Contemplative Questions: An Interview on Spirituality and Prayer with Fr. Raymond Shore, OP, Part 1

Spurred by both confusion and curiosity, I recently took a graduate course on contemporary spirituality and prayer that required us students to interview an “expert” on the meaning of those terms. As a result, I spoke at length with a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican Order—The Order of Preachers—whose nom de plume is Fr. Raymond Shore. His perspective fascinated me.

5870093557_ae224540e3_mJan Vallone: Some people would say that spirituality is an awareness of human experiences that go beyond the material, like love, compassion, feeling at peace. They’d say that spiritual practices consist of any activities that facilitate these experiences. For them, walking in the woods, practicing yoga, meditating, and even having a manicure might be spiritual practices.

I take a yoga class, for example, and although it begins with rigorous exercise, it ends with savasana, corpse pose, when we lie facing upwards on our mats, close our eyes, relax our muscles, and quiet our minds. The sequence produces sensations of inner peace, and when we come out of the pose, we are prompted to take that peace out into the world by being kind and compassionate. After yoga, I find it much easier to be kind and compassionate. Is this a spiritual practice?

Fr. Raymond Shore: Not as you describe it. Spirituality is our approach to God. It’s how we draw close to him. It’s a process that produces a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions, different for each of us, depending on our personality, but all directed toward the same end: union with God. [Read more...]

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist: An Interview with Daniel Taylor

By Caitlin Mackenzie 14288135_05fd9e848a_m

Daniel Taylor’s recent novel, Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, is a postmodern “whodunit” mystery that asks whether we discover truth or create it. Caitlin Mackenzie, of Wipf and Stock Publishers, talked to Daniel about the utility of detective fiction, the inspiration for his characters and landscape, and what spurred him to write his first novel after thirty years of nonfiction and short fiction.

Caitlin Mackenzie: Although you have published short fiction, your previous books have been nonfiction and this is your first novel. What inspired the genre move? How does fiction operate in a way for you that nonfiction does or cannot?

Daniel Taylor: The common denominator to almost all my writing over thirty years has been story telling—analyzing it and doing it. It does not feel greatly different to me to move between nonfiction and fiction. Memoir, for instance, uses all the devices and strategies of fiction—from scene to plot to dialogue. And we know how much invention goes into even recounting our memories. The biggest change is the absence in fiction of any remembered event to serve as a guide and limit to one’s imagination. Literally anything goes in fiction and that makes it both easier and harder. [Read more...]

Wearing God: A Conversation with Lauren F. Winner, Part 2

lauren winnerContinued from yesterday.

Image: A lot of history makes its way into your new book Wearing God, especially American history. Could you talk about what you think makes a good history book, the kind you like to read?

LW: Two things come to mind, and they don’t always show up in the same book. Some historical episodes lend themselves to almost novelistic writing, and in the last twenty-five years there has been a lot of interest among historians in taking craft seriously, experimenting with narrative form. You see it in writers like John Demos and Simon Schama.

That said, there are plenty of excellent, interesting history books that aren’t so much narratively interesting as they are interesting because of the argument they make or the evidence they’ve uncovered. I have always enjoyed so-called microhistories, where instead of writing a monograph about crime in early America, someone writes a case study of one infanticide in seventeenth-century Braunschweig.

I often enjoy this kind of history the way I enjoy a short story or novel. A favorite of mine is A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which is essentially an exegesis of the diary of a midwife on the frontier of Maine at the turn of the nineteenth century. Ulrich’s book turned out to be quite helpful when, in writing Wearing God, I turned my attention to the Hebrew Bible’s likening God to a midwife. [Read more...]

Wearing God: A Conversation with Lauren F. Winner, Part 1

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Lauren F. Winner’s new book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, is excerpted in our spring issue of Image. Each chapter explores a single biblical image of God through a mix of exegesis, cultural history, and personal essay. Image’s Mary Kenagy Mitchell recently asked her about her new book, her love of history, her punctuation, and the politics of writing about the Bible:

Image: Your new book is about overlooked images of God in the Bible. I imagine there were some images you found that didn’t make it in. Could you talk about some of those?

LW: In the scriptures there are a lot of animal and nature images for God—water and rock and so on. I’m especially interested in two that liken God to dew and to a tree. I’ve spent time with the tree image, thinking about what trees are, and I have a nascent spiritual practice of tree gazing, where I regularly stare at a magnolia in my yard as a practice of attentiveness.

[Read more...]

Angel Trades a Shotgun for a Shovel: An Interview with Terry Scott Taylor, Part 2

IMG_3926-BW-flareGuest Post by Chad Thomas Johnston

Photo taken by Phillip G Brown Fine Art Photography

Continued from yesterday.

Chad Thomas Johnston: Can you talk about the circumstances under which you wrote the new Daniel Amos album, Dig Here Said the Angel? What factors influenced its creation?

Terry Scott Taylor: I suppose the simplest answer to your question is that life itself is the circumstance that most influenced the record. I’m in my sixties now, and when I first sat down to write the tunes for Dig Here it occurred to me that, in a genre like rock ’n’ roll, you’re not going to find a lot of songs that honestly explore the inner life of those of us who have fewer days ahead of us than behind us. That being the case, I decided to write as honestly from my perspective as I could.

In writing about issues such as aging and lost youth, life’s disappointments and regrets, and even death itself, the challenge was to avoid morbidity, which I think we did quite successfully. Many fans and critics seem to agree that Dig Here is addictive, enjoyable, and anything but dark and depressing, which I think it easily could have been.

[Read more...]


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