Friday, December 30, 2016

small sacrifices

Much of parenting young children and teens is made up of small sacrifices: forgoing minutes or hours of sleep when they are babies; forfeiting time and treasure to support their interests; disadvantaging our agenda to deeply listen to and attend to their needs. Sometimes, the requirement is small; other times, a complete surrender of self is called for. There is no promised moment of acknowledgment where the reward or pay-off is felt. Rather, child-rearing is more akin to becoming what ecologist call a ‘nurse log.’

As a parent-nurse log, you lay down and surrender, so that new life is sourced. When a nursing log falls down, it allows more light to emanate into the space where it once stood. If accomplished, as you fall, you illuminate more; as you decay, you bestow an unending and ample supply of nutrients and energy so that new saplings can form and mature to their intended height and beauty.  Interestingly, when a tree is standing only about 5% of it is living material.  But when it falls, it transforms completely from a tree to a log. The tree resurrects into a fresh life and now contains 5 times as much living matter than before. (National Public Radio station KUOW, 3/21/2012).  The tree is utterly altered into beautiful, rich, organic material--- ready to spawn a new generation through the sacrifice of its body.

Nurse logs not only give water and nutrients, but they offer disease protection.  An article in Nature, (2010, Volume 466, pp. 752-755) reveals that soil pathogens in certain forest communities are hostile to a specific tree species. These disease-producing microorganisms appear to congregate in the neighborhood of that species, and may impede seedling growth. Nurse logs provide a protective barrier from these pathogens, and increase seedling survivorship.  How Joyous! We both nurture and protect.

Over time, the new younger trees start growing larger than the nurse log and nothing of the old tree is left. It loses all of its original “definition,” it’s body. Finally, the nurse log is completely gone, leaving only the roots that were once wound around and through the nurse log.  Last year, overnight, I left my job, my home, my community because my daughter was gravely ill. She spent a total of 4 months in a hospital in far away cities. I left my job so quickly that my computer was still on when I returned 4 months later....completely changed, completely emptied for the cause.

According to naturalist Larry Daloz of Whidbey Island, WA: "One thing I think about when I look at a nurse log like this is that after it falls, the soil it leaves behind is much richer than what was there before, and maybe that would be a great way to live. May our legacy that we leave behind be richer than what we found when we came." (NPR station KUOW). 
And that is humbling as a parent.  My daughter's life is much richer now; she is stronger, braver, lighter, her laugh is true and deep.
And that is why we make the steady stream of small sacrifices.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Father as Vinedresser

The Father as Vinedresser

What a beautiful analogy the Holy Spirit has given us in the gospel of John: God the Father as Vinedresser and Jesus as the true Vine. Many extant commentaries discuss the theology hidden in Jesus’ description of Himself and the Father, but I wanted to start with just plain old agriculture!
And what a discovery of hidden gems I unearthed. First, I simply ‘googled’ vinedresser.  Of the top seven hits, five were Biblical commentaries (great!) but the one I chose came from which solely gave the ‘job description’ for vinedresser. Put simply, a vinedresser is an agriculturalist ‘involved in the daily pruning, tending and cultivation of grapes.’  Vinedressers need to work year-round to create the best grapes to produce the finest wine.

A vinedresser’s main tasks include pruning, ‘pest’ management, irrigating (or giving them Living Water) and of course, harvesting!

But of these, their pre-eminent task is pruning. I will just lay out all that I learned about pruning and you can apply it to your own life circumstances. This information certainly illuminated some of my own. Pruning removes dead, diseased or stunted fruit to make room for new growth, ultimately leading to a healthy and productive vine. This process begins merely weeks after planting! Once we have come to Christ, the Father gets started working on us right away taking away not only those dead parts (2 Corinthians 5:17) but also those parts that are diseased or stunted and we may not even be aware of their underlying condition. Excellent pruning demands a keen eye, the best possible eyes.

Pruning involves both cutting off dead wood but also cutting back on the amount of living wood so that the plant’s energy can go into producing fruit and not merely growing vegetation. In my life, I was thinking of how much I produce that is merely for appearances and not really producing anything of substance.  According to God’s plan, those parts are using up too much of my vitality and need to go.

There are two main types of pruning: cane pruning and spur pruning. Canes are shoots that grow directly off the Main Vine. Spurs are little arms that grow from a cordon (a semi-permanent branch that grows horizontally from the trunk).  Cane pruning involves cutting back 90%!! of last year’s growth by first removing dead two year old canes. Spur pruning includes look at the newest growth and keeping only 1-3 buds and removing the rest (sometimes with a handsaw!)

The styles of pruning show me just how much God wants me to grow and produce fruit each year, much more than I am currently imagining for myself. In cane pruning, you select two well-formed canes coming directly out of the Head of the vine (that are 1-year old with tightly spaced, healthy buds) and these two are tied to the trellis. The Lord is keeping only the healthiest buds and then we are to be tied to Him and hang on to Him for dear life! J

God’s work doesn’t involve just pruning; he is also feeding and watering us as well as controlling the pests. An agriculturalist closely monitors the vines to ensure that they are receiving the correct amount of water, particularly during growing season. Have you ever noticed that you seem closer to the Lord when you are going through a ‘tough season’ or a growing season when you need more of Him? That’s part of the Father’s plan. Vinedressers also tend the soil, preparing it even before planting, to improve the production of crops. God was preparing our hearts and our soil long before we gave our lives to Him.  Finally, the Father must constantly evaluate the vineyard and be vigilant against pests (like THE pest, the enemy himself) because invasions could compromise the next growing season. We must guard our hearts daily, while the Father Himself is keeping vigil over us for our next growing stage. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

JoAnn and Kailasa in concert (video in next post)

JoAnn and Kailasa were two of the performers in the Benefit Concert for Free the Slaves organized by Desiree Dennis as her senior project at State College High School. Desiree and her mom Terri and sister Emily give voice lessons and all their students had the privilege of singing in this wonderful concert. There were about 25 students who sang a variety songs. The benefit also included an art auction of original art by the high school students.
JoAnn and Kailasa performed two of JoAnn's original songs. JoAnn sang "Blue Twilight" while Kailasa danced a solo dance. Then they sang "The Heartbeat" with the Dennis family and several other students. Inspired by the Free the Slaves organization and their work in countries around the world to end slavery, JoAnn wrote "The Heartbeat" for this concert. She wrote "Blue Twilight" last winter and Kailasa contributed some lyrics. Desiree Dennis arranged the music for both pieces, while Emily played the violin for Blue Twilight. Thank you so much to the Dennis family!!!!!
Many, many of JoAnn & Kailasa's family and friends were able to come to the concert and they are so thankful to everyone who supported them! Love to you all.

JoAnn and Kailasa -- "Blue Twilight"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Keeping Vigil: an Act of Supreme Love

Tonight my sweet son got sick right as he was going to bed. My husband and I were both there to help him and tuck him back in. We went to bed soon thereafter, but I could not sleep. Something inside would not let me fall into slumber. On the couch in the living room, I began to pray for his healing and to speed his recovery. Not long after, I heard him get up again. I was there-- right away-- rubbing his back, soothing him. I had been keeping vigil and arrived just in time.
What could be more comforting for a child than knowing that his mother is there for him, keeping a watchful eye over him as he tries to rest? What could aid his full healing more than knowing that his beloved parents are there to support him when he feels so sick?

I once went on a ten-day Deep Ecology retreat in the woods with 150 other seekers. Deep Ecology is a philosophy that teaches us that we are all (humans and non-humans) interconnected in a vast web of life. Deep Ecology is a deep, long-range view of ecology as opposed to short-sighted and shallow views of the environment.  During this extended week of workshops and experiences, one night, we kept a vigil for the earth. About 25 of us chose to stay up all night, talking around a bonfire until the sun rose. At each hour of the night, we would stop and pray for whatever area of the earth was experiencing dawn at that moment. It was a beautiful event, a life transforming moment. Out of all the workshops and discussions and lectures I was a part of that week, I felt this was the most significant episode of them all.

There is something special, vital, critical, yet indescribable about keeping vigil over someone you love. It is an experience worth having, an act of supreme love.
 Penn State students hold a prayer vigil for victims of sexual abuse in November 2011. Over 10,000 people came.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Guerilla Gardening

I almost did guerilla gardening yesterday. Guerilla gardening is putting flowers or plants in surprising or unexpected places, where they show up suddenly without warning. There are guerilla gardening organizations all over the world; people taking over public spaces with a bit of beauty, whimsy, function, and/or food. It is simply one easy and fun way to 'pay it forward' and make this world a better not to mention more aesthetically pleasing place.

To engage in guerilla gardening, you being by coming across an orphaned piece of land, or perhaps some corporate piece of land that could really use some bright pink flowers! Then you need to plan your mission, find some lucky blooms and under cover of dark, or at a minimum with anonymity, go and plant them. Better yet, plant wildflower seeds in spring and watch them transform a small parcel of land. What I love about guerilla gardening is that it does require stealth, occuring often in the light of the moon. Virtually no one needs to know
your good deed, but everyone whose heart is kindled by an unexpectedly tended patch of earth will benefit.

So, I said I almost got to do guerilla gardening yesterday. I walk or drive down a certain road in my neighborhood every day and saw two large flowers that had nothing in them, even though the rest of the neighborhood is teeming with abundant color. I also ran into that particular neighbor that day and she seemed down to me (I might have been projecting here!)  So I went out to the store with a plan to fill those planters on my way home, as long as their car was missing from the driveway. Happily I went and picked out a 6-pack of the brightest flowers I could find. But on the way home, I saw .....the planters had just been planted! Maybe some other neighbor beat me to it. I guess I'll just have to find another spot for my surprise strike!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Prescription for Joy

Dr. D's Prescription for Joy
1) “Road Trip it”: “Sometimes you have to journey out to journey within.”

a. Go somewhere warm; see ‘big nature.’
b. Drive across the country- twice. Sleep outside when possible.

2) Nurture your relationship with Nature:
a. Hike, bike, walk, kayak, ski, etc.
b. Be in silence.
c. Skip school or work & be in nature when no one else is.
d. Notice nature- even from your window.

3) Serve other, serve others, serve others:
a. As much as humanly possible, share your financial, emotional, physical resources with others.
b. Schedule it into your week, like any other event.
c. More than anything else, this will open up the door to joy.

4) CREATE/ENJOY music, the arts:
a. Concerts-Ipod-Cds: Listen, dance, move.
b. Sing in the shower.
c. Join the world drumming ensemble- make music with others.

5) Play like a kid/ play with kids:
a. Ride a swing & swing REALLY high.
b. Volunteer with children.
c. Color with crayons.
d. Get a pick-up game of football, Frisbee, baseball together

6) Get healthy- stay healthy.
a. hydrate like crazy; ten glasses a day is not too many.
b. eat whole foods; eat something that looks like what it is called: fruit not fruit roll-ups.

a. Learn to notice your breath and posture all day long. Take time to pause.
a. PRAY DAILY- fortify yourself each day like a daily vitamin.
b. Start slow (Pray 5 minutes a day); then slow down (2 min a day); work your way up slowly.
c. Make it a part of your essential daily planning.

8) Go “Unplugged”
a. Go tech free for a day;
b. shut off your cell phone, laptop, Ipod, etc. just for one day. See how you feel. Do it again.

9) More fun, less stuff
a. Give up consuming for awhile
b. Give your stuff away.

10) Take a fast from the Fast Lane!! Take a day off; schedule it now.