Saturday, March 28, 2009

Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation

Yesterday, at 5:30pm, I had the privilege of addressing a group of about 40 women gathered at the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet Center in St. Paul. I was invited to speak to this community on the topic of "Healing our Families" - as part of a Lenten Series - sponsored by the nuns and the CSJ Consociates. Before a room of mostly pink-skinned Sisters, Consociates, St. Joseph Workers and Friends, ranging in age from 22 to 80, I delivered the following reflection.

I offer it here for your own contemplation. I say "Thank you" to all who read and respond to such musings, especially my own immediate family. You all do wonders to inspire me, and countless others, I'm certain!


CSJ Healing Service
March 27, 2009

Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation!

Good evening! Let me begin by saying what a privilege it is to be in this community tonight; what an honor to be present in this space, with all of your glorious spirits, collective wisdom and stories, and given this opportunity to crack open a bit of scripture, and reflect upon this topic of healing our families.

I begin tonight with a story. I turn then to scripture. I conclude with questions and a prayer. The title to this, by the way is, “Healing our Families: Attending to our Stories, Screams, Salvation!”

Three weeks ago, on the second Sunday of Lent, I was running errands after mass. I had a laundry list of things to purchase, which took me to Walgreens on Lake Street. (Who here has been to the Walgreens on Lake Street?) While I was walking in to pick up these items, my eye was struck by a tall, handsome fellow. And everything in me started to sort of quake. He was handsome: 6’4”, clean cut handsome. Blazer over jeans and Italian shoes wearing handsome. Brown. African brown handsome. Rimless glasses handsome. I wanted to melt when he looked my way. I tried to proceed forward in my drugstore purchases, but over the course of the next 14 minutes, I went a little bit nuts -- swooning over this fellow that I’d never laid eyes on before in my life.

I found myself standing next to him in the deodorant aisle, picking out anti-perspirants; or rather: trying to pick out an anti-perspirant, but wondering instead where he lived, what kinds of food he ate, and whether he might want to take me out for Thai curry some night? I tried to focus on the Shower Clean and Pure Rain deodorants before me, but all I could think about was how nice and clean he smelled, like he maybe just stepped out of the shower or carried the scent of rain with him wherever he went.

He was so pretty!

Now, I know that I’m addressing a group of mostly nuns. And maybe there’s something seemingly illicit about talking about sexual attraction before a religious community? But I don’t think so. Because I know each of us, at some moment in time has had an encounter with beauty, with that which takes our breath away, and inspires a swooning-like feeling. And I think at the heart of these kinds of experiences -- is something that flows from God, is something that resembles the Divine, is something that has the power to heal us. And these moments are sacred and worthy of our collective note-taking or reverence.

I had to write about this experience afterwards. I had to write about all the aisles this fellow and I encountered one another in, in the store. (Toilet paper, toilet bowl cleaner, dryer sheet aisles.) I had to write about making eye contact with him and smiling. I had to write about how I got shy and quiet, but never spoke. I had to confess my own larger fears over what reaching out and extending words might mean. I had to disclose my complete joy over the encounter, and my utter frustration of what ensued. I had to admit how long it had been since such an experience had stirred such emotion in my heart and limbs. I had to celebrate that this body, this Divinely made being could have such an encounter, and even, quite possibly inspire something similar in him, the hot Walgreens man, who could be, for all intents and purposes: the other, the observer, even possibly, Christ in our midst.

What does this tale have to do with Lent, this Healing Service, or any of our families?

I turn to this weekend’s scriptures.

In preparation for today’s service, I found myself prayerfully drawn to these words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel according to St. John.

Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,


"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?

Can you repeat these after me?

Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,


"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?

How many of us know these aching questions, these cries coming from our own weary lungs? From our own salty lips? Beseeching a loving God and Creator for salvation?

Whew. For this 40 years old, single lady, roaming the planet trying to honor Love, these questions pierce the core of my heart.
I imagine they might resonate with each of you, as well. No matter what your circumstance as an individual, as a person part of a larger family. How many of us feel we have failed our families? (or they’ve failed us?) We haven’t been fully enough in our community? Haven’t responded in the most compassionate way to our cousins or to the Christ in our midst? How many have felt just like Jesus, here, achy, seemingly alone, and possibly letting down a leader, a parent, a figure of faith that we aspire to serve? (How many of us have feared death?)

I’m 40. A 40-year old single woman who loves God with her whole heart and mind and body. I'm a single, never-been-married woman who wants nothing more than to serve a discerned calling to partner and marry and have children. But has that happened yet? Nope! Guess what my cries sound like to God? Guess what screams pour forth from these lungs!

Enter: Walgreens man. Enter Love. Enter Jesus. Enter a moment, a chance encounter, when beauty pours forth, and pierces my heart, reminding me of my own beloved nature.

How does such a story, juxtaposed with scripture, provide insight into healing ourselves? How does a story like this relate at all to the healing of our families?

I return to a meditation on oneness. On our belovedness. On recognizing our connections with Christ, on seeing our suffering, our screams, as aligned in his own humanity, in his questions and story, and united equally, then, in His salvation…..Don’t you think?

The answer, from the prophet Jeremiah is as simple as this, The Lord says, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts.”

What’s the Lord writing here, (pointing to heart) except the word, “LOVE!”

Say it with me: LOVE!

So I wrote down this story about the Walgreens guy. I entitled it, “Weak in the Knees at Walgreens. “ I posted it on my blog, and then emailed it my list-serve of about 250 people. Included in this list, were my family members.

And do you know what happened? It triggered something. My aunt Marian, a biologist living in Lincoln, Nebraska, who screams a lot about stuff and incites all sorts of riotous on-line writing, softened in her reception of this. She re-titled my email, “Melissa’s Knees: Our Love Stories.” What ensued for days on end, in my online Borgmann-Family Listerve world: were narrative after narrative, written story after written story, response after response: all bearing witness to each family member’s “weak-in-th- knees” moment, when he or she had a similar encounter with Love.

It was beautiful and inspiring. It felt to be a kind of sweet balm, antidote to that which ails. It was healing.

As I close, I ask each of you to consider:
What is your story? What “weak-in-the-knees” moment have you encountered? What first hand stories of love have you shared with family or friends? How have you experienced Christ’s entrance in your world? At Walgreens, at the dining room table, how do you see yourself aligned with him in suffering and salvation?

My prayer is that in and through our individual and collective witness to such encounters, we know healing in our hearts and homes. May we encounter the beloved in our bodies and in the beauty of the other . May we find alignment in Christ’s suffering, and simultaneously say, “Thank God for the Salvation of Story!”



LENTEN PRAYER ~ A Time for Healing ~

Fridays, 5:30 – 6:15 pm
Carondelet Center, 1890 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
All are welcome!

March 6 ~ Prayer Service for the Healing of the Nations
featuring musicians Mary Preus and Tom Witt

March 13 ~ Healing Our Country
Reflection by Joan Wittman, CSJ Consociate, Chair of Legislative Advocacy Partners Working Group

March 20 ~ Healing Our Communities
Reflection by Brian Reusch, Minnesota Council of Churches, Celeste’s Dream visioning circle

March 27 ~ Healing Our Families
Reflection by Melissa Borgmann, teacher, author, spoken word artist, lover of the gospel

April 3 ~ Healing Our Earth
Reflection by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Studies, peace educator

Lenten Prayer is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates: Celeste’s Dream, Hedgerow Initiative, Justice Office, Membership, St. Joseph Workers, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meditation: On Description

I love this passage from Pat Carini. It takes me to all of you today. I offer it as an invitation to slow down, pause, attend. It seems an absolute act of prayer, reverence, peace - this process.

It makes me wonder, "What would happen if we really looked at something - someone, circumstances - before we responded? What if we simply described what we saw?"

Meditation: On Description

"Describing I pause, and pausing, attend.

Describing requires that I stand back and consider.

Describing requires I not rush to judgment or conclude before I have looked.

Describing makes room for something to be fully present.

Describing is slow, particular work.

I have to set aside familiar categories for classifying or generalizing.

I have to stay with the subject of my attention.

I have to give it time to speak, to show itself."

-Pat Carini, "Meditation: On Description" In Starting Strong: A Different Look at Children, Schools, and Standards. New York: Teachers College Press, 163-164.

Happy Contemplating!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Anniversaries: Getting to the Fine Day of Walter McDonald's Poem

My recent writing about "swooning" ("Weak-in-the-Knees-at-Walgreens") triggered a whole series of responses from you. Included in these, were my own family's musings about the way many members made their way toward marriage. Our Borgmann-Family Blog was lit up with tales loosely given the title, "Melissa's Knees: Our Love Stories" by my Aunt Marian. It was great fun to read these narratives, and to glean other such moments of "swooning" and first encounters. It took me personally into the larger space of our individual and collective journeys toward commitment, and how messy and fun and hard and exciting that all is. Today's Writer's Almanac poem speaks to these journeys, from one poet's sweet, love-heartache-reflection perspective.


Anniversary: One Fine Day
by Walter McDonald

Who would sit through a plot as preposterous as ours,
married after years apart? Chance meetings may work
early in stories, but at operas, darling, in Texas?
A bachelor pilot, I fled Laredo for the weekend,
stopping at the opera from boredom, music I least expected.
Of all the zoos and honky-tonks south of Dallas,
who would believe I would find you there on the stairs,

Madame Butterfly about to start? When you moved
four years before, I lost all hope of dying happy,
dogfighting my way through pilot training, reckless,
in terror only when I saw the man beside you.
I had pictured him rich and splendid in my mind
a thousand times, thinking you married with babies
somewhere in Tahiti, Spain, the south of France.

When I saw the lucky devil I hated—only your date,
but I didn't know—he stopped gloating, watching you wave,
turned old and bitter like the crone in Shangri La.
Destiny happens only in plays and cheap movies—
but here, here on my desk is your photo, decades later,
and I hear sounds from another room of our house,
and when I rise amazed and follow, you are there.

"Anniversary: One Fine Day" by Walt McDonald, from Blessings the Body Gave. © Ohio State University Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Race and White Privilege: Julie Landsman at the Church of St. Philips

How do we make visible the invisible?
What role does race, racism, and white privilege play in our public discourse? How about our everyday communication?
(What is white privilege? How do we define this concept?)
How does anyone get conscious of that which lies below the surface, or goes unacknowledged, but permeates everything?
How do we celebrate our diversity, and move toward a unified humanity?
What precedes such development?
How do relationships transform our learning at the intellectual, spiritual, emotional levels?

How messy and exciting - at the same time- is this work?!

Hmmm....These are some of the questions I hold going into this weekend's event featuring teacher and author Julie Landsman at the Church of St. Philip's. For those who don't know, Ms. Landsman is one who exemplifies a critical consciousness and learning around some of the toughest issues of our time: racism and white privilege.

As a parishioner at the Church of St. Philip's, I'm excited about how having Julie in our midst may help to surface some of the gifts and challenges present in our North Side faith community. With St. Philip's rich legacy as a Polish Catholic parish, and its evolving spirit in a predominantly African American community, coupled with the recent influx of many East African members and our Congolese Catholic priest, we are poised for a rich and powerful discussion inspired by Ms. Landsman's own witness to her pink-skinned heritage and cultural experiences. Julie's writing is rooted in social justice consciousness, and flows from civil rights activism --which seeks to unite all of us across race, class, gender, language, faith lines.

If you are in the area, please feel free to join our post-mass reading and facilitated discussion. Julie will read from her latest book, "Growing Up White: A Veteran Teacher Reflects on Racism."

WHEN: Sunday, March 22, 2009
TIME: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (following 10:15am mass)
WHERE: Church of St. Philip 2507 Bryant Avenue North Minneapolis, MN 55411
(at the corner of 26th Avenue and Bryant Avenue North)

This is a free event and all are encouraged to attend.

Again: All are welcome!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's the Feast of St. Patrick today -- a holiday celebrating this former Brittish (or was it Scottish?) man who was enslaved in Northern Ireland, and went onto to become a priest and bishop in Ireland. Patrick preached love and forgiveness in this country where he was imprisoned. As a contemplative, Catholic and resident in St. Paul, Minnesota - where many green beer drinking festivities take place today - I'm writing to simply pay tribute to this figure of love.

I share a prayer that exemplifies St. Patrick's spirit, called, "Patrick's Breastplate:"

"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ in my lying down, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my arising. Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me."


As a writer sensative to all faiths and beliefs, I extend the spirit of Patrick to all, and invite this prayer to be understood as one of Love encompassing all aspects of vision, identity, experience, encounter, journey. Yes!

Blessings to all this day!



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weak-in-the-Knees at Walgreens

I can't remember the last time I thought I might swoon.

First off, who "swoons" anymore? Isn't this some archaic term once used to describe a Vivian Lee type meeting up with a Clark Gable? (Read: any female circa 1930-1950 encountering a hollywood star, or their returning war-hero husband.) What does it mean to "swoon"? "To sway, to buckle, to bend, to be overcome with emotion, desire, intrigue, and tip sideways?" I think, "Yes, Precisely!" As this is exactly what happened to me in Walgreens on Lake Street last Sunday.

I'm going about my business. It's after Mass and a social call, and I've got a "To Do" list that includes filling up the car with gas and replenishing some necessary toiletries and cleaning items for my 2338 Marshall Ave apartment. I leave my brunch counter at Longfellow Grille, and head, for the first time since my move to this neighborhood, to the Walgreens on Lake Street with my list in hand.

"Deodorant. Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Toilet Paper. Dry Cleaning Bags."

No sooner than I enter, do I notice the attractive person who inspires my swoon. (Melissa weak in the knees at Walgreens.)

Tall. Six foot three or four. Brown. African Brown. Sports jacket over collared shirt, pressed jeans, shiny black Italian leather shoes. Rimless glasses. Pretty.

But I am buying toilet bowl cleaner. So I work to orient myself with the aisles and take a step forward.

First Aisle: Deodorant. As I walk toward this section of the store, I realize the handsome man is coming my way. I pause, smile, he smiles back, and I make a gesture to let him pass in front of me. The next thing I know: we are standing side by side looking at anti-perspirants. I am aware of his height. Of his hands. Of his clean smell. And I think my knees may really give out. "What am I doing? Why am I here? What am I buying?" I am trying to focus. I read my list. Look at the items on the shelf. But all I can think of is how striking this man is next to me.
I wonder if he's single? Where is he from? What does he do? I wonder if he likes curry or Thai food? I examine brands of deodorant.
Shower Clean. Pure Rain. Powder Fresh. I wonder what he buys? I wonder if he is at all aware of me? I wonder what makes him sweat? I select the Powder Fresh and try to go about my business.

Next Item: Toilet Bowl Cleaner. I find this pretty easily, and in the space away from the attractive man, I realize I am breathing normally again. I realize I might be crazy. I am in a freaking Walgreens on Lake Street! I laugh quietly at myself and realize how fun it is to find someone handsome. I realize how long it's been, and
I say, "Thank you" to God for this moment and this feeling, and this pretty man, and I pick out a blue toilet bowl cleaner on sale.
I continue on.

Next item: Toilet Paper. I see a whole case on sale in the farthest aisle, but as I approach, I spot hot guy again. And I quake. I turn. I cannot purchase this paper. "Why can't this guy see me buying Toilet Tissue?" I don't know, perhaps I'm afraid of how real that all is. (That I use a bathroom?) I scan my list.

Dry Cleaning Bags! As I head toward aisle four, scanning the shelves for "Dryell" I realize I'm lost. Candles and gift bags are in front me. "Melissa, concentrate!" I say to myself. I try to see clearly, and now, before me, is him. He smiles. I cannot bear to be near him -- he's that handsome. I'm certain he'll read my thoughts. ( What if he reads my thoughts? )

I get out of aisle four, and take refuge in the paper products aisle. Scott Tissue Double rolls go into my cart. Now, to just get the dry cleaning bags and get to the check out lane.

But then I think, "Maybe this guy might think I'm attractive?"
Maybe it's not just me that's thinking about eating spicy food together, or how chili peppers might affect our bodies, or interact with our deodorant?
I walk gingerly to the front of the store, and then pause. Should I wait until he's up here, before I check out? I could hang out in film and batteries for a second. The "Melissa, you're crazy" voice kicks back in, and I proceed to pay for my items. The female clerk starts to ring up my stuff, and all of a sudden, he's behind me , another female customer separating us.

I scan for newspapers and ask the clerk if they sell the New York Times. She says, "no," gives me my grand total. As she processes my credit card, I look up, and he's staring right at me. We lock eyes. Smile at one another. It's like this woman between us is invisible. I want to melt.

And then the moment is done. I turn to gather my things, and try not to run out of the store.

He was looking at me. It feels obvious. But now what? Now I'm in a parking lot. Outside Walgreens on Lake Street. I unlock my car and take a look at my vehicle. The black CRV ashy grey, covered in Minnesota Winter Salt Sand. My "Catholics for Obama" sticker standing out in blue on the back windshield of my car. "Ah, isn't it funny how we might make first impressions?" I think.

I get into my vehicle, and the next I thing I know: he is next to me, getting into a shiny silver four door sporty thing, parked to the right of my car. Maybe a Chrysler, maybe a Mercedes. What do I know of cars?

And now it's obvious. We are looking at one another through our car windows, and I want to throw up. What can either of us do?

If I get out of my car, I'm really a crazy woman; if he would move to say something, he's a black man approaching a white woman on Lake Street.

What ensues is of interest in that curious, awkward, point-of-wondering, "what-next?" sort of curiosity I think we all hold.

I send my friend Matt a text from the parking lot of Walgreens. "I just locked eyes with a hot fellow in Walgreens. I can't remember the last time I got weak in the knees over a fellow."

I write this, and take hold of my "rational" Midwestern senses, and put my car in drive and depart.

Ten blocks away, heading east, wondering where I'll get gas, and if I'll ever see this fellow again, I get Matt's text message as a response. "Take him home with you!" I read his message and laugh, and then think, "Of course!" I am not that far away. I decide to flip a u-turn, and head back to see if he's still in the parking lot. As I'm rounding the corner, I catch the hot guy turning into a gas station across the street. I laugh. Again: Of course! Of course he's around! Of course he's pulling into this convenience store 45 feet from me.

I just need to pull across the intersection, and I'll be in the same space as him again! As I ease across Lake Street into the Super America, hot man pulls out and flips around, heading back West to where we came from.

I laugh again.

I fill up with gas, and contemplate the encounter.

I met a hot man in a place that specializes in maintaining well-being. We locked eyes. We smiled. He lit a fire in my belly and being. When I thought to follow him, he lead me to a place where I could refuel and continue moving forward.


For all of it, I say, "AMEN!"

And for my readers, I say, If you know this fellow, please send him back my way!!!

In love, stories, contemplation,

Sunday, March 08, 2009

How Much is Too Much?

This WNYC Radiolab broadcast aired on Minnesota Public Radio February 20, 2009, seems a powerful response (or precursor?) to Tom Friedman's NY Times column that I blogged about earlier today.*

Friedman's question, "What if the growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically?" gets the responding query from Barry Schwartz, "How much is too much?" As a contemplative writer and thinker looking at my own life, my community, and holding data and experiences about the larger world, I ask, "What is enough?"

"What is healthy human capacity? How much can we hold? What is sustainable?"
From the WNYC broadcast we glean a response, based on George Miller's classic paper, "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two." Turns out the average human is able to hold about seven pieces of discreet information in working memory at any given time. "Any more than that, and, as researcher Baba Shiv demonstrates, our good judgment can be overwhelmed."

Do you have more than seven plus or minus two things to keep track of at this moment in time? This research and presentation begs that we take a look at what we are creating, consuming, trying to hold and sustain.

I encourage you all to listen. Whew. It's entertaining. Informative. Perhaps, life-changing?

Happy contemplating,

"When Mother Nature and the Market both said: 'No More.'" - Excerpts from Thomas Friedman's NY Times Column

"Preach it!" That's what I want to say loudly to Thomas Friedman today, in response to his column, "The Inflection is Near?" Friedman is funny, asking critical questions, and presenting his readers with promising answers - from a realistic, but optimistic point of view. Thank you! Here are my favorite lines. Let me know what you think.

To see the entire article, click here.

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.” Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year.

We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.”

Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.

Germany, Britain, China and the U.S. have all used stimulus bills to make huge new investments in clean power. South Korea’s new national paradigm for development is called: “Low carbon, green growth.” Who knew? People are realizing we need more than incremental changes — and we’re seeing the first stirrings of growth in smarter, more efficient, more responsible ways.

Often in the middle of something momentous, we can’t see its significance. But for me there is no doubt: 2008 will be the marker — the year when ‘The Great Disruption’ began.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Zimbabwe News...

Family, Friends,

Has anyone seen this? I'm not sure how many take note of Zimbabwe's Headlines, but this news on their prime minister and his wife is so sad.

That President Mugabe is still in power blows my mind. To read this now about Prime Minister Tsvangirai - (the man who opposed him in the last election, fled the country because of death threats - only to return and be instated as P.M.) is also mind boggling.

The prime minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, was hurt and his wife, Susan, was killed Friday in a car crash about 45 miles south of the capital, according to officials of Mr. Tsvangirai's political party, the Movement for Democratic Change

Mr. Tsvangirai has been the victim of multiple assassination attempts during his years as an opposition leader. Last year, he fled the country, fearing for his life, after he outpolled Mr. Mugabe in March presidential elections.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his wife were married for more than three decades. They have six children, including twins, age 14.

"They were a team; they were very effective and extremely close," Mr. Cross said of the couple. "She was very much a pillar of support, spiritually and in every other way. Morgan will feel her loss enormously. I can't think of many couples as close as those two."

Friday, March 06, 2009

"Closer to Fine:" Living in the Questions with the Indigo Girls

There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
- Indigo Girls

I lead a charmed life. This, I do believe.

Yesterday at this time, I was taking my seat in the Cities 97 Radio Station Studio C to hear a live recording of the Indigo Girls , as they prepare to release their latest CD, "Posieden and the Bitter Bug." For those of you who don't know these two rocking female singer/ songwriters, I encourage you to seek them out. For those who do, I imagine you'll understand my complete and utter joy at being invited to this event.

Goodness! What is it to be able to hear live music? What is to hear live music that you love? What is it to hear live music that has somehow changed your life? Transformed your perception, gave you pause and inspired you to consider something anew? Pierced your heart and made you feel less alone in the world? Yes! How often do we get to pay homage to the sources of inspiration in our life?

My longtime Phillipian friend and volunteer buddy, John Michaels, invited me to this event. Many of you may know John as the radio personality and traffic reporter at KTCZ Cities 97 (as well as several other stations). John rocks. He's funny. He has a great disposition. And John knows how to call out traffic conditions for the greater Twin Cities area, thereby increasing the capacity for people to move from one location to the next - with a little more ease, information, and peace of mind.

On this day, John Michaels helped me in my own sort of daily, blessed journey through relationship, work, service, as I navigated oodles of plaguing questions - all in graced time, with such powerful musical artists singing live before me, and the
loving, funny company beside me.

I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
Its only life after all

I first heard the Indigo Girls with Jill Mayberger. Road tripping between Omaha and Denver to see my sister, Stephanie, in college, Jill introduced me to this raw acoustic female duo. When she put in the tape cassette of their 1989 self-titled release, "Indigo Girls," I think my life sort of changed. I know something in me shifted sideways at least. "Closer to Fine" played as the first song on the album, and I knew almost immediately that Emily and Amy were two women I had to be connected to, related to, on at least some level.

Well darkness has a hunger thats insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores

Who talks about the darkness? Who talks about light? How do we navigate the fear? How do we navigate any of this blasted life with all of its questions? What does it mean to wrap fear around you like a blanket? What does it mean to crawl on someone's shores? Whew. When I heard these lyrics of the Indigo Girls for the first time, I am certain I wept with their resonance. On Thursday, in Studio C, in the company of 40 other folks, I wept again.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

Before I left for Cities 97 on Thursday, I was having a lovely lunch at my church, St. Phillips, where I volunteer. Excited about going to see these women perform live, I was raving to Betty Lou and Carol and Dale and Fr. Jules about their music. How does one really explain the Indigo Girls? How does one connect their faith community with their social arts community?

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a b-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

I tried singing this song, "Closer to Fine." I tried to recall the lyrics and their potency and describe this magic of their vocal harmonies.
I tried to find properly labeled recordings of the Indigo Girls on my laptop in my itunes folder. I couldn't.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

Instead, I found myself rambling about doctors and philosophers and priests and lesbians and gay people and nuns and what it means to ask so many questions and seek answers. I tried to draw a connection between Jesus and Justice and Emily and Amy and our Catholic faith community and myself. I sighed. I smiled. I tried to communicate in words what seems the ineffable.

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity.

I sent my church colleagues a link to this song, "Closer to Fine" and then I headed out to the studio. There, before the authors of this potent song; there, before the raw, real, resonant lyrics being performed by these two lovely women, I celebrated. I swirled in my life questions, in my uncertainty, in my inabilities to fully articulate things, and I sang along.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Yeah we go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountains
Yeah we go to the bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout
Theres more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

I do feel closer to fine with such work and words and wonder in the world.