A “posada” is “the tradition of taking the figures of Mary and Joseph into homes for a night or two during Advent. As the figures are in a home there may be prayers and reflections as they enter and leave and the figures may be an occasion for devotions shared with friends, family and neighbors while they are in that home. They then move on to the next home that has volunteered to put them up for the night or two, and so on through Advent.”A Posada blog is an idea to do something similar with blogging. So instead of the actual clay or wood or whatever figures of Mary and Joseph we have a picture. Instead of homes we have blogs, and instead of family prayers we have a blog post. This e-Posada originated here. Jim Palmer hosted Mary and Joseph yesterday, and tomorrow they’ll be found at the Weekend Fisher blog .

Today the Holy Family resides on my blog. Offering this space online is a reflection of my personal journey of offering Christ space within my soul and life. I can almost hear my mother’s voice now, thinking that perhaps I’ve taken this faith thing just a little too far. I was brought up to think that going to church has its place, but mostly, really, for the social aspect. I knew that prayers were expected in church and at home on major holidays when the dining room table was set with china and cloth napkins, and tapers burned in brass candlesticks. God had his place, and mostly it was on the top shelf, neatly wrapped in tissue paper and pulled out along with the good silver for special occasions.

In my life faith ebbed and flowed, the star of Bethlehem waxed and waned. Sometimes its light was almost extinguished in the glare of the world. Certainly that would cause no alarm in my family. Actually, embracing Christianity to the point I have would be more alarming, or at least somewhat embarrassing. Or disconcerting. Certainly uncomfortable.

But here I am, stuck with an unwavering beacon that keeps calling me to journey on that road to Christ, that makes me burn with a conviction that life makes absolutely no sense without him, that a world devoid of God’s presence is too unreal to contemplate. More than conviction or belief, though, is the desire birthed within me that keeps beckoning me to a life that grows ever deeper in the Spirit. I am consigned to the road that leads me to a shedding of myself for more of him, a life praying that his light will shine just a wee bit through my eyes when I encounter others.

Dear Jesus, the path was so barren all those years traveling without you, when I kept my eyes cast down on desert soil, when the neon lights of the world sparkled so invitingly. I pray that others find their gaze gently lifted heavenward, are caught in the rays of the Star, are led in breathless wonder along the wild and glorious road that leads to you.



As I write, I'm listening to my 17-year-old son out in the living room singing a worship song while playing his guitar. If I go out there, he may get self-conscious and stop. Rarely do I hear him sing, and he is out there throwing his heart into each note, lifting up his voice for God. I love that he loves God. I love that he's my son. So I'm just sitting quietly. Savoring. Smiling. And I'm not going to tell him he's off-key.


From my teenage son's friend's blog

erik in 2nd block english: "Al, do you think you could draw a picture of God?"

al [nonchalantly]: "Yes, but I will need a mirror."


The Music of God

Portage is an offshoot of Kalamazoo, a branch that kept creeping southward from the downtown area, and sprouted strips of shopping malls, businesses, organizations, and eventually seedlings of housing developments with bigger lawns that planted shoots of affluent schools. There is no downtown, per se, not like it's older brother, the 'Zoo. It has the money and the shiny school buildings, but no downtown hub, no real flavor or character. No homeless or out-of-work people standing on street corners though, either.

Today is a gloomy, Michigan fall day. The rain is a steady drizzle of bone-chilling wetness and the sky overhead looks painted in a garage-floor battleship grey. Headlights don't really illuminate anything; neither do the autumn leaves that still cling to some of the trees cut through the greyness. Even their fall finery has muted to shades of tans and burgundies. Most would call it an ugly day.

I cut through the side street by KMart to shortcut my way back to work off the main thoroughfare. I glanced over, and there on a small pie-slice of concrete that separated two lanes of traffic stood a man. On this small wedge of space he stood there serenely playing a violin. Something about the oddness, the out-of-placeness cut into my spirit. In the midst of nondescript commercial buildings and rushing vehicles I briefly encountered a thing of beauty and heard the sounds of heaven wafting through my window. It was one of those moments when the world around you suddenly emerges in sharp detail, illumined by an interior light of the soul, and you see the web of God stretching over everything, everywhere.


Advent Giving Calendar

Darla, (Zoo Gal over there on the left in my blog links), who is my unofficial business rep, has convinced me that it's all right to profit from the Advent Giving Calendar I created for my church. I mean, that would be a blessing for me as a single mom, but without Darla's enthusiastic encouragement I wouldn't even thought of it. It was just going to be something I did for my church, and gave to people like Darla, who has a heart full of love and full of Christ. (Is that redundant?)

If you'd like to know more about this, it's on my web site: GoodrichDesign.net
Oh! And if you'd really like the file to print and don't have any money, let me know, okay?


Last Gestures

Amy's dad may be gone by now, as Amy got a call at work today to say to come as soon as possible, the last of the cancer vigil in the nursing home was almost over. A couple of days ago Amy's only sibling, Jill, flew in from Oregon to be with her dad and say good-bye. Amy and her husband both have good jobs in management for companies. Jill's a stay-at-home mom who's married to a surgeon. George, their dad, was a Methodist minister for many years; his wife was a homemaker.

George had been briefly awake when he heard that his oldest daughter was flying in to see him and that Amy was on her way down the road to the airport to pick her up. "Get something to eat when you pick up Jill," he told Amy in his whisper of a voice. "Have Mother give you some money. It'll be our treat."

There is something about this that keeps echoing in my soul. The sweetness of a father wanting to treat his daughters to dinner, even though they have plenty of money. The caring about his family and others that is so deep it's not even lost in the bigness of impending death. The poignancy of the old-fashioned phrase I haven't heard in a long time. "It'll be our treat."

The love of it all just bring tears to my eyes.


I almost feel apologetic....

...because I like designing gentle things...


40th day of Pentecost

Listen to the unstruck bells and drums!
Love is here; plunge into its rapture.
— Kabir

My head's not really sure what this means, but my heart soars with it.


Once a fighter pilot...

My dad, actually my stepdad of over 30 years, is my only remaining parent. He moved back to Michigan three years ago when my mother died, and immediately started volunteering at our local Air Museum, called the Air Zoo. He's a retired, much-decorated Air Force colonel and fighter pilot who flew in WWII, Korea and VietNam.
Now 82-years-old, I just started laughing when I received this email below from him today with the subject title: I FLEW AGAIN!

"One of the Air Zoo staff pilots owns a PT-17 (Boeing, WWll Primary Trainer--open cockpit). He is donating his time and airplane (and fuel cost) to give a ride to any veteran or active duty military person during the month of July.

I was the first to go this morning. This is the bird that I first flew in flight training 63 years ago. We flew for about 30 minutes and I had control of the airplane except for takeoff and landing. I CAN STILL FLY!! I HAVE THE TOUCH! I climbed out and leveled off at 2500 feet. Did some steep turns and a mild lazy eight. I nailed the altitude even in the turns. I asked him to let me do a barrel roll and a loop but he did not want to do that since we did not have parachutes.

Watch out fighter pilots from North Korea or Iran---I can whip your butt!"


Dinner, anyone?

During today's gathering the talk was about temptations, and I was supposed to create a table of tempting things. I had one of those waterfall-thought moments, when it seemed God just poured this display into my head to symbolize the appetite and hunger we often have for various things.

I had to roll fake joints for my dinner plate at church Saturday night when I was working on this. That felt a tad bit strange to do in church. I roll a really good joint, by the way. Just one more small example of how God can use anything for good. :) Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined him using my expert joint rolling skills to help draw people into worship at a church...

Life in the pauses

Just recently I wrote an article for our Inspiration and Faith section called Life in the Pauses. Just last night a part of that article came back to me.

Carman had come and helped me set up a display for our church gathering, and as usual on the drive back he selected the music - not surprisingly, a Led Zeppelin tune. We were less than a block from our drive when he started fast-forwarding the CD. "I just want to hear part of the solo," he told me.

I pulled in, parked, and without a word left the engine running and put my head back and let the music of Stairway to Heaven fill the car. Suddenly I was filled with one of those mysterious God-moments, when I had this heightened awareness of everything around me. In that moment, in that now place and time, I etched a memory of sitting on a summer afternoon with my 16-year-old son, feeling the air-conditioning cool our faces and watching him listen raptly to music he loves.

He smiled and said, "Thanks, Mom", as soon as the solo was over. It's really not over, though. I'm still savoring a moment when I slowed down and paused and felt such gratitude for having my teenage son still at home. I let the moment sink deeply in my heart. Life in the pauses. Oh yes.


Called to Irrelevance

Thank you, Darla - the book you so graciously sent me has been an inspiration.

As a Christian in business my feet often reside in two worlds. In one, the message I receive is to be overly confident, assertive, and project an image that conveys not just professionalism, but power. In this other world, where my foot is planted joyously on a path of following Christ, I am told almost the complete opposite. Not only am I to be humble, but I am to mold my heart to that of a servant, to fall on my knees with basin and towels and reverently wash the feet of my fellow human beings. What kind of business person is that?

That is a person in business who makes himself irrelevant. It means caring more about the customer’s needs than whether you will profit. It means sending someone to a competitor if they have exactly what the customer requires, instead of trying to make your own product fit. It means standing out there in the world emotionally title-less, because you might start feeling that title metamorphosing into a crown upon your head, and it’s hard to bend down and listen to people with something that heavy on your brow.

Many years ago I sat one afternoon at a friend’s cottage, visiting with his father, a man old and wizened, and semi-crippled by arthritis. With some prodding, Mr. Lundahl told me a little bit about his life. He had founded the photo intelligence unit of the CIA, and was also the one responsible for finding the missiles in Cuba that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Kennedy administration. His sensitive government work opened up an amazing world of places and people. He had met Jack Kennedy, and Krushchev, traveled the planet, shaken hands with heads of state. On his wall was a large photograph of the earth taken from the moon and given to him as a gift by NASA. But then my friend's father turned the attention away from him and asked about me, and what I did, and if I would like some iced tea, and lamented the fact that he couldn’t rise from his chair to give me a proper goodbye. The gentleman I sat with that summer day epitomized the kind of person I would want to do business with; someone who, no matter how much they have accomplished in life, meets each individual person-to-person, without titles, without an inflated view of their own relevance.

Henri Nouwen, in his book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”, talks about the need of leaders to become completely irrelevant and to stand in the world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.

Nouwen says, “The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”

Being a business person as well as a servant may not sound like good sense out in the world of a dog-eat-dog mentality. However, I believe that success isn't achieved by eradicating the qualities of humbleness and compassion, but by possessing them. More importantly, as a follower of Christ it is the path I am called to walk in all of life.


Sacred Geometry & Frozen Music

"Geometry is sacred when it is mirrored from nature. The labyrinth is based on not only the circle--which is a universal symbol in all cultures around the world--but it's also based on the double spiral. If you think of ocean waves coming in and out, that's all spiral. If you look at the water going down your drain, it's spiral. There's spiral patterns. If you look at seashells you can see spirals. Spirals are in nature. So when geometry is reflecting that, it's called sacred.

Sacred geometry was an art in the Middle Ages that is lost to us now. It's based on everything being in proportion to itself, but not necessarily symmetrical. Many people are fascinated with sacred geometry and are caught up with drawing the labyrinth from Chartres--the eleven circuit medieval labyrinth. They draw it again and again. Some people base it on the Vesica Piscis. Personally I haven't gotten into the specifics of sacred geometry. You know, when we took our geometry classes, I get into more of the metaphoric understanding of it that some people describe as the envelope of pulsation. It's a way of being able to contain energy and create an energy center because of the design and the specifics of the drawing.

Another way of describing sacred geometry is frozen music, and I love that image, because, in a way, when we come to the labyrinth and begin to walk it, we're the frozen music. Then as we begin to follow the path you're turning left and then you're turning right, and then you're turning left again. You move through this wonderfully gracious pattern, and it unfreezes you. It opens your heart. It opens your mind. It quiets yourself so you can find your basic flow and be in rhythm with yourself."
Lauren Artress


My pastor cracks me up

I received the following note tonight as part of the Creative Collaborative team. Upcoming gatherings include ripping feather pillows in front of industrial size fans, and smashing jelly beans on a cross. It would take a little explaining...
But I digress. Lee just made me laugh when I saw his note:

"Just a quickie to let you know our latest edition of the Creative Planning Map is uploaded to our group page. There will be an added component each week of a "360 Web Page". This will be a printout that will bring a feel of myspace.com meets the book of James. Each week we will have a "My Friends" (helping us think of our relational space God has place us in), "God's Blog to Us" (for notes), along with a "My Chat Room with God" (for solo reflection). This is something we will use each week for reflection during this series.

Cool. Thanks for all that you are! I am thankful to be worshipping with each of you."


My Oscar

Last night I was at our local Episcopal Cathedral for a "Mission: Possible" covert operation - an invitation that mysteriously arrived on CD to those who serve on ministry teams. It turned out to be a very creative recognition celebration for all those who serve on ministry teams. After eating some very decadent desserts, then a discussion led by Lee, and each team standing to a round of applause, Lee announced that there were some special awards to be given out.

Bob, an older gentleman who had just talked about how he believes in bringing his "first fruits" to the church in the way of money and service, was called up on stage to receive a bowl of fruit representing his belief in bringing first fruits, and Lee talked about how this man gives so much in various quiet ways. We gave him a standing ovation and right as I was about to sit down Lee said, "Anne, don't sit down. Come up here." I wasn't sure I heard him right. But when I went up, Lee presented me with the Beauty award and handed me a blank canvas. Then he talked about how much of my artwork I give to the church, and how, like the widow who gave all she had even though it didn't appear to be a lot to others, I gave of my talent to Threads and sacrificed time I could be using to earn extra money with my work. It almost brought me to tears.

And there always seems to be a back story, you know? Just yesterday I had checked my checking and saving accounts and found out I had a zero balance in each. The $60 or so I have in my wallet is all I have to my name - except for my emergency Pepsi bottle of coins that I've dipped into already recently. In the last few weeks I've been going down a different and new path that I felt God was leading me on in regard to freelance work and putting my energies into earning extra money. For the first time in two years my focus shifted from doing as much as I could for Threads, to feeling that I had to do more to bring some financial stability to my family. My heart is still there, and I have been working and networking with a group of work-at-home moms (and dads). Last night's recognition seemed to be God encouraging me not to feel that my whole focus has to be redirected, but that I need to find a balance between serving my church and earning a living. With all I'm trying to do, I could easily have narrowed my eyes to seeing life with tunnel vision, and severed too much from my view. May God guide me in balancing it all.


trying to get a handle on things

I haven't blogged much recently, haven't visited or posted at the Ooze too much either. The thing is, I realize how scattered my brain is. My problem in my life hasn't been not being able to figure out what I want to do - my problem is wanting to do too much. This has carried over from my personal/freelance work to my work with Threads as well. What causes me some dismay is that I see others online who have been focused and thrive financially from their small businesses, while I still struggle quite a bit in my chaotic world. I have no idea exactly what direction I'm going yet, and there are a couple collaborations that are on the table.

It was interesting that Lee talked to me before church yesterday and said that he'd like to meet with me soon. He wonders exactly what I feel drawn to be most involved in. He said that there are 20 different things that I can do, but that it's not possible for me to do all of it. Funny how my church life is a direct reflection of my freelance life! It's hard for me not to want to do 20 different things when I see a need for those to be done...

If I had a financially secure husband and could quit working I think I could fit everything in! That seems like a poor reason to wish for a husband, though. :)

So in the last three days I have met with someone about worship ideas for our church's Creative Collaborative team, written an estimate for web site work for a local business, offered to update someone's resume, created a graphic for a Christian business women's forum, edited doctoral articles for my daughter's class assignments, made a graduation gift, assembled an experiential worship element and delivered it to church, been studying passive income streams and Internet marketing, washed my furnace filters, cleaned the car, went grocery shopping, mowed the lawn, washed a bazillion dishes (no dishwasher). The laundry and housecleaning are still woefully untouched.

I've been going in a million directions...I wish God would lock me down and point me to one. I feel like a Jack of All Trades, master of none - and that's not a very good feeling. And I really need to focus on something that will bring a more steady stream of income. It would be so nice not to be stressed about paying the bills all the time.


There is crap going on

There is crap happening in my church. Not small crap, but big - heartbreakeningly serious shit. One man is gone who gave so much of his life to our teens and our whole church body, and it's hard to see the fallout. It was a disagreement with our elders. How easy it would be for it to become an "us vs them". How easy to get sucked in to the human hurt, the very real drama of it, the very real pain.

All I know at this moment in time is to keep on loving, as I love them all. What's strange is that Christ's love becomes more real to me in the midst of all this crap, when it seems like it would be the opposite, and I would be pulled away and dismayed by all the brokenness. Perhaps his love penetrates more deeply into cracks and fissures and broken hearts.


Jim's Book

Coming in September - a book by JimPalmer from the Ooze. Of course I'm expecting an autographed copy when I purchase mine. :) Jim blogs here


The act of celebration is honoring and remembering a past event or
person, the lifting up of a memory. Celebrating Holy Communion is
the common act of lifting up ourselves, a kind of reaching out and
asking God to be especially present.

On the other hand, I know that for me God is always present, and I
seek each day to celebrate the God in us, and make my sharing with
the people around me a lifting up , a sacred act - the ritual of
being. The highest act of celebration is knowing and honoring the
presence of God in each other, experiencing the Knowing of God and
sharing of it. Sharing love, anger, defeat, joy - being is the real
stuff of celebrating.

When I am bringing it off, I experience a tingle that is near that
of being in the arms of my lover in tight embrace. My insides jump
with joy at the sight and fresh smells of a spring morning as old man sun explodes over the horizon. This is celebrating - experiencing God.
I try to share God, inhale God, celebrate being with whoever I am
with in the present moment of Now.

Life is a total possibility of celebration; the steaming hot smells
of a shared breakfast after a long refreshing sleep is for me a
Eucharist of quiet joy. Hearing the sounds of joy, seeing the
bright smiling faces of children on a playground is a sacred rite. Being
trusted with the pain of sorrow and loss of a friend is High Mass.

Walking in the solitary woods of fall, hearing and tasting its
crispness, being with the year's last insects and their late sounds
is a solemn ritual.

Life and celebration form the word "being" and being is; and being
is only to be experienced in the beginning - in the Now, celebration is
a total possibility. The time for the High Mass of life is now.

Hope is now; God is in the Beginning.

Bishop Allan W. Frink


The act of celebration is honoring and remembering a past event or
person, the lifting up of a memory. Celebrating Holy Communion is
the common act of lifting up ourselves, a kind of reaching out and
asking God to be especially present.

On the other hand, I know that for me God is always present, and I
seek each day to celebrate the God in us, and make my sharing with
the people around me a lifting up , a sacred act - the ritual of
being. The highest act of celebration is knowing and honoring the
presence of God in each other, experiencing the Knowing of God and
sharing of it. Sharing love, anger, defeat, joy - being is the real
stuff of celebrating.

When I am bringing it off, I experience a tingle that is near that
of being in the arms of my lover in tight embrace. My insides jump
with joy at the sight and fresh smells of a spring morning as old man sun
explodes over the horizon. This is celebrating - experiencing God.
I try to share God, inhale God, celebrate being with whoever I am
with in the present moment of Now.

Life is a total possibility of celebration; the steaming hot smells
of a shared breakfast after a long refreshing sleep is for me a
Eucharist of quiet joy. Hearing the sounds of joy, seeing the
bright smiling faces of children on a playground is a sacred rite. Being
trusted with the pain of sorrow and loss of a friend is High Mass.

Walking in the solitary woods of fall, hearing and tasting its
crispness, being with the year's last insects and their late sounds
is a solemn ritual.

Life and celebration form the word "being" and being is; and being
is only to be experienced in the beginning - in the Now, celebration is
a total possibility. The time for the High Mass of life is now.

Hope is now; God is in the Beginning.

Bishop Allan W. Frink



I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.
Blessed Mother Teresa


Carman's Eyes

Carman told me later that he usually wins at staring contests. He can go for minutes on end without blinking. He and a cohort from school finally called it a draw one time after an eight-minute long competition.

This morning I broke him in about 60 seconds flat. Out of the blue he engaged me in a staring contest; something I haven't done in several years, I would guess. He flared his nostrils at me to try and get me to laugh; I flared mine back at him. It's a gift we share, this nostril-flaring talent we possess. Then while looking in his eyes I thought, There's no way I'm going to be able to be stupid and make him laugh. Then I just started looking deeply into his eyes, and I had this thought of how seldom I get to peer so intently straight into his eyes, down, down into his soul. What incredibly beautiful eyes he has, I thought. Instantly I was filled so profoundly with love for this man-child of mine, and as I stood there cherishing him, my heart must have spilled out through my eyes. Carman suddenly giggled and blushed. Blushed! Did it make you laugh because you saw how much I love you? I asked him. Yes.

Love wins! Love wins! Love wins! In staring contests and life.


Easter Moments

Renee Miller: A few years ago when I was on the diocesan staff in Idaho, I was making a visitation on our church in Pocatello, Idaho. I usually stayed at the Quality Inn when I was in Pocatello. On this particular evening, I went in to register and found a long line, and a young woman at the reservation desk who was frazzled. Someone was butting in line to complain about something in their room. The phone was ringing. Other people were exasperated at the length of time it was taking to get checked in. This young woman was trying to be congenial, but she was not having one of her "better nights!"

At a rather crucial moment, yet another couple pushed their way into the line and put a small styrofoam box down on the desk right in front of the young woman. "It's banana cream," they said. It seems that before they had gone to dinner they had asked the young woman for the name of a good restaurant. She told them of one that had the best pies ever made, and she mentioned that her favorite was banana cream. So this couple, without provocation, simply brought goodness into that young woman's life that night. She looked at the styrofoam box, looked up at them with a face that shone with joy, and thanked them. Her night was changed by a miracle piece of banana cream pie! She was given an Easter moment and I saw God peeking through in the action of the couple who brought her that piece of pie.

There are hundreds and thousands of those kind of Easter moments, and they're the signs and tokens of the promises of Easter that even though everything is not perfect yet, life is good. Resurrection is happening all around us if we have "eyes to see and ears to hear," even when bleakness stands very close. Those Easter moments are for us a way to witness God peeking out.

Explore Faith


To Own a Dragon

I had a little tax return money. Not much, and I could have used it all for bills, but I took Carman to Barnes and Noble and splurged on new books for both of us. I felt kind of bad because I decided that he could only have one, so he chose the XBox 360 guide to Oblivion, when he really wanted Oblivion and Velvet Elvis. As soon as I can, I'll have to go back and buy Velvet Elvis. But now I'm reading Don Miller's new book To Own a Dragon to him, and he's becoming enamored of Miller, so Blue Like Jazz might be next on his list.

I wanted to read out loud because I wanted us to share this together. I was just going to read one chapter, but neither of us wanted to stop, so I read another. And then another. We're well into Chapter 5 now, and he was falling asleep in his bed when I stopped. I haven't read a book out loud to him in a long time; most mothers don't get to read their 16-year-old sons to sleep anymore.

What I didn't expect was that this book would be so emotional for me. As I'm reading Don Miller's story of life without a father, I am reading my son's story. And because I am his mother, I feel the unavoidable heartache my son must go through, and a sense of responsibility for giving him a father who has chosen not to be a dad. There's a lot that choked me up tonight, and tears aren't something that come that easily to me unless I'm watching some sappy TV show. But Carman asked me lots of questions about his own father, and about my dad, who died when I was 17, and then wanted to know what I thought my dad would think of him. The thought of my dad knowing my son, just that thought alone, brought a lump to my throat. I know without a doubt how much my dad would love him, and I told Carman all the reasons why my dad would love him so much.

But when I was reading this part of the book, I had to stop for a moment because I lost my voice in tears when Miller's words echoed what I think so many fatherless sons must face:

...It was the week before Father's Day, and a few of my friends had told me they were planning large dinners or trips to be with their dads. Perhaps it was because I was operating on so little sleep following a trip I had take - or perhaps it was because Father's Day is a foreign concept to me, like celebrating relationships with aliens - but on a particular night, I felt my soul collapsing. I was struggling against a writing deadline and feeling, as I often do, that whatever book I wrote would only hit the world as a burden to its library. I wanted a father to walk through the door and tell me this wasn't true, that I was here on purpose, and I had a purpose, and that a family and a father and even a world needed me to exist to make himself and themselves more happy. And it occurred ot me, then, that a father was not going to walk through the door, that there would be no encouragement, there would be no voice of calm, there would be no larger, mature elephant whose presence would correct the stray thoughts in my mind. It occurred to me this would never, ever happen. For the first time in my life, I realized, deep down, I never had a dad.

I don't cry much, but on that night I did. I lost it. I shoved my computer aside and bured my head in my pillow like a child and sobbed. I sobbed for nearly an hour. I hate saying this because it sounds so weak, and I don't like dramatics, but I remember the night quite well and there was no question something busted open.

Somebody said that realizing we are broken is the beginning of healing. And for me, some of the healing began that night.


Regretting my assholic self

I've been an asshole to myself lately. How's that for real? Lost 20 pounds last year, probably gained 30 since. I have been indulging in self-loathing, and also trying to get a spiritual handle on the fact that I have to have mind/body/spirit in more harmony. Right now the flesh is outracing the spirit. But, I just read a quote referencing Anne Lamott's book, Operating Instructions.

"You don't have that kind of time," spoken by Anne Lamott's dear friend, terminally ill with cancer at the time, when Lamott asked her if she thought the outfit she was trying on made her look fat.

I think I'll quit being an asshole to myself. I think Anne Lamott's friend, dying, knew exactly what was what.

Wish you a very slooooow day

...The way of holiness is not achieved through hurriedness, busy-ness, or instant production. The way of God is the way of waiting.

...For those of us who are rushing through our days at break-neck speed, an ordinary way of becoming holy may simply be to practice slowing down. Do the dishes more slowly in the morning, drive more slowly to work, handwrite a letter rather than pushing buttons quickly on a computer, walk from your car into the store more slowly, eat more slowly. These conscious acts of slowing down, ready your spirit for the moments of grace, moments that we might not see if we race by too swiftly.



Stations of the Cross

The last few days I have been caught up in work for my church. One interesting thing I've noticed is that I'm getting braver about expressing myself, as though I'm hearing this permission from God to let myself go more than I have. Not just by making graphics using Homer and Marge and Monica and Chandler to represent our week about marriage, though that was fun.

A bigger, more serious thing was that J. brought a Stations of the Cross printout to our last Creative Collaborative meeting, and Lee decided it'd be great to do this on Good Friday. I wasn't sure that it was enough time to do things with the creative integrity I thought it should have. More than that, though, was my feeling that the Stations exercise just didn't feel like Threads. I didn't like some of the language, and there were parts of it that seemed to make people feel more guilt about Christ's sacrifice for us, rather than being drawn to him for his great love. I was unsettled about it. So I posted all my thoughts to our group discussion board. Fortunately J. was accepting of my critique, and of course asked for my help. Rather than just sitting together and hashing over the Stations that she had, I decided to spend yesterday afternoon writing my own. I can't take credit, though - it was culled from various resources, with God inspiring a bit of it to fill in the blanks. With the tight deadline I had to also be mindful of using rather simple experiential elements, lest we have people pulling their hair out. Last night I sent this out to the half dozen people on our Creative team, and I have no idea what anyone will think. But if you care to venture an opinion or revision, (and they'd be most welcome, of course!, I have the Word doc online here.


The Diner Church Revisited

Today I went alone to the local diner Brenda and I frequent. Rhonda, the angelic looking waitress with her big blonde curls and enormous blue eyes asked if Brenda was coming in, and I had to tell her that Brenda is home now for a week or so under a doctor's care. Rhonda had told us last week that she had bought us something. How remarkable that this waitress would care so much about her customers as she does. Rhonda's the one who worried about one of her elderly customers when he didn't show up for a few days, and found out where he lived and knocked on his door one day. He'd been in the hospital, and I'm sure he was so touched by her visit. Rhonda's a feisty one though, too. About two weeks ago a couple she waited on did a "dine and dash" without paying their bill and Rhonda ran after them into the parking lot yelling, "Get the f**k back here!" I laughed so hard when she told me that. When she gave the police the license number it turned out there were several outstanding warrants for the man's arrest.

So when I went in today and explained why I was alone, Rhonda went out to her car and came back to my table bearing two gift bags. Inside each was a small white figurine of an angel with pink roses at the base. Rhonda said that she knew that things had been difficult lately for us and that sometimes we need something to make us feel a little better. There, in a little diner, was such a presence of God and Church. For some reason a little while later Rhonda started telling me more about herself and how she'd been a drug addict until two years ago. She got clean because she was afraid of losing her kids. I told her we have a lot of people in our church who have been addicts or in rehab and we talked about Threads and I invited her to come and told her how amazing the people are there. When I left I gave her my business card and said to call me, or just come into church and ask for me and someone will find me. And then I said, Oh, I don't mean to keep going on about my church so much, and she said no, I think you were meant to. And I said maybe it was the angels.

So I walked out of that diner with two little gift bags holding dollar store angels, feeling blessed by such a beautiful expression of how God wants us to love each other, and thinking about Darla and her coffeehouse idea and what community is truly meant to be.


Jesus Wanted

Mat (or M@ depending on his mood), Threads elder, youth group leader, wacky, wild energy guy and lover of Jesus, is now podcasting. He said my poster jumpstarted his newest message. I don't think he's had many people listen to his podcasts yet - I hope some of the teenagers in our youth group do soon. I'm sure he'd appreciate a visitor and comment or two if you're in so inclined:



Journaling as a Spiritual Practice for Lent

Another gem from explorefaith.org. Week one is really over, but I just found it, so...
Lent is a time to be intentional. It is more than giving up sweets for 40 days, or trying to be more devout. It is really a time to look seriously and intentionally at our lives – who we have been, who we are, and who we are becoming. Journaling is a way for us to embody this intention, because it gives us an environment for delving deeply into the bottomless well of our souls. Each week during Lent, take the time to use the journal as a spiritual practice for looking into the wonder you embody.

Week 1: Receptivity
We become so habituated to the routines of our lives, that we can find ourselves shut off from what is new, what is challenging, what takes us to the edge, what causes our heart to thump and our breath to shorten. Lent invites us to clear the channels – open the gates – unbar the doors that keep us safe and stuck in the comfortable patterns that are so familiar. Take time this week to consider how you are closed off to new experiences and begin to crack the walls that hold you enclosed.

Journaling Questions
What patterns are keeping me bound in routines that are shutting me off from the wonder and dynamism of life?

· In my work?
· In my family?
· In my community?
· In my soul?

I struggle still with being too reclusive, and using the Internet too much for some kind of relationship with others. The fact that I work full-time certainly prevents me from leading too solitary an existence. There's a balance I need to find - I enjoy solitude, but too much of it seems to lead me into depression. I've also neglected myself health-wise lately, and it's leading to a self-loathing that was so intense yesterday that it scared the hell out me. I opened up about it yesterday to my 16-year-old. Part of me felt bad for hitting him with such an adult conversation -should teenagers know that their parents can be that broken? But he accepted it with aplomb and wise words; healing words, at least, assuring me that I do have worth to him and to God. In that moment I needed a confessor; one who was wrapped in flesh and who loved me. I am finding that speaking my truth out loud helps direct me down a healthier path - my solitude has sometimes led to hiding things about myself that do best when exposed to light and the living waters of human solace and understanding.



How apropos for me that this is the first reflection on the first day of Lent at explorefaith.org. Just reading "be still" created a stillness within me. How powerful can be one image or one word.

I don't like giving things up for Lent, I like adding things on. I plan on adding more stillness, more soaking in God, steering myself a little from the chaos that I use as an excuse not to spend time with him. I want to try and love others more. I want to love big, and to make room for God to be visible in me. I have some stuff to shovel out in order to let him in.

I want to keep learning how to listen when people need to share things with me, even horrible things. The detective wouldn't let my sister's kids see her body because she was beaten so badly. I'm learning that sometimes you need to hold things in stillness, let the pain speak without marginalizing it with words, let silent love and compassion flow from your heart and eyes and envelope the torment, as you envelope and embrace someone in your arms.



Brenda, my good friend at work, got a call early this morning in her cubicle across from mine. She couldn't understand her daughter because of her crying, and once she could make out her words she screamed, No! No! and started sobbing herself. Brenda's sister Betty had been murdered in Florida. Betty had called the police earlier because her neighbor was so angry with her for slamming her door while he was sleeping. She was scared of him - the detectives later told my friend that he was schizophrenic. So Betty had her friend stay with her until 8 o'clock, and when her friend went to check on her a half hour later she was lying beaten and stabbed to death in her tub. Betty had moved to Florida to escape her abusive husband. My friend Brenda hurts even more thinking about how glad she was that her sister had escaped the violence.

Just yesterday we had a department meeting; a very unusual one. Don knew there were some problems, personality conflicts and an unwillingness to work together as a team. So he talked about how he loved us all, and that we must work together by holding that kind of love for each other. He talked about how we're all family and we have to be open with each other and support each other. Pretty unusual for a boss to say things like that, don't you think? He's an exceptional man, our boss. Today after Brenda left, after we had all circled around her and hugged and held her, and prayed with her, someone mentioned that it must have been a God thing that we had that discussion yesterday.

This afternoon Brenda called me and said she was thinking about coming in to work tomorrow and I told her that Don wouldn't let her do that. Don was right there and he got on the phone and said, You're NOT coming in tomorrow. Don's never forceful, but he was when insisting one of his employees stay home and take care of herself. Brenda told me that she thought it might relieve some stress to come to work. I told her that if she needed to get away that I'd take to her lunch and go with her to get some things done for her sister's funeral or whatever she wanted. You take care of everyone, she told me. You're my Jesus Walker. Oh my God. I am so not a Jesus Walker...one who my friend believes walks with you and shows you Christ. I am just a friend, and even when I wanted to pray with her no words came out, and I let Dave do the praying. I couldn't even think to pray, and I felt guilty that I couldn't think how to pray. But I'm praying now, God. Help my friend and her family find some kind of peace in the midst of unspeakable tragedy and heartbreak.


Good gig, God

Hey. There was a little craziness going on in my life for a few days - lots of murky and swirling emotions, nice things that turned not so nice - you know. Stuff. In the midst of the stirred-up pond bottom things, I was working on a new freelance gig - my first ever CD design for a local band. A lot, lot, lot of detail goes into such a small product. But through it all, I was loving the work, and loved having a job that was related to the music biz. Another nice little "small world isn't it?" thing is that this CD will be sent to our local NPR station with my Goodrich Design moniker attached to it, and the recipient will be one of the cohosts of the "Grassroots" program - a woman who was married to my twin and is still one of my best friends. This was a great gig, God. Thanks.


Valentine's Day Blessings

Michael called me in the afternoon, which through me a bit, because he never calls me in the afternoon. He asked what I did at lunch time, and I told him about my trip to Barnes and Noble to buy my son a book for Valentine's Day, and another book for a little friend of mine who turned one-year-old today. One of his girls has a birthday today too, so we talked about how he was buying Valentines for all the girls in his family. And then it dawned on me. "Are you calling me because it's Valentine's Day?" He said yes, but that he hadn't bought me anything. I said I hadn't gotten him anything either. But I was so surprised and so touched that this special friend of mine would call me for Valentine's Day. What a gift. What a blessing. Radical gratitude for a loving phone call.

Near the end of the day I was talking to Carman on the phone. He wished me a Happy Valentine's Day and said that he'd do the dishes as a gift for me. (I didn't mention, of course, that he's supposed to do them anyway, but just thanked him.) A few minutes later I turned around in my little cubicle when I heard a noise, and there was my 16-year-old standing there with a beautiful long-stemmed rose in hand. He said he didn't just want to write me a poem this year, he wanted to buy me something. What an incredible blessing he is to his mother!

I drove home under sunny skies and mild weather, with a hint of springtime in the air, a rose tucked next to me in the passenger seat, and tears of joy and thankfulness. I am so lucky to see God's love in so many places - how can my heart not be pierced with humble gratefulness for all I have.


Dishwashing with reverence

This article from gratefulness.org seemed apt for me after I was lamenting dishwashing not long ago. I must learn to do it as experiential worship!

This July Brother David was head dishwasher at Tassajara, and before he left he entirely revised the washing ritual and retrained the students. Later, from his home monastery in Western New York, Mount Saviour, he sent the work foreman his suggestions for future dishwashers. They ranged from "a little vinegar in the rinse water makes the glasses sparkle," and "the cats do appreciate the milk left in the glasses from the guest table;" to "We should listen to the sound of the water and the scrubbing, to the various sounds the dishes make when they hit each other. The sounds of our work tell us much about our practice... Most people dislike dishwashing. Maybe they can learn to appreciate the touch of the wooden bowls, the pots and mugs and everything they handle, the weight of what we lift up and set down, the various smells and sound. St. Benedict, the Patriarch of Western monks, says that in a monastery every pot and pan should be treated with the same reverence as the sacred vessels on the altar."



Outside, the snow;
a vast ocean rising,
a sculpted white sea,
sinuous and cresting.
Angels, with whispered wings,
dust the groundswell,
their etchings gleam
in the moonlight.

We walk under a
pale winter’s moon,
the world hushed by
the ocean’s stillness.
Inhale the sacred silence,
fall softly into
undulating sea,
protected, swaddled,
embraced in
Winter’s womb.


Jeweled Steel

Someday when I grow up I'm going to have a wall of crosses. I so love the work that this artist does at Jeweled Steel. Maybe for my birthday...

Saving the best for last

Tim Hill (thillwl from the ooze) just called. I've been quite remiss in sending him the Sanctuary web files. However, except for assigning me penance, (three Our Fathers and half a dozen Hail Marys now on my to-do list), he was quite gracious about my procrastination.

He started telling me about Sanctuary - they have rented space now, and had their first walk-in visitors last week - whoo hooo! Then we got into a discussion about his teaching as pastor and my work in experiential worship. I told him that I think I could talk about that for hours, and Tim said, I know, it's a passion of yours. It was nice to be reminded of that, because lately I haven't talked or thought as much about my work on our creative team. I've thought about the tasks I need to do - two walls to cover in quotes for our upcoming series, and graphics and a sign to create still. Today I started to get excited as some of the design work started to take shape, but I haven't thought lately about how much I love the whole of experiential worship planning. It was good to be reminded of that. Good to remember that I have the blessing of being involved in something creative that is solely for God.

Tim also told me that several staff from his church plant want to come to Threads sometime soon. When he found out that we're getting our first Kids Community developer, a woman who previously headed children's spiritual development at Westwinds Church in Jackson, he was even more excited about coming here. Unfortunately I don't have much space for overnight guests, but I'm sure people in my small group will pitch in.

And so now that I've used this blog to talk out loud into cyberspace while I'm alone here, I should get the CD artwork done for a musician client, and go back to doing some work for Threads. I'm saving the best for last. :)


The Gloom is but a Shadow

I don't let it sneak up on me like it used to, thankfully. Despair still comes quietly, one soft footstep at a time, one slow, seemingly innocent drip...that is followed by another. I am so weak-willed. Drip. I hate driving in this snow. Drip. I have no self-discipline. Drip. My life is so - fill_in_the_blank_with_something_negative. Depression used to paralyze me until I realized that movement alone thwarted some of the depression. Go clean the bathroom. Rest. All right, go wash the dishes. Rest. Now pick up the phone and call someone. Rest. And moment by moment despair would subside, and slowly slink away.

This morning despair came creeping up, and though I hadn't seen it in awhile, we're still well acquainted enough that I haven't forgotten its face. Do the dishes. As I stood there, my first thought was just how many dishes always seemed to need washing, and then I lamented the fact that in my adult life I've rarely had a dishwasher, and envied those who had. And then I remembered. I have a window. I used to wash dishes in an apartment with no kitchen window. I looked outside while scrubbing a plate, and saw the trees out the windowpane. Lucky me, I live on a treeline separating my mobile home park from the church behind me. Others can only look at other mobile homes. But I get to look at trees! Glorious, wonderful trees, branches bending under the winter's wind, snow curling on the ground below, a hint of light under a pewter sky, and twig's dancing in the breeze.

Radical gratitude. Life changing, life bringing.

Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
~Fra Giovanni Giocondo


My Son, My Dad

Driving home, I was thinking
about telling you
(for the millionth time!)
that you need a shave.
My poor, hirsute, Italian boy.
You were just a child when I
had to purse my lips,
twist my face,
do strangely bizarre contortions
for our shaving lesson.

Here we are, five years later,
and my mind suddenly shouts,
You never taught him how to tie a tie!
And I am appalled at myself.

If your granddad were here,
he'd teach you how to weave a
Full Windsor, a Half Windsor, a Four in Hand.
He'd stand close enough so that
you'd breathe his scent of tobacco and Mennen,
and coffee or Scotch.

He's been gone 34 years today, though.
So I will buy you a tie soon,
and we'll learn this together.
I think God guides single mothers
as they fumble to knot a Half Windsor.

Edit: Right after I wrote that, I went to Larry's blog and saw a link to Don Miller's new book: To Own a Dragon - Reflections on growing up without a father. Maybe Carman's not too old for me to read out loud to him...


What Kerri Said

"...so I thought if he's not busy, I'd talk to your husband about being my partner on this freelance gig."

"Dan! The phone's for you. It's our beloved Anne."

I am basking in someone calling me beloved. I am thinking about how that sounded, like a harp strumming the chords of my soul. May God give me beautiful and true words to speak into others hearts.


Beneath Brokeback

At movieministry.com, a review of Brokeback Mountain is subtitled "Building Empathy for Sin", and one sentence says, "In order to make Jack and Ennis truly tragic, the men can carry no blame for the relationship".

Christians have a tendency to get wrapped up in sexual sin. Obviously this movie has carried plenty of it to grab our attention. Homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery. In the midst of our focus on two men loving each other, the reviewers missed an important, moral trait that Ennis possessed; he was a good father. As a twice-divorced mother who saw two dads walk away from their children's lives, I saw the gentleness and love that Ennis gave his girls. I took note after the divorce when Ennis talked to his daughters about when he'd see them again. When Jack heard about his lover's separation and showed up unannounced at his doorstep, I remember the reason Ennis gave him for not being able to spend time with him. He had his girls that weekend, he told Jack, and he only got them once a month, and he'd missed the month before. The lover that he saw infrequently and loved so passionately didn't come before his kids.

Ennis wouldn't quit his job and leave his girls to go live with Jack. But at the end of the movie he tells his daughter that he'll quit his job to be at her wedding. He is left with relics of those he loves - his shirt and Jack's together on a hanger, the sweater his daughter forgot when she left. Material reminders of what mattered most in the fabric of Ennis' life; those he loved. In the end he gave his daughter what he couldn't give Jack - his time and his presence.

I don't have to look very far to find grown men and women who have been scarred by the abandonment of their fathers (or mothers), as my children have been. If we only see the sexual elements in Brokeback and not the fathering that Ennis gave his children, what does that say? What matters most to us?



In one scene in The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara had been working at a leper colony for several weeks. The medical staff and hospital was on one side of the river, the lepers lived on the other side. The night before he and his friend took off there was a party for them, and Guevara stepped outside, looked longingly? sadly? across the river at the lights from the leper colony. And then he dove in and started swimming.

At the moment when he arrived half-dead, and people waded out to bring him ashore and hold him up and walk with him and embrace him, I thought, Christ. Christ. I am seeing Christ. And it doesn't matter to me if they're Christian, or if I'm Christian, or if anyone ever talks about being Christian. It's handing the cup of water to someone - there is Jesus. It's holding out my hand, it's sharing my morsel of food, it's love flowing from my heart into their Christ eyes. It's there, right there. Every moment of love. Every kindness done. Every gentle word spoken. I see the Son in all of that...and if they don't see that love and compassion in me....then I have not immersed myself in him enough yet. I pray to be a conduit of that Love, no matter what name others give it. I pray I will see Christ in each face I meet.


The Edge of Culture

I saw this on theooze.com and sent it to Lee, our pastor guy, and told him that it reminded me of our church. He wrote back and said, "Wow...that is all I can say. WOW. It was humbling to read. That is so where we need to be." Lee is always humble, that is probably one reason why so many of us feel so devoted to him. We have several hundred people in our church now, but when Lee started Threads, it was with a dozen people, all since gone, meeting in his living room. He gave up a secure paid ministry job and worked construction, delivered pizza, and supported his family at near poverty level in order to answer God's call to bring a church to people who never thought of walking into a church. And right when everything seemed to be coming together and getting easier, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and after two years in remission is still on maintenance chemo. Bless the ones who heed God's call even when they know the road will be hard, bless those who love so large and are so humble that you cannot help but encounter Christ. Bless us all as we try to live on the edge - sometimes a dangerous place, but oh, what a view...
The Edge of Culture

Christ, his followers, and how we perceive ourselves relating to culture has been a topic of heated debate for the last 2000 years. H. Richard Niehbuhr's book, Christ and Culture, suggests that all our varied perspectives are actually creating the tensions that will lead us in the right direction.

"...Christ as Lord is answering the question in the totality of history and life in a fashion which transcends the wisdom of all his interpreters yet employs their partial insights and their necessary conflicts."

In my estimation, the Church is born and bred and culture, and finds its home within it; yet we are also a transcendent community, a little bit of earth's green and heaven's blue in our eyes, and we live both within and hopefully beyond culture.

A personal story that may generate some fresh discussion. A few years ago, I had a unique experience at the edge of a cliff in New Zealand. Our guide had taken us to see one of the highest sea cliffs in the country, on a blustery day. Seeing the possible view that awaited me, I desperately wanted to snap a picture looking straight down over the precipice. Mingled with my sense of adventure was a clear call for wisdom - windy days and sharp overhangs do not a safe combination make!

Sensing my lack of confidence, a wise friend suggested, "Why don't you crawl to the edge?" With this advice, I could see the vista I so wanted to capture, yet do so in a way that protected me from potential harm. It was humbling, but I went to the edge tethered to my friends and grounded on the soil beneath me. I captured the view, but in the humblest of postures.

In many ways, we as the Church variously respond to "the edge" as well. Some of us have heard there is a beautiful view to be seen where Christ and culture work meet head on - and redemption wins the day. Others of us choose the safety of community, tradition and familiarity, over the temptation to see a fresh view. Still others of us attempt the edge with boldness and even arrogance, and have found the edge to be a precarious place of death and destruction. The challenge for the contemporary Church is to see the revelatory vista waiting for us, and yet to do so in humility, tethered to the historic Church community and the theological anchor of the scriptures.

The edge is a tenuous and unforgiving place, but it seems to be the place where Jesus and His disciples lived. This edge of engagement with culture requires discernment, and is a necessary part of impacting the world with the good news of the Kingdom of God. Contemporary worship expression has chosen to live on that edge, and is galvanizing the Church increasingly as it reforms itself.


Oh. My.

Sitting in my living room, the television murmuring in the background, holding A Severe Mercy in my lap. "Loved it! Thanks for sharing!" written in the oval of the little Victorian post-it note of yellow roses and lilacs. Mary, whom I haven't met, sent me her copy of A Grief Observed, a fitting loan, two books by two friends. For a moment as I scanned the pages of my own book, sought out familiar words, anticipated Lewis waiting quietly on the table, I had a sudden thought: "I just don't want to think about God anymore. I'm just tired of thinking about God." Before I could even be shocked at myself for thinking such a thing, I was suddenly swept up in his presence, the substance of Love a cloud sliding over my shoulders and wrapping me into an embrace. Oh my.

The Gap
Did Jesus live? And did he really say
The burning words that banish mortal fear?
And are they true? Just this is central, here
The Church must stand or fall. It's Christ we weigh.

All else is off the point: the Flood, the Day
Of Eden, or the Virgin Birth - Have done!
The Question is, did God send us the Son
Incarnate crying Love! Love is the Way!

Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe.

Sheldon VanAuken, A Severe Mercy

For You

words from explorefaith.com


Emerging Nun?

When the six of us gathered the other night for our Creative Collaborative, we were back-and-forthing thoughts in a brainstorming session for the Desperate Sex Lives series. When we got to the week about singleness, (One is the Loneliest Number), one woman made the comment that it wasn't until she surrendered her life completely to God and became content with her life that she met her husband. (The old, magic "Stop looking and then you'll find them", theory.) One man chimed in that he was so glad he wasn't out on that dating playing field anymore. I let my, "Thanks, Ron", purposely drip with inauthenticity. But I smiled.

I know that Lee knew what I was going to talk about. In the Protestant tradition there is not much space for believing that some can be called to singleness. Not only is it usually greeted with skepticism, it is not normally viewed as a healthy way of life, really. Lee (bless him) immediately chimed in with Paul's take on how people should stay single...if they were able.

Anyway, I also talked about how age can change your focus, your hormones, your desires to be paired with another. Then I'm going off on this little passionate soliloquy about priests and nuns and a calling to celibacy and devotion to God, and why didn't we have Emergent nuns, I wonder? Jessica immediately said she could so see me as an emergent nun. (I'm immediately picturing myself in a forest green habit with a cloth band of metallic bronze Celtic crosses lining my wimple.) More brainstorming. Maybe people could ask questions during our gathering about singleness. Maybe Anne (huh?) could be available to pray with other singles who would like prayer about being single. Uh oh. The thing is - I don't know that I'm called to lifelong singleness, though I think I've convinced my pastor and our team that I am. Even though I have been divorced for 11 years now, I'm not sure I want to commit myself to being celibate the rest of my life. Probably a 20-year-old reading this would think those feelings of passion are way behind me by my age, but they're not.

Yesterday a friend at the Ooze posted an article by Capon, and part of it said this:
"One of the difficulties in our thinking about the will of
God has been caused by the crisis of change in the church.
Everyone agrees, of course, that what we need most is To Do
The Will Of God. The trouble is that very few people, unless
they are faking it, know what the will of God for them is.
There is a lot of pious talk about finding out about whether
it is the will of God for you to marry Irving, or become a
priest, or take the veil; but in all honesty, what you are
really going to find out is what your will on the subject is,
and whether you have enough nerve to go through with it."

I've been musing this over. Am I finding God's will by what falls away? My desires for intimacy as a woman may still be intact, but my desire to go out and purposely try to meet someone is nonexistent. Feelings of loneliness surface occasionally, but the bereft feelings of desolation I had when younger have dissipated. Most times I am content with my life, my friends, my God. My Rick, the man I spent a number of years with as a friend, business partner and lover are now gone since his memory of me was mostly wiped away after extensive shock therapy treatments. (I have to pause for a moment here. My gratitude to God for allowing me to have one relationship in my life with a man of fine and noble character.)

"We have, you see, been forced by change into a situation in
which we are either going to have to stop talking about doing
the will of God, or else find a way of seeing it in a new
light. Specifically, we are going to have to find a way of
seeing our now almost inevitable independence as the heart of
our calling - of discovering that our present condition of
flying by the seat of our pants may well be Doing The Will Of

Emergent nun? If there were such a creature, I'm not sure yet. I should call Toni, the young woman I know who has just become a Third Order Religious, and taken a vow of celibacy, though it's not required for laymen or laywomen. Not because I am looking for direction - perhaps my direction lies in things falling away. But because her passion for Christ consumes her so, and has led her to this calling. And I want to taste, even vicariously, the kind of passion that makes someone feel they are not giving up anything when they make this vow, but are walking towards the greatest intimacy of all.

And I should write Lee and tell him I don't want to mislead him. I'm not sure yet that I'm ready to become the first-ever Emergent Church nun. (Though "Sister Anne Marie" has a nice ring to it...)


Angels of the Autos

I can't sleep yet even though I'm so tired. My baby, my 16-year-old, is taking his girlfriend home, about 15 miles round trip. The wind blows cold outside my window, and the snow was falling on unseasonably warm ground. Just wet pavement, Lord, that's what I pray. Who is this woman? This woman who worries so much more then she used to about the older kids. Is it the wisdom of experience, or a byproduct of age, holding those I love in more preciousness than before.

In a week's time since Carman got his driver's license my prayer has been whittled down. I love you, God bless you, may angels surround your car...

The wind sounds hollow, the late night lonely. I will wrap myself in warm prayers until he returns.

Almost as soon as I finished typing that, I hear his key in the door. What a lovely sound it makes. I fancy it sounds like the whispers of angels.


Weaving Threads

Church People - Today lunch with Dan to talk business as he's just left his lucrative position in digital art in Chicago to make a go of things at home here in Michigan. Saturday night I'll be having dinner with him and his wife - Dan's an ex heroin addict, his wife's an ex felon and recovering alcoholic. B. called me and asked me to meet him for coffee tonight. We will probably talk about God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and his new marriage, and maybe the struggles he and his wife have had leaving the dom/sub bondage scene. D. from my small group is over for a little bit right now hanging out with Carman. She's shaved her head, and has a new tattoo of her daughter's handprint on her shoulder.

When I have dinner Saturday night with Dan and his wife, Kerri said she's looking forward to hearing my story. In another church there is so much of my story I probably wouldn't tell. But in this place, with these people, what story couldn't I tell? Jesus embraced the misfits, sat down and ate lasagna with the riffraff. So many of us plunged screamingly into life with wild abandon, and found something missing until we plunged headlong into life in Christ. May his Spirit grow larger and more present in my life, but may I always have the heart of a misfit.


Happy Birthday Dad

Dear Dad,

You would be 84-years-old today. Each passing year the photograph of you on my living room wall looks younger. I have now lived more years on this planet than you were given. How crazy is that.

I remember when I smashed Mom's car when I was 16-years-old, tore a hole in the side of it, and burst through the door sobbing hysterically. I know you couldn't even understand me at first because I was crying so hard. I finally managed to blurt out the details between my deep gasping sobs, and cried, You have to come out! You have to see what I did!

But you just sat there calmly and said, No. I'm not going to. That stunned me. You told me that it was more important to you that I calm myself down then for you to go look at the car, and when I was feeling better then we would go look at it together.

Dad, that was a remarkable thing for a father to do. You, who didn't know how to tell people you loved them, showed me how much value I had to you in that brief moment. You showed me too all those days when I was in the hospital and you canceled business trips to be at my side everyday. I didn't know right then what a gift from God my illness was, and how he was blessing me by giving me time with you right before there was no time left. Dad, it was your death that led me to God; life made absolutely no sense to me unless I embraced him. Dad, it was your life that led me to God, because despite the hardships, the alcohol, the pain all that caused - I loved you so ferociously, I looked up to you and idolized you and thought you were the most brilliant and wonderful man on this planet.

Dad, life is so crazy. I only had you for 17 short years, and you've been gone for almost 34, and many memories of you grow dim. Yet as I type this the grief wells up once more, the tears still flow, the love - the magnificent, incredible, amazing love I have for you is just as present. Forever and forever, Dad.

My love to you. My love to Mom. My love. My love. My love.


Still Desperate

Well, one thing I know I can contribute is the series graphic... Funny how I tried to strategically place my text, as though I should worry about Adam and Eve's scanty bit of foliage. Probably a mental carry over from when our drama team did a sketch during our gathering and used the word "condom", (actually that was my son's line), and got some disapproving comments from church people who thought that was a bit risque for their younger children to hear. But we had Lee's approval. Blessed to have rebel pastor guy who believes in being real.


Desperate Sex Lives

I'm checking sporadically to see if Lee has uploaded a synopsis of our upcoming series, Desperate Sex Lives. My pastor guy is good with the titles...
Before our creative collaborative team meets this Sunday night to help plan music and experiential worship elements I like to read his brief outline, the accompanying scripture. I like to soak in it a bit, reflect and pray. Our group is a good combo - some shoot from the hip - wild, wacky, crazy ideas that are wonderful. I usually end up coming in like some Emergent nun with the quiet thoughts. (Not that I can't be wacky - I did compose new lyrics to the Addams family song we sang one Halloween and Photoshop-morphed Lee and Kristi into Gomez and Morticia.)

Anyway, so far there is just a list of titles for the weekly spiritual talks:
The Power of Love
One: The Loneliest Number
Temptation: Start Me Up
Dating: I Want To Hold Your Hand
Marriage: Light My Fire
Dirty Laundry: Finding Forgiveness

I hope I have the time to be reflective with scripture verses and Lee's metaphors and descriptions because I'll be the only single one in the group. The only twice divorced one on the team. I don't know what it's like to be married to your best friend. I've been a single mother longer in adulthood then I've been married. What can God use me for in this? It'll be interesting to see. He often surprises me.


Why the laundry doesn't get done

Early morning working on a logo for my son's girlfriend's 60's/garage sounding band. They were featured in a big spread in our local paper as one of the up and coming sounds around town. But they're logoless; such a crime to a graphic designer. It took me forever to get the lettering right - the right shade of grey, distortion arc, filters for chrome and silver just didn't work. Think elsewhere...don't look in the obvious places...try glass, try mirror, add lens flare, a touch of satin filtering, a light touch on the inner bevel....try exploring design like faith....open wider, wider, farther, deeper. Not to say I've created the ultimate garage band logo for Metal Teeth. Not to say that I've plunged the depths of faith yet that my heart desires. God and Rock n' Roll on a Saturday morning.

Somewhere in Time

In my dream I was afraid because I knew the men who had broken in before and hurt me would come again. I went to the front door to check the locks and when I turned around my daughter was there, very tiny again, riding a tricycle. She asked where my friend Michael was, said that he would protect us, and I told her that he wasn't there because he has his own family. She didn't know he had a family and I explained that he was still a part of our lives too, and I said, "That's because God planned for all of us to be here on this planet at the same time to help one another."

I still have this lingering sense from my dream of how remarkable that is. Each person I have met in person or online is here in this tiny blip on the map of time for a reason, for a purpose, and each relationship I have is a strand that weaves its vibrant color into the fabric of my life. So many of you, weaving yourself into my life, have strengthened the threads of my soul, made the tapestry of life so much richer in hue and dimension. I'm so glad that God chose us to all travel here in this tiny increment of time. Bless all you brave ones journeying on this earth, who courageously open, loosen and unravel yourselves and lovingly weave others in.


Bag of Hammers

There's a story about a group of people standing around in a circle. God asks each of them to take out their biggest problem and place it in the center, and then he tells everyone to choose from the pile and pick up whichever problem they'd want. They all choose the original problem they'd placed in the circle.

Michael J. Fox told that story in an interview I watched. He was different, his Parkinson's disease is more obvious now, though some symptoms subsided a bit when he excused himself for a few minutes to take another pill. His face is less animated, his smile is only a reflection of what it used to be, and the involuntary twitching of his limbs cannot be completely controlled as they were when I saw him on television a couple of years ago. He said that sometimes now he has facial contortions that will freeze his face in a twisted grimace for half an hour or more, and how he has to put his mind in a different place and wait out the paralysis and the pain it causes. But then he said this:

"Having this disease is a gift." He said that it's a gift because when you have lost something, you see just how much you have gained in life and how much you still have. He talked about how grateful he was to have been able to do the work he loved, and for all the relationships he's had in life that mean so much to him.

"We all have a bag of hammers," Michael Fox said. God, may I always see how light my bag has been compared to many, may I see the gift in the ones I have, and may I always be concerned about the hammers all your children carry.


Dear Lord, I want to have the heart of heaven

We are most like the Holy One when we really care about each other. In a consumerist, materialistic culture, it’s teasingly seductive to be more concerned about oneself than about others. But we do so at our own peril. At the center of our being lies our heart—that place that was created for caring.

When we are overly fascinated with ourselves, our heart is diminished, our compassion is stunted, our interaction with the whole of human existence is lessened. When we cast our glance away from self and etch the lives of others on our heart, our heart expands. We come to understand ourselves better. We find that our thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams deepen until they are as textured and rich as the thick wool of an oriental carpet.

Consider what it might mean in your life if you began to etch others on your heart. Instead of praying episodically, you would keep your heart always open to heaven, silently asking God to read the carvings you had scratched there.

O God, when I am pre-occupied with myself, wake me up and give me the heart of heaven.

~Renee Miller


The Girth of God

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span..."
Isaiah 40:12

If I were not in church, I would never read those words from Isaiah probably, or if I did, it would be a quick scan, not something I would contemplate much, certainly not a brief phrase that I would imagine using for a spiritual talk. Good thing I'm in a church. Good thing I have a pastor whose eyes don't speed read through the Old Testament.

Lee, bless him, always paints a picture for we visual-minded folks with our TV brains. Lake Michigan is 300 miles across at its widest, and about 1,000 feet deep at its deepest. (That's over 3 football fields, which is the only way I can visualize distance, which is odd because I'm not a big football fan.) Anyway, it's a lot of water, and if you throw in lakes Huron, Ontario, Erie and Superior it's a lot to put in a measuring cup, which Lee held up for another visual aid, bless him. And then we add all the other inland lakes and the rivers, seas and oceans and imagine that in the hollow of God's hand. Suddenly God gets quite gargantuan.

As a side benefit, I immediately have this really fond feeling for God, this Spirit who uses a human anatomy word picture to try and describe himself in human terms so we can get just a tiny inkling of his ubiquitousness.

And then Lee talked about the heavens, and asked for statistics. I'm so glad I belong to a church where questions are asked and answers are called out from the Body, a church where we don't sit passively and run the risk of having our minds wander to what's on sale at Wal-Mart or how long it will take for the pot roast to cook in the crock pot. I'm also impressed by the statistical knowledge of many of these lovely people, who know so much more than I do about the speed of light and the nearest constellations and how long it would take to travel there. If Lee could have broken space travel down into football field measurements, I might have been able to wrap my brain around it a bit better.

Then he talked the heavens and being a guide in the mountains of Colorado, and making a base camp at 10,000 feet. After all the young men helped set up camp at dusk in record time, they took each boy outside of camp about 100 yards, which, when I think of a football field, is pretty far when you're high up in the mountains with night crawling in. The guides also took their sleeping bags and went out 100 yards individually, so that everyone was arranged in a spoke around the base camp. So there they were, a connected circle, but separate in their own Rocky Mountain world. I can almost hear the silence. And I could almost see the stars when Lee described lying there and looking up at a heaven so vast and so deep that it felt as if you could reach up your hand and touch it, and that it could swallow you in its immensity and dimension.

Then I thought of God measuring the vastness of space stretched out between his thumb and pinky finger. When I think of a God that big, I see a glimpse of why the sight of a dandelion poking through a crack in the sidewalk can bring me to tears. I begin to understand how I can stand in line at the bank and see these invisible threads between each and everyone of us there, and be filled with such love for strangers. God's girth is so enormous that he touches every thing, and every one. And occasionally when I am very lucky I feel the universe wrapped in his arms and saturated in Love.