Friday, September 19, 2008

SOUL MOMENTS

Last Sunday, as I sat thinking about all the disasters occurring in the natural realm and the financial world, I wrote a blog mentioning that I struggled to “be in the moment” and had capitulated to centering prayer to learn how to connect with the power that energizes and fills our lives with peace. This morning, I enjoyed some wonderful moments of being, talking with, and getting to know better, a Sewanee author of SOUL MOMENTS, Isabel Anders. Isabel believes we “strengthen our usefulness…in prayer, an ongoing dialogue with the Creator who nurtures and enlightens us as seeking human beings” (SOUL MOMENTS published by Cowley, 2006.) She brought over several of her books and allowed me to select one as a gift from her, and I had difficulty choosing one title among SOUL MOMENTS, AWAITING THE CHILD: AN ADVENT JOURNAL, and THE FACES OF FRIENDSHIP, to name a few of her inspirational books. This talented writer has the endorsement of the renowned children’s author, poet, and inspirational writer Madeleine L’Engle (now deceased) who was Isabel’s mentor and personal friend.

We chatted several hours, exchanging books, ideas about book marketing (hopeless?!), politics (hopeless?!), and theology, finding deep similarities in thought and experience. A dark-haired woman with intense black eyes, Isabel resembles in looks and ideas a Portuguese woman of the same name I befriended when I lived in Ahwaz, Iran. The Portuguese friend was always saying, “we must make the best of the moment,” and once handed me a paintbrush to begin re-inventing the desert environment after I complained of cultural shock when I first arrived in Khuzestan Province. We created “soul moments” by painting a dining room wall the hue of blue ocean water so that I could feel that water was near and transcend the arid environment of southern Iran.

Isabel Anders has a wry sense of humor, and I was delighted with her comments about editors when I showed her some of my “better” rejection letters. “The editors always tell me how much they enjoy and appreciate my excellent writing,” I said, “and then reject the manuscript.” “Yes,” Isabel replied, “I have some of those letters myself. I think we should write for editors?!” Of course, she has been published by Cowley, as well as other well-known publishers of inspirational books and is also managing editor of SYNTHESIS, a national publisher of sermon guides for clergy.

The essence of SOUL MOMENTS is that the sacred is present in everyday moments. Isabel writes in the introduction to this book: “Some moments – times when heaven touches earth – are here and now, in the thick of things, sometimes occurring as we are most aware of our human limitations and confusion. They encircle us, and, for their moment, name us: loved, beloved, cherished, chosen. The experience passes, but the soul bears its indelible mark…”

Isabel’s experience of sacred moments and her writing about those moments remind me of Evelyn Underhill, the 20th century Anglican mystic who had so much to say about practical mysticism and how we can all become mystics, can find the sacred in the ordinary. In reading Isabel’s book, I find many references to Underhill, and, there again, we experience similarity in our reading. Evelyn Underhill thought that we could experience the sacred as we were “rubbing up the silver, polishing the glass… even though you know the Master will not be looking around the pantry next week-end. If your life is really part of the apparatus of the Spirit, that is the sort of life it must be…” (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, David McKay Co., Inc., New impression, 1962).

This morning of serendipity was certainly a succession of soul moments, and I’m grateful to the Community of the Sisters of St. Mary for “sending” Isabel along to me, via Sunday morning services and biscuits and coffee offered at hospitality time after the services. She’s a delight! You can find Isabel’s books at www.IsabelAnders.com. Her books are spiritual treasures for members of any denomination/religious persuasion.
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