Friday, March 28, 2014

Seeds



Like the good southern woman I am, I put okra seeds into water this morning to start soaking. I gave up  on the idea of apartment gardening this year. My rosemary, and yes the cactus, are dead, and my kale plant is not far behind. We just don't get enough direct sun in our little apartment.

The thought of a garden-less season saddened me, but I'd let it go. This just wasn't the time for it. Another year.  But, I was reminded last week that my church has garden plots for the community and to fill our food pantry. When I checked, one was still available.

This is my beautiful plot:


It's big. It has soaker hoses already installed. The soil is loose. It has a nice little colony of ladybugs. It's even complete with a volunteer onion (?) right in the middle and some plants that might be lettuce. I weeded it this week, and, while I'm still sore, it felt good to have soil turning over in my fingers again.

It's still a month and a half away from our last freeze (lets not talk about that), but I got the okra started today.


I love watching seeds grow. It amazes me that these tiny seeds turn into fuzzy, mini okras, and then full grown ones, and then into a pile of crispy fried okra on my Sunday lunch plate.

It's magical.

With the start of gardening season spinning through my mind I finally got around to reading the article I'd bookmarked on Suzii Paynter's sermon at the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference today. I really like Suzii, and have a lot of respect for her and her work in Texas with the Christian Life Commission (working on everything from trying ending hunger to combating human trafficking). Her words resonated.

Suzii Paynter urged participants at the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference to consider lessons from the life of 19th-century abolitionist Sarah Moore Grimke. In a novel by Sue Monk Kidd based on Grimke’s life, The Invention of Wings, the central character prays, “Please God, let this seed you planted in me bear fruit.”   Suzii Paynter told women ministers to listen to the voice of God who called them, not the “belittling voices” who tell them what they cannot do. 

“The premise, of course, is that there are seeds of leadership deep in our lives,” Paynter explained. “These seeds bear remembering if they are to bear fruit.”

And, “Accept the unfinished business of your life in ministry. You do not know which imperfect, unfinished parts of your story will be part of God’s golden theme,” Paynter said. “You will never be given a tailor-made calling. But you will grow toward the fullness of your calling if accompanied by Christ.”

I'm going to let these okra seeds soaking up water on my desk be a reminder to look for, nourish, and remember those seeds of calling, seeds of leadership, in me and in others.

{You can (and should) read the whole article here on ABP's website.} 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Open Arms Of Enough

Once I learned the word "dregs," which I swore I had never heard before, I heard it at least once a day for a month. The same thing has happened with all sorts of vocabulary over the years. The same thing has happened with enough.

Once you start meditating on something, start looking for it, you see it everywhere.

I came across an article by Sarah Bessey, here, and this idea of enough was right there, front and center. She says,

For those of us who have been told that we are too much—too loud, too opinionated, too smart, too bold, too quiet, too curvy, too skinny, too sexual, too intense, too feeling, too soft, too tough, too bossy, too tender, too young, too old, too liberal, too conservative—may we say: you belong here with us. 

May we be the women who make room for the too-much among us.  

For those of us who have been told that we are not enough—not smart enough, not ambitious enough, not good enough, not spiritual enough, not rich enough, not enough wife, not enough mother, not enough friend, not enough woman, not strong enough, not educated enough, not experienced enough—may we say: you belong here with us.  

May we be the women who make room for the not-enough among us.

(May we be the men too.)

That's the great, inclusive thing about enough. It's for both the too-much and the too-little. Enough is the grace to accept what is, and it's the courage to hear that who we are is ok. Not just that, enough is the quiet space to hear divine whisper, you are good.

I'm starting to understand that seeing enough is a form of hospitality. Enough invites the too much and the too little in me to dine at the same table as the too much and too little in you. When we are open to seeing enough in ourselves and to seeing enough in others, we don't have to edit or to strive or to judge.

We just pass the chicken or pour another cup of tea. We nod and say, me too.



Monday, March 17, 2014

13 Days In: Reflections on Lent



When I was growing up I never associated Lent with much more than fish sandwiches in school lunches on Fridays. My Catholic friends sometimes gave up sweets or something similar, but I never understood why. Growing up Baptist in a small church in Texas did not expose me to very many liturgical traditions.

Through reading more widely, traveling, and making friends with deeply spiritual people of different traditions, I've come to appreciate and love many of the more liturgical traditions. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent have become full of meaning to me and important markers in my spiritual journey.

For years now I have been attending Ash Wednesday services, usually at Episcopal churches around whatever town I happen to be in (after years of moving services at Abilene's Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest) and this year at my large Baptist church in the suburbs. As the priest or pastor or whomever places ashes on your forehead in the shape of the cross, ashes from last year's palm Sunday palms, they remind you that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

It's a call to repentance. It's a visible sign to remind you of your place. It's a call inward.

Those of you who know me well know that I love to set goals and resolutions. Lent for me is sometimes a do over for New Year's resolutions--a time to refocus on them without the clutter of holiday hangovers. Usually it's a time to go deeper, though. Lent is a time to remove something from your life that you don't plan to take back up (at least not in the same way) after Easter. Or, it's a time to focus on a discipline or habit that can become a part of your life from Easter onward.

My Lenten journeys have taken me different places. I've found the thing I decide to give up or take on is usually much more difficult than I planned. I "gave up" grudges one season in an effort to embrace forgiveness more wholeheartedly, and honestly, for the first time. It turns out that grudges are the kinds of things that are much more pervasive than I realized. When you start looking for things you find them.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on this year for Lent. I was at least a week late in deciding on New Year's resolutions this year, and, with Ash Wednesday sneaking up on me, I was afraid the same would be true of a Lenten discipline this year. One of the things I love about the liturgical seasons is that they force me to confront things that I would continually put off without a deadline of sorts. So, I made some space and gave it some thought.

As I thought through what I am struggling with, what is holding me back, and who I want to be after Easter, I realized that I'd been talking about enough a lot lately. Enough is the opposite of scarcity. And the thought and fear of scarcity, of not enough, has permeated just about everywhere we turn without us even realizing it.

So this year, my Lenten journey is about meditating on enough. About having enough things, enough money, enough time. About being enough. About giving enough. About others being and giving enough. About others not having enough. I'm not sure how this will play out by Easter, but this meditation is already taking me deeper and in directions I did not anticipate.

So, for those who have never participated in Lent in a meaningful way, or for those who didn't get around to inviting the Lenten season into their awareness this year, I give you permission to start now. We are only 13 days in. (Easter is still almost 5 weeks away.)

Here are some ideas for Lent if you are looking for something to get you started, more explanation or to spur on some ideas: 40 Ideas for Lent 2014, by Rachel Held Evens

[Also, if you are taking on or giving something up this year, I'd love to hear about what you are focusing on.]

Friday, March 14, 2014

Connections and Habbits


I've spent a long time away from the blog, and it has been good for me. I went from a year of intensity to a season of searching and stillness (and back again through mini versions of the two). I feel like life swings between times when you want to share and between times when you want to snuggle your stories and your triumphs and your struggles deep inside you while you ponder what they mean.

I think that's good.

Yet, as another long Denver winter starts to turn to spring, I find myself with a surge of information in my brain. I am a collector of information and random tidbits. I love those Did you know... pieces of information. I love those lines of books or overheard conversations that make me pull my notebook out of my purse and write them down. I have been reading constantly, listening to new podcasts each week, and having meaningful conversations with fascinating people over the last couple of months. As all these bits roll around my brain, I have sensed connections.

I've been feeling this strong need to make these connections and to put them down in a way that is a bit more permanent than the orbit of random thoughts in my mind these days. I seem to keep having conversations with folks who have been trying to make these same elusive connections, too. So, I figure, let's just open this journey up.

I'm also looking for a way to make my writing more of a habit. Maybe the blog is familiar place for me to stretch that writing muscle. And, in the stretching of that muscle, maybe the connections–the stories, the triumphs and struggles, the podcasts and passages, the conversations–will cement themselves together in a more meaningful way.

Spring is stretching and seed planting season after all. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old Friends



I've spent a lot of time since USC ended catching up with old friends. Some of those old friends are poems. Here are two, one in English and one in Spanish:


Wild Geese
By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Caminante, No Hay Camino
Antonio Machado

Todo pasa y todo queda,
pero lo nuestro es pasar,
pasar haciendo caminos,
caminos sobre el mar.

Nunca persequí la gloria,
ni dejar en la memoria
de los hombres mi canción;
yo amo los mundos sutiles,
ingrávidos y gentiles,
como pompas de jabón.

Me gusta verlos pintarse
de sol y grana, volar
bajo el cielo azul, temblar
súbitamente y quebrarse…

Nunca perseguí la gloria.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…

Hace algún tiempo en ese lugar
donde hoy los bosques se visten de espinos
se oyó la voz de un poeta gritar
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Murió el poeta lejos del hogar.
Le cubre el polvo de un país vecino.
Al alejarse le vieron llorar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Cuando el jilguero no puede cantar.
Cuando el poeta es un peregrino,
cuando de nada nos sirve rezar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso.



Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons Learned

The metaphor which I feels works out best for what my experience has been like living, working and serving in downtown Denver is a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking is an intense, and sometimes dangerous, way to get things done. And, by the end of my year, my meat was surely falling off the bone.

I realized, though, a more productive way to think of it was that lessons were falling off the bone. Lessons, even when costly, can validate just about any experience for me. I knew I'd learned a lot, but I sat myself down and wrote some of the lessons from this last year down. It was a good way to process and validate (and laugh at) the year. 

So, without further ado, here's the slightly edited, and not nearly comprehensive, list. I'm sure I'll be adding to it for years to come:  


What I’ve learned:

· Patience (And that it is both hard earned and given as a gift)

· Expiration dates are very subjective

· About addictions—to substances, to people, to control… 

· Church politics, and of the toxicity which becomes easily involved

· The realities of homelessness 

· Leadership is imperative

· As is a grounded vision (for an organization, for an individual, for a church)

· How to walk through snow and ice (and not bust too often) 

· How to have no control, and not be out of control

· The work to decide on and find self-identity is not work wasted

· How to pour candles

· The importance of feeling safe

· Basics of drug use and the effects of different drugs

· How to make lip balm, lotion bars and soap

· The names of native Coloradan flowers

· The very basics of gardening—and that weeding is cheap therapy

· Burning candles can up the temperature in your room by 2-3 degrees

· Enough random facts about beekeeping and worm farming to sound cultured

· Sometimes the very best thing you can do for someone is make them a cup of tea and listen

· It’s very economical to buy wine in boxed form

· 88 is not as old as you think it is

· Routine smoke/”sunshine” breaks with people 40 years older than you can restore your sanity

· If people refuse the “peace” you offer them, shake the dust off your sandals and move on

· There’s no “fixing” people

· Hospitality is a state of mind

· Ancient mystic Islamic poets can change your life

· Boundaries and learning to say no will give you freedom

· Composting, and that watching the steam rise off of healthy compost on a winter evening is magical

· Being aware of your expectations and that others may have different ones can make all the difference

· Creative work is good for the soul

· Even when you think you shouldn’t have to, ask for what you need

· Be as patient with yourself as you are with others

· How to balance trays and bus tables for 1,000 plus guests

· That a handful of corny jokes will serve you well in many situations

· That not all situations are well suited for “niceness”

· How to break up fights, kick people out and be a bouncer

· That sometimes, breaking up a fight will earn you a best friend

· Mental illness is real and rampant

· The simple act of learning and remembering names can restore personhood

· People are remarkably resilient

· That some of us need to speak up more, and some of us need to shut our mouths every once in a while

· “Follow through” is the key to engagement (and the inverse is true as well)

· People often just want to tell their story and be heard

· It’s ok to cry with strangers

· How to consistently make meals for 10 out of leftovers and expired goods

· Gummy vitamins are not just for children

· Living no more than 2 degrees of separation from the entire homeless population of Denver will be a bit much for your immune system

· Sometimes, you just have to turn off the ringer

· You can live off of less money and with less possessions than you think you can…no matter how little you already have

· Never seeing the sun will make you sad

· Succulent plants are surprisingly not very difficult to kill

· In a pinch you can use electrical cords yanked from the wall to resuscitate someone

· The full moon makes people crazy. Don’t try to understand it, just plan accordingly

· The realities of SS, SSDI, AND and the patterns they create

· Vulnerability is courageous work 

· Gratitude is the gateway to joy and sanity 



Friday, August 2, 2013

The Guesthouse

I've read it at least 10 times this week, 8 or more times out loud for "reflection" at work this week, and I'm still not tired of it. The Guesthouse was a reflection from my first month at work, and it's stuck with me all year. I've had a copy of it on the magnetic board near my desk at home. I read it when one of my housemates was struggling with alcoholism. I read it on some of those Thursdays where I ended my work day with tears--sometimes from pure exhaustion, sometimes from the weight of the stories.  But also, I read it when I brought home a pink rose I picked off the back of a wall on the walk home. Just a couple weeks ago I read it when someone I knew was found a couple days dead in her apartment. 

The Guesthouse is the story of my year. A year of heartbreak after triumph after heartbreak. A year where often hospitality was all I had to give--and where sometimes giving that hospitality took all I had. But, I'm learning, that's what this being human is all about. So, on the eve of my last day, here it is once more: 


THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(By Rumi)