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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Underbelly of Convenience

The Underbelly of Convenience

If I'd carried the water
from a well, I probably
wouldn't waste it.

If I'd walked to market
to get this food, I probably
wouldn't take more than necessary.

If I'd had to crank a generator
to keep power flowing, I probably
wouldn't forget to turn lights off.

In this modern life
convenience is complicit
to consumption.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


The first thing I do after they leave
Is pat and rearrange everything
Back into the shape of my liking.

Just so there’s the illusion of control
For eight hours at least,
Until school bus brakes screech
And backpacks catapult
Landing in speed bump positions.

For eight whole hours,
I take out my ears
And shutter my face.

Not even the dog gets in.

I am off wandering
Puttering among posies and weeds
Growing riot and rank over
The landscape of my silence.

And when eight hours is up,
I’ve usually cleared
Just enough ground to stand on
With flowers in my hands.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

May Your Kingdom Come...

     I was in the prayer room at Elim Baptist Church in NE Minneapolis, sitting in my seat in a circle with three other women from Abbey Way. One of the parts of being a member of AW is that we participate in either group or individual spiritual direction. My group and I have now journeyed, once a month, for about 1 or 2 years.    
     A beauty I've noticed as part of the practice is that often a common theme emerges throughout the group and I'm reminded again that I am part of a 'we.' I am connected to others and that God works with and through us all; like a master weaver creating a tapestry. We may be in completely different places, but we are connected by that common hand working in our lives.
     That evening one of the women's feedback to another woman was the word, 'play.' That word has been circling me lately, and I've noticed that I haven't been playing much; I think I'm waiting for permission.

     Another woman saw a 'picture' of a fully harnassed and blindered horse tied to a machine that forced the horse to work/walk in a circle. The next picture she saw was a wild horse running on a hill.

     As the evening progressed, in one of the silent times between listening to a person share; I felt God touching my imagination. I saw the harnassed, working horse (for me, I saw it harnassed to a mill in a building). As I watched, life and power infused the horse and it literally burst from the rut it was in and jumped up out of the track. As it did everything fell away except for the center post and a haltar and leadrope still attached to the post. As the freedom and hope increased in the picture I saw it was one of many horses tied to a large tree trunk and they were became a magical, living carousel; whirling and spinning in pure delight. Immediately the scene shifted and the horses were people and they were performing a Maypole dance, the one where they dip in and out of each other's way and the ribbons weave down the pole.

     I felt God say to me, "This is my Kingdom."

     I thought of how the work in that image is connected with others, the load is shared and balanced and made beautiful by co-operating in community. The previous pictures of the horse were of horses on their own, isolated, cut off from the 'herd.' I noticed that each interaction between the people created either an opportunity to give (go under the other's ribbon) or receive (go over the other's ribbon). It was that precise action that created the weaving. The dancer's wisdom and success in the design was in knowing which was called for, when. Joy, release and delight at Spring's return is in the picture; it is definitely an image of play -- an image of work that masqueades as play.

     I want to work like that; connected, not enslaved, not wildly on my own. There are moments of bending down and rising up -- it is work -- but there is the joy and support of the companions. The blessing of a fellowship; a people sharing the same place, time and purpose.

     I realized that it was May day and it was good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Taking A Break

Today, the UPS man spent his break on our street.

And I look with other eyes wondering
At trees, gladly green and reaching, imitating
Grandfather Elm, so old, so straight, so strong.

Lawns with invitingly plush carpets
Of sweetly green grass framing
Gardens of impetuous flowers – all
Under a canopy of benevolent blue.

Today, the UPS man and I spent his break on our street.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Fulcrum

I want to tend well
What I’ve been given
This the fulcrum be
Of my balance,
My pendulums
Chosen rhythm.

When young
The swing
was wide
And free
Causing tips
Sometimes constantly,

Now the motions be
Subtle and imperceptible
Maybe muscles stronger,
Balance more acceptable.

When sudden swings
Threaten now a tip
I widen my arms
Embracing it…

I practice trusting,
I bend my knees,
Relax muscles
And ride the
Swing back
To be.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Moment with a Stranger

Yesterday I stopped off at our credit union to set up three savings accounts for the kids. A young man helped me do that. While we were going through that process we had a little conversation.

I don't remember what started me explaining to him, but I told him how we have our kids on budgets where they can spend 50% of what they earn, 40% they must save and 10% they must give.

I was not prepared for the guy's enthusiastic reaction! He was so excited and that really got me excited; so I went on to tell how we've never given our kids allowances but have always paid them for work around the house. Since they were young I'd broken up common household chores into '50 cent chores.' 50 cent chores are chores that are small enough to not be intimidating, are useful to daily living and I'm willing to pay 50 cents to have done.

I told the guy that I hadn't sorted my laundry for 10 years! He and I just about flipped. (His excitement really was catching!) When Elijah was 3 or 4ish I'd made a basketballish sort of game out of sorting the laundry. It started out where I had him in the buckets and I'd throw the clothes on him one at a time. I'd yell out 'darks!', 'warms!', 'hots!'. Of course, this entertained the little four year-old no end; but soon he was outside the baskets throwing the appropriate colors into the appropriate baskets. Besides teaching Eli to sort laudry; it made me able to do my laudry with the little mobile, get-into-everything boy.

Each of our kids has a 'daily chore' that I pay 50 cents to have done that is required and they must do. When they've bucked me on it; I remind them that we all live together as a community and it takes each of us to make it nice to live together. They might still grumble, but they have pretty much respected that reasoning.

When they haven't respected it or done the chore; being broke on payday has finished convincing them. Especially when their siblings are flush and they're not.

They are each expected to clean their rooms for free because there are many jobs that we need to do to live well together; but I do pay for jobs that help free me up so that I might do more and better work for the family.

We also pay them when Craig gets his paycheck. We set that up so that they would know what it is like to wait for a pay cycle before getting more money. I have to admit, though, that Craig and I are often not very reliable at this and we often forget to pay them! They have been gracious about it, though, and we do sometimes give them a little 'interest' money because we're late.

When they were young, there was a time they really fought us on this; but I have to say, the bad economy has really helped us here. They see that people's undisciplined habits with money have had a profound effect on many other people; and they don't like it.

Well, this guy at the credit union started telling me about how he didn't have a dad that was around and how his mom wasn't good with him and that he'd been in and out of foster care homes as a kid. It broke my heart to hear the yearning in his voice as he told me he wanted to be a parent like I was. He told me I should be preaching about what we do.

Well, I don't have a pulpit, but I do have a little blog-soapbox; so to honor that guy's heart, I've told you.

I hope I meet him again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Good Friday

There was a bite to the wind, so I told the boys to wear sweatshirts. They didn’t listen so well, only one of them had one by the time I noticed; which was too late to do anything about it.

We were biking down Randolph Avenue, headed to the Good Friday event at Art House North in the West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul. We were early so that I could feed the constantly hungry teenage boys with Subway subs and still get good seats. I left the boys picnicing outside AHN as I went in to snag some seats.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the building; but I immediately fell in love with it. What a small, intimate little place it is. Things are just beginning to improve and I could already imagine what it will be like in a few years when a bunch of artists make it home. I was happy to see that it was not already ‘perfect.’ It made me relax to think that whoever was in charge was taking their time.

The boys eventually came in as the place filled up with attendees. Troy Groves opened up the night by telling us a bit of how the night came about; from them attending a conference at Blackhawk Church in Madison, WI. What happened there sparked in them the desire to have
some Blackhawk musicians and Tim Mackie come share with AHN that night.

We had come, my son, his friend Gabe and I, because J.R.R. Tolkien and comic books were on the bill. I was there because I wanted to check out AHN; but I hooked my son and Gabe into it by mentioning Tolkien and the comic books.

What was lovely to me was to see Hutchmoot friends and Church of the Open Door friends there. Again, it seemed to me like streams of my life were converging in that place. I always make a note of it when I see that happening. That was how I’d found my way to Abbey Way; the streams of Open Door and my Benedictine friends converging. It always makes me think that God is up to something; like bringing forth streams in a desert.

When Tim Mackie began to speak, I immediately liked him and was so thankful he was who he was – a young, intelligent, seemingly rooted guy. I saw Eli and Gabe perk up and listen to what he was saying. I could tell they liked him, and I was grateful. It is so hard, sometimes, to get teenagers to eat what is good for them.

Tim talked about how he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with spiritual things beginning when he was around 10 years old (or so) until he was in his teens. At that time, he spent every moment he could at the local comic book store, devouring Marvel comics.

He talked about how, when he became a Christian at age 20; he realized that the comic books had formed his imagination so that when he read the Bible he saw it for the complicated, paradoxical, mysterious hero story that it is. The comic books had given him a framework that was similar and to be found (created? originated?) in the Bible as well.

Tim went on to talk about how good story, not cheap stories, form and expand the boundaries of our imaginations. He shared with us what J.R.R. Tolkien says about these things in his essay, On Fairy Stories. I’ve ordered the essay and am anxious to read it because I worried that Tolkien and Mackie were stealing my next few planned blog posts. I’ve been thinking about the role story has played in my life and have been getting a little series of posts ready; and my thoughts and experiences line up with what Tolkien talks about in his essay and Mackie was sharing.

But since that evening at AHN, I've been thinking about a particular nuance in story. Tim was talking about books he’d read and how they formed his imagination. I am assuming most of
those books he read to himself. What his talk stirred within me was the thought: What happens when people read formational stories out loud, together? Then do you get a people’s imagination formed?

One of the most thought altering, perception shifting books I’ve read is New Monasticism: What it has to Say to Today’s Church by Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove. In it, JWH explained that the Bible was written to a people, for the formation of a people, together. The way he helped me understand it was that when it says ‘you’ in the Bible, it is most often translated more like the Southern, y’all. The Bible is not an introspective self-help book; but a people-help book, an everyone learning to live together well-help book.

So, I value community. I value nurturing community. I value story lived into and shared in community.

From those values our family, for years, has hosted what we call “Wrinkle” every other Saturday night. It all started when a bunch of adults, teens and kids decided we wanted to read through the Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L’Engle, out loud, together. Instead of a book club where everyone reads the book alone and then comes together to talk about it; we
wanted to actually listen to a reader read the book to us.

And Wrinkle was born.

I’ve been the reader. Our family provides popcorn and fires. In the winter we gather around our living room fireplace. In the summer we’ve gathered around a campfire. Everyone listening brings some activity they like to do while they listen. People have sketched, molded small sculptures, knitted, crocheted, beaded, played solitaire, done puzzles, sewed, graded papers, and various other crafty/arty/useful things.

The ages are mixed. Single people come, married people come, families come, kids come on their own; everyone heaped together, all mixed up. I have watched a kid sit close to an artist and try to draw like they do; then show it to the artist for feedback. I have helped a young knitter learn their next needed step in their project before I start reading and then watched as they finish their project, beaming. It has all been quite amazing.

We have each been formed, shaped by those stories we shared experiencing together. We often make jokes to each other, mimic a character’s voice or laugh about a moment that was funny in the story; and what has resulted is a community that has been nurtured and formed together.

And it is good.

I wonder: How could this be shared with people who don’t do this? How can this be shared with kids who don’t have adults who take time to read to them? How could this be shared on a broader scale to nurture a larger group?

I am wondering.