Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
As I prepared for last Sunday’s time of worship, I found helpful the instructions that the class facilitator sent to us. The process he suggested to us is as follows:
1. Participate in worship service, take notes.
It helps that I attend the early unprogrammed meeting, which becomes not only a preparation for programmed worship, but a worship experience in itself. The gathering word came from a quote by Carolyn Stephens about God who communicates: “The one cornerstone of belief upon which the Society of Friends is built is the conviction that God does indeed communicate with each one of the spirits he has made, in a direct and living inbreathing of some measure of the breath of his own life; that he never leaves himself without a witness in the heart as well as in the surroundings of man; and that in order clearly to hear the divine voice thus speaking to us we need to be still….”
Several people spoke into the silence, one about an atheistic scientist who found Christ through research on the human genome project, the other a personal story about seeing a deer in a small forest in the middle of Newberg. I felt awe and gratitude before the fact that God communicates with us in so many ways.
So many aspects of programmed worship spoke to me. The words of the songs became prayer: “Knowing you, Jesus, there is no greater thing;” “Oh draw me, Lord, and I’ll run after you;” “We have decided to follow Jesus.” During the baby dedication, I had the strong sense of the community vowing to follow Jesus in the care and discipleship of our children. I felt his pleasure and was moved by the seriousness of this commitment.
Lynn preached on several passages from Mark 1 and 2, and the parts that stood out to me concerned Jesus’ calling of the disciples. “Follow me.” Here are some of the points I noted down about the call to follow and our response:
And mixed in with these formal elements of worship were the greetings, conversations, warm connections with my fellow followers. This, too, is worship.
Now, several days later, what is lingering and growing is the voice of Jesus throughout the day, inviting: “Follow me.” On Monday, as I communicated with the students in my online class, as I interacted by email and phone with other members of the administrative team, as I prepared for the writers group and, later that evening, led a meeting of the elders and pastors, this invitation accompanied me. I had a very real sense of following Jesus in each endeavor.
This continues and has become a profound and deeply encouraging experience. I know what Jesus is saying to me through the Sunday worship. Now I broaden the question: What is he saying to us as a community?
Monday, September 19, 2011
It had been months since the words flowed
from brain to hand to page and I was anguished,
wondering if my muse was on extended coffee break
or if this was a clear-cut case of abandonment.
But then, last night as I was brushing my teeth,
it came to me, pure and full-blown, the perfect poem.
So I rushed from the bathroom to my desk,
grabbed paper and pen, put it all down,
then basked for a moment in creative relief.
I left it there on the edge where I'd be sure
to see it first thing in the morning.
It's morning now, but all I find are nibbled margins,
a few Sanskrit footprints in the dust,
and down on the carpet,
barely visible, one small grey poop of a metaphor.
(From The Secret Colors of God: Poems by Nancy Thomas, Barclay Press, 2005)
Friday, September 9, 2011
Right now Hal and I are in Springfield, Oregon at our daughter’s home, helping out with the grandkids. We are giving Kristin time to do her online courses, while we care for three-year-old Peter. Peter is legally blind and autistic. Other than that, he is a bright, beautiful, active toddler. And life is an adventure.
Among the many things we’re learning about autism are the unique ways people with this condition process language. They think in pictures and take things very literally. They have trouble with metaphors and imagery.
The other morning I was getting Peter up and I said something that irritated him. He ordered me to “No Grandma talk!”
I responded with, “You don’t want me to say that? All right. My lips are sealed.”
He immediately sat up in bed, dug his stuffed seal out of the covers, found its mouth and said, “Seal’s got lips. Seal’s got lips.” (Repetition is another characteristic, usually more than twice.)
I laughed and tried to explain what I meant. We then got him dressed and headed down the hall to breakfast. Entirely out of context, he said, “Peter’s lips are sealed,” then changed it to a question, “Are Peter’s lips sealed?”
We enjoyed his remark so much that he has adopted this phrase and at various times throughout the day, always out of context, he will inform us that “My lips are sealed.” The new bed time ritual involves picking up his seal and making some comment on his lips, after which he’s free to go to sleep.
Life is indeed an adventure, and young Peter is teaching us much. He certainly keeps me on my toes. (Now how would he picture that phrase? Grandma in a tutu, doing pirouettes?)
Though his lips may be sealed, Peter can still grin.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Recently I spent a delightful afternoon with a friend. Gary talked about his writing projects and among them was a reflection on his collections. The idea originally came from an exercise in self-reflection, pondering what the things we collect say about who we are. I found his article fascinating and insightful and decided to do the same exercise myself.
I’ve been a collector all my life. Much of this stuff I no longer own. My stamp collection became too expensive and demanding, so I finally just gave it away. I outgrew the dolls and comic books. But I still collect. And while I don’t really believe my collections define my existence, it’s still an insightful exercise.
I collect heart rocks. Why? Because they’re small, pretty and very inexpensive. And because I love the way they feel in my hands and the way they sound when I tumble them together. And because it’s a bit of a challenge to find them. Whenever I go to the beach I manage to bring home one or two. When a visitor to my home admires my heart rocks (and not everyone even notices them), I invite her to take one home. For keeps, as my grandkids would put it.
I have a wooden bird collection. These come from Bolivia and show both the beauty of Bolivia’s tropical woods and the skills of her craftsmen. My wooden goose accompanies me every day as I work at my computer, reminds me of where I’m from and what I love.
My wooden puzzle collection speaks mainly to my role as a grandmother. The grandkids love these animal puzzles and, although they’re harder than they look to put together, the kids have become quite good at it. These come from Costa Rica, a place I visit frequently as a teacher and have come to love. They represent the colors, creativity, and natural beauty of this place.
Hal and I both collect books and some of our rooms look rather like libraries. We have several categories of books, and my favorite collection, that includes movies as well as books, has to do with stories about cultural values, communication styles, and intercultural relationships. I especially like books and movies produced by the culture they represent. Favorite authors include (among many others) Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan), Ynag Erche Namu (southern China), Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), Isabel Allende (Chile), Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua), Sandra Cisneros (Hispanic American), Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan (Chinese American), Jung Chang (China) and Jhumpa Lahiri (Indian American). The movies include my favorite, Babette’s Feast (Denmark), The Necessities of Life (Inuit culture), Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Taiwan), and Departures (Japan). There are many more, but you get the idea. This reflects my life as a poet, writer and participant/observer, having lived most of my adult years outside the US.
I collect words. I collect them as favorite poems, some committed to memory. I collect funny (always insightful) things my kids and grandkids have said. I remember interesting conversations (some overheard) and billboards along the highways. I store in my mind words that sound beautiful, funny or interesting, as separate entities or in phrases. I use them when appropriate. Hal and I read good books out loud to each other, partly because we like the sound of the words. When we were reading Jacob Have I Loved (yes, a book for young people), we came across the word lugubrious, and just stopped to admire it, guessing its meaning from the context (and later looking it up). I then wrote this poem in honor of the word:
A WORD LIKE LUGUBRIOUS
needs a poem of its own.
Consider the slime and the slink of it,
the slightly sinister wink of its eye
as it peeks from behind potted plants at wakes,
lingers at the altars of Protestant revivals,
or sobs with soap opera heroines.
An irreverent Uriah Heapish word,
a marbles-in-the-mouth sound,
it offers no apologies
for its lumpish singularity.
Some suggestions for everyday use:
--"This piano is lugubriously out of tune."
--"He shed a lugubrious tear
as she passed him the marmalade."
--"This morning at exactly 5:37,
a lugubrious lummox was sighted
at the corner of 11th and Lucerne
in downtown LA. We have investigators
on the scene and will interrupt our broadcast
to bring up-to-date coverage
on this fast-breaking story."
--"Not tonight, dear. I'm feeling lugubrious."
What are some of your collections? What do they reveal about you?