Updated: Mar 18
These past few days have been very challenging in different ways for all of us who are part of the ACP community, and all over Europe. In talking with my friends and colleagues, I have heard both anxiety over quarantine and sickness and expectation for how God is going to work in unique ways in this odd time, often from the same people! And I am certainly in this category of mixed emotions as well.
Recently I talked with our youth and young adult’s groups about this season of lent. While things were a little different a few weeks ago, I have been continually reflecting on how this confinement fits into our liturgical year. In my talk with the youth and young adults I challenged them to either set down one thing that has been holding them from dealing with their inner pain, or to pick up an practice that will help foster a more balanced self, as a way to engage in Lent together. It seems as though, whether or not we wanted to give anything up for lent, we are not being forced into a time where our lives are much more stripped down than normal. There is a certain poetry to the fact that we are now being “forced” to fast from our social life during this season, and I think actually presents us with a great opportunity to engage in Lenten practice ways we could not have before. Like it or not, we are going to be spending a lot more time with ourselves, and our thoughts. Consequentially, the things we were able to stuff down inside ourselves or we able to ignore will now probably be much more present with us. This reality presents us with a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that we will almost certainly begin confronting negative self-talk and inner pain more presently in this time. The opportunity is that we can now have more time and energy to put toward practices that center our hearts on God and breathe inner peace as we practice self-care.
Lent is a season of reflection. Lent is a season of expectation toward the promise that nothing can overcome us who find our hope in Christ and with each other. Things will continue to look different, and we will be getting used to the “new normal” for a while now. But as we look to find our “new normal”, maybe we can use this time to examine our routines, and our hearts for what might be missing and what can be added to make us more peaceful, joyful, and fulfilled people.
This weekly blog is a humble attempt to offer practices that we as the #ACPNotCancelled community can walk through together, as a sort of online Lenten practice. I will be offering reflections, prayers, meditation, journaling exercises, cooking, arts, etc. knowing that every persons self-care will look differently. The goal is not that each and every one of these practices is exactly right-on for what you need but is a medium to help you learn what self-care looks like for you. You may be surprised by how a practice is able to minister peace, and present moment attention for you even if it us unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first. So, all I ask is that you approach these practices with an open-heart and an expectancy that God will minister to you.
Body – At-Home Face Massage
Ok men, I know this article is written to women, but come-on, who doesn’t love a good face massage and glowing skin? This is a great article with a lot of information about oils, skin care, and of-course a good step-by-step guide to face massage. If you are with someone else, it may be even nicer to lay with your head in their lap and while they give you a face massage and then switch places!
Mind – “Boethius” A Dance About the Problem of Divine Omniscience and Human Freedom
I believe that one of the things we can sometimes lack in our lives is engagement with intellectually difficult topics. Even if at the end of the day we don’t come to any definitive “conclusion” I find few things more satisfying than the moment of finally understanding a difficult concept. So, for this week’s “mind” segment I am going to show you a dance that I created with a dancer (Kate Hanson) as part of a larger project I created for a class at Princeton Theological Seminary entitled “Divine Omniscience and Human Freedom.” This performance is one of a three-part series about different theological/philosophical conceptions for how people have thought about the problem that if God knows everything (including the future) do humans have free will? Theologians and Philosophers have been teasing out this question and testing different solutions for many centuries, and there is no perfect answer, but there are a lot of good theories. My struggle with this whole concept was that I found it entirely too theoretical and wanted to make it more present emotionally. Dance is a powerful medium for this type of exploration, so I created this project to that end. This first dance is exploring the view of the theologian Boethius (but also represents the views of St. Augustine).
Below is the artist statement for this piece, followed by the dance itself.
“Boethius” Artist Statement and Philosophy:
In this dance, I am exploring the relation of humanity (depicted by the dancer) to God (depicted as the two pillars). My vision for this project was to give the viewer an emotional experience of the abstract and complex Boethiun solution to the problem of divine omniscience and human freedom. Boethius conceived of a God who is totally sovereign but still allowed for libertarian freedom of humanity by placing God completely outside of time. The placing of God outside of time allows for all of time and space to be created in a single act which simultaneously allows God to be completely sovereign in Her creation but does not impinge on human freewill because time is not linear for God.God’s knowledge of future events does not necessitate their outcomes because God views things from the “eternal present.”This solution is effective in-so-far that it solves the dilemma of divine foreknowledge and human free action (and that it has been the dominant understanding of God in the Church for hundreds of years), but in solving the problem in this way, it begs two major questions: is God like this is relational or just a creator, and what is God’s culpability for the existence of sin in the world? I would argue that this God cannot be relational, because in removing Himself from time He is necessarily becoming separated from the events occurring within time, leaving humanity distanced and God more Deist than personal. Additionally, for God not to be morally responsible for sin it necessitates that sin/evil exist because human beings can stray from God’s intended path.
With these things in mind I am now free to explain the artistic vision and intention behind this work. I chose this location for two reasons: 1. the pillars were a helpful tool to represent God as an immovable and non-relational force, and 2. it is a chapel which helped to establish that this is (in my experience) the understanding of God taken by many churches. Whenever the dancer is touching or between the two pillars it represents that she is within the will of God and thus there is an element of peace while also an element of frustration (seen in the facial expressions) that God is more a moral rule-maker than a relational being. Whenever the dancer ventures outside of the two pillars there is an element of excitement in the discovery of new things, but it is ultimately a negative experience where the dancer falls down and must then make her way back to the pillars (God). Ultimately, the dancer is discouraged with this God (seen in her falling at the foot of the pillar and looking up) because this God is not moved by her suffering and does not reach out to her when she goes astray, but waits for her to come back.
Soul – Mindfulness Meditation (Body Scan)
Mindfulness meditation is actually my favorite spiritual practice because it doesn’t ask me to know what to say or how to feel, only for me to be present in my body and mind. It may be a new practice for some of you, but the most important thing to remember is that your mind will wander, and you will lose focus but that’s okay! Simply direct your attention back to the instructions. It was helpful when it was explained to me like this.
This meditation is really simple, and only 10 minutes long, so you can do it! Meditation can be really helpful when going through periods of isolation because it can help make our minds less restless and help us to feel more okay with being with ourselves. Enjoy!
If you liked that exercise, I highly recommend downloading an app called “Headspace” which has both free and paid content.
 Boethius, and Joel C. Relihan. Consolation of Philosophy: Book V. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2001. Pg 160.  Ibid. pg 164.