Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Come away with me

Henri Nouwen once said in a sermon:
When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. For then your love for this world can merge with a compassionate understanding of its illusions. Then your serious engagement can merge with an unmasking smile. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place.      (Sermon text: Mark 1:32-39)

The past 48 hours I have been alone in a “Monk’s Quarters.” With comforts, I add. It belongs to friends who loan it to friends who need a come-away-spot. It is a gift I love – not only for the place itself, but because Denis encourages and supports my being in a place here where I find renewal. Even when I’m not even sure I’m doing the right things to make renewal happen. Like HOW early do I need to rise? Is sleeping in allowed? How much time in prayer? How many pages of serious reading before I can pick up that NYT Best Seller? Can I just stare over the balcony listening to bird song for as long as I want?
Tracking spiritual growth is difficult. Maybe we’re not meant to “track” it as though it were the Prime Interest Rate. Becoming more holy seems to happen when we’re not looking. Like the tiny wood anemone I saw yesterday as I sat on a bench in the woods. It is so diminutive it is barely noticeable. Suddenly your eyes focus and there it was all along.
Despite my shotgun approach to time away, God meets me with kindness; my successes and failures do lose some of their power and I can smile at them, letting them go. Then, for a while at least, I am ready to crack back into everyday life.
I wish I could give the same experience to so many of you who have little choice, being where you are with your obligations. But if the chance arises. Don’t hesitate! Grab it. Thanks for stopping by and for thinking along with me. Hoping/praying you have strength for days ahead.

Wood Anemone, Root River. Among first forest flowers to bloom in spring.

Wood Anemone. About 1/2" in diameter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Weakest Moments

 It has been weeks now since we have seen the sun. Among other things I have blamed the weather on my attitude. Which is one of scratchiness and resentment. My community (Denis and Anita) have been tiptoeing around me. I am at least slightly, if not clinically, depressed and a little confused. Constantly questioning what should I be doing? What have I done besides beat the pants off ten strangers who think I’m a guy in games of “Hangman” on my iPhone? (Someone should block me.) And seeming to end days having done nothing. That isn’t really the case when I give an actual account.

This morning I left the house intending to go to Dunn Bros Coffee to work, drove there, changed my mind, came back home, parked the car in the garage, left my computer bag on the trunk of the car because I didn’t want to carry it into the house or take it a block up to Caribou where I bought an Americano and returned home. Get it? For all of about six minutes, I risked leaving it right there in broad daylight. When I walked up the drive, OF COURSE, it was gone. I was almost 95% certain it was Denis who found it and took it in. (WHY is it that whenever you choose to do a foolish little thing like back out of the garage – even though you’ve done this easily one billion times- the day your husband stands watching, you smash the side-view mirror against the garage door???)

In my office, I sat down to collect myself and read the next chapter in the book O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God.  You are laughing. Don’t. I have a friend who is dying of stage four prostate cancer and also my mother is 83 years old – though in good health right now. I want to learn some things.

Chapter 10. “A Witness in the Way We Die” by John Eaves.  (Each of the 22 chapters are essays written by a different person.) John Eaves died in 2004 of metastatic colon cancer. This is from the last sermon he preached. It begins:

Life is not about us. Life is about Jesus and our witness for him in this world. It has taken me a lifetime to embrace this fundamental truth in all of its implications. It has also taken the same amount of time to recognize that our witness for Jesus is frequently manifested in our absolute weakest moments rather than when we are at full strength..”

It ends with:

In our weakest moments, God moves toward us and asks us to extend ourselves to others…

I was overwhelmed as I understood this is not just about end-of-life issues. There are universal implications that address ME where I am at today. So I am confessing. I don’t know how it can be that my weaknesses which are so petty and disgusting in the midst of things like dying of cancer or getting your legs blown off at the Boston Marathon can be of use to anyone?  But I’m here saying that, today, this is who I am. Selfish. One eye on the weather, the other on my coffee cup. I desire to be the person who sees and allows God to move in me and use me in the midst of my imperfections. I move toward you in this small way. I would be so very awe-struck and happy if this extends, somehow, to you who might read this.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rabbit Den

Our granddaughter, Manessah visited us over her spring break. While she was here she did a fun little project. On the landing going down to our basement there is an old, old fuse box on the wall dating back to when the house was first built. The old wires had been cut and the breaker box was moved to another spot when the house was rewired a long time ago. Inside, the box was dusty and dirty and a few ancient fuses lay along the bottom. A small 220 outlet box stuck in the middle leads to our electric stove on the other side. I had never thought of doing anything with it. Didn’t even ever clean it out.

Manessah decided it could be a secret little den. You could open the hinged door and surprise! there would be a little world living beneath the floors of Toad Hall – a tiny Rabbit Den. She fashioned furniture, painted a window, put up a clock.

She has gone home to Tennessee now and we miss her. It seems that life is never equally spread when those we love are far away. Our thanks to H. & P. who gave a gift ticket to make this visit possible.

The old fuse box with a hinged door.

Box clean, supplies ready.
Windows bring light. Good.

Hanging wall art.
Ready for living.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Secular Bio

I’ve been approaching a few libraries in our region letting them know that The Exact Place is available for their collection, meaning, would you please purchase one and shelve it for the millions of readers clamoring to read it. Anita (our assistant at Ransom Fellowship) has been an invaluable help in contacting and following up. Usually they ask me to donate a copy and I usually do.  Perhaps some readers will be inspired to purchase a copy – maybe as a gift for someone.  Perhaps library exposure could open the door for an author’s reading which would lead to response and discussion.
One thing on my to-to list this week has been writing a bio that would be appropriate for libraries, small shops and venues that include a few chosen books.  Places like that.  Some aspects of this that are difficult for me.  The challenge first of all is to get past me.  Blah, blah, blah me.  How do I write a bio without sounding neurotically self-focused?  Next is how to write it in such a way to hint that I’m a person of faith, but not a dangerous, crazy Christian.  It should sound professional, but also be personal.  IT must be interesting, but not too much detail.  It’s best to be brief.  Like around 100 words or less.

I remember an editor chiding writers: why would you take all the time and effort to write a book and then think you can whip off a summary and a bio in ten seconds.  So after much deleting and drafting, I’ve come up with this.  Comments and kind criticisms are welcome.

Margie Haack lives in Rochester, MN with husband Denis, on a small urban lot where she tries to attract bumble bees and hummingbirds with marginal success.  Nature and place connect her to the spiritual geography that has shaped her life.  Margie’s writing includes a quarterly publication of personal essays – Notes from Toad Hall, and her work has appeared in ArtHouseAmerica, The High Calling Blog, Washington Institute for Faith and Comment Magazine.  She recently shattered a platter, sucker her socks into the vacuum cleaner and backed into a parked car proving that safety lies in writing more and leaving the desk less.  You can find her blogging at Toads Drink Coffee.

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing.  I trip ahead hoping God will continue to extend mercy as I go.