What does a life lived well look like? What did God intend for us? What are some of the obstacles to living well spiritually, emotionally, physically and vocationally?
These and other questions emerged while considering who should write for this month's cover story and how the topic should be focused.
One barrier to our living well is the incongruity that can exist between our inner and outer self. This topic is covered in-depth in Parker J. Palmer's book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life (Jossey-Bass, 2004). Parker (who also wrote Let Your Life Speak and The Courage to Teach) was unable to write a special piece for this issue but was glad to let us use two excerpts from his book.
ELCA theologian Diane Jacobson, professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., and now also director of the ELCA Book of Faith initiative, writes about shalom and God's intention for us.
Finally, John Kirkpatrick, chief medical director of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Appleton, Wis., gives practical tips on staying healthy and managing stress. Visit the ELCA Board of Pensions Web site and click "2008 PPO Benefits changes" to see how the ELCA values wellness.
“Jack pines ... are not lumber trees [and they] won’t win many beauty contests either. But to me this valiant old tree, solitary on its own rocky point, is as beautiful as a living thing can be .... In the calligraphy of its shape against the sky is written strength of character and perseverance, survival of wind, drought, cold, heat, disease .... In its silence it speaks of ... wholeness ... an integrity that comes from being what you are.” Douglas Wood
Every summer, I go to the Boundary Waters, a million acres of pristine wilderness along the Minnesota-Ontario border. My first trip, years ago, was a vacation, pure and simple. But as I returned time and again to that elemental world of water, rock, woods and sky, my vacation began to feel more like a pilgrimage to me—an annual trek to holy ground driven by spiritual need. Douglas Wood’s meditation on the jack pine, a tree native to that part of the world, names what I go up north seeking: images of how life looks when it is lived with integrity.
Thomas Merton claimed that “there is in all things … a hidden wholeness.” But back in the human world—where we are less self-revealing than jack pines—Merton’s words can, at times, sound like wishful thinking. Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process, we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the “integrity that comes from being what you are.”
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers