Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Luke 19:40

Do You hear the stones cry out their praise?
Do You taste the steam as it rises from the melting snow, or feel the flashing wings of the hummingbird?

Do You see or smell, or is all that fleshly, embedded in the body?

Those trees outside -- are they as silent to You as they are to me? Or more so, since You have no ears to hear?

Perhaps You became flesh and dwelt among us not only for us, but for You, so that You could know Your creation in a new way.

For what are we, what are the stones or the snow or the hummingbird, but the product of Your immaterial hands, Your unbeating heart: wouldn't You want to feel the dirt under your knees as You prayed?

Wouldn't You long to touch the face of a child, or to crunch the fall leaves in Your hands?

Maybe we are Your eyes, Your hands, Your ears, not only because we have work to do in Your name, but also to share with You the beauty and tragedy and joy of all You have made.

Maybe we complete You.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Earthly hope

More than Obama's victory last night, more than the waves of young people and very old people standing on line to touch a screen or punch a ballot, I am moved by both candidates' speeches. McCain was gracious and unifying, silencing negative shouts. Obama was solemn, aware of the mantle being lowered onto his shoulders: humble, hopeful, and mindful of history. The Holy Spirit was moving, inspiring love, humility, and the "hunger and thirst for righteousness".

On 8, the writing of discrimination into the CA constitution: Remember that CA has the very best domestic partnership laws in the union -- that will not end, it will continue to influence the policymakers outside CA -- and the ideas of equality it represents remain in our DNA. We who support true citizenship, rather than an antiquated separate-but-equal philosophy, were complacent about this election, about the notion that human and civil rights in fact extend to all humans.

More important, and the reason I am hopeful and grateful, there is a major shift in the US. The paradigm has changed, and prop 8 is the last fearful gasp, the cold dead hands clutching the old narrow privilege. If it passes, which it may well do, we should count it as the millstone that will eventually drown the voices of fear.

Jesus is my president; may his Holy Spirit continue to move among us.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

J4P

If you haven't read it, do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life a long time coming

Miss Abigail Dillashaw Spencer was born this morning, September 30, 2008, at 4:55 am in Asheville, NC. Abigail is the long-awaited daughter of Shannon and Heather Dillashaw Spencer -- literally, as it took many hours of labor to coax her out of her temporary home.

Asheville is too far away from Burlingame, and yet very very close.

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servants. From now on all generations will call us blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for us—holy is his name."

God be with this little family. Grant Shannon quick healing of body, mind and spirit. Give Heather some rest. And may You give little Abigail unfailing knowledge of Your love, and the love that already surrounds and holds her in this earthly life.

(And, if You don't mind my asking, may we get to see them soon!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Waiting too

A few days ago Heather posted an entry on her blog entitled Waiting. Her wife is 9 mos. pregnant, so waiting is a big part of her life.

Today I am at Mercy Center on retreat, waiting on the Lord. 6:30 am meditation was fruitless--I could not get my brain to settle down, couldn't draw back to either emptiness (in which Christ would have room to move) or focus (in which I would at least be directed toward Him). The last months have been wonderful and hard on my practice, so I am doing my part in the assurance that God will do God's.

Now another distraction: Heather's wife has been admitted to the hospital in real labor. Great joy! and a new phase of waiting. If God has God's hands full on the other side of the country, I can wait. I'm in no hurry, but that new little life for whom we have all been waiting, may be.

God of all things, creator and sustainer of all that is: grant Shannon easy labor, health to the new babe, and joyous expectant waiting to my dear friend. And if you have the time, give me some peacefilled waiting too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A nudge and a whack

In my Renovare group today, we were offered a choice of practices to do this week. Since we're in the "contemplative tradition" section, they were all familiar to me. Things like "take 5-10 mins. daily to pray", "write a letter to God and read it every day", "sit in silence 5-10 mins. each day). Stuff like that.

I sat there thinking, "whoo boy, I Already Have these as my so-called disciplines, and am not very disciplined about them At All. Now what?" Then I re-read them, more as something to do than as a prompt to choose. In the re-reading I noticed three sentences, one in each of the first three practices. They all had something to do with attitude and approach, to wit:
"...The idea is simply to set aside your busy activities (or not start them) and turn your attention to God." (prayer)
"...Simply enjoy God's presence, God's loving arms wrapped around you. (meditation)
"...instead of reading what you select simply to understand it, read it "with God", knowing that God is there in the room with you." (devotions)

Nudge. Nudge. Whack.

So God wants me to simply spend time with her/him, rather than to Achieve the Requisite 10 minutes, or to Clear My Mind Completely, or to Really Take In What the Writer Had To Say. Imagine that: it's not a competition; it's not an order of magnitude. It's spending time with God. Simply. Gently.

A whole new spiritual practice, discovered in a morning whack with friends.

$619 v $700

Marcy Kaptur is one of my human heroes.

I feel like I missed a memo. Yesterday the House passed a $619 billion war spending bill without a quiver, whisper, or reporter in sight. The same day, our President declared the economy a wreckage, doomed without $700 billion of my money (and your money).

What would happen if the House introduced a bill (or Bill) for $700 billion for hungry, poor, or struggling Americans? But if they tacked on a couple of rounds of ammo for our boys in Baghdad, would it be more likely to pass?

We are criminals, every one of us, for allowing this to happen: for voting for tax reductions instead of charity and care; for preferring insurance agencies over doctors, nurses, and clerks; for loving oil more than air; for allowing neocon (which is just old-style con, as in grifter con) and the free market to be our mantra instead of love your neighbor.

Raise my taxes, redirect my war support, and give it to the poor and hungry and sick and the damaged vets. Please.

As the thief said while on the cross: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

de-cocooning

"Adult butterflies emerge from the chrysalis with shriveled wings and squat, puffy bodies. They will hang beneath the chrysalis remains and pump fluid into the wings to inflate them. Newly emerged butterflies secrete an unpleasant smelling liquid, called “meconium,” that contains the waste materials from the chrysalis stage. After a couple of hours the butterfly’s wings will be fully formed and dried, and it will be able to fly off..."

I feel as though I am finally emerging from the last nine months. (How appropriate.) My wings are shriveled, and do we have to mention the squat puffy body (I've gained 10 lbs since Beautiful Baby came home.)? There is no question that the temptation to hang beneath the remains is strong, and even if you can't smell my meconium, it's definitely there. But it's gonna take more than a couple hours for my wings to form and dry.

I love our child. But in the last 9 months I stopped reading, blogging, studying, meditating, working out. I traded the quick hit of Facebook for the more time-consuming (and satisfying) blog-reading I had been doing. (What has Tall Skinny Kiwi been doing, anyway? Anyone?) Basically I stopped being Me, and didn't become any more devoted to God in the process. Not okay. Really not okay.

But today there are some cracks in the chrysalis. I won't be the Me I'm used to, but now there is some hope of flight.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On not raising taxes

It is not the stated purpose of this blog to provide political commentary unconstrained by the wisdom of scripture and Spirit. I usually resist the temptation to rant or review or rave about a particular news item or event, but today I feel succumbing coming. So if you prefer to enjoy my blog without the lingering bitter taste of elephant that has passed its expiration date, read no further. Do please return -- this won't become a habit.


How long has it been that the Republican battle cry has been "No new taxes"? How long have we drunk in the trickle-down theory even though those in the "down" aren't even yet damp? When did we begin to believe that the Founding Fathers meant deregulation when they wrote "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (and yet, having eloquently stated the basis for civil and civic rights, Somehow couldn't manage to express the heady concept of deregulation, leaving it to Congress to help them out)?

I know when humans confessed our desire for an earthly king, full of power and full of other... things.

I know when the Supreme Court decided that a fiscal entity (the corporation) was entitled to the same rights as flesh-and-blood-living-breathing-endowed-by-their-Creator-with-certain-inalienable-rights-entities (people). (That would be 1886 in, of all cases, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. The SC didn't actually decide to afford "legal persons" more power than "natural persons", though it is quite clear that case law has managed to do just that. For unabashedly biased accounts, click here or here.)

But do tell me, dear friends, why we of at least some small brain decided to go along with it, and to elect and re-elect the shills to put such destructive nonsense into play?

I refer here to the federal bailouts of certain large fiscal entities. Need we be reminded that that is, in fact, our taxes funding poorly managed, deregulated, tax-sheltered, legal persons? Which means that the defaulting corporations are major recipients of yours and my tax money, while at the same time, loud cheers of joyful support go up to the heavens when the current Republican candidate for President (don't get me started on the Democratic one) repeats the sounding joy "no new taxes", and promises to lower maximum corporate tax from 35% to 25%. That is before the deductions, my friends, that lowered the 2000 effective tax rate for all corporations to 27% . The GAO reported last month that over 60% of US-owned legal persons paid no federal income taxes; of those "most of the large USCCs that reported no tax liability in 2005 also reported that they had no current-year income".

Really? No income? Well, then, let's Do decrease their tax rate, because clearly it's become a burden.

Still, we have a strong economy, based on the unimprovable (and unprovable) economic theories of the Right. To wit:
  • the poverty and hunger rates are rising;
  • health costs put families into bankruptcy (Hey! Incorporate and apply for a bailout!)
  • the war(s) (remember Afghanistan? Anyone?) cost me and you $284,722 per minute That's roughly $809 billion thus far (interestingly, the war in Southeast Asia (aka "Vietnam") cost $670 billion in today's dollars);
  • or, put another way: $5000 per Iraqi in 2007 alone. (What could Iraqis have done if we'd simply handed each of them $5000? What could our hungry people do if we handed them $5000? Oh, but right, we don't believe in government handouts. Darn!);
  • the high school dropout rate in CA is about 25%, while the incarceration rate stands at 3.2% nationally and 4.7% in CA. Reported unemployment here is 7.3%. Today; check in tomorrow;
  • the Governor of California, himself the lucky benefactor of a recall initiative, is currently facing recall for suggesting a temporary 1% sales tax hike, and
  • Ford stated this month that it "cannot afford" to sell its 65 mpg car in the US. That's with $100m net income Q1 2008. That's net, folks. Wonder what it will have been come tax time...
Look, I know it's more complicated than this. But --
  • until we begin to believe and act and vote as if we are jointly responsible for each other,
  • until we decide that people are people and corporations aren't,
  • until the financial health of the country is based on how the "least of these" is doing rather than on the "productivity" levels of major corporations (we Do understand that productivity goes Up when fewer people are needed to do the same amount of work, which benefits the legal person but not the natural one, don't we?)
  • until we decide that one of the ways the federal government exercises its constitutional responsibility to "preserve and protect" its people is to promote and provide for the welfare of the natural persons under its care,
it's gonna look like this. Is God weeping yet? Are we?

End of direct and sarcastic political commentary. We now return you to your regularly scheduled pabulum.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Catching up

I love road trips. Even the one that contained a horrible ugly breakup in the middle of the desert was great. They are the chance for spaciousness. Horizons. Unconstrained time. Uncluttering the mind. This one was hard on Heather (because it was a thing-that-had-to-be-done in the middle of a complicated move without her pregnant wife) but great for me. We went through NM, with its unexplainable beauty like something out of another Mind, and into the rolling ancient mountains of the northern South, all trees and red dirt and granite (or is it slate?) rock sheers.

It was a easy trip, roadwise. Except yesterday morning, when we deliberately left early so Heather could spend time with her sister, going back to pt school. We were stopped near the edge of Tennessee, about 200 yds behind a semi tractor on fire. 1 hr 45 mins of alternating prayer, boredom, and bladder needs. Many emergency vehicles came; we saw only one leave. But -- when we finally passed the blackened carcass, it looked like the kind of thing a driver could see coming and escape. At least we hoped so.

About an hour in yesterday, I realized I'd forgotten to send our worship team liturgy for an agape meal. Nothing to be done at that point, which was good: it meant God had to step in and provide for our quite-capable team. How wonderful to leave liturgy (the work of the people!) in such Capable Hands.

Now, headed toward New Orleans, Denver, and home. Blocked ears, open heart. And a few more emails to clear out of my inbox before I get home.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

There's a there here.

1:15ish: A sign of hope in Tennessee











2:12
p.m., North Carolina welcome center










Austin doesn't know it, but he's nearly home.










2:40 p.m. Asheville, NC, Heather's sister and brother-in-law's house, Austin meeting Tuck.










2:47 p.m. Sisters & lunch: Home.








Pics of Heather are blurry, 'cause the fatigue was falling away and the contentment flowing on.
Narrative tomorrow. It's time to sleep.


Cookeville, TN

Just off 40 for gas and coffee at 8:22 a.m., an hour and no coffee after setting out. Austin ate both last night and this morning, so he's happy and relaxed. Or, maybe he knows it's the last day on the road, and is just grateful, like his mom.

Over the last few days, I've gone to a double venti nonfat misto.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

MEG in her Natural State (Arkansas)


We stopped for lunch today in North Little Rock, where my wonderful husband's mother, Elaine, lives. 101 degrees, only God knows how much humidity.
Austin (see above right -- he's much handsomer in person) didn't even want to walk around the beautiful big park we stopped in.

Elaine (left, obviously) looked cool, as always, and brought a picnic of goodies. (MEG -- I finished all the cookies tonight!)

That plate was made by her eldest when the kids were young. Yes, I saw the one that my wonderful husband made when he was maybe 4. Caterpillaresque.

Tonight we're walking distance from Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry, but are sleeping rather than walking. Tomorrow, God willing, Asheville.

The chains remain the same

7:14 Oklahoma City

The sun rose late today,just a half hour or so ago. Starbucks, 1.2 miles away next to a hwy entrance,opens at 5:30. It looked closed -- no cars. But Heather's half-caf and my double venti nonfat misto were ready lickety-split, one of the advantages of an empty store. This is the second empty Starbucks I've ever seen, the first being yesterday in Tecumcari, NM.

It's 81 degrees. We have the windows open because it's so cool.

No, I have never said or written "lickety-split" before. All kinds of firsts are happening.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Where do terrorists come from?

We're in Oklahoma City tonight, home of the Redhawks, the Will Rogers Park and Horticultural Gardens, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

It is also the home of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Its tagline is "On American Soil". The home page and front history page tell the story of the bombing of the Murrah federal Building here in 1995, killing 168 people. It is a nice website, and I imagine the memorial itself is quite special.

A couple of mouse clicks down through the History menu options you will find one sentence on the bombing itself:
On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the complex and, at 9:02am, a massive explosion occurred which sheared the entire north side of the building, killing 168 people.
There are 13 more references to McVeigh, most in the first person remembrances, but that's the only "official" mention. There are 30 references to "terrorist" and 62 to "terrorism". The Memorial has become a center for the study of the "impact of violence" the futility of using violence to affect governments, and "the importance of personal responsibility". Fair enough: the mission is broader than the tragedy that inspired it.

That said: one narrative reference to the terrorist, McVeigh, an Anglo-American. One narrative reference to "domestic terrorism". And 22 to this being a terrorist attack "on American soil". That is, if you missed the reference to McVeigh, and the one to "domestic terrorism", you could easily assume that this was a foreign attack on a national landmark. Even though, of the 335 incidents of terrorist acts in the US logged by the FBI between 1980 and 2000, 250 (75%) were committed by American citizens.

As we crossed the border from Texas to Oklahoma, Heather and I commented that we didn't know much about Oklahoma. Heather knew about Oklahoman Indian branches on her family tree. I knew of the Cheyenne and the Cherokee. We both knew the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1943 musical. And we both remembered the Oklahoma City bombing.

To the dead and the survivors, we remember you.
We remember too that violence and terror live not-so-deeply in our fallen souls.
And we remember that all acts of terror are on domestic soil, all are against our people, for we are all "part of the main", and potential immortal citizens in the Kingdom.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's why they always paint Him that way

You know all those paintings of Jesus, where the sky is pierced by beams of light which shower down upon him? We saw that yesterday, somewhere between Winslow, AZ and Santa Rosa, NM (which is where we stopped for the night). Not being a photographer, and not having brought a camera, I couldn't get that picture. So these will have to do (taken by my trusty Sanyo Katana DLX):



We had been watching rainclouds developing in the distance for quite some time. As the distance to them got shorter, we were fairly convinced that we were headed into a storm. Instead: a clear double rainbow that we could see from end to end.










Maybe 200 drops on the windshield. It was so clear that we watched it move across the landscape -- the individual shrubs and the grass -- as we drew nearer.
Then at once we passed under it, and it was gone.









Can't you just see the light of glory?
"The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing."

Takin' it easy

"Standin' On The Corner Park", a Route 66 Roadside Attraction.

No idea? It's as in "Well, I've been standin' on a corner in..."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kingman, AZ 8:11 pm

It's the day's end at the Days Inn. (How many times have they heard that one?) The goal was to get out of California, and 583 miles or so later, here we are.


View Larger Map

Didn't take the route Google suggested, or the one AAA highlighted on the three maps, but we made it. It takes three maps to get out of California, and one to get from Arizona to North Carolina.


Easy drive today, though Austin is completely disoriented. And bored. It's really sad that a 55 lb. red haired sweetie dog is more bored than his graduate-degreed human companions. Of course, we're able to see the blistering expanses of rock, dirt, and cactus, which I suppose makes it more interesting. It was 104 when we stopped for gas ($5.79/gal. in nowhere CA), but only 94 when we stopped again ($3.95/gal. in nowhere AZ).

Passable pizza, tastily overdressed Caesars, and Sierra Nevada in the room, and we're headed to sleep. After I work on the newsletter, of course, with the raison d'trip lying on the floor.


970 Hwy 17 SJ2SC

First day of driving Shannon's dog, Austin, to North Carolina, 7:50 a.m.

I'm on an express bus of the local transit authority (VTA). The number's 970, but none of the signs say that. They all say Hwy 17, which is the only through road from San Jose and the rest of the Bay Area to Santa Cruz and the rest of the northern South Bay. (California has another South Bay, but it's in Southern California near Los Angeles and might properly be called the southern South Bay.) Hwy 17 is known for being crowded or closed: it's two lanes each way of winding mountainous road, speed limit 45-55, real speed 15 or 75. What happens is people drive 75, crash, and then everyone else drives 15. And once there's an accident, forward motion ceases. Done. Might as well pull out your nearly pristine copy of War and Peace.

The bus, however, rocks hard. Cupholders. Comfy seats. Luggage racks. Clean. And get this: Wi-fi. Free. So the first leg of the journey -- San Jose to Santa Cruz -- is a breezy hour of blogging and getting work done. The next five days, driving I-40 with Heather and Austin in August. The company will be great; we'll see about the rest. I hear Heather has the ends of the flu. I have an ongoing ear infection and cough. Austin snores. Raise the roof.

But I have mapped all the Starbucks, Peets, and local dives along the I-40. Can you say "road trip?" I can. Happily.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The heavens are open

You know how sometimes in the Gospels the heavens open and the glory of God is revealed? After two weeks with Dallas Willard and Keith Matthews, and 20 fellow vineyard-workers, I know what that means. At this moment (and I pray it lasts) I can see the scope and arc of Scripture, the majesty of the kingdom, the interrelation of the law and the logos in Christ, the real meaning of evangelism, and the point and practice of following Jesus.

Wow.

Now how do I live, teach, and share this?

What an incredible blessing -- I am humbled by the Glory and the Presence.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Body of Christ

Can't say I've ever craved the Eucharist before, but last night, walking back from Whole Foods to the retreat center where I'm studying "spirituality and ministry" with Dallas Willard, my whole body got hungry for the Eucharist -- not just for the liturgy and body prayer, but for the body and blood itself. I could taste the wine and bread, not in my mouth, but in my soul's memory. So, since none was to be had, I mentally rewrote our liturgy as I walked...which made me late for dinner.

Reminding me of the food that satisfies.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Timing

I don't know how they do it.

My emailboxes are full of promotions from other pastors. Brian's new book and tour. Rob's articles.
My Firefox bookmarks link to regularly updated blogs. Daily, even.
Opportunities for reprioritizing abound: 7 Habits; Make Your Time Top-Heavy' Purpose-Driven.
Me? I'm up at 3:30 a.m. because it's quiet and had to feed the baby anyway. It's been 2 months -- 2 months! -- since I was here in cyberspace. I have exercised maybe 1x/week. Precious little meditation. No more than a book a week (not including those little black-and-white shapebooks that we "read" to our kid).

Talk to me all you want about how a baby turns your life upside down. Talk until you're blue in the face. Others manage it -- manage to do meaningful work, manage to stay in touch with the Big Gal. What gives?

I'd like to think that She's trying to teach me something. But, other than "don't compare yourself to others", I'm at a loss. And honestly, given the Holy Spirit's movement in my communities, and the book bubbling in the back of my mind, Her timing stinks.

If you're a pastor, writer, parent, and faithful contemplative, please email me with how you do it. I'm open to suggestion. And do tell me what has to go to make it happen.