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"We're all just walking each other home." - - Ram Dass







Sunday, November 25, 2012

Revival



After years away, I found my feet walking the aisle of church.

We gathered around picnic tables
plates of food crafted by the hands of friends,
being shared by strangers turned neighbors.










As the sun hung heavy, unwilling to bid the sky and company goodnight
glasses were filled, 
communion quite literally hanging on the vine.







 
There is a reason the old revivals were held beneath a tent.

You need dirt 
beneath your feet 
to ground you.

Your shadow made long
created by the moon who would not be out-done by her golden sister,
to see your true shape.

You need the fresh air
in your lungs
to gather the fullness of these moments inside you.

The shrieking of babies 
being tossed in the air by your friends
to hear God laugh.




Beneath that white tent, 
I heard the whisper -
the world welcoming the divine to dance.

Wine bottles were place by the stage
instead of candles lit in eulogy

My daughter perched on my widened hip as 
we siblings, brought up in our Daddy's church
lead the assembled in "I'll Fly Away"

This sinner's choir had it all
tambourines, mandolins
and feet to stomp out joy.

The congregation of
old believers, atheists, the never achievers
dance and swayed under the moon.

And then, exhausted from our exaltation
lying on our backs, prostrate
reading the scripture of the stars.

No sermon was said, but redemption was found.

A night seeped in faith. hope. love.

After years away
I found my feet walking
the aisle of church.

But perhaps, I never walked away.


~~~~



This Saturday, December 1st, the book that I am a contributor for, Finding Church will be published.  In it you will find my story of walking away from conventional church for something more expansive.  You can pre-order a copy right now on the publisher's website HERE.  

And, should you leave a note in the comments saying you want to join in, your name will be thrown into the mix for a chance to win a free copy I will be giving away on December 15th.  

~~~
joining up after a too long absence with some of my favorite communities 
, Jen, Heather, Imperfect Prose

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Leaving Church Discussion ~ In Communion With the Pines


A group of us are joining together for the next couple weeks at Shelly Miller's beautiful space, Redemptions Beauty to read and discuss the book, Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor.  We've got a great group discussion being held via a Facebook group too, and would love to hear your voice.  You DON'T HAVE TO READ THE BOOK TO JOIN, your voice is always welcome.

Shelly so graciously asked me to lead this week's chapters {2-4} discussion.



I grew up cradled in other people’s faith.


In a small pine church in Northern Minnesota
my grandpa held me up on top of a pew, my back pressed to his chest.
I could feel the hymn rise through the length of his body, reverberating into mine.

I felt so safe there.

Held by his miner foreman hands.
Hands make thick for the life they had made,
for the responsibility they carried

and yet, soft -
with my heart
with the land
with the spirit.

There in his hands,
my body learned the timbers of song
and I would watch the trees outside the church windows.

Trees with their heads bending,
shifting their branches,
leaves whispering their own benedictions

and my heart joined in the chorus of all creation.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes about her first being aware of a divine presence,
long before she first had a vocabulary for such things, describing:

As hard as I have tried to remember the exact moment when I fell in love with God, I cannot do it. My earliest memories are bathed in a kind of golden light that seemed to embrace me as surely as my mother’s arms. The Divine Presence was strongest outdoors, and most palpable when I was alone. When I think of my first cathedral, I am back in a field behind my parents’ house in Kansas, with every stalk of prairie grass lit from within…My skin is happy on the black dirt, which speaks the language by bones understand. If I roll over and think only about the places on my back that are touching the ground, then pretty soon I cannot tell whether I am pressing down on the earth or the earth is pressing up on me….

Because I was not brought up in church, I had no religious language for what happened in that golden-lit field or in any of the other woods or fields that followed it. I had no picture in my mind of a fantastic-looking old man named God who lived in heaven above my head. I did not know to close my eyes and bow my head to speak to this God, and I certainly did not know that there was anything wrong with that field or what I experienced in it. If anyone had tried to tell me that creation was fallen or that I should care more for heaven than earth, I would have gone off to lie in the sweet grass by myself.” {Chapter 3}

When I read this passage
hot tears began to roll the length of my face
“yes” is all I could whisper.

See, my soul rarely feels full of the Divine Presence in a room full of people.

I need an open sky,
a pine needled floor,
with the wind laying hands on me.

A place prayer doesn’t require words -
where prayer is a posture,
a constant heart-state.

When a sob, or a whoop of delight is all that breaks forth,
and I know that I am known.
Not just by name, but by the way my hair smells warmed by the sun.

Even as a child I had a hard time connecting the benedictions
I could hear rustling in the leaves
to the worksheets filled out during Sunday School.

It felt as though the wonder and vastness of a Creator
was being distilled down to little more than a history lesson.
The messy act of forgiveness, the hot passionate pursuit of love – missing.

I still feel an urgency within myself to avoid most tired Christian phraseology.
These catch-phrases, like other words used by people who have a history of being oppressors,
keep people away, perhaps wounded by those that spoke those words before, instead of drawing in.

Within these statements I feel the constraints of man-made religion.
A Jesus: white skinned, brown bearded, simply robed, complete with a felt backing
to be stuck on my life in convenient truths.

Barbara did not need to know the name of worship,
there between the blades of sweet grass,
her soul lifted, and she was communing with her maker.

She did not need to be told to bow her head, fold her hands to speak to God.
She clutched God’s breast when she felt the soil at her back,
She was aware of creation greater than herself, and with it, she felt oneness.

I believe we do an expansive God an injustice when we distill His presence into prescribed formulas.
We need not be afraid of the individuality of each person’s road, each person’s version of Jesus.
Understand that Church can be found many places: A corn field, a living room, an amphitheater.

When we stop to listen to one another, truly listen to their life,
not wasting our interaction with them by making character or morality assessments,

we get the amazing opportunity of laying our bodies out on the ground together.
Marveling at how expansive the sky above us really is -
and sit amazed,

that for all that expanse, that ol’ sun finds us still.


Join me at Shelly's space, Redemptions Beauty for some discussion questions surrounding Chapters 2-4 of the book Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor.



But first!  Also, I want to let you know about a book that will be available December 1st, called Finding Church, that I am a contributor for. 

And is now available for pre-order by the Publisher: HERE

This book is a set of individual reactions and participation with the Church as a whole.  It is a look at expanding the discussion, the definition of Church as well as getting a little deeper into issues of leaving, reforming, or returning to Church.  The next few weeks, I may keep on this theme of redefining my faith, and widening my concept of love. 

All leading up to a book-give away :) Stay tuned!