2nd Draft 2.20.18

If you want to read the First Draft of this look here. Please comment below on what is missing, what is unclear, what is great, or what needs refining? I am looking to be better in all areas of writing and your assistance would be much appreciated.

 

I am asking that you take a close look at me. You will see that my light brown hair is colored to hide the ever increasing number of grey hairs, I tell myself that I am not ashamed of the aging, but I wrinkle my nose up in disgust as another breaks through my scalp. The skin of my face is pale, marked with sun damage, large pores and freckles and rises over high cheek bones,  I like it–it’s mine and it’s not likely to get ‘better’ or more youthful no matter what my skincare line promises. I have earned all of the fine lines by lost and misplaced sunglasses. I have been gifted the acne, in various stages of healing, by my ovaries. I have hazel eyes–those are a gift, too from my grandma through my dad. If your gaze was to drop to my shoulders, on the right is a large tattoo. It covers most of my shoulder blade and is a twisted pine clinging to a rock cliff with the sunrise or sunset behind.

Scars are always stories, and tattoos are the scars you choose. So the story goes like this:

In the land of Michigan, where a young man and a young woman met, fell in love and married, not long after they welcomed their first child. A girl with hazel eyes and big feet (she grew into them)–after four short months this new father and new mother and new baby moved from the land of Michigan to the plains. And then they would move in another year, three after that, six there, seven in another, and to another until this little girl with hazel eyes found herself a girl with average sized feet (I told you she grew into them) and a high school diploma. She set out in a economy car and moved and moved and moved and moved again until she was 27 she didn’t have the same zip code for longer than six months. Now if you imagine that this kind of moving sounds bohemian and adventurous, good on you—in fact stop reading, just go on thinking that I am some charmed roving soul. If your thought was, “that sounds exhausting” then please continue and perhaps put on the kettle, we may need the tea.

Migrancy or nomadic life is no blemish on my parents, they followed their own Divine path and it lead them from prairie town to seminary back to prairie towns. So hear me when I say that what they did was not wrong, but it did leave me with scars. That is the thing about scars, about pain and about memory–in them is not always the easy labels of “right” or “wrong,” they don’t have villains with evil at the core of their being, or heroes with hearts of gold. In the vilest of my memories the one that hurt me is still nuanced, a person with soul and strengths (I assume), weakness and scars of their own, motives of love and motives of malice–what they did left marks across my heart, but who they are is more than the sum of the pain they left in their wake. (But I still hope to never see them again.)

Moving left me with the inability to settle in and start sending out the oh so necessary shoots from my soul, so that my roots could tangle and mingle with the souls that shared it’s location. All of us are organisms that thrive when we are strong in our own understanding of self and strong in our connections with others who are also strong in their understanding of self. Like aspen groves we grow up lifting our life gathering leaves toward the heavens and below supporting each other in a network that feeds and sustains all. Well, that is the ideal sense, I think, we may act more like gnarled old oaks and grow tight in our grains and lonely in our post.

On days when I am particularly wistful I think, “I want to be a stream planted tree, I want deep roots and to be supported by my neighbors and to support them.” But moving made root dropping difficult. I whined and bucked at the fact no one gladly turned over the soil of the community and let me push my self down through dark and fertile  silt to nourish  my soul. I spent a fair amount of acrylic painting disterra’d trees, floating with no earth, but also no sky to look to for Life. I dated boys with families that cling to the land that their ancestors had turned over with pride and plow, but I could not even graft myself to their rootstock. Each move felt like another scar raised against my soul. Until my thirties I thought very little about what was necessary  to ‘be planted,’ I just wish that I had been. What great effort those around would have had to exert to allow me an easy planting, until I wrestled with my scars I resented them and their deep local roots.

Scars are stories and tattoos are the scars you choose. And I found myself at 30 years old faced with a thought and an image. A tree gnarled by the work of digging in, and growing where theirs is little soil, but the wonder of seeing so much of the heavens. Reaching out to the company of other misfit trees whose seeds have also been blown to this high place. We do not get the ease of the Michigan climate or the wideness of the plains. We are made by wind and journey and the rocks that we wind our strong roots around.

I carry the shape of my journey, and I would not push any to follow it themselves, but I can tell you when you stop trying to be easily planted and instead dig in, you will find the sunrise and sunset is sweet as we dig in to rocky home.

Sermon 2.25.18

So, for those of you that are reading along with my drafts, this is a little different. First–I actually preached this sermon on Sunday. It is based on the lectionary for the second Sunday in Lent, and, yes, it is still rough. Good preaching and good writing go together, but sometimes what is preached is more than what is simply written on the page. (I hope!)  I tried to add a little of what I remember was on the fly additions to this manuscript, but otherwise here it is! What I really would like to know from you is, what questions did I lead to but not answer? How could I make the story more vivid? Do I use any cliches that I need to avoid?

I was recently in the company of a 4 and a 6 year old who were discussing the ages of everyone within their family. First Momma was asked about her age and she told them—38 and then the 4 year old asked “is daddy 100?” We both tried to tamp down our laughter, “no, he is 47.” We both knew that 100 is the biggest number he can think of, and to his credit anything over 10 must seem like a hundred when you are four.

Now to a really old father who was 86 when his first was born, and I imaging felt every bit of the thirteen years between to where we are in our Old Testament reading today (Genesis 17). We find that Abram, soon to be Abraham, is 99 years old and God is asking him to stand before him. God says walk righteous before me and be blameless, I will make you a father of many nations. This seems like a strange occurrence with in the Abram story as Abram was already told many chapters ago that he would be a father of many nations. He was already told that he would have a lands and a people and a family. Hagar has been given to him and has given him a son Ishmael–a son that Abram asks God to consider Ishmael within this promise, and God agrees to bless Ishmael. Its not a “but” from God, I guess most nearly it is an “also”–God makes specific that Sarai will have a child, it makes me wonder if God is saying, yes you will have nations through Ishmael, but I haven’t forgotten my promise to Sarai–and now is the time for that to come to pass and I need you (all-as in both of you) to look me in the eyes and see that I am calling you (all) righteous, I am calling you (all) fruitful, I am calling you (all) righteous. So, now Abram is 99 And God is asking for this time of standing in before God and hear again that I AM the life-bringer, the Creator and death-overcomer.

This chapter in part outlines the parameters of the covenant. All men are to be circumcised and Abraham and Sarah gets their new names. These are the terms that Abraham makes, but the apostle Paul makes this note about this agreement between God and Abraham, “the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” So it isn’t the act of circumcision that creates the righteousness, it is God’s grace. Laws make divisions: rule follower and rule breaker. Grace makes families. Rules change actions, grace changes hearts. Abraham is given God’s grace so he can be the father of faith, and not because of what dietary restriction they take on or modifications are made to their bodies.

Grace brings life because it is animated by the creating, breath-giving God, the God who became flesh, was Joseph and Mary’s son—a promised child who brought light and life to a world of darkness and death. I am not a parent, so I don’t know for certain, but I would think there are some times that raising children makes you feel like you are as Paul puts, “as good as dead.” But for all the late nights and worries that children have given, in them is the promise of life—children remind us that God is in the business of bringing life where there was none before. And as we go through another season of lent, let us come before God to defeats the grace that makes us righteous and brings life to the world. Amen

First Draft 2.22.18

There is blood and my neighbor is holding a bag that contains a hat. As I come closer someone asks if I live in apartment 307, and my mind tries to rapidly piece the scene together. I glance at my balcony and wonder, did he fall or jump or was pushed? “The ambulance just left,” another neighbor says. I some how dial the numbers to my boyfriend’s phone.

“It’s my brother,” I say, “He fell down the stairs in our building, he’s been taken to the hospital.”

I can’t drive or think. He had been doing well, his job, his friends, his spirituality, he was making plans for his next adulthood step. But I could not keep him safe or sober.

I am allowed into his hospital room and sit beside him. His face is rapped loosely in gauze and occasionally a small rivulet of blood traces past the edge of the bandage. They are waiting to see.

Waiting to see his blood alcohol level go down.

Waiting to see if he passed the concussion test.

Waiting to see if he needed plastic surgery for the gash in his eyebrow.

Waiting.

So I sat there waiting too. I eventually cracked out his name and touched him. He spoke, disoriented and broken, “I was pushed from the stairs. The devil did it. Pray for me.”

I did pray. I had no reason not to believe that the devil wasn’t just tripping men with laundry baskets that evening. I also knew that he had drank more than enough to “float a battleship”

I do pray. I know what to do with my lips and my heart, I just didn’t know what to do with my hands. Because you want to pull your hands back and keep them to yourself, to disconnect and save yourself the heartache. You have moments that you know the person without their addictive behaviors–their eyes are clear–but but sometimes the shadow is just caught in lashes for a moment.

I read about an experiment with those rats addicted to cocain, and how they recovered best when surrounded by other happy rats. I don’t know if the happy rats ever were scared. Or if they felt guilty when they didn’t try harder to connect.

Years have gone by and my brother is better, Maybe the happy rats really helped. Most days I do not still hold the baseball cap with blood, mostly I think of hopeful things.

1st Draft 2.20.18

Well the very best place to start is at the top, I suppose. If I take that literally on my body we could start at my head. Take a close look and you will see that my medium brown hair is colored to hide the ever increasing number of grey hairs. The skin of my face is pale, marked with sun damage, large pores and freckles and rises over high cheek bones,  I like it–it’s mine and it’s not likely to get ‘better’ or more youthful no matter what my skincare line promises. I have earned all of the fine lines by lost and misplaced sunglasses. I have been gifted the acne, in various stages of healing, by my ovaries. I have hazel eyes–those are a gift, too. If you drop to my shoulders, on the right is a large tattoo. It covers most of my shoulder blade and is a twisted pine clinging to a rock cliff with the sunrise or sunset behind.

Scars are always stories, and tattoos are the scars you choose. So the story goes like this:

In the land of Michigan, where a young man and a young woman met, fell in love and married, not long after they welcomed their first child. A girl with hazel eyes and big feet (she grew into them)–after four short months this new father and new mother and new baby moved from the land of Michigan to the plains. And then they would move in another year, three after that, six there, seven in another, and to another until this little girl with hazel eyes found herself a girl with average sized feet (I told you she grew into them) and a high school diploma. She set out in a economy car and moved and moved and moved and moved again until she was 27 she didn’t have the same zip code for longer than six months. Now if you imagine that this kind of moving sounds bohemian and adventurous, good on you—in fact stop reading, just go on thinking that I am some charmed roving soul. If your thought was, “that sounds exhausting” then please continue and perhaps put on the kettle, we may need the tea.

Migrancy or nomadic life is no blemish on my parents, they followed their own Divine path and it lead them from prairie town to seminary back to prairie towns. So hear me when I say that what they did was not wrong, but it did leave me with scars. Moving left me with the inability to settle in and start sending out the oh so necessary shoots from my soul, so that my roots could tangle and mingle with the souls that shared it’s location. All of us are organisms that thrive when we are strong in our own understanding of self and strong in our connections with others who are also strong in their understanding of self. Like aspen groves we grow up lifting our life gathering leaves toward the heavens and below supporting each other in a network that feeds and sustains all. Well that is the ideal sense, I think, we may act more like gnarled old oaks and grow tight in our grains and lonely in our post.

I wanted to be a stream planted tree, I wanted deep roots and to be supported by my neighbors and to support them. But moving made root dropping difficult. No one gladly turned over the soil of the community and let me push my self down through dark and fertile  silt to nourish  my soul. I thought very little about what was necessary  to ‘be planted.’ What great effort those around would have had to exert to allow me an easy planting, but I resented them and their deep local roots.

I spent a fair amount of acrylic painting disterra’d trees, floating with no earth, but also no sky to look to for Life. I dated boys with families that cling to the land that their ancestors had turned over with pride and plow, but I could not even graft myself to their rootstock. Each moves felt like another scar raised against my soul.

But scars are stories and tattoos are the scars you choose. And I found myself at 30 years old faced with a thought and an image. A tree gnarled by the work of digging in, and growing where theirs is little soil, but the wonder of seeing so much of the heavens. Reaching out to the company of other misfit trees whose seeds have also been blown to this high place. We do not get the ease of the Michigan climate or the wideness of the plains. We are spades by wind and journey and the rocks that we wind our strong roots around. I carry the shape of my journey, and I would not push any to follow it themselves, but I can tell you when you stop trying to be easily planted and instead dig in, you will find the sunrise and sunset is sweet as we dig in to rocky home.