The Ghosts of Home

natalie-vestin-drive-imageWhen I visit my family in northern Minnesota, I find myself on the same roads I’ve known—back and forth—since I was a child. Often I ride with others because I can’t orient, even in my small town and the outskirts made of barely-there townships and roads that veer only toward themselves. I think of small pathways on Midway Road, and I look for the town hall, for the church, for the dilapidated gray house with scorch marks at the roof. The churning root beer float of the St. Louis River to the south.

I gave up my car last year, though I still love the way the air and light changes on a drive, the way that movement and change of scene feels like prayer. Like close prayer, as if God is in the ditch or the jack pines, a new side of God available when you move a certain way or enter a different terrain. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Homily”

7810908352_a8d1938997_zLast Sunday I was trying to decide whether to go church or take a walk along the river on a beautiful summer day in my corner of northwestern Washington. Some days I have time to do both and some days, for some justifiable reason, I do neither. The poem “Homily” by Todd Davis is both beautiful and deceptively stirring and particularly useful to me when faced with this decision. He writes, “I have been thinking about the God/ I pray to with no lasting effect and note the effortless work/ the stream does as it feeds these bushes.” In this poem, Davis is commenting on the word according to Walt Whitman—the epigraph being a quote from “I Sing the Body Electric” published in the original edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. While Whitman’s poem explores the complex connection between body and soul, this poem goes one step further in shrewdly observing how our deepest ecologies can provide both poetic inspiration as well as guidance on how to live well, and lovingly. Nature as much a spiritual teacher as the “hand in white robes.” Bird droppings as sacred text. Handfuls of clover as offerings. The imagery Davis provides as evidence, in this relatively short prose-like poem, is convincing. However, he concedes, “I believe,/ despite my unbelief.” Despite the prophetic eloquence of Whitman, our bodies remain part of a larger and more mysterious whole where we learn to accept “the uncertainty of air/above our heads.” The question of Sundays is a perpetual one for me, but with the help of Davis’ “Homily” I will remember that answers can be found everywhere, all the time.
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Eat

By Kelly Foster Lundquist

Episcopal ChurchSince birth, the rhythm of my week has been set by church.

Both my parents have held leadership positions in the varied churches we have attended over the years. In one of the many commonplaces of the evangelical testimony, I could easily say that I was indeed trained to be in church “every time the doors were open.”

In my adolescent years, that meant Sunday School, Morning Church, Sunday afternoon choir practice, Evening Church, Youth Group, and Wednesday night Bible Study.

When I went to college, I realized what I think many of my Christian peers began to realize at the same time: it takes quite a bit of effort against the inertia of life to make it to church on Sundays. And for a very long time, I wandered in and out of the occasional church the same way I wander into restaurants. Today I feel like Mexican. Next week maybe it will be Chinese. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “For Whom the Resurrection Is the Full Moon Rising” by Mark Wagenaar

15312920273_04562aa7c5_o-e1456334680521This is a poem to stretch the mind. It begins by stretching our imagination to a cosmic event: a “moondog,” which is a rare bright spot in the moon’s halo. It’s formed by a “mirage of light & cloud & ice”—an image which then brings the speaker down to earth, into his own life. But this life, as he sees it, is stretched among mind-bending options: for instance, he’s “not willing to lose / that which I cannot keep/ for that which I cannot lose.” Then comes what for me is the poem’s core image: “Crumb by crumb the self is whittled down.” It’s the self of the Christian classic The Cloud of Unknowing, the self that must dissolve into “a leash of longing” for God’s very being. The “leash” then leads the poet into a metaphor of himself as “stray dog,” from which more mind-bending apparent opposites follow. All are playing with the self’s “dissolutions,” until the poem’s final line: the diminishment into a mere parenthesis filled with absences.

—Peggy Rosenthal
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Knee Walk

By Grace Talusan

Our Lady FatimaWe stumbled onto the bus in Lisbon, sleepy after the overnight flight from New York.

The pilgrimage tour guide handed out rosaries while the priest told the bus driver to play a recording of the rosary prayers on the sound system. I fingered the pink beads, following along with the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. By the time we got to the Sorrowful Mysteries, I had fallen asleep, lulled by the warm bus and the whispers of prayer.

Our first stop on the pilgrimage was the Church of St. Anthony of Padua to see the Bleeding Host. Waiting for our tour guide to organize us in front of the church, I got my first good look at my companions: elderly nuns in the habits of their order, women traveling alone who were not nuns, a priest, married couples, and an extended family.

Except for a six-year-old boy, I was the youngest person there by at least fifteen years. [Read more…]