Greetings from Rev. Mike Woods

Greetings St. Liz,

The Woods family is very excited to begin our time with you this coming week. It has been a long hot summer for us as I am sure it has been the same for you.

I am writing this after standing outside with our oldest daughter, Harper, as we watched a nice little summer rainstorm pour down upon us. It was just long enough that it knocked the heat out of the air and left a cool breeze in its wake. It was cool enough that we actually felt like spending more than ten minutes outside after the storm passed. ...Read More

Lucy is Coming to Teach!

by The Rev. Daniel P. Strandlund on December 13, 2018

Hi friends, this spring St. Elizabeth is going to begin work with a spiritual tool called the Enneagram. (Pronounced "EN-nee-uh-gram," which is just Greek for "nine points.") Two ways I hope you'll be involved with this work. 

First, I want to get Saturday, March 16th on your calendar. We'll be hosting an all-day Enneagram 'Know Your Number' Workshop led by none other than Lucy Strandlund. From my completely objective and unbiased perspective, she's one of the best out there. Details are still in the works, but I wanted to get the date out there. Plan on 9 am - 3 pm, and we're working on having free childcare on offer all day. There's a good chance folks from outside our St. Liz community will come, too. 

Second, I hope you'll get a copy of a book called The Road Back to You:  An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Suzanne is the master Lucy apprenticed under, and this book is a primer for folks who are new to the Enneagram, as I imagine most of us are. Our Life Groups will be reading it for the first couple months of 2019. My hope is that those of us not in Life Groups will read it as well ... and then bring all of our questions to our March 16th workshop! 

Some of you have heard me talk about the Enneagram. There's a lot I could say, and a lot of questions to be answered. (Why are there nine types? Why are they arranged on that weird nine-pointed diagram? Where did this stuff come from?) I promise, Lucy will address all of that during her workshop; the book answers many of those questions; and I'll be writing and video'ing a bit about it between now and then. 

Today, I just want to say why I think that, among all the spiritual tools out there, this is one worth exploring. To do that, I want to return to a metaphor we're using a lot during Advent:  the wave. 

We've been using the metaphor of a wave to help us understand what our relationship to God is like in this liturgical season. In Advent, we are like beach-goers standing on the shore, watching a wave swell in the distance. We're waiting with anticipation for it to reach us, to break across our feet. The breaking wave is the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Just as the unimaginable, bazillion-square-mile vastness of the sea touches this particular shore with this particular wave, so too does the unimaginable, bazillion-square-mile vastness of God touch the shores of human history in this particular man from Nazareth. When we become Christians -- when the Holy Spirit ripples through this or that particular baptism -- we're becoming one of God's waves, too. 

Here's the important part for the Enneagram:  a wave is visible because it's a disturbance on the ocean's surface, but it's a disturbance caused by something under the surface. A current of seawater hits the continental shelf, for example, or a barrier reef, or has to slide over a sandbar -- any of these underwater phenomena can force the ocean's natural movement to swell upward into the visible surface disturbances we call waves. 

Lots of personality-type systems focus on the surface disturbances, or the specific visible behaviors people exhibit. What I find so powerful about the Enneagram is that it focuses on the motivation for behavior, which is to say that it calls our attention to our well-rehearsed shipwrecks and sandbars under the surface. This is helpful for a lot of reasons (not least of which is that folks may exhibit similar behaviors from various motivations). Why do I get so angry inside when things aren't perfect, the way I think they should be? Why do I try compulsively to help others even when they haven't asked for it? Why do I always find that I'm the life of the party, even when I'm tired? Why is it I sometimes like to be as invisible as possible in a room full of people? 

All of these are behaviors, surface disturbances, but each of them has a motivation beneath the surface. The Enneagram helps us explore those depths. 

Just as a wave becomes a wave because of something like the continental shelf working against the ocean's current, so too do our own souls resist, to varying degrees, the natural current of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the action of God within a human community so frequently causes a disturbance3 in the surface of things:  whenever God acts, the current only reaches the shore by becoming a wave and disturbing the surface. Why? Because there's something unresolved underneath. 

In Advent, Jesus Christ is the wave breaking towards us. This wave is God's disturbing the surface of things: "distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves" (Luke 21:25). What could be more confusing and disturbing than our crucifying the Son of Man? But we must remember that the approach of Christ, and the accompanying preaching of the prophets like John the Baptizer, is only a disturbance because we resist God's currents. If there were no barriers to God under the surface of humanity, Christ would not be born into a world that crucifies him. But as it is, in a broken world, we resist the ocean currents of divinity, forcing God's action to be lifted up above the surface and break -- on the cross. 

Part of our work as Christians, part of our work of repentance and compassion towards others, is to take time to do the kind of deep reflective work a tool like the Enneagram allows. What causes the waves you always seem to be experiencing? How are the waves you make rocking someone elses's boat unnecessarily? 

I hope you'll join us on Saturday, March 16th. 

God's Peace, 

Fr. Daniel+