Baylor University Family and Community Ministries Journal

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Family and Community Ministries: Resources for Christian Leaders is published by the Center for Family and Community Ministries, sponsored by the Baylor University School of Social Work and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

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Contemplations

Acornology
By Cynthia Bourgeault

Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns, nestled at the foot of a grand old oak tree. Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, fully Westernized acorns, they went about their business with purposeful energy; and since they were midlife, baby-boomer acorns, they engaged in a lot of self-help courses. There were seminars called "Getting All You Can out of Your Shell." There were woundedness and recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were spas for oiling and polishing those shells and various acornopathic therapies to enhance longevity and well-being.

One day in the midst of this kingdom there suddenly appeared a knotty little stranger, apparently dropped "out of the blue" by a passing bird. He was capless and dirty, making an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns. And couched beneath the oak tree, he stammered out a wild tale. Pointing upward at the tree, he said, "We . . . are . . . that!"

Delusional thinking, obviously, the other acorns concluded, but one of them continued to engage him in conversation: "So tell us, how would we become that tree?" "Well," said he, pointing downward, "it has something to do with going into the ground . . . and cracking open the shell." "Insane," they responded. "Totally morbid! Why, then we wouldn't be acorns anymore."


Midwives of the Spirit
By Cynthia Bourgeault

In its outer, sensible form a candle is an object consisting of tallow and wick. But the real secret of the candle reveals itself only when the match is struck and the candle begins to burn. It gives of the materials of its outer form in order to release the heat and fragrance within. Only then do we see what a candle really is: its outer life is tallow and wick; its inner life is flame. We are talking here about transformation, of course, a kind of sacred alchemy. And it is precisely this alchemy that defines our essential human task. The secret of our identity does not lie in the outer form or in how successfully we manipulate the outer forms of the sensible world. Rather, it lies in how we are able to set them (and ourselves) aflame to reveal the inner quality of their aliveness. The names of God lie coiled within the physical forms of things; our particular and uniquely human task is to spring the trap and set them free. They cannot manifest apart from the sensible realm (that's what the sensible world is here for), but neither will they manifest automatically within it unless there is a further act of conscious transformation. That is our job. Working within the raw materials of the physical world, we are to give "birthing" and "body" to the names of God so that the invisible becomes visible. We are midwives of the Spirit. Hence we are not here to build nests. The birds can do that. Rather, we are here to take our nests and make of them homes, vibrant with the qualities of kindness, order, and stability. We are not here to amass hoards. The ants can do that. Rather, we are here to take those stockpiles and release them into the energy of generosity and compassion. And we are not to live forever but to die well, releasing to the atmosphere courage, dignity, and trust. Whenever we are able to move beyond the laws of the purely physical while still in form, we set aflame the names of God, releasing the energy and beauty of the divine aliveness to the outer world. This, I believe, is the point Jesus was really trying to make in his teaching, "Be in the world but not of it."


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