Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quote: Kathleen Norris

From Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (2008, Riverhead Books):

“Even as I discovered my vocation as a writer, I had to struggle to maintain the boring work habits necessary for nourishing it” (41).

“The concept of sin does not exist so that people who may need therapy more than theology can be convinced that they are evil and beyond hope. It is meant to encourage people to believe that they are made in the image of God and to act accordingly. Hope is at the heart of…the ever present possibility of transformation” (114).

“When the Dalai Lama was asked for advice about how people could improve their spiritual lives, he laughed and said that it was obvious: Eat less, don’t stay up so late, and sleep more” (193-194).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Faith Statements

Several years ago on a personal retreat, I decided to name the five values that I want to characterize me during the last 20 years of my life. Five is an arbitrary number (why not six? or nine?), but I found the task of limiting the field helpful. After several days, I had narrowed my basic life values down to gratitude, wisdom, compassion, poetry and humor.

(Actually, “20 years” is another arbitrary number. I may need a lot more time to grow into these values, and I may have a lot less. I’m content not knowing that detail.)

Simply naming my basic values has encouraged me, as I pray them, envision my growth, and thank God for helping me become the person he created me to be. Recently I wrote a poem called “Faith Statements,” and the title is important. This poem is not self-description, despite all the “I am” affirmations. It’s a prayer of becoming.


I am one who thinks “Thank you”
before, “Oh no!,” “Why me?”
“Why bother?” or “Ouch.”
“Yes” is always on the tip of my brain.
In the rain, the dark, with ants on the sink,
beside you as you sleep, my secret
inward smile. There.

I am one who really does get better
with age. All those years and tears
matter, season the stew of now,
make people want to taste, touch,
see, feel, hear, grow.

I am one who feels the pain/joy/fear/hope
of another, from the inside out.
When I give you a cup of cold water,
it’s love that compels. It’s love
that flows through my veins,
and love that moves me out the door.
Leads me to you.

I am one with eyes that see, ears
that hear. I am attentive to
the small voices the leaves make.
I see the hidden
footprints all around me. I
can show up to the page
because I show up to life.

I am one who laughs a lot,
even at inappropriate times.
Not always out loud.
I can’t tell jokes, but I discover
them everywhere. Give me
a second look and you’ll see.
I’m laughing at you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quote: G. K. Chesterton

"Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them." (From Orthodoxy)

Friday, July 17, 2009

To blog or not to blog: taking the plunge

“Blog” is such a funny word. Perhaps it’s the rhyme with “frog” and “bog” that makes me think of something fat and green, with bulgy eyes. Blog, as a verb, should mean to paddle forward at a slow pace, as though through yellow muck.

But of course that’s not at all how we use the word today (although parts of the image may match). And here I am, with my own blogspot—a sort of literary lily pad, ready to take the plunge.

To blog or not to blog—that has been the question for several years now. I’ve been reluctant. A writer all my life, I remember my first poem, at seven-years-old. I was sitting on the porch with a tablet and a pencil, copying my dad, doing what he spent so many hours doing, seeing if I could do it too. Writing.

Actually I was playing with words, enjoying their sounds, mixing and matching them, and then putting them down on paper. The result was a poem in which I go around murdering people in rhythm and rhyme. In spite of its strange content, it was not a morbid poem and did not frighten my parents, who praised my efforts. (The content came from the fact that the only word I could find to rhyme with my last name, Forsythe, was knife—and the poem ran off on its own volition, clutching that dangerous knife and dragging me along with it. At that time in my creative development, form obviously dominated meaning.)

That was the last murder poem I ever wrote, but it was certainly not the last poem. My adventure as a writer had begun and was greatly encouraged the following year by Mrs. King, my third grade teacher. The story has continued down through the years, taking me into a world of cross-cultural stories, publication, research and the privilege of encouraging writers in other countries. I’m now a young woman in her early 60s, still excited to be alive, still learning new stuff. And still writing it all down.

So—why blog? I’m a little nervous about sending this out into the void. I have a lot of questions about the value of blogging and about my own motivations. How is this to be like my personal journal (definitely not for publication) and how like a collection of articles? Can I consistently have something of substance to say, and can I consistently say it well? I don’t know.

The discipline required to do this and to do it well is one drawing reason. I need to grow in discipline. But I want to see that discipline as a channel for grace—not another burden to add to the pack.

Another reason to blog is the chance of finding conversation partners, people with the same passions and interests (or not), who will comment, encourage, challenge—in short, talk with me.

Another reason is the chance this gives us to keep in touch with family and friends when we are traveling and teaching in other countries. The “we” here is important, and I’m hoping both Hal and I will use this blogspot. I will probably write more frequently, but I love it when Hal writes.

Anyway, here goes….from the lily pad, into the lake. Plop.