God For Us: An Interview with Luci Shaw

Guest Contributor

We’re proud to announce that Image, the sponsor of this blog, played a central role in the publication of a wonderful new book God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter. Co-edited by Image editor Gregory Wolfe and Image board member Greg Pennoyer, God For Us features meditations for every day of Lent by some of the most highly regarded spiritual writers of our time, including Richard Rohr, Kathleen Norris, Ronald Rolheiser, Luci Shaw, and Scott Cairns.

We are publishing interviews by Paraclete Press with several of the contributors in the next few weeks. Today’s interview features Luci Shaw.

Paraclete Press: How does the title God For Us apply to the weeks preceding Easter?

Luci Shaw: The term God For Us fulfills the promise revealed earlier in God With Us. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of a whole new realm of grace fleshed out in the God-man life. This life and its final years of ministry were destined to take place before the final world-changing events of Holy Week as we remember the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.

The two events at the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly life are like the parentheses of salvation. One without the other was never part of the divine plan; both were and are vital. Both were and are essential in order for the purposes of God to be fulfilled in redeeming humanity.

PP: Why is the observance of Lent spiritually necessary?

LS: Speaking very personally, I’m convinced that the observance of Lent is spiritually necessary for me, and I suspect for many others, because I am too easily occupied with other busy-making doings that distract and take up time and energy. I know this is detrimental to my soul’s health.  I need Lent in order to remind myself to slow down (I love it that the word lent in French means slow).

[Read more...]

Rodeo and the Church Calendar

Despite my Christian upbringing, I didn’t grow up with the church calendar. Easter was a single day affair involving plastic eggs hidden in hill country pastures and Sunday school handouts with coppery brads to swing a construction paper stone away from an empty tomb. The graphic was always neat and tidy—flowers and grass and “He is Risen!” written alongside.

I knew the story of the suffering, but the celebration made more of an impact.

So between Valentines Day and Easter when my elementary school started serving fish sticks at the end of each week, I asked my reluctant classmates, “Why do you eat fish on Fridays?”

“It’s bad to eat meat on Fridays,” my friend Adrian told me.

“Why?” I asked. [Read more...]

Will a Migraine Make Me Holy?

In her collection The White Album, published in 1979, Joan Didion has an essay called “In Bed.” The essay is about migraine headaches, which Didion suffers “three, four, sometimes five times a month.”

Her migraines are much, much worse than mine, but every few weeks, when my first conscious moment involves the awareness of a headache, I think of her.

I don’t take the powerful drugs she does—for me, over-the-counter Excedrin does the job—and I don’t suffer the aura. I don’t run through red lights or give the appearance of being drunk.

But I do give in. [Read more...]

What are You Doing for Lent?

“So what are you doing for Lent this year, Bill?”

This was my annual question to my spiritual director, Fr. Bill Shannon, for the twenty-five years that I went to him for monthly counsel. (I wrote about our relationship in a previous post.)

When I posed the question in 1995, about ten years into our relationship, Bill’s eyes twinkled in a smile as he answered. “Each day I’m going to write a letter to someone, and then keep that person in my prayers during that day. It’s a way of participating in the Communion of Saints.”

That impish eye-twinkling came from Bill’s knowing that his answer would take me by surprise. A fairly new Catholic, I’d expected that he would be “giving up” something for Lent.

He explained. “You shouldn’t be focusing on the negative for Lent. It’s a positive opportunity—to attend in a special way to one’s relation to God.” [Read more...]

Jesus Died for Somebody’s Sins (But Not Mine)

For Pastor Matt, who hopes to convert my skeptical ears to belief in bluegrass, and our new Associate Pastor Meredith, who has added intellectual hipster chic to our congregation with her PhD and her nose piercing alike. You two help make First Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kansas feel like home.

Patti Smith’s 1975 debut album, Horses, famously opens with the line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Smith goes on to sing, “My sins my own, they belong to me, me.”

I think about this when I serve communion at church, as partaking of this sacrament is a way for believers to proclaim, “Jesus died for me—even me.” In my three years as communion coordinator, I have only seen a few people dismiss the bread or the cup. They wave their hands at the plate as if to say, “Sorry, this isn’t for me.”

Of course, that may not be what they mean at all. I cannot read minds. They may be allergic to wheat or grapes, for all I know. But if Patti Smith’s lyric speaks for them, I understand. Doubt, disbelief, and disillusionment with the church are rampant, and for many good reasons. [Read more...]