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: