Tuesday, February 28, 2006

tooth and claw

do you have that instinctual wild thing in you?

i do, sometimes it feels like all i have. i wrote some poems about the cheetah and leopard being caged, not realizing how much i was writing about myself.

the book i'm reading talks about feral women. feral being something in its natural wild state, then captured, then returing to the wild again--with instincts askew.

in considering the wildness of women and church, or christianity, i am uncertain how those two things go together. where to draw the parameters. but maybe that is the idea, don't draw any. maybe that is what makes women feel so caged, the appropriate and inappropriate lines drawn willy nilly all over the place so we feel like jewel thieves contorting our bodies trying to navigate the intersecting laser lines (like that movie with sean connery and catherine zeta jones. did you see that movie? it didn't put me to sleep, and that is saying something).

men have eldredge saying,
be wild again. run out into the woods and climb a rock.
but who do women have saying these things? not that i want to do what men do. but i want to find the true expression of womanhood, especially, wild womanhood.

i think, somehow, it involves the work and dailyness of our familial obligations, but there is more. there is a creativity, even if it comes in the form of structured organization of your home.

i was talking to my sister about not listening to my peers.
they are leading me down a bad road,
i said. because i was struggling with dealing with artistic peer groups.
they don't always know what they are talking about. they make me feel like i'm crazy, and i'm not.
i said.

my dilemma, is not so much that we don't share a longing to get to the place of artistic greatness, but that the outcomes are so vastly different. it is times like these when i have to revert to instincts, to being led by the Spirit. even if it leads me back into exile.

my sister lamented not having "those" issues. but i said,
sure you do. we all have them. yours just happen to involve homeschoolers and churchfolk. those are your peer groups that you are struggling with.

the thing i've learned is, it's better to be alone with God, than peopled and yoked to confusion. when the group says or does things that cause me to doubt my hearing, i defect. i walk away. i get quiet and listen to what the Lord is telling me to do. they can't hear God for me, as well meaning as they are. i have to be ever mindful of that fact. even when it means, leaving those groups i love and walking back into the wilderness.

but i thought it was time to thrive? i thought isolation and exile were over? so did i. but no amount of thriving is worth doubting your calling to fit into a group.

how this plays out in actuality, i don't know. i know the walking away part, i do that as appropriate. but i hear the Lord telling me,
don't severe the relationships, but stand back. step away. be aware of what is going on.


once, when i was getting canned from a job at a church, the Lord said,
watch this.
and i remember watching the whole thing go down and feeling like a fly on the wall. i was of sober mind at that moment. knowing what i heard was not truth (yet knowing, it was not for me to right it. i could not. the thing was bigger than me). it was such a curious time. a time when i was either going to take the bitter pill of their judgment of me, or listen to God.

God redeemded that situation. it was much fabrication. but i never got the public clearing, i just had to know i was all right with God. i had to trust that He had the outcome in hand and though i would never see it, i had to leave it in His ever capable hands, and walk away. blighted in the eyes of men.

when i lose the bond of trust with people, i revert to my instincts. sniffing the air, testing the spirits, listening to God. not sure if that bond will return, but i am excited about the path ahead. i won't turn from it for any reason, even if i have to walk it alone.

Monday, February 27, 2006

thrive

the word i keep hearing in my spirit is, thrive.

my roots are deep. the soil's moist. the air clear. it's time to thrive.

i'm reading a powerful book, which i don't even yet have words to describe. all i can say is i am surrounded by a great company of women who are teaching me the ways i have wondered about.

one word struck me, menarche. and to get this word for an essentially feministic book is typical of me. i don't begrudge men their solid place in the way things are. but i don't begrudge women the right to thrive either.

here i go, fumbling through another messy topic. yes, this one involves blood.

we've so santized our culture that blood is wisked away and kept behind closed doors. and women have lost the hands on, integral, messy blood work they used to be a part of. maybe for the best, i'm not sure. but my birthing experience was sterile. i didn't hold my child until two hours after i had awaken from sedation. she was parted from me by a surgeon, not a gently coaxing midwife. a loss i have trouble explaining.

men are essential to the plan. this word, menarche, meaning the first instance of menstruation, makes me laugh because it is reminiscent of l'arche (the ark in french). men + arche (ark) = woman's ability to bear children.

that my mind makes these connections, and that they are so fundamental to the way things work is staggering to me at times.

i happen to adore men. i enjoy them. my husband says, i like them because they are easy going, whereas women, not so much.

it takes a certain kind of woman to get along with me. i still am not sure what that type is. no nonsense, certainly. but also unafraid of going to the deep places.

but men, most of them, except the effeminate, talkative types, i really have no problem with.

so, thriving. how does this all come together? not sure. i'm just lobbing it out there for you to see.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

eve speaks.

this weekend, while i was away, i composed a series of poems (or finished a composition, is more accurate), of eve speaks poems.

what will become of these, i do not know.
are they any good, i do not know.

what i do know is, all i have lived comes fully to bear in these poems. the wounds i unwittingly inflict, are echoed here. the ache in my soul, resounds from the mouth of eve.

i won't be sharing the poems, i find them too close to, just yet. and am uncertain what i am to make of them. so they will lie, still and silent, enshrouded by darkness. my words, waiting for light to liberate them, just like me.

it occurred to me, i cannot redeem my sins, but often, God uses my poetry to redemptive ends. He allows me the grace of penning a line, fraught with failure to reveal my inestimable worth--and the worth of those i wound.

that these dearly loved souls are within wounding distance, i cannot change. but i am grateful they are there and give me grace. when i come with poem filled hands and lay my work at their feet, they touch my head and speak forgiveness.

there is so much to learn. but with the eyes of eve, i can see how one beguiled moment changes everything. and with the eyes of mary, i can see, how one Man's submission rights it all.

i was told death shroud is not finished.

and that is partly true. death shroud as a work is complete. i will not add to it. but as a story, it progresses on.

mary moves from the tomb, bearing the wound of love.

i'm not sure how eve gets redeemed, or found peace, but perhaps, she'll tell me.

Friday, February 24, 2006

in session

why everything i write has that "group therapy" feel about it, i don't know. but i can tell you i am on the verge of tears and ready to meltdown emotionally. what joy it is to be me.

i fail, i let people down. how i want to live a clean, unsullied life, but i don't get to do that. i just have to keep moving forward. i wish i didn't hurt people so.

there is a line, from nouwen that says
we fall, we get up. we fall, we get up.


yes, that is it.

we are not an entity unto ourselves, but sometimes, i wish i could be around others without inflicting pain upon them. even inadvertent pain. that i could spare them the drama of knowing me. and having to deal with me. but, alas, i can't.

these are the times, i have to confess my sins and hope for forgiveness from them. these are the times, i have to lay down my pride and say, i blew it, again.

these are the times, i desperately need God. a powerful, Big God. to move. to breathe on me. because in this moment before i know whether or not anyone has actually forgiven me, or will (but that makes my friends out to be petty, and they most certainly are not. it must get wearying though, having to extend so much grace to me), these moments of uncertainty when i just have to come to the Father and weep.

that is my place of saftey. my haven.

this morning i was preparing to take my girl camping this weekend with a bunch of other girls, i had much to do. my pace was frantic because i hadn't done everything in preparation for this day that needed to be done.

but i sat down and read nearly all of a short nouwen book, because i needed that kindred spirit to still me before i launched into overdrive.

then, washing dishes, listening to don potter, i could feel my husband waxing anxious about a pending interview (the results of which i will not find out until after camping this weekend). my daughter didn't like her new pants (which she is ready to outgrow, but looks so cute in i "made" her wear them anyway). so she is breaking down emotionally, just before daddy's big interview phone call. i am washing dishes and praying,
this is not the time for this.


and i believe the Lord said,
you set the mood of your home.


meaning, they are reacting to your frantic spirit.

i mentally stopped cycling through the things that could go wrong, and said,
i will worship before i take my shower.
don potter said, that elijah when he was totally pissed off about something (i forget what), called for a minstrel to "clear his head."

so i sat down at the piano, minstrel to my home, and played a couple worship songs.

i can't say the earth trembled and shook, or the clouds parted. i told you, i'm a basket case right now (although recalling that moment has soothed me a bit), but i was able to worship God in the midst of my sometimes hyperdrive life.

i away to the busy-ness of my commitments today, but hope to be able to wander off into the woods and be in silence, re-creating silence (as foster calls it). where i can hear God speak afresh.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

empty tomb

this morning's prayer speaks this to me:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. (mark 16:1-2)


that it is here astounds me. considering the poem i just finished. these intimate communiques from God blow my mind. do you find your path studded with the Lord's love letters as i do? i hope so. He is no preferer of persons, so He has left these words for you, it is then a matter of discerning them.

finishing up life of the beloved this morning, i came across a passage where henri tells me joy and suffering are synonymous. this has been my experience, too. when i can embrace the suffering of God it results in joy. and sometimes the joy of God comes shrouded in suffering. this thought blesses me immeasurably.

i have long thought the use of the term passion to mean suffering, as in the passion of the Christ. or Jesus' passion. to be more than mere coincidence.

passion as suffering as joy. it seems with our modern understanding of passion, that delicious torment, that utter vulnerability and openness between people is both suffering and joy. passion is the right word.


Nouwen says,
God is a Lover.
He wants only our love in return. and Donne's poem, ravish me three person'd God comes to mind.

we have such limited perception of love, being earthbound. so much of it seems to be tangled up with intimacies of body. but i've been wondering about the higher kind of love. we settle for the physicality of love, but the spirituality of love is beyond description. at least i've not found it yet described.

that i endeavor to do so seems to me to be the next thing on my plate. and that is both a frightening and exciting prospect.

i've always been a writer who goes into those scary places. even when writing about innocuous topics. one editor told me once,
there is a cutting edge and a bleeding edge.
for me, many times, i find myself on the bleeding edge. but this is not something i intend or fabricate. it just is. it speaks to my lack of human sterility, my peculiar gifting i guess you could call it. that it involves blood, so fully, so messily, is something i've come to accept. yes, i am a battlefield surgeon.

perhaps i'll find some delicate way to convey what i am about to explore. likely not. but then, maybe by now i've earned your trust and you'll lend me your ear and explore the mystery with me.

perhaps not.

Monday, February 20, 2006

finished

i have finally finished death shroud. it is ten movements long. you will have to buy my book to read it if you have not seen it all ready.

i have finally received word on my poetry collection, and the word is good.

what does that mean for publication? not much, unfortunately.

will i self-publish? most likely. for there are really no publishers who publish poetry, which i find to be ironic.

this moment, is for me, a summit experience. one, whose opinion i value as a poet, writer, editor, likes my work. i find myself entirely elated at the prospect. but at the same time, nothing has changed. i am the poet i was two days ago before i knew he liked my stuff.

the challenge now is, to find a printer and do my book up right. to move forward and not delay. the time is now, the time is now.

i've had this need to get myself on paper of late. as if there were something i am chronicalling. what that is i am not sure i can say from this vantage point, but likely, i'll look back and say,
yes. i understand now.


my dear cyber pastor says, he would like to help me get my "message out."

i was telling an artist today,
i wonder what that message is. would someone please tell me what my message is, so i can know.


she laughed. i laughed. i genuinely do not know from one moment to the next what i will say or do. how the Lord will lead or guide.

i find it interesting though, that i did not edit out the works that my dear poet friend i trust told me to edit out. i let them keep their place in my collection.

these were among some of the works singled out by the one i respect beyond words.

it goes to show that when you have created something, and even though those whose judgment you trust say,
no, don't do that.
you must still be yielded to the Spirit. be open to His leading. be listening for His call.

my other dear friend who essentially said,
don't publish it at all,
(and whose opinion i still value), caused me to question myself and ask,
what do i do Lord?


i move forward. i press in. i trust.

that is what i always do. and so far, it has worked for me.

we still have no work. i am still unpublished.

but God is still on the throne, and that soothes me more than anything.

i did not get "chosen" to teach at a big writers' conference this year, but my works are now going there, at the hand of a chosen one. i find God to be in this as well. i find His ways wonderfully discombobulating.

i would have it no other way.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

fecundity

a concept in nouwen's lifesigns has me thinking. he uses the word fecundity, which is an archaic way of saying fruitfulness. nouwen makes the distinction between fruitfulness and products.

fruitfulness is the byproduct of a life aright. holy living. being present. trust.

products are the result of fear and insecurity. striving for security, status, and control. manufactured as opposed to gifts or giftedness which produce fruit.

fruit cannot be manufactured only nurtured. products cannot be nurtured only manufactured (that is my spin on it anyway).

i have two poets whom i trust to the uttermost. they have opposing views of my poetry collection. one says, go forward and publish. the other, no. i read through my collection again last night and am convinced it is the fruit of my life, not a product manufactured for marketability (per se, that is not to say it is not marketable).

this can be problematic for a publisher, which is why i had opted to self-publish the work and be done with it. but i keep coming back to the question, do i want products or fruit? (not phrased in that way until just now, but the underlying question is the same.)

i want fruit. i want fecundity. i want to nourish a soul, not just produce more and more words that might fit some niche and make a big, loud noise.

i have come to appreciate the vast difference between making noises and resounding. there is a way to impose noise upon others, children do this well. my daughter has learned all the verses of the star spangled banner and can sing them and play them on the piano (without the score before her). the first time i heard this, i was delighted. the twelfth time, not so much. now, the gozillionth time i've heard it, i'm sick of it. i had made peace with that song long ago. thought it roused a certain affection for this land i live on, but now, the song sung at any and every moment of the day, then accompanied, grates on my last nerve. i have to move away from the song for it has become noise to me.

i love to hear my daughter sing, but i would rather it were shakespeare's, sigh no more. or pardon goddess of the night which we learned for last year's renaissance faire (and took first place in the music competition. it helped that no one else showed up! but we are still proud of the trophy). this is a melancholy tune which turns joyous at the end.

the trouble with fruit is, there are some bad years. some bad seasons. the weather here in texas has been schizophrenic to say the least. i was in flipflops and a tank top thursday, by friday, the thermometer plummeted some 50 degrees, and wool swearter and jackets were mandatory.

our trees are budding, and have been since early january. this freeze will likely kill the tender flesh and this spring, who knows what it will look like in texas. many bulbs have poked through the soil in our near 90 degree temps of late, and they will likely succumb to the freeze and their early rising will result in their untimely demise.

fruit is uncertain at best. then there are birds, worm, disease. all manner of forces set out to claim the fruit.

but it all comes back to trust. to resting in dormancy, storing up for the spring, and fruiting in season.

that is where i'm at. i am hoping the fruit produced this season is edible, nourishing, and pleasing to God.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

safe

just this morning in discussing many issues i've been struggling with, with a dear friend, i have come to understand myself to be in a place of safety.

one of the things that broke me when i opened nouwen's life of the beloved was his story about how the book came about. also, in lifesigns he speaks of having of safe prayerful place to write at l'arche.

i remember thinking, that's what i need, a safe, prayerful place to write.

i have that all ready.

there are four women who know my heart fully. there are at least five male friends who stand in defense of me and encircle me as a poet, my outer guard. these men do not have the access the women have, but that is how it should be.

these men are the intellectual giants who call me forth from my daily routines and get me thinking about chaos theory, poetry, workshops, lecturing, teaching. i find it interesting that the men, primarily have this occupation in my life.

my dear friend tells me not to make that distinction. and she is right. the women encircling me also call out the intellect, nurture the writer, and pray for the heart as well. their means are so much more personal, their methods so intimate. i sit in their kitchens and eat dinner with their families. the men have less of this kind of access, which is as it should be.

my husband, bless his soul, moves in and out freely, from these circles at will. the other morning when i was scarcely awake, i called him lord. i do not know that he heard it. but i did. it was the first time such an utterance had come from my lips and it was precious to me. i would almost rather he didn't know it, but i believe it will come again in waking moments. and he will know himself to be my lord. which is as it should be.

so when i think of a prayerful place to write, i am moved deeply by those who bear me up, both known and unknown, seen and unseen, friend and acquaintance, all. i have been struggling this past week and finally found some peace. i have been reckoning with a great many foes of the heart and mind, and have finally some peace there as well.

so i do have a safe place to write. i hadn't realized that place is my home. the nurturing, though it is not the tangible community i long for, is a Body of Christ moving beyond walls and limitations. nurturing through distance and calling forth the divine.

i am safe. you are safe. do you believe it?

Friday, February 17, 2006

today

my husband's employment contract ends today. the contract that pulled us out of chronic unemployment. the contract that was supposed to last only 5 months and has been renewed again and again, these 9 1/2 months. the contract that made me feel like a normal person again, returning to me some of the rhythms of work and rest.

as i think of today and what it means for our family, i come across this in my daily prayers:
They shall not fear an ill report;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting the LORD.
Their hearts are tranquil, without fear,
till at last they look down on their foes.


i do not fear today. i live today. i work today. i go about my business and trust God today. for today is all i have. sure i have a different understanding of what tomorrow brings, but that is tomorrow. not today.

today we have work.

tomorrow, if we have no work, we will still have trust and faith in God. who provides all work, all security, all blessing.

i've lost nothing, you see, that i didn't have last week or ten months ago. i've only gained a temporary respite from "looking" like a loser. the fact that i have never been a loser in the eyes of God has not changed. though at times it gets hard to believe.

receiving is harder than giving. trusting is harder than worrying. living in the present moment, employed moment, at the feet of God is the hardest thing i've ever had to do and yet it comes so easily now.

i am wafting on wings strengthened by updrafts and furies. i am wafting on the prayers of friends and loved ones. i am wafting on trust.

and God is here. today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

come out and play

i still don't feel like i have anything to say, but i don't want to encourage this dawdling over uncertainty. this kind of uncertainty that is. i embrace the other kind of uncertainty, the unknowing. but this malaise that hit me has to go.

i keep looking at my calendar wondering, when will i get a day of rest? but it doesn't look clear until monday, two full weeks of all day (or a day's worth) of hustle and bustle. it can wear a soul out. my soul, that is. i need copious amounts of alone time. down time. reading time.

this time of year little girls all over the country (perhaps not in the north) are hauling their cookies around town and trying to make sales.

i don't like sales. i have no interest in parting you from your coin.

my daughter, loves selling. i picked up 122 cases of cookies last thursday, spent 8 hours sorting them into individual girl orders, then spent the next day at a meeting. the entire weekend hocking my wares, and the week continues to steam on without a break in sight. i need to pick up 6 more cases today. there is something incredibly american about spending so much time handling and dealing cookies. i don't like it. i wonder why we don't sell pedometers or something? but i guess people wouldn't buy.

i realized as i was sitting in the conference center this weekend, there is so much hustle and bustle--endlessly so--that i just have to get away from it. i have to retreat. there is a song on my station, which you will likely never hear, but it has a hook that says,
if you talk too much my head will explode.
and you know, that is how i feel most of the time. i don't want to talk except to those few friends who really have a listening ear and something deep to say.

i keep hoping i'll be able to take an artist's retreat and go away somewhere and simply be silent. but i've not found anywhere to go or any way to get there. there is a huge music festival, cochella, i think it is in sunny so. cal. i would love to win the tickets, airfare, and hotel my station is giving away so i can take my sister to cochella. two frumpy (she's not so frumpy, but i have my moments) middle-age moms at a music festival. we'd have a blast though. it wouldn't be very quiet, but would serve. yes, it would serve.

i've been digging into nouwen again, found a book called lifesigns. also found a curious transcription of kathleen norris' quotidian mysteries (on women's work, liturgy, and something else, the full title escapes me). nouwen's words wrap themselves around me like a blanket and i can be safe there. strangely enough, having spent so much time with him and merton, i've come to bristle at manning. i hadn't thought there could be a softer touch than manning's, but apparently, there is.

last night i read death shroud all the way through to a few poets. open mics are interesting venues, there's a whole slam poetry scene down here that i'm not a part of and don't think i'll ever be. i'm not a performing poet in that sense. i think in some ways my words live on the page and have more freedom in your mind than on a stage.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

hell of mercy

i wrote this on feb 7. since i still find myself at a loss for words, i'll post it now. peace.

there is a concept that has been coming to me over the past couple days. i read of it in a merton book, can't recall which one, but it is a "hell of mercy."

i'll have to dig up the passage for you, but essentially, when we fall into the goodness of God, it is, sometimes, more devastating than not. a hell of mercy is exactly the kind of feeling i've been trying unsuccessfully to describe.

in mercy, He afflicted me.

in mercy, He chastised me.

in mercy.

i am in a hell of mercy.

i had always cried out, be merciful to me, Son of God. be merciful.

never have i felt that cry ignored. always have i felt mercy under my feet upholding me. behind my back, covering me. in front, directing my path.

but now, this is a new place.

i liken it to another concept read about in merton, which speaks of the blindness which the Light of God precipitates. He so overwhelms our senses and reason that we can see and know nothing. we are blinded by His light. we are deafened by the sound of His silence. we are undone.

lost in a hell of mercy.

these ancient writers, and merton (writing just two years before my birth does not seem so ancient), but his concepts and clarity of God. the hard words of God are ancient. the stuff of old.

one of my favorite movies is shakespeare in love. when lady delessups is in drag as thomas kent, and shakespeare is telling of his love for her, to her unwittingly. he remarks of his love being a sickness and its cure together. the sun and rain.

merton writes:
All the paradoxes about the contemplative way are reduced to this one: being without desire means being led by a desire so great that it is incomprehensible. It is too huge to be completely felt. It is a blind desire, which seems like a desire for "nothing" only because nothing can content it. And because it is able to rest in no-thing, then it rests, relatively speaking, in emptiness. But not in emptiness as such, emptiness for its own sake. Actually there is no such entity as pure emptiness, and the negative emptiness of the false contemplative is a "thing" not a "nothing." The "thing" that it is is simply the darkness of self...The character of emptiness, at least for a Christian contemplative, is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing, or held down by any special relationship. It is love for love's sake. It is sharing through the Holy Spirit, in the infinite charity of God.


sometimes i think the Lord loves us this way, or that is our response to His love. it is so marvelous, so wond'rous sweet that we cannot handle it. i cannot handle it. and would rather stay away and hide.

but this is a season of God's unabashed love, and i will not hide from Him. though it frightens, kills and quickens me simultaneously, i will not run.

Monday, February 13, 2006

flinted

let me tell you this now, while the wound is still fresh.
let me tell you this now, while the blood still runs red.
let me tell you this now, before the ache fades in memory.
let me tell you this now.

the last words she said before i hung up on her were,
you're not a christian woman!


let me tell you this now, while the salted tears stream.
let me tell you this now, while i tremble.
let me tell you this now.

i have been splayed like a specimen frog and my entrails are exposed. groping eyes and hands can easily cut them out of me and handle them.

let me tell you this now, before i resign again to silence.

it is so inexplicably rare that i am attacked in this abusive manner that i find it both disconcerting and incredibly painful. that her judgment of my walk with the Lord sits heavily upon my shoulders. that her words echo in my mind. that her anger flashed out at me through the phone. that i tried, does not matter.

i have nothing more to say.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

lies, lies, lies

i lied yesterday. i was smiling and looking right at the guy, too. that i let him walk away and didn't right the lie, troubled me more than anything. it was a very conscious lie.

on the scale of whiteness to darkness, it was a whiteish lie. but the fact that such a scale even exists (even in my mind) troubles me beyond words.

sin is sin. when i lie, i sin. period.

the thing i'm coming to understand that i've never understood before is, i lie. i do all the prohibited things in the book, quite easily, mind you. and yet, i am still the beloved.

God has some skewed priorities, eh? to love a liar like me.

i pray about the books i read. trusting the right book to fall into my hands at the appointed time. today i cracked open nouwen's life of the beloved, and from the first words i nearly wept. that i was in a conference center type venue, and i was supposed to be hocking my wares and could do much better business without much weeping and tears was reminder for me to keep them at bay.

i don't often keep tears at bay. i let them come when they will. i let them course down my face and am largely immune to it now. but today, seven days into my week without a sabbath, all i wanted to do was lie down and cry, then sleep. but i could not.

to top it off, i fought with my husband, and forgot my wool sweater on the couch. so i was cold. my feet were cold, but i had my wool socks and put them on. my other parts were cold and i produced a long wool scarf my sister knitted for me when i was in california in october.

so your neck will never be cold,
she said as she wrapped me in its bountiful loft.

little did she know it would stave off the cold which crept in and threatened my soul today. she helped keep the tears at bay with her gift of warmth.

being cold makes me feel like a little child. being tired does that too. i don't reason well. i don't do much well when i'm tired or cold. i just want to curl up in a ball and get warm. but i could not.

some sixteen years ago at a powwow i heard the gourd dancers blow an english bugle. my comanche friend later told me,
it must have been captured.


the bugle, apparently, had been passed down through generations and found its way to the very powwow where i held a jingly anklet and considered buying it.

i bought that jingly anklet today, shed my woolen socks, and have gourd dance music playing now. the slight jingle dress sound soothes me. the weight of the silver encircling my ankle is a strange comfort.

so nouwen's book tells me, you are the beloved. the greatest gift of friendship is to give each other the gift of our belovedness. and i sat, head back in my chair trying to stave off tears, lying again.

i don't ever want my existence to become the masked collage of right things to say and do that means nothing. sure a feeling, emoting, active existence is troubling and bewildering, awe-ful and exciting--but the other way, disconnected, is no way to live.

i've lived that way. i won't go back to that place of bondage. but i find myself wanting to push away from the circles of friends i inhabit. i find myself wanting to take refuge by running away. i'm afraid again.

i'm afraid the lies are more indicative of who i am than i ever understood before or imagined. i'm afraid my seeming pure intentions are something other than what i believe them to be. i'm afraid, to ensnare any pristine soul. but then i wonder, is there such a thing? a pristine soul?

are we not all barbed, and liars, and redeemed, and beloved? are not we all a bit afraid and cold and tired? do we not all stave off tears and try to keep a smile?

i think we are more alike than it is comfortable to admit. i lied yesterday. i will probably lie tomorrow. but i will repent quickly and be restored. i pray the same for you.

Friday, February 10, 2006

contemplative

i've spoken (or written as the case may be) a great deal about contemplation of late as i have/am put/putting together a workshop on contemplation and poetry.

one of merton's stern warnings is to those who read the mystical literature and wall themselves off from criticism under the guise that their occupation is heavenly and therefore beyond criticism.

these words cause me to tremble. for i have adopted this name contemplative, and the more i read, the more i come to understand how contemplative what i do is. yet, how do i keep from this perilous territory of walling out criticism by invoking something so untouchable as contemplation?

i do not know. but i have lived my life in openness and honesty before my friends. and there are at least five women, who at this moment know my greatest struggles and deepest fears. many others can take an educated guess after reading anything i write.

accessibility and lack of boundaries have become double edges of the same sword which skewers my heart. i must remember what nouwen says, i am the keeper of the drawbridge to my life and i must not yield that position to anyone. i do a good job usually, keeping what i presume to be the bad people out. but what about when fights break out in the marketplace among the good people? who do i toss out then?

priorities. my sister asked me recently,
what are your priorities?
i said,
i don't even know anymore. everything i thought i knew is gone. just look at my house, it's a wreck.
i heard or read somewhere a line which said, a cluttered room reveals a cluttered mind. (thanks to the author who laid that heavy load on me, like i didn't have enough condemnation of my own to contend with you had to lay a few savory morsels on me to eat away at me from the inside. that's some good writing, the kind that really sticks you).

my sister went on to say,
your house is a fluctuating thing, but priorities are priorities.


and i was speechless. i don't know anymore.

i've come to the place where i have to redefine everything. the things i thought i once knew, the tenuous grasp on understanding i once rested so solidly upon has evaporated from my clenched fist and i am left with nothing. no thing. but uncertainty.

it's not all bad. i expect nothing. i live momentarily (that is not the right use of that word but i like it very much, sometimes words have to come out of their comfortable habitations, like me, and take a new turn, cover new ground).

i trust my friends and family to keep me tethered to ... not even sure what to put there.

God? i could not be untethered from Him.

truth? they are not the final determiners of truth in my life, that's God's job.

community? they could no more keep me there than i could them.

there really is no word that is adequate. but they understand. you understand, i'm sure.

merton talks about breakthroughs in contemplative life coming "perilously close to mental breakdown" and the comtemplative life not so much a "profession of vision" as a profession of crisis and intellectual suffering. these words comfort me in ways you cannot imagine.

am i contemplative then because i'm out there and can find no better justification for my erratic and sometimes bewildering behaviour? or am i a contemplative because it is who God called me to be from the foundations of the earth? is it my personal charism or delusion?

i do not know the answers to those questions. it is not for me to decide.
it is for me to trust that as i follow the One i know to be my Shepherd, He will lead me in paths of righteousness (though they may not appear to be such to me or lookers on).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

battle wounds.

merton said this to me today,
This is simply the voice of a self questioning human person who, like all his brothers, struggles to cope with turbulent, mysterious, demanding, exciting, frustrating, confused existence in which almost nothing is really predictable, in which most definitions, explanations and justifications become incredible even before they are uttered, in which people suffer together and are sometimes utterly beautiful, at other times impossibly pathetic. In which there is much that is frightening, in which almost everything public is patently phony, and in which there is at the same time an immense ground of personal authenticity that is right there so obvious that no one can talk about it and most cannot believe that it is there.


these words have utterly sealed the fate of modern writers (with very few exceptions). i cannot find this kind of reckoning with truth today. though i search and hunger and long and pine for it. it eludes me. but here, merton speaks honey and fatness to my soul. and i am so hungry. famished.

have you ever wanted to say so many things but all that comes out is vanity? all that you can utter are ums and ohs, sighs, and well, um, you know.

i have so longed to speak and find myself now in this place without words. because my words have also been my unwitting weapons. and i would still them now before they fell another giant.

i am finding this place of utter honesty to be, even for me, beyond comfort. i am wholly out of bounds and need to simply be silent.

a friend called today and asked if i need help. she will come tomorrow and i will say, tell me of all you have experienced. you see, she has just returned from the mountain, denver, to be exact. and i will let her words speak for both of us. i will let her joy be enough to keep me at peace while i work. i will let her help me through tomorrow.

merton talks about being humanly sterile (of course in the monastic setting), but i can claim none of that. i was thinking, what would i liken myself to? perhaps one of those old time battle field surgery tents, blood and limbs everywhere. it was a mess, perhaps doing more damage than good, but none knew any better then.

when i know better, i shall do better.

but it will not be in isolation from the tangles of relating.

and it will not be without wounds. i bear them myself. and wish i didn't inflict them so.

a poem i wrote today, and hopefully i won't be compelled to share any more:

The weight
___of my doubt
could crush
___you
Yet you tried
___to stay
the rush
___and washed
away, battered
___by the torrent
You cannot
___save me
from myself
___to whom I'm
captive, bound.
___You cannot
stay the tide
___of fears
only drown.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

building the christian family you never had

personal aside:
when i reviewed one of her books, i said,
you know mary, you don't get a good review just because you're my friend.
she locked horns with me and fought. i did not read or write a word until she said,
suz, just be honest.
i gave her an uncoerced, positive review.

i don't seek counsel from many people, especially about parenting. i do not encourage my child in certain friendships i think pointless (especially with unruly children), i wholeheartedly encourage my child to be a friend to mary's children. she walks the talk folks. she isn't just writing about it from fond recollection. she is in the trenches and i trust her. i met her during the darkest period of my life and not many souls can befriend a soul shrouded in darkness, but mary saw through it, loved me through it, and loves me still. she is wise. i read her willingly not because she is my friend, but because she actually knows how to write and has something to say. i can make no higher recommendation than that.

if we truly are the cumulation of everyone we meet, and i believe we are, then i am the editor i am because mary was the first author to entrust her as yet unpublished novel, crushing stone, to me. i am only the poet i am, because of mary's fine poetry and her constant encouragement.


this is a brief interview with my dear friend, Mary DeMuth. her book, Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents, just came out and i try to find out why you should spend your time reading it.

hi mary, just a few tough questions for you. you ready?
I don’t know!!! I hope so.


why should i read your book?
Because it’s an honest book about God healing parents so they can parent differently than how they were raised. There’s not much else out there about this topic.



i've got very limited reading time, what do you have to say that merits my time/attention?
So many parenting books these days are about imposing parenting methods from the outside. But this parenting book is about the heart. What is inside a parent comes out. Our parenting flows from our hearts. If our heart is not right, no amount of methods or formulas will “fix” our homes.



i've got four kids, one is all ready thirteen, what could reading your book possibly do now, other than make me feel guilty?
This is not a book about guilt. If anything, grace permeates it. Often I write about my failures, about how our weakness, in terms of being pioneer parents, is actually a blessing in disguise. Because we know we are weak, we realize our great need for God’s strength. I want to set parents free. To help them know they are not alone when they worry they’re screwing up their kids. And that God is there to help when we stumble.



do you come down as the all-knowing parent who has perfect children? i won't like you very much as an author if you do that.
Yes, of course.
No, just kidding. I guess I see myself as about as opposite of an all-knowing parent as can be. I am not an expert. My children are far from perfect. I make tons of mistakes. But I do apologize. I do ask forgiveness. I try to model humility. I don’t want my kids growing up in a home where they think, “Gee, to be a Christian, I have to be perfect all the time and put on a happy Jesus face everywhere I go.” I want them to see Patrick and me living life, making mistakes, running to Jesus, asking forgiveness. That’s real life.



is your book pie-in-the-sky or reality based?
Reality baby. You’ll see me bleed all over the pages. It’s about the gritty part of parenting. I tackle issues like: what should you tell your children about your own indiscretions; how do you protect your children from the negative influence of grandparents while still preserving the relationship; and what does it really mean to forgive and honor parents who hurt you.



is your book a lot of cute stories or will i actually benefit from it?
It’s just a bunch of cute stories with talking forest creatures. I hope readers will grasp just how much we need Jesus through the pages of this book. If that happens, there will be great benefit!



i'm tired of reading authors who have all the answers, do you have all the answers?
Nahhh. Hardly. I don’t like reading those books either. That’s why I wrote this book. I couldn’t find a book that related to my parenting struggles. One reader said, “I’m sick and tired of parenting books being written by people who came to Christ at age three. Where are the books for me?” I wrote the book because there were so many folks like that, including myself.



how do you live with the tension of not having all the answers?
I take a hot bath.

Or I smile.

I’m glad God knows the answers. I rest in that.



what does it mean to be a christian parent to you?
It means running to Jesus, seeking His face, being very near to His presence. The more Jesus there is inside me, the better I will sacrificially love my children.



how does christian parenting look in your life? how does it play out?
It looks awfully DAILY. It’s a constant thing, parenting. It’s about loving my kids. Seeking God for strength. Taking time to talk to my children and listen to them. It’s about asking forgiveness when I fail to model Jesus to them. It’s about reading books together and eating dinner every night around our table.



is there anything you want to convey to readers that you didn't get in the book or have come to understand since writing the book?
I’m learning more about the art of coaching our children when they hit the teen years. I’m so thankful I’m learning about that aspect of parenting now that I have a teenager. There’s a transition that happens in parenting somewhere around the teen years, where you shift from being highly directive to becoming more like a coach, someone who comes alongside and trains children to make their own decisions.


thanks mary, you've been a good sport. i wish you the best for this and your future books. i look forward to reading them all.

Thanks, Suz. And I must add a hearty thank you for your tireless effort in readying this book for publication. What a blessing that was!!!


my pleasure.

be sure to check out her soon to be released novel (mary is a master storyteller),
watching the tree limbs


and previously released,
ordinary mom, extraordinary God
(an excellent read).

try again

i am not myself this morning. so i will attempt to string together some words, but previous attempts have gone skittering across the floor like beads. i tried to chase them down but they are fast, and my brain is slow today.

reading through my previous journal, "courage" i find these quotes from Henri Nouwen (from inner voice of love):

Peace is not a naive simplicity, but the perfect harmony of immense complexity.

We are not our own; we belong to everyone else.

Humility is a relationship of honesty to everything: to God, oneself, other people and all reality.

The willingness to allow God to walk into our lives, tear up our plans and throw them into the wastebasket is a good beginning.

We only grow in ministry through the experience of failure and humiliation. It is by becoming humble that one is able to practice ministry rightly, and humiliation is the path to humility.

Love makes us vulnerable. The love of another person (including God) reduces our defense mechanisms.


that's all for today. i'm not up to any more.

Monday, February 06, 2006

cloud

i have been thinking much about the cloud. i thought it would disperse and i would be in the clear, but it lingers. i read this passage in my daily prayers:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the LORD'S glory had filled the temple of the LORD. Then Solomon said, "The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud; I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever" (i sam 8:10-13).


don potter has said,
it's cloudy today, God wants to be near His people.
when i get really scared and uncertain of the path i am on, i listen again to don potter. some tapes from a conference my sister sent. i listened to don potter all day saturday.

some of the things that strike me about his words are they speak the very hard things of God. there is no quick easy path to righteousness, and don points out it is mostly cloud. unknowing.

i am reminded to entrust myself then, to the cloud. for it houses the presence of God. allow me to quote merton, another great soul who soothes me:
To pray "in spirit and in truth" enables us to enter into contact with that infinite love, that inscrutable freedom which is at work behind the complexities and intricacies of human existence. This does not mean fabricating for ourselves pious rationalizations to explain everything that happens. It involves no surreptitous manipulation of the hard truths of life. Meditation does not necessarily give us a privileged insight into the meaning of isolated historical events. They can remain for the Christian as much of an agonizing mystery as they do for anyone else. But for us the mystery contains, within its own darkness and its own silences, a presence and a meaning which we apprehend without fully understanding them. And by this spiritual contact, this act of faith, we are ourselves properly situated in the events around us, even though we may not quite see where they are going.


merton releases me then from the taxing need for answers and clarity. for that i am grateful. i don't read many current authors because they have so many answers. they have it all figured out it seems, i guess one must come at a book having something to say, something worthwhile, something marketable. but these are not the words that soothe me. and it is probably not wisdom to think one can have a book that lacks significant answers.

i guess what i'm getting at is what i want to do most. provide no clear cut answers, but to come alongside a reader and live with them. to be a friend and help, like merton is to me. perhaps i ask too much of readers to allow me this place of trust and openness. but i do not think so.

i've been contemplating belly dance for a great while. it is a gorgeous dance. my body does it well. i took a workshop once where the lady behind me said,
how do you get the wiggle in?
as i wiggled away in front of her, the instructor said,
you don't get it in, you let it out.


do i teach my daughter to dance like this? do i entrust something so powerfully beautiful to a mere child, knowing our society is debauched. i do not know. her dad said no way before. he is not objecting now. i am uncertain so i wait. and read the passage of herod and herodias' daughter with much fear and trembling.

what has made me think of this passage is a book i received recently. written for young women to stay pure. my writing a book like that would be like the magdalene writing a book like that. it is certainly an angle. perhaps not the kind of angle one wants.

i imagine magdalene would speak of how she was handled by all men as a chamber pot instead of a chalice. until she met one Man. that Man gave her an understanding of her intrinsic worth, something not to be taken from her again. i guess that is the angle a christian would want to read a book from, the redeemed saying, this is where i've come from.

but something tells me magdalene would be more honest about it all.

so i think herodias' daughter is a type of magdalene. as a youth, perhaps her mother and father used her as a go between, to run grisly errands. and she thought of herself as nothing more than an executioner of sorts.

how will i teach my daughter to be pure? hopefully, by teaching her to understand who she is in Christ. i do not think anything else is required. once i got that, much was righted for me. though the years of damage had been done.

i hope it works in both directions. that going forward knowing herself in Christ, she will not allow anyone to handle her as a chamber pot, for she is actually, a chalice.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

unique

i've recently written a chapter of a book with proper caps and neatly arranged arguments. when i read this chapter over the phone to a dear friend, she said,
i would like my daughter to read that.

i am contemplating finishing the book. it will likely never be published, but that hasn't stopped me yet. it is merely the story of my life.

i'm grappling with my poetry collection which i've been told does not house my best work. i thought and prayed about this sentiment, from one whose opinion i value. what i kept coming back to was,
does it have to?


i have said all along, i'm willing to be flawed if God can use my work to bless some one. one soul. not, i'm willing to be published if i can win a pulitzer or make the ny times best seller list.

i keep imagining myself standing before God and Him saying,
did you do what you were created to do?
and i want, with all my heart to answer
yes, Lord.


i do not think he will inquire after my publication stats. or my impressive (or unimpressive, rather) resume.

He does not judge with the scales of men, but with heavenly scales. so i kept asking,
is this God's wisdom or men's?


my dear friend wants me to be seen as a fine poet. and i am grateful for that concern. i know it is in my best interest to listen.
or is it?


i have never hidden my weak work. my imprecision. my lack of form or skill. i have laid it all out there to be seen. that is where i live. that is what i do.

the unwisdom of this approach will likely be mentioned by a few, but i don't listen to them. i listen to those dear souls who say, thank you. the one of ten, who return and say, you wrote something that blessed me. it is to them i pay heed. they have my ear.

i will never do things the right way. i think i've established that fact by now. but i will always try to be sensitive to the Spirit of God in my life.

this makes me shake to the core, because i was speaking with the friend who wants me to let her daughter read the yet unfinished book, and i told her,
i'm in a place beyond definition. i don't know what i once thought i knew. it is all wordless here. i have to write it down as i go because i can't wrap my mind around it.


this friend also told me, preceding the great news of this season, when i mentioned how i was falling apart--she said,
you are not falling apart. you are moving forward with God.

so my journal this season is peretz. the hebrew word for breakthrough. because the sun is finally punching through the clouds, and i will not turn away. i will stand in fear and trembling and endure the beams of God.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

drift away

seether's remedy was playing during my devotions, preceded by nirvana's lake of fire, and pod's goodbye for now. james hetfield keeps me company, singing enter sandman.

this is not the proper way to do christian devotion. most emphatically not.

sometimes when i sit down to meditate, the birds call so loudly from outside, i have to pick up my head, then my cup of coffee, and go out of doors and just witness creation.

this is not the proper way to do meditation.

sometimes when my girl is doing homework and matisyahu's King without a crown comes on, i say, dance break, and we go to the kitchen and dance in socked feet. she made some signs, caution! dancin' zone. and taped them to the kitchen wall.

this is not the way to conduct a proper homeschool.

there is a pattern here. and i sometimes wonder if i'm not doing my girl more of a disservice than favor by encouraging her free spirit. we often walk in through the out doors. and giggle all the while.

we often drift away from groups we are a part of because picasso is hung on the opposing wall, and we cannot walk by him without stopping to admire.

we often set out to be joiners, but wander away and do our own thing.

i do not know that i do her any favors. encouraging this freedom.

Friday, February 03, 2006

right

if there were a prize for most things done wrong, i would probably win it. it seems like however much i try to do right, it goes south quickly.

this probably troubles no one more than my husband who has to deal with my shennanigans. but, hopefully, i am learning to recognize the dangers i am prone to.

last night i had a great many friends visit me, in my dream. old friends, those long resident in my heart. one of them carried me (i'm not very tall) and whispered words of kindness in my ear as he said goodbye. another latched arms with me and we walked, side by side (he was never much taller than me to begin with). a third had no words, but was simply present.

these friends came to me to bid me adieu, so i could release them forever. i awoke praying for the strength to do just that. to let go. to let them go.

i knew these friends to have been dearly loved by me once. i knew them to be visions of the things i cherish. people.

that they were all male was significant.

not until now have i found myself befriended by men who do not know my husband. and i find the situation strange. i don't really know how to deal with it.

just a few years ago i remember reading jerry jenkins hedges. an excellent book about walling in your marriage.

as i scan the horizon of my life, i find my hedges are in need of some tending. my alleigances defining. my friendships questioning.

these are not inward probing questionings, but a putting of them all at the feet of my husband and saying, decide. i submit. i will not cling to anything you tell me to release. and then doing it.

the doing it is the hard part.

my intentions, from what i can see, have been right. but the actions, the attitudes of the heart, the details that make up life seem to have gone wrong. and i am standing before God asking again to be made single-minded, single-hearted and to be restored.

one thing i understand, perhaps the only thing i understand, is how to run to God and hide. to take cover under the shelter of His wing.

but i so need a church body to surround me. a loving company of companions to challenge me. and a pastor to shepherd my soul.

seems those things are not on my horizon just yet. so i will wait. in honesty and longing, trust and hope, i will wait. for God to make things right.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

reckoning.

here i am again, wondering what could possibly come of this. standing at a place where one would think i could proceed with some certainty, but finding none. only more shadow.

it occurred to me, last night as i drove home, that once the summit is reached, the long descent begins afresh. sure the thrill of having arrived at a destination is in your heart, but the journey down is perilous. bragging rights only benefit those who survive the descent.

i do not want readers to come to me and leave without having reckoned with some truth.

i had a professor who once told me she dreamt of a great bull she was fighting (she was determining whether to accept my freeverse paper--ala langston hughes--or to require the term paper i had set out to write). i had earned an A in that class, without doubt. but this last requirement was our point of reckoning.

i would have taken a B, it would have hurt, but my point was that important to me. my term paper was to be on native symbolism and it felt like too much of an imposition on the culture for me to complete what i had begun. so i opted out. and she began dreaming. battling.

her boss told her, give this student an F on this paper. thereby sealing my fate.

i presented the professor with some smudging sage i had wrapped in the mountains. there was a particular rock jutting out from the stream and i could perch upon it and wrap sage to my heart's content. (a strange thing happened once, a naked man appeared out of the bushes with only a cowboy hat over him. i looked up at him and shook my head and pressed on. he disappeared again into the bushes. very odd indeed).

i had no answers for her. it was her battle to fight. i had earned that A although i could not show a term paper for her to check the box saying i had yielded or succumbed.

i got an A in that course, but it was not without much grief on my part and the professor's. i will always think well of her, not because of the A, but because she didn't let the absence of a particular form stop her. she reckoned with me as a living soul.

i do not know why the episodes of my life are epic struggles (or feel that way to me and those rolling around in the dust with me), but i trust most especially those who will reckon with me. who will not roll over and expose the soft white underbelly, but who will lock horns with me and fight.

i like a good fight. i try to keep from fisticuffs, but i do like a good fight.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

heal me

i long to reach out and touch the fringes of His garment. but it has occurred to me of late that i might not be healed of that dear affliction which i find most troubling, but rather some other, deeper pain or ill i know not of.

something obviously calamitous, an issue of blood, leprosy, blindness, death, these things all were cured. but how many had their hearts deeply righted by a touch.

oh that that garment would waft by me, that i might press upon Him and loose His power.

but there is so much about me that is simply by design. signature flaws, if you will.

a prophetic type once likened me to a choice vessel. a signature piece i think she called it. not the bowls and urns of everyday duty, but a piece hidden in the Master's workshop that only a true collector would ever see or think to inquire after.

such an honor and compliment, is far too grand for me to make up. i do not think this way of myself. i think myself mostly ignoble. and ignobility suits me. i'm roughly hewn by my estimation. fashioned with rough hands and perhaps a bit askew.

but what if i'm not? what if i can't even see the woman He created in her true light? weighed by just scales?

i've had illusions of myself for far too long and while i don't foresee much about that changing any time soon, perhaps it is the thing most in need of healing. that i can't estimate my own worth is not important to me, but perhaps in devaluing myself i rob the Artist some glory.

i had not thought i'd write this today. it is simply here, like most things i write, they come unbidden. but i look back over them and say, yes. you are true. you are mine. and i welcome you.

so i leave you with truth unforeseen, but welcome.