Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Prayer by Zac Willette

A while back, I wrote and shared the prayer of Oscar Romero.
Increasingly, I've been finding it more and more helpful -- actually
necessary -- to extend prayerful thoughts in not only this blog, but
through my emailing correspondence.

What follows is in this same vein, and in the tradition of Romero.

My friend Zac Willette, (pictured here between Margaret Post and me) wrote the following prayer. He is working on
his Masters in Divinity at Weston in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In
this prayer, it is evident to me of dear Zac's heart, faith, spirit;
his divinity certainly coming forward in a masterful way...

Yes, it's a prayer that reminds me of the Salvadorian Archbishop's
because of its expressed humility and hope; its balance of faith with
a kind of trembling fear; the sheer humanity of it -- alongside the
awesome power and knowledge of the holy emanating.

I don't know.

I just really really like it.

And if you are searching for some words to begin a meeting, or to convene your work within a collaborative space of faithful beings, I recommend this prayer. Highly.

Love to Zac!
Peace and blessings to you all!

Oh! And please let me know if you DO use it! I'm sure that would make Zac Willette's day!


God who is Creator of us and Brother to us and Advocate for us
We show up here in this place
weary from what drains us
and yet somehow awake,
full of to do lists and worries we know too well
and yet hungry for what we do not know.

We gather in your presence
with hopes and fears that compete for our attention
with desires you have put deep in our hearts
and with desires we've allowed to distract us from joy.

Help us, loving and mysterious God,
to see how you show up
in wondrous and irritating ways
to comfort and challenge us
to patiently form us
and endlessly transform us.

Make us strong in love,
deep in faith,
and inexhaustible in hope.

Guide us in our time together
and give us the strength to let ourselves be guided.


-Zac Willette

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I love Sharon Olds.

Poem: "35/10" by Sharon Olds, from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980–2002. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


Brushing out our daughter's brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her. Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a moist
precise flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, round and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It's an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On Cultivating Wisdom: A reflection on a Richard Rohr Reflection

Beloved People:

In my research this afternoon for information on this upcoming conference on Jesus and the Buddha -- at the Center for Contemplation and Action in New Mexico -- I came across this daily reflection posted by Franciscan, Richard Rohr.

It takes me to Mncedisi Dabula, in East London, South Africa, and conversations we have had on "rites of passages" -- in the case there, for young men in the community.

I'm not so sure what Mnce would say about Rohr's thoughts and impressions of these African and Asian rites. Mr. Dabula is not a bashful man, and while the topic seems a delicate one, it's intriguing to me this stance that Rohr takes, also unabashedly.

Thinking about all this, these questions surface for me:

How do Westerner's cultivate Wisdom in their youth?
What is up with the rest of the planet (in terms of faith, stance, tradition, rites) regarding this topic of dreams of youth?
How are we similar? Different?
Is it ever fair to generalize?
What role does religion play in all this business of cultivating wisdom?
How many pathways, doors into wise action, living, consciousness are there?
Could we count them?
Are we okay if we aren't wise?
Who determines this anyway?
Is there a grade we get in school for being wise?
What would a "Cultivating Wisdom" course look like?
At what point would you enroll yourself or your spouse or your children?

Happy Contemplating!

Blessings, Peace,
"The Dreams of Youth"

Hindus and Buddhists are way ahead of us Westerners in terms of what their young people idealize. They're led to idealize holiness, inner freedom, inner truth, rather than simply outer success. Our drive for outer success has given us tremendous advantages in terms of the scientific and industrial revolutions, but Asia and Africa are more able to triumph over the inner world. Wisdom is still idealized as the value that binds them together. During my travels I was glad to see, in Africa especially, the almost universal puberty rites and initiation rites still in place. Basically they are intense, three-month CCD programs that work. The young people are taken apart by the wise men or women of the tribe and taught what wisdom is: This is what holds us together as a people. This is what we stand for, this is who we are, these are our values. And when those young men and women return from those kind of groupings, they know who they are. In our culture were forever searching for our values, what we want to believe in, what we might want to commit ourselves to. Adolescence, the time of open options, now lasts until age thirty-two in the West! In some cultures adolescence really ends as early as sixteen and seventeen. You often see that in the self-assurance of young people who find their ground and meaning much earlier. I suspect we actually are stunted and paralyzed by having too many options. We are no longer the developed world; we are the overdeveloped world.

Fr. Richard Rohr,
Daily Reflection for Wednesday, October 24, 2007.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Interview with God// reflection

Aunt Mo and People:

These forwarded God things can arrive and be all cheesy and make me want to sort of hurl on the producer/ creator....(It's the sad truth.)

This one* to spoke to me this morning.

It arrives from my sister in law, Jodi, in Omaha, who I had the pleasure of kicking it with this past weekend. She and my brother Ben, and their three sons have created this life that inspires me: living pretty simply out in the country, with Love, Family, Faith, seemingly at the center of things.....

Well, they inspire ME. (Not a life for everyone, for sure! But still, there is joy that radiates from this rural space of open farm land and boy amusements -- that tickle this girl -- and the energy they put into creating fun...Remodeling the house? Playing football, drawing pictures of aliens and watching soccer and sports on TV...-- A most recent endeavor: Jodi learning to hide vegetables in the food she prepares: spinach in brownies?!...)

Anwyho, I'm up, getting ready to do morning prayer in my house, making coffee, lighting my Buddha candle, walking around wrapped in the prayer shawl Jody Tigges made me, and opening the window shades....As I'm doing this, I get this clear message: "God overwhelms you with love everyday. You never doubt that He is here and in charge. " I was smiling at the trees outside, and wondering how today this Love might manifest further.....

I came to sit down and read scripture, and rest quietly in the message, ("Gird your loins and light your lamps..."?!) and then found my way to this email and website link entitled "Interview with God."

There's some good stuff in here, again: that spoke to me. Lines about being children, living simply, losing our health in order to acquire wealth, teaching forgiveness by forgiving....
If you have time, watch it. Enjoy!

Peace, Love,

The wisdom in this presentation will make one reassess one's hectic life .... regardless of personal or religious beliefs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Peace Ball 2007!

What event brings together elected city officials, clergy members from around the Twin Cities, activists and artists concerned with social justice, parents of murdered children, North Side friends and neighbors, and representatives from private and non-profit organizations -- interested in the social fabric of our urban and glorious North Side?

That's would the Peace Ball, my friends.

Saturday, October 13, 2007, marked the occasion for the 4th Annual Celebration; this year, taking place at the Lundstrum Center for Performing Arts in North Minneapolis.

What follows are snapshots and inspiring words from the Peace Foundation event. (All photos taken by Brian Mogren.)

Thanks to Beth and Steve Borgmann, my awesome parents,
who sponsored a "Borgmann Family" table.

Pictured above, from Left to Right, Front:
Sharifa Charles, (Former North High Student, Project Success Facilitator)
Julia Dinsmore, (Author of "My Name is a Child of God: A First Person Look at Poverty")
Angela Riley (Mother of a son murdered July 27, 2006. Attending with "Mothers of Crime Victims. Org")
Ann Shallbetter (Choir Member and Parish Council Representative, Church of St. Philips)
Chris Williams (Journalist, The Catholic Spirit)
Gawolo Kpissay (Community Activist and Friend, Former Teen Group Member at the Church of St. Philips)
Daniel Kerkhoff (Artist, Contemplative, Peace Activist, World Traveler and Teacher)
Antoinette Bennaars, (Biologist, Choir Member, Church of St. Philips)
Jasmine McConnell (Former North High Student/ Poet/ Community Activist)

From the program, and spoken aloud by Peace Foundation President, Sondra Samuels to the crowd gathered:
"Tonight, Let's Party Across the Divide! Ours is a movement of the heart. Through relationships across race, class and geography we have committed to working together to end local violence. Our work is hard. Coming together across divides can uncover unhealed racial wounds and feed misunderstandings. Though not easy, building trusting relationships an changing hearts is our true work. So tonight, be sure to party across the divide! Meet and talk to people you don't know and who don't look like you. Oh yeah, and be sure to dance with them, too."



Brian Mogren, Friend, Photographer, Northside Resident and Peace Presence, embracing beloved friends and Peace Foundation Folks: Sondra Samuels, President, and Husband/ Partner, City Councilman Don Samuels

Soul Tight Committee

I love this picture of the dance floor, with Julia Dinsmore coming into focus in the crowd.

Toni and Ann

Embracing Elinor Anderson-Gene', (filling in for Reggie Prim with her artist, dancer, community-loving self.)

Beautiful Lauren Martin of Folwell Center for Urban Initiatives, and
Beloved Franciscan Brother John

Divine Healer, Spirit Woman, Northside Resident, Amoke Kubat, and her daughter Roxanne

Doing one of my favorite things on the planet: connecting folks.
Here, introducing Daniel Kerkhoff to Northside Artist and Residents:
Bill and Beverly Cottmann

Sharifa Charles and Gawalo Kpissay


Choir Chicas: Melissa, Ann, Toni

More boogying! Do you recognize anyone?
One of my favorites: Sherman Patterson in his dress blues!

City Councilman Samuels singing for us!

Don Samuels can seriously perform and entertain!

Crowd's Response to the Performance

A Gigantic Thanks again to Beth and Steve Borgmann, the beloved people gathered, and for the philosophy and faith underscoring all of this evening!
What a privilege to witness and participate in the creation of relationships across things that seem to divide us!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Backbends into God's Grace

Walking down Edgcumbe Road in St. Paul this afternoon, I witnessed two girls, maybe 9 or 10 years old, pre-pubescent friends or sisters, attempting backbends in their front yard.

As one was leaning backward, the other had a kind of shadowy embrace around her, providing a kind of security as the first girl leaned or fell into the arched pose. When the first girl's hands connected with the ground, I heard her say, "I did it! I finally did it!"

There was this victorious kind of joy in her voice, and her friend celebrated, shouting,"Yes! You did! Yes!" clapping and striking her fist through the air.

Then there was a pause. I caught their eyes, smiled at both of them. I wanted to applaud.

Then I heard the girl say, "Now, how do I get back up?"

It made me laugh.

The whole scene made me think a lot of things...

I remember those days of gymnastics at the YMCA in Norfolk when I was growing up. Trudging my own little girl body up and into the athletically challenging spaces where we'd train and tone, flip and tumble in our leotards, learning about the limitations and awesome abilities of our limbs.

I liked the routine for a long while. I still recall in my own bones the beauty of that kind of knowing: learning, leaning into my body, pushing it to do things that it didn't necessarily feel inclined to do. (The splits? Roundoff back hand springs? Aerial Cartwheels? Please. )

The backbend for me, in particular, was a similar hallmark in my early gymnastic days, as it seemed for these young girls in my neighborhood.

I was 8. Still attending the one-room country school called "District 20," and reading Nancy Drew novels. Learning how to do a back bend gracefully outside in the yard was a total and complete joy:
Extending my arms upwards, attempting to grow roots out of the base of my planted feet. I'd imagine these tethers into the soil beneath, keeping me anchored, as I arched backwards, leaning, reaching for the ground, springing palms toward the soil corresponding with my heels, and creating this bridge: a kind of backwards body rainbow, sturdy and solid, a feat of faith.

I remember ache in my thighs and stomach muscles. The tension in all things working together as I leaned backward, face to sky, eyes on clouds or sunshine, the pine trees. Oh! To view the world upside down and backwards! To be able to arch yourself and not completely topple, but to find grace and strength in an action so completely non-typical, nonsensical even. (Why does anyone need to do a backbend? Where does this help us in life?)

The recollection brings me joy.

How often do I attempt backbends these days? ....Please! (I'm editing here for eyes and spirits sensitive to shenanigans and over-over-over the top metaphors.)

I started my day attempting to cheer on one delightful, courageous friend named Antoinette Bennaars who was running the 10 mile route of the Twin Cities marathon. I never caught up with her, but I was privy to some powerful witness of other runners, testing their mettle, their human physical limits, and at mile marker eight, at Lexington and Summit in St. Paul: exuding a similar kind of "yes!" to that of my backbending girls, knowing they were doing it!

This theme of endurance, of challenge, of testing the body and its limitations, ran through my experience at mass today. Fr. Pat, in his opening welcome, made mention of another parishioner who we'd been holding in prayer at the Church of St. Philips. Jim Hingeley just completed the 500 mile walk in Northern Spain, called "El Camino del Santiago" or the "Walk of St. James." A sort of pilgrimage he's done - not just once, but twice now! (What compels people? What drives them in their bones, muscles, lungs, hearts, spirits, minds, to do such things?)

As Father was mentioning this, I looked around and caught sight of Dale Timmerman. Our dear and beloved "Deacon Dale" who has battled cancer in his body now: three times, over the course of the last 20 years! This last go round, resulted in the removal of his left lung. And still: he walks, he moves, he lives, he breathes. (How is this really possible? What is necessary for full oxygen flow, circulation in the body? Who is this man? How has God created us?)

It all sort of blows me away.

We all have limitations, right? As humans, we are wrought with our human frailty that we must all face, endure, hopefully even find a way to cherish. I think backbends, marathons, pilgrimages in the way of saints: they all must teach us something about overcoming and receiving the grace of God. They must!

Or else, why? Why attempt them?

Somewhere, back in that little girl body of mine, I think I knew: I just liked the challenge of looking at the world in an upside down and backwards sort of way. I liked bending round and having to align myself with a tree for minute.

It was fun. I felt stronger than perhaps I ever knew I was.