About Nature & Grace Journal… Hello! This blog began as a quarterly print journal made on my home computer in 1996. Nature and Grace Journal was 4 pages, then 8, in small print with sidebars for the season’s worth of thoughts on the ‘God and us’ situation. I’d make a hundred copies at Kinko’s and plant them in the back of the church I belonged to then. By the third issue I had 35 paying subscribers, which was thrilling enough for me, and then I gave permission for one of my essays to appear in Rev. Richard Rohr’s Radical Grace. Meanwhile, a local religion professor sent some of my work to his publisher, who emailed me requesting an introduction and three chapters for a book! I was floored, grateful, and tearful all at once. And I had to say, to her and to God, “Not now.”
The reason I couldn’t grab this brass ring, as much as I yearned to, was that in those years, I cranked out the pages (and the laundry) on weekend nights while my toddler slept. The rest of the week I had three and sometimes four part-time jobs as a single mother: one as a still-newish therapist, and sometimes others as a housecleaner and construction worker (loved that nail gun more than the mop!).
Inspiration for writing had begun as jottings between the day’s patient case notes. The space between two people facing each other in the counseling room is liminal, and the Sacred often takes a seat in the third chair. Prayers rise on the silences between and around our words, signaled by the spring breeze lifting the lace curtains, or the still candle flame’s witness in Winter. Writing is prayer recalled and prayed again. Then you read it and up the prayer goes again, bigger now, for your prayers feed it.
Over the years and through exposure to other Christian denominations and deep involvement in Judaism, the work “went interfaith,” from only Catholic laypeople, to Protestants and Jews, and gradually, for clergy of these two of the three families working under Abraham’s tent.* Always, the prophetic and Gospel demands to be with ‘the marginalized’ spoke to me. It didn’t take long to realize that those of us with religious (and pastoral care) professions are also marginalized in unique ways. In this vocation, being praised and criticized go together, and the humility of personal failings and frustration at thwarted gifts beset all of us in the God business.
We live in the fragile worlds of fishbowls and sometimes, glass houses: we preach, and live what we teach as best we can, and our humanity shows. At times, from some quarters, we might be stoned for our words, and sometimes the stones come from within us, closing up our throats. Self-criticism, burnout, and standing on the cliff of a spiritual growth-edge all signal our need for support. Although sometimes the glass of our inner ‘homes’ seems to lie shattered at our feet, our hope is in its lovely colors on Sabbath mornings, held together by lead and God. What a pleasure it is to deliver a well-crafted message on Gospel or Torah! To be a channel of Love at a wedding, a baptism or bris or baby-naming: O, Joy! To bless the souls of the dead and comfort the mourners: what peace is found when all is surrendered to the Giver of life.
May the words here on feed you and keep you on the path, and may you be inspired to respond with your own in the congregational worlds within your care.
Laura Thor, August, 2014
*as I learn enough about Islam to be useful, I’ll write for Imams too. I do not mean to exclude you, and invite your wisdom.