Irrational?

There are three women who, unbeknownst to them (and not totally consciously to me either, until recently) inspired the writing of Favored One, and exactly this year–the year I decided to publish the novel of the woman chosen to physically bear the Word of God in her body, and the year I became a differently Word-bearing sort of female, as pastor of a church–all three of these women have re-entered my life. One of them is now one of my spiritual directees. Another is now my spiritual director. And the third one is Madeleine L’Engle.

I’ll tell you about how each of these women inspired the book in other blogposts, but right now I want to talk about Madeleine L’Engle. Madeleine L’Engle, you might know, is not currently living–at least not in the plane of reality I’m currently inhabiting. (I was going to say “at least not in the plane of reality I, and those of you reading this, are inhabiting,” but who knows? Maybe people in the next life can read our blogposts–although I’m not sure why they’d want to.) So you may wonder how Madeleine L’Engle has re-entered my life since I’m not a spiritualist or anything.

I will tell you. First of all, a college friend of mine (another awesome woman in her own right, and something of an expert on the woman in question these days) wrote a book about her that came out last year and which I read at the beginning of this one. I recommend it.

Secondly Jeff, friend, Pilgrimage participant and supporter, and spiritual formation guide himself, a few months ago gifted me with a review of Favored One on Amazon.

I didn’t pay him to say this, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what, in Favored One, reminds him of L’Engle’s writing, but if anything does, I’m delighted. I’m also delighted because, some years before I even thought of writing a book like this, L’Engle put the irrational seed of its possibility in my mind without my even realizing it.

I was a literature student at a college in the Midwest, and the department had invited some illustrious authors for, I think, their annual literature festival. I don’t remember if there were more than Chaim Potok and Madeleine L’Engle because those two had been favorites of mine for years and I was already starstruck by their presence. Not starstruck enough to do the normal fangirl thing and buy a copy of a book that each of them had written so they could sign it. No, no–too broke and inherently cheap for that (though I have regretted it since).

There are some ways in which I have always been unusually mature for my age, and a whole lot more ways in which I developed much more slowly than most people in general. The way that manifested in this case was when I, a 19-year-old, presented myself before these two illustrious authors like the 8-year-old I had been eleven years before–with an “autograph book,” in which were (and later followed) the signatures of all and sundry of my friends and acquaintances with whom I had even slightly more than a passing interaction.

To be fair, I gave the two writers each their own two-page spread (on one page of which I had affixed their photos as they appeared in the campus newspaper)–and also, by the time I got to Mr Potok, I was feeling pretty dorky. But he graciously signed the page next to his photo and then I moved on to Ms L’Engle. “This is kind of silly,” I said as I proffered my book, “but I don’t have…” She smiled at me, took my autograph book, and wrote in it.

She did not say, “Don’t be so insecure, young woman. Have faith. And maybe write a novel about Mary if you feel up to it.” And I didn’t think it. But her taking the time to reassure me by writing her poem “After Annunciation” in my silly book, it cracked open a door in my head or heart to start intuiting some things about faith I had not considered before, and about life with God. And I did start wondering imaginatively how Mary felt about what happened to her which led to the whole God-becoming-human thing that Christians around the world celebrate at this time of year.

So I’m quite pleased to have anything I’ve written be associated with Madeleine L’Engle–but especially this thing. And at this time of year, too.

Listen! The Secret to Good Communication

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-sxep6-c8c87b

James 5:12-20

Prayer is the practice of telling—and living—the truth: the truth about our circumstances, the truth about who we are, and the truth about our relationship with God.

Rev Jennifer A G Layte

Listen! What We All Need But Are Afraid to Ask For

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-aknjv-c87869

James 5:7-11

James believed Jesus was coming back. He knew that people waited for centuries for Jesus to show up the first time. Jesus’ return is a certain thing, but what is also certain is that no one knew then, and no one knows now, exactly when it will be. And the other certain thing is that waiting for Jesus to return and finally set everything right and fulfill completely the Kingdom He set in motion through His people, the Church, requires patience. And the patience that’s required as we wait for our King to come and rule in person, is the same patience that we need to have with ourselves and each other as we wait for the King to have more complete rule over our own individual lives.

Rev Jennifer A G Layte

Reunions

The last month has been full of “blasts from the past.” The pastor who first picked me up from Heathrow Airport and brought me to the East End where I would live for the next five years, when I moved to London in my 20’s, just paid us a weekend visit on his way to visit his son in another state. Shortly after that I got lunch with my freshman year college roommate who I hadn’t seen in about seven years (which is ridiculous, because we don’t live that far away from each other).

And there’s been another significant reunion recently that I was absolutely not expecting. While I was in London, I worked for a few of those years with a middle-aged couple from the US who were training to be spiritual directors. (I think I’m older now than they were then, which is a little disconcerting, but whatever.) They were the people who introduced me to the concept, in fact, as well as to lectio divina and several other spiritual formation practices and principles. This stuff’s been percolating for a long time, you guys!

They moved away from London before I did, eventually returning to the States. Then I moved back to the States, and we fell out of touch. Periodically I would try to get back in touch–mutual friends, social media–but they could not be found. And then suddenly, back in August out of the blue, I got an email from Marty. She had been pointed to this website by a mutual friend and reached out via the contact form.

Earlier this year, I sadly had to part ways with my spiritual director. It was sad because he’s a really good spiritual director! But he also used to pastor the church I now pastor and so there were too many overlaps of people we know and too much of a conflict of interest. But Marty lives on the opposite end of the country and even though we knew a lot of the same people once, those were all relationships from the past, and we’re not actively still in touch with the same people. When she emailed, I asked if she’d consider being my next spiritual director.

Now we meet once a month on the phone. I give spiritual direction via video call on the regular, but I wasn’t sure how it would “work” over the phone with no visual cues at all. However, it seems to work just fine. And now my spiritual director is the person who first mentored me in spiritual direction and formation. I couldn’t have predicted anything so lovely and fitting.

Listen! The 3 Sisters

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-swqrd-c762ee

James 3:13-18

“Basically, when you boil it all down, we have communication problems. Which lead to all the other problems. Forget about first-world problems. These are just plain world-problems. And they happen, James says, when we get our “wisdoms” mixed up—trying to bring kingdom-of-the-world wisdom into the Kingdom of God. You can tell the difference, James says, by humility.”

Rev Jennifer A G Layte

Listen! Taken for Granted

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-b5sgg-c68b07

James 5:1-6

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

“Throughout his letter, James has been drawing this distinction between rich and poor Christians, and in these verses we see his strongest indictment yet, of the rich. A few weeks ago, we saw how he pitted the kingdom of the world (ruled by money and power) against the Kingdom of God, ruled by Jesus and introduced by Jesus’ people. By this point in his letter, James has completely taken the gloves off. Money and power cannot be an influence in the Kingdom of God, he’s showing us here. If we try to combine the rulers of the world with the Kingdom of God, someone’s gonna get hurt—and it’s going to be the people who don’t deserve it—the people Jesus especially came to raise up and heal and help and change the world through.”

Rev Jennifer A G Layte

Listen! What You See and What You Get

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6n38j-c41343

James 2:14-26

“our message is that God came to earth, lived with us, died for us, and came back to life, in order to reconcile all things. Jesus died to save us from our sins, and our sins (and everybody else’s sins) have caused conflict and outright separation—between us and God, between us and each other, between us and creation, and even within our own selves. Jesus came to take care of the debt we owed. That debt was a splintering of His good creation, so the salvation, the rescue, that comes from His bearing the brunt of it all and forgiving us, is not just heaven or some other reward sometime later. Salvation isthat eventually all things will be reconciled, mended, brought back together in unity in Jesus Christ the way God always intended. And so of course our faith and our deeds must be reconciled, too! Because the Christian message is reconciliation, Christian faith and Christian action can’t be two separate things.”

Rev Jennifer A G Layte

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