09 September, 2003

Spiritual Garage Sale


Some thoughts as I sip hot tea and I take a break from preparing for our HUGE moving sale that will take place on Saturday. Pull up a chair and pour yourself some of this wonderful Ginger Peach tea.

Our garage is filled with the tangible evidence of our living. There are children's desks and bookcases, a wok, computer software, my huge roll top desk, the freezer, soccer balls and basket balls, two bikes, a lawn mower, various kitchen utensils, lots of canning jars and a canner, ... well, you get the idea. The garage is filling up with the stuff that we've outgrown, out used, or just won't have a place for in either of our apartments. It's stuff we have to get rid of.

Some stuff has already been given or sold to others. A small TV with a VHS player to the my church's nursery. A second lawn mower to our neighbor. The basketball hoop to another neighbor. Landscaping tools and some plants to yet another neighbor. My kitchen island to a member of my church. Things we asked others if they could use because we thought they might and because we cared about what happened to them.

As I weed through the stuff in this house and think about what I really need for the next, I keep finding more stuff I really don't need. Why do I have so many sets of twin sheets when I only have one twin bed? Why so many sets of towels? Why so many curtain rods? Where did all these phone cords come from anyway? The more I open boxes and closets, the more stuff that ends up in my garage for the sale. I really don't need most of this stuff. So why did I buy it in the first place? And where has it been hiding all this time?

Some things I take hold of and wonder if I could possibly live without even though they have no practical value. It's all in the sentimental or memory value. The box of letters my mother wrote to me over the years. The tattered and worn table scarf that was Dan's grandmother's. The unity candle from our wedding. These collect dust or sit in a box untouched. Some are too fragile to be handled. Their real value is in the memory, the association to a loved one, the emotional connection. I can't bring myself to throw them away. So into a box they'll go and they'll get moved yet again.

Then there are the things I thought I lost that I'm finding. The keys to my roll top desk and firebox. The box of blank cassette tapes I replaced already. The angel food cake cutter that I bought in a kitchen specialty shop 10 years ago and only used once and lost. Treasures I fretted about losing that now will be sold in the garage sale. Not so valuable after all.

Moving is always a time to "clean house" and "clean out." We don't want so much weight in that moving van because we pay by the pound. This time, however, we're moving to a much smaller space -- Two small apartments in different corners of different states that don't add up the same space we have now in one place. And, eventually (in 9 - 10 months), all the stuff we move to both places will have to fit into just one space again -- Dan's apartment which is only 1/3 the size of where we live now. So, we really must pare down what we own, sort through our stuff and prioritize what is really important to keep and what we throw away, and what we can pass along to others either through this sale or by donating to a charity. We must make choices today that we may regret later -- either because we got rid of something of value or kept something that has no value at the other end of the move.

What would a "spiritual move" do in our lives? What if we intentionally chose to journey from where we so comfortably live now in the faith to a different place -- a new place? What if we explored a different way to express or experience our faith? What would we need to leave behind, or put in our "spiritual garage sale"? What would we pack away into "spiritual storage"? And how much of that would we later unload?

It was a spiritual garage sale that began our journey to this place -- a small town in Maryland where we would start a new faith community. We had to move to a whole new place spiritually to put ourselves where we could be open and ready to do God's new thing, re-imagine the Church for a new generation of people. We brought with us the necessities and a few things we didn't need. We left behind those things that were no longer useful. We had to find new tools and means once we began the new work. We made a move. We can't go back to where we were. We can only go forward to yet a new place.

As we ready ourselves to begin a new leg of our journey, moving on to other ministries in new places, we begin again the sorting and the sifting. This journey begins with divergent paths -- two journeys from one and merging again somewhere beyond the present. What will we need for the journeys? What will we take that we find we no longer need? What will we pass on to others who will find it useful?

Our garage is filled with the evidence of our material living. What is the evidence of our Spiritual living? What have we passed along to others? Given away freely? Offered at a price?

What's in your Spiritual Garage Sale?

Thanks for sharing a cup of tea with me. It's time for me to get back to work. The hours are winding down quickly.



9 September 2003

20 May, 2003

Haiku #3

Silence shouts “Betrayal!”

Covenant disregarded

Trust forsaken Lost

Colleagues withdraw mute

Their silence screams “Abandoned!”

Cronyism wins

Costly honesty

Evil Vengeance Snakely slime

Silence screams “Condoned!”

Abandoned Forsaken Sole

Shipwrecked Beached in starless night

Christ’s body fouled

17 May, 2003

Haiku #2

Life’s work continues

those who inflict pain abort

dreams, vision, hope, faith

Mourning rains must flow

Red rage and black despair

Spring, flood, gushing forth

Through Sophia’s child

Man’s folly will be revealed

The child will rejoice

She’ll turn my mourning

into jubilant dancing

sackcloth into joy

Silence shattered by song

Giving thanks to the One God

Who resurrected reigns

Darkness will retreat

Return dreams hope faith visions

Shine into this pit

16 May, 2003


Dream Vision Faith Hope

Conception Expectant

A Spirit of Joy

Vision Faith Hope Work

Endeavor Joyous groundwork

A Spirit of Joy

Apprehension Test

Dark shadows darken joy’s spirit

Looming Raining Threats

Storm passes Relief

Impediments overcome

Dream Pray Vision Hope

Quickening! Hiccups!

Pregnant Potential! Praise! Joy!

Dream Vision Faith Hope

Vision Labor Sweat

Joyous footwork to prepare

A Spirit of Joy!

Cold steal tears open

Hemorrhaging Life poured out

Forced abortion: Death

Wounded Empty Void

Hope stolen Vision deceased

Annulled Canceled Void

There is no Spirit

No joy No hope No Vision

No Spirit of Joy

16 April, 2003

Mouse House

We enjoyed a lovely long drive from Maryland to Illinois and back this past weekend. It was good to see family and visit. Andrew had a chance to add to his "behind the wheel" hours required by the state of Maryland. It was a good trip with plenty of laughs and a few surprises.

The funniest surprise was that we picked up a hitchhiker along the way. Yeah, I know, this is never a safe idea. But we didn't mean too pick her up. She crawled into the car somewhere between Kewanee, IL and Columbus, OH. She made herself at home, and we just didn't realize she was there. If that's not a statement about the amount of stuff in the van, nothing could be! We never saw her. Really!

That is, until Dan reached for a tissue for me while I was driving. We had just had lunch at the Olive Garden in Frederick. We still needed to stop for gas before we drove the last 18 miles to home. Dan opened the glove compartment and reached for the tissues. Strangely, the stack of paper tissues was out of place, rumpled, and, well, shredded. From the back of the glove compartment to the front, shredded paper and cardboard (from the box of hand wipes) was spewing all over the van floor. It wasn't like this when I had reached in on Saturday evening to get Dan an Extra Strength Tums to calm his Post-Pizza-Hut-Pizza-stomach. In the hotel parking lot in Chillicothe, IL things were just fine. But now, oddly enough, the whole glove compartment was churning disorder.

I took one look across the front seat and I knew the probably source. It took Dan a little longer to figure it out. I calmly told him to close the glove compartment door. He couldn't figure out why. I repeated it calmly. "Close the glove compartment, Dan. Now." He didn't get it. So I reached across yelling something less than calm about a critter nest and tried, unsuccessfully, to slam the glove compartment door closed.

Chances are you've ever seen Dan react to unexpected critters. But let me tell you it's a real laugh. Unless you're driving! The poor guy slammed the glove box door closed. And when it bounced back open from the force of it, he was out of the seat belt and on his feet in a flash. He's not a small man, but he sure made quick to remove himself from the vicinity of that glove compartment. Over the arm of the captain seat, through the narrow space between the two front seats, over the cooler between those seats, and to the back. In just the snap of fingers. No noise. Just motion. Dan moved very quickly to the back of the van. I didn't remember that he could move so fast in such limited space.

By now, Andrew and Aaron are in stitches. Dan's sitting on the floor of the back of the van -- the two extra seats were folded down as foot rests for the boys and their "stuff." The van was still in the left lane of MD 85 heading toward Market Street in the middle of traffic. I couldn't stop. But the van was shaking with our laughter.

When we stopped to get gas, (a Sheetz gas station) I emptied the glove compartment and found the identifying "evidence" that the hitch hiker is a mouse. A nesting mouse. I cleaned up the mess as best I could but found no live being. There's a small hole in the top of the compartment where one can access the light to change it. The point of escape. She was in the dash board somewhere enjoying relative safety from her human home wreckers.

We replaced the tissues and napkins with service station blue paper towels because the hand wipe I used left the glove compartment floor and walls damp. When we arrived home, we made sure all the food crumbs and litter were removed from the car. Then we sat around the house wondering how to excise this creature. I'm all for the mouse poison. Andrew and Dan are adamant that it must be removed alive. I'm willing to do a snap- trap. They want the "poor little mousie" released into the storm pond/field beside the house.

The "poison" is large doses of "Cumadin" the human blood thinner laced into some "mousie kibble." The mouse ingests it and it gets into the blood stream. As soon the mouse gets active, any slight bruise or bump will cause massive bleeding internally. The mouse will then go out looking for water because the bleeding leaves them very thirsty. So, they go out looking for a drink, leaving the van, the garage, and my space in peace.

But Andrew and Dan want to be humane to our little hitch hiker. Internal bleeding might be painful. Or the "poor Little Mousie" might get stuck inside the van and stink it up. A sticky trap is just as inhumane because it limits the "poor little mousie's" freedom. And there's no point even asking about the snap traps... they're viscous.

We did not come to any productive conclusion. By evening yesterday, the blue paper was in tact and we all privately hoped the mouse was adding some Illinois diversity to the gene pool in the storm pond beside our house. But it was not to be.

This morning Dan and Andrew went to the gym at 5:00. When they returned, they brought news that the mouse was still in the glove compartment. But she didn't like the lovely blue paper towels. She had "redecorated" with the green fiberglass firewall material from the back of the dashboard. Lots of it. The glove compartment was heaping full of shredded green with hints of blue here and there. And I do mean full. It tumbled to the floor when I opened it up to clean it out.

Yes, I again had to clean it out. So much for a "shared responsibility marriage." Dan wouldn't go within 3 feet of it. He stood at the garage door, his head peaking out from behind it while he stood in the safety of the laundry room, while I cleaned out the shredded d├ęcor and cleaned out the glove compartment with anti- bacterial wipes. He removed himself from sight when I closed the van door and placed the bag of "mouse house" into the garbage can beside the door. Dan may clean cat boxes, but forget about cleaning mouse houses. It's just not in his repertoire.

So after the boys left for school, I went to Ace Hardware to get supplies. Dan insisted upon going with me, however. We had a few moments of marital strain in the "Pest Control" aisle before we reached a compromise. I bought "live traps" to try first. If they are not effective, I'll back them up with the poison. However, Dan will not agree to empty the live traps. He wouldn't even set them. "The Poor Mousie...." (Eyes rolling over the back of my head.)

Have you ever seen a "Have a Heart" live trap for a woodchuck? Well, these look NOTHING like those. These are little plastic boxes, the size of match boxes, open at only one end with a "SeeSaw" in the middle of the bottom. When the mouse upsets the SeeSaw, the door over the front closes and locks.

The only problem is that they are designed to exist on a kitchen counter or under a sink. Not in a vehicle where the whole thing moves all the time. All it takes is closing the glove compartment to set it off. Or, closing the van door. There's no hope of driving down the driveway without snapping the trap closed.

I loaded the things down with peanut butter -- the only thing that would work to hold them in the correct position. Then I gently placed them in the glove compartment with a stack of McDonalds napkins and gingerly closed the door.

How it's going to ever work is a real mystery to me. But for Dan's and Andrew's sake, I've left it in the glove box with ORDERS to not drive the van, not to touch the van, not to breath near the van. If there's no "Poor little Mousie" in those boxes by tomorrow evening, I'm replacing the live traps with the box of poison and parking the van on the street. I don't want a dead "Poor Little Mousie" stuck between the dashboard the the frame of the van because that could really be unpleasant in the summer heat, but I'm not willing to have a family of "poor little mousies" in my van either.

It's all wrong, you know. That an Illinois mouse would find it's way into a Maryland van. I'm sure that somewhere in the blue laws there must be something about it being immoral and illegal to carry a live mouse in your gloves. Or perhaps it's an offense to interbreed an Illinois Farmer with a Maryland Suburbanite. If it's not, well I think we need a new law on the books! <>

If you have any creative and effective ways to excise Illinois mouse from a Maryland van, I'm all ears. I'll nibble at anything that might work at this point.

23 January, 2003

Falling Walls, Cracked Soul

The wall fell. It was a wall of protection, a dyke to hold back the ocean of chaos. A sea wall to keep the ocean at bay while I swam in its murky waters and dove to find the sources of the murk. It was a solid barrier between the sea and me, between the ever changing tidal pools and the examiner of those depths. The wall was my means of transportation from one bay to the next, the pathway that made easy my travels from one chaotic crisis to the next.

The wall fell. A sea wall stands only if there is adequate support on the dry side, only if there is enough counter pressure to hold the wall against the sea. The importance of the wall is it the separation it provides between ocean and safety, between chaos and order, between my work and my feelings.

The wall fell. There was no support on the back side. No counter pressure upon which I could brace myself. I fought with all I had to hold back the wall, but I could not do it alone, without the support of those who have helped in the past. I turned to the sea to uphold me, to lift me from the floodwaters. I rested upon its waves, and was embraced by that which I’d always remained withdrawn and unattached.

The wall fell. It wasn’t an intentional taking down of the wall. It just tumbled down and the floodgates opened. The sea has flowed into my pathway, my safety. The waters have marked my very being. I’ve grown accustomed to the buoyancy it offers. Dare I say it? I have grown to love the water – the very response the wall was assembled to thwart.

The wall fell. But the cycle of the tide does not stop; the water must recede from the shore. So now begins the painful work to separate the sea and the land. Now begins the anguish of removal.

The tide rescinds. A new wall must be built. And I dread the separation. I loathe the approaching anguish.

This has been my reason for this wall. It keeps out the pain of separation. It holds a bay my falling in love with the sea. I am at once longing for the wall and dreading the separation. Torn, tattered, branches flowing away with the tide, I wonder if I’ll ever want to swim in the depths again.