Encounter in the global village

A choir from Kenya performs on the Global Village stage at Mennonite World Conference Assembly

A choir from Kenya performs on the Global Village stage at Mennonite World Conference Assembly

Cicadas, a crowing rooster, a misguided moth trying to find an opening in the porch screens. I am at home and otherwise alone with time to reflect for the first time in a month. Time, but little mental clarity. It has been quite a month.

On June 25 four friends arrived from DR Congo to spend three and a half weeks in our community, doing volunteer work with members of my congregation, cementing our congregational partnership. And then we attended the global assembly of Mennonites/Anabaptists that takes place somewhere in the world once every six years, this time in Harrisburg, PA. In the last time slot of the last day of the assembly, three of us presented a workshop on church-to-church partnerships. Continue reading

Finding courage

inside-out6I’ve been wanting to go to a theater to see Inside Out. I never go to theaters any more; we always wait for the DVDs and watch movies in the comfort of our living room, with headphones and subtitles so we don’t have to strain to catch whispered, muttered, or lightning-fast dialog.

But Inside Out feels urgent. According to the reviews, it contains lessons on how to manage emotions, lessons that both young and old need to learn. (If you’re looking for a review of the movie, this is not it because I haven’t seen it yet. Read the reviewer who gushes over it in the staid NYTimes.)

I’ve been struggling with these lessons recently myself and I must be desperate if I’m thinking of turning to a Pixar movie for help. Continue reading

Thrush and little green chickens

It is the first morning of Wood Thrush song, so loud and close I don’t recognize it at first. The flute-like whistles sound shrieky up close, but up close you can also hear the quiet churrs and burbles that follow the whistles. It is stunning. I sit on the porch and start to write but I can’t write while that is going on.

As I write that I can’t write, the song stops and then takes up again much farther off, as if the thrush is respecting my territory. Continue reading

Meditation on a cupcake

IMG_1518I don’t eat cake. Even in the dream I had yesterday, in which a whole banquet of desserts was offered to me, my thought was, “I don’t eat cake.” Nevertheless, in the dream, I headed straight for the cake. A rainbow ice cream cake and a chocolate cake. I chose both. I woke up before I was able to taste them. Continue reading

Mysticism: Small, Medium, Large

It is a bright winter day. I meditate with my eyes open because I like to see the sun slanting in the windows, outshining the fire in the woodstove. Both make me happy. I can’t help see that the sunshine reveals a layer of dust on everything. That, too, makes me happy because it is Saturday, and I will think of my mother as I move through the house at her deliberate pace, getting rid of the dust. From early childhood I always helped her with the Saturday cleaning ritual.

Sun, fire, housecleaning. These are part of my treasure trove of mystical experiences. It is why I call myself a practical mystic. Mystical experiences are never far away, always accessible. I just have to be open to them.

What is mysticism, anyhow? A direct experience of the Divine, that’s the simplest definition. My mystical secret is that not all mystical experiences are big, transcendent experiences of Oneness. They come in different sizes. Small, Medium, Large. Today it’s the God of small things that I’m experiencing. Continue reading

Barracuda rules

The game had rules but they kept changing, of course, because making the rules, changing the rules, and winning are very important to four-year-olds.

This one was in her element: a pool, with four adults in her orbit. One adult or another, or all of us, or she herself, was to be “shark,” out to get her, or someone else, or everybody else, depending on the rule of the moment. The definition of winning also shifted from second to second, from getting to being gotten, anything to guarantee lots of chasing and splashing.

I added another layer of complication to the game by introducing “barracuda” as a second predator. “What’s a barracuda?” she asked. Continue reading

Flower music


Yesterday I dreamed of being part of a thrilling, inventive choir that derived its music from plants. Somehow we read the plants as if they were musical notations.

This dream was no doubt inspired by Sunday’s memorial service for my friend, Karena, who passed away the day I was flying to Congo in early July. I had taken a role in caring for her during her four weeks in hospice at home and I had a role in the memorial service, as well. Continue reading

Celebrating compromise

trees verticalThe snow has been here for so long that I feel like we need more vocabulary for it, like the people of the north do. Light and fluffy, heavy and wet, settled snow, crusted snow, plowed snow, dirty snow, melting snow. Patterns of snow melt. Do you notice that it melts first around the bases of trees? A pocket for each tree, perforating the puffy snow duvet like knots in a comforter. It must be because the dark color of the trees absorbs what little sunlight there is, heating a bit, prompting the first melt.

Sunlight. The days are longer and the temperatures bump up now and then, but not enough to bring spring. One longs for real sun, real warmth. I just dawdled away an entire week planning a vacation in the tropics. It helped me get through the latest blizzard. Continue reading

Dead cats

A dream this morning between 6 and 7. Vic and I are at home but it is my childhood home. We are looking after some children. Toys are scattered everywhere. I am sitting at a table reading. Suddenly I feel Lalo on my lap, real as life although I know he is dead. I pet him and he stretches in pleasure, turning almost upside down, sliding down between my legs. Continue reading

Pass the compassion and forgiveness

I am hosting a crowd for a funeral in my large mansion somewhere in the deep South. I am bustling about getting everything ready, including an elaborate meal. I have chosen a white eyelet dress to wear but during the preparations I wear a white blouse and brightly colored skirt. The guests have not yet arrived but it is clear that they will of different cultures and races. It is also clear that my butler, George, does not approve of this cultural diversity. I am afraid that his resentment might sabotage the whole event. I am the boss, after all. I try to be firm with George. And then I change into the white eyelet dress. End of dream.

I’ve been doing a lot of crosscultural hosting recently, and I can understand how Butler George represents a part of me, as does the hostess. Butler George is the one who preserves traditions (e.g. Thanksgiving), who assures that everything runs well and that proper form is followed. Butler George was resenting the Chinese grandfather who was popping pistachios into my granddaughter’s mouth just before we sat down to eat. And Butler George was indignant that, in the middle of family time and Thanksgiving preparations, messages were coming from Congo hinting that more money was needed for certain things. Meanwhile, the Hostess (in her prep-time multicultural outfit) was noticing how husband and son-in-law would sporadically ask what they could do to help get meals on but then revert to their computers with the assigned tasks half finished. Continue reading