light

Outside the sanctuary a bitter wind was howling. On this first Sunday of the new year the intrepid gathered to celebrate the power of light to guide us to new life. It was Epiphany Sunday.

We heard the story of how it was three wise men followed the star.

Most enchantingly, we heard the scripture read by young people. Both the prophet Isaiah and the writer of Matthew’s gospel were given voice by children and youth who call our church home. Their moms and dads had cell phones at the handy to record their young wonders and every person in the place leaned in and leant their breath and energy in order that the story might be told. Through the hearts and sounds of our very own beloveds the story was told.

The woman who directs the Little Angels children’s choirs – preschoolers who sing open-hearted beauty – shared a solo. Witnessing her singers watch their teacher bear witness with shine and beauty broke my heart open with wonder.

What is this glory that we share? What is this light we seek to follow?

On a wretchedly cold Minnesota morning the light of Christ drew us near and we bowed and offered our gifts. We offered the gifts of our presence and our intentions and our longings and our shine and we were warmed in the doing of it.

And the winter did not overcome it.

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.

so much

Gratitude takes up space.

Gratitude swells and transforms and it is alive alive.

The kindnesses of my life sprung from the heart of human grace are tender mercy. Love lives in my home and it visits in the form of children who share life and laughter as well as questions and ache. The tender goodness of thick coffee and attentive hearts are ground for the stretch into the unknown of each day.

The artistry of the Holy pounds in the power of the Great Lake outside my window and it spangles in the still of night and the need to stop and pay homage lives in every “thank you” breathed on every day. Two bald eagles dipped blessing over our heads yesterday. Two.

Where is the space for so much gratitude?

I who have died

Eleven years ago I moved to Minneapolis a newly divorced woman with three grieving children.

We were all nuts.

Somehow we lived, one day to the next. The eldest left for college. The two youngest endured finding their own new ways in a new place, as did their mother. Life was marked by train rides to see their dad and sometimes visits with the Chicago-dwelling eldest. We were careful around each other. We grieved. Oh, we grieved.

And we lived.

Friends were found and life made and gradually it became easier to breathe.

We lived:

Pick ups to and from college for three. A”bonus dad” and “bonus sibs” to acclimate to. More friends, explorations, band concerts, leaving and returning and growing awareness that the bond of love is a rare and precious thing.

Graduations from college and jobs won and left. Partners welcomed and woven into kin fabric. Hearts passionate about healing and justice and beauty and community and the splendor of the earth. Pastor’s kids adept with people and open to life.

And now the youngest graduates on Saturday. There for his walk will be his deepest and most tenacious fans: his mom and dad, his step-Coop, his sisters and their partners and on the next day a raucous cloud of witnesses present to mark the good of it all.

It will be the last big party at this house that has known many parties – some I knew about and many I did not. We will be together, we who have been so blessed to walk from a world saturated by grief into a world near too-full of gratitude.

I can’t speak it fully. e. e. cummings comes close:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings

We are alive.

I thank you God for most this amazing.

helter shelter

The anxiety is ramping in our lives and surely in my belly.

We have a signed purchase agreement on our home. All will be well and good pending a thorough inspection. Someone just spent five hours inspecting our 100-plus year old home.

Now we wait.

In Rochester, our realtor is fielding a counter-offer to the offer we made to buy a home. It was the first one we saw lo those many weeks ago, and it has lived and breathed with us since. We believe it is so very right.

Now we wait.

Oh but I am a crabby woman; thin of skin and jumpy-antsy because this thing called home is a morphing thing.

And in the midst of my crabby, I am chastened by awareness of my staggering privilege.

I have a larger-than-I-need home and I want to purchase same and what, oh what of all those who feel anxiety every day because they are assured of nothing in the way of home.

What of those who are children and teens and adults and elders who have no home?

Our church is working with an organization called Beacon in the metro area. Beacon is an interfaith housing initiative seeking to eradicate the all-consuming misery of soul and body that is homelessness. Through one of their programs called “Families Moving Forward” we will house four families at our church for a week.

It is a monumental undertaking. We are organizing to make sure that we have a welcoming space and food to offer and hospitality to bless but really, one of the most monumental things we privileged folk are undertaking is the willingness to face the reality that the families we welcome live without what we take for granted: home.

We have become willing to encounter our neighbors. We are a ministry outpost in the way of Jesus.

I know myself to be needful of perspective in these days.

I surely want to let go of the soul-roil engaged in fretting about the more-than-I-need.

Time is better spent in pondering what to serve our guests for breakfast on Saturday. Time is better spent thanking God for the volunteers who are committed to showing up. Time is better spent being open to what the Holy has for me to learn.

snargle

I sat at table with a great bunch of folk on Saturday evening. We had just celebrated an intimate wedding together and were sharing the thin place of being witnesses to life change.

One of the women had just come from hearing the Dalai Lama speak here in Minneapolis.

She said that the gathered energy in the room was beautiful and the shine coming from the Dalai Lama was stunning.

She quoted one line that had caught the imagination and wisdom of her heart.

The Dalai Lama said that the quickest way to an early death is to meditate on pessimism.

It makes so much sense it doesn’t even feel like it needs saying.

The answer to the snargles that hold the soul of the world hostage are found in each of our choices made day after day.

Do we choose to focus on pessimism and record-of-wrong keeping, or do we choose to stoke the fires of compassion Jesus so sought for us to nurture?

We have power to make choices.

The couple who married chose the difficult path of growing soul with another.

We may choose to nurture the spark of the Holy that dwells within us each.

Pessimism kills. Compassion heals.

Choosing life matters.

mantle

My mother is 84 years old.

She skated with the Ice Follies, raised four children, survived divorce and a second challenging marriage, rolled in a car three years ago and picked herself up to begin life again. My mother is petite tungsten. She raised us to work hard, be gracious, and appreciate the beauty of creation and music.

She came for a visit. To do so, she climbed on a shuttle from Duluth and when she arrived at the Minneapolis airport she was summarily dumped by a driver who was in a hurry. In the midst of his rush, she was dropped at the wrong place with the wrong suitcase. How to connect with her waiting (in the wrong place) daughter? How to forgive herself for her suitcase blunder?

We found each other due to a kind fellow traveler. As we were going down the escalator to get into the car and there discern how to retrieve her missing suitcase, a traveler ahead of her lost control of her suitcase. Said suitcase, with handle in the up position, wedged itself in such a way that as my mother went down the escalator that suitcase handle encountered and gouged her shin. She was trapped. She was injured. I was there and powerless to do anything but hold onto her.

She limped away and after a few steps tossed off in a sort of no-big-deal way that she was bleeding.

And so she was. Her leg had been barked and opened. When she allowed a look at it, my whole body hurt because she had such grievous wounds.

We got her suitcase after a trip to the Mall of America Transport Hub and to Shakopee. All the while she worried; not about her leg, but about how she was inconveniencing me.

I am so very much aware that the woman of steel and grit and heart is a woman made fragile by years and life.

She let me tend her. She whose voice, tenderness and steel I carry was willing to let me kneel at her feet and tend the places of wounding. It felt like a passing of the mantle. Much of me is moved and grateful to be able to mother my mother. The other much younger and surely primal part of me wants to shout and fuss because it will never be done with needing a mother, this child.

I will never be done with needing my mother.