Wisconsin

The first frost felled the leaves

into a carpet of yellow and orange.

The transition was sudden and left

no time to think.

Winter is coming and it must be

listened to and listened for.

Advent approaches.

Advertisements

Put the Good in the Good Life

The more I live, the more I realize that if we wait for the good life to happen, it’ll pass us right by. And “the good life” is, I guess, contingent upon what is defined by “good.” After the basic needs are met, what constitutes good for me is paying attention. It is a paying attention to the nuances of life and people in my life that make it so rich.

This does not necessarily come easily for me as I am not a person who is inclined to pay attention to details. In this way, I’ve missed prime opportunities to complement people’s newly-acquired hair-cuts or perhaps notice that the bag of chocolate chips I just bought are of the mini-chocolate chip variety, rather than the full size… thus leaving me with regular size cookies with miniature size chocolate chips. I also recall purchasing garbanzo bean flour in a haste, rather than oat flour, then neglecting to read the label when baking; thus, the final product culminating with cookies that tasted like hummus rather than — you know– cookies.

Details are not my specialty.

Rather, I am inspired by the big picture stuff — you know– the new year’s resolutions type things. Dreaming big and so on.

But, as Ani Difranco sings in her song “As Is”,

When I look around
I think this, this is good enough
And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
’cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
And when I look up
I just trip over things

Tripping — ass-over-teakettle — is a tendency of mine.

For me, the big pictures keep me inspired and help me get out of bed each day, but it is the details that make life rich. It’s noticing the folklore behind a place that I have always lived near and only know for the gas station that is close to it. It is paying attention to the people around me, and taking time to sit on the front porch and hear stories that make up their lives that we had not shared before. It is actually taking space to be okay with not achieving for a while- and instead, resting into the rhythm of the day. It is watching for the nuances of a movie that often contain more meaning than the plot itself. It is stopping to watch a sunset for its uniqueness because I know that particular sunset will never happen again. It is learning the fiddle because I love how Appalachian folklore is carried through its notes. It is writing a blog post instead of a sermon because writing keeps me alive.

Life is rich when I pay attention. This, I am learning.

 

The State of Having 32 Flavors

Some of my favorite lines of one of my favorite songs of all times:

Squint your eyes and look closer
I’m not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I’m beyond your peripheral vision
So you might wanna turn your head
-Ani Difranco, 32 Flavors
I’ve had a lotta years to think about why these lyrics resonate with me and I with them. And in various iterations of my life, known as seasons to me, I think they resonate differently. But one thing that I can consistently count on resonating about these lyrics is that they speak to the complexity of the human mind, body, and spirit. And it’s this complexity that attracts my curiosity and wonder, which is why vulnerability works for me. Usually vulnerability [in the appropriate context] provides a window into someone’s complexity. They aren’t just one, two, or even three flavors. They are 32 flavors and THEN SOME!
It’s this capacity for mystery and depth in the human spirit that gives me hope. Hope that our complexity will be nurtured to health by love, and that this will lend itself to creative and compassionate responses to systems that want to keep us simple and un-thinking.
I’ll evade your definition of me every time it’s placed on me. I hope you will too.

Liturgy of the New Year 17

As I write, 2017 has taken off in good form here in Milwaukee with so much sunshine that the snow, which has become small mountains of frozen grey goop, is melting. My faith community began the New Year where we took Communion as the first meal of the year. We spoke together a Call to Worship, and held each other up during Prayers of the People, we sang hymns and folk music, and pronounced a Unison Benediction together.

In other words, we created liturgy on this first day of 2017.

Liturgy means “the work of the people” — as Baptists we are particularly inclined to lean into the work of liturgy– the work of public worship in rituals of faith. Liturgy is so full of grace because we take the work of our hands and see that it becomes infused with the mystery of the grace of God. We do this every week, over and over, because in doing it, we develop faithfulness like calluses on our hands. The hands become strong and they remember, especially in the most difficult of times, who God is and what God has done.

The work of liturgy does not belong solely to the pastor. It belongs to the Church.

And it is in this frame of mind, that I think of 2017.

The work of justice-making and peace-building does not belong to any institution as a whole. Like liturgy, it is the work of the people. When the power is grass-rooted in diverse ways, it cannot be controlled by an elected leader of any kind. The power is in the people.

And because it is the work of the people, it is beautifully complex, grass-rooted, and also fraught with pain, misunderstanding, blame throwing, shaming, and burn-out. Growing edges are so often jagged and grace so often needed.

But the work is ours to hold.

May 2017 bring new calluses for our hands so that they aren’t so blistered anymore. And maybe a little Bengay for the sore backs…

This makes me infinitely hopeful for this year. I cannot wait to do this work together.

Kate

On a personal note: The work of my own evolution and growth in faith and life does not belong to anyone else, but myself. The work of forgiveness is mine to do. The work of power-sharing and ally-building starts with how I engage in these practices in my daily navigation of the world. Though the work of the people is done in community, it has to start within me.

A Post-Election Prayer

Oh God, on long, weary, and troublesome days,
we remember that you do not grow faint, you do not grow weary,

Your otherness is necessary for our strength,
and yet your vulnerability in creating us is
the most intimate connection to be experienced.

On days when clouds loom, fears persist, and exhaustion from the injustice and relentlessness of life sets in, we are reminded to wait. 

To wait on the strength that you will give.
To wait on the renewal that you will give.
We turn our eyes to the hills.
We turn our eyes to each other.
And wait.

We wait with hope. We wait in community. We wait in Sabbath.
We wait with impatience. We wait with gratitude.
We wait knowing that nothing can separate us from Your love. Not angels, nor demons, nor death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor scary medical diagnoses, nor exclusive theology, nor financial worries, nothing can separate us from your love.

For where does our help come from?
It comes From You, the Creator, the Source of all that is.
From You, the God who cares for lilies and sparrows,
From You, the God who is love and loves all creation with fierce peacefulness.
We cannot and will not be separated from this love.

Hear our prayers, O God, as we wait in Your love.

Amen

Floodplains and Dis-ease

Sara Groves is a Christian songwriter who I can get behind. I often find her lyrics to be incredibly vulnerable (and creative), which allows an easy connection for me to be able to say, “woah, me too.”

Her most recent album is entitled “Floodplain” and the song, “Floodplain” is one of those tunes that I have come to over and over to learn, to identify with, to be changed.

She sings that “Some hearts are built on a floodplain. Keeping one eye on the sky for rain. You work for the ground that gets washed away when you live closer. Closer to the life in the ebb and flow, closer to the edge of ‘I don’t know,’ closer to ‘that’s the way it goes.’ Some hearts are built on a floodplain.”

Now I know I’m writing this in the wake of many friends who are suffering from flooding in Louisiana and many who are currently, as I write, buckled down for the storm approaching the eastern coast of the states. And I hold you all closely now. My writing of floods here is metaphorical, though I myself have lived through 1000 year flooding in Nashville, and I recall its devastation as I remember canoeing through my former high-school and cleaning mold for months.

The older I get, the more I realize that so many of us do not live on high ground, but on floodplains.  None of us have all of this together, none of us have life figured out; sometimes, we are way closer to “what brings us to our knees” than not, and way closer to “Lord, please send a boat” than not. (Sara Groves, “Floodplain”)

And I’ve realized that life happens on that floodplain. Life happens in the uncertainty, in the anxiety, in the doubt. Our best selves often flow forth from the floodplain because we do not have the ease of high ground to remain safe upon. Life on the floodplain requires a rawness and reflection that cannot happen the same way when there is no struggle.

Some folks are steadier than others, but whether you’re steady or not does not change the geography upon which you stand. You can be steady on a floodplain. You can show up and be fully present on a floodplain. You can be so alive, so raw, so vulnerable, so able to be changed on a floodplain.

And life changes…it does not remain certain; it is ever-evolving. Why else do we live in seasons? They are reminders that life is always change.

Dis-ease, unease– it is not always an enemy. Sometimes it can be a friend. Sometimes it is much more a friend than certainty. Sometimes it can open us up to new life, new possibilities, new mystery.

My Quarrel with Writing

The hesitancy of sitting down to write is one which wins most often between the choice of the busying of my hands with other more-pressing, more-important, more-satiating tasks, and writing. Writing is always time-consuming and sometimes energy-draining; it is a creation and thus, leaves the creator vulnerable to critique if it is shared with others.

If it is forced, writer and reader see through it immediately. If it is organic, it speaks for itself.

While I used to write somewhat prolifically, I now am much more accustomed to distracting myself with other tasks. Surviving life and trying to find an authentic, faithful, accountable way of maneuvering my whole self in the world takes a great deal of my energy. Couple that with my care-taking posture and I sometimes have little self to create.

Further, there are so many manifestations of unjust systems that are built to intentionally keep folks (both human and nonhuman) at the bottom; these manifestations spring up every day and become accessible to us via social media platforms if they do not happen to be local. There is always something to write about, or to let that space of creation be devoted to listening.

There will always be a truth and untruth in the creation that writing brings (teachings from the principles of nonviolence). If I cannot hold both of those realities, then I cannot give my whole self to anything, but especially the creation that writing produces.

In light of these elucidations of why I frequently claim writers block as a malicious disease with which I have been plagued, the irony remains that I am actually writing this piece and that my agency remains to take up the pen. Because it is in the writing, the creation rather than consumption, that I re-acquaint myself with the discipline of being faithful to who I am. I am a writer who, at her very core, believes that consumption, as a way of being, is the very worst posture one can take through life. A writer who will live alive and die believing love is the only way to be fully alive.

I will never apologize for loving. I will never apologize for being me.

That’s why I write today.