Belonging at the Table


I’m pretty sure it was the bread that made me weep. The cup was on the table, but there was no bread. (Truth be told, I was already in tears by that time, from the moment of the offertory song:
“She’s got the whole word in her hands.”)

“Today’s bread comes from all around the world,” they said. But where was the bread? It was not the lack of bread that made me weep, but the bringing of it. As they spoke of pita, and the Syrian people who have been caught between warring fronts for seven years, a mother brought her children and pita to the tables, children who have relatives in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor and a country healing from its own civil war.

Then while a mother and her child brought tortillas, the bread of her homeland Honduras, to place upon the tables, they reverently recalled to us those from Central America who have suffered, whose children have been torn from parents’ arms when they come to our borders seeking safety.

And then while a father from Indonesia brought his son with steamed Indonesian bread for the tables, they spoke of the tsunami and devastation.

They reminded us of Puerto Rico and of hurricanes and of how it feels not to be believed when you tell your terrible stories, and a grandmother and her small one came forward with a baked loaf like we eat in the United States.

I thought perhaps I couldn’t take Communion today, I who want nothing to do with so many who call themselves followers of Jesus. I thought perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps the anger would keep me away from the table. Until the table was filled with bread and tears. Until grief stepped in to the place of anger, and I, too, felt like I belonged at the table.


Gratitude List:
1. Gingerbread Cookies. At our school auction, we auction off gingerbread cookies. The cookies represent students in our system, and people bid on them to donate money to increase our ability to offer financial aid for students. They were some of the highest priced items at last night’s auction. I am blown away by people’s generosity.
2. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. Not sure why I am finding a post-apocalyptic feminist novel quite so comforting in these times, but I am really caught up in listening to it.
3. Rage and tenderness. Kindness and anger.
4. Rituals that bring healing as well as marking it. “She’s got the whole world in her hands.”
5. Fall weather. All two hours of it today. Really. I know it’s coming.

May we walk in Beauty!

Cool Air

  

Gratitude List:
1. The large list of students who signed up to take the ASL Club that our deaf student is leading at school.
2. Breaking through the walls. People wear walls on their faces, and the walls are meant for protection, but they hinder belongingness and tenderness and community. I don’t think I am good at knowing the exact thing that will break through a wall, but yesterday, two of my attempts were successful, and the joy of those moments of connection with hidden souls made my day.
3. COOL AIR!
4. Kind words.
5. The Resistance. Keep resisting, keep pushing for kindness, for goodness, for compassion, for community, for humaneness. You give others heart and hope whenever you stand against the tide of unpleasantness and crassness and greed. You may not always feel it, but thousands are standing with you.
6. (Did I mention cool air? I can think better in cool air.)

May we walk in Beauty!


“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.” —Naguib Mahfouz
*****
“Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.” —Joy Harjo
*****
“Everything I love most happens most every day.” —Howard Norman
*****
“I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
hope
and baking powder are:
quietly
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
awakening
the hint of eternity
within.” —Macrina Wiederkehr
*****
The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
*****
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth
*****
“Death is an ascension to a better library.” —John Donne

Sacred Circles

Gratitude List:
1. Sacred Circles: Family, friends, communities
2. Laughter and tears in the sacred circle
3. Sharing Stories
4. Birds: geese, hawks, flocks of little birds, lone crows flying above wintry fields
5. A very faint sun dog in the clouds on the way home today

May we walk in Beauty!

The Doorway of the Dark

young

Now we enter the doorway of the dark, step across the threshold of the year into the dreaming time, the time of release and letting go, the time of journeying to the underworld.

In spiritual and community traditions across the globe, this is the season of remembering, of bringing to mind the ones we have loved who are no longer with us. It is a time to hold to our griefs close to our hearts, and to release them to the winds, like leaves. Some say that these are the days when the veil between worlds is thin, when our connection to those we’ve loved and lost may we stronger, more real.

Yesterday in my church, this took the form of a ritual of memory and grief. We came together and we spoke of loss, and we remembered together. We lit candles and we heard story and we sang.

For the past couple weeks, the robins having been settling in at the dusk each evening here in the hollow. There’s a wild chattering in the treetops, and the wingfolk draw a complex web of lines across the hollow, sailing short distances from tree to tree, tree to tree. It’s like a playground full of excitable children.

What would our webs look like, were they all made visible? Connecting point to connecting point–what lines are drawn between ourselves and those who have gone before, between ourselves and others in the world today?

I draw a line between myself and my first immigrant ancestors, the Weavers leaving persecution in Germany and settling on farms in the Weaverland Valley, invited to grow crops and flourish in this good soil, the Schlabachs making a similar move to Ohio’s fertile plains. What did they know of the ones who had farmed the land before them?

I draw a line between myself and the Water Protectors on the Dakota plains, from the Susquehanna, river of my heart, to the Missouri, whose waters are endangered by the black oil snake that approaches nearer with every passing day. I draw the line to their ancestors, the First People on these lands. This line travels through broken treaties, through colonial suppression, through Wounded Knee, through Little Big Horn. Their work today looks oh-so-frighteningly similar.

What does it mean to come from a persecuted people? To identify as the descendant of those who were forced to leave their homeland in search of safety? That is the story I live by.

What does it mean that those very travelers, those refugee wanderers seeking safety and freedom to baptize as they believed–what does it mean that they settled land where others had lived and hunted and wandered?  Did they have words or concepts to explain Manifest Destiny, Doctrine of Discovery?

Today as I stand on this threshold of the season’s darkness, I will remember back before my memory. I will hold the connection between myself and those hopeful refugees from the pain and trial of the old world to the new. I will not excuse or explain away their settlement of fertile valleys, their claim of land which had once been free.  I will neither take one the shame nor dismiss it. I am their distant daughter, as the ones who stand for Water in the Dakotas are the distant children of those who moved across these lands, belonging to the land rather than claiming it for themselves.  Today we draw new lines. We make new patterns, new webs firmly anchored to the old ones. We wing our way into the dusk, like those robins, connecting point to point, idea to idea, memory to memory, grief to grief, until we have a web that will hold us as we move into the season that approaches.

Gratitude List:
1. Tears of joy and relief
2. Tears of sorrow and release
3. How the trees are letting go
4. Circles and webs of caring
5. Community rituals

May we walk in Beauty!