Thursday, December 04, 2003



dave's moved this blog on over to www.jenlemen.com while i've been cleaning. one room down, fully organized, three more to go!

Monday, November 24, 2003


lament of a wallflower

oh dear. i think i lost my prayer book, and i've only been praying with it for two days!
i think of all the unspiritual places i might have left it--ikea?--which is the size of germany. on top of the car--when i was putting kids in their carseats? is someone behind the big blue box right now, smoking a cigarette and reading the prayers for midday? i'm going to need a cigarette if i don't find it.
this is the problem with me and orthodoxy.
i'm just so damn unorganized.
oh well.
i'll just have to pray over my pots and pans like brother lawrence
and hope i'll get another chance
to dance

Sunday, November 23, 2003


the dance of the divine

the house is still now, quieted by the hours of darkness now slowly lifting. i can hear dave's breath, rising, falling, heavy with slumber. i can see the light rising, making silouettes of my trees, the beauty of fractals on a morning sky. i light my candles and sit down at my new table to pray. the smallest spider you can imagine joins me, casting her web dangerously over the candles edge, unaware of the deep canyon below and the tiny flame lending light to her task.

morning is coming.

i read my prayers this morning from The Divine Hours. i do not craft my own. i wait instead in silence, straining to hear the echoes of the saints praying with me over centuries, over continents. i've never done such a thing. i feel like a child at her mother's side in the mass, studying her every move and trying to follow in the dance of the saints.

i am becoming ever more aware of this dance, and i want to learn the beauty of its sway.
i don't want to be a wallflower, a cozy intellectual who critiques but never dances.
i want to be held in an embrace that makes me weak in the knees,
and i want to move like magic through the host of other dancers
with beauty and grace
i want to be led in ways that surprise me
and i want to concentrate to follow, to not miss the moment i will be dipped or twirled
in pure ecstatic joy

before my sister got married, she and her fiance went every sunday night to a friend's house to practice their first dance. derek would be in shorts with his dress shoes in a bag, and kris was happy every week just for the chance to have the excuse to pull her shoes out of the box and bask in their beauty. what wondrous, glorious shoes! bruce and mary were their instructors, and having been married a couple times prior to this true union, they were rich in the kind of wisdom that includes everything--from how to fight fair to how to dance. week after week, they played the same music, and showed their students the steps. derek danced in his dress shoes and shorts, and kris bore holes through derek's eyes, trying to move in harmony with his every step.

on the day of the wedding, the whole room fell silent as kris walked into derek's arms for the first dance. she never took her eyes off his face, and as the song slowly faded with their last perfect steps, you could hear bruce and mary cheering. they had been watching with their toes on the dance floor, their eyes sending out the signals, even though kris and derek no longer needed to look.

i feel like the girl who just bought the shoes, and every night i insist we all just sit down and have a little worship session. aren't they beautiful? can you even imagine how pretty they'll be peaking out from my dress when i'm dancing? i dream about the day i'll dance in them like a bride on her wedding day.

so here i am...my prayer book in hand. i want to move in a new way. i want to learn the steps to this ancient dance. and i hope as i'm mastering them, a new kind of beauty will pour out of my soul. a beauty that steadies my step and lifts up my head in focus and in joy.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
from The Divine Hours

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and the Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2003


a prayer for questions

savior of all

resurrect in me
the courage
to forsake knowing

awaken in me
a wonder
that renders me

astonish me
with a simplicity
too wonderful
for explanations

free me
to see all things
and wild

quiet me
at the silliness
of my own wisdom

leave me

empty of answers
but full of the questions
that drive me
deeper into the adventure
deeper into the wonder
that is



we took carter to get his hair trimmed today--trimmed, i tell you--and the stylist turned my blonde lion into a civilized boy! i am so bummed, let me tell you. dave was looking on while i buzzed around at neighboring shops; when i came in to assess his progress, it was too late. dave thought she was cutting per my instructions and since he's been lobbying for some time for the taming of our wild man's mane, he figured i had finally come to terms with carter's impending graduation from babyhood to boyhood. not so! i am so sad. madeleine (who is in a constant state of torture because of the neverending hair worship from family and strangers alike) couldn't be happier, and carter keeps shaking his head wondering i'm sure what happened to all that hair. the rest of us are in shock. we forgot what carter's ears looked like.

i told her she could take off some length, but she thought i meant i wanted it tapered in the back. huh?? i'm not sure how this translates. so there i am, scurrying around the salon, looking for long blond curls on the floor to press in carter's baby book. so sad! the good news is that they refused to let us pay, and the manager agreed to credit the stylist since it really was a misunderstanding. now we just have to wait and see if those curls are gone forever.


quote of the day

What kinds of questions are worthwhile?

Questions that open to yourself your own vast ignorance; questions that reveal your smallness and weakness; questions that cast you down in awe; questions that raise you up in worship.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
from The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives

stream of consciousness on kids and God

maybe in our various approaches to children's religious instruction we have created some false impressions
that God is a body of facts to master
that God is a brand to acquire
that God is a product to be consumed
that God is a commodity to be brokered
that God is a legal proposition to be applied
that God is understood by adults
that the God of childhood is somehow different from the God of adulthood
that God is quantifiable
that God can be co-opted for personal gain or at a minimum, personal gratification
that God is controllable
that the point of knowing God is to become civilized, measured, reasonable, polite, tame

what i am proposing here is not an abandonment of creed, sacrament or catechism; instead it is the acknowledgement that the creed merely memorized lacks the transformative power of the grand canyon, or a starry night or a shared mission, fulfilled and beautifying the earth.

we see questions as an invitation to supply answers and we insist that our children master a Christian worldview, a closed set of propositions that leave no room for mystery or a work of God in the world that is continuing to develop
don’t hear me saying that children need not be certain of their faith; that this just be a mystical existential journey; nothing can be farther from the truth. but as we open ourselves up to wonder; as we engage in fundamental questions and as we wrestle with God, we teach them surety by our own faithfulness. i.e. I do not know this, I have no answer, but I know this is the right struggle, I know that God who inhabits and embodies all is delighted in my engagement, my wonder. I know that He, the creator of the entire universe, the one who is so grand that he cannot be contained in heaven, but instead spills out into the whole world, He is the one who holds me in my questioning, and this curiousity spurs me onward to seek him more and more, and to find him again and again, in the simplicity of joy, the beauty of service, the majesty of the morning sky.

The questions are the journey and the answer is Christ, the Creator, Himself.

We ask questions and by doing so do not proclaim our cynicism, but instead our humility. We do not know. He knows. As we seek Him, we find Him and as we find Him, we must have more and more of Him, and so our love increases and grows and explodes until we find in ourselves a deep love for all things He loves and so even as we seek, we are following, trying to discover the beauty of His presence, trying to recover beauty in every fallen thing, and so we become his partners, his agents of redemption and grace.
we cannot do this properly without awe.
we cannot do it without wonder.
we cannot do it without a sense of our own tinyness in the grander scheme of things
we cannot do it without being children

we need children of soul and spirit
just as we need to recover soul and spirit ourselves
we need to be a people whose right answers run in broad strokes and do not assume mastery over the complete knowledge of God or the christian faith

we need children in quiet awe of their creator, just as we ourselves need to be silenced in beauty

the thing is; this kind of child is not produced, this kind of child is nurtured, encouraged and preserved in a state of perpetual childlikeness, the kind of childlikeness that jesus said was required to enter the kingdom.

in reducing children's religious education to verses memorized or we cheat ourselves of an opportunity to recover something essential and more powerful than information, and that is this:
the compulsion to worship
the compulsion to bow down
the compulsion to lift our eyes in awe
the compulsion to soak in the presence of God
to understand that we are terribly small
even as he in his utter immensity inhabits all things,
as near as our very breath

Thursday, November 20, 2003


cornbread, chili and kindred spirits

yesterday rachelle called and suggested we get together at my house for a little cornbread and chili. she said don't worry i'll bring everything. i looked around at the horror, swallowed my pride, and said, "c'mon." if we're going to do life together, we'll just have to get over all this clutter and chaos polluting the landscape.

it was a fun night. i washed dishes while rachelle chopped on my right and dj cooked on my left. laura joined us in her sweats/pajamas uniform, and madeleine made complicated signs forbidding any adults to enter the kids room where we set up a little table for jeremiah, madeleine and carter to eat. we inaugurated our new table in the living room (a big deal for us--we've been tableless in our 650 square foot apartment for two years!) and laura and i made rachelle bring in her new sarah mclachlan cd for dinner music. the kids (mostly madeleine to tell the truth) interrupted us a hundred times and the phone rang at least fifty, but the conversation was great and i put my head on the pillow that night and thanked God for true friends.

we first met dj and rachelle at emergent summer institute 2002. rachelle was the artist-in-residence and deej was there to soak in the atmosphere every night after work. that was the summer ray and josh helped us transform the porch and we had the emergent folks over en masse more than once for barbecue ribs, beer and dave's homemade salsa. rachelle and dj just made it a point ever since then to keep up with us, making connecting times easy and fun. they've seen us in the depths of despair while we tried to keep on a happy face, ready to kill our kids and each other, and they're always ready to hear a story or find some excuse to eat together to make our burdens lighter.

in many ways rachelle and dj have both been my cheerleaders. dj is totally accessible, he knows just enough about just about everything and he'll give you the scoop without fanfare. dj's one of those people who actually means it when he talks about diversity or the importance of every voice. he's nudged me along about blogging and talking about church and i just love the way he glances at the ceiling when roo is being especially dramatic.

now rachelle, sweet jesus, this woman is a true artist. she lives and breathes color! texture! image! vision! beauty! her soul starts to shrink in the suburbs and please, please do not ask her to live her life without full ascent to all the beauty the eye can imagine. beauty is rachelle's oxygen, and she takes it in everywhere she goes. when she gave me her wrinkled copy of the artist's way, i was wrecked for weeks. i had no idea until that moment how much i was rejecting my creative nature. in an instant i understood so much of my sadness and struggle over my whole life. rachelle anointed me a fellow artist, so now i think about myself that way and i look for every moment I have to fulfill my creative calling.

soon--and i still am just in awe when i think about it--we are going to have a big printing day together. in an act of spiritual practice, rachelle has set some of my prayers in type for letterpress. one letter at a time, over hours, thinking about the holiness of words uplifted to God. can you imagine? when i think about it and all the love that must go into that act of worship, i remember the iconographers from Byzantine, how they labored over those images, the weeping Jesus or Mary, holy mother eyes downcast. they believed that the act of painting itself brought them closer to God and so it became a holy, cleansing work. isn't that beautiful? right now, people are sitting around in conferences trying to figure out how to integrate faith and art. it would be so much easier to just lift the door on rachelle's garage; there holy work happens every day, and i for one, have been deeply blessed because of it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


the bread of kindness and the blessing of passages

my mind is spinning this morning. in a few short hours, i'll go bear witness as a woman brings her first child into the world. it's a scheduled induction in the hopes of having a smoother thanksgiving and every intervention is planned. it's going to be a day deep in technology, but i hope we can find the real, redeem the sacred, to fully celebrate this birth.

but that's not what has me going this morning. it's the idea of being a spiritual doula. and our desperate need to consecrate simple ordinary things. we are longing for the holy. we want it for ourselves and our children in more ways than we could ever put in words. we want these passages--like pregnancy, birth or death even--to be more than experiences of technology or passivity.

so, what if...we mentored women in the church and taught them how to recapture the dignity and holiness of these moments with intentionality and purpose? when you get pregnant, someone could come and lay hands on you and your partner in prayer, connecting you from the very beginning to the spiritual nature of the work to come. someone could come lead you and your friends in a christian blessingway--a ceremony borrowed from the navajo that honors the mother and encourages her with footwashing, shared blessings and other acts of nurture and kindness. when you have the baby, someone would sit outside the door in prayer, and when you come home, someone would come and anoint the baby with oil and lead you in saying your own blessing for this child.
an experienced older someone who has been in your stage of life could keep up with you for forty days, that critical time of transition, and on the fortieth day you could participate in another ceremony of sorts--a celebration of your birth as a mother. you could invite the other significant people in this child's life--men & women--to attend something quiet in your home.

if the church sent someone out to do this work and then modeled for others how to do it--how to attend, how to bless, how to give voice to these critical moments in a new family's life--then we could extend our blessings to those in our community, our friends who have a yet to be satiated spiritual thirst for something more.

it's the work of a spiritual doula.

this kind of caring can revive so many of the priestly roles that have been lost in our big protestant churches and disconnected communities. praying for the sick, serving communion to those who are housebound, attending in silence and prayer those passing from this life, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

once, when we lived in miami, a friend of dave's lost her husband to aids. when he was in his final hours, she called us to come. dave couldn't go for some reason, so i did, even though i didn't know them well. when i got to the hospital, he had just passed. my friend, a jewish woman and a closeted christian & very shy in her faith, asked me to go pray over his body when everyone else had left the room. in some ways, it was a ludicrous thing since she probably needed more prayer than this shell left behind, but i did it. i put my hands on his still warm body and prayed while she stood outside the room and cried.

she had no pastor to call, only a friend, and it gave dignity and beauty to that tortured death and to her soul, so attached to his for eternity.

the last thing we need is more organized religion, or one more pastor for that matter, but it would be so good to find more ways to be pastoral with one another. not in a superior, authoritative way--instead more like a mother, or maybe a kind older aunt who knows that you are struggling or going through something so important and just wants to be there, if only in silence.

some of the most personal, desperate moments of our lives are so hidden that too often we struggle alone, discouraged and feeling the shame, thinking we are the only one. the very normal but more difficult moments of life--birth, sickness, discouragement, death--go by, noted in ways too superficial to touch our souls. or ways too fleeting to get us through.

i hope the culture of our lives together as church goers can change. i hope we can become friends to one another--encouragers and witnesses to attest we are not alone in all this. maybe little by little, we can do our real lives together, and no longer have to hide in the pews or our small groups or the maze of activities that keeps us hidden from the love that can heal us. maybe by loving one another, we can become who we really desire to be--lovers of christ. and then we'll be the church and the "going" will be in new directions, for a real purpose.

gentle savior
we want to feed your sheep

your body
broken in death for us
is our bread

your tears
mingled with blood
is our cup

your life
poured out for us
is our portion

and we lack no good thing

take us
full and overflowing
with your grace
to feed your lambs

help us to be
good shepherds

help us to follow
even as we lead

nurture our wounds
as we tend to the wounds
of others

laugh in our joy
as we heal
and are healed

we will make holy
every simple thing

and claim
your redemption
for ourselves
and for the world

we love you
like a friend
while you love us
like a lover

and we will grow
to love as you do
with every morsel

this bread of kindness
your life.

Monday, November 17, 2003


quote of the day

Even very young children have the potential for real spirituality, described by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard as "an intuitive sense of God and a deep longing to know God." Thus the role of the teacher is "not to introduce to children a subject they know nothing about, or to supply religious interpretations for their daily lives. It is, rather, to provide them with the tools--”images and stories”--that will allow them to work with their own experience, and yearnings, to speculate and to wonder, and (in their own way) to build a conscious, articulate faith.

from the Jubilee Update

weather report on the blogosphere, starting a revolution and "gettin' it on"

wow, if you haven't been out in the blogosphere yet today, the weather is fantastic. you can see a mile in any direction, the skies are so clear.

take this, for example. my blogging guru dj chuang is saying it like it is on what's really going on in our consumer driven church culture:

after all, where did churchgoers get the idea to be consumeristic, aside from the market-driven society? Perhaps it also comes from the church itself? Could it be that churches that see their members as volunteers who can run their programs + attend their events + give their offerings, and reinforce the mindset of consuming THEM? Are churches consuming their members, putting them into service and defining their "ministry", burning them out (a common problem among committed church goers), leave them be, drop them, and go on to recruit new and fresh volunteers, in turn consuming them?

i'm sorry, but that is major, so major. and i've been there. to put it more graphically, the church is spiritually infertile (to borrow a phrase from my friend james) and every so often, since we can't conceive new life, we bleed out all over our poor volunteers and even our pastors, too, who keep this thing going until they can't stand the disappointment anymore, and so we throw them away, used up and useless for our purposes. to make things worse, we do little to nothing to help anyone recover and we shame them on top of that for supposedly being "unfaithful" to the cause.

i just read something somewhere--maybe it was a book review--saying that the people leaving are really the ones who are pioneering future church. they know that church is killing them and that there has to be a better way.

which leads me to christy over at drybonesdance, who is really putting her finger on something key with this:

If you really want to start a revolution, stop reading books about the church written by white, middle-class, evangelical male pastors who are mostly critiquing suburban mega-churches and start learning about community organizing.

don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are white, middle class, evangelical male pastors, but i think christy is onto something with this community organizing idea. community organizing? you say. in case you're as clueless as i am, the community organizing toolbox spells it out:

CO is a values-based process by which people - most often low- and moderate-income people previously absent from decision-making tables - are brought together in organizations to jointly act in the interest of their "communities" and the common good. Ideally, in the participatory process of working for needed changes, people involved in CO organizations/groups learn how to take greater responsibility for the future of their communities, gain in mutual respect and achieve growth as individuals.

isn't that what we want? isn't that kingdom work, kingdom living? we come together--loving christ and loving each other-- outside of the social stratosphere, and we participate, we enter in to each other's lives in a way that helps us see the kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. we serve one another. we make the least among us the greatest. god knows you don't need a hierarchy for that to happen. you don't need a program and you don't need minions doing your bidding.

you just need the will
to stay together
to be honest
to speak truth to the power
destroying us from the inside out.

you just need the heart
to care more about someone else
being heard
having a voice
having the choice
than just yourself

you just need the mind
to see that it's worth
the time
the space
the energy
to care in a way
that makes a difference
for an individual
for the world.

christy's right. you just need a revolution.

somewhere out there, some God people outside the church are gettin' it on, and i can see a whole lot of pregnant bellies full of spiritual new life. things don't happen like they used to. we're tired of bleeding, and we can't take much more. we've got to do this thing. make it political and make it personal and change the world, for the love of christ.

let's get it on.

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