Sunday, March 31, 2013

Life...

Abundant life...

Indeed.

Out of the motley circumstances of life, out of the crazy schedule, the working to make ends meet, the navigating uncharted waters of blending lives emerges the radiant moments that brim to overflowing with abundant life.

Sometimes it is a solo moment, between me and someone else. Other times it is a family event where everyone is present, everyone's energy is blended and tangible.

Sometimes I am looking for it, grasping for life; other times it just shows up.

And to be sure, between those glittering, sparkling, gilded moments there is fear and anxiety, difficult conversations, tears, struggles. And it would be cliche to say, "It's all worth it." I am not sure there is any correlation. It just is...

Indeed.

Abundant life.











Saturday, March 30, 2013

Roots...

New life sometimes just shows up.

I have experienced it in my own life, watching life and hope emerge from the wreckage of a previous existence.

In the spring, new life emerges in every direction. Crocus and daffodils emerge from cold, barren earth. Dry, twiggy vines put forth leaf buds and tendrils and eventually fruit.

These pine cones are emerging on a short, awkward blue spruce that I bought as a Christmas tree the first Christmas after my divorce. Putting life back together meant living smaller, simpler, more sustainably. And so I bought a potted spruce that could serve as a Christmas tree for a season and the brighten the lawn. We left it potted for more than two years. When we moved into a new home and began establishing a new normal, the tree eventually got planted. It was seriously stunted, pathetic.

But it didn't stay that way. It took a while, but new life showed up - just like new life was showing up all around me, all around us.

New life shows up. Roots long buried bear new life - sometimes unexpectedly.



Friday, March 29, 2013

Far...

On the eve of my youngest daughter's 15th birthday, pondering the prompt - far, this picture bubbled to the surface, for so many reasons.

I find myself today far from where I headed in my early adulthood. Life has taken me on paths through the wilderness, paths uncharted and some full of wonder. Others have been hard. Some have been rewarding.

I am far from the financially secure, picture perfect Martha Stewart existence I once imagined (although to be fair, so is Martha these days....). Right now I am far from regular trips to the Carolina beaches that give me comfort. My kids are far from their innocent childhood, and so am I.

Amidst it all. In good times and bad, I know God has been in it all, ever present, even when obscured.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cup...

Watch the juice flow into the bread...

These children gathered on a rooftop overlooking a "yard" in which we had gathered with a host family. Walking to their home, we felt a bit like the pied piper, followed and surrounded by children of all ages, curious, eyes seeking contact, a language barrier keeping them from giving fruitful voice to their questions.

Throughout India, I was struck by our common links, by the creation we share, by the basic needs we have, by the ways we are the same. God's hand is in it all...

I connected deeply to so many who were so different, but with whom I share base common fiber...human love, human need, human curiosity.

Remember.

Re-member.

Join.

Melt.

This is the cup of joy...

Help...

Life is seldom easy. There are seasons of challenge, when no matter what we do, we just can't catch a break. Like quicksand, the harder we try to for ourselves, the more stuck we get.

While we were at Niagara Falls, I was enchanted by he power of the water. I mean, water tumbling hundreds of feet is powerful. But I think the scarier part for me was the rapids on the river for the mile approach to the falls. There is something about the way energy builds, slowly at first. Moving faster and faster, the wide expanse tumbles over rocks (boulders) and begins to roar. As velocity builds, the roar becomes thunderous.

When life is crazy, when the thunder is building, sometimes all I can do is cry out...ask for help...ask for God to step into the gap, to be present, to take the hits,mor at the very least, to tuck me under a protective wing. To be help in a time of great need...

Light

What is it about light?

Light sets a mood, it marks the seasons and time. It affects our well-being and makes things grow.

Light. We are charged with being light for all the nations. We are affected by light and called to affect others with light.

What is it about light.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

How do we harness light in the world around us, and then set it loose to light dark places? What is the spark that illuminates our created souls so that we can illuminate others?

God, help me be light that highlights beauty, that lifts others, that makes darkness disappear, that grows goodness and spreads joy.







Monday, March 25, 2013

Rejoice...

This photo recently showed up on Facebook. These are my siblings. Five of us, born between 1954 and 1969. We span two generational cohorts and are spread from DC to Saint Louis. We aren't often all together. This was taken at a wedding in 2007. Life has dealt each one of a crazy hand in various seasons of life.

We have a lot of differences...but we have genes in common. Cell memory is important, and I believe we are linked to our kin by deep bonds that we don't always recognize. One of our deep bonds was the complicated dynamics of parents. Below is the reflection I offered at my day's funeral in 2010. When I ponder rejoicing, one of e first things that comes to mind is the gift of roots...


When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.

You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, "Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us."

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.

When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders;
and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me."

You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor...

Recently, dad and I had a short, intense and deliberate exchange about what we believe. In these last few months, I felt really CALLED to ask him about what he believed...about his experience of God and creation that shaped who he was and how he lived his life. What I have come to realize over the last several years is that I did not get to be the person that I am by some mistake or by some chance or by any work of my own hand. I am fabric spun from the threads that I have been handed down by my father and mother and their fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers. And in these past few months, I knew that a primary source for understanding this was slipping away. A wandering Aramean was my ancestor.

I want to share with you not just some of the things that dad said about what he believed, but also the beliefs that he shared through his living out loud - the things I experienced, the things I know at a deep cellular level because they are so much a part of the way I was raised.

Of course there are the ordinary, everyday reality things, something I recognized as we drove across I-80 on Thursday - a merge on the highway is an "ooze" (although dad was not prone to "oozing" on the Dan Ryan), trees are shaped by the prevailing winds, cold-fronts arrive with brilliant blue, clear skies. I am pretty sure that as I walk through every day of the rest of my life, Dad will be right there with me speaking his knowledge of the world directly into my soul.

But there were also big ideas I take away from Dad's life.

Experience matters. Dad understood that the background for any relationship was never static. And dad kept growing into that new space, those changing circumstances, the new rules of engagement. Dad learned to love people and life as it presented itself. He grew. He was a lifelong learner, perhaps most evident in his relationship with his kids. He came to embrace each of us for who we were and who we were becoming.

Relationships matter. There is an uncomfortable passage from childhood to adulthood for the "parent" and the "child." Parents can wield the power to be right "because I said so" only to a point. And as dad aged and grew he also knew very well that sometimes he was wrong...or at the very least that he had possibly made a person feel like they didn't know. And so he would call..."hey, the last time we talked, I feel like maybe I hurt your feelings..." He modeled humility in that space.

Truth matters. We live in a funny time where facts and truth are sometimes at odds. Truth is not black and white, not always "definitive," but truth is tested by our experience and wisdom and relationships and truth can become part of our story. Dad held powerful truths. He believed in a God beyond our comprehension - in his own words, "My vision of God is of impossible infinity: impossibly large and impossibly small." He believed we tripped up badly - individually and institutionally - when we tried to comprehend God's power and bigness and Lord help us if we try to cash in and use that power and bigness for our own gain. And he believed that God's power was gentle. God is not vengeful – we create heaven and hell for ourselves and one another. If he believed in Armageddon, he believed it would be borne of our own self-serving destruction of God's creation. Dad believed that we are called to emulate God's love in the way we love others. Unconditionally. Without price or judgment. Perfectly. And truth be told, he held some much simpler, earthier truths. Snickers bars are best frozen. Ice cream is best when bitten with your teeth first. The Easter Bunny hides candy, not eggs. My father's wisdom was and continues to be like that of Solomon - practical, lived, revealed, ordinary. To everything there is a season...and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die....a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...a time to keep silence and to speak, a time for war and a time for peace. Knives are sharp, fire is hot, death is inevitable. These are basic truths. Not good, not bad. Just true. Mostly, life gives us what we put into it. And sometimes there are great tragedies. And sometimes there are great mysteries. And sometimes there is great joy. And it is - all of it - life.

My father is not in that casket...he is present in this room. He is in the very fabric of each of us gathered here. His legacy resides in the way we carry on from here - knowing that experience, relationship and truth matter not just to our own experience, but to our shared experience with the world.

"A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.
When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders;
and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blessed...

This is a novice doing laundry in the Mother House where Mother Theresa served in Kolkata. I was standing on a landing outside of the modest room in which Mother Theresa slept and attended to the business of the Sisters. As I turned to leave, this young woman caught my eye. She was much younger than other sisters milling about. She looked American or European. Her work was modest, washing the Sisters of Charity hallmark saris.

The Mother House was quiet and had a constant hum of activity that went on around the tourists and pilgrims coming and going.

The choice of radical service and simplicity seems so foreign to my Western brain. And yet, deep down, I could sense the abiding peace in this place...a profound dependence on God, a commitment to love and serve the least and the lost. Blessed are the pure of heart...

I pray to find such blessings.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Restore...

India was a place of dramatic contrasts. I had read about the poverty,but I was struck by how "normal" it all was...how unextraordinary it was in the context of the society. Sort of the way our posh suburbs are unextraordinary in their excess.

More than just restoring the absence of enough, there seems to be a need to restore excess to an adequate amount. I think that achieving more balance is the key to making sure we all have "enough." Our understanding of need is twisted by the abundance by which we are sometimes overwhelmed.








Alone...Friday's Post

I love the story of Mary lavishing nard of Christ's feet. Can you imagine the horror of those in the room? And then Judas' outrage is met by a young rabbis admonishment. Leave her alone.

These hands were installed in the museum at the Gandhi Smirti in Delhi. I was racing through, snapping pictures quickly as a guide rushed us around before the museum closed for the evening. I confess I didn't catch the interpretive purpose of their installation. But the are such a compelling sight - open hands outstretched, a gesture of receiving or of giving...or both.

I know that I receive a great deal when I share and give. It's not why I do it, but it is an outcome. I hope that I can continue to share myself, my time, my gifts, the things I have with the whole world. And I hope I am able to receive openly and gratefully what is given - giving and receiving are a basis for relationship. Hospitality is an act of love.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Home...

My mother still lives in the house I was raised in. They moved in years before I was born, on the day JFK was assassinated. The house has evolved over the years, but generally speaking, it is the same cozy story and a half cape cod on a large, shady corner lot lush with plants and green grass. When I return there, it is still "home." I have a cellular memory of the layout, the smell, the way the light changes throughout the day...

Matt's dad was in the Army. He moved a lot. He lived in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas. In February, we marked our fourth year in our home - the new record for the longest he has been at the same address. He cherishes our home, takes pride in its appearance, its function, its vibe. He is building cell memory - for himself, for the kids, for me, for our guests.

I am grateful to learn through his enthusiasm the gift of home.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beloved...

Meet Charlie and Nan. This picture was taken at our wedding in January 2009 at Kittamaqundi Community Church, where we had met them two years earlier.

Charlie and Nan loved one another devotedly. And they loved Matt and me and Brook, Emma and Paige. They loved every visitor and newcomer at KC. They loved their children scattered across the country in wildly varying lives.

And they were loved. We loved them deeply.

In the midst of adult life, we don't always find people outside our bloodlines who will embrace us, forgive us, wipe our tears and call us beloved.

Charlie died of pancreatic cancer in February 2011 within days of the first anniversary of my dad's death. Nan joined him beyond this earthly life in November 2012. She was tired of being alone, ready to be with her beloved Charlie again.

Charlie and Nan shared their faith boldly. They shared themselves boldly. They were life-changing souls.

Dream...

I haven't ever been much of an independent person...

No, really.

I mean, I am outwardly confident and like to be in control. But I have never been particularly risk-taking or adventurous. I have never really been one to grab for an adventure, to launch into the unknown, to reach for what I want. (Hey....stop laughing!)

So the idea of heading to India was really fantastic. As in a fantasy. Unbelievable. And my discipline in preparation was to avoid fear and anxiety. To step out toward adventure. To embrace new people and things.

I dream of approaching more and more of life that way. Without fear. Moving forward to find new and exciting discoveries. To be curious, to wonder, to enjoy, to revel....

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rise

The woman pictured below is Hilda Peacock.

She runs a school in India that is well known and esteemed. She is both the head mistress and teacher, and she's spent her life in education. Some students pay very large amounts of money to attend the boarding school well-known for fine teaching.

And other children pay almost nothing, their education underwritten by sponsors worldwide. These children, with dark Indian skin and light blue Anglo eyes are a cast-off class, sullied by relations between British colonizer and native Indians. In a society where caste orders all, these children don't even have a caste to call their own. But in this school, their life needs are met, their educational needs are met. And education offers hope for the future for these children. Education is their opportunity to get out of their unclassified life.

Mrs. Peacock is past retirement age. In fact she came out of retirement to take this job. She was not the first professional we met in India who had chosen to give up a season of leadership to do good work for people with need.

Mrs. Peacock knows that a good education is key to a better life. She is lifting children out of desperation toward something better.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

I am thirsty...a sermon for the 5th Sunday in Lent

This is our fifth Sunday exploring the final words of Christ from the cross. Last week, Pastor Jeff explored the painful reality that sometimes, we all feel abandoned by God – even Jesus felt that way as he uttered the words, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This week, in John’s account, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.”

No preacher in their right mind preaches on just three words. Very few want to tackle just two verses. And it is folly to do an entire Gospel. And yet there is so much to cover today…in part because these words, “I am thirsty…” provide a key understanding of John’s gospel and our relationship with God.

Let’s begin by going back to the first chapter of John.

In the beginning was the Word

and the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

The Word was with God in the beginning.

Everything came into being through the Word,

and without the Word

nothing came into being.
…

The Word became flesh

and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,

glory like that of a father’s only son,

full of grace and truth.

These words are typically read during the season of Advent. They are hopeful words about the Word becoming flesh to live among us. They are hopeful words that are a long way from the part of the story we are reading in this season of Lent.

John’s gospel was the last gospel written, late in the first century, perhaps as much as 20-30 years after Paul’s letters to early churches. While John’s gospel is recorded as if it was a first-hand account of Jesus’ life, it is written for a community some 50 years after Jesus’ active ministry.

With that in mind, it’s not exactly a news reporter account.

By the time this gospel was written, real theological conversations had begun. People who had not met Jesus, had not encountered Jesus, had not received their earliest exposure to Jesus’ story from one of the apostles, were trying to sort through recent history and second and third hand accounts to understand what was really happening.

Paul’s letters offer us clues as Paul shares with churches his belief about who Christ was and why his life, death and resurrection mattered. Think about it. Jesus was a mystery to his disciples as he stood before them. He had to be even more of an enigma 50 years later.

We’ve had 2000 years of scholars and church leaders arguing over this to shape our understanding, but these folks were just trying to wrap their heads around the recent past…and they didn’t have Wikipedia or Facebook helping them share and process and discover. (HA!)

Who was this Jesus?
Was he REALLY a man?
Was he a spirit who appeared like a man?
Was he JUST a man?

John’s gospel is a book written in part to help people see that Jesus was both the Son of God – divine and special - AND a human in whom God took on flesh to walk among us –
a man whose first miracle would be
to provide thirst-quenching wine for a wedding in Cana,
who would heal bodily illnesses and frailty,
and feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes,
who would need to take time away from the crowds to rest and to pray and to gather himself,
who would allow his feet to be washed in fragrant oil by a beautiful woman whom others dismissed,
and someone who would utter, among his last words, “I am thirsty.”

Sounds pretty human to me.

He would also be described as the WORD of God who was present at creation, call himself “I AM,” and speak a lot about his special relationship with his Father who sent him.

Jesus speaks very few words from the cross. Every word then is an important clue – an important indicator that points to something or maybe several somethings. In John’s gospel, Jesus uttered these words “I am thirsty” “in order to fulfill the scriptures.”

It has been historically understood that the scripture fulfilled here is an excerpt from Psalm 69 read earlier…
“insults have broken my heart.
I’m sick about it.
I hoped for sympathy, but there wasn’t any.
I hoped for comforters, but couldn’t find any.
They gave me poison for food.
To quench my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink.”

So it was important for the community for which this gospel was written to know that this Jesus was the Messiah – that this Jesus had connections back to the revered texts of Judaism – that this teacher and leader was fulfilling the prophecies of old.

But he is fulfilling the prophesies by having human needs.

I am thirsty.

It might be easier to imagine that Jesus was either fully God or fully human. It seems really hard to swallow that he could be both.

And yet John is working hard to help us see that he was just that – both; both important.

In John 8:58, Jesus is addressing some naysayers who are questioning who he is and what he does and his response is, “before Abraham was, I AM.”

This Jesus is BEING. Human BEING. And like God responding to Moses, he is I AM. Divine BEING. The presence of God with us...

Here he is dying an agonizing death, feeling pain, experiencing thirst. Bleeding.

About to die. About to breathe a last breath.

Jesus also spoke a lot about thirst in the gospel of John. In John 4, at a well in Samaria in the height of the day when no respectable woman would be there, Jesus asks the one woman there, one who has been married five times and now lives with another man to whom she is not married, to draw him some water to drink. His speaking to her is scandalous by standards of the day, but his promise to her is even more amazing. He promises her that those who drink the water he has to give will never be thirsty again. The water he gives will result in eternal life.

In John 7, Jesus invites the gathered to drink his living waters. He suggests that believers will become rivers of living water.

Why thirst? Why does the Son of God resort to talking about such basic need…thirst.

We cannot live without water. We can go a long time without food, but only days without water. Our bodies are mostly water. Our planet is mostly water. Water is a building block…it is gas, liquid, solid. It is itself something of a miracle.

What can we take away from our shared humanity with Christ? What do we do with a God who chose to take on human form, to live and die among us?

It would seem that the God who created us, who loves us and returns to us again and again, who wants to be in relationship with us also chose to understand us as bodily creatures – as human beings who walk and talk and hunger and thirst.

Now certainly there is a big Easter message in all of this – but we need to hang on to that for a few more weeks I think. We can talk then about the importance of a God who chose to be human, who suffered and dies and was resurrected after Easter Sunday, right?

The fact that Jesus had and understood human need should come as great comfort to us…and it should point us in a direction of how important human need is.


We need to get enough sleep. We need to stay hydrated. We need shelter. We need to love and be loved. We need affection. We need human touch.

And so does every other human being on this earth.

This is why we serve at Elizabeth House, why we work with Linkages to Learning, why we are striving to pack 50,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now on April 20 and why we will open our doors at least twice a month, starting on Maundy Thursday, to feed people right here in our community. Without questions, without requiring proof. Because we understand that we share humanity with Jesus and being Jesus to others demands that we meet human need.

Sometimes we get caught up in the wrong things, like James and John clamoring for the chance to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in glory. But we can’t go wrong when we are meeting and loving fellow humans as fellow humans – not as potential new members, not as potential new volunteers, not as “in” or “out”, “resident” or “alien”, “good” or “bad.”

But as human.

Like Jesus.

As we move toward holy week, knowing that we have to face Jesus’ death before we can gaze at Easter lilies and visions of an empty tomb, let us remember the very humanity of Christ’s suffering for us. A man, flesh and blood, scared and thirsty and feeling alone.

And let us vow to keep others from suffering that way.



God of Light, of Wisdom, of Companionship,
Help us see the places where human need goes unmet
So that we can step into the void
and love our fellow human
with your love
human love fulfilling human need.
Amen.



New...

When I pay attention, things show up.

Problem is, I usually have too much on my plate to really pay attention.

Because, well, you know...

There are dishes to wash and a husband to catch up with and books to read and papers to write and kids to drive and dinners to plan and laundry to do and Facebook to check. Next thing I know, I am falling asleep and waiting for the alarm to go off so I can start all over again.

Last spring, I went away by myself for a couple of blissful nights by the shore. I hung out in my tent at Cape Henlopen in Delaware. I had nothing but me time for sleep, reading, endless walks, deep breathing of ocean air. I journaled and whistled and generally just was. It was fantastic.

I need to find more time to set it all aside and pay attention. To my breath, to my body, to my soul. Because when I do, things show up.

New creation, for example.


Surround...

I have been really working on the understanding that I am enough. I love to remind others of that about themselves. I feel called to help others remember at they are beloved children of God, created with a purpose equipped with everything they need to bring about the kingdom of God.

It's hard to accept for ourselves that we are ok. That we are enough. That God loves us when we are hanging on by a thread every bit as much as when we are at the top of our game (and I might argue even more when we're clinging to a thread!).

These past few years, I think my greatest soul work has been to swim around is his idea of being enough. And when I look at those smiling faces in the picture below, I know that I am surrounded every day by love and grace and acceptance greater than I can fathom. Hard times show up. There are days that breathing is hard, and one foot in front of the other, I know I am lovable.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Temper...

Funny word, temper. It can describe the intensity with which we react. Or it can be the actions we take to modify a situation. I can have a quick temper, or I can temper my reaction to something.

In India, these two signs hung modestly outside the Mother House of the Little Sisters of Hope, the order which Mother Theresa led. It was a moving place. We quietly walked through and read about Mother Theresa's life, prayed and meditated and left prayer requests for the sisters to pray over at Mass.

Here in the spot where Mother Theresa prayed, led, read, etc., we are reminded not to spit. Holy place.

Temper yourselves, please.

Go...

I have been on a wild journey for nearly 8 years.

As I approach graduation and work on my candidacy for ordained ministry, I find it easier and easier to step into previously scary place to go forward.

With luck by May I will be a certified candidate for ordained ministry, and one of the amazing realizations at this point in the journey is that the more I place in God's hands as I move along the path, the more God shows up.

I am pretty sure God has always been there, just waiting for me to show up.

So here we go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Water...

My favorite part of the beach is the collection of beautiful tiny pebbles and shells and sea glass, worn smooth by the constant action of the waves. I absolutely treasure the glittery tinkling musical sound that these small pebbles make.

But I am also aware that on a blistering hot day, trotting across these gems to find the relief of the waters edge can be treacherous and painful.

God parted the waters of the reed sea so that the Israelites could escape Pharaoh. Sometimes God has to intervene to get us through the rough spots. Sometimes in the midst of hard thing it is difficult to really see God's grace and provision show up.

Like callouses on our feet that help get us beyond the sharp rocks... Like the cool relief of the ocean after trekking across a stretch of hot sand.

Escape. Relief. Grace.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy...

I am embarrassed that my favorite pictures for this prompt were all of food...because I love the variety of food in life, I love making beautiful food, I love feeding people. It just makes me happy.

I knew that in India, I would encounter new and amazing food. I also knew that I would encounter new and amazing people. I would have amazing conversations. I would see amazing things.

So combine food with all of the rest of that -- happy, happy, happy.

This is a shot of dinner at an amazing Bengalese restaurant called Kewpie's in Kolkata. Kojari Peacock arranged with the owner, who writes cookbooks, a beautiful multi-course traditional Bengali meal.

The feast was sumptuous, but even better, the company and conversation were amazing. The dishes were all made of clay - disposable and biodegradable. The aperitif was an amazing fresh mango drink, a concoction of roasted green mango and cumin. There were vegetarian dishes, fish and shrimp, sauce upon complex sauce. Spicy, sweet, rich.

I don't need a spread like that often, but I love good food paired with good people and conversation.

Life is good. And it makes me very happy.

Ate...

The real question for this post is "what nourishes you?" And I thought and meditated and pondered.

And here is what I uncovered. For 8 years, seminary studies have nourished me. And when I am being completely honest with myself, when I let my guard down and let the truth go, I am worried that what nourishes me is slipping away with graduation.

Now, I know it's not grades and classes per se, but exploration, engagement, interaction, learning. And certainly the process of pursuing a degree provided a structure and motivation.

And I love teaching as much as I love being a student, so maybe one task replaces another. Time will tell.

I am grateful for the recognition and awareness of this nourishing leg of the journey. And I am just plain grateful for the journey, the bumps in the road, the chaos, the revelation, and the unfolding...always for the unfolding.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Faithful...

This pigeon is foraging in a hole in the wall of the library at Bishop's College in Kolkata. I am not sure whether he was chasing bugs or seeking a crevice for a new home.

What faith...that this wall could yield something of creature comfort. But there was a lot of that in India. There were so may places where someone had made "a silk purse from a sow's ear." Houses were built from an amazingly diverse range of "building materials." Trash was combed over for the very lasts bits of usefulness.

What could the world around us yield if we had the faith to look and expect to find what we need?

Find...

When Matt and I were carving out a new life together, we adopted a garden plot in a community garden. Our plot came with a pre-existing grape vine, so even in the fall of our first months as we were removing several years worth of thistle and other weeds to prepare for the next season, there were beautiful red grapes to pick and eat...a foretaste of the kingdom.

Four planting seasons ago, we "adopted" Dot's house. Dot loved gardening, and the yard we acquired, like our community garden plot, was full of many beautiful pre-existing treats - lilies, Chinese cherry, ragged and overlooked blackberry canes. But there was no vegetable garden and no grape vine. At the end of season two, Matt planted two hopeful grape vines. Season three they limped along, but no grapes.

Last spring those vines were among the earliest signs of life and color we found. I love the was the leaves morph through fleshy colors like tan to beige to pink, then lavender that eventually fades to whit and silver and finally many shades of green.

And by high summer, those vines hung thick with tiny little grapes. And by August, those grapes blushed red and purple.

Those vines heard us questioning them. More an once they'd blown down in a wind storm. More an once we wondered if their real estate should be dedicated to greater productivity.

And the joy they provide is not just in the fruit, but in this range of life forms they represent throughout the year. Here on the earliest days of warm sunshine I wait to find the first swelling leaf buds, the first furry tendrils of life, the stunning colors that unfold day by day.







Thursday, March 7, 2013

No.

In the wilderness, the Hebrews received manna as they needed it, water from a rock, protection in need. They also experienced the absence of God when their faith failed.

Jesus introduced the cup of a new covenant in his blood. For what? What is the meaning of being in covenant relationship with God today?

Hear O Israel, The Lord your God is one. You are to love The Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.

We are created in the very image of God. As Imago Dei, the way we treat the rest of creation (all of it) is a direct reflection of our respect and love for our Creator. The way we treat the rest of creation reflects how we keep covenant.

Thank God for grace, eh? Because we are not very good at loving the rest of creation.

No. We fail daily to live into the new covenant. And God continues to reach out. I imagine with frustrated tears.

Forgive us, we know not what we do. No. We do not.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shadow...

There is something about a snow day...

An unexpected gap in the hum of life, not necessarily stalling, just a shudder or a hiccup. It is a chance to be grateful for shelter, for warmth, for good food, comfortable clothes, electricity, hot water. It is a chance to indulge in safety, insulation and creature comfort.

In a busy life, it is an unexpected but welcome deep inhale followed by a prolonged exhale.

Today served up one of those breaks in the action. It was a day for thinking and baking and cooking and writing and working and resting. It was time in the shadows of protective wings, safe, warm, sheltered, grateful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Night...

Look at those eyes.

They go on forever. Dark as night.

His feet were bare on a 40 degree day. He's growing up in a village where the community plants mustard and harvest it to produce mustard oil. The village Imam deliberates before a central fire with a hookah. This boy probably gets to go to school, unlike his sisters.

The adult who spoke with us shared his perspectives about American Christians. 65% of American children are born out of wedlock. Men in America may not have multiple wives but they all have multiple mistresses.

But how would they know differently? They live in a tiny village without vehicles. A bicycle, maybe a motorcycle, but in general they will only see what is within walking distance. How do we extend a hand of friendship?


Look at those eyes, dark as night...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bless...

It has taken a long time to understand that I am beloved and lovable just as I am.

In patient, authentic ways, Matt has helped me to understand that I am a beloved child of God.

He reminds me that creation is full of beauty, that moments are precious, that breath is prayer.

And in that loving awareness, life is full of blessing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thirst...

Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled...

I love the enthusiasm and bright-eyed simplicity and optimism of children. I wish we adults could recapture their spunk, their drive, their curiosity and wonder. Sometimes I think their clarity could cut through a lot of blockades that we encounter as adults.

Is week, I was discussing the complications of taking a passionate vision and translating it into action with a group of church folks. We worry about red tape and become frustrated when things take longer than we hope. We can't let go of our past experiences and the judgments we issue based on those.

It seems that moving forward requires a spiritual resilience - an ability to shed the weight of our jadedness and doubt to free fall into a space of clear-eyed faith and hope. I thirst for that resiliency and passion.

Leave...

Luke 9:35-43

This is one of those passages where Christ sounds really, really exasperated with the disciples. He's come down of the mountain where Peter and John have seen him transfigured and he's met by a desperate father whose child is possessed by a demon that the disciples have failed to cast out. Jesus is frustrated by the incompetence and by the dependence.

"You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you." In the very next passages he turns privately to the disciples to warn of the coming trials, but they cannot understand.

I am not Jesus. But reading this passage reminds me of the exasperation that parenting creates. I feel like there is always need, always more to be done, always trouble getting the message or lesson to sink in, all the while time pressures knowing that you do not have forever to shape these lives for the good of the world.

Because one day, far to soon, they step out into he world and claim independence. And as a parent, you fade.

Christ was going to face terrible trials and while he did, his disciples would scatter and make bad choices and do stupid things. And Christ knew that was the case. And still he had to walk forward with faith that as he took his leave, others would step into the void and emerge from a fog of little faith to live out what they had heard him teach and command.

Sometimes I feel like I am walking forward on faith that as I leave, my children will step up. They will. I know that. And it is still a little heartbreaking.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Prophet...

I am fascinated by the accessibility of photography for my kids. When I was their age, cameras were exotic, special. Now we have all these devices that help us capture, edit and share images. Digital photography is more forgiving, more rewarding, more immediate.

In general,mi worry that technology is ruining our social skills, our communication skills, our handwriting skills, our spelling skills. But I think maybe technology is enhancing our ability to capture vision.

As I have rifled through pictures for this daily post, I have been amazed by what I believe images have to say if only we take time to listen.

Images can speak truth beyond words, beyond time, beyond our ability to speak.

Prophetic pictures.