Friday, October 25, 2013

Amos Smith, Interview #202

Name: Amos Smith

Where you live: Tucson, Arizona 

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I have been a United Church of Christ minister of progressive churches for over 14 years. I am currently serving Church of the Painted Hills, UCC in Tucson.

I am also an retreat leader and author. My new book is entitled Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity's Mystic Roots.

Your two favorite books:
There are so many that narrowing it to two is challenging. Yet, I could probably settle for A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer and volume 2 or The Philokalia compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, published by Faber and Faber.

Your two favorite songs:
"40" by U2 and "Mary" by Patti Griffin

Why you are interested in spirituality?
Spirituality is ultimately about intimacy with God. I believe we are all hardwired for intimacy with God and that mysticism is more common than many think. We were all mystics as children and have lost touch. When intimacy with God returns, usually through diligent spiritual practice, it brings abiding peace, joy, and fulfillment, beyond what transitory sensory experiences can bring.

Your favorite quote:
"It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and is still a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security." --Thomas Merton
Your favorite web sites:
Your hero?
Anthony of Egypt

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Letting go

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

Pictured above is Amos with author Father Richard Rohr, who writes the foreword for Amos' book.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Matt Matthews, Interview #201

Name: Matt Matthews

Where you live: Greenville/Greer, South Carolina, USA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? I’m pastor of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, a cool congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a father of three boys, a husband, son, and friend. I write when I can; I’m shopping a memoir of my father about his WWII/POW experience. My novel Mercy Creek, which was a blast to write from the point of view of a sixteen year old, got a good review by Publisher’s Weekly, and others. My children’s book about how a single prayer can shape a whole life (Fritz & Christine and Their Very Nervous Parents) was published by Avenida Books. I write songs, stories, emails, sermons, and plays. I like preaching. I like hearing people talk about their faith (or lack thereof). I like the beach. I like small, independent movies. I sometimes dream of Paris.

Your two favorite books: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie are two of my favorite novels. I like the poetry of Walt Whitman, Deno Trakas, Billy Collins, and Carl Sandburg, and the essays of Anne Lamott, the short fiction of Janet Peery and Ron Rash, the movie reviews of Anthony Lane, the travel logs of Mark Twain and Bill Bryson, the theological levity and insight of Will Willimon, and the editorials of the late Molly Ivins . . . to name a few.

Your two favorite songs: I have many. But these two stand out: Bank Job by the Barenaked Ladies because the story is great and the line about the nuns is hilarious, and Louie Armstrong singing What A Wonderful World because it casts a vision/ideal I wish all could live. I dig Stevie Wonder, Joe Satriani, Tommy Emmanuel, Bruce Hornsby, James Taylor, David LaMotte (no relation to Anne), True Blues, and all the indie artists like Mark Erelli and John Smith, making their way on the lonely road.

Why you are interested in spirituality? I’m not interested in “spirituality” per se. I’m interested in the ways in which God’s Spirit moves through communities, nature, experiences, and human story. God’s Spirit animates us all, so I’m interested in the ways we are and ways we are able to connect in a heart-to-heart way—to be real with each other.

Your favorite quote: “What does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Your favorite web sites: The Chicago Manuel of Style Online because I like learning more about commas, who/whom, lay/lie, and other tricky aspects of the English language, and Travelocity because I like dreaming about traveling the world on a budget.

Your hero? Martin Luther King, Jr.; my parents; the minister of my home church; my sons; Jesus because he probably had the most mistranslated sense of humor of any truth-teller, and he really seemed to speak the truth in love.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Really letting people be who they are and loving them anyway.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Anywhere when I can settle my clanking thoughts can be holy ground. The trick is noticing.

By Christmas 2013, Matt will be blogging and tweeting

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lorraine Ash, Interview #200

Name: Lorraine Ash
Where you live: Allendale, New Jersey
What you do as a vocation or avocation? I’ve been a newspaper reporter for the past thirty years. In the past fifteen years, I’ve also been writing and editing books and leading spiritual and memoir writing workshops and retreats. All these activities have one thing in common: getting to the heart of any story in long-form writing.
Your two favorite books: “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving; “The Fundamental Problem” by Swami Dayananda
Your two favorite songs: “October Road” by James Taylor; “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
Why you are interested in spirituality?
Ultimately, we all make important decisions that forge our identities and create our destinies on interior spiritual landscapes. They are the places where true change occurs, courage is born, and the creative fires are lit. What takes root inside us determines how we speak and act in the world. To me, then, spirituality is among the most practical endeavors in existence, as is quality spiritual writing with its ability to reach into those landscapes and deliver helpful stories and messages.

Your favorite quote:
“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” —Gandhi
Your favorite web sites:
Salon, ; Patheos,
Your hero?
The late George Gordon, a professor at Fordham University who helped me harness the power of my mind and understand my potential as a writer and teacher.  I wrote about my experinces with George in my latest book, “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.” He’s featured in a chapter called “Choosing whom to believe.” Sometimes it occurs to me that, particularly with teaching, I’m attempting to do for others what he did for me.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Everything and everyone is always in process.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected"?
Acadia National Park in the great state of Maine.

To learn more about Lorraine Ash’s work and writing workshops, visit . Her most recent book is “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life,” a spiritual memoir that opens with the stillbirth of her daughter. “Self and Soul” is designed to help people who feel assaulted by life bring what ails or confounds them to the level of soul, where meaning is made. Dr. Larry Dossey, best-selling author of “The Science of Premonitions,” called the book “one of the most eloquent, elegant, and spiritually rich descriptions of the human journey I’ve read.”

Feel free to connect with Lorraine on Twitter @LorraineVAsh or Facebook or directly via email

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bonita Lim, Interview #199

Name: Bonita Lim

Where you live: Shanghai, China

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
Designer, social entrepreneur, advocate for abandoned/impoverished women and children

Your two favorite books:
Half The Sky,   Gandhi's biography 

Your two favorite songs:

Why you are interested in spirituality?
it's the end all and be all.....

Your favorite quote: "With privilege comes responsibility."

Your favorite web sites:  CNN

Your hero?
Abraham Lincoln

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
God's will fulfilled 

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

Editor's Note: To read more about Bonita's work, go to
Facebook page NuoMi Shanghai, or watch her TED X Shanghai Talk. You can see their Fall 2013 preview at

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Karl Grass, Interview #198

Name: Karl Grass

Where you live:
I live in Nokomis, Florida which is near Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico.

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I provide executive coaching to leaders and individuals who are motivated to be their best.  I also facilitate workshops for people who are ready – or getting ready - to make a significant transition in their lives.

Your two favorite books:
Two that come to mind are Pema Chodron’s, No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva as I will often read from it before going to bed and Carol Pearson’s, Awakening the Heroes Within which I often go back to when considering my own personal growth. I’d be willing to predict that next year I’d have some different picks but these are the ones I currently go back to the most.

Your two favorite songs:  
This really got me thinking about so many songs that I hadn’t listened to in a long time.  I don’t have two favorites; there are too many to choose from.  However, in the spirit of the question I’ll pick the Beatles and Bonnie Raitt as my favorite artists.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I’ve always wondered about the nature of reality. I think spirituality helps us explore this question more fully and in a more satisfying way. Moreover, I think it offers the best opportunity for leading people to a better life.

Your favorite quote:
“What you are is what you have been.  What you'll be is what you do now.”
- Siddhartha Guatama

Your favorite web sites:
I don’t really have one.  When I was writing Compassion Haiku it was!

Your hero?
There are so many people to admire and Gandhi comes to mind immediately but I am going to go with Benjamin Franklin.  His life and his contributions are incredible and often go unnoticed – which was fine with him.  One of his attributes was to stay in the background and let others claim credit for his ideas.  In fact, despite creating numerous inventions he never patented any of his ideas.  His motivation was more driven by service. As he wrote in his autobiography,
"... as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."  
I could go on and on about his service to others, his long list of practical inventions still in use today, and his lifelong dedication to self-improvement.  Suffice it to say that I think he rocks.

 A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
The lesson I am most focused on is realizing there is no permanent, singular, and independent self.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Being outdoors, in natural settings, is where I feel most connected.  Jasper, Canada is a special place for me and one where that sense of peace and harmony is abundant.

Editor's Note: Karl is author of Compassion Haiku: Daily insights and practices for developing compassion for yourself and for others . You can reach Karl and/or read more about his work via Facebook page "Compassion Haiku," via Twitter @compassionhaiku, or via his web site:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rev. Elizabeth Hagan, Interview #197

Name:  Rev. Elizabeth Hagan

Where you live: Washington DC and Oklahoma City, OK (the juxtaposition of two very different worlds!)

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
a blogger, pastor without a traditional church, social media consultant and global traveler in support of work of Feed The Children.

Your two favorite books: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Your two favorite songs: "Say" by John Mayer and "Simple Gifts" Shaker Hymn

Why you are interested in spirituality?
I believe that all of life goes back to God. We come from God. We move and have our being in God. Our hearts become restless, as St. Augustine writes until they find rest in God. My life has been shaped, enriched and given greater connectivity as I have paid attention to my own spiritual rhythms. I have felt a calling since a teenager to be a leader a spiritual community-- helping others long on their journey to find God as I have been aided by others.

Your favorite quote: "Those who say it cannot be done shouldn't interrupt the people doing it."  -Chinese Proverb

Your favorite web sites:
I am a fan of Feed The Children-- an international non-profit that is ensuring that less children go to bed hungry every day. I also blog regularly about issues of faith, spirituality and popular culture at And I'm a super fan of twitter. I love the opportunities twitter has given me to create spiritual community, share ideas and "meet" people from all over the world. You can find me at @elizabethagan

Your hero?
I'm not real fond of this word because how it pestles people in unhealthy ways. But since you asked, I would point to folks like memoirist Anne Lamott who writes with an honest flavor that I aspire to write, or those in civil rights like Martin Luther King, Jr. who never accepted the labels others placed on him that challenges me daily, or those women in journalism like Ann Curry and Diane Sawyer who blaze new trails with courage in the modern era, or women in church leadership positions like Aimee Semple McPherson who started her own church in the early 1900's when women just didn't do such, and Beth Dotson, a teacher and now friend who believed in me from an early age when no one else did and continues to encourage me in my faith journey today.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
How to come fully alive and comfortable in my own skin with ease as I age. To follow the teaching of Jesus in more aspects of my life. And to know that no matter what happens or doesn't happen in my life, I'll always be a beloved child of God.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
In meaningful conversations. I love the joy of connecting with people beyond the fluff that often surrounds the busyness of daily life. To love and to be loved deeply is one of the greatest needs and joys of my life. This can happen anywhere if we are willing to be vulnerable when safe spaces emerge in our lives.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dave Harrity, Interview #196

Name: Dave Harrity 

What do you do as a vocation or avocation? 

i suppose this depends on what one means by vocation and avocation. the word vocation takes its meaning from latin, voce, which means "voice"—this is what i believe vocation to be: my voice. and because of that, writing is always vocation, even if you're simply a hobbyist. this ideas is freeing for me, because it means that what i write isn't the end all of who i am but part of my personal becoming, part of the process of my life and discovery.

every day, i'm at home with my children and write. i also enjoy gardening, hiking, and home repair projects as other forms of my voice.

Your two favorite books:

if i had to choose two they would be "into the wild," by john krakauer and "the road" by cormac mccarthy. they're books i could read again and again and always find something new in them. they have deep spiritual resonance and are passionately written—you can discern the authors' personal connections to the stories they're telling. and this makes me feel there is something at stake in the writing, that they're risking something!

Your two favorite songs:

if i'm forced to choose then i suppose i'll pick 'the weight' by the band (especially when it's accompanied by the staples singers) because of it's melody and simplicity. and 'born to run' by springsteen because of it's sheer poetic brilliance—not a word is wasted, and the rest of that record is exactly the same as well! and even though you didn't ask, i'm going to add a third: 'just like tom thumb's blues' by bob dylan—a strange and unfolding monologue!

Why you are interested in spirituality?

i think what draws me into faith/spirituality is the propensity to live by and in mystery—what john keats called 'negative capability.' so much of contemporary life is centered around gnosis and definitive understanding. spirituality encourages open-ended exploration and deep abiding, but only when it roots us in this reality—pushes us deeper into community, compassion, and conscience. otherwise it risks becoming flat fundamentalism or flaccid humanism. these things are quite dangerous to faith and the world, i think—and deeply lack imagination.

Your favorite quote:

"we are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness" —thich nhat hanh

Your favorite web sites:

the poetry foundation offers an endless archive that everyone should take a look at every day!

Your hero?

anne sexton is a hero of mine, though that might seem strange. her work has been a totem for me in many ways. she was brutally honest and deeply haunted by the elusive presence of god, especially the incarnationan idea she was constantly exploring, perfectly and imperfectly. another hero that was a little more personal was a singer named ed cash. as a teenager, this man (who was a complete stranger) took time to sit with me and listen—really listen. i think he might have been the first person to make me feel legitimately 'there'—heheard me. and that small moment of witness shaped me profoundly.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?

how to love my neighbors and my enemies—how to see them as beloved sons and daughters of god. i'll be lucky if i even get close to something like it.

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

my kitchen table. it's the place where days begin in my family, where i write by myself or with my children, where we host family, friends, and strangers. it's a real touchstone for every day. the kitchen table keeps us sane.

dave harrity is an author and teacher living in louisville, ky with his wife and two children. as the founder and director of ANTLER, he travels conducting workshops on creativity, community, faith, and imagination. his most recent book is "making manifest: on faith, creativity, and the kingdom at hand"—28 devotional meditations and writing exercises for individual spiritual growth and communal formation. 
of "making manifest" and harrity's teaching, fr. richard rohr has said, "In this fine book The Word becomes both flesh and some very good words too!  Let a master lead you in putting many parts of your soul together. This is incarnation at work in space and time!"
feel free to connect with him on twitter or instagram (@daveharrity) or directly via email (

Tia Salingre-Williams, Interview #195

Your Name: Tia Salingre-Williams 
          Where you live: 
          Cliffside Park, 
           New Jersey, USA
What you do as a vocation or avocation? 
I'm an author of spiritual books. My latest novel is The Lapponia Scriptures, a mystical story of love and adventure. I try to help as much as I can homeless and abused animals. A few years ago, I also wrote a small book to help.
 Your two favorite books: Per Andres Fogelstrom (Swedish author). He wrote a series of four books.
Your two favorite songs: Bette Midler: Wind Beneath My Wings. Josh Groban: You Raise Me Up. (Many more but you only asked for two.)
Why you are interested in spirituality? Ever since I was a child, it's been with me. Over all these years, it's been growing. Many things has happened to make it stronger and real.
          Your favorite quote"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." I got this message from the other side and don't know whose it is.
Your favorite web
Your hero? (Many!) Mother Teresa and my own mother who at an early age became paralyzed. Always kind, sweet and never ever complained. Loved me unconditionally always.
          A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
         To have more quiet time to be still and meditate and pray.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
Even though I lived here in New Jersey for almost 40 years, my heart is still in Helsinki, Finland, where I was born. But in my dreams when I sleep, I go back there so often and for that I am so grateful.

The Lapponia Scriptures: A mystical story of love and adventure is in development as a Hollywood movie at Atophill Films.

B'lkaar Singh, Interview #194

Name: B'lkaar Singh

Where you live: Oxford, England

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Poet, Author, Co-Founder of L.O.V.E. (Local Organic Voluntary Economies) 

Your two favorite books: 
'The Prophet' by Khalil Gibrain &
 'Conversations with God' by Neale Donald Walsch

Your two favorite songs:
'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol & 'The Power of Love' by Gabrielle Aplin

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
Spirituality interests me because essentially I am of spirit, as is the entire existence. I am interested in what exists inside me and outside of me. I see nothing outside of spirituality because I see spirit in everything. I am interested in what IS.

Your favorite quote: 
"Truth is the highest. Higher still is truthful action." Guru Nanak 

Your favorite web sitesno favourite website

Your hero? Guru Gobind Singh

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? I would like to learn that there was never anything to learn.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  The Golden Temple, Amritsar, India.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mary Lindberg, Interview #193

Name: Mary Lindberg

Where you live: Seattle, WA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Community Engagement Coordinator for a non-profit that creates affordable housing, Freelance writer

Your two favorite books: 
Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr; 
Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor

Your two favorite songs:

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
My mom was incredibly intuitive and spiritual—I think she passed that on to me. I care about meaning, especially as a writer and faith leader.

Your favorite quote:  “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” --Mother Teresa

Your favorite web sites: 
Lectionary Lab—aka Two Bubbas and a Bible (

Your hero? Moms who make sacrifices for their children.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Each day requires writing and listening to God.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
Holden Village, a retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington

Mary is also the author of The Graceful Exit: A Pastor's Journey from Good-bye to Helloa book published by the Alban Institute, and you can see more here: