Friday, August 24, 2007



I must share today's lunch:

It needs some kind of name other than "yummy salad with bacon and lettuce and tomato". (If you come up with something, let me know!)

Slice Cucumbers and onions into bowl. Salt and pepper. Dress in Mayo and Vinegar. Set aside.
Microwave three slices of turkey bacon, cut into squared smaller pieces.
Slice three to four lettuce leaves, assemble on plate.
Add salted avocado and tomato.
Layer with cucumber and onion.
Top with bacon and fresh cilantro.

Serve salad with a grilled tortilla and iced tea.



Thursday, August 23, 2007

Prayer of Oscar Romero

Friends, Fam, Loves,

I love this prayer. It's liberating. I read it and breathe. I sigh and then inhale deeply -- and laugh!
I share it with keen knowledge of the soil, seeds, sun, and awareness of God's grace.

The Prayer of Oscar Romero

"It helps now and then to step back and take the long view" - wise words from Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Archbishop served the people of El Salvador and was assassinated in 1980 while he was saying mass in San Salvador.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Traveling Home: Seeing God in a semi-truck

I wonder if I will ever tire of how I feel lead by God?


Yesterday, I was traveling back from Omaha, Nebraska, through Iowa,
home to St. Paul via Inter-states 80 and 35. I spent the first hour
in silence, enjoying the rural landscape outside Council Bluffs:
rolling farm lands, terraced fields, green crops of corn and beans,
all lovely and breathtaking.

I like being silent on road trips. At least for a sweet portion of my
journey. Ever since I started reading Pema Chodron and learned about
this meditation practice called, "tonglen" I've been intentional
about using my car-time to breathe in the icks and ills and ouchies
of the world, and transform them sending out love and
compassion....It's a good use of time for me, and has lead to some
incredible insights, thoughts, emotions and memories coming forward...

But yesterday, not unlike other tonglen-road-trip-times, I had not
only the awe of inspired thought, but an experience of grace that
felt so completely of God, as the elements of the Universe seemingly
broke open to hit me on the head with LOVE already! Or what seemed:
the renewed promises of LOVE!

But I must back up to before I felt the "LOVE" and was more so in the
space of the "FEAR."


It was on 80 that I first noticed some scary things. These scary
items were blown rubber tires littering the highway. I saw at least 5
vehicles in total on both sides of the 4 lane divided roadway,
parked, and wheelless. Drivers pulling out their spares, jacks drawn
and replacement or repair taking place. It was sorta frightening, as
I sped down the interstate going next to 80 mph, and imagining what
my Honda CR-V would look like if it blew a tire. Would I go tumbling
sideways? Roll dramatically over and into the ditch? Would things get
scratched? Would there be an explosion of air bags in the car as the air in my
wheels burst outside?

Why do tires explode, after all? Did someone drop a load of nails?
Were there broken bottles strewn over the pavement? What?

I sent a prayer request to a friend via text, and one to God, and
asked that I navigate safely, get home without having anything explode.

Okay. So, intentional and faith-aligned enough I was along Interstate
80. That was just the first third of my route.

Next: came the stormy part north of Des Moines, on 35. When I say,
"stormy" I may be down playing this a bit. (Today, checking out the
headlines and news of flash floods and six people dead in Southern
Minnesota, I think I am pretty fortunate to report the following.)

Dark clouds. Thunder. Lightening. Torrential downpour. Vision limited
to 5 feet in front of a vehicle, if only and only if a person had SUPER FAST WIPERS!
Nothing else but blackness and a thick sea of water pouring over me.

I have been in such treacherous driving conditions before. I have.
Maybe like twice:

1. Once, outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, when I was 23 or 24, coming
back to Omaha from a Cornhusker game or from a sales call...(In my
former life.) I had to pull over and park it for a good hour, until
the storm cleared.

2. And then the second time, in my early 30's, trying to make my way
through a Winter weather storm in February to attend my girlfriend
Suzann's wedding reception in Norfolk. Yes, instead of a sea of rain,
I was immersed in a continent of snow. That time, I followed a semi-
truck home. The trip that normally took 6 hours, required 9 -- of behind-
the-wheel, white-knuckled concentration. I made it safely, and got a
good toast out of the whole thing, recognizing then that God shows up
in the craziest of places. In this case: I felt the Divine in the taillights
of the 18-wheeler, leading me home. Just like it seemed God had lead
this couple Suzann and Brook to their wedding, against a storm of
fears and concerns and questions. (They are still happily married,
thank you!)

On this trip yesterday, as vehicle after vehicle pulled off the
pavement to park in the grass or shoulder along the interstate, I
asked for guidance. And voila! A semi pulled ahead of me. While I
drove going only 25 - 40mph an hour for the next 60 minutes, I felt
safe. Calm. And completely knew I was only managing to stay moving,
so long as I was being lead. Again, God in the tail lights keeping me
on the raod.

A couple times during this portion of the trip, my semi-truck and his
precious lights got a bit ahead of me, switched lanes, and it felt
like he was going to zoom off and disappear, but I stayed close. And
I was able to steer and stay centered in my lane for as long as the
storm continued.

When my semi turned on his blinker and made way to exit around Story
City, I noticed that suddenly the sun reappeared. Peeked through the
black skies, and viola! The rain let up.

As the truck moved right onto the exit ramp, leaving me almost
completely alone on this road, I was able to read the side of his
rig, "Sea Star." It made me smile.

Within about two minutes, I turned off my wipers as the sky
transformed itself. Sun light in yellow to grey hues, emerging from
the black clouds, lit up the fields. I could clearly see the corn and
beans again. This time, they too appeared transformed, new, story-
book/ movie-scene like: aglow in this post-storm magical light.

And then the whopper: That mythical Noah-and-his-ark-after-the -flood
gift: I got a rainbow. A full blown fully semi-circle rainbow. And
just because God likes to show off and double up on this promise to
take care of us, our hearts, our lands, our lives: He gave me two of
them! Like one was embracing the other, saying, "Yeah, I know you are
bright and strong and arching these Iowa fields in a poetic fashion.
Fabulous. Now, let me just shadow you. Shine alongside. My colors
aren't going to be as intense, but I'm here, mirroring your beauty and

It all made me very, very happy. And, perhaps not unlike Noah, love
God for His/Her promises. I like the big ways that God manifests in the
natural world. I am especially grateful for how even when I am
laughing and ready to shirk off my perceived sense of the Divine --
as simply being Melissa-ridiculousness, this Creator shows up and
presents a double wammy that seems to confirm His/ Her unwavering
presence in the world.

Gotta say "Thank you!" And "Amen."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prayer from Jane de Chantal


Jane de Chantal co-founded the Visitation Sisters, (the rocking order of nuns that I have the privilege of being a Companion to in North Minneapolis.) I know many teachers are gearing up and going back into their classrooms, and the rest of us are mucking and milling about in busy, hectic lives.
I offer this as a short meditation, inviting peace and good energy to flow within, all around.

"Set your soul at liberty,
in peace and calm.
Withdraw it from the taste and slavery
of its own working and do not disturb it
with care and anxiety,
either from above or below....
for the sooner it refrains from that,
the sooner it will arrive at that holy calm, and more abundantly....

In this holy rest, affection expands."
--St. Jane de Chantal

Peace, Love,

Monday, August 13, 2007

On Success vs. Faithfulness: Juxtaposing some Holy Peoples' Words

Good God, how this all speaks to me! Henri Nouwen, Some apostle writing to the Hebrews, and Luke in his Gospel.

Let this be my own kind of Gospel. Yes, the Gospel according to Melissa.

The Gospel According to Melissa's wondering and wandering spirit, questioning and desiring heart:

What is success? What is faith? How is a faithful life measured? What evidence do we require to know we are on the right path? What are we responsible for? What aren't we responsible for? How can we tell the difference? How do we discern our path? How does evolution of our hearts and spirits, souls happen? Is evolution something anyone else thinks about as they choose relationships, as they love? What does Henri know about the transformational power of love? What did he experience in his lifetime? How did Jesus' apostles get burned and grow? How am I like them? How am I like Abraham? How are we all Abraham and the Apostles, ancestors incarnated, wondering and wanting and awakening ourselves to Love?


The following is a Fr. Henri Nouwen passage that arrived in my email in-box this morning, juxtaposed with some of yesterday's scripture readings.

I underlined the parts of the Letter to the Hebrews and Luke's Gospel that tickled something inside me.

Maybe they will speak to you. Do respond if something speaks to you!

Trusting in the Fruits
We belong to a generation that wants to see the results of our work. We want to be productive and see with our own eyes what we have made. But that is not the way of God's Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus himself died as a failure on a cross. There was no success there to be proud of. Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus' life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus we have to trust that our lives too will be fruitful, even though we cannot see their fruit. The fruit of our lives may be visible only to those who live after us. What is important is how well we love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not. -- Fr. Henri Nouwen

Reading II
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12
Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
Lk 12:32-48 or 12:35-40
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
"Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come."
Then Peter said,
"Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?"
And the Lord replied,
"Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
'My master is delayed in coming,'
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant's master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master's will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finished Review!!! (Arts Ed around the Globe)

Beloved People,

Help me celebrate!

I just finished writing this review for the Teaching Artist Journal, published at Columbia College in Chicago. The "Resource Roundup" section is edited by my dear poet-friend-colleague, Becca Barniskis, who asked me months ago to write a review on "The Wow Factor: Global research compendium on the impact of the arts in education" by Anne Bamford.*

Lalala! Fancy case study and research on arts education from around the globe. Hey hey! I am a global person. I like art. I am a teacher. This seemed to sort of be a good fit. ?!

So, of course now I want to share this with everyone I know! Because I'm so thrilled to be done! And because Becca Barniskis is probably the BEST EDITOR I've ever met in my life. The woman makes me sound smarter and smoother than I am. (Not funnier ---but definitely more CONCISE!)

What follows is a tiny excerpt from the review and a quote from the book on this Namibian concept, "Ngoma" - which ROCKS MY WORLD!

At the heart of this global analysis, we need to be able to articulate how and why teaching in and through the arts is an important thing. "The results of this world study suggest that a community—and education—pays a clear price for "blind" practices." Part of our job (as teachers, artists, administrators, policy makers) is not to be blind. We begin by first and foremost naming for ourselves the value of an education in and through the arts. Here is an example from Namibia:

The Namibian Term, "Ngoma" sees the arts as being a united whole. While this same term can mean any one of the art forms, (e.g dance, music, visual arts and drama) it also stands for the communication between the arts and spirit. Ngoma can also mean "drum", but under this notion it implies the rhythm or beat of a drum that charges life with energy. It implies a transformation, where the individual becomes transformed by the arts. It encompasses the individual becoming part of the community, linking the past with the future, the heaven with earth, ancestors to children, and the mind to the spirit. The term Ngoma also implies that the action of the arts has a purpose or function larger than the art form itself. It prepares the individual and community for the task, be those tasks the mundane or the profound, the educative and spiritually enlightening. Ngoma also sees the arts as integral to society (p. 51).

Couldn't we all benefit from adopting such a philosophy?!
Had to share! Go buy the book, or order the Teaching Artist Journal!! (The entire review will probably go to print in 5 or 6 months!)

Smiles, Good times!

*The Wow Factor: Global Research Compendium on the Impact of the Arts in Education
By Anne Bamford
Waxmann, 2006
ISBN 3-8309-1617-5

EUR 24.90, paperback

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Kindness of a Poem

This poem made me almost giggle when I first read it. Yeah, the word "hedgehog" makes me sort of smirk. Want to cackle or gasp with the goofiness it calls up. I keep thinking of Bill-What's-His-Name?-Murray- in Caddyshack. Hedgehog hedgehog hedgehog. A dead hedgehog. (Or was it a gopher in that flick?) Regardless, you get my point.

But the poem has a decidedly different tone than that Bill Murray comedy. Perhaps it's more of a "Rushmore" or "Lost in Translation" Bill Murray poem.

Yes. There's a darkness here. A sweetness here. A message here. A religion here. A recipe here for post-death-mourning-rage-anger-peace.

Kindness is the call of the poet.

While there is still time, let's be kind.

Poem: "The Mower" by Philip Larkin, from Collected Poems. © Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Reprinted with permission.
(buy now)

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Little Alfred

Beautiful People,

If pithy quotes and sayings don't do it for you, perhaps a bit of poetry from the Public Domain? This too arrived this morning in my email, and took me to departures, moves, sorrows, woes. "In Memoriam" is like "in memory of" - right? And we can all relate to thinking on things from the past, from memory, with a desire to pay tribute to such thoughts, love, hopes, dreams...yes? What I so love and appreciate is where Alfred goes in the 8th verse. I don't know if Lord Tennyson was a Catholic, but he sure as shoot believed in something Divine!

Blessings this day!


Poem: excerpts from "In Memoriam" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

excerpts from In Memoriam


Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasped no more—
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.


Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
And will be, though as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompassed by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.

Friday, August 03, 2007

"Tell Me" (A poem about a homeless person that is all of us)

I love this poem.

Reminds me of sitting at Moe's Bagels in downtown Denver yesterday, 7 feet from a homeless man wearing a New York Knick's winter jacket, and drinking soda out of a Starbuck's plastic cup. I thought,
"This man and I were created by the same benevolent God. Why does he sit on the ground? Why do I sit in a chair? What is it like to ask for money from strangers? I wonder if he struggles loving himself? What are the choices or decisions of his day? How does he decide to sit here, or where to go next? What does it feel like when someone turns their head away from him? Can he feel the love I have for him?"

I watched him stand, and then had to laugh at his re-arranging of his gear. Namely, the very public way he tugged at his underwear. I thought,
"Yes, when I've sat in a space for a long while, things ride up my ass, too."

God made both of us. All of us.

Poem: "Tell Me" by Anne Pierson Wiese, from Floating City: Poems. © Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Tell Me

There are many people who spend their nights
on the subway trains. Often one encounters
them on the morning commute, settled in corners,
coats over their heads, ragged possessions heaped
around themselves, trying to remain in their own night.

This man was already up, bracing himself against
the motion of the train as he folded his blanket
the way my mother taught me, and donned his antique blazer,
his elderly, sleep-soft eyes checking for the total effect.

Whoever you are-tell me what unforgiving series
of moments has added up to this one: a man
making himself presentable to the world in front
of the world, as if life has revealed to him the secret
that all our secrets from one another are imaginary.