1/27/2014

Fencepost art





Rearranged

All the years we have been married, Kelly has asked me about Minnesota blizzards, like I was making my stories of childhood winters up. I wondered if we didn't have them anymore, but evidently we weren't experiencing blizzards because we were living in river valleys. Now we live on top of the hill. And yesterday we got to experience the brunt of the wind, which happily rearranged our yard furniture and all the snow in the neighborhood.

The wind rearranged our yard furniture last night.

No visitors.
Duncan is wondering where the door went.
Wind in the bricks and windows.



1/26/2014

Blizzard Warning

Hoover Elementary, 1.26.14
Hoover Elementary, from our back yard
Hoover Playground

Let us know if you are coming to visit. We'll have to shovel.

The fences make interesting drifts.

Wind art.

Even the dog wants to stay inside.

1/23/2014

Palimpsest: Reconciling Peoples - Communal Forgiveness

Reconciliation Park, Mankato

Matthew 18:15-22


Readings:
It is no coincidence that in the years since Mandela’s release so much of Africa has turned toward democracy and the rule of law. His utilization of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonization, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion and forgiveness must play a role in governance. Countries, like people, must acknowledge the trauma they have experienced, and they must find a way to reconcile, to make what was broken whole again.
Blue Earth County Library, Mankato
That night, as I watched Mandela walk past me, I understood that his story, the long walk to freedom, was also Africa’s story. The indignation that once permeated our continent has been replaced by inspiration. The undercurrent of pessimism resulting from the onslaught of maladies — wars, coups, disease, poverty and oppression — has given way to a steadily increasing sense of possibility.
It wasn’t just Nelson Mandela who was transformed during those years of his imprisonment. We all were. And Africa is all the better because of that. — http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/opinion/mahama-mandela-taught-a-continent-to-forgive.html?_r=0


Mankato 38, Reconciliation Park, Mankato
 God does have a sense of humor. Who in their right minds could ever have imagined South Africa to be an example of anything but the most ghastly awfulness, of how not to order a nation’s race relations and its governance? We South Africans were the unlikeliest lot and that is precisely why God has chosen us. We cannot really claim much credit ourselves for what we have achieved. We were destined for perdition and were plucked out of total annihilation. We were a hopeless case if ever there was one. God intends that others might look at us and take courage. God wants to point to us as a possible beacon of hope, a possible paradigm, and to say, “Look at
South Africa. They had a nightmare called apartheid. It has ended. Northern Ireland (or wherever), your nightmare will end too. They had a problem regarded as intractable. They are resolving it. No problem anywhere can ever again be considered to be intractable. There is hope for you too.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

Reconciliation Park, Mankato
Some details of the conflict have been willfully buried or forgotten, by both sides of the war. The Dakota conflict came in 1862, which historians have described as Lincoln’s “darkest year” during the Civil War...In large part, the narrative of mass execution in Mankato was lost in the United States’ struggle to preserve the union. Lincoln himself was distressed at the speed of the military tribunals that condemned 303 men, and his decision to commute most of the sentences was politically dangerous. But he said, “I could not afford to hang men for votes.” The 265 Dakota Indians Lincoln spared from the gallows were either fully pardoned or died in prison. Modern Mankato, once a prairie outpost, is now a city of 37,000, where a modest downtown struggles for survival, competing against outlying strip malls and chain stores. The only reminders that 38 Indians died here is a Dakota warrior statue and plaque outside the local library. The location of the actual scaffold is now called Reconciliation Park.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/us/14dakota.html?pagewanted=all
Reconciliation Park, Mankato

Questions:
· Does the forgiveness experienced in South Africa and other places give you hope that this is possible in other situations?
· Where is reconciliation possible in our culture? What could we do to support it? What are we doing to support it?
· How does your faith guide you on this issue?
Mankato, MN






1/16/2014

Palimpsest: Forgiveness, Part 3

Lay Down Your Stones Part 2:  Forgiving, Not Forgetting

Genesis 33:1-17


Readings:
I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness – that I am one of the other kind. But even though it was funny, and actually true, it started to be too painful to stay this way. They say we are not punished for the sin but by the sin, and I began to feel punished by my unwillingness to forgive. By the time I decided to become one of the ones who is heavily into forgiveness, it was like trying to become a marathon runner in middle age; everything inside me either recoiled, as from a hot flame, or laughed a little too hysterically. I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years – four former Republican presidents, three relatives, two old boyfriends, and one teacher in a pear tree – it was "The Twelve Days of Christmas" meets Taxi Driver. But in the end I could only pretend that I had. I decided I was starting off with my sights aimed too high. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, "If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo."
– Anne Lamott


 Dear Abby:
My brother-in-law is a registered sex offender. I am uncomfortable having him stay at our house with my husband and me and our children. My mother-in-law insists we need to forgive him and let him stay...Am I right to refuse, or do I let him stay and be on major guard? Mommy in Memphis
Dear Mommy: As a mother, it is your job to protect your children. Because you feel your brother-in-law might be a danger to them, he should sleep elsewhere — and “forgiveness” has nothing to do with it. —  January 11, 2014

(Forgiveness) represents a choice to leave behind our resentment and desire for retribution, however fair such punishment may seem ... Forgiveness means the power of the original wound’s power to hold us trapped is broken. – Marjorie Thompson, “Moving Toward Forgiveness”

In like manner, one woman in our congregation wrote,
You can choose to harm everyone because you were hurt, or you can choose to harm no one because you were hurt. Either way, it’s a choice. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of victimhood and choose the former, but thankfully God gives us a divine capacity for love and forgiveness. And when we use that gift, it fills our lives with so much joy that it’s impossible to be resentful to those who do not have that same joy in their lives.
The woman went on to quote the chorus of an old Shaker hymn:
No storm can shake my inmost calm/While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,/How can I keep from singing.
— Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. — Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer

Questions:
· Do you have a situation in your life that you find it hard to forgive? Do you feel pressured to forgive? Is forgiveness something that is calling to you? Is it too hard right now?
· Is it all right to forgive someone but not forget what happened?

1/10/2014

Palimpsest: Reconciling Relationships - As We Forgive

Connie Vonaesch
Part 2 of Forgiveness Series

John 21:1-19


Readings:
This rich array of nuances of meaning suggest that partners of this God need neither grovel in fear and guilt nor complacently assume any cheap grace. Forgiveness is a function of the restoration of mutual fidelity, and forgiveness therefore happens according to the disposition of the parties toward each other in a particular time and circumstance...The theological root of forgiveness in the character of YHWH has immense implications for the life of the world. God’s willingness to forgive makes possible and authorizes the practice of neighborly forgiveness. Israel will make no cleavage between the love of God who forgives and the love of neighbor who must be forgiven.
—Walter Brueggemann,
Reverberations of Faith

Asked to repeat the Lord’s Prayer, a man pretended he did not know it, because he knew that if he said it he would have to forgive the merchant who cheated him – and that was something he had no intention of doing! 
—Charlotte Dudley Cleghorn,
Jesus Mafa
in Feasting on the Word

 It is also not surprising that it is hard. Forgiveness is an important element in the love of God and neighbor into which we are growing. Love as the Fathers and Mothers speak of it is not a single, simple action or emotion we either feel or don’t feel at any given moment. Love is a disposition we grow into, or are healed into, or are transformed into be God. It is a way of relating to the world, to God, to others, and to ourselves that includes a combination of actions, habit, ways of seeing and making judgments, as well as feelings…
”Loving, generous, and ever forgiving God, I thank you for the gift of forgiveness, for what you give to me from yourself, and for what you enable me to offer. Help me remember that I am a sinner and, when it comes to the business of learning how to forgive and love the people I will encounter today — Richard, my students, the person who gives me a hard time in the grocery store — this is good news. Please forgive what I cannot yet do myself. I ask these things in your own name, my God, you who in your love have promised to forgive us everything.”
—Roberta Bondi, A Place to Pray

Beach on Iona - MMH
I’m guessing that if each of us held on to every little irritant, slight, and perceived wrong, within a few days, we could easily wind up with more gravel than a person can carry...So, somewhere along the way we’ve go to find the capacity to let go. But how do we do that? For these little slights, I suggest three steps captured by the acronym RAP...Remember your own shortcomings, the little sins you regularly commit...the second step in letting go of the little things: assume the best of the person who has slighted you...the third step in letting go of the little things...pray for them and love them...Once you begin practicing the RAP method a lot, it can almost become a game — assuming the best of those who throw pebbles at you and finding ways to return blessings. In the process, you can avoid being caught up in anger or irritation, and, every once in a while, the blessings you return might just have a remarkable impact on the pebble thrower.
—Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go

Questions:
· Do you stumble over the “as we forgive those” part of the Lord’s Prayer? Do you use it in your own practice of forgiveness?
· How do you practice forgiveness of people in your life? What barriers are there? How do you feel afterwards?



1/03/2014

Palimpsest: Lay Down Your Stones Part 1: Forgive Us

Luke 15:11-32

Readings:
Those who don’t seek forgiveness carry a host of burdens. Every harsh word, every unclean thought, every instance in which we neglect to do the right thing or go ahead and do the wrong this — they’re all there. Without forgiveness, they create an ever-widening gap between us and God and between us and our fellow human beings. They sap our joy and then our strength. Fortunately, there is an answer. God’s answer to “the question implied in our existence” is that we seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those we’ve wronged. Seeking forgiveness can lighten our load. It can set us free. It can restore us to a right relationship with God and others. For, as the psalmist attests, “God is rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love.” Throughout the Scriptures, God says, in effect, “Let me lift the burden from you.”
—Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness:
Finding Peace Through Letting Go


In the artistic representations of the parable we encounter the deepest of human matters: the questions of freedom and our destiny as human beings; the power of betrayal by a son of his father and the father’s hopes for him; the shape of sin and our ambiguous response to it; the need for repentance and forgiveness. We encounter a God whose love never forsakes us; the human experience of moving in a labyrinth of anger, jealousy, and a sense of injustice; and moments of forgiveness and acceptance, moments of grace by living through what the artist presents. We enter into and become the son who is forgiven; we experience the father who forgives.
—Wilson Yates, “The Prodigal Son Through the Artist’s Eye”
in And Grace Will Lead Me Home: Images of the Prodigal Son, Robert M. Brusic

Young man --
Young man --
Your arm's too short to box with God.
But Jesus spake in a parable, and he said:
A certain man had two sons.
Jesus didn't give this man a name,
But his name is God Almighty.
And Jesus didn't call these sons by name,
But ev'ry young man,
Ev'rywhere,
Is one of these two sons.
— James Wheldon Johnson, excerpt from “The Prodigal Son”

“Penance. It is more than your life. It is that scrubbing of the past which you want so much, because it is confession. It is the new birth of the present, which you want so much, because it prepares for deliverance. The one is separated from the other by forgiveness. It is the honoring, Chauntecleer, of the worth in his life. Penance. You can tell him you are sorry. He will forgive you...But now you have said it,” Pertelote said, “and that is good. That is the beginning of your life now, because it is the ending of something. Chauntecleer, maybe one day you will say the same to Mundo Cani, and then he will be able to speak his forgiveness in your hearing, and that will complete the matter. Then you will be free of it.”
—Walter Wangerin, Jr The Book of the Dun Cow

Questions:
· What burdens of guilt have you carried in your life? Were you able to set them down? How?
· What practices of forgiveness do you have in your life?


1/01/2014

A New Year's Day Study in Spoons

I polished my silver today. I was just cleaning up after the family holiday gatherings, and thought it was time. These are a gift from my mother-in-law, or an inheritance we get to enjoy together. It seems fitting, here at the beginning of the year, to make something clean and shiny, able to catch the light and reflect what is around it, ready for use again.

Michelle Hargrave, 1.1.14