Porter is available to lead workshops and speak on a number of topics, including:
Storytelling as a Way to Spread the Good News (to get a sense of this workshop visit the website for the conference Evangelism Matters (www.evangelismmatters.org) and scroll down until you come to "My Story, Our Story, The Story..." The video is of a session I lead in Dallas in November 2016. The handouts for this are at the bottom of this page.)
The Gift of Recovery from Addiction for Everyone
Going to Hell and Getting to Heaven: What Dante Can Teach Us
Using Fiction and Poetry in Sermons
Keeping Sabbath in a Hectic World
Growing into Christ: in the Light, in the Darkness, in Community
Embracing Conflict; Facing Your Demons, Embracing Community
Enlarging a Pastor’s Heart
The Art of Repentance
Advent: How to Watch and Wait
Resurrection in Our Lives
Going on Pilgrimage
The Wisdom of St. Francis
Embracing The Story
The Cruciform Church
Mary Magdalene: The Apostle to the Apostles
Jesus Through The Centuries
Turning Round Right: Our Life of Continuous Conversion
The Search for the Holy Grail
Handouts for Storytelling Conference
by Mark Strand
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs bum like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
Notes on Surrender
To conceive of the theological concept of surrender, it’s helpful to remember that the Christian life is a journey. We are all pilgrims on The Way. We travel to Christ even as we travel with and in Christ. He is our goal and He is the journey itself. Therefore, just as we get stuck in the process of becoming who we are, so we find ourselves stuck in our growth in faith. If you remember The Pilgrim’s Progress, there are many detours along the way. These are not so much failures and times when we must let go of something old in order to grasp the new life that is coming to us but cannot be seen so long as we have a death grip on the past.
Surrender is the act of falling into the hands of a living God. It is the time when we cannot find our way and have to turn to God for God’s direction and rescue. Sometimes this is dramatic---someone in addiction surrendering the ways they have lived their life to accept a new way of being human. Or an event like Paul’s on the Damascus Road when he was blinded and could no longer walk by his own.
Sometimes this is more subtle. It can be surrendering to a voice that has been calling you in a new direction. Often the lure of the new is so overwhelming that letting go of the past is less of a struggle and more of a relief. In these cases to surrender to the new becomes more like an awakening than inner battle.
Think of a turning point in your life. What alerted you to the need to let go of the old? What were the signs in your body? What were other signs? How did you know that some change had to happen? How did the new show itself? Was it suddenly or gradually? Did others suggest it to you or did you find it on your own? What resistance did you receive? What affirmation? What happened when this changed occurred? Let us see the scene---give us the place, the people, the circumstances. Tell this story in as much detail as possible.
What did you feel like afterwards? What kind of reaction was there around you? Did the old way call you back? How did you move into the newness?
+Porter Taylor—Notes for Stories of Surrender
Joan Chittister writes in Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, ppp. 58-60.
Surrender is what cleans off thebarnacles that have been clinging to the soul. It is the final act of human openness. Without it I am doomed to live inside the stagnant world called the self….Openness saves me from the boundaries of the self and surrender to the moment is the essence of openness. Surrender does not mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that is totally elsewhere….I surrender to the circumstances of life. Try as I might to turn back the clock, to relive a period of my life with old friends, in long-gone places, out of common memories…I come to admit that such attempts are the myth of a mind in search of safer days. The way we were is over.
Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguishes who I was from who I have become….Life as I had fantasized is ended. What is left is the spiritual obligation to accept reality so that the spiritual life can really happen in me. Surrender is the moment in which we realize that it is time to become someone new. Surrender is not about giving up; it is about moving on. There are times to let a thing go. There is a time to put a thing down, however unresolved, however baffling, however wrong, however unjust it may be. There are some things in life that cannot be changed, however intent we are to change them. There is a time to let surrender take over so that the past does not consume the present, so that new life can come, so that joy has a chance to surprise us again.
from Learning to Fly— by Sam Keen
Sam Keen wrote about learning to fly the trapeze. His metaphor for the spiritual life is letting go of the first bar and reaching out to be caught by the person on the second bar. This letting go is a metaphor for spiritual surrender. He writes:
“It is reasonable to play it safe, not to leap—but it is not reasonable always to be reasonable. As Blaise Paschal said, “The heart has reasons the mind knows not of.” …Faith, love, and flying all depend on a relationship that can be created only by an act of trust that involves taking the risk of falling into the void. Before the fact, all risks are folly. It is only after a successful flight to the arms of the catcher that the risky decision to trust is seen as the essence of wisdom.
“Why face danger?” is the wrong question. The right question is “What happens if I try to build a life dedicated to avoiding all danger and all unnecessary risk?” …I need to live near the vital edge between fear and fascination to help me remember that, so long as I live, I will tremble and wonder.”
Awake at Night by Wendell Berry
Late in the night I pay
the unrest I owe
to the life that has never lived
and cannot live now.
What the world could be
is my good dream
and my agony when, dreaming it,
I lie awake and turn
and look into the dark.
I think of a luxury
in the sturdiness and grace
of necessary things, not
in frivolity. That would heal
the earth, and heal men.
But the end, too, is part
of the pattern, the last
labor of the heart:
to learn to lie still,
one with the earth
again, and let the world go.
TRANSLATION VS. TRANSFORMATION by Ken Wilbur from One Taste
In a series of books (e.g., A Sociable God, Up from Eden, and The Eye of Spirit), I have tried to show that religion itself has always performed two very important, but very different, functions. One, it acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self: it offers myths and stories and tales and narratives and rituals and revivals that, taken together, help the separate self make sense of, and endure, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This function of religion does not usually or necessarily change the level of consciousness in a person; it does not deliver radical transformation. Nor does it deliver a shattering liberation from the separate self altogether. Rather, it consoles the self, fortifies the self, defends the self, promotes the self.
But two, religion has also served - in a usually very, very small minority - the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function of religion does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it - not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution - in short, not a conventional bolstering of consciousness but a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.
There are several different ways that we can state these two important functions of religion. The first function-that of creating meaning for the self-is a type of horizontal movement; the second function-that of transcending the self-is a type of vertical movement (higher or deeper, depending on your metaphor). The first I have named "translation," the second, "transformation."
With translation, the self is simply given a new way to think or feel about reality. The self is given a new belief-perhaps holistic instead of atomistic, perhaps forgiveness instead of blame, perhaps relational instead of analytic. The self then learns to translate its world and its being in the terms of this new belief or new language or new paradigm, and this new and enchanting translation acts, at least temporarily, to alleviate or diminish the terror inherent in the heart of the separate self.
But with transformation, the very process of translation itself is challenged, witnessed, undermined and eventually dismantled. With typical translation, the self (or subject) is given a new way to think about the world (or objects); but with radical transformation, the self itself is inquired into, looked into, grabbed by its throat and literally throttled to death.
For authentic transformation is not a matter of belief but of the death of the believer; not a matter of translating the world but of transforming the world; not a matter of finding solace but of finding infinity on the other side of death. The self is not made content; the self is made toast.