Friday, November 30, 2007

Writing Prompt 28

What are you bearing this Advent season?
What are you giving birth to?

Holy and Ordinary

We move from ordinary time into the season of Advent this Sunday. A time of waiting, of anticipation of Christ's birth again in our lives and into the world. Lights-- thousands in our case--illuminate the dark--and our neighborhood, drive by if you live in the area--Those who walk in the darkness have seen a great light. And those who allow themselves to enter deeply into the season, can still find expectation amid holiday parties, gift shopping, and more. We enter into a holy season, but the ordinary is always with us.

Holy and Ordinary

Holy and ordinary
this time given
for breath and blood
for calling forth into life
the creatures in ourselves
the tiger the lamb
the colt who bears
mothers and saviors
on its back

O Maker what can I bear
what can I birth
and nourish and raise
an offering
full and ripe
the essence of abundance
that rains on me
not gently
but fat thick drops
that sting my skin
pelt me into awareness
force me to look
utter my thanks
hand over my life

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writing Prompt 27

Write a top ten "I am thankful for" list, or adopt the practice of writing 5 things you are thankful for each day in a Gratitude Journal.

Giving Thanks

Give thanks in all things. It's a tall order to be thankful sometimes, when we're struggling with health, finances, relationships, employment and more. Somewhere, recently, I either read or was told (yes, the middle aged memory loss is here) about/by a woman who begins each day thinking of five things she is thankful for before she even gets out of bed. What a gratitude attitude.

It seems to me this sort of thinking on a daily basis requires one to look at the details of life, rather than just the big things. What would your list look like? Today, the day before Thanksgiving, mine went something like this

I am thankful for:

1. being able to breathe all night through my nose (I have a cold).

2. that the dog didn't poop on the bedroom floor (he lacks bowel control, so a common occurrence).

3. my family visiting for the holiday weekend, and the twelve of us celebrating together at our home tomorrow.

4. my sister volunteering to cook turkey and gravy for our feast, leaving me free to decorate the table, my favorite activity.

5. my new Kitchen-Aid mixer. I made my first loaf of gluten-free bread with it last night, and pizza crust, too. Real bread, real pizza. This is heaven.

Well, let's go ahead and make it a top ten I-am-thankful-for list for good measure, since this is my Thanksgiving post:

6. the crew of Professional Cleaning Services who cleaned my house this morning.
7. the m.d. who is helping heal my daughter's scar tissue from previous ankle surgery.

8. my husband, family, friends, writing community and church family, who all support and encourage me in my journey, as I attempt to follow my calls to writing and ministry.

9. the privilege of being invited into the lives and stories of others.

10. God, waiting for each of us to Wake Up and be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Writing Prompt 26

Find a picture or postcard that intrigues you. Write what you imagine the story behind the image to be.

How to Party When You're Norman Mailer

This entry is a writing exercise from my Asilomar workshop inspired by this photo of Norman Mailer at a Poets & Writers party in 1980. Photo credit: Nancy Crampton

How to Party When You're Norman Mailer:

First wear your sweatshirt and tennis shoes. You’re comfortable in your skin. You know who you are, no need to dress to impress.

Second, prepare to dazzle the guests with a hidden talent––a hobby you’ve had since childhood for instance. Something you’ve kept up casually, encouraged by nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren who want you to show off your old tricks at family functions.

Third, grab a microphone, cordless if you can, in order to narrate, as is your bent, even this absurd display of diminishing prowess. You are a writer, after all, your body of work characterized by an unflinching look at all of life, even or especially, yours, fully fleshed out details in Technicolor.

Fourth, as you balance on the edge of adolescent delights and the precipice of obscurity—will anyone remember you or your work twenty years from now? Ten years? Tomorrow? Don’t ask those questions.––Throw yourself completely into the moment. Feel the exhilaration of the zone. You are snatched from time and space. In a millisecond you are ten and sixty-five, skinned kneed and potbellied, waiting for your twelve year molars and white haired all at the same time. That’s creativity, baby.

Lastly, tell us, the other guests at God’s gathering about the ultimate death defying party trick. Tell us how we too, can conquer time and space. Introduce us to Jesus*.

*Mailer wrote The Gospel According to the Son in 1999. He died on November 10, just days after I wrote this.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Writing Prompt 25

What does/did "the evil eye" mean to you?
Is there a look you give or get that scares you?

The Evil Eye

Here is the thing about the Evil Eye––it’s not evil at all. So much for giving someone “the evil eye.”

I’ve mastered a glare that lets the transgressor know that I completely disapprove of his or her behavior and that the steely glint of my gaze is a ticket straight to hell. It doesn’t matter whether the trespasser is talking too loud in a movie theater, queue jumping, or infidelity. If I get wind of it, my evil eye indicts, judges and sentences guilty in a blink.

But the real evil eye, a cross between a teardrop and marble, bought as a gift from my husband on his recent trip from Istanbul came to me as the ornament atop a pill case along with the news that the eye is meant to provide divine protection. God is there, looking out for us, for you and for me, seeing all, staring down the evil spirits and evildoers, withering them the slightest glimpse in the name of Love.

This eye appears everywhere, in windows, on taxi dashboards, bedroom hangings, as if God wants to be present in every aspect of life. Nothing is too small to warrant the attention of the evil eye—even a tiny pillbox.

Now, far from wanting to escape the evil eye, I want to stand in front of God waving my hands until I catch notice.

“Hey God,look this way! I’m over here.” I pray I catch the evil eye.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing Prompt 24

When you share a meal, what does Jesus call you to remember?

When You Do This, Remember Me

This weekend I had the privilege of leading the program for the annual retreat of the United Methodist Women from Cambrian Park United Methodist Church in San Jose. We spent our time writing, sharing, crying, laughing, singing, eating and enjoying creation at beautiful Asilomar, in Pacific Grove. Thank you ladies. It was an honor.

Here are the words we shared with the cup and the bread Sunday morning, dedicated to these wonderful women:

When You Do This, Remember Me

“This is my body which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
-Luke 22:19

When you do this, remember me. When you gather together and share the common loaf of your humanity, remember me.

When you tell each other the truth of your lives––mothers and fathers, husbands and children, born and unborn, who came to you and were lost to you in death or divorce, remember me.

When you sip together from the cup of grief and pain, remember me.
Likewise, when you laugh and dance and sing, when you raise your glasses and toast to world travels, the glories of nature, sex and chocolate, remember me.

When you remember me, remember one another. Sit down together and share the source of your hope.

Serve each other words to sustain and nourish your souls. For I have come that your life, your precious singular life, will overflow with my love.

Live abundantly. Do this in memory of me.