Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week 31: Powerless

It took my husband Donald and I until this evening to correctly identify the name of this tree that fell on our roof in a storm a full week ago. We looked in the tree book and I was surprized to find pressed leaves from page to page. Eight years ago, when we bought this property that is now our home, I had pledged to learn all the names of the trees on the four acres. I wanted to “know” them in order to better love them. That has not happened.

And now, Donald is finally able to determine that the tree that was felled in the wind was a black ash. He is thankful. All the hours and hours of labor he has spent in cutting off limbs, sawing through the middle of the trunk, and cutting woodstove length logs and stacking them will indeed yield warmth. The books says that ash burns very well.

After the seond tornado like storm in one week, we were out of power for 36 hours – 24 of which I was away. In addition to wielding the chain saw for hours, Donald had to throw away all the food in our frig. And our ability to communicate was cut off as well while our land line did not work and cell phones lost their charge. And, of course, there was no internet.

Ironically, I think, last week I began taking a “technology Sabbath” on Mondays – using only the land line phone and no other electronics for 24 hours. That felt good, centering, the two Mondays I tried it. This storm and our loss of trees and power, on the other hand, felt out of control, stressful, and anxiety producing – let alone the ton of extra work it made for Donald.

The swaying grace of green tall (if largely nameless) trees that surround our house has been a gift, a refuge, a shield from sun and sound. But this week the vibrancy of the air, the breath exchanged between humans and trees, stirred to violence. This is humbling. I think it is good. Trees, too, are mortal. And acts of God remind us of our puny power.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Week 30: Little Communions

A green halo deepens over eyes that meet: in communion,
Divine Presence.

(Photo: Rachel Lanctot and her niece, Lily Lanctot)

At the close of a week I ask for memories to bubble up vibrantly. Arising from last week is a series of images of ordinary conversations that became communion.

Tacos and Fresh Strawberries (from Bullard’s Market) shared with Donald and Rachel at our home in Bristol, IN: entering Sabbath Rest.

Little Caesar’s Pizza and Pepsi picked up to share with Drew, Caitlin and Lily, Donald and Rachel, at Drew’s home in Goshen, IN: seeing eye to eye with the waking wonder of Lily.

Morning Fair Trade Coffee and Leftover Danish shared with Rob and Kirstin Vender Giessen Reitsma in their apartment above World Fare, Three Rivers, MI: dreaming of *cino Menno Reformed voluntary service and gardens in the city.


“The Naked Now” and Evening Prayer shared with David and Naomi Wenger at the Hermitage on Dutchsettlement Road, Three Rivers, MI: centering in the stillness as Jesus joins silence.

World Cup on the big screen and late afternoon Coke shared with Fridbert August at the seminary in Elkhart, IN: fostering Brazilian American fondness for our friends at Florence.

Shrimp Salad and Garden Tea (from behind our house) shared with Kay Bontrager Singer on my screened porch, Bristol, IN: satisfying the soul: prayer partners.

A Veggie Medley and Sweet Cherries (from Goshen Farmers’ Market) shared with the Lichti’s and Fenton-Millers on the Amigo pontoon boat, Chapin Lake, Sturgis, MI: delighting in cranes, swimming over muck, and Enneagram shadows: ah! twilight!

Mary/Martha and the Potter’s Clay, enacted and shared with Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite, Constantine, MI: “becoming again the work of Your hands.”

This week the Host of Vibrant Communions prepared tables before me in a thirty mile radius around Florence Church. I was privileged to drive from one feast to the next. Food, earthy or fast, became fair, with hearts nibbling together at each other in serious delight.

A green halo
over eyes
that meet:
in communion,


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Week 29: Futbol!

The Saturday before the World Cup began I stand on the sidelines to watch Todd Shelly score the winning goal for his travel soccer team in Portage, MI.

Kathy and I find the game at the Portage Soccer Club, about 25 miles from Todd's home in Marcellus, and almost at the end of nine nearly new pitches. It is the only game going that cloudy Saturday afternoon. Todd's parents, Kim and Mark, are well prepared with soccer chairs and umbrellas. And Todd’s team is a joy to watch, the thirteen year old boys to young men, some seeming twice the height of others, passed the ball beautifully to one another. On a corner kick near the end of the game, Todd, a defenseman, backs up his forwards and stops a ball the opposing team ricocheted twenty yards back away from the net. Todd turns and kicks in one motion. GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!

And I ponder...Soccer: a rural/global game.

Images over the last months –

We walk down a dusty path away from one of the ancient temples of Cambodia and by a small village. A group of men, young to old, were kicking the ball from one end of a small dirt field to the other. They turn to look at these foreigners watching their end of the day game. They smile. A naked toddler walks into a garden adjoining the soccer yard. My son greets an old man in Khmer. We smile. The game goes on.

We mourn the death of Bryan, captain of the Marcellus High School soccer team. It was his team jersey that helped the police to identify him. In this little Michigan village, no one is left untouched by this athlete, dying young. We remember the grace of his movement, his passion to play better, harder.

I walk home from the Christian Church (evangelical/Pentecostal) of La Flor, Costa Rica, the third Sunday of Lent. It is noon. The fog has settled in. I cannot see more than twenty yards in front of my face. There are no more mountains. But two local futbol teams are gathering on the field across from the Catholic church. I can barely see the goal from the road above the field. As I eat the noon meal at Finca la Flor I hear shouts and horns from the game, the sound coming clearly through the fog. How can they play without seeing?

It is the first weekend of Semana Santa – Holy Week. The local junta (village leaders) for San Luis, Costa Rica, has been planning a weekend fund raiser for months that will include food, dancing, electric bull riding and a soccer tournament on Sunday. Only in the last two weeks did they realize that this soccer tournament on the perfectly groomed and green field (in a dry, dry land) right next to the church, would take place on Palm Sunday. San Luis is the champion of the area teams. On Palm Sunday they lost, but the fun on the sidelines did not seem dimmed. The church was empty by then.

The following wMonday Geovanny, my host dad, and his thirteen year old son, Danny, join the area men up the mountain at Finca la Catarata. They drink Aguilas and watch Saprisa play Alajuela on the TV. The elevation there allows reception. The game is replayed over rice and beans and fresh tortillas for breakfast on Tuesday.

We fly in a twenty seat plane low over the hills and mountains of southwestern Costa Rica. The roads wind and twist through valleys, over mountains, amid villages. There are small farms scattered, coffee trees on terraces. There may be twenty farms in any one view, but in each nook there is a bright green futbol field next to the church at the center of the village.

Back home in Michigan, Millers and Nofsingers have ESPN so there will be open doors for watching the World Cup together. Ian works on an independent study: sixteen radio programs that will preview the World Cup on the Goshen College radio station. We anticipate a great excuse to get together, driving as much as thirty miles to watch the games with Florence friends, to hang out, yell, drink beer, and learn from the real soccer fans among us.

I Google "vibrant rural soccer" and read the blog for The Transcape Soccer Challenge 2010.

An AIDS awareness group is traveling across South Africa in their own rural football tournament. They will play on all kinds of pitches, give the world a peek, and engage conversation about AIDS. Meanwhile people will fly in from all over the globe, including Martha’s son, wife and twin grandchildren, to watch World Cup Soccer.

For a few weeks there is global community, and the hard feelings and poor calls, while they may be remembered for years, will not cause wars or famine.

Maybe this is why the apostle Paul was also intrigued with sports and imaged the church entering into the hoopla:

"Run with perseverance the race -- the match -- that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the forerunner..." Hebrews 12:2

Week 28: Reading "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen :)