Wednesday, October 31, 2012



disembodied from spirit, passion, love

con(n)stricted to the convex of soul outside of life

I stole this post from my old blog. 
And I am not sure what else to say about it. 
Except to say that my play on words has lately been my playbook on life. 
I haven't been blogging.
I haven't been journaling as much as I need to journal to keep my soul connected to my body. 
I have squirreled myself away in hiding a bit. 
I decided to take an October break from my project of disciplines.
This morning I have no idea where my book of liturgical prayers is tucked away.
My therapy this month has been good books: I re-read The Great Gatsby and for the first time treated myself to Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and Catch-22. 
I just feel a bit disjointed, is all, as perhaps you can tell by my disjointed, flowless (is that even a word?) collection of words. 
Tomorrow is November 1.  A new month.  A new discipline?
I am not sure.  I am not sure what it would be. 
Perhaps I should swallow my snarky disdain for clich├ęs and make my project a month of gratitude.  Perhaps gratitude could be my reset button.  I shake my head even as I type. 
It's not that I am not grateful.
But sometimes I just want to wallow a bit. 
And I don't want to be grateful in November when everyone else is spouting gratefulness.  (Go ahead and roll your eyes at me.  I am rolling my eyes at me, too.)  But I want to be grateful in March or something, when I am convinced that spring is never, ever going to appear.
But gratefulness would be good for me. 


Saturday, October 13, 2012

In the words of the person I am not voting for this election season...


..."Hope is not a strategy."

I have been obsessed with this quote for the past week.  If you have had a conversation with me, there is a good chance that I used this quote in our conversation.  If I did not use the quote, then I was probably thinking it at some point while we were talking.

But here's the thing:

If hope is not a strategy, then I have neither hope...
nor a strategy.
hope is my only strategy. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


This is a picture from inside my compost this morning.  It isn't very pretty. :)  The reason there are whole apples in there is because Matt thought that the bag of apples I had on the counter, with which I was going to make a second batch of apple butter today, was compost, so he dumped it in there.  (I-love-him-I'm-going-to-kill-him-I-love-him-I'm-going-to-kill-him).  And while I might consider pulling them out of the compost, what you can't see in this picture is that my compost is teeming with what appears to be...ugh...maggots. 
This is an essay I wrote for my church a couple of years ago, and I posted it on my old blog way back then.  I am re-posting it, however, because I used this essay as the basis of a talk I did last week, and some people requested that I posted it here.  It's good for me to re-visit this idea anyway, especially in light of the maggots that are currently teeming in my own soul's compost. 

I am slightly obsessed with my compost. A few moments ago, I trekked out in the steamy heat to the Darth Vader-looking compost bin beside my house, and I dumped in a fresh bucket of rotting food. Sometimes the discarded food looks almost pretty. Some days I have bright green watermelon rinds, purple-stained onion peel, or bits of green and red strawberry hulls. Today, though, the food I dumped wasn’t really that pretty at all. There were brown egg shells, white cauliflower stems, some slimy peach pits, and a few yellow, wilting parsley leaves. As I stood over the bin and emptied my bucket, a sour smell arose from the bin’s acrid depths, and gnats and flies, disturbed from feeding on the rotting carnage, buzzed in annoyance around my head.
I suppose I can’t say that my experience of dumping compost was particularly pleasant, but it was immensely satisfying, and it was also comforting, for reasons I didn’t fully understand until a few weeks ago when I spent a little time meditating on my compost obsession.

Compost, as I am sure you all know, is rotting food. It’s the stuff that is discarded, ugly, smelly, moldy, decomposing. Most of us stuff our compostable food down the garbage disposal or scrape it off of our plates and into the trash. Some of us, though, are slightly obsessed with our compostable food, perhaps because we feel some affinity to it.
Compost is, to me, a bit of a miracle. The bacteria present in the rotting flesh of a bruised strawberry can nourish next year’s strawberry patch. The vitamins in those discarded green edamame pods will break down into rich, black dirt that will make next year’s tomatoes that much sweeter. I know this, which is why, every couple of days year-round, I lug out wilted spring greens, bright watermelon rinds, orange pumpkin shells, and the leafy tops of winter root vegetables. And then, in the spring, I watch as Matt tills the compost into our garden.

It’s amazing, really. Our trash becomes a treasure. This year, with the rotten food we have tilled beneath the ground’s warm surface, we our nourishing watermelon, cantaloupe, sugar snap peas, peppers, tomatoes, basil and various other herbs, lettuce, beets, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and onion.
This is life. Extracted from death.

I feel such affinity with my compost because my soul is just like that compost. It is life. Extracted from death.
The compost bin of my soul is even more unsightly than the Darth Vader version we have in our back yard. It’s ghoulish, really. Monstrous. There is so much that is rotten that I have tossed into my soul’s compost bin.

Honestly, I don’t want to tell you what is there. If I tell you, you might not want to visit my garden. You might assume that the garden of my soul is as wretched and putrid as that very same soul’s compost bin.
But if I don’t tell you, then you won’t truly understand the miracle that is compost. You won’t understand how something so rotten can become so beautiful.

Let’s open the lid and poke around a little.
Almost daily I toss in some insecurity and impatience and snarkiness. Sometimes I dump in a lie or a handful of pride or a sprinkling of gossip. There’s some big stuff in there, too, that is going to take awhile to break down. There’s the mold of perfectionism I press myself into. Many days I wonder if it will ever really break down into rich soil. There is also a large pile of ugly things I have said and ugly things that have been said to me. Then there are some things too painful to talk about here, really. If you dig deep enough you will find more grief and shame than I really care to sift through.

It’s ugly in there.
But here’s the thing: I can take that putrid mess, and I can dump it in my trash, where it will then go compost in a landfill, but it will not nourish anything but the trash around it.

Or, I can take that compost in all of its rottenness and ugliness and stench, and I can work it back into the soil of my soul, where it can nourish my soul and become something beautiful. I choose to believe that God, as the gardener of my soul, will help me till the soil and tenderly nourish the fruit that is all the sweeter for the garbage that has mixed with the sun and the rain.
Today, I invite you to visit my garden. Feel free to poke around in my compost, but also please enjoy the ripe offering I hand you, the sweet fruit nourished not only by the sun and the rain, but also by the tears, the sadness, and the shame. And when you go home, take care of your own rotting compost. Work it into your soul and into the souls of the community surrounding you, and know that you and God can turn all that is bruised, rotting, and ugly into something truly beautiful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To rest, go to the woods...

You know, I would love to write a blog post today.  I would love to sit out on my porch, soaking up the sun, with a cup of coffee beside me.  But today, I don't think that's possible.  Today, I can't finish a complete sentence, a complete thought, a complete anything.  I just sent an email that was two days overdue.  I don't really know what I said.  I don't know that it was coherent.  I don't know that the flippin' thing was even in English. 

But it is a new month, a new discipline, so I need to reflect on last month and tell you what I am doing this month.  Thankfully, on Sunday evening, I managed to escape onto my porch and actually wrote something that was in complete sentences.  That's what you get from me today.  Here you go:

Here I find myself at the end of another month.  I think I need to repeat the Sabbath.  Or at least try to continue it.  It's been hard to feel close to God on the Sabbath, because it's been hard to feel close to God.  Period.  But that's my fault.  I have failed at fixed-hour prayer and sometimes at solitude and mostly at Sabbath.

I'm burning incense right now.  That's something.

Today I have been mostly cranky.  But I did play under the blankets this morning with the kids and Leia.  And I connected with God during Eric's sermon.  And I exchanged out my summer and winter clothes.  And I spent nearly two hours, alone, working on my talk for MOPS on Thursday, and that is mostly crappy but I think it's a tiny bit OK.  And now I am journaling.  Tonight I can believe, at least partly, that God loves me.

Tomorrow is October 1, and I think I will focus on nature.  I think I will read Wendell Berry and spend thirty minutes outside a day.  Um, yeah.  Let's see how this works.  I claim to love nature, but I hole myself up inside.  How am I going to pull this off?  I guess I will take afternoon walks with the kids.  And maybe take them to the park.  And maybe try to hit up Kansas City's nature centers and trails.  Does the zoo count?  I just remembered that I spend 40 minutes outside every weekday morning walking to and from kindergarten.  Does that count?  Probably not.  I don't know.  I'd rather not think about it. 

So October's focus is on nature, because I sure do not want to spend the winter focusing on nature, what with my crazy aversion to cold and gray days and all.

One of my favorite poems is taped to my great grandma's buffet in my dining room.  My graduate-school-therapist-turned-friend sent me this poem several years ago for my birthday.  I love it still.

To rest, go to the woods
Where what is made is made
Without your thought or work.
sit down; begin the wait
For small trees to grow big,
Feeding on earth and light.
Their good result is song
The winds must bring, the trees
Must wait to sing, and sing
Longer than you can wait.
Soon you must go.  The trees,
Your seniors, standing thus
Acknowledged in your eyes,
Stand as your praise and prayer.
Your rest is in this praise
Of what you cannot be
And what you cannot do.
  ~Wendell Berry, "The Farm," IX, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems: 1979-1997