Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trade 'Ya: Links for Art

stone crossings

I know I can get those little book icons from Amazon, to use when reviewing a book on my blog. Sometimes I have. But more often I like to take my own pictures. Personalize things a little. After all, if I'm telling you about a book I'm reading, I feel like I want to add some aspect of my surroundings. Like I said, personalize things a little.

Sometimes other people do this too. I still remember Ann Voskamp's lovely worn, wooden table humbly holding tea for two and a copy of Stone Crossings.

And I have clicked The Jesus Creed on my floor with a cornhusk Mary, Two Men Fighting with a Knife on my piano, and Celtic Devotions on my side porch, looking out towards my secret place.

The other day I was delighted to discover a colorful picture of Stone Crossings at Nancy's (see above). When I asked her if I could borrow the picture, she graciously commented...

l.l., i took this photo when i was sitting on my porch. i had been reading your book and put it down and placed the stone on it to keep the wind from blowing the pages. when i saw it sitting there i just had to get a photo of all the stones that were in one place. my 11 year old daughter and i like rocks and stones and have them sitting in different places in the house and now these have made their way out onto the porch this summer...

I was touched by Nancy's sweet words and her artistic photograph. Then a small idea began to grow in my mind. Links for art. Or in other words, I would love to link to you if you share a personalized photo of Stone Crossings with me. A little story to go with it, like in Nancy's comment, would be nice if you're comfortable sharing.

Just a thought. Trade 'ya: links for art.

Stones and Stone Crossings photo, by Nancy. (Photo and permanent link provided at bottom of blog sidebar.)


Ann Voskamp's photo in Of Grace and the Barn

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Spirituality in Calligraphy

Neighbor in chinese

All last week, I facilitated a group using Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms. It's a book on spiritual practice.

Going into the experience, I didn't expect to learn anything new— hubris, I know! One of the best things though? The group was attended by three Chinese-speaking participants. This made for a lot of interesting conversation regarding language and cultural perspectives. My favorite conversation revolved around Chinese calligraphy.

We'd gotten into a discussion about loving one's neighbor. I can hardly understand how to do that! one person said. Suddenly, I got this thought. Lucy, can you write 'neighbor' for us in Chinese? Lucy obliged (see pic above). Then I asked her to explain the component pictures contained in the character. Fascinating...

sunset... cow... rice... ear... mummy... ancient

This led us to consider that being a neighbor is something one does all day long, from birth to death, sharing our milk and our meat, our grain and our sympathy. And we listen. Because this is, from ancient times far into the future, part of the beauty of human relationship.

All this reminded me of something Tod Bolsinger says in It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian, ...Christian community is not just about neighborliness...nor is it just about proximity...It's not just about being friends or living in the same housing development. It's about sharing more than a cup of sugar and the lawn mower: sharing core values and a vision for living. (p.24)

I do believe that the Chinese character for neighbor contains some of this deeper spiritual aspect, in a way that is particularly memorable and enchanting. Which reminds me that perhaps when I've come to the dangerous place of thinking there's nothing much I'm going to learn in a certain arena, I need to get outside myself... cross culture or gender or age or status boundaries... so I can hear something unexpectedly beautiful, new.

Chinese Calligraphy photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Nancy's Awesome Picture of SC
Ted's book club post Lava Rock: Witness

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Find a Poem, Pick it Up

Two Men Fighting with a Knife

Will I...

Will I ever...

Will I ever write a poem again?

These are the anxious thoughts that plague me when it's been a while since I've found a poem. I say found a poem, because in essence this is what happens to me. Poetry is not something I can force. Indeed, I cannot force deep writing of any kind (okay, so I should remember this now that I am stuck, again, on my next chapter in God in the Yard.)

Instead, my deep writing happens kind of like this... mystery, open spaces (mentally), serendipity, inspiration, illumination, resolve.

Just for example, I have no idea exactly where Alteration Found came from yesterday. It is, at some level a mystery. But then I kind of DO know where it came from.

I had been at the pool, reading John Poch's book Two Men Fighting with a Knife. I especially liked a poem Poch wrote to his neurosurgeon. I found myself lost in its rhythms. I felt inspired. Was it not serendipitous that I was reading Poch on the same day that my Littlest just didn't talk in the car (a miracle of miracles, giving me mental open spaces)? And was it not also serendipitous that I had been reading about the brain and its structural changes, in another book I brought to the pool: Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot?

As I began toying with words, illumination followed. Some of my thoughts were sounding familiar... like a Shakespeare poem. I resolved to look the particular poem up when I got home, and to play off that poem with my own unique words... in another act of resolve— the resolve to capture a half-there poem before it could get away.

And thus I found my poem. And now I am wondering...

Will I...

Will I ever...

Will I ever write a poem again?

Mark Goodyear's A Good Book About Grace

I Ignore My Family to Read Poetry

Two Men Fighting with a Knife photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 15, 2008


Tennesse Lake

Empty. Wordless. Unmotivated. Arrested in my thoughts.

Not the usual fare for when I go away. In fact, I often do my best writing, my most poetic writing when I travel. But my last two trips in the last two weeks, to the "T" states, Texas and Tennessee, yielded nothing.

I didn't write one poem. Didn't do a single journal entry. I only wrote this because I'd made a promise to Jim to do a co-post. It was a real effort, a near-miss.

Perhaps it is not fair to say yielded nothing. Because what I found was a deep sense of connectedness with these places. I found that my eyes were wide open to hummingbirds and mallard ducks, my ears attentive to the unique whispers of creek and lake, canyon and sandbar. And I felt a profound sense of connection to people.

Perri and LL at Laity Lodge

Perri and LL at Laity Lodge-2

At Laity Lodge in Texas, I was particularly touched to meet a new friend named Perri (that's us holding hands above). And at a hospitable home in Tennessee, I was greatly moved by spending a few hours in the company of a group of women who had read Stone Crossings and who wanted to meet me. The circles of hands and feet are Sandy, Christine, Laura, Lue, Joan, Twila, Esther, Lee-Ann, Kathy Y., Mona, Cate, Kathy E., and Mary— sorry if I've misspelled any of your names! (Oh, and on Sunday I met their pastor, Dennis Mullen and we had a great discussion about books.)

Tennessee Club Reaching

Tennessee Club Best Foot Forward

Tonight, I thought I may tell about this meeting in my next book. Because it felt like a turning point for me, in which I was dearly open to embracing and nurturing a group of women. I just might put it in my chapter on submission. We'll see. In any case, these women with their poignant stories of pain, their longings, their loves and humors and questions, truly entered my heart and gave me joy.

I also had occasion to chat with Erin one day while I was in Tennessee. I told her how empty and wordless I was feeling. How I didn't even feel like writing about God anymore. She told me to look at the grass blowing in the breeze, just because it is pretty. There was no grass, but I went out on the deck and gazed at the lake. I watched a grey heron fly out over the water. I marveled at the roundness of tiny pinecones and tiny unidentified birds. Turtles made little plopping sounds and ducks talked softly. I was arrested by the beauty of the place.

And when I came home, I found words.

Lake in Tennessee, Perri and LL, Tennesse Book Club photos. By L.L. Barkat.


Heather's Stone Crossings Video

Ted's book club post: Sugar Face: Forgiveness

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Love Affair

Swing at Laity Lodge

I can't believe he did that.

What a jerk.

I don't claim to understand it.

These words came 'round the corner. Thoughts on the Edwards affair.

Usually I ignore these kinds of conversations. Like when Ted Haggard had his challenges. And now John Edwards. Famous people facing infamous situations. It seems sensationalistic to join the conversations.

But it just so happens I've been reading Robert Farrar Capon. (I do that. If I read one book by an author and I like it, I go on to read others, all in a row. So I'd been reading Supper of the Lamb; Health, Money and Love; Bed and Board.) Anyway, when I heard this conversation about Edwards, I was reminded of Capon's clarity and compassion on the issue of love affairs.

In Health, Money and Love, he tells a parable about a King and a Parlormaid. It's enough to irritate just about anybody who claims not to understand how a love affair could happen. But Capon says that a love affair has the power to place the participants squarely in the roles of Lover and Beloved. (I would add that this goes for any kind of love affair, between singles or marrieds.) And these roles of Lover and Beloved are particularly powerful because they stir our desire to experience the ultimate, eternal Lover/Beloved relationship with the Divine.

This is a radically different frame than that of the 'lurid affair' that the media loves to paint. It should give us pause.

Now someone will say that Edwards had the chance to play out the Lover/Beloved role in his own marriage. And of course that is true. To this, I want to share a Capon quote I've been saving, because it fascinates me to consider what degrades intimacy and what builds it.

Says Capon, People admit it's hard to pray. Yet they think it's easy to make love. What nonsense. Neither is worth much when it is only the outcropping of intermittent enthusiasm. Both need to be done without ceasing; and that puts a premium on the minor manifestations. Obviously the sexual act itself is central. But the circle that is drawn around it consists of a thousand small passes and light touches. What they lack in moment they more than make up for by sheer weight of numbers, and it is a poor bed that sees only the grand piece of business that really arrives. It is precisely the unconsummated nonsense that makes the main absurdity fruitful. Bed and Board, p.76

I love that phrase a thousand small passes and light touches. Who knows if Edwards had lost this with his wife and found it with someone new. Maybe that's how it went. Or maybe it was altogether different. In all this, I find myself quoting the conversation I overheard, I don't claim to understand it. Still, it doesn't hurt to try.

Swing at Laity Lodge photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Ann's Looking for Love

LL's Hand

Erin's kind of related post: Made for More


Ted's book club post: Seedstone: Healing

Labels: ,

Monday, August 04, 2008

LL and Lauren (But not Jim) at Laity Lodge

Canyon Rock

Last week I went to Texas. For the very first time in my life. It was... beautiful. I went to Laity Lodge for a retreat. To hear Lauren Winner and Tod Bolsinger. Wow. (Photo of Lauren and I below. Do you dig that tattoo she got when she was only 15 years old?)

LL and Lauren

When I stepped out of the shuttle, onto the Laity grounds, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the sun. It seemed it might press me into the copper colored gravel. The second thing I noticed was the silence. It too had a weight. Like a silken blanket on my skin and over my senses. I was utterly taken.

The week before I went to Laity, I discovered that Jim Martin was going to be there too. From Monday to Wednesday. I was coming Thursday to Sunday. Sigh. But we decided to both write a piece on some stone stairs I thought I'd seen in a picture of Laity. We would post our respective pieces. (Rumor has it that Marcus Goodyear might also post such a piece.) I don't know if I found the right stairs. But here they are...

LL on Laity steps

And here is the little piece I composed...

Morning, the last day. A stillness here. I witness canyon walls... striated grey, cream, mountain-Laurel flecked. Everywhere, things clinging to edges... yucca, purple-budded prickly pear, cedars in miniature. Water flows, ripples, catches new light. I close my eyes, hear the ascending and descending of a bird's 'too, too, too, too, too, too.' The air is barely tinged with chalky earthen fragrance. I witness all this through senses open, full, longing. Or does it witness me... morning, the last day, clinging to this edge?


Tod Bolsinger's Basking and Connecting at Laity Lodge

Marcus Goodyear's Rush Out to Nature, Rush Back to Work

Jim Martin's Days at the Quiet House

A prayer inspired by the canyon, the birds... Hand, at LL's Love Notes to Yahweh


Why I Became a Vegetarian, at TCW Magazine


Ted's book club post Forest Star: Humility

Laity Lodge photos by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: , , ,