June 30, 2009
We’ve just had our second round of summer visitors to our house – although this time our visitors were actually stangers when they arrived. That is right…we had never met them before they, (with three children in tow), showed up on our doorstep.
Now, in all fairness, I had connected with Chamie over a couple of phone calls after she purchased one of the calendars. She is part of an organization called Raising Micah which focuses on faith formation and family spirituality. During one of our conversations, she talked about the sabbatical journey that she and her family would be going on this spring/summer and I offered our house as a place to stay should they make it to the Seattle area. (Chamie wrote a great story about our connection here at their blog.)
So what did I learn about welcoming stangers?
1. Jesus comes into my house through the stranger. I was reminded of one of the Rules of St. Benedict…”All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He Himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25:35). It also brought back the encouragement of Mother Teresa to find the face of Jesus in each person. As the Delkeskamps were with us, I saw and heard Jesus in new ways.
2. Grace and Flexibility are the garments we wear when the stranger is with us. Life is not “as usual” when we welcome the stranger. Time schedules are different, kids do not always get along, agendas need to be checked, and tending to guests takes time away from other endeavors. My time is no longer about me, it is about the “other” and so grace and flexibility become the clothing I must put on hour by hour.
3. It is occasion for a Feast. I have heard that in the ancient monasteries, when a guest would arrive, if the abbott was in the middle of a fast, he would break it in order to dine with the guest. When others present themselves to us, it is an opportunity for being that “hilarious giver” from 2 Corinthians. So we ate well and in abundance with dessert at each evening meal (to which my children shout a huge “hurrah”!!)
4. We must listen and ask questions. Because the stranger is not us (does not have our same background or history), we must be question askers and good listeners. The Delkeskamps are a “luthodist” family (Tim is a Lutheran pastor and Chamie is Methodist minister) which is quite opposite my upbringing. But I had a lot to glean from them – a lot of wisdom and perspective – so I tried to listen well and live in the form of a question mark.
5. It is a great way to make friends. I often wonder what would happen in America if we were not so mobile and you had no other options except to go to the truly “local” church. If we didn’t have so many choices or see church through the eyes of a consumer, would we learn to live with one another in the bonds of unity? When a stranger stays in your home, they cannot remain a stranger for long. Neither person has any other place to go, so we must interact, talk, compromise, and live together…all of which grows a friendship.
I am blessed to have had the Delkeskamps here in our home. I have new ways of seeing the world and of seeing God; I (hopefully) learned to love better and grew my heart in generosity; I got to see how God connects all His people to one another. And I was able to see a transformation happen right before my eyes – that beautiful metamorphasis from stranger to friend!
June 24, 2009
I read Philippians 2:1-11 with my kids today. We talked about choosing to honor and give preference to one another before ourselves. We marveled at how Jesus, God Himself, became a servant and realized that if He did that, then we, His children, ought to take that position as well (instead of grabbing for God’s position!) A favorite saying around our house is “Love is better than fair!” And the other day we talked about how the one thing David and I know for sure is that God will ALWAYS give us the ability to love someone else. (Now…to put that into practice in the sibling relationship!!)
Then I read most of Ephesians 4 as I sat on my porch and enjoyed a cup of coffee. The words that came to mind were UNITY and ONE ANOTHER.
And then I read this from Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth: (it is long, so if you don’t like lots of words….skip this)
A community is only truly a body when the majority of its members is making the transition from ‘the community for myself’ to ‘myself for the community’, when each person’s heart is opening to all the others, without any exception. This is the movement from egoism to love, from death to resurrection; it is the Easter….It is also the passing from a land of slavery to a promised land, the land of inner freedom.
A community isn’t just a place where people live under the same roof; that is a lodging house or an hotel. Nor is a community a work-team…It is a place where everyone – or, let’s be realistic, the majority!- is emerging from the shadows of egocentricity to the light of a real love.
Love is neither sentimental nor a passing emotion. It is the recognition of a covenant, of a mutual belonging. It is listening to others, being concerened for them and feeling empathy with them. It is to see their beauty and to reveal it to them.
It means answering their call and their deepest needs. It means feeling and suffering with them – weeping when they weep, rejoicing when they rejoice. Loving people means being happy when they are there, sad when they are not. It is living in each other, taking refuge in each other. “Love is a power for unity”, says Denys the Areopagite. And if loves means moving towards each other, it also and above allmeans moving together in the same direction, hoping and wishing for the same things. Love means sharing the same vision and the same ideal. So it means wanting others to fulfil themselves, according to God’s plan and in service to other people. It means wanting them to be faithful to their own calling, free to love in all the dimensions of their being….
It takes time for a heart to make this passage from egoism to love, from ‘the community for myself’ to ‘myself for the community’, and to the community for God and those in need. It takes time and much purification, and constant deaths which bring new resurrections. To love, we must die continually to our own ideas, our own susceptibilities, and our own comfort. The path of love is woven of sacrifice. The roots of egoism are deep…
Jesus promised to send us His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to infuse us with this new energy, this strength, this quality of heart which will make it possible for us truly to welcom the other – even our enemy – as he or she is, possible for us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things. Learning to love takes a lifetime, because the Holy Spirit must penetrate even the smallest corners of our being, all the places where there are fears, defences and envy.
Oh, Lord…teach me to love. Not how people around me use the word, but what YOU mean when You say love!!
June 24, 2009
Posted by upsidedownandbackwards under Uncategorized  Comments
The new Story-formed Calendar for 2009-2010 is NOW AVAILABLE!!
There are some sample pictures under the “View a Couple Pages” tab. I have included the Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week and Lent pages. Enjoy…I’ve had a lot of fun putting it all together.
If you are interested in finding out more about the calendar, you can email me at: This year the cost of the calendar is $16 …AND there is a PayPal option this year. Until I figure out if I can put the PayPal option on this site, you can go here: StoryFormed 2009-2010 Christian Calendar…then click on the “How To Order” link.
I look forward to journeying through all the seasons of this next year with you!
June 23, 2009
Posted by upsidedownandbackwards under Ordinary Time Leave a Comment
I am seeing a side to myself which I had always thought was a good thing but now, because of God’s mercy, I realize it is an immature place in me and has need of trasformation. You see I tend to be an idealist. Even my Myers-Briggs personality profile would be labeled “idealist” which on a good side is described as creative, imaginative, insightful, subjective, and sympathetic. On the other side (my less mature side, shall we say) “idealists” can become easily annoyed and quick to show their displeasure, unable, in other words, to put their feelings on hold. The twin of that inability is the devotedness to an ideal way of life – the propensity to be somewhat dogmatic.
While I’d love to go back to the former list of my charming qualities, I realize that the latter list is where God is pointing His finger, looking at me intently and waiting for me to come and work through it with Him. AND, much to my discomfort, He is not doing this in the quiet recesses of my mind and heart, but in the great populated plaza called Community. This is no simple “come let us reason together” and change my mind, but rather a “do what I ask and obey” even when my personality is in opposition.
The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world …”
Lord, thank You for not allowing me to live in a dream world (no matter how painful it is to me).
Jean Vanier writes:
We shouldn’t seek the ideal community. It is a question of loving those whom God has set beside us today.
Lord, enable me to look away from the “ideal” and see my brother and sister next to me.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Lord, though my flesh feels unable to put my feelings on hold, You call me to live by love. And not just an idea of love, but the love You have already shown and put into action.
So here I am. Though I’ll always be an “idealist”, my ideals need some maturity, some tempering, some transformation. And the crucible of that transformation just happens to be community.
June 16, 2009
I have had a tumultuous relationship with the church over the last few years. I’ve celebrated with her and I’ve been deeply wounded by her. I have wanted to walk away from her and I’ve had to wrestle with God that He uses the word “Bride” to describe her. It is a term of deep affection and commitment…and so, because I love Him, I am compelled to love the things He loves. But, if I were to be honest, over the last few years I have guarded my heart from her and although I’ve “shown up” to gatherings, I’ve stayed on the edges – cautious and sometimes skeptical.
It is funny…at the same time that I hear God calling me back to deep community, I find myself in a local church that is quite theologically different from where I’ve come from. I am with people whom I do not always understand and who are “strange”. Yet it is within this context that God is telling me to re-imagine community (and in many ways, to re-imagine what it means to LOVE).
“Can community be a spiritual discipline?” is the question I wrote in my journal the other day.
And this question will not leave me alone. It keeps bouncing around my heart like that ball in a pinball machine – bouncing off different ramps and targets – causing an explosion of light and noise. It will be scooped up for a moment and all seems at rest until it is propelled back into game play. Perhaps God is at the helm, using the flippers to shoot the question back into and around my mind.
So…can community be a spiritual discipline? For me right now, I think it is supposed to be. I am to choose to show up, to engage in the conversations, to ask questions, and to grow in love, understanding and forgiveness. However, being in community is difficult because it is not just an outward practice but an inward process as well. It exposes me for the liar that I am – that in my mind I totally agree with the call to “love one another” but when real people stand before me, I find a different modus operandi at work. I find instead of love I have a guardedness, a defensive, distrusting posture, and a critical spirit toward those different from me. (And really…isn’t everybody different from me???)
Jean Vanier writes, “Community life isn’t simply created by either spontoneity or laws. It needs a certain discipline and particular forms of nourishment. Some precise conditions have to be met if this life is to deepen and grow through all the crises, tensions and good times.”
What is this nourishment? Perhaps it is to fully abandon ourselves to the will of God and to believe that in the Trinity we get an understanding of God-as-Community and an invitation to move into community. The call then becomes to trust God and walk in ways that He says are part of this communtiy/kingdom life. Risk, vulnerability, humility, weakness, poor in spirit and even dying are all part of this upsidedown and backwards Kingdom of His.
Now the question becomes, Do I trust Him enough to follow?
June 9, 2009
Posted by upsidedownandbackwards under Storyformed Kids Leave a Comment
(First, a disclaimer on the picture…please don’t be offended by the “gun”. I tried for years to fight it, but most of the little boys I know pick up anything – sticks, rocks, pieces of toast – and turn them into a weapon. I cannot fight chromosomes!)
OK, so with school almost out and the sun illuminating our world until well after 9:30 pm, kids are out and playing in the neighborhood. With that comes the congregating of a lot of boys on the block…and playing all sorts of games. I have only one problem with this. After a while there seems to be a little too much testosterone generating and the boys end up fighting or picking on each other. AND this usually happens when they are left to themselves with no adults around for too long.
So…I have a question for any wise people out there. What are some organized/semi-organized activities that you’ve done with groups of boys (3-5th grade)? I’d love some inexpensive ideas to keep them having fun, occupied and not fighting this summer. I’d also love our house to be a place where they come play so I can keep an eye on what is going on.
June 6, 2009
This summer my daughter and I are going to walk slowly and deeply through the book of Ephesians. As I read the following meditation by Cardinal Newman, I was reminded of Ephesians 2:8-10 (especially 10).
God has created me
to do him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission -
I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told of it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught,
I shall do good,
I shall do his work.
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth
in my own place
while not intending it -
if I do but keep
Therefore, I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness,
my sickness may serve Him;
my perplexity may serve Him;
if I am in sorry,
my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide my future from me -
still He knows
what He is about.
June 5, 2009
We are now entering into the longest season of the Christian calendar. Called “Ordinary Time” which comes from the word “ordinal” and means “numbered time”. It reminds us to number our days and to work with and for His Kingdom.
Jessica, over at Homemaking Through the Church Year posted this link about Green Time. It explains why the color for the season is green and reminds us:
“In the old calendar “Ordinary Time” was “time after Pentecost”, a better term. The deliberate choice of green vestments symbolised a time of fecundity for the Church, a time when the Paschal Mystery is accomplished, when the Church is living in the time of the Spirit. Lent, Advent and Eastertide are times when the Church re-orientates itself fixing its attention the Mysteries of the Lord; “Ordinary Time” or better “Time after Pentecost” is when the Church looks out to the world, fulfilling its mission.
It is therefore a sign of the Kingdom of God, all those references to growing shoots, trees, vines in the Gospels, to its quiet unnoticed growth, it is also the sign of fecundity and of life.”
I like the fact that the world around me speaks to this fecundity and growth. My garden is growing, there are blooming buds on my rhododendrons, and plants I thought had died with the heavy snowfall are peaking their tentative heads above the soil. I, too, am growing.
If you bought the calendar, you’ll notice the “theme” of this page of Season after Pentecost is WORK:: within our churches. I am reading Community and Growth by Jean Vanier and am being prodded by the Master Gardener to grow in the area of community within our church. Perhaps I should wear green to each gathering on Saturday nights during the next few weeks, so I will remember that in this season I am to grow, to plant and to water to the benefit of the community? (kind of reminds me of the companion planting concept…)
A challenging quote by Vanier:
“The question for every person and community is how to remain rooted in the soil of one’s faith and one’s identity and at the same time to grow and give life to others, and to receive life from them. …It is, however, very demanding for it calls for a life of poverty and insecurity, putting one’s total trust in God and in His loving protection and providence. And it is precisely this poverty, insecurity and vulnerability which people and communities are frightened of.”
I think God is showing me that I too am frightened of that vulnerability, but He is calling me past that to obedience to Him and to an opening of my heart to His community.
Lord, grow me. Amen.
June 4, 2009
Thanks to Amy at Splendor in the Ordinary, I learned something new about the church calendar – this coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. (As someone who does not come from a liturgical tradition, but tries to live within the rhythm of the seasons, I love learning new things!!)
Here is what someone wrote about Trinity Sunday:
From Advent through Pentecost, the church celebrates with joy and thanksgiving what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done to accomplish the salvation of sinful humanity. During the Season after Pentecost, we focus on how we as Christians ought to respond to the love that God has shown us. Trinity Sunday is a transitional day that bridges these two parts of the liturgical year. This is the solemn day on which we praise and adore God both for what He has done for the world and for who He is. As it is so beautifully confessed in the Athanasian Creed:
We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity,
Neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.
But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one:
the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
June 2, 2009
On Saturday I attended the Spirituality of Gardening seminar at the Mustard Seed House in Seattle. It was a beautiful day filled with even more beautiful people. I learned much about the practical side of gardening here in the Northwest as well as some great insights and metaphors about God, life, and the Gospel we can learn from the garden.
Above is the beautiful Christine Sine who hosted the event for us. She put together a binder of her writings about gardening through the seasons. I have only just begun to look through it, though I am sure I will reference it often! I enjoyed how she taught the event…she spoke a little, had us participate in some corporate readings/prayers, asked us questions, and had us participate in certain aspects of gardening.
One of the things that struck me from the seminar was that, in many ways, gardening is not just about planting seeds but about building up the soil. One of the best ways to do that is by using compost. In our world today compost is easy to come by if we go down to Home Depot and buy a bag, but then I think we miss out on the lesson from life. Compost piles at home are created from the garbage of life. We take our plant food scraps along with paper and our organic yard waste – all the things we would’ve thrown away – and we can put them in a bin and in a matter of months we have rich soil amendment! How like God…He many times takes what we think is the garbage from our life and turns it into life giving material.
One of the activities we did (that I had never heard of) was to take those short nylon “footies” and cover the young fruit on the apple tree to protect it from some sort of pest. It was fun to see everyone in and around the tree looking for the small apples. It reminded me of the need to protect the young fruit in the lives that we disciple (especially our children). They sometimes need us to cover them until they are formed to maturity and the threat of pests is gone.
I was also quite challenged by the idea of companion gardening – planting certain plants with one another so they actually replenish one another. (Evidently tomatoes LOVE carrots!) We talked about what a beautiful picture of diversity this is…how the Body of Christ needs this diversity across generations, races, denominations, etc. because we too can actually replenish one another and add nutrients to the soil that benefits another. Christine also made the observation that when there is only one type of plant, when pestilence hits all the plants are wiped out, but when there is diversity, some of the plants may be effected but the different plants keep the bugs from wiping everything out. Do we think there is any correlation in the church???
I think planting seeds themselves is an act of faith. How much sense does it make to put something so small and easily crushed into a hole and cover it up with dirt so we cannot see it anymore? And then to faithfully water the area though we see no signs of life or growth for a time? Yet the amazing thing to me is that those small seeds can grow into the very food that gives strength and sustenance to our bodies.
Ahh…and here is that faithful watering. I like this picture because it reminds me of what we do with one another and especially our children (for those of us who are mothers) – holding them in our hands and faithfully watering the seeds planted in them!
Just a couple of other thoughts that I wrote down (meaning they are not MY thoughts, but someone else’s): 1) to be done well, weeding is done in a kneeling position (Should this be my place and posture for confession??) 2) a sunflower faces East in the morning and West in the evening and tracks with the sun all day long (Oh, that I could say I track with the Son all day long!) 3) how do we form and build sustainable spiritual practices that bring about an authentic and whole-life faith?? (within communities, the church and our homes)
So here is the whole group of us from the seminar. I think that may have been my favorite part – meeting some really neat people and talking with them about the garden and God! Thanks to Christine Sine who has been faithful to the stirrings that God has put in her heart and is willing to teach the rest of us!