Tuesday, November 11, 2008



When my mind is whirring as I hope to sleep, I think, "I must not have used it enough." Lying beneath my duvet...I thought about young couples. For a moment, I envied them. Then I remembered the lesson from meditation today. Then I remembered that to be wistful for what will never be is to spurn what is. I thought about young couples, and was happy for them. I feel a strong appreciation for the gifts of God tonight and an affectionate love for his Presence. I remember in my early days at Healing Rain, as I agonized over a potential admission, Larry told me that statistically we make decisions on 40% of the data, that typically 40% is the best we can hope for. I will continue searching for truth, but I won't wait for 100% before I let myself love Him...

...I walked to the small man-made pond between our neighborhood and the next. There was a pile of rocks I could sit on rather comfortably and from which I had an excellent view. Summer wildflowers have triumphantly overtaken the perimeter of the pond. On a slight incline, to my right is a cluster of trees, the flowers climbing over rocks and crowding their trunks. The surface of the water dazzled in response to the soft light of the lowering sun that seemed to be setting beneath a silvery veil. Behind me, a pair of black and orange insects acted like lovers on one of the bright yellow flowers. I began to wonder if, were I to choose another home, I'd ever find such a place to sit--I wondered if places could be thought of as important as people--I wondered if...I realized all my wondering was doing a disservice to the very thing that had set me at it; that is, what a wonder this place was in this moment. What was important was that right then, I was present in it's presence. Any other wondering only carried me away from what I had. Wondering over "what ifs" and "not yets" may have their value, but they are out of place when usurping the "here & now."

And here in my bed, now at nearly midnight; I think I am ready to sleep.


In Kentucky there is an insect with a long, narrow, dusty brown body. When in resting pose he looks similar to a grasshopper. When startled into motion, he spreads wings of bold black and yellow and flutters off; lovely as any butterfly. Because he will return to a sedentary, drab form does not discount his hidden glory. And though he can flash brilliantly and fly away does not mean a part of him isn't ugly.


...When I hit the snooze on my alarm this morning it was with the idea that I would go back to sleep and create a pleasant dream so that I could start the day right. Apparently I'd felt the dreams I woke from, which I can no longer remember, were somewhat disturbing. A thunderstorm was brewing and it broke before I got to my car. The rain felt like a gift and I didn't mind the way it railed against my windshield. The earth and atmosphere and I sang with delight at this long awaited refreshment.


...Everything is not falling apart, but it is certainly changing...


I went to the Berea Friend's Meeting with M., K., and J...We were warmly greeted at the door before walking through another, entering a room with a wood floor, open windows, and green chairs set in a circle. A few people were already seated quietly and K. led the way to the outer circle. People gradually filed in, wordlessly taking their seats, the noises of bodies encountering chairs and the insects outside singing were the only sounds. A woman named Maureen momentarily broke the silence, inviting Friends to lift joys or concerns to the light. Between the deep pockets of voicelessness, a voice would raise up a thanks or petition or observation.
I thought of many things, most petty. There were some paltry attempts at plans, glimmering hope of uncovering a future destiny, many unfounded visions of life in Chicago. With these would always come the reminder that the day in which I am living is "today," thus only when present in today--with those who are also present--am I really living. It requires a self-awareness that shifts outside the self and is present in its surroundings...I tried to focus on God and "the light" but could only bring the focus as far as creation--my point of reference--particularly thinking of living things and people.
"Thank you for putting your children on this earth," I thought, "and thank you for letting me be one of them."
Much of my thinking at this point became centered on the theme of reality as something that far exceeds me and yet from which I am not excluded. Accompanying these thoughts was a recurring image; a shift from me standing timidly outside a door debating with myself over whether or not I should knock, to me as inside the house, opening the door widely, inviting the outsider in...And I saw an image like a painting, but alive, me among others floating in water. We were each distinctly ourselves but without any sense of separation. I could imagine myself turning and talking to any of the others without and sense of insecurity or pride...

...Other thoughts from Friend's Meeting on being natural--feeling natural is "not good" (violence, cruelty, lack of awareness, etc.) in spite of opinions to the contrary ("act natural," "be yourself")...perhaps these opinions stem from a belief in a kind of "super-nature." That is, that there is some naturalness that rises from below, or descends from above, or otherwise encounters from beyond and supersedes that naturalness that we typically encounter...


My first evening housesitting at Larry and Martha's--Though summer is supposedly ended the weather remains soft and warm. As evening progresses a gentle breeze picks up and the temperature creeps down. The breeze coaxes a deep round sound of varying pitches from the large metal chimes hanging in the far right corner of the porch. The melody of the chimes is accompanied by the crisp rustle of two grass plants with striped stalks and leaves and cream tufts at the top. They are full and tall, almost touching the eaves, and swaying in a slow erratic dance with their invisible partners. Beside me sits the Madison County Library's copy of the Brothers Karamazov and a poorly made vodka martini with a single olive floating in it's center. Surrounding the porch are mild hills, houses, barns, and fields of cows and browning grass. The sky is pale blue with only a few clouds hanging in clusters on the horizon.
I have a sense of wonder and of peace and of being set apart. The moment I stepped onto the porch and settled into this low broad wooden rocking chair, my worries about not having a working phone and concerns as to how I would spend the evening were transported, or perhaps I was...in any case, they and I have parted ways.
...A few minutes ago I stood on the back deck and looked up. At first only a few stars were visible; within moments, however, millions of barely perceptible points of light teased my sense of sight and I could see how ancients saw them performing stories.


From The Reason for God:
"Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitations that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things."

...The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, has been calling me and I made the mistake of finally giving in and watching it. I say mistake because, though it was very well done, and the Alan Arkin as Singer absolutely captivated me; I now feel utterly lonely and undone. The characters of this story move inside you. I begin to remember the stories that are told in the book, as well as the me that I was when reading and I feel them. And I ache for Singer who was always listening but never heard...

...The quote I wrote from earlier today haunts me and I don't know how to respond. I find myself now longing for tomorrow's contra dance, longing for looking into eyes and holding hands and interacting with people I care about. I must not lost track of today, however, and the gift of temporary aloneness that I often crave as well.


"I am waiting for God to tell me that I'm doing all right."

I thought of this phrase while reading the final chapter of The Reason for God. It arose as a response from a character in one of the untold stories I carry around with me, the story of the wandering servant. She is answering the question, "Why do you live this way?"

...[I have] continued to think of what I could have said [in response to the question of why I would want to go to Divinity School] and to wonder at and develop the reasoning that lies behind my decisions and desires.

"I guess you can say I am one of those people that believes in God, not only as existing but being existence; I believe in God as the core of all that is. I believe in him, but I don't really feel that I know him. Because of that I often feel that I don't really understand people, including myself. I want to help people and to enjoy life, but I'm not sure of what is truly helpful and I continue to be walled by peculiar fears and petty greed. I believe also in Jesus as redeemer and so am able to carry on without being overwhelmed by guilt and disappointment despite constantly missing the mark or failing to even take a shot. And because of love, which has an unshakeable hold, I am not satisfied with saying, 'Well, I'm forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, nothing more needs to be done. I don't need to do anything.' The issue is not whether anything needs to be done, it's that this love not only holds me outside but compels me from within. It does not drag, but guides and beckons and I want to join the dance that draws us together and into joy--where we give and take and no one is left wanting. I've a suspicion this leading Love may be a part of what some call the Holy Spirit or Counselor, who continues with us to remind us that though absent in the flesh, our Lord and our God is with us.
So, this is why I am interested in getting a masters in theology; to learn to know and honor God--who is the reason for and heart of life--and to understand and love the earth--which is the actualization of life as well as my cradle and my tomb."


It is 8 p.m. I am unpacked, organized and settled in my home. This place feels like home and that feels good.
Tonight I've the sense that I am reawakened to life; not because the past week was uneventful, not because I didn't feel I was engaging in the days. The week was rich. My time and L. & M.'s was revealing and rewarding. At Healing Rain I felt more like an active player in the game than usual. One thing I am having continually confirmed is that, much as I covet time alone and away, I really like to be around people. Another thing I became aware of, and I didn't realize this until I got home; I have been carrying around the secret belief that L. And M.'s life is better than mine. I don't believe that anymore...I like my life. I could certainly do more and better, but each day along the way to maturity and excellence is good all on it's own.

Friday, November 7, 2008



August already. This year has dashed by. I believe that yesterday was my Healing Rain anniversary. Lately I’ve been so caught up in my quandary over Palestine, I’ve spent little to no time in reflection—I’ve certainly continued to neglect prayer and meditation, despite the fact that now is the time I need it most….

…Pop believes that God has certain things in store for certain people. He believes that I’m a special person for whom a special path is planned. I am struggling so much in my faith. After talking with Pop and hearing myself say how much I enjoyed my work…I began to think maybe Adam was right about Palestine. Maybe it was just a crazy whim I was embarking on to feel meaningful and to have an adventure.

…Yesterday, at work, I had a good day but it had somehow lost its luster. I wonder if part of what makes places appealing to me is the knowledge that I’ll soon be leaving them…


Oh negative thinking, what a trap you are!...

Pleasing my parents is very important to me. Hm. I do make decisions based on this. There is good reason for this in that, they have given me so much, I want to honor them and to add to their happiness. At times, when this feels restrictive, I feel like rebelling against it. Ironically, what I am rebelling against is only my interpretation, my assumption of what it is that they would want me to do. I never ask, “What do you want me to do?” and yet I continually strive to work towards it or, at times, to rebel against it. More than likely what they want me to do, is to find what I want, and to do it. I wonder if God works in a similar way…


Yesterday played out beautifully…

M. and I went to Wal-mart to buy ingredients for “chocolate gravy” which J and I made back at the house. R from Jackson House came over and we ate biscuits and chocolate gravy, listened to J & R tell stories, surfed craigslist and the white pages online and played pick-up sticks. I am so grateful for the fellowship…


The past several days have been magnificent. Fall, though distant, has already begun to woo us with mild days and cool, clear evenings…

…I’m feeling fairly certain that I won’t be leaving here until spring. E. sent me a message on facebook saying she too is considering a spring journey to the Middle East. Grad school has also been on my mind a lot lately and I am excited at the prospect of studying theology in Chicago.

Life, like love, is something that can be stepped toward; not just fallen into.


This morning I almost skipped out on a date with H & C…a hike up the pinnacles to watch the sun rise. Lately, I’ve not been feeling well, whether because of physical or mental illness, I don’t know…When my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I didn’t get up. When H. called me a few minutes later, I didn’t get up. At her second call I roused myself and answered, agreeing that…I would meet them at the top.
I thought I might die, or at least pass out, as I struggled up the hill. The headache, cramping and cold chills that led me to decide to cancel dinner plans the day before returned. Every bench I passed called out to me, especially after I realized I’d gone the wrong way and begun heading toward the west peak.
I finally made it, the day not fully broken, golden blades piercing and scattering clusters of clouds and casting a glow through the mist that hung about the peaks and filled the valleys. It was good to be with H and C. I felt more like a person that I do much of the time…


A was driving off in her sliver van as I walked back in the house. I turned and saw Sheila’s head, ears perked up, in the backseat. A wave of loss and uncertainty swept over me. Standing in my living room I became aware I was holding something wrapped around my hand, looked down and saw that it was Sheila’s leash.
I called A immediately,
“We’re not far,” she said, “we’ll turn around.”
I went out toe meet the van,
“Sorry,” I said, handing her the leash.
“Thank you.”
“Have a nice drive.”
“You too—well, you’re not driving—have a nice day.”
“You too.” I patted the side of the van.
In the house again and they drive away. This will be strange.


Last night [in meditation] I chose the phrase, “help my unbelief,” which is as much as prayer as a focus, but does tend to offer direction to my thoughts…I fell asleep and at some point, in the night or morning, became tangled in a dream…
The short of it is that I was being expected to present a homily at mass, or some type of service that was “high church.” I felt utterly unprepared and inappropriate for the task which was fast approaching. At some point I would, from outside myself, remember, “I went to sleep on Friday, it’s only Saturday. I have time to get out of this or at least to be more ready.”
This would bring some relief, but the moment it did the scene would shift—sometimes with the same plot and characters, sometimes different—and the cycle would invariably repeat itself. Whatever may change there was always the theme that something important (important because it was spiritual and sacred) needed doing or was being done and the person responsible was defiling the act by either being unequipped or behaving immorally.
Just before Amblyn woke me (amazed that I was still lying unconscious in bed at ten to eleven) I was at a table, surrounded by church elders, trying to get around what was being asked of me. Someone said something, whether I or another, to which the woman in charge responded, “One thing we will not debate here is whether or not we believe in Jesus…”
I was very full of the dream as I drove Amblyn to the airport and had to exert some effort to distance myself from the discomfiting but beguiling recollection of it…when I got home…I walked for an hour, listening to my iPod. The last song I heard, one I haven’t the name for, was Alison Krauss singing about Jesus and hard living. It had a line that plead, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”


…I walked the college trails after work Sunday and chose to meditate outside at a secluded picnic table. I was feeling a little unstable and for a while, with every exhale, I would think “lean,” reflecting on Pastor Andy’s sermon.
Today, I hiked the pinnacles, making an effort toe “practice presence,” and focus on the beauty around me rather than making plans for the future. I took the phrase “Here I am,” for my anchor as I set on the eastern peak and surveyed the lower hills and valleys. Near the entrance were some maple trees that looked ablaze, their leaves a mix of red and orange. Several trees have begun to change color already and August has not yet ended.
I let myself walk slowly and felt the energy of the forest. The physical discomfort I’d experienced initially dissipated as I stopped thinking of the hike as exercise. I stopped at a clearing overcome by wildflowers that were almost as tall as I, with blossoms of purple and yellow. I stopped at a vantage point where I could see the waves of flowers with their multi-color crests, as well as the round, layered hilltops in the distance and was amazed at the beauty one can miss when focused only on reaching the top. Though, if I’d stopped there and not continued toward my destination, I’d not have appreciated it for what it was; a chapter, not the story.


…I was sad when I realized that Monday was a holiday; giving me three days off of work and no one to spend them with, and nothing in particular that needs doing. Then I remembered that the present is a thing to be appreciated and life, and the lives of those around me are marvelous gifts to be appreciated and what I will be is up to me.
Self Esteem class is actually quite helpful…Two of the great revelations that may seem obvious to others and that can be expressed in simple syllables are, “I am who I want to be,” (which can have multiple shades of meaning when considering the function of the word “want”) and perhaps most significant, “my relationships with others are not based on their thoughts about me.” How many times I’ve seen the antithesis of this statement guide my reactions to and interactions with others—worrying so much what they thought of me and giving very little consideration to understanding who they actually were.
So much of my life has been lived in response to the belief that I must live in accordance with expectations; that my thoughts, feelings and behaviors must always be in line; and that if anything went wrong I was responsible…A renewed self-awareness enables me to choose a path of recovery. However, just as with any addictive behavior to which one conforms, there is no immediate cure, only the upward spiral…

“I was asleep,” Sufjan Stevens is singing, “and he woke me up again…Hallelujah.”