Insight from a Friend

Rev. Arch Taylor

Friend of the Women’s Center Rev. Arch B. Taylor speaks out on grace and the possibilities for transformation, in a reflection on Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight, as a guest blogger for President Michael Jinkins’ Thinking Out Loud.

I’m intrigued by the idea that the grace of Jesus Christ activates elements already in us that enliven “confidence, optimism, altruistic concern for others, and interest in spiritual and ethical matters,” as if by silencing the left-brain, symbolic structures that impede that fluid happiness. That provocative suggestion implies that we are far from mistaken to devote attention to those structures, and to how we might collaborate with the work of grace in clearing away and silencing what, in them, impedes the “mind of Christ.”

Thanks, Arch, for passing on this stroke of insight.

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Thank you!


Notes on December 10 and Grace

A Work of Art

The long-awaited day of the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale is upon us!

After pricing and setting up yesterday — a round of thankful applause goes to friends Blair, Brian, Christie, Daniel, and James for their assistance in this department! — we’re convinced this will be one of the more interesting sales of recent years. We have a particularly extensive and varied selection of knitted goods, and of jewelry, in addition to original art works, unique imports, and an extraordinary table of ceramics. So we encourage everyone who can to come by and browse. And buy, too — since proceeds from the sale benefit the Women’s Center and help fund our ongoing program.

This year, it will actually be possible for shoppers to use their credit cards, if they wish, in a limited way. [We hasten to add that we advocate shopping responsibly!] The Women’s Center’s online site is ready to sell credits good for the purchase of merchandise at the sale. Credits come in $5.00 units, with a 1% handling fee (so, a purchase of $5.05 will buy $5.00 of merchandise at the sale). The credits are non-refundable, however, so we encourage potential users to SHOP FIRST, and buy only the credits they will need. This arrangement is clearly not for everyone, but we thought it might permit some folks to take advantage of the sale who might otherwise not be able to do so.

December 10 is not only the date of the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale, however. It is also — admittedly thanks to some advance consultation of the calendar — the date of the Seminary’s annual Lessons and Carols service, followed by Apples for Advent. And this year, due only to the grace of that same calendar, it is also the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The arts,” it turns out, is a thread of thematic connection between these three seemingly coincidental celebrations. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Moreover, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he [sic] is the author.” That is, the vision of the arts painted by the Declaration of Human Rights is that of a realm of freedom and engagement, within which people may fashion something for their individual or collective benefit. The vision of the arts as beneficial is one that makes us smile.

The annual Lessons and Carols service, too, pulses with the life of the arts — in text, in music, in song and symbol. In the juxtaposition of Biblical words and musical phrases, the mutual reflection of prose and psalmody, this community every year calls to mind and celebrates the profound beauty of the season of advent and the mysterious grace of the incarnation.

It is questionable, in fact, whether that profundity, mystery and grace can speak to us at all except through forms that strive for beauty of expression — that is, through the arts. It is these very forms that recall us to awe in the face of felicitous communions, whether of color or sound or shape, and to delight in those felicities. It is these forms, in the final analysis, that teach us the experience of grace.

When it comes to the ancient distinction between “art” and “craft,” the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale probably falls more on the side of the humble crafts than the exalted arts. And yet . . . the humble guise of common things — wool, for instance, or wax or clay — is not finally an obstacle to the experience of grace made possible by spirited form, and the mindful transformation of materials to which it testifies. The experience of grace is, in part, the sudden appreciation of something — however homely its origin — as wonderful, delightful, perfect in its own incomparable way, in the full awareness that it could have been otherwise, and that its particular, gracious way of being comes to us as a gift.

Thanksgiving 2008

Wishing Wimminwise Readers
to be thankful for
this Thanksgiving

Gathering of the Manna, Annebert and Marianne Yoors

Gathering of the Manna, Annebert and Marianne Yoors

“As it is written,
The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.

2 Cor. 8:15

” . . . when they measured it [the manna] with an omer,
those who gathered much had nothing over,
and those who gathered little had no shortage;
they gathered as much as each of them needed.”
Exodus 16:18

Poetry, Art, Rice

Women planting rice in rural Nepal, by Rosemary Hale

Women planting rice in rural Nepal, by Rosemary Hale

I ran across this poem today. It’s an old sentiment (the poet, Li Shen, lived 772-846 CE), but still relevant.

They weed the crops in the middle of the day,
With sweat they plant the crops into the soil.
Does anyone know the rice served on a plate —
That each and every grain was soaked with toil?

It’s worth recalling, as well, that the “toil” is gendered, raced, and classed, in complex ways. The familiar grace (at least, our pastor frequently uses this formula) “bless this food, and the hands that prepared it” asks for a lot — perhaps as much as “. . . Thy Kingdom come.”

[The photo image is from the site Nepal Art Trek, produced by UK artist Rosemary Hale.]