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Inspiration for These Times

Staff/Board Recommendations

In the past, we have offered a special book issue that provided a listing of staff/board reading picks. This year, we asked board and staff to consider any contemplative resources they found helpful in this unprecedented time.

Books

  • Tilden Edwards (Founder & Senior Fellow) and Jackson Droney (Staff Member) both recommend Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (Second Edition). Tilden says “Holmes’ carefully researched book gave me invaluable insight into the contemplative practices that have evolved in the African American community, from the time of slavery through recent times. It uncovered many practices that enrich my awareness of the mystical dimensions found in Black communal spirituality that are a unique contribution to contemplative tradition.” Jackson adds: “I recommend this book to expand our vocabulary and awareness of spiritual practices, and to honor the rich history of contemplative practice among African American people.”
  • Tilden Edwards also recommends Therese Taylor-Stinson, Editor, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Stories of Contemplation and Justice and says, “These essays from the lived experience of 12 members of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, plus Howard Thurman, provide many insights about many dimensions of contemplation and justice.”
  • Jackson also recommends Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings. “It reveals the joys and challenges of the contemplative path through the author’s life of public service amid some of the greatest global challenges of the 20th century. The honesty revealed in this work is refreshing to me, and I appreciate how his words poignantly press on tensions in leadership, friendship, and sexuality.”
  • Dawn Peck (Board Member) recommend Barbara Helen Berger’s Gwinna and says, “A wonderful, allegorical story of inner calling perceived in silence, responding to that call (song), and then returning (after responding) to then share “The Song” with the broader world.”
  • Dawn also recommends Michael Ende’s Momo. “This book is about time, our time, and how we use it. Who/what clamors for our time? To whom/what do we give our time? All of these ponderings are presented in the form of a playful story.”
  • Jessica Smith (Board Member) recommends Sue Monk Kidd’s When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions. “While we find ourselves in a place of restriction and a lot of waiting without knowing what is next, this book helped me understand the mysterious transformative power of the heart’s waiting.”
  • Jessie also recommends Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a dystopian novel. “While difficult to read in a pandemic, it also gave me a sense of the resilience and necessity of the human spirit to find a way toward a vision of beloved community.”
  • In addition, Jessie recommends Jeanne Theoharis, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. She writes: “Theoharis exposes the way that the public narrative portraying Rosa Parks as a meek and simple seamstress who refused to give up her seat in 1955 whitewashes her lifelong work for justice and equality. This story helped me understand that justice and equality are lifelong spiritual disciplines necessitating prayer, community, and sacrifice. It also reminded me that we must refuse to accept narratives that make it easy to dismiss and belittle the great freedom fighters like Mrs. Rosa Parks who have come before us.”
  • Mark Goodwin (Board Member) recommends Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism and says, “I like this book because it helps me see my own complicity in systemic and cultural racism and white privilege. If this book is read slowly and prayerfully, it is possible to notice, pay attention and wait patiently for the truth of the author’s observations to arise from one’s own experience.”
  • Margaret Benefiel (Executive Director) recommends Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, which she found to be a clear, succinct exposition of where we are with race in America and how we can work to dismantle racism.

Poetry

  • Margaret Benefiel recommends Lynn Unger’s “Pandemic.
  • Kiok Cho (Board Member) recommends Teresa of Avila’s poem, “Christ has no body now but yours.”
    Christ has no body but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    Compassion on this world,
    Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
    Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
    Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
    Christ has no body now but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    compassion on this world.
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
    St. Teresa of Ávila

Music

  • Tilden Edwards recommends Joel Thomson, composer, “The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” which is on YouTube. “This is a deeply moving 15 minute symphonic and choir rendition, structured by Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ.” It is a compassionate, fiery response to the police killings of seven African Americans, first performed in 2015, prior to the past year’s new deaths of the “unarmed.”

Special Prayer Opportunities

  • Scott Rohr (Board Member) lifts up a Zoom prayer: “Consistently (every day) participating in Simple Presence, offered every morning at 7:30 AM, with a core group of fellow contemplatives has really changed and positively impacted the depth of my prayer life.”
  • Monica Maxon (Staff Member) and Katy Gaughan (Staff Member) both recommend Shalem’s, Prayer for the World, offered every Wednesday at 8:30 AM by teleconference, which has been a beacon of light and connection during this time.

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Bill Samuel

You do know, don’t you, that the experts can find no evidence that the poem attributed to Teresa of Avila is actually hers.