Thursday, November 29, 2007

A thanksgiving.....

this is a recent post on the ashram from our dear friend and long-time co-worker, billy kenney.  it is a beautiful reflection from someone who has lost much and gives much inspite of it.  god's created a new family in our midst and we celebrate the boundless, extending love that comes from it.  thanks billy.

"Recently I marked the 8 year anniversary of my father's death. Earlier this summer was the 12 year anniversary of my mother's death. It is hard to believe that it has been so long. I think about them often as I watch Miranda grow and try to imagine what it would be like to share her with them. Honestly, this has been the hardest part of coming to grips with their deaths. In a way it is kind of like the final frontier of grief, wanting so desperately to proudly introduce them to my daughter but knowing that that will never happen, at least not in this life. Anyhow, I can't complain about my life, am deeply thankful for it, and share these things only because it provides the proper context for something that I want to celebrate. I actually shared this last night at our fellowship meeting and felt like I needed to likewise share it in this broader format. Last night we were asked to give thanks for people in our lives who (among other things) have given us reason to be thankful and appreciative about the gift of life even though that gift can sometimes feel more like an affliction. During the meeting I shared that I was deeply thankful for the way in which Paul Espy (Sherry's father, who comes to visit periodically) has greeted me during his last two visits. Last night, before the meeting, Paul again came up to me and said, with a hug, "Hello son, how are you doing?" It was a very simple question, easily uttered, but for someone like me there are few things that could have a more profound and far-reaching impact. I am so thankful to be a part of this broken community where we imperfectly practice our faith as family, try to help care for one another's children, and share our homes with each other and other's in sometimes questionable and even dangerous ways. This way of life has begun to have a small but growing impact far beyond our geographical borders and anything that we could ever quantify or claim-praise God! And it is because of this slow but incessant Spirit inspired influence and exchange of life that I can know someone like Dr. Espy, and in knowing realize that God hears the prayers that I cannot utter and responds in ways that I can never anticipate."

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:25-27).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

a better perspective on happiness

the other night i was really grumpy and out of sorts, weary with some issues and desperate for perspective.  two journals came in the mail that day, one from world vision and the other from heifer international.  both looked as if they'd offer an abundance of perspective on the peevish things that ailed me so i climbed in bed to be convicted.  the articles featured in heifer international's mag ranged from ending world  hunger, dealing with the effects of climate change on the poor, to a write-up on happiness. 

i started with the happiness article written by a guy who's authored a book titled "how to change the world."  weighing heavy on me was my own vacillating unhappiness and the unhappiness around me.  i hadn't expected this source to set me right.

the article began with the claim that "...human beings are not designed to make themselves happy."  he goes on to challenge with this:

"many of today's books on happiness are filled with advice that anyone would do well to follow: simplify your life, count your blessings, take care of your body, express gratitude, don't forget to reflect on your feelings, find meaningful work and cultivate relationships.  but one question that is missing is: can happiness be successfully pursued in a self-interested fashion?  the chinese taoist philosopher chuang-tse did not think so.  he described happiness as 'the absence of the striving for happiness.'  and john stuart mill observed: 'those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end.  aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way."

i'm certain i would be better off if i could only stop thinking of myself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

a day in the life

an excerpt from a day last month -

this day was one of those days that demonstrated that life is mixed, that joy and suffering can abide.  good times and difficulty and pain can frame the same experiences of a day.

we started our day with getting up at 5 am to get some early-morning, pre-isaac work done.  he woke about 7 and we kicked in to the morning routine of the family to eat and get ready for school.  together geoff and i walked him to sayre and we raced on to the YMCA for a 20 minute workout.  it was clear and piercingly cold for an october day.

our weekly leadership meeting ran from 9 - 11 am and we had alot to catch up on.  there are so many good things unfolding and working out in the community.  we reflected on school for conversion and the success of that weekend.  then we had a heart-rending discussion of personal pain and struggle within a relationship in the community.  very little could be resolved but we felt our deep and real connection to one another in this interdependent life we've created.

geoff collected isaac from school and his hands were full of scholastic books we'd ordered a month ago.  as we walked, isaac didn't speak the whole way home (a true rarity) as he read through the newly acquired books.  geoff gulped down his lunch and headed out the door to work with kentucky refugee ministries for the afternoon to set up an apartment for refugees arriving from burundi. 

as i prepared tea and coffeecake for a meeting with our neighbor and friend, rona, isaac watched a dvd from the library about the life and teachings of jesus.  during the part when jesus taught his disciples that they must love their neighbor, isaac turned to me and said "mommy, we need to love calvin" (he is our mentally-ill neighbor who we are trying to get to know - he's a bit difficult and angry at times and a little more dangerous than i'm comfortable with).  from the mouth a wee one...

rona arrived and i talked about a possible community garden project on third street.  we shared a lovely two hours together as we spoke of our hope for the neighborhood, discussed what does it mean to be "local" and actively involved in the life of others and of her almost 20 years of experience in this place.  she gave us the great news that the church property upon which we'd like to do a large garden has given an initial green light.  it was very exciting.

jodie arrived as rona was leaving and she, asher, isaac and i left for the park.   as we walked, ryan came up on us on his bike and we talked together about the days events.  we only spent moments at the park because it was time for the kochs to go to kids cafe - a great inner-city program for neighborhood children where they can eat dinner together and do homework.  ryan and jodie  and their son, asher, attend weekly to make friends, love on the children and offer their assistance with school assignments.  i left isaac with them as they all played happily and raced home to meet will samson for a sociological interview he's conducting with several folks in the community. 

will is at the beginning stages of his phd dissertation at u. of kentucky.  we caught up a bit on the news of the community and the garden initiative and finished the interview.  during this time a few neighborhood girls stopped in and ms dee (our neighbor and friend who's been severely maimed by a freak assault fifteen years ago which left her with permament damage on her face and neck) came in with her supper in hand.  she sat with geoff and isaac in the living room and played.  as we said goodbye to will, we gathered our things to get to the kovacevics for dinner. 

isaac ran to the car in his spiderman suit.  ms dee waved goodbye.  we were already late.  we spent the evening with our bosnian friends and their visiting parents who don't speak a word of english.  isaac and tarik ran all over the house.  we ate a plateful of the most delicious pita, a bosnian speciality.  as aida went to pick up dino from his truck, we stayed on and did charades to try to communicate with his parents.  the boys laughed alot together.  it was a beautiful day. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

quote from the book i love

this book i'm reading - the beautiful life - is taking me to profoundly new places in my thinking.  if it weren't only available in england i'd get a copy for everybody.  from it, on a chapter about truth, comes this thought:

"a woman who had experienced emotional breakdown said that she had met the Devil in her visions and she recognised him for who he was because he had such hopeless eyes.  she said, 'you know, sin is not smoking too much or drinking too much.  it is something that grows inside you and makes you think you are right."