WELCOME BACK: We hope that many of you were able to enjoy Spring Break last week and we look forward to seeing you back at the GCW helping out this week as we return to our regular schedule. All of our regular projects are up and running and if you’re looking for an opportunity to help out, we’d love to have you. You can see everything that is happening this week by clicking on the link above. Send us an email if you know something you’d like to help with and we’ll make sure you’re on the schedule.
GIVING THANKS FOR CONNIE FITZGERALD: Yesterday, we learned that Connie Fitzgerald, a supporter of the GCW and friend and former colleague of both Kelli and John, passed away. Johnny (the younger), his friend Zach and I were scheduled to go over and do some yardwork at Connie’s this week when we got an email on Friday asking us and others to hold off because of some developments with Connie’s illness. Connie was an early regular at the Breakfast Brigade, long ago when we were baking bread and boiling eggs at Kelli’s house (before we got the Green House at 218), and last year, she helped us to plant and inaugurate the parking lot garden next to our house. She was an extraordinarily kind and giving soul and we’re so grateful for her life and witness. We invite you to remember her, her family and all of our her friends in your prayers.
LENTEN PRACTICES: During this time of Lent, as we prepare and approach Easter, many folks like to take up different practices or disciplines to rededicate themselves to a life of spirituality, compassion, forgiveness and love. If you’re still looking for possible Lenten opportunities, we want to invite you to consider making the GCW part of your Lenten practice. Consider these possibilities:
- Deepen your spirituality by joining us at 11:15am on Mondays or 6:45am on Fridays for 30 minutes of silent meditation. We begin with a short reflection, practice 20 minutes of centering prayer, and then briefly share any thoughts or comments we might have.
- Study scriptures which help orient us during the Lenten season. We’ve been looking at Matthew’s gospel this semester, but we’ll segue into some particularly Lenten passages between now and Easter. Join us on Mondays at noon for an hour of scripture study.
- Almsgiving is a special Lenten tradition meant to reorient us to the needs of others. Volunteer at the Breakfast Brigade or Dorothy’s Cafe, Art for All or the Coffee Shop and give a little of your time and attention to those whom our society often ignores, marginalizes or oppresses.
- We are always in need of extra financial help to keep everything going here at the GCW. As part of your Lenten almsgiving, if you’re in a position to do so, consider making a financial gift to help support the work of the GCW.
SCHEDULE CHANGE FOR MICRO-FARM WORKDAY: Since our monthly micro-farm workday fell during Spring Break, we rescheduled it for Saturday, March 24. We hope to have a small group gathered to help at the micro-farm between 9am and 3pm (any amount of time you can give would be great!). Lunch will be provided!
VISITS GALORE! I don’t know that we have ever had so many visitors at the house as we have this semester. Tamra’s parents and grandparents both visited recently and a number of friends have passed through. But the visits really ratchet up over the next few weeks! We’ll have a full house regularly as we have a number of friends and family members joining us to help out. The visits start with Vicki’s mom this week (make sure to tell her how awesome Vicki is!), former GCW housemate Kim’s dad will be here next week (ditto on relaying Kim’s awesomeness), Kelli’s son Ben will be home for Spring Break starting later this week with college friend Shizuko in tow, our grandson Riley all next week, and 2 cousins from Texas, Clare and Audrey, spending their Spring Break with us next week too. We’re looking forward to having the extra help but we also really hope that many of our visitors will get to meet all of you, our GCW regulars, and hear a little bit about the incredible things each of you are doing with your lives! So next time you’re at the house, make sure to introduce yourself if you see someone you don’t recognize!
Hope to see you this week!
Many years ago now, when I was invited to speak at a church gathering, my host said, “Tell us what is saving your life now.” It was such a good question that I have made a practice of asking others to answer it even as I continue to answer it myself. Salvation is so much more than many of its proponents would have us believe. In the Bible, human being experience God’s salvation when peace ends war, when food follows famine, when health supplants sickness and freedom trumps oppression. Salvation is a word for the divine spaciousness that comes to human beings in all the tight places where their lives are at risk, regardless of how they got there or whether they know God’s name. Sometimes it comes as an extended human hand and sometimes as a bolt from the blue, but either way it opens a door in what looked for the world like a wall. This is the way of life, and God alone knows how it works.
Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose from all else and electing a world where you go
where you want to.
Arbitrary, sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound will tell where it is, and you can slide your way past trouble.
Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s when you get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.
– William Stafford, Cutting Loose
When I was 38, my best friend, Pammy, died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘Do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’ And I think Easter has been about the resonance of that simple statement; and that when I stop, when I go into contemplation and meditation, when I breathe again and do the sacred action of plopping and hanging my head and being done with my own agenda, I hear that, ‘You don’t have that kind of time,’ you have time only to cultivate presence and authenticity and service, praying against all odds to get your sense of humor back.
Early-stage religion is more about belonging and believing than about transformation. When belonging and believing are the primary concerns, people don’t see their need for growth, healing, or basic spiritual curiosity. Once we let the group substitute for an inner life or our own faith journey, all we need to do is “attend.” For several centuries, church has been more a matter of attendance at a service than an observably different lifestyle. Membership requirements and penalties predominated, not the change-your-life message that Jesus so clearly preached.
Membership questions lead to endless arguments about who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong, who is worthy of our God, and who is not. Such distinctions appeal to our ego and its need to feel worthy and superior and to be part of a group that defines itself by exclusion. The church ends up a gated country club, giving people a false sense of superiority. This is why Jesus walks to those on the edges: the handicapped, the sinners, the excluded ones.
Are there any disciplines to keep us moving from dividing power to uniting power, from destructive power to healing power, from paralyzing power to enabling power? Let me suggest three disciplines that can help us look from above with the eyes of God:
- The first discipline is to focus continually on the poor in this world. We must keep asking ourselves: Where are the men, women and children who are waiting for us to reach out to them? Poverty in all its forms–physical, intellectual and emotional–is not decreasing. On the contrary, the poor are everywhere around us. As the powers of darkness show their hideous intentions with increasing crudeness, the weeping of the poor becomes louder and their misery more visible. We have to keep listening. We have to keep looking.
- The second discipline is to trust that God will truly care for the poor that are given to us. We will have the financial, emotional and physical support we need, when we need it, and to the degree that we need it. I am convinced that there is a large body of people ready to help with money, time and talent. But that body will remain invisible unless we dare to take new risks. If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be opened for us.
- The third discipline is the hardest one. It is the discipline of being surprised, not by suffering, but by joy…. There is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road and that others were more shrewd than we. But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy. Be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert. And be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like a spring of fresh water from the depth of our pain.
With an eye focused on the poor, a heart trusting that we will get what we need, and a spirit always surprised by joy, we will be truly powerful. We will walk through this valley of darkness performing miracles because it is God’s power that will go out from us wherever we go and whomever we meet.
Henri Nouwen, Power, Powerlessness and Power
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.
– Annie Dillard
[photo: two of the famous stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, where French royalty once prayed – located a few steps from the Conciergie, aka “the antechamber to the guillotine”]
“‘The voyage was not without reward for Alan,’ Marc said. ‘But we are left with Anne’s question. Why would God bring him all this way only to die now?’ He paused and looked at Sofia before continuing. ‘The Jewish sages tell us that the whole of the Torah, the entirety of the first five books of the Bible, is the name of God. With such a name, they ask, how much more is God? The fathers of the church tell us that God is mystery and unknowable. God himself in Scripture tells us, “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts.”‘
“The noise of the forest was quieting now. Siesta was the rule in the heat of midday, when three suns’ aggregate light drove many animals to shelter. They were all, priests and lay, tired and hot, and wanted Marc to finish. But Marc waited until Anne lifted her eyes to his. ‘It is the human condition to ask questions like Anne’s last night and to receive no plain answers,’ he said. ‘Perhaps this is because we can’t understand the answers, because we are incapable of knowing God’s ways and God’s thoughts. We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best we can, but limited. Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable.’
“Marc continued, ‘The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when his children defeat him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions like Anne’s are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of animal behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up his answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.'”
From Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen, Anthem
“While today the word humility may connote a placid servility in the face of mistreatment, its Latin origins suggest strength and fertility. The word comes from hummus, as in “earth.” A humble person is one who accepts the paradox of being both “great and small” and does not discount that hope which Kierkegaard terms “possibility.”We may look to physicians or therapists when our lives go off track, or we may pray the psalms, or seek solace in a favorite novel. But in a sense we are all seeking the same thing. We want to prepare a good soil in which grace can grow; we want to regard the cracks and fissures in ourselves with fresh eyes, so that they might be revealed not merely as the cause or the symptom of our misery but also as places where the light of promise shines through.”
When you hear the word “mindfulness” if you’re not in some sense automatically hearing the word “heartfulness” you’re misunderstanding it. And mindfulness in any event is not a concept; it’s a way of being. And it’s a way of being awake. It’s not a big deal; it’s just that we’re never taught that this is part of the human repertoire. So what does wakefulness mean? It means resting in a kind of awareness that is so stable that it’s not thrown off by the comings and goings of events within the field of awareness. So that you lose your balance when things go this way and things go that way, but you actually stay grounded when things go your way, as we put it. And when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that you have to rocket yourself or spiral into depression and hopelessness and a sense of despair. But very often if we take it personally and we feel like our successes say that we’re a good person and then, by extrapolation, our failures say that there’s something wrong with me, that I’m no good. And both of those are wrong. What goes up also comes down, whether we’re talking about the stock market or a ball that you throw up in the air. And if you mistake what you think of as the reality for the reality, then you’re going to suffer because you’re attaching the story of me, myself, and my successes and my failures to something that’s actually quite impersonal.
– John Kabat-Zinn, in an interview on On Being