The God Who Makes a Way (9.29.19)
Hilariously Impossible (9.15.19)
We’re ignoring mandates from kings today, crossing borders as asylum seekers, listening for the holy word to release those who are enslaved. It’s decidedly and overtly political again, isn’t it, this sacred text of ours? I really do wish sometimes that it wasn’t that way. There are times I want to drop the requirements to DO SOMETHING with this faith and just let it make me feel better about my life. I crave the texts about rest and beauty and mindfully noticing signs of God in the created world. I understand the desire for spirituality to start and end right there: noticing, rest, beauty. But BEING and DOING are intimately linked in sacred story. Even if we’re practicing these things and only these things, it doesn’t take long before noticing signs of God in the created world causes us to feel something for the created world—something warm in our hearts that causes us to smile or sigh or say “wow” when we see that pink and orange sunset over the lake or a years-old-firecracker-plant hanging over a fence. This particular way of BEING makes a way in us and through us that necessarily and actively makes a way in and through the world.
Observing true Sabbath rest, fully and rightly, will absolutely and necessarily cause us to reexamine the other six days of the week and how they are ordered. If there is tremendous chaos in the other days, we will feel that imbalance. If our neighbor isn’t holding space for holy rest (or can’t hold that space because it means lost wages because the wages are so low to begin with), then we might start to at least question why rest isn’t available to all. If sabbath doesn’t set the pace for the other days of the week and other ways of being in the world, then we’ll feel that need to DO SOMETHING in order to get the balance and order right.
Creating and Following
One of my very favorite scenes of any movie ever is the scene in the original Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The pair goes to visit Uncle Albert who is having “an episode.” The children, Jane and Michael, nervously and curiously follow along and are delighted to find Uncle Albert’s “episode” has him floating near the ceiling and unable to stop laughing. Mary Poppins chides the children for laughing and says, “It’s really quite serious.” Bert warns them, “Whatever you do, keep a straight face. Last time it took us three days to get him down.” And Bert immediately begins giggling. Two minutes later, he’s floating up at near the ceiling, too. Once the two men begin singing together, “The more we laugh, the more we fill with glee,” Jane and Michael begin floating up, too.
The men begin telling each other corny jokes as they float and flip through the air which only fills them with more laughs and keep them stuck up high.
“The other day when it was so cold, a friend of mine went to buy some long underwear. The shopkeeper said to him, ‘How long to you want it?’ And my friend said, ‘Well, from about September to March.”
Love, Rest, Delight
My daughter’s school is one of many post-Katrina charters, and launched just down the Avenue from us in 2013. Borrowing a multi-dimensional word rooted in the French “bricoler” meaning “to tinker,” the innovation school, Bricolage, was formed with a creative intention to apply the name to everything that goes into making a school. Bricolage in art means to make something out of all different kinds of materials. They applied this concept to gathering all kinds of students together in one place to make a new whole who would then, in turn, be tinkers and creators, gathering materials and supplies in Innovation Workshop to make their own creations, and then innovating within the traditional subjects as well.
It’s a risky thing to believe in the idea of something before it’s fully formed, and the experiment of Bricolage is not just investing in another charter school but one that is tinkering as it goes. It’s a wild concept we’re applying in our working group for the St. Charles Center for Faith + Action. We have this concept, and we know we’re onto something. We have a handful of board members who have signed on and about as many founders who have committed over $50,000 so far. Articles of Incorporation have been filed, an EIN has been obtained to receive donations, and the Bylaws will be finished soon. But there are still parts that need tinkering, and some of it we won’t know how it’s going to work until we actually do the thing—gather the people, have the conversations, consider the outcomes—then we tinker again and make it stronger and better for next time. This can be a deeply uncomfortable way to work for some folks who want to hold and know a fully formed thing, and yet it seems very much to be the way that God works. And if that isn’t enough, it also seems to be the way God is inviting us to play and co-create and tinker in the world, too.
We have been in our new home long enough that it seems we’ve possibly, finally reached the end of cutting down dead things, throwing out overgrowth, fighting against invasive, junk plans, and actually allowing a garden to emerge. With some Netflix inspiration from Monty Don, Britain’s favorite gardener, Nathan and I have been focusing mostly on lush, tropical landscaping, while also working with areas of almost total shade and others of blistering sun. We are delighting in this work. We walk the rows at Harold’s in the Bywater, we pop by Lowe’s on the way home to spy more pots and containers on sale. We ooh and ahh over the display of greenery in places like Auction House Market. We study the names of plants and flowers and delight in the growth we see. We amend the soil and dead head the flowers. We cut off old growth to make way for new. We water. We wait. We move around. We transplant. We watch. We plan.
Aspidistra, liriope, Mexican heather, azaleas, foxtail and maidenhair ferns, hydrangea, and split-leaf philodendron in the front. Bird of paradise, bay magnolia, geraniums, morning glory, blooming sedum, erupting sago palm, papyrus, loquat, satsuma, agave, mint, rosemary, elephant ears, lemongrass, three types of hibiscus, desert rose, bromeliads, and a few varietals of ginger in the back. Not to mention the orchids and succulents rotating from indoors to out and back again.