Living Godward Collage

Corinne Ware Memorial (transparent small)

In Memory of Dr. Corinne Ware

The art piece, Living Godward, honors the life and ministry of Dr. Corinne Ware. The overall design is the Celtic Threefold: a symbol of female power. A woman of strong intellect and resourcefulness, Dr. Ware brought the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest a program that offered a class in Celtic Spirituality. The class made a deep impact on this piece’s creator. The Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, powers the Threefold from the symbol’s hub. The Holy Spirit was crucial to Dr. Ware’s theology and to the practice of spiritual direction to which she was committed.

From the hub spiral three arms. The left arm depicts a planting scene inspired by Dr. Ware’s explication of the “Parable of the Soils” in her book, St. Benedict on the Freeway: A Rule for Life for the 21st Century (16-17). Each of the four soils—hard trodden, rocky, weed-ridden, and good—is depicted. Bluebonnets grow from the good soil, reminiscent of Dr. Ware’s love for and contributions to the state of Texas. The four seeds also represent the four spiritual types, which Dr. Ware explored for her doctoral work and which she later published as a book (Discover Your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth).

The right spiral depicts a basin and towel. Midwifery, a spiritual direction metaphor explored in Dr. Ware’s spiritual direction course, employs these elements (Guenther, Holy Listening 81-108). The basin and towel represent also the daily practice of servanthood advocated by St. Benedict of Nursia and lived out by Dr. Ware. The elements and the setting are, therefore, earthy, homey, and grounded.

The top circle represents St. Benedict on the Freeway ’s theme: a recollected life is possible even on today’s frantic freeway. The wide thoroughfare also depicts Dr. Ware’s concept of “living Godward”: a spacious metaphor for the life of faith. Those who turn their eyes and life intentions Godward, have before them a range of journey choices. The spirals encircling the Threefold whimsically lift off the page, a tribute to Dr. Ware’s quirky sense of humor.

Through the black oversheet, the viewer glimpses spurts of color that promise more beneath. Such is the mystery of God (apophatic theology): much remains beyond our knowing, but at the heart of the enigma is Love (kataphatic theology) drawing us, even with all our unanswered questions, Godward. The darkness is holy, potent, and filled with possibility.

Above all, the piece expresses deepest gratitude for a woman of wisdom, compassion, creativity, astuteness, and wit who lived a daily, real faith— and by example challenged us to do the same.

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Depression Danger

depressionI have depression. Severe at times. I share this because recently we’ve heard news stories in which persons with depression harmed others. A pilot crashed a passenger-filled plane into the Alps. A woman hanged herself in an elementary-school playground, potentially traumatizing students. A suicidal man crashed his car into another, killing himself and the other driver.

We might determine from such stories that all persons with depression pose a threat to others. We’d be wrong. It’s true: depression can skew thinking, but generally in self-torturing ways. Like those green gunky guys in the Mucinex commercials, Guilt, Shame, Dread, Worthlessness, and Despair arrive, toting luggage, intent on setting up a homestead in our souls.

Put another way, it’s like trying to keep our noses above frigid waters*. Makes it challenging to fry an egg, focus at a board meeting, and help with the kid’s homework while trying not to drown. I call depression an invisible disability, because the determination needed to keep on keeping on is not readily evident. But depression can be just as debilitating as any other bodily challenge.

And, far from seeking to harm others, it’s often the love of others that prods us out of bed in the morning when we want to pull the covers over our heads, assume a fetal position, and beg for the bliss of unconsciousness.

What do people with depression need?

  • First, not to be labeled by our depression: we are, each of us, individuals.
  • Second, not to be feared: we tend to accept blame that’s not ours anyway.
  • Third, to know we didn’t choose this. Depression can be caused by life experience, by temperament, by physiognomy, or by a combination of these. We choose to eat right, exercise, take medication as needed, get enough rest, and pray pray pray, but it’s no guarantee. We can still find ourselves near to drowning in depression’s chilled waters.
  • Fourth, have expectations of us. Creating, contributing, being depended on remind us that we’re valued and needed. And that keeps us keeping on.

The reprehensible choices of some persons who share a diagnosis does not define us all. Get to know us— each of us—as a unique person. Because for a person with depression, blame is toxic, but acceptance is balm.

* My book, When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion, provides further insight into depression, including its spiritual potential and how it differs from the dark night of the soul.

Imago Dei

Prepare

Local saloon marquee: “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”

Across the years I’ve wrestled with the need for individuation and the theological concept of imago dei (meaning that we are created in God’s image). Am I, then, to be a carbon copy of God? Do I seek to parrot God’s words? Instant replay God’s actions?

I think there’s more to it than that. If God intended Mini Me’s instead of unique individuals, why create daily such an array of personalities? Such a diversity of spiritual gifts? Perhaps imago dei means that, in all I do, I remember the God blood running in my veins, the divine DNA etched into each cell. And that I recognize that familial connection in every person I meet. And that we seek, each his/her own way, to live out our family values. That’s a pretty tall order for one life!

This month you can, I can, practice being yourself, myself. We can:

  • draw our own conclusions about everything from theology to politics;
  • create something to express our sense of truth and/or beauty;
  • adorn our outsides (garments, facial hair, jewelry, body art, head and foot gear, etc.) to express what’s inside.

If I don’t live out who I am, if you don’t live out who you are—then who else will? Everybody else is taken.