Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weaving our Gifts

I’ll try to collect tthe blur of my thoughts for the past six days here on my blog.

I’ve just gotten back from a conference for folks involved in children’s spiritual formation through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The biannual conference in Connecticut is titled Weaving our Gifts invites peers to present workshops for one another to enhance the work with children and adults.

How could I ever make such trips without the help of dear friends like Helen and Clay, Scott and Leesa who kept my children while Buck worked demanding weekend shifts? Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In one of my workshops, I launched Shepherd’s Stew, the prayer project I’ve been developing for over a year. Shepherd’s Stew is a collection of prayer centers for adults based on different themes. In the Season to Grow theme, which is the set I chose for the workshop, participants explored ten unique growing centers with scriptures, meditation questions, and accompanied by art projects. I am constantly amazed at the words, feelings and creative projects which are shared at the end of the center work time. My friend Liz shared a painted a clay pot with precious pictures of the stages of her own development in Christ. Another spoke on her enjoyment of simply coloring stained glass in response to light scripture. Others talked about their experience as they listened to worship songs. Joanna accurately dubbed my workshop “a mini retreat“.

My publisher and friend, Catherine Maresca, congratulated me on how well received the materials and workshop were over the weekend. I take a deep breath of gratitude just now for her huge investment of time in the project. She and her staff at The Center for Children and Theology and Children edited, explored packaging and printing options with me, and flung emails and phone calls back and forth for months on details.

Two amazing women who live nearby in Connecticut pulled together a laundry list of art materials for me: markers, pens, paints, brushes, paper, frames, CD players, fresh flowers, mats, trays, candles, snuffers, matches, paper plates, newspaper, baskets and more. At the retreat house, a Rubbermaid box, a cardboard box and a bucket of fresh flowers stood prepared just for me, so I didn’t have to somehow cart those things from Tennessee. However, when I set the centers up the night before, I realized I’d forgotten to bring or ask for tiny boxes to take home wheat seeds from one of art activities. Then I realized a friend I’d met at training in Santa Barbara last year named Silas was attending the conference, and he had made tiny boxes from paper for us there. I zipped down to his room, cardstock and scissors in hand, and he asked me to join his group from Minnesota watching (or ignoring) the World Series in the TV room another floor. Those people were an absolute hoot! They made me laugh like I haven’t in a long time, and everyone in the group eventually joined in the box making craft.

I attended lectures with keynote speaker Aline D. Wolf and other workshops. Jo and I met for business concerning The Shepherd’s Call. God bless the women from the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd who have committed and began working with us in that gigantic effort. We have a long journey of work ahead, but it’s full of hope and promise.

Jo and I prepared a workshop titled Adapting with Integrity which invited others to collaborate in a brainstorming process to look over Good Shepherd materials and adapt them for children in alternative settings. This group came up with an excellent start, flow charting the process of adaptation.

I met with friends from across the United States I’ve met at trainings and retreats over the course of the last nine years. We shared heartaches and joys. I met new people I hope to work with collaboratively in the future.

I strong armed Joanna into a dance of prayer with me for the “sharing night”. A few weeks before the conference, a song came up on my ipod at the gym which gave me that “This is the one to dance to at the conference” feeling. The song was In You by Mercy Me. A two person choreography developed when I prepared the movements at home. I asked Jo to bring black sweat pants and a black shirt and be open to partnering with me which she did. The only child I met at the conference took the time to bless me with his words, “That song you danced to? It’s my very favorite song. I have all Mercy Me’s CD’s and you picked my favorite one.”

I’ll conclude with a quote from Sofia Cavalletti in her most recent letter to members like myself of the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

“Who is it that comes in the midst of such noise? 'The Spirit rests on him.' The world is saved by things that are small and quiet, things whose presence is barely noticeable. And when we do notice them, their presence bears all the perfume of a GIFT. It is just such things that the Spirit seeks out.

In returning to this passage once again (Isaiah 10:32-34-11:1), I have asked myself- and would like to ask you to ask yourselves together with me: Could it be that the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is on of these little things? The light of joy which we have been given to see the eyes of the children and also many adults, where does it come from if not from the Spirit? Is it not a marvelous gift? Could it not perhaps be the light of the Christian message that we have sought to transmit in the most objective manner possible, without allowing ourselves to get in the way, trying to make ourselves always smaller so that the Word resounds with all it’s mysterious power? “

Monday, October 23, 2006

This blog is a space for me to write some things, but most certainly not all. And I consider this blog to be a vehicle to help log things I do not want to forget, and I don't want to forget yesterday. So, be warned. This post may not make sense to anyone except me.

Friday mornings I've been practicing with a small group of other women for a church dance presentation. When we began a few months ago, our leader, Kelly, played the song, "Light Your World" by Chris Rice, then asked for our impressions and ideas. Surprisingly, she had not choreographed it in full. We shot our ideas around the group and I could see her wheels turning, "Here's what I see. This character whose flame is not yet lit, stands still while the other, a burning flame, flits around her inviting her in. Like this- everyone, cast your eyes pained and downcast, hands on chest." Kelly who only began dancing six years ago for the first time at age 30, spun round and round beckoning us with the perfection of a butterfly. Kelly then followed up by teaching us steps to join her as we accepted our ignited "flame". Cindy, a slender tall person of intense beauty from the assembled group mentioned quietly aside to me, "That particular part certainly wouldn't suit me, since I'm not really a dancer." I immediately raised my eyebrow in question and replied in all confidence, "Whether you think so or not, grace is written all over you on the inside and the outside- on the inside the rare kind of forgiving grace and an obvious outward physical grace just in your stride." Guess who got that part the very next week? And never once did she shy away from it's complexity.

The following week, Kelly asked for our input again. A second mention of, "I see the whole congregation (several hundred people) with lit candles at the end of the song" had me absolutely puzzled. "Not possible" was all I could think but did not say aloud.

Kelly taught me a part I understood so sincerely, it only took me once to completely catch on,

Frustrated Brother
See how he tries to
Light his own candle
Some other way.

Kelly worked out a part for the other participant, Shep. I knew something of her past and the lyrics matched closely to her story.

See now your sister.
She's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle
Without a flame.

The following week, someone, I think Shep brought this idea, "What if we held something like a dark handkerchief in our hands and let it drop when we receive the light?" Powerful! A precious seamstress from the congregation whipped up one for each of us in no time.

We practiced over the next few weeks while Kelly literally sold her house and moved to another house not far away. In the midst of her chaos, the dance came together beautifully. In fact, I often missed my cue, because I was so taken by the exchange between Cindy and Kelly in the first chorus.

Still that crazy "congregation lit" idea remained fixed on the table. Surely some pastor would talk us down from that, but not so. In fact, he bought the candles and found people to hand them out at the door the day of the presentation.

Shep and another who couldn't participate in the dance assembled an army of candle lighters for a practice on the Saturday before the Sunday dance. The crowd of twenty candle lighters were given their instructions and cues. Then, we dancers, all nerves from our first "audience", danced for them.

I waited with a bit of baited breath for their response. My eyes met a friend's, and she was outright crying. I searched for the next face, and found an expression of astonishment. I've been in quite a few dance presentations before in my previous church, and never before have I instantly known how deeply connected the people who watched became.

And what was the most beautiful part of the dance on Sunday for me? Being up front, I got the bird's eye view of the sparkling vast sea of congregation with lit and raised candles.

Take your candle,
Go light your world.

Friday, October 20, 2006

To Helen

I look over the times I have laughed the hardest and longest in my life and many of those times have been with you. You bring joy to my life.

The day I met you in high school art class in 1982, I would never have guessed we'd remain closer than ever twenty-four years later.

We've shared scores of celebrations- graduations, weddings, New Year's Eves, and endured terrible things at each other's sides we thought would surely kill us.

Still we stand. Together.

I treasure your wisdom, and you make me a better person when I'll heed your advice.

I love the "shorthand" we speak with one another and how even words aren't always necessary- the way we read one another like a book in a simple glance.

Happy birthday isn't quite enough, so how's this?

You rock, dear friend!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It’s about to begin.

The October War.

Buck pulls down the boxes of toasty winter clothes from the attic, and I wince. The boxes remind me that soon the conflict between Pooh Bear, and I will kick off. Pooh Bear hates socks and tights. Since April, she’s been free as a butterfly to bare her feet, but with the cold nip in the air comes cold toes. We’ve already worked our way through the introductory September Soccer Sock battle in which she her involvement on the team precariously hangs in the balance contingent upon her cooperation and self control whilst I fish on the long woven tubes of torture over her tender feet. Once we begin the laborious process of cleats over the socks, Pooh Bear enormous vocabulary of verbal abuse is severely limited by my careful restriction to, ”That is uncomfortable. May we try again?”

Pooh Bear loves the moment the winter boxes open- more clothes to stuff in her already snug drawers. She lets out squeals of delight as she discovers the used shoe supply. This morning she’s joyfully raced into my room to model for me some hand-me-down sneakers and pretty slips-ons. I take a painful mental note that one will require socks (oof!) and the other tights (oaf!).

“Pooh Bear, my dear, soon you’ll have to put on socks and tights with those. Is there enough wiggle room in that sneaker?”, I nonchalantly ask as plops the shoe on her foot in my lap.

She wrinkles up her cute little nose and replies, “Oh, Mom. I HATE sock and tights!”

So, the battle will rage on. She’s just five, so I’ve only done this for the past four years in a row. At least it hasn’t been all five years, as I suppose it took her the first year of her life to work up such stocking loathing.

I think I need a Tylenol or a glass of wine. Or perhaps I'll wash the tylenol down with a glass of wine.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mask Comes Off

If you would like to know the very secrets of my heart, and one of the things I've been so feverishly working on lately, please visit my website:


Jo, my partner in the work, and I are on bended knee asking for feedback, input, tweaking, advice, prayer, response- anything you, my friends and family, will offer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Psalm of Contentment

by Edward Hays

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher,

for I wish to learn the virute of contentment.

As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,

I sense all about you

an at-homeness with your amber riches.