Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Honeysuckle and son drink together

     And so it goes. Unquenchable thirst. On and on and on and on. Two of Honeysuckle's sons are left. Jack-in-the-Pulpit awaits his new home. Jake and Joie Meador will be here for the L'Abri conference Feb. 17 and 18 and he will go home to Lincoln with them. Blackberry, the remaining son does not have a home yet. So if there is anyone out there who would like a clever little guy who can nibble your shoes and eat your apple cores and jump a barrier all at the same time ...  you may apply for ownership.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life is like this:

Our six-year-old granddaughter, Paige-y, came home from school the other day and told her mom she had the worst day of her life. When asked why, she replied that on the school bus on the way to school she had eaten her snack. She said, “It looked so good, I ATE it.” So when snack time came around she had nothing. Thus: “The worst day EVER!”

At the end of the day, with no one to blame but ourselves, when we find our snacks are gone,  we are often mysteriously blessed with mothers who replace them overnight.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Illuminating the unknown way

We have friends, David & Naomi Wenger, friends I’ve never met, who direct TheHermitage – a place of rural beauty in southern Michigan. A place of retreat, prayer, silence. In their recent letter Living the Hermitage Way, David wrote these words which I would like to heed and apply. Perhaps you would, too. And though it sounds simple , – “we don’t need to hold on to our work, we simply do it” – I must often, a hundred times a year, try to reestablish the rhythm of work and rest that God prescribes for my life, which, of course, is going to look different from yours.
A recent volunteer likened The Hermitage to a dairy farm. He said the rhythm here is as steady as a farmer’s milking schedule and the work is never done. He asked the question we hear repeatedly, “How do you do it all?” Of course, the answer is, “We don’t do it all.” But still, we do plenty. So when pressed further we go on to say, “We begin each day in the chapel with Morning Prayer, we stop our work and eat at regular intervals, we take a walk, we sit still, we finish our work at 5:30 and leave what is undone for another day. We take a weekly Sabbath, we
sometimes leave our work for others to tend and go on retreat and vacation.”
It often feels like an unsatisfactory answer. How can any of these practices contribute to getting things done?
The Hermitage Affirmation prayer liturgy refers to this rhythm of being as a “framework to live our discipleship.” The framework provides an order in which to move through our days; it is the liturgy of ora et labora, prayer and work. Whether our morning liturgy (meaning “work of the people”) is in a barn with cows or a chapel with candles and scripture, there is a comfort to rhythm that quells the troubling thought, that illuminates the unknown way, that quiets the excess of demands. The familiar framework holds us so we don’t need to hold on to our work. We simply do it.

Thank you, David and Naomi.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ten favorite moments of 2011

1. When Anita walked in and announced, “Honeysuckle had ten babies last night!”
2. Learning that people who hate cilantro lack an enzyme which makes it  taste like soap. Too bad.
3. On a day when Ransom’s coffers are dry; a large-ish check arrives to help out with bills.
4. Ava Lou, our two-year-old granddaughter, empties all the salt and pepper from the shakers, then eats most of it.
5. When Denis learned he’d brushed his teeth after I’d dropped the toothpaste container in the toilet.
6. The William Baffin Climbing Rose is climbing and blooming 4 weeks after being planted.
7. Harvesting, shucking, processing three wheel barrel-loads of our own sweet corn at Heartbeet Farm’s.
8. Pulling a volunteer marijuana plant nearly as tall as me from the sidewalk flowerbed and using it to garnish a mojito for Sandy O.
9. Watching the The Princess Bride with seven-year-old grandson, who thought it sounded like “a movie for girls!”
10. That Jesus loved me even as I envied someone with a perfect life and hair.

                               Honeysuckle's naked bunny babies
                                      Ava tries on her mom's mascara
                                                    Denis shucks corn
                                                   Mint mojito
                                          Toad Hall painted

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year - with Leonard Cohen

January 1. 2012. Am still alone. In the quiet of this evening spent with Leonard Cohen watching the concert video again – Live in London. Cohen is in his 70s, a gracious man, and this is obvious as he kindly and often turns to members of his band to praise and introduce them. It's uncanny. His smile is so like Jerram Barrs, another hero of mine. I’ve always loved his music from the first time I heard Suzanne Takes You Down years ago, sung by a young woman who lived in our commune. It was so different from the Christian choruses I grew up with, or any other music for that matter – it was mysterious, sexual, beautiful.

This concert is filled with common Grace and Truths that are powerfully strung in Cohen’s poetry and music. Though I’m quite sure he doesn’t share my faith, still through his art, he does me great goodness. I am linked to spiritual concepts that can sound weak and boring if I tell you them outright. Like: “Believe me, one day things will be different. Jesus is coming back to fix things.” Well, yes. He is. And I believe it, but how to express it?
When I listen to Cohen sing one particular song -  Democracy  everything together – the inexorable rhythm, the drum of time, the lyrics, the wind instruments that march on, the voice harmonies that rise – I sense in its richness this is a little like how the Holy Spirit might come to us. On the day when Jesus returns, when all injustice, and illness, and the poverty of people, and the dearth of shelter and love, and the corruption of nations; people everywhere will see that Someone coming through all the static. If “Democracy” is what this poet wants to call it, that’s okay. But, to me, “Democracy” speaks of Christ. About the longing to have things be right, of being human and made whole in  our essential selves, our bodies, in our loves, “We'll be going down so deep / the river's going to weep, / and the mountain's going to shout Amen!”
            Perhaps you’ll give his work a listen one day and join me in my obsession?

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Faithful in All he does

 One of Honeysuckle's boys falls asleep in the stable.
Today didn’t seem like Sunday, January 1, 2012. I’m without a car – holed up in Toad Hall.  Feeding Honeysuckle and the last two boys left in her litter, drinking red wine and eating chocolate by myself. Denis is in St. Louis and Anita is visiting Marsena in Chicago. I stayed home from church. I could have called a friend to pick me up, but I was not feeling my best, so just as well. No!  ONE glass of wine does nothing except be “good for the stomach.”
I suppose a lot of us have fleeting urges to review and reflect. I do. But I learned long ago that making New Year’s resolutions is plain stupid. It’s not that I don’t try. Anyway, since there was no one around to blame for my adult attention deficits, I settled down with coffee to reflect and write.
One of the important things to came out of this is a Psalm I’ve probably read dozens of times, but today it sounded all new and like I should read it everyday this year so I can remember what it says. Here is part of Psalm 33: 

     For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all [All!] he does.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full [Full!] of his unfailing love.
The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
     No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
                We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.             In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”

I  think the death and famine David writes of could be both literal and not. That in life, things, dreams, hopes, not just bodies, die. Jobs vanish. Friends move away. Families disappear or never were. We are often famished for people and things we can’t reach, or don’t have. Death and famine can make me everything from desperate to numb to hungry to resigned. God knows this about us. That’s why he is so careful and caring to give us words like these that reorient our hearts and reflect realities we often forget. I’m hungry for words such as these – for help. It is God who keeps us alive, who is unfailing in his love for us.
This past year I reckon there were many ways in which God met us unexpectedly both in famine and in death. I was given things I don’t deserve. I was loved by people who I think, if only they knew me better… well, some do know and still. I’ve found things I thought were lost forever. I’ve heard music that made my stunted little Presbyterian heart rock ‘n’ roll. It seems a little ridiculous to keep on listing. But I’ve made my private account of the times. I’m keeping a record and I’m trying to be thankful for once. It’s scary to wait for God, to be patient, but it’s what I want to do.
A lot of friends read this blog, and I think of you, and of others I may not know. What I wish for you and pray is that you would find that this year – in ways you can’t imagine now – that God is with you in all your days and that he will save you not in the way you expect, perhaps, but in ways that will cause you to know that he is the one who loves you most and can make you live.