Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Catch the Lift of a Full Sail

Nothing like the sight of spinnakers in full bloom!
"Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to remember even these things."  
The Aeneid, as quoted in Souls in Full Sail. 

With wit, wisdom, and imagination, author Emilie Griffin has penned a Christian spirituality for the later years in Souls in Full Sail. Published in 2011, the volume is a great example of two of the oft mentioned gifts of years, living reflectively, and creatively telling your story.  The book is a spiritual memoir, one that introduces readers to author's family and mentors, as well as the important seasons and places of her life. The overarching theme seems so basic to Christian spirituality: how can I grow closer to God?   

Early in the book, Griffin writes on her own mother's life, and how caring for her mother in the years before death changed her. It's often and only in caring for others in their winter seasons that we recognize our own aging. Perhaps for the first time we see our lives limited by a myriad of relationships, responsibilities, and necessities.  

The sailing metaphor for life's journey is well chosen and developed throughout the book. Especially easy to appreciate for anyone living near a great body of water, Griffin's use of  "eastering" in chapter 9 is a stirring metaphor for the spiritual journey in Christ. The term is nautical in origin and simply means to turn one's craft toward the east. But it first came to Griffin from a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins, where he writes:
Let him easter in us
Be a dayspring to the dimness in us
Be a crimson cresseted east.

If this is what it means to live with a depth of purpose and soul the only life we are given, then outside of Scripture itself, how better can you describe it? 

There's also solid teaching on the basic Christian spiritual practice of prayer. Prayer becomes less and less a "clinging onto to the experiences of consolation and desolation" and more "a fastening onto the Lord." Getting older is another surrender, the author states. But it's a gift having it's own unique complexion. A great catalyst for discussion is the seven "moods" of prayer that Griffin sets forth in her chapter on the spiritual life.

Perhaps the best chapter is the chapter on our fears. The question Griffin asks, "When was I ever free?" is one with which every wise adult needs to grapple.  Because many of the temptations that would lure us are false promises of freedom: the affair and the business or financial transgression. And then there's fame, which Milton called the "last infirmity of noble mind." In the end, our search for freedom is found in a relationship "where we are loved, accepted, and in the deepest sense, secure." Thus, "coming to know God is a move toward freedom."

The book will be very useful in spiritual direction, both with individuals and in groups. There are some excellent questions for reflection at the end of each chapter, plus notes pointing readers to Griffin's spiritual and literary mentors, with the possibility of further reading in any or all of the sources cited.  

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