Monday, August 30, 2010

Week 40: Vibrant -- "Lit up from within"

The text this Sunday was the Burning Bush (Exodus 3). On my drive to church I was struck at dawn by glory rays streaming through the clouds and trees over Constantine. I wondered, ”Did Moses catch this power surge as sun ran riot through a desert shrub? Would it be a less glorious appearance of God?”

“And, what is it that lit up Moses face, striking awe among desert congregation?”

“This ‘vibrant’ I am seeking in church and community. What is it, really?”

In Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the Presence of God as being lit up from within.

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 parent’s house in Kansas, with every stalk of prairie grass lit up from within. …Because I was not brought up in church, I had no religious language for what happened in that gold-lit field…Day by day, the practical implication of this feeling of communion was that I could not walk by a hurt thing without hurting too.
(Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church (pp. 22, 23, 25)

She sees the light as well when it emanates from God’s human creatures. She describes her husband after a Sun Dance ceremony:

His face leaked light, as if every ray of sun that had landed on him that week had seeded his pores. Ed shone, and when he looked at me I felt the beam hit me in the chest across fifty feet of wet pasture.

These experiences left Barbara often in the dark at church in her role as priest. And it is a story I also heard, and felt for myself, in my own brief Exodus from church in Costa Rica. I only met one person there, Armando, my Spanish Intensive teacher, who was lit up by church. On the other hand, I saw light streaming from folks who had left the church behind, or on the side of their main stay of tending land, building community, and growing and eating good food.

How is God sparking up?

It seems in the USA we go to extremes to find the “lightning bolt” that has fallen into memory.

This week 40,000 people will go into the extreme environment of the desert of Nevada for Burning Man, to create a city of creativity and community, self expression and self reliance, no holds barred and no harm done, into be “lit up from within.”

This Sunday at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite we entered the old God story in the old way. Thirty five of us came to hear and imagine Moses’ conversation with the “I AM” from the burning bush. We took off our shoes in the presence of God, and we stooped low to wash one another’s feet. Then we were “lit up from within” as we recalled our own holy moments.

Martha recalled arriving in Cuba for a women’s conference, walking through the mud, and being met in the middle of the night by the women of the church who washed their feet. Tears flowed.

Fridbert remembered climbing as high as he could in trees when he was a boy, to be alone, to sway in the wind, to watch all the littleness below. “Sometimes we don’t know until later that we are having a God moment. When I was in those trees I did not know. Now I see.”

Jane and Nora and Dallie and Mary said living bare foot was their way of life. And I remembered that it was my mother’s way as well.

Don reminded us that our feet ground us in holy earth, as much or more than holy heaven.

So, I am not leaving church. I am longing for sparks, both within and out. It is conversations with God and the God World that light me up from within.

Then even a dust mote in the light sparks glory.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Week 39: Lovely Michiana

Home of the Wenger Family at the Hermitage

A day of prayer at the Hermitage (Dutch Settlement Road, Three Rivers) was settling to my soul. The beauty of this place -- roll of hills, waves of grass, silence, but for the wind -- is both familiar and new.

Now I have a whole new set of questions to ask of my native geography.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot -- "Little Gidding"
(The last of Four Quartets)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Week 38: Wildly Vibrant! (Is that a good thing?)

I am a bit unglued.

I have lived "geographically challenged" for the last nine years, since moving to our four acres on County Road 23. Before that time, for the first almost fifty years of my life, I lived in cities: Philadelphia, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; Elkhart, IN. But I still don't FEEL like a belong on CR 23, still don't know my neighbors, still feel like a rural visitor.

Add upon this layer a year of travels to cities and rural areas from Paraguay to Cambodia to Costa Rica and back, and it leaves a lot of sorting to do.

Where DO I live? How vibrant is my life and the life around me? And what invitations have come to me in this sabbatical year? As a part-time pastor, I have some time and energy to spare, to sow. I am "planted" in Bristol, IN and in my Florence parish. Where will I bloom?

(And I realize this can sound like the question of "the little rich girl." Even asking the question is a luxury. An ego indulgence.)

So, you are getting the feeling. This wave of sabbatical re-entry is bouncing me around. Therefore, on Tuesday after spiritual direction, I needed some steadying. So I went walking along the millrace in Goshen.

(1) Sadly, there was no water in the millrace.

(2) There was a new "underpass" for walkers and bikers, dipping under Plymouth Avenue by Shanklin Park. Cool! But that's why the water had been dried.

(3) With camera in hand, I got caught. Flowers, bugs and butterflies became, once more, my visual meditation.

I stopped.

I centered.

I looked and

I delighted in WILD VIBRANCY!

(4) Then I was drawn into the Reith Interpretive Center by the pathway to find a fabulous community resource for learning about and stewarding the natural world.


I found out what I had fallen in love, like the cabbage white butterfly, with. PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE. There was a large poster with the same gorgeous blooms the butterfly and I had just adored. And here is what I found out:

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), a beautiful but aggressive invader, arrived in eastern North America in the early 1800’s. Plants were brought to North America by settlers for their flower gardens, and seeds were present in the ballast holds of European ships that used soil to weigh down the vessels for stability on the ocean. Since it was introduced, purple loosestrife has spread westward and can be found across much of Canada and the United States….

However, when purple loosestrife gets a foothold, the habitat where fish and wildlife feed, seek shelter, reproduce and rear young, quickly becomes choked under a sea of purple flowers. Areas where wild rice grows and is harvested, and where fish spawn, are degraded. An estimated 190,000 hectares of wetlands, marshes, pastures and riparian meadows are affected in North America each year, with an economic impact of millions of dollars.


This reminded me of a story I heard my last day in Costa Rica. While purchasing a batik card of my favorite bird, the blue crested motmot, also known as the BOBO, the collector at Galeria Namu in San Jose told me this story:

In the villages it is said that the Bobo entices people. We are attracted to its beauty, its colorful feathers, and as it sits perched nearby, we creep closer to catch it and make it our own. But then, as we near, it flies just a bit further on, into the woods. And of course, we pursue. We have come so near! But again it moves, and we follow. We follow and follow, deeper and deeper into the woods. And then the Bobo disappears. And we are lost! Trickster, Bobo! You lead us into these depths only to make us lost!

"But," said the collector, "isn't it interesting how we blame the Bobo, when all the time it was human greed that was in pursuit, trying to capture the beauty of the wild?"

I am on alert. While I consider new decisions, I may be deceived. Ego may lead me to love the Bobo or the Loosestrife. But either of these may be false lovers. Seeking Wisdom, I am humbled on the Way.

That is a good thing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 37: Remembering Tico Tenderness

Muy amable...

There is not any English equivalent.
The soul, la alma de la gente, of the people, of Costa Rica

very very...

Emjoying life.
Quick to laugh and smile.
Loving all babies and little ones.
Gentle in time.
Flourishing in the beauty of land, birds, flowers
and the arts.
Feeding body and soul
on rice and bean,
mango and papaya,
coffee and milk and fresh squeezed orange juice,
and later,
Imperial beer and or sugar cane moonshine.

Look into the eyes of Zelmira Leiton,
sister of my host father.
She has filled the walls
of Mar Inn in Santa Elena
with her blazing paintings of parrots and palms,
waterfalls and cloud covered mountainsides.
She makes a special cafecito for us as a gift
with empanadas and delicate fried pastries
drizzled with the sweet syrup of local sugar cane
to savor with the conversation and laughter
along with our cafe con leche.

Look into the face of Geovanny, her husband,
who calls for the doctor
immediately when Caitlin fell ill.
The Spanish and English speaking Chinese doctor
appears for his housecall at Mar Inn,
and Geovanny insists on driving me immediately
to the pharmacy
in the rain
to fetch the medications.
In one hour, we have had
the call,
the doctor,
the prescription
and the meds,
thanks to the attentive care
of Geovanny and Zelmira.

to our dear ones
our hosts, our new family
in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica
who tended us in their home, their bed and breakfast
in our first week,
making their home our own.

Muy amable. Si!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Week 36: Montezuma Pacific Beach

Sea meets land.
Crabs emerge on rock tops,
appearing from nowhere as the tide
crawls higher on the crushed shell sands.

Montezuma, Costa Rica, beach hangout
of aging hippies and street artists
and the touristically employed,
at the end of the potholy road
across the southern Nicoya Peninsula,

welcomes us
more as friends
than guests or tour-

One more vibrant, rural, creative
community of servants,
waits upon us with massages
offering bananas from the trees,
feasts from the sea
and rum from the islands.

The constant mumbling of the sea rises and
lingers in the rain forest above us, day
and night, rain
and sun, as the limping old man
with the full matted
beard and orange
painted chest
hangs on the streets, night
and day, drunkenly
prophesying the cosmic meeting
of mystics here, on this straggly street
past bars, souvenirs and tour desks
to the ocean.

Howlers monkeys, mono congo, hoot, unseen.
A family of white faced monkeys groom one another
while lounging on a limb over the swimming pool.

A gawdy blue magpie jay -- crown topped transvestite cousin
of our blue jay at home --
pierces an orange hole
in a ripe papaya high above my hammock,
followed by a twosome of yellow and brown toucan-like aracas,
a threesome of brown backed and flecked breasted woodcreepers,
and a foursome of orange, brown and white rimmed butterflies
waiting below on banana leaves.
All together open the papaya menu
over two days,
in four courses
right before my eyes, my nose

At midnight when we are supposed to be sleeping bats
scramble and squeak in the walls of our rooms
after swooping for insects
after sundown at Hotel El Jardin.

Even the walls
are alive!

A week at this hang out,
feasting and grooming,
lazing and basking,
soaks our souls with
air (moist kisses),
wind (monkey howled),
water (wave broken),
and fire (sun-ripe mango):

The gifts of God for the people --
and all creatures --
of God.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Week 35: Monteverde Cloud Forest

Each tree, a living,
breathing, water
collecting, fecund,
vibrant rural

It is not raining in this cloud forest.

Moist clouds above us all
channel strokes
of morning light
striking bright flashing
tones on each
bead, condensed

I am guided and gifted.

In silent Quaker meeting
three bell birds call from tree peaks
and ring our inner ears
to an echoed awake!

Week 34: Costa Rica with Family

Our Well Endowned Aunt Lilly (AKA Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant) provided a once in a life time vacation -- for me a return trip of two more weeks in Costa Rica.

Daniel and Kristin flew home from Cambodia. Drew and Caitlin packed up two month old little Lily. And Donald and Rachel and I closed up the house.

We were fed, led, and befriended by all for two weeks as we traveled from Alajuela to Monteverde to Montezuma and San Jose. Many meals and miles later, we have only begun to soak in the rich beauty and hospitality of Pura Vida Land.

Gracias a Dios for abundant, abundant grace!