Thursday, August 23, 2007


Fern after Rain

Yesterday, I held my daughter close for a long while. To listen to a particular sadness, to give her my presence. It was healing, just sitting there breathing in rhythm. It was restful. I closed my eyes.

Sometimes we need that. To just close our eyes. To breathe. To love and feel loved. Yes, we need Sabbath.

The Jewish tradition calls the actual Sabbath "shabbat". I like this quote from the memoir Stranger in the Midst, regarding shabbat...

"Shabbat is like nothing else. Time as we know it does not exist for these twenty-four hours, and the worries of the week soon fall away. A feeling of joy appears. The smallest object, a leaf or a spoon, shimmers in a soft light, and the heart opens..." (p.2, Mudhouse Sabbath)

Reflecting on this quote I realize I want to close my eyes and open my heart. Close my eyes to the worries of a whole month, or maybe even a year. I want to pay attention to the smallest objects, and the tiny people in my life. Not just for a sabbath but for a whole week of sabbath. And so it is.

After tomorrow, I will be back in about a week. Maybe a little longer if an embrace of peace will not let me go. Shabbat shalom. water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. Psalm 104:13

Fern After Rain photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Driving Me

Tire in Drive

If you happen to see a driver taking extra wide turns and avoiding parallel parking, it might be me. Ever since I received the "you're stuck in all-wheel drive" diagnosis, I've been engaging in avoidance driving. Sharp turns make the car shudder. Parallel parking is the worst of the worst, as my wheels almost skid me into a space. My wheels are working against each other, which could cause permanent axel damage. So I'm trying to live turn-free.

Of course, all astute readers are thinking, "GET THE CAR FIXED! YOU CAN'T DRIVE IN A STRAIGHT LINE FOREVER!" Right. True! So I plan to go to that scary T place (the transmission guy), but life's requirements are precluding that option for at least a few more weeks. In the meantime, I'm living in a state of anxious control.

It struck me, as I was trying to let inertia move me into my driveway, backwards, uphill, that this is somewhat a parable of my life. There are ways that my childhood experiences have gotten me stuck in all-wheel-drive. I often live in a state of anxious control.

Indeed, I'm feeling the deep cost of trying to live turn-free.

There is no transmission place to cruise into, to fix this chronic problem. But I am using my time in the Secret Place to place myself before God. Mostly right now I'm finding a well of emotion and sorrow when I show up there. But it feels like the beginning of discovery. Diagnosing what's driving me.

Tire in Drive photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unauthorized Advice from Scot McKnight

Virgin Birth

What follows is unauthorized advice from Scot McKnight... Lifted without guilt from his book The Jesus Creed. (A new personal favorite of mine, by the way, so prepare to receive posts.)

I heisted the advice from chapter 9, which I like to call the "chutzpah chapter" (because McKnight says that the Gospels "clearly show that [Mary] had a significant impact on [Jesus'] teachings," (p.88) ).

Anyway, here it is. McKnight has a whole chapter on Mary. And do you know what he did? Rather than leave her there in the chapter, he moved forward to write a whole book about her. Called The Real Mary. Which officially makes him the mega-chutzpah man (because Mary is not exactly a non-controversial figure in Christendom).

This also officially gives us some very sage advice: we writers needn't necessarily find radically new topics to pursue as we go along. We can just dig deeper into subjects we've already tackled. And maybe pray for a little chutzpah.

Virgin Birth photo, by L.L. Barkat. Corn Husk woman in photo, by Sara.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Working Like Annie Dillard

Roller Coaster Car2

This picture is Sara's roller coaster car invention. I look at it and it makes me feel tired. It makes me feel tired because I do not feel so inventive right now.

I am feeling rather more like Annie Dillard who says, in The Writing Life, " you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning? How to set yourself spinning? Where is an edge— a dangerous edge— and where is the trail to the edge and the strength to climb it?"

Further on, she reveals the secret... "I pointed myself. I walked to the water. I played the hateful recorder, washed dishes, drank coffee, stood on a beach log, watched bird. That was the first part; it could take all morning or all month..."

I realize I've been leaning ever harder towards this secret...

On Saturday, looking to set myself spinning, looking to crank myself up the roller coaster hill so I could come racing down it, I began to work on my writing, like Annie D. I spent the morning on the phone. I did some dishes. I spent the afternoon coming up with 9 themes around which to organize a homeschool club for the year. (I was most pleased with the thought of "bridges" and "The Magic Flute"). I mowed the lawn with a manual mower, which makes a pleasing "whirring" noise and knocks down as much grass as it cuts. By evening, I hadn't penned (keystroked?) a single word towards an article I'm pursuing.

Yes, I had worked like Annie Dillard. Now all I need to do is write like her. Or maybe like the essential, recharged me.

Sara's Roller Coaster Invention photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Consuming Beauty

Landscape of Sky

We cannot co-exist with beauty, without facing the instinct to consume it. That's what Caitlin Neufeld says in her article "Buying into Beauty" (Geez, Summer 2007). Our consumer attitude, she asserts, runs the gamut from wanting to share a sunset, to wanting to write a story, to wanting to take a picture. Sex and picking a flower were also included in the list.

I pondered her thoughts and wondered what beauty really means. Isn't it by nature something that stirs up desire in us? Without that desire, would we really be talking about beauty?

In the end, I couldn't help but wonder where the fine line is between consumption and celebration, exploitation and appreciation. It seemed that for Neufeld there was no line at all. To want to preserve something by taking it home in any form, even as an inspiring memory was problematic. And so I left her article with a haunting sense that, indeed, I might be judged for consuming beauty.

Beautiful Skyscape at Secret Spot photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Nikki's What the Heavens Declare

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The Real Thing

Plastic Cup

Somewhere, sometime, a little old man or maybe a verbal child coined the word authentic. The real thing. Which implies there are false things. Fake things. Unreal things.

I've been musing about this because my friend Mary DeMuth just wrote a book called Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. (God bless her. Sounds like a true challenge.)

Anyway, I'm wondering, what does it mean to be authentic, real. Not just as a parent, but also as a friend. Or maybe as an artist or a writer. I'm puzzling... do we have a sense of things being "true or false"? Authentic or inauthentic? Why does this matter to us, or doesn't it?

Maybe it's time to start a new word revolution, if everything we see, touch, taste, think, do is just as real as the next thing. Maybe the word authentic needs to go the way of the dodo bird. Or not.

Plastic Cup photo, by L.L. Barkat

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

For more thoughts on Mary's book, check out Spaghettipie's current blog tour

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Little Community

apple double

"The idea of a modest dwelling all our own, isolated from the problems of other people, has been our reigning metaphor of the good life for a long time. It must now be seen for what it really is: an antisocial view of human existence." (James Kunstler, quoted in The Suburban Christian, p. 116)

Ouch. When I read that in Al Hsu's sixth chapter, "Won't Your Be My Neighbor?" I felt uncomfortable. I like my modest dwelling in this very urban exurb where I live. I find respite in "cocooning" which is going "out less and stay[ing] home more." (p.118) Indeed, I find that staying home works to produce a sense of meaningful identity, not linked to the conspicuous consumption that TSC warns against in other chapters.

I'm also not sure that having a modest dwelling, and spending a good amount of time here, means I live without community. I say this after I spent yesterday with a grieving widow, while my back yard neighbor watched my kids, even though she was nursing a cold. And I say this after spending Monday evening with another back yard neighbor, as mutual support for our recent grief.

This isn't to say that my residential geography doesn't make connection more challenging. I don't have a front porch to sit on, as Hsu notes can promote a sense of connectedness in our communities. It is true that I don't know my front yard neighbors very well. They are actually down hill from me; whereas my back yard neighbors are on the same plane (an interesting study in how our geography affects things, I guess.) Surely, I have miles to go before I sleep on this one.

But the issue of hospitality versus isolation has been with us for a long, long time. I remember that Isaiah shouts a series of questions to the people of Israel, regarding God's desires...

"Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house... and not to hide yourself from your own kin?" (58:7)

In the end, I'm undecided. Do I have enough community? Do my neighbors want more from me? I don't know. Surely there must be a way to judge this. I'm counting on you for wisdom.

Apple in Double photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Amy Simpson's The Society Page


Al's Finding Community

Charity's Something to Share

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