Monday, March 22, 2010

What's In Your Satchel?

Over at the High Calling blog, Gordon Atkinson aka RealLivePreacher shares what's in his satchel during his Lenten journey:
The day before Ash Wednesday, I got an old satchel out of my closet and began filling it with things that are spiritually significant to me. Some of these things might be considered “churchy” and others might not. I make no such distinctions. Everything in my satchel has been an important part of opening my mind, expanding my heart, and teaching me to be more prayerful and able to listen for God’s work and words in our world.

My Lenten satchel contains the following items:

A copy of the Didache with commentary by Tony Jones.
The Creation of Consciousness: Jung’s Myth for Modern Man by Edward Edinger
The Greek New Testament, along with a parsing guide.
A moleskine notebook that contains my new and growing translation of the Sermon on the Mount.
A set of calligraphy pens and a bottle of luxurious black Mont Blanc ink.
A set of drafting tools that I bought in a junk store in Colorado.
Some proofs by Euclid that I learned and drew myself with the drafting tools.
A copy of Inside Out, poems by LL Barkat.
A recorded copy of the New Testament, read dramatically.
Another moleskin notebook that contains my first attempts at calligraphy and my drawings of the negative spaces of labyrinths.
A vision I wrote down for a house church model in 1999.
A dream I had years ago, wrote down, and still don’t understand.
My growing Franciscan rule of life that I’ve been working on in retreats for a few years. (So far I only have one rule and I still can’t keep it well)
Three rosaries, all of my own construction.
The National Audubon Society field guide to the night sky.
The complete short stories of Flannery O’Connor.
A set of water colors.


During the season of Lent, I take time each day to do something spiritual. I draw proofs and paint them. I work my rosary beads, murmuring memorized prayers and scriptures. I read fiction. I read poetry. I read the Didache. I read the New Testament – albeit in a very slow and halting way – in the original language. I paint. I muse. I write. I pray. And I seek creative connections between all of the things in my satchel. A few days ago Euclid’s “how to find the center of a given circle” proof turned into a cross and that into a watercolor painting.

I do not have to finish anything. I do not have to explain anything. I do not have any goals other than spending a bit of time each day with one or more of these objects. It is the most glorious, challenging, thoughtful, indulgent, artistic, and meaningful Lent I have ever experienced. And I intend to keep my satchel after Lent is over. Why would I stop when I’m having such a good time?
It got me to thinking about what might be in my own Lenten satchel. What items aid in my spiritual journey, "churchy" or otherwise?

This is what I came up with.

~My New Student Bible from high school if not the one I use now.
~Moleskine journal
~Small glass tea light candle holder (with candle and lighter, of course) that I've had since my first year of seminary
~Poetry of Robert Frost
~365 Starry Nights astronomy guide
~The Living Book of Daily Prayer
~A "finger labyrinth" in lieu of a real one
~A copy of the E&R Hymnal

A musical instrument wouldn't fit in the bag, so I didn't list it. But I'd be carrying that along, too. Probably my acoustic guitar since I could play that anywhere without much setup.

I don't feel like explaining my items either, not that I think it'd take much explanation.

The only thing that I do feel the need to explain is the absence of any favorite book, as in a novel or work of theology or spirituality or whatever. This is because when I read those kinds of books, I then need to set them aside for a while; I wouldn't want or need to carry an especially meaningful one around with me at all times. Perhaps for the purposes of a finite season like Lent, where I'd revisit a favorite to aid during that stretch of time, I'd choose Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner, New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton, The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, and/or Open Secrets by Richard Lischer.

Methinks I may adopt this "satchel practice" for my sabbatical. Hmmm...

So, what'd be in your satchel?