the middle path of neither too much indulgence nor too much denial. The path to world peace starts in your own heart, by finding compassion there for yourself and others. Then, around the same time, both my own marriage and my family of origin began to fall apart. I went into crisis mode. The Buddhists lessons quickly went from being theoretical to profoundly practical. Nothing could calm my anxiety or make me feel connected to the beauty of the planet better than meditation, which I practice in the Buddhist Vipassana tradition. I also turned to poetry (see above-my favorite books), yoga, and friendship, love and laughter. Once you go down the path of spirituality, you can never turn back! And thank heavens for that. My life is infinitely richer as a result of my suffering, seeking, and answers I found on my spiritual quest, and now I help guide others on their journeys.

Your favorite quote:
"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." - Emile Zola

Your favorite web sites: 
Huffington Post, the Happiness Project, Values.com

Your hero?
My mother. She is extraordinary. Full of vitality and creativity. A totally devoted mother to me and my brother and also a feminist who forged an amazing career path during the 70s and 80s, and continues into her late 60s -all for non-profits, all in service of making the world a better place.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Ajahn Sumedo said, "There are only three things to learn in life: Let go. Let go. Let go."
I am still learning to let go, but I don't suppose I will ever learn how to. Perhaps it's not in my nature. I'm too attached to those I love.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
In a yoga class and by the ocean.

Editor's Note:
You can read more about MeiMei at her site:
www.meimeifox.com  and at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meimei-fox/


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Susan Kushner Resnick, Interview #189

Name: Susan Kushner Resnick

Where you live: Massachusetts

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
 I teach creative writing at Brown University

Your two favorite books:
 Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Greene,
           The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Your two favorite songs:
 Back on the Chain Gang by The Pretenders
           Gandhi/Buddha by Cheryl Wheeler
 
   Why you are interested in spirituality?
   Because I believe in God much more than I
   believe in organized religion

Your favorite quote:
 "Everything will be ok in the end. If it's not ok,  it's not the end." - unknown
Your favorite web sites: 
 Letters of Note

Your hero?   Aron Lieb, the subject of my book

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? I don't think we can know what we need to learn until we learn it. 

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  On the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Rhode Island

about Living, Dying, Fighting, Loving, and Swearing in Yiddish

Monday, October 29, 2012

Allison Pearlman, Interview #188


Name: Allison Pearlman

Where you live: Los Angeles, CA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Actress and Preschool Teacher

Your two favorite books: 
That's such a hard decision because I'm an avid reader.  I'd say The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by: Mark Haddon as I've always had a particular interest in children with autism.  My second would be The Giver By: Lois Lowry.  It's a children's book but it fostered my love for dystopia novels and sparked my interest to continue to read dystopia novels through middle school, high school, college, and now.

Your two favorite songs: 
Anything by Phil Collins or Genesis (when he was the lead singer). I got to see him perform when I was 20 and cried when he came on stage. :) My two favorite songs by him would be "In the air tonight" and "That's All."

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
Because I've always felt there was something bigger than me and the life I'm living.  I would hate to think that there was no point to being on this earth. So far, there has been a point to everything I've done and learned and deductive reasoning leads me to believe that there must be a point to life even if I don't know what it is yet.

Your favorite quote: "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance" -Oscar Wilde 

Your hero?  Walt Disney.  He has always been one of my biggest inspirations.  He never had a problem with change, especially if it was going to make things better.  He also loved to create and recreate to make things better.  I wish that more people were like him.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  I would say it's more that I'm in the process of learning.  I'm learning that Jesus isn't bad.  He was used as a weapon towards me and my immediate family from a very young age and that was engrained as a very negative experience.  I'm lucky I have such an amazing fiance who was willing to work with me on this because we are both spiritually different (I'm Jewish, she's Christian) and on different paths.  But even if we were both Jewish, we would still be on different spiritual paths.  I'm learning that too!

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  When I'm helping others.  Whether it be protesting for equal rights, inspiring through my videos, helping at a soup kitchen, or giving someone directions when they're lost, I feel connected when I am put positive energy into the universe.  I like coming home thinking to myself "G-d would be proud of me today."




Editor's Note: You can learn more about Allison and her work here too:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4706205/
http://www.facebook.com/AllisonPearlman

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Danielle Lauren, Interview #187

          Name: 
          Danielle Lauren


Where you live: Sydney Australia

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I’m a filmmaker and social activist

Your two favorite books:
Steve Jobs autobiography by Walter Isaacson and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Your two favorite songs:
I know this is so tacky to admit but one of my favourites is Whitney Houston's “Greatest Love of All” and as an Australian the song “Land Down Under” by Men At Work makes me smile...

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I don’t know if being interested in spirituality is a choice but more of a calling,  a magnetism –it draws you in – something resonates with you on a higher plane that you can’t ignore. I find spirituality helps me to connect with the humanity of being human.


Your favorite quote: “Be brave or at least pretend to be, no one can tell the difference

Your favorite web siteswww.ted.com

Your hero?
Nelson Mandela. Growing up  in South Africa, he used to live around the corner from me and walked past my house on regular occasions. He is the epitome of humility and peace – a true hero a true inspiration.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
Patience for myself and others.


A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Everywhere – but I have a close relationship with Israel and India. 
Editor's Note: Danielle is Creative Director of a very cool project. See Danielle's cool work at:  http://www.11elevenproject.com/ and find out if there's a showing in a place near YOU! Wa

Friday, October 19, 2012

MaryAnn McKibben Dana, Interview #186


Name: MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Where you live:
Springfield, VA -- Washington DC metro area

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
writer, pastor,
mother of 3.
I'm the author of Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time, published by Chalice Press.

Your two favorite books:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Your two favorite songs: "The Yes of Yes" by Carrie Newcomer, "Magnificent" by U2

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
I am actually not interested in spirituality in the sense that the word is often used. Spiritual is sometimes juxtaposed with physical, as if what's in our minds and hearts can be separated from these bodies that we live in. Spirituality can also be superficial escapism rather than a groundedness in the world and its deep needs. 

I think we need a new word. Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions!

As Howard Thurman put it:


I am simply interested in becoming more fully and vibrantly human.

Your favorite quote:
I snuck an extra quote into the answer above! But here is my real favorite:
 “If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” -E.B. White
Your favorite web sites: 
Colossal (http://thisiscolossal.com), an amazing collection of visual art, videos, photography, etc. I never cease to be inspired by it.

The Dish (http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/) -- Culture, politics, books, ideas. 

99U (http://99u.com/) -- Excellent ideas about creativity. 

And my own Blue Room, simply because of the graciousness of my readers and the opportunity to write whatever's on my heart (http://theblueroomblog.org)

Your hero? I've thought for a long time about this question and cannot come up with a hero. I have creative mentors and people who inspire me, but no heroes!

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
I wrote a book about Sabbath because I'm exploring how to treat time as a friend rather than as something to control or subdue, something I never have enough of. I feel like I made progress on this goal but also have a long way to go.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Iona, Scotland. Mo-Ranch Retreat Center in the Texas Hill Country. The desert.  

Editor's Note: 
You can order MaryAnn's book here. Follow her blog theblueroomblog.org * Catch her on facebook.com/mamdwriter  and/or on  twitter: revmamd


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Geoff Bell-Devaney, Interview #185


Name: Geoff Bell-Devaney

Where you live:  Berkshires, MA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? 
Special ed teacher and artist

Your two favorite books: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Your two favorite songs: In My Life Today by Lenny Kravitz; War (No more trouble) by Bob Marley

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I had an inner awakening at age 30 and realized the power of my inner world.

Your favorite quote: "The truth will set you free."

Your favorite web sitewww.gbd-art.com. (I love expressing my creativity through painting.)

Your hero? Anyone who is seeking the truth.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Being fully present to my inner and outer world.

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

You can find Geoff on Twitter @how2bmindful

Hitesh Abhani, Interview #184


Name:  Hitesh Abhani

Where you live: Mumbai -India

What is your vocation or avocation? 

Pharmaceutical business, Research and development

Your two favorite books:

Embark on the Inner Journey and Life Worth Living both books written by my spiritual master. His divine discourses and this  book is life changing experience, it's so simple any person can understand and Embark on the Inner Journey is in 10 languages: Spanish, Cantonese, French, English, German, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, and Hindi.

Your two favorite songs: "Tumhare darshan ki bela" by Deva Premal and "hari om namo narayan" by Deva Premal.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
The reason is, it's about me, my pure self and after having an enlightened spiritual master in life, spiritual life is like a celebration. Life is full of celebration, introspection, and meditation. In short, "Life is beautiful and worth living."

Your favorite quote: from the process of self-realization by Paramkripaludev Shrimad Rajchandraji

"Without knowing the real nature of self, I suffered infinite misery. I bow to the adored holy true Guru (Guru:spiritual teacher/spiritual master) who disclosed that self to me
He, who knows wherever and whatever (out of renunciation,non-attachment and knowledge of self) is proper and practices accordingly, is the aspirant of self-realisation.
 By the contact of true Guru,deluded self-notion is restrained. It mostly, becomes two-fold by adapting other means.
 One, who follows the guidance of the true Guru, giving up deluded self-notion and obstinacy in supporting his wrong view, is said to have right belief, knowing it to be its direct cause.
 The great enemies such as pride, etc.(i.e.,the passion of anger, pride,deceit and greed) cannot be destroyed by deluded self-guidance. But by accepting the protection of the true Guru, they pass away by slight effort.
The self is pure, enlightened, consciousness in core, self-illuminating, the above of bliss. How much more to be said. If you contemplate over this, you will realize such self."

Your favorite web siteswww.shrimadrajchandramission.org
Your hero?: Param Pujyashri Rakeshbhai Jhaveri is my spiritual master. He is an inspirational hero for me. To walk on this path, even he is "busy, " he is witness of all activity, his awareness, his eyes speak. No need for words in his existence. Meditation happens, no need to put efforts, his silence. I have no words, it's just experience ...... 

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
It's a process of learning and practicing under the guidance of a spiritual master, and it's a beautiful process. I have started to love my self and I have started to know my self.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
He taught me the art of feeling spirituality everywhere, in all situations, all places.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Adel Arrabito Torres, Interview #183


Name: Adel Arrabito Torres

Where you live: Currently in Michigan while my husband is in school, but California is home.

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I'm licensed as a registered nurse, but currently as a stay-at-home mom there's no job description that does NOT fit me in some way!

Your two favorite books: 
Besides children's books? Let's see.... The Bible. Everything in my life goes smoother when I'm reading it on a regular basis. It's hard to choose besides that, but I would say the one that has most recently really inspired me is "The Journey of Desire" by Jim Eldredge. Eldredge convinced me that my deepest unmet desires are not thorns to torment me, but seeds to keep me hungry for Life as it was meant to be. I needed that.

Your two favorite songs: 
"I Will Go" by Steve Green:  All I ever wanted to do in life was be a missionary. I've been "where there are no easy roads" and I can hardly stand to be living the easy life when so many people in this world live with need that is so wide open and hungry and painful. I feel that I owe the world a debt of kindness for all the love and generosity that have been shown me. I'm SO privileged, and I can't keep it to myself. My life is not my own, and what makes me happy, what fills me with passion, is to be poured out.

"You are Loved: Don't Give Up" by Josh Groban:  When I'm having a rough day, feeling lonely or rejected, I turn up the itunes and let Josh Groban remind me not to give up because I am loved. No one could say any greater words to me than are written in that song. Josh Groban doesn't know me, but God talks to me through his amazing voice and lyrics.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I guess I'm not, really. Spirituality is a hunger that drives people to something more than what is tangible:  I'm mostly interested in what satisfies that hunger. Personally, I've never found anything satisfying besides the God of the Bible. As uncool as it sounds, I don't really believe it's all about the journey. Sure, there are treasures along the way, there are morsels to whet my appetite, but what keeps me going is my hope in a banquet that is waiting at the end of the line.

 Your favorite quote:
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more crying, neither sorrow, nor death, for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4

Your favorite web sites:
Facebook. Embarrassing, but true.

Your hero?
My Mother. This woman gave birth to four children naturally, two of us born at home, and to hear her talk about it, nearly every moment raising us was an absolute pleasure! At 39 she lost her husband and two older sons in a tragic accident. She went from being a very contented, behind-the-scenes, stay-at-home mom and supporter of my dad, to taking over his video production work. She carried her own grief and that of my brother and I (at the time ages 7 and 8), and never lost her faith. She never lost her beauty, gentleness, or her love for people. Twenty-two years later she is as full of life and joy and dignity and faith and wisdom as ever. And as graceful as she is in the public eye, she's just as good at hiking mountains and climbing trees. I'm so honored to be able to call her my friend and mother!

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
That I am loved personally, deeply, actively by God. I think I could be at peace through nearly any kind of turmoil if I could accept that in my heart as I believe it in my head.

 A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
In the woods. I grew up in a small town near Napa Valley, in a simple house under towering pine trees. Our family spent lots of time exploring the woods, and my mother was always pointing out God's handiwork to us. As a college student I found solace and inspiration in long hours spent alone in the forest. There I feel that I am on the threshold of heaven, and I've never found another setting that brings the same sense of quiet rest. The sea is a close second, though!

Editor's Note: Artwork above by Adel Arrabito Torres. Adel blogs at: http://thisjourneymyhome.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Laurie Brock, Interview #182


Name: Laurie Brock

Where you live:
Lexington, Kentucky

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
 Episcopal priest

Your two favorite books:
I have read far too many books to have two favorite - something like trying to choose your two favorite children.  My favorite books of the last few I've read are Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr and the Outlander series by Diana Galbandon. Both nourish my soul in very different ways.  One invites me to reflect.   One lets me enjoy the story.   

Your two favorite songs:
General Seminary (King of Glory, King of Peace) from the Episcopal Hymnal makes me cry every time. That's where I attended seminary, and every word has faces and memories wed to it.  And anything by Beth Nielsen Chapman. I listened to her music over and over while I was finishing my manuscript.  She captures the extraordinary joy and grief of life perfectly in her lyrics and music.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
Life is not concrete reality, and we are not simply a mixture of flesh and blood.  Spirituality gives us a glimpse of that mystery of spirit and soul and connects us to all that has been and all that will be.  Spirituality offers us a vocabulary of the unspeakable.

Your favorite quote:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. 
From Anthem by Leonard Cohen

Your favorite web sites:
 I love Facebook.  I have friends all across the country and the world, and seeing the mundane and special events of their lives keeps me engaged with them.  And I'm a big fan of Dogshaming.com.  The posts make me laugh.  Every.  Time.

Your hero?
 Sojourner Truth.  Her story is remarkable.  Her faith was unshakable.  She faced discrimination on so many levels, and yet she preached the Gospel relentlessly.  Her "Ain't I a Woman" speech cannot be read and understood enough.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
 It's one I hope to learn, but realize I will be learning it for the rest of my life - that our brokenness, our wounds, and our scars are the beautiful places where God shines through.  Life is about becoming more comfortable and more familiar with the beauty of our scars.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
In the horse barn.  I ride, and I feel most centered, most connected to God, when I am mucking out stalls, brushing horses, and riding on these amazing creatures.  Riding is not just about me.  I am in relationship with this animal who has her own personality and quirks, and who, on occasion, drops me on my rear end.  Elegant and messy, all at once.  That is being spiritually connected for me. 

Editor's Note: Laurie blogs with Mary Koppel here

Friday, August 31, 2012

Robert V. Taylor, Interview #181


Name: Robert V. Taylor

Where you live:
In the spectacular Pacific Northwest where I’m blessed to live in Seattle and on a farm in the high desert of rural Eastern WA. The contrast of the desert and the lushness of Seattle are soul food!

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I’m the author of A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive. It’s an invitation to a life of compassion and love in which we discover our oneness as we allow the breath of life to flow through us, unstopped and unstoppable. I’m deeply honored by the endorsements it has received from Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel, Nora Gallagher, Desmond Tutu, Helene Gayle and a cross section of spiritual, philanthropic, corporate and transformational leaders.

I blog for Huffington Post and am a commentator on the inter-section of social justice, mindful living, well-
being and spirituality.

I’m also a speaker and love the diversity of audiences I speak to from professional associations, colleges,
community organizations, and religious or spiritual groups.

When I’m not on the road I adore cooking and gathering friends, family and strangers around our table!
In each of these areas of my work and life I’m enlivened by my interactions with people and feel privileged
to be part of the journey of so many remarkable people!

Your two favorite books:
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Your two favorite songs:
Born This Way by Lady Gaga and What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I believe we are all hard wired for compassion, love and goodness – it is the essence of what spiritualty
invites us into. I adore the transformative path that emerges when we are tender with ourselves and
others. Spirituality is like a labyrinth inviting us deeper and deeper into our belovedness as we claim the
unique and ancient truths revealed in the arc of our story and life. Our own story offers a meeting ground
with the Holy and others in which we become awake to the spiritual truth of the oneness we share with
the human family, Creation and the Universe. On the spiritual path you realize that your own well-being
and happiness is bundled together with the happiness and well-being of others. I never cease to be
amazed by new awareness of the delight that the journey reveals as we practice mercy, kindness, justice
and love.

Your favorite quote:
"Everything in the Universe has a rhythm; everything dances" – Maya Angelou

Your favorite web sites:
Huffington Post with its variety of platforms and the On faith blog at the Washington Post

Your hero?
Anyone whose intention is to live a life of generous and unconditional love. And of course the Dalai Lama,
Desmond Tutu and Mary Oliver.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
That the most vexing and offensive people are on a journey also.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Anywhere near mountains or water. My dog Lucy is always inviting me into the playfulness of life and my
spouse reminds me of the joy of life.

Editor's Note: See more of Robert's work and writing at www.robertvtaylor.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

David McGlynn, Interview #180


Name: David McGlynn 

Where you live: 
Appleton, Wisconsin. About 30 minutes south of Green Bay, Wisconsin. About an hour south of the North Pole (not really).

What you do as a vocation or avocation? 
Besides being a writer, I'm also a professor at Lawrence University,a small liberal-arts college in Appleton. I love it: the students are smart, down to earth, and generous souls. I'm also an avid, devoted, life-long swimmer. Much of A Door in the Ocean is about my love-affair with swimming, and even years after my last big meet, I still swim every morning. In fact, in a few weeks, I'll be swimming from the tip of Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula to Washington Island—a 4 mile stretch of water famously known as Death's Door.

Your two favorite books: 
I read constantly, which means that my favorite book is never fixed. But I started writing A Door in the Ocean (in a very different form, many years ago) after reading Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart. It's an amazing work of nonfiction that I go back to again and again. Another memoir that helped me understand the form and direction of my book is Debra Monroe's On the Outskirts of Normal. Debra's a friend and her work has shown me how to be simultaneously smart and vulnerable, academic and accessible. I recommend her book to everyone I know, and I keep it beside my computer on my desk. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Andre Dubus' story, "A Father's Story." I read it years ago and it completely captivated me. It gave me the courage to write about spiritual matters.

Your two favorite songs: 
Van Morrison's "Caravan" and Ben Harper's "Amen Omen"

Why you are interested in spirituality?: 
There’s a stark division in the American media between how evangelical Christians (a subculture at the heart of both my fiction and nonfiction) are portrayed by so-called “outsiders” and how they portray themselves. Evangelicals are often interested in portraying themselves as enlightened, that they have found the truth and can rest comfortably in the knowledge that they are right. Secular, or otherwise unsympathetic, observers often paint them as crazy or myopic. Neither portrayal, in my view, tells the entire story. I believe that people come to faith in the same ways we come to friendship and marriage and our political affiliations: informed by our experiences, fueled by our passions, driven by complex, contradictory psychologies. I wanted to tell an honest story about why evangelicalism drew me in and why it couldn't keep me, to show both its good and bad sides. I wanted to paint a complex picture of a culture that’s most often drawn (and draws itself) in crayon.

Your favorite quote: 
It's the epigraph to A Door in the Ocean, from Mark Jarman's book of prose poems, Epistles
Out of chaos, beyond theory, into a life that peaks and breaks, the wave emerges. The shore where it dies lies ahead and waits, unseen. A life must peak as it rides up the shallow approach, steepen, and break. I want you to think of yourself like that, of your body and soul like that, one flesh traveling to shore, to collapse, all that way to end by darkening the sand and evaporating. Where do you go? You repeat in other waves, repeat and repeat. Each bears a message.Each has a meaning.

Your favorite web sites: 
Your hero?: 
My wife. She's a social worker in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at a hospital in the town where we live. She confronts mortality and the limits of human emotion on a daily basis, and she remains a generous, loving, and hilarious person. She's strong in ways ordinary people are not, and in ways most of her friends never see. 

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
I’ve managed to hold onto faith—despite my break with the evangelicals—because I still believe in a grand meaningfulness to human existence, that I am part of something larger than myself. Many people can find such a meaning without faith, without a conception of God, but I cannot. I have spent too much time puzzling out Christianity to suddenly jump to another faith, another system. And religion is a way of expressing what it means to be human. As I write late in the book, I like being part of the broad cloth of humanity. In that way, faith is, for me, like music and literature and art: an ongoing conversation about who we are, and why. The "why" is the ultimate spiritual question, and one I'll likely pursue for the rest of my days. 

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
I love old, musty churches with worn-out wooden pews and stained-glass windows. And whenever I get in sight of the ocean, I feel my heart-rate slow a bit, a sense of serenity creep in. The ocean—as the title of my book suggests—is my doorway to the spiritual realm. 

Editor's Note: NPR's Book Review of David's book A Door in the Ocean

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chana Keefer, Interview #179


Name: Chana Keefer

Where you live:  Santa Clarita Valley, Southern California, USA

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
Along with my full-time job of wife and homeschooling mom of four, I am an author. My first novel, THE FALL (Rapha Chronicles #1) gives the story of the fall of Lucifer and creation through the eyes of an angel, Rapha, who was once best friends with Lucifer.

Your two favorite books:
The Bible is more than a book to me so I am excluding it from this short list.  Therefore, my two favorite books would be J .R R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (forgive me if that’s cheating) & Gene Stratton Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost,” a beautiful tale of a young woman raised without love who finds meaning and the means to clothe and educate herself through the riches of the Limberlost swamp.  That novel is a naturalist's dream.

Your two favorite songs:
You’ll laugh.  I’ve told my family if ever I was in a coma, they should play Michael Jackson’s “Shake Your Body.”  If there was the slightest trace of life in me I’d have to move ☺.  Wow, it’s hard to limit this to just one more since music ministers so deeply to me in all my moods.  Okay, since you force me, I’ll choose Sting’s haunting tribute to his father, “Ghost Story.”  It contains some of the most gorgeous lyrics ever written.  “What is the force that binds the stars?  I wore this mask to hide my scars.  What is the power that pulls the tide?  Never could find a place to hide.  What moves the earth around the sun?  What could I do but run and run and run… afraid to love afraid to fail… a mast without a sail.”  (heavy sigh)

Why you are interested in spirituality?
There is a wonderful C.S. Lewis quote:  “You do not have a soul, you are a soul.  You have a body.” To ignore my spirituality would be to ignore what will last for eternity.  Besides, I have found my deepest meaning and fulfillment through the spiritual pursuit of prayer, communion with my Father God, and this gives direction and purpose to every other pursuit and relationship.

Your favorite quote:  
Hmmm.  I think I gave this answer above.

Your favorite web sites:
The Pioneer Woman, The World of Steve Quayle, Unleashed Beauty, One Roof Africa, 24/7 Prayer—in whatever order the current mood dictates.

Your hero?
Jesus, all the way.  Even though He is the Son of God, He took on the role of a servant and obeyed all the way to the cross.  Therefore He fulfilled God’s highest calling for His life and made a way for ALL to return to Father God.  My deepest desire is to fulfill God’s highest calling for my life and Jesus is the best example there is.  There are a couple normal human examples, though, who show that mere mortals can make a huge difference in eternity—Mother Teresa and Kemper Crabb (I am working on the biography of the latter—he worked alongside Mother T. and has built hundreds of churches and orphanages, even hospitals, in Africa and India.)

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  
I hope to learn that the spiritual really does trump the physical realm.  It’s easy enough to say I believe in God’s power and that I know Christ’s life, death and resurrection give me authority over darkness, but dang, the darkness can sure be overwhelming.  Please God, give me faith!

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Anywhere there is heartfelt worship music and people singing praise is wonderful, but my favorite place to “be still and know He is God” is an old barn that was next to my parent’s property when I was growing up.  That barn became my quiet retreat and a sort of weather-beaten cathedral for me.  Even nowadays, just to close my eyes and see that quiet, dusty, bleached wood with the huge openings on the top level that framed views of the East and West horizons, ah! My heart slows, the daily grind fades away and I breathe in peace. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kaya Oakes, Interview #178


Name: Kaya Oakes

Where you live: Oakland, California

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I’m a writer, and I am lucky enough to teach writing for a living. My most recent book, Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church, is a memoir about my life as a progressive, feminist Catholic, and the many, many other progressive Catholics I’ve been lucky to meet, read about, and learn from.

Your two favorite books:
Two? Yikes. I’m surrounded by books day and night, so it’s really hard to narrow down. Since this is a spiritual blog let’s do the Gospel of Luke and Elizabeth Johnson’s She Who Is.

Your two favorite songs: 
Two? Yikes again; not only am I married to a musician but I’m a musician too. Again, since we’re going spiritual, I vote for Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, which I just heard for the first time (amazing; check out the Andreas Scholl version), and Leonard Cohen’s The Window, which quotes from the great work of Christian mysticism The Cloud of Unknowing.

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
Because I can’t help it. Like a lot of Gen X people I lived in denial of my interest in spirituality and religion for a long time; it was seen by my peers as unfashionable, regressive, and oftentimes straight up dumb. But maturity lead me to recognize the fact that I not only have a soul, I have a thirsty soul.

Your favorite quote:
Right now? “All things counter, original, spare, strange/ Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)/ With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers forth whose beauty is past change.” That’s the great Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Your favorite web sites: 
I’m a huge news junkie so I’m a New York Times addict in addition to reading lots of news feeds and keeping up with stuff via Twitter and Facebook. For Catholic news the National Catholic Reporter is my favorite. For spiritual sites, I’m a big fan of Killing the Buddha, Sacred Space, Occupy Catholics, and a couple of sites I recently discovered: Anarchist Reverend and The Jesuit Post.

Your hero?
A brown skinned feminist rabbi who practiced radical inclusion. You may have heard about him.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? How to keep my mouth shut!

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
The women’s homeless shelter where I volunteer; the living rooms of the women in my contemplation group; my sofa; Lake Merritt in Oakland; the beaches in Gualala and Point Reyes, California; and in the Basilica of Saint Francis, in Assisi, Italy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Melanie Rigney, Interview #177


Name: Melanie Rigney

Where you live: Arlington, VA

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
By day, I work in marketing for the federal government; at night and on the weekends, I write, primarily in the Catholic space for Living Faith and Your Daily Tripod. I’m also the co-author of When They Come Home: Ways to Welcome Returning Catholics (23rd Publications), a book for parish leaders, and am working on a sequel for people who have been away from Catholicism.

Your two favorite books: 
In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister and The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill in the spiritual realm; secular, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

Your two favorite songs: 
Mysterious Ways by U2; The Servant Song.

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
I was away from the Catholic Church and a relationship with God for most of my adult life, from shortly before I turned 16 until I was 49. I’ve tried life without a lot of God and faith community, and it wasn’t miserable, but it’s so much easier when you have both. The value of faith in some form cannot be overestimated in our lives. Allowing a higher power to love us and move within us and change us can’t be beat.

Your favorite quote: 
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” from Julian of Norwich.

Your favorite web sites: 
I’m at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org) Web site daily, as well as www.yourdailytripod.blogspot.com, for which I’m a columnist. Also enjoy www.sacredspace.ie.

Your hero? 
My great-grandmother Johanna Swierbut Organist. She left Poland when she was 22 with little command of the English language and became a domestic in an iron mining/lumbering town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Within two years of her arrival, she had married my great-grandfather, gave birth to my grandmother, and with her husband had bought a farm about 12 miles from the town where she’d been working. She didn’t see any of her Polish family for nearly 20 years after she left, and never saw her parents again. She was feisty and hard working and didn’t take a lot of time to feel sorry for herself when things went wrong. I think about her when I feel overwhelmed or challenged.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? That God loves us just the way we are, flaws and all.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
The Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota. I’m a South Dakota native and lived in the Pierre area for a couple years. You drive up some lonely roads, filled with beautiful bluffs, and come upon the winding Missouri River. It’s a peaceful place; sometimes, the only noises you’ll hear for an hour or more are the chirping of the birds and the sound of the turbine. It’s a moving example of how we as people at times harness nature… and yet, at the end of the day, we can’t control it or permanently change it.