Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I was a bride, married to amazement...

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

When Your Child Calls to Tell You That There is a Shooter on Campus.

On Thursday, I got a call from Elisabeth.  She whispered that she was in her basement of her on-campus house at Seattle Pacific University and that they were on lock down because there was a shooter on campus. She was alone.
I'm not sure I absorbed what she was saying so I reassured her and told her I would call her back as soon as I got home.  I hung up and immediately called her back to go upstairs and be sure all the windows and doors were locked.
Elisabeth is not an innocent or naive girl.  Spending her high school years in China opened her eyes to the brokenness that is in the world. But this was different.
So what do you do when your daughter calls to say she is hiding in the basement because of a shooter?
Well, you freeze a little.  You try to pray but you can't.
You go home and turn on the news and check the internet to find out that someone had entered a building and shot students at SPU.  You are horrified.
You call grandparents so that they will not see this news on the internet.
You call your daughter back.  You text.  You sit frozen to any screen that can give you information.  You know that you are among over 4,000 parents who are doing this.
You hear that one of the shooting victims has died and wonder how they could announce this and were the parents even there yet. You feel overwhelming grief for this young person who has lost their life.
You hear of heroism and courage.  Of weeping and grief. Of fear.
You are amazed at how quickly SPU shut the campus down and are thankful, oh so thankful.  You feel sad as your remember that these heightened precautions are because of the loss of life at Virginia Tech a few years ago.
The next day, when you go to work, someone comments how sad it would be if someone makes this out to be about guns.  You look at her and say "I am one of those people" and you are not even afraid to speak out.  Because it is about guns and mental illness and many, many things. But let's not say it isn't about guns.  Let's stop saying this.
You watch the service of prayer and lament and you weep as you listen.
You hear a woman with a shaking voice pray this prayer of grace and courage.

Grant us, O Lord, comfort, 

even as You hear our laments and heartfelt cries of distress.

We pray, O loving God, for the one among us who has died.

We pray for Paul Lee.
Minister to his family and friends, 
be with those who mourn his loss, 
sustain those who are grief-stricken, 
and help us all in our shock.

O God, we pray for the one who 

perpetrated this mindless act of violence. 
Deal with his troubled soul, 
love him in spite of his hatred, 
and bring him not only to justice 
but to repentance and spiritual wholeness.

Lord we pray now for our neighborhood, 

and for the city of Seattle. 
We know that what happens in one place 
affects all those who are connected to it. 
We bring our city before you now.

God, we pray for the family members near and far, 

and for the closest friends of students who have been most affected. 
Comfort our families, and help us to know 
how to best care for all those with whom we are connected.

Help us, O God, in our sadness, confusion, and anger.  

Help us to deal with this tragedy with 
honesty, forthrightness, and courage, 
even as You strengthen our faith and resolve.

Lord, in spite of this day let us not lose hope, 

let us not give in to despair, 
let us not think that evil or death have the last word, 
and let us remember that we serve the Risen and Exalted Lord, Jesus Christ.

O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people; 

in the multitude of your mercies, 
look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; 
for you are gracious, O lover of souls, 
and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.


You hear students singing "Come, Lord Jesus, Come" and your heart joins them.  You think about the grieving parents of the injured and of Paul Lee, the 19 year old student who has died and you ache for them.

And then you pray for Shalom...the deep peace of God.  Yes, come Lord Jesus, Come.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Be a gardener

A few weeks ago we were on the lovely island of Thetis and stayed at the Caprenwray school.  While there, we walked around and I saw these lovely raised beds.  It made me itch to start ours!

Our community garden opened two weeks early but it's been too rainy to get in and start working the soil.  We finally had some dry and sunny days last week and were able to work in our homemade compost and purchased chicken manure. We have two 20X20 plots.

You can actually get free herbivore manure at the Portland Zoo (ZooDoo) but only during the day when I am at work. So alas, no elephant powered vegetables for us.

My car did smell like chicken manure for several days after this but I kind of liked it.

I went into Portland yesterday to the first plant sale of the season by the Multnohmah Master Gardeners.  I bought tomatoes and peppers (which will live on the back patio for a while until the ground heats up), celery, leeks, onions, broccoli and more.  I am hoping to get the peas and beans (seeds) in the ground this week.

My trunk was pretty full!

From Pinterest.

Be a gardener.
Dig a ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.

--Julian of Norwich

Friday, April 11, 2014

Moving towards the Light.

    On Ash Wednesday I went to Imago Dei Community and received the ashes on my forehead. As the young man made the sign of the cross, he said "From dust you came, to dust you shall return.  Turn from your sin and be faithful to  Christ."  It was a solemn and thoughtful hour.
    For the past several years, I've attempted to practice Lent.  I grew up in a church that somewhat practiced the church calendar and I feel strongly that there can be no Easter without Good Friday. There can be no light without darkness. To come to Easter without any practice of slowing down and reflecting is to take away from the joy  and newness of Easter.
    I didn't really do anything special this year- no candles, no fasting, no internet limitations.  But I did slow down and consider the meaning of Lent.  I considered that Lent leads us to life and to light.  The days get longer during Lent and the plants push up. I planted lettuce and mesclun and it is coming up and making my heart glad.
   It's been a long and dark winter, so when the sun shines, we go outside.  In a refuge near our home, we can still see Mt. Hood in the distance, eternally covered in snow.

The pussy willows are starting to come out.

The rhododendrons near Reed College are also starting to bloom.

We compost- table scraps, paper, coffee grinds, egg shells.  Some goes in our worm bin and some goes outside to the compost pile.  I find composting profoundly theological- our waste turns into something else (it's transformed through rotting) that we then put back in the ground so that we have rich soil to grow new and healthy plants and food.  The transformation from waste to life seems Lenten to me.  Compost can not grow or change unless it sits in darkness for a long time.  Wendell Berry said it much better than I can.

A Purification

At the start of spring I open a trench

in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground, 
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

We've also done some traveling.  We went to Seattle to see Elisabeth and we stopped by Chinatown and the International District. Above Chinatown is the International Community Garden that has this sign.  The Chinese characters are yi (one) xin (heart).  One heart among the many people.  Lovely.

We also spent some time at the Capernwray School on  Thetis Island.  It was peaceful, beautiful and refreshing to be there.  We are so thankful for their generosity in letting us come!

As always, I am drawn to the gardens.  These are some of the raised beds that they have. Very creative use of logs from the forest.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Finding Truth in Story.

Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.  Madeline L'Engle

If you know me in real life, you know that I love to read.

I went to school in the loosey goosey 60's and 70's.  My elementary school was a sort of experiment with "open education."

Credit: Text Rain by Kyungduk Kim.  Found on Pinterest

At my elementary school, we were able to arrange our own schedules.  So my schedule involved reading....and very little math.  I re-learned many basic math skills when I studied Montessori education. I am sure my teachers should have forced me to study more math.  But the gift of being able to read was amazing.  Being a different time and age, we were even able to walk across Mitchell Park to the public library to get books during the day. Our school library was open all day and even after school.  I read many of the same books over and over again.


I read classic literature for sure- All of Madeline L'Engle, Noel Streetfield, Louisa May Alcott.  Those characters are real in my mind-somehow I think they exist in some other world and that I might meet them some day.  Not every book that I read could be defined as "great literature."  But they were good books and good friends.


Recently I read this article in the Christian Century Saved by fiction.  It powerfully brought home to me the role that reading fiction has played in my life.  
Quote from the article 

But of all the spiritual disciplines I have ever attempted, the habit of steady reading has helped me most and carried me farthest. Of course, reading scripture has been indispensable. But reading fiction—classics of world literature, fairy tales and Greek myths, science fiction and detective novels—has done more to baptize my imagination, inform my faith and strengthen my courage than all the prayer techniques in the world.

Francis Shaeffer (Reformed people's St. Francis :)) said in Art and the Bible "Christian artists do not need to be threatened by fantasy and imagination. . . . The Christian is the really free person . . . whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."  What could be better than a "sanctified imagination."?  I have sometimes heard non-fiction described as true and fiction described as not-true.  I think this is a poor distinction as we find tremendous truth in fiction.  Stories teach us about other people, other countries, other experiences. Stories help us to disappear into the lives of others.

I have just started reading The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. It's a marvelous book of essays that begins this way.

What's your story?  It's all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.  To love someone is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.
Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller's art, and then a way of traveling from here to there.  What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you've only read about, or the one next to you in bed.?

So read.  Read for yourself.   Read to your children.  Read things aloud to your spouse.  Read fiction.  Read non-fiction.  Read to learn and read for fun.  Read for the joy of it.   Just read.

Horn Book Cover Jan 2009 www.jonathanbeam.com

It was pleasant to take a hot drink up to her room and have it beside her as she sat in her silent room reading in the empty house in the afternoons. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village."
— Roald Dahl ~ Matilda

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

No Donkey Heads Here.

During one of our last weeks in China, I glanced out of a bus window and saw a freshly cut donkey head on the back of a cart.  I knew I had been in China for a while then because the head brought no response from me except the notice that there was a donkey head on the back of a cart.  It interesting how the extraordinary becomes kind of ordinary after a while.
So no donkey carts here.  Just lots of rain and an early setting sun. I have a new job as an ELL para-educator at a high needs elementary school.  It's a very different kind of job for me but I like it.  I basically go to six different classrooms during the day and work with students who need literacy help.  They are not English Language Learners in the newcomer sense of the word.  Most  students were born in the US but are from families where another language is spoken at home.  My job is to work in small groups to help increase their reading comprehension and writing skills.   It's a fast paced job and pretty tiring.  But at 3:30, I walk out the door and am finished for the day.  That's a good thing.

In  other news, I made yogurt  in my slow cooker the other day. Not as exciting as a donkey head but totally something I would have done in China.  I made it from whole organic milk, plain yogurt and some milk powder.  It's thin but not liquid.  I put it on my oatmeal this morning and it was great.  It's cheaper than containers but not by much.  Honestly, it's just the kind of thing I like to do and feeds my creative spirit.  Here are the instructions.Crockpot yogurt  You can add fruit at the end but it makes it thinner- more like kefir. Make sure your milk isn't ultra-pasteurized.  I added a cup of milk powder and I think it made a difference in the thickness.

I also made cloth napkins.  We have cloth napkins that we use all the time.  I got a dozen beautiful linen napkins at Goodwill for $1.99.  For some reason I saved this fabric when we left Missouri for China.  I just cut them up and turned under a small hem that I zigzagged.  I read some instructions that said to make mitered corners.  Honestly, I just can't be bothered!  

This short speech was recommended to me and I highly recommend it to you. This is Water  It's a graduation speech given by David Foster Wallace about how to view the dailiness of life.  It's very simple and very profound.  Take a few minutes to listen with your heart and spirit. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Making Mistakes for the New Year.

From Neil Gaiman.  Neil Gaiman

A decade ago I wrote..

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

And almost half a decade ago, I wrotehttp://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html

...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it's this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.