The Tenth Leper

512px-ChristCleansing (1)Guest post by Kelly Foster

If you grow up in the South, you learn to write thank-you notes. You write thank-you notes for kind gifts. You write thank-you notes for kind words. You write thank-you notes for kind thank-you notes people send to you.

It’s a vicious circle of gratitude, but I suppose there are worse circles to be caught up in, and plenty that don’t provide one with an excuse to keep a ready supply of handmade stationery in reserve. So it goes.

[Read more...]

Monasticism In Lockdown America, Part 5: Holy Elders

blackwell'sjailportraitWith their white beards and deep lines in their faces, the older men stand out in our jail Bible study’s circle of usually-young men with either tattoos on the outsides of their arms or track marks on the insides. I’m always struck by the old men’s humility, how they don’t tell the whippersnappers to shut up. They listen. There is a sorrow about them.

Take Merle. He’s only in his late fifties, but his questions speak to this sorrow. Someone had prayed for his left leg’s chronic pain in our group Bible study, and not only did the pain go away and stay away, but the healing grew deeper into his heart. Two weeks later he glowed in his red scrubs, trying to describe to us in the circle how he’d begun praying in his cell, how he felt different.

[Read more...]

Monasticism In Lockdown America, Part 4: Asceticism

dirtywindowToday’s post continues a monthly series on my experiences introducing monastic practices to those I encounter in jail ministry. Read last month’s post here.

Monks in the Orthodox tradition have long believed that God’s love is unchanging, constant, like the light of the sun. We do not need to appease a deity’s anger or perform well to turn the light of God’s affection and gaze upon us. It’s just there, divine mercy blazing away, pouring down all the time.

The problem, these elders say is that our minds—our nouses, or the window to our hearts—have been darkened, like crusty basement windows.

[Read more...]

Girl Meets God in the Classroom, Part 2

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_sonContinued from yesterday.

On the first day of my class “Spiritual Autobiographies: Theirs and Ours,” a few students shared that they weren’t “spiritual people.” Why, I wondered, did they sign up for this elective class?

Some of them, I would learn later in the semester, had been deeply wounded by religion. A few said that religion had been forced on them by their parents.

At this moment of emerging adulthood, it was time to turn away, to turn another way. Neither the students nor I realized, as class began in mid-August, that some of their wounds, whether exposed in speech, writing, or—to anyone paying attention—in silence, would become sites of inquiry and that inquiry itself might begin a process of healing.

[Read more...]

#BlackLivesMatter to Poets

15776028730_4963de50d0_zPoets are rising to the cause, hands raised (“Don’t shoot!”) but hands also holding pencils and paper or at the computer keys, writing poems.

The cause I refer to is clear to anyone who has lived in this country since August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s murder. It’s not a new cause, alas; racial injustice has never been absent from our land.

But what’s new—and hopeful—is the depth and breadth of public outcry. It had actually begun a couple weeks earlier, with the caught-on-camera police choking of Eric Garner, then swelled as Michael Brown’s dead body lay for four and a half hours in the street.

Then in late November-early December, the swell became a roar of indignation, as black Americans felt slap after slap after slap on the face of their worth as human beings: on November 22, the police killing (“when will they ever learn?”) of twelve-year old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park; on November 24, the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Brown; on December 3, the non-indictment of the police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X