Gratitudes, Poems

Whom Shall We Trust?

During the season of Lent, the worship materials for the Mennonite Church suggest a more ritualized confession time, not particularly about confessing sin, but expanding it to confess what we believe. As part of the ritual, a few people each week are asked to come forward and bring their confessions in the form of a poem or a piece of art or a story or a reflection of some sort. Today, I have been asked to be part of the ritual, answering the question: “Who will trust in God today?” Here’s my poem:

Whom shall we trust?
When hurricanes and charlatans
destroy the weak?
When the meek are set
to inherit a world laid waste by greed?
When human need bats last,
long after lust for money, sex, and power?
Whom shall we trust
in this hour when so much has been lost?
When the cost seems too high
for such a simple thing
as resting in belief
that the Holy One has time
for grief about our trials and tribulations.

The pillars of the past no longer hold.
They’ve had feet of clay all along,
and wrong upon wrong upon wrong
has brought the ancient houses down.
There’s no more room here for illusion.

How, then, shall we trust?
Shall we just ignore the lancing fear
that tears our sense of safety from its moorings?
That bears us outward into territories
we’ve not known before?

Perhaps it’s not a matter
of ignoring what we face,
but rather an attempt
to place our anxious thoughts
within the context of the Greater Power.

I will put my trust in Mystery,
in that ineffable presence we call God,
in the Knowable Unknowing,
and in the One
who put on shoes like us
and trod the roads we walk,
and spoke as one who knew
the course of human suffering.
I’ll trust us to the Holy Wind of Spirit,
who hears our songs and knows our fears,
who causes us to rise, though we resist;
in our resistance fills our sails,
the wind that pulls against the kite
and makes us rise to higher height.

Perhaps nothing can be truly known,
no comfortable future gardens
sown with seeds of certainty.
But we can trust the certainty of seed,
the trusty breeze of Spirit
and the rains of the Creator
on these fields we bear within us.


Gratitude List:
1. The Little Sisters buzzing for pollen among the crocus and anemones
2. A fun afternoon of pond play yesterday with my kid
3. This man who makes the most amazing birthday cakes
4. The opportunities for my soon-to-be-teenager to learn to do the tech things he loves
5. Summer break is on its way

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Rivers of Life


I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.

I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.

There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.

On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.

And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.

Gratitude List:
1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?

May we walk in Beauty!


“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
*****
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
*****
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
*****
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
*****
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
*****
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
*****
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.

He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”

He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
*****
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
*****
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
*****
Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
*****
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman

Gratitudes, Poems

Stand a Moment

Gratitude List:
1. Sharing rainbows with strangers
2. Monarchs everywhere
3. The many years of shade the old Poplar has given this hollow
4. Good quick air-clearing rain
5. Tenderness and kindness are still to be found, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Tuesday When the Tree Comes Down:
“Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house. Ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace. It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard. Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.” ―Toko-pa Turner
***
“A child needs the same things a tree needs: Earth. Water. Sun. Air.” ―Unknown
***
“What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.” ―Wendell Berry
***
“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
―Barry Lopez
***
“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone & every flower, every bird that sings & every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees & the hills & the river & the rocks, in the sea & the stars & the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.” ―Kate Forsyth

Gratitudes

Voices of Young People

Gratitude List:
1. The strong, articulate voices of young people
2. Morning mists–such a sense of mystery
3. Driving to school in daylight
4. That colony of feral cats at the farm we pass every day. I am starting to pick out several individuals now. I love the person who keeps them well fed.
5. Lonesome Joe (or Handsome Joe) the duck, who paddles in his little pool, and stretches his neck to see up the bank when we pass by.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

The Holy in the Mundane

“You watch. The time has come. Women are gonna take charge of society. And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch. This [the Golden Globe Awards] is a definitional moment in the culture. It’ll never be the same going forward.” —Steve Bannon, according to Josh Green (Sounds about right. Let’s make it so.)
***
“Your job is to find the holy in the mundane, and, failing that, to create the holy in the mundane.” —Norman O.Brown (via Rob Brezsny)
***
“Real Presence is everywhere.” —Richard Rohr
***
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” —Henry David Thoreau
***
“There is an endless net of threads throughout
the universe. The horizontal threads are in space.
The vertical threads are in time.” —Rig Veda
***
“Beneath the snow and ice, the earth is waiting. In their beautiful little envelopes, the seeds are dreaming of you.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude List:
1. Masala Chai
2. Mysore Sandal Soap, how it makes the whole bathroom smell holy
3. The flour and rice aisle at the Everest Grocery–reminds me of the scent of little shops in Musoma
4. Kedi, the movie. I have fallen in love with the people of Istanbul. I think you should watch it, too. It’s a movie about cats, but it’s really a movie about people.
5. The mysteries that elude the religious people and the scientists, like the deep story of how a monarch finds its way to a place its grandparents left. Or whether there are planets out there somewhere that might harbor life.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems, Poetry Prompts

The Same Precious Love

Today’s Prompt is to write a “Whosoever __________” poem. I’ve been having a little fun today with friends doing some predictive text play, so I think this poem will be a sort of controlled predictive text poem:

Whosoever shall shake the valley
Whosoever shall meet at the crossroads
Whosoever shall I inform of the trees that bloom in the fall

Whosoever shall ramble in the meadow
Whosoever shall receive the message
Whosoever shall walk with Beauty

Whosoever shall linger in the forest
Whosoever shall dance with time
Whosoever shall speak the names of the Mystery

To her shall the valley be haven
To her shall the crossroads tell their story
To her shall the trees let down a crown of leaves

To her shall the meadow sing with golden pollen
To her shall the message be a word of grace
To her shall Beauty open its doors

To her shall the forest be golden and green
To her shall time whisper with longing
To her shall the Mystery open its secrets


Each of these quotes has a partner. The pairs sort of dance with each other:

“Both when we fall and when we get up again, we are kept in the same precious love.” ―Julian of Norwich
*
“What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved–what then?” ―Carl Jung
****
“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt
*
“If I had influence with the good fairy, I would ask that her gift to each child be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”
―Rachel Carson
****
“Your problem is you’re too busy holding onto your unworthiness.” ―Ram Dass
*
“In giving of yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love.” ―Cesar Chavez
****
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
―Eugene V. Debs
*
“I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too. Ma Joad: I don’t understand it, Tom. Tom Joad: Me, neither, Ma, but – just somethin’ I been thinkin’ about.”
―Tom Joad, from the movie Grapes of Wrath


Gratitude  List:
1. The Little PrinceBoth the book and the movie. I tried not to freak out the children with my weeping tonight when we watched the movie. I guess I knew what the whole snake part was about, but tonight it was so real, and I could hardly watch. Still, it was beautifully done.
2. The autumn sun slanting through autumn leaves of old oaks at the Masonic Home. Stone buildings with slate roofs. The smell of chocolate in the air. (Thinking of you and your family tonight, Miss Jan.)
3. It was warm enough for me to grade at the picnic table for a couple hours this afternoon.
4. A warm hat
5. An extra hour.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

The Practice of Peace

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
–Walt Whitman
*
“To live a life of peace, we must practice peace with all we meet, indeed, with the whole world. To practice this publicly, we consciously reject the chaos around us and steadfastly choose peace. Once we make that choice, a whole new journey begins.” –John Dear
*
“Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.” –many author attributions
*
“Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?” –Walt Whitman
*
“The universe may be a mystery, but it’s not a secret.” –Michael Schneider
*
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things that you fight for and then you protect.” –Wangari Maathai
*
“I like stories where women save themselves.” — Neil Gaiman
*
“Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)”
–Walt Whitman


Gratitude List:
1. Last night’s indigo clouds on a twilight background: A dragon flying to meet a witch, who held the crescent moon glowing in the palm of her hand.
2. Step by step the longest march can be won.
3. Red–an enlivening, heart-opening color
4. Knitting. I like to knit during conversations and public events, and I feel as though I am knitting the stories of the moments into the thing I am making. This winter, I will wear a warm hat that will contain yesterday’s stories from wise and resilient women, and the blessing of the babies, and the hard work of this season of my life, and an orange tree, and Dorothy Day, and two students who I am praying for in particular in these days. That’s going to be one heavy hat.
5. Laughter

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Heart at Rest


In the dream, I too looked directly at the sun. Gold-orange sparkles flashed out from the surface, crackling and twinkling in the air in front of the enormous orb. Was it my looking that caused the sparks, I wonder? And then I turned my face to the other side of the sky, and the moon hung over the horizon, bigger than a hundred moons, filling the sky with its silver face.


“Anyone who feeds on majesty becomes eloquent. The bee, From mystic inspiration, fills its rooms with honey.” ―Rumi
*
“A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.” ― John Ciardi
*
“The heart must be at rest before the mind, like a quiet lake under an unclouded summer evening, can reflect the solemn starlight and the splendid mysteries of heaven.”
―McDonald Clarke (1798–1842) New York poet
*
“How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God


Gratitude List:
1. Those owls. Every night now, my sleep is measured by the rhythm of the owls.
2. The new week is a blank slate
3. Even when the night is a tangle of sneezing kid and twisting dreams, there has been sleep, enough to refresh and renew
4. Interlocking rings of community
5. The ones who speak truth to power. How much we need them today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Seeking Mystery

When you walk into the rooms
where Mystery waits with an indigo hum,
listen for the thrumming
of hummingbird, feel the brush
of moth wings across your cheek,
watch for the scoop and swish
of a small brown bat
through the rooms
of your heart.

Unless you seek her,
you will not find her,
and the rooms where you wander
will appear empty
and devoid of beauty.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house. Ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace. It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard. Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.” ―Toko-pa Turner
*
“A child needs the same things a tree needs: Earth. Water. Sun. Air.” ―unknown
*
“What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.” ―Wendell Berry
*
“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
―Barry Lopez
*
“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone & every flower, every bird that sings & every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees & the hills & the river & the rocks, in the sea & the stars & the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.” ―Kate Forsyth


Gratitude List:
1. Waking up in the night to the sound of rain. Some of my best memories of childhood are of the sound of a morning rain on the tin roof of our house that overlooked Lake Victoria.
2. Time to organize and prepare. My parents have given me a couple child-free days in which to work.
3. Breath. How deepening my breathing shifts me into a calmer and less reactive space.
4. Weaving stories together. I know I offer this one rather often, but it appears in so many places in my life: in gatherings of friends and family, in the story-telling mornings at church, in the back-and-forth sharing on Facebook, sometimes in spontaneous moments with strangers.  One person begins to string the warp of a tale, then hands the thread to someone else, who maybe extends the story already begun, or adds a new texture and color of her own. Others join, adding contrasting strands of weft. Sometimes someone seems to cut the strands altogether, and we wait, and watch, and then a new pattern begins to emerge, and as startling as it is, it’s often just the right element at the moment. Real and vulnerable sharing allows us to weave our lives together in powerful ways. It’s one of the Mysteries, I think.
5. The blank space. The empty page. The moment of nothing. Note to self: You don’t have to fill up everything.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes

Day of the Monarchs

Monarchs mating. May your tribe grow and thrive, Brightwings!

“There is so much in eternity that is trying to reach us, if only we can suspend our wranglings long enough to be touched.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.”
—D. H. Lawrence
*
“Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomalous, which enabled life to use it as building material for its machinery. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.”
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893 – 1986) Hungarian-American physiologist; Nobel laureate
*
“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”
—Arundhati Roy
*
“God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice.”
—Naomi Wolf
*
“Follow the waters,
lean in with the trees,
breathe the cool morning air,
walk through the swirling mists.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude/Examen:
1. (How did you meet the Mystery?) Monarchs dancing in the field. A small person’s excitement to tell me that he and his dad had watched monarchs mating. May there always be monarchs.
2. (What brought you awake?) Hard work in the heat and humidity. I do want to be cautious about pushing myself out there when it’s so hot, but it does feel good. Strengthening. Working the body gives the mind and heart time and space for a different pacing.
3. (What is the message from your heart?) Listen. When there is clamor, when there is silence, when there doesn’t seem to be anything to listen to or for.
4. (What takes you into the Center?) Hints of magic and mystery all around. There is so much I do not understand at an intellectual level about the world around me, but sometimes my heart gets glimpses.
5. (What do you take forward?) The inner stillness. This is getting redundant, perhaps, but it is the lesson I am learning in these days of heat and humidity, of getting work accomplished and finding energy even in the lethargy induced by the weather. There is an inner stillness that can find its way from the moments of solitude into the clamor of the day. (Most of the clamor is pretty delightful, even when it’s bickering children.)

May we walk in Beauty!