Swedenborg Chapel Cambridge

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

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On Sunday I started a 10 day church immersion internship at the Swedenborg Chapel in Cambridge on the Harvard campus.

I enjoyed co-leading the service with Rev. Kevin Baxter, meeting the congregation, and touring the building. Over the week I’ll learn more about the congregation, experience some of the broader community connections, and prepare a sermon for next Sunday.

Cheers to Cambridge!

Nashville Yarn

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

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As part of my summer adventures, I am crocheting a long scarf, a prayer shawl, for which I am gathering yarn each place I go. One of my hopes in this venture is to get to know local people and connect in with the communities I’m traveling to. And what better way to connect with people than through a shared love of color and yarn!

Athena and Jesse and I scoured the internet to find the best yarn shop in Nashville and we and google agreed that the Haus of Yarn was the place to go. Athena and I got in the car on the rainy Friday afternoon and after a few misled turns on the GPS, arrived at the Haus.

It was a lovely full-fledged local yarn shop, overflowing the colors and textures and I quickly was lost in looking and feeling. They had one shelf of local yarn, which was my first choice, but then was quickly out of the running based on the price-tag… I narrowed it down to three good choices under $10 and decided on a knobby green variegated.

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When I took it up to the register, I pulled out the beginnings of the shawl and told them about the project. A minute later three women were all crowded around the counter and feeling the existing yarn and asking about where else I would be on the hunt for yarn shops. They were very friendly when I asked if I could take their picture and they insisted I take a small gift of a tape measure with their Haus of Yarn logo proudly displayed.

After going outside, Athena and I stopped and I quickly finished off a bookmark with the newly found yarn woven in and ran it back inside to reciprocate the gift. Thank you Nashville!

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Fragments from the Festival of Homiletics

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Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

(These fragments are from my notes and are quoted as I heard them, I hope they might be close to what was actually said).

“Be inventive in hospitality.” “Make friends with nobodies.” “If you see your enemy hungry, buy them lunch.” –Barbara Brown Taylor

“It’s time for a preaching renaissance.” “Words must be performed. All religion is performative if it is to be memorable.” –Frank Thomas

“We are narrative beings.” “Seminary–repository of the best practicals of the previous generation.” “Cultivate Biblical imagination.” –David Lose

“Make hope as tangible as despair.” “Can you see it now?” “Not the word Isaiah heard. The word Isaiah saw.” –Barbara Lundblad

“There’s a third church out there.” “The purpose of the church is not to meet your needs, but that God has specific need and calling that match your gifts.” “God as knitter…knit me together in my mother’s womb.” –Lillian Daniel

“Preaching is maintaining God’s sacred conversation with the congregation.” –Craig Barnes

“Replace ‘word’ with ‘story.'” “Words are not the language of culture. Images are.” –Len Sweet

“Expose and envision.” Speak a word out of place.” –Barbara Lundblad

“I get up every morning and write for a couple of hours. If you do that much for 50 years, it’s cumulative you know.” “The text is the residence of the holiness–in all it’s messiness.” “We need to learn how to grieve the loss of the ‘world we knew.'” –Walter Brueggemann

“Even liberation requires a certain amount of grieving.” “What is being preached matters.” “What happened 40 years ago where you live that shapes the place today?” –Anna Florence Carter

Traveling Sacred Space

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Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This chair has taught me. It has held me these last two years as I have explored spiritual practice. In this chair, I did my homework for Dr. Carole Spencer’s Spiritual Formation and Personal Practice class. Part of our homework: 1/2 an hour a day of spiritual practice. The Daily Examine; an evening reflection of gratitude and self-examination. Sitting in the silence. Training myself little by little to be still and know God. Reflecting on scripture or sacred texts, and journaling. Each practice done with various degrees of consistency and success. More and more regularly as it slowly moved from “have to” to “get to.”

Spirituality and Peacemaking class with Dr. Lonnie Valentine broadened the definition of “spiritual practice.” I played my guitar, walked and sat in nature, did yoga, wrote, and started painting. This chair where I picked up paints and found a form of prayer.

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Next to this chair you would find my craft table. Two stack of plastic tubs, the closet door I took off the hinges, all disguised with fabric, (the magic elixir for a decorator on a budget). This table held my paints and brushes, paper and pens. Ready and waiting for me to sit down in the chair, set the timer and melt into my time set apart.
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The time always started with lighting a candle, and breathing a prayer of remembering the sacred at the altar. The altar that shifted and changed with flowers and shells, icon, roaches and art. Always holding the possibility of invitation to sacred space.

This chair. This table. This altar. My sanctuary. This sacred space and time that has become food and lifeline, sanity and gift.

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And now it’s time to pack up and move. To leave the chair behind for the next tenants and to pack my large tablets of paper and altar art into boxes. I know it’s not really the physical things that make things sacred. Yet there’s something sacred in that which we dedicate as such. And there’s something that happens when my fingers guide that color-filled brush to the paper, the pencil to the journal page, the sound of the wick bursting into flame.

And so, I’ve been gathering. And when the cloths came down and the boxes sealed, two little pouches were already carefully stowed in my suitcase. My traveling spiritual practice kits.

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Ready to be unpacked wherever I am, breathed on, and opened into the container for a time set apart.

Robin’s Egg Blue

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.
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I saw the glint.
Robin’s Egg Blue
in the grass under
the cherry tree.

I stopped
crouched down
and picked up the
tiny half-shell.
And cradled it
in my hand.

As an eight year old,
I found a similar treasure.
I remember wondering:
How could something so fragile,
so precious,
be tossed out of the nest.
As if it didn’t matter.
To be crushed by my
black rubber boot,
had I not stopped and
noticed it.

I had taken the eggshell home
and placed it carefully
in a small jewelry box
and named it among my
eight year old treasures.

Today I stop,
as I walk between
dropping off a final project
at school, and
packing another box
at home.

And I hold this eggshell in my hand.

At thirty four and on the brink
of transition,
it makes more sense to me.

This shell has not been discarded
or tossed out of lack of reverence,
or care for its use.

This shell held,
with strength,
nurture,
beauty
and wisdom,
a little bird as it grew,
and was prepared.

This shell created the
boundaries and space
for the bird to become
who it is and then
patiently released
as it was pecked at,
broken,
split
open
for the bird
to emerge.

Then, its work done,
the pale blue eggshell,
ever so gracefully,
drifted to the earth,
ready to be mulched
back into the cycles,
a witness to the container
from which the bird
would fly.

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The people you’d call in the middle of the night

2013-05-03 18.20.15Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night. Abruptly with a traumatic nightmare. As I breathed and tried to calm myself down, I worked to reconcile the images and finish the dream with some peaceful conclusion so that I could go back to sleep. In the dark of 4:00 a.m. ideas such as “that would never happen” were not tangible, but who I would call if the dream was reality were clear.

I gathered the faces around me. The people that I would wake up in the middle of the night without hesitation if I needed someone to accompany me through a scenario like the one that invaded my dreams. I pictured the faces and the hands that would gently hold mine. The hands that have sat with many throughout the years and would not blink to be present in the tough stuff. The friend who would be in her car minutes after I called driving an hour and a half and who would be the one to call family and friends if that was needed. Because she knows who in my life would need those calls and has met some of them or at least knows them by name.  And the people here who would care and act and surround me.

It amazes me to remember that two and a half years ago I moved to this town knowing no one. I joked that I had one friend in Richmond when I moved here. Valerie, the Director of Admissions. After all, we’d talked on the phone twice. I came committed to diving in and finding community…and how grateful I am for that investment.

And how much harder it makes it to leave. 

2013-05-03 18.20.10I worked three sets of rows on the prayer shawl early last week, in the spirit of noticing all that is here that I am journeying from. And then I made myself stop. Because this thing can’t get so big before I even begin to try to stuff it in the back pocket of my carry-on bag.  And so I started crocheting strands to gift, to thank people for being part of the fabric of life here in Richmond. To honor the way their lives have inspired and impacted me. And to leave a tangible reminder of their presence in my life and on the journey.

And so all of a sudden I’m madly crocheting. In every class, through Peace Forum, meetings, and in the few free moments I give myself at the end of the night. I crochet these bookmarks, these pieces of my pilgrimage shawl, in the same pattern and style, with the “Richmond yarn” woven through the middle. And I crochet madly because I look around me and see face after face that I want to thank for their presence.

The faces of classmates, walking this adventure together.  Remembering those whom I connected with back in Spring of 2011 when I arrived, the first conversations, each of us tentatively figuring out who the other was and beginning to show our selves. And those who I have just met this term, and yet feel the connection of true friends.

The professors who have changed me forever through their teaching and mentorship. The profs who have seen me when I could not see myself, believed in me, challenged me and expected me to rise to be the preacher, the writer, the theologian. The profs who have become friends and in their accompaniment and mutual conversations that have impacted me more deeply than any lecture.

Community members. The people at Richmond Church of the Brethren. The friends who have become family. The home where I could spend Easter and feel I was with family and where I know I can come back and stay anytime. The families who have had me over for meals and been part of the journey. The people who just know.

2013-05-03 18.20.15The people are endless. How is it that in two and a half years one can accumulate such a list of precious friends? They will not all get hand crochet bookmarks. Let’s be realistic people–I still have three big final projects, an exam, a house to pack, an intensive course to prepare for, and overflowing details to get this summer set. But their faces will get noted. Each person honored as I notice. And appreciated.  I am grateful. And I am in awe of this thing called “humanity” and the beauty of relationships and people in our lives.

Loosening Threads

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Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.

In order to go on pilgrimage, you must leave somewhere. Be it physical or metaphysical, in order to go, you must leave. And in leaving, that place becomes part of your journey.

I have begun weaving the stitches (crocheting actually, but that doesn’t sound nearly as poetic) into the pilgrimage prayer shawl. As I have final visits, pack boxes, sit in a classroom one more time I stitch in snapshots.

I try to pay attention as I drive these street that have become so familiar to me over the past few years.

The Milk House mural at the end of my ally. Covering a whole wall with the words, “The Most Convenient Connivence Store in town.”

The cherry blossoms and magnolias, the iris and daffodils, overflowing and reminding me this is my third spring here.

The way the path curves around under the bridge in the gorge, and my favorite tree root, twisted into a seat, poised on the edge, leaning over the stream.

The red gate through which I walk for the healing of acupuncture and the wisdom of spiritual direction.

The walk to school, where to cross, through two alleys, one jaywalk on a quiet day. And the crosswalk where I continue my delicate battle of teaching Richmond drivers about pedestrian rights without getting run over.

Clear-Creek Co-Op and Roscoes Coffee shop, Firehouse BBQ with their pulled pork nachos that are always lunch AND dinner. Incomparable in size however (though far superior in ingredients and taste) to the nachos from Joe’s Pizza which come an a full-sized round pizza pan, loaded with chips, chopped pepperoni, ham and melted cheese. There was the night Hoot and I sang there, and the night we broke out in a polka. And Pete’s Corner Cafe where I had lunch with Carole today, as we have many times before, eating the burger with no bun and hearing from Pete about the newest recipe he’s trying.

People’s faces fly by my eyes as I think of the rich conversations over theses tables, cup of tea or glass of wine in hand.

Threads of this life in this town.
Do I un-weave them?
Or simply loosen their daily hold?
I thank them for being the fabric of a season.

Pilgrimage Summer 2013

yarnThis summer holds many things for me. This is my smorgasbord summer, chock full of ordination requirements, classes, travel, and moving.  It is the summer where I will pack up my things at the beginning of May in Richmond Indiana and unpack a mere carload of them in a yet to be found home in San Francisco at the end of August. It is the summer where my Sherpani carry-on suitcase and I (a splendid birthday gift from a dear friend) will become close companions. It is a summer where I fear I could feel disconnected, homeless, overwhelmed, and unraveled.

Thanks to the wise spiritual direction and coaching of Amy and Martha, and the wisdom of the many saints who have pilgrimed before, I choose to be intentional about this journey. This summer is a pilgrimage. This summer is a beautifully connected series of events, which will be woven together with a divine thread that is already at work.  A journey of calling. A journey of discovery. A journey of adventure and service, exploration and growth.  An inward journey threading through the outward journey.

As part of intentionally paying attention to this Weaving of the Spirit, I am going to work on a prayer shawl as I travel.  Stitch after stitch in the foundation of cream-colored-cotton, creating a continuous framework. A framework that I will then weave in yarns and ribbons, colors and memories from each of the places I sojourn.

On this pilgrimage I remember that we are always held and breathing in the body of God, present in the gratitude, the beauty, the brokenness and the stories.  And that we do not walk alone.

And so I invite you, any of you, to pilgrim with me this summer. Whatever your plans are, whatever your travel itinerary might hold. Join in a summer of paying attention to what the Great Weaver is doing in your life. Together we can notice what practices sustain on the journey. Share snapshots of your pilgrimage, as I share mine.