The Retreat

It had been thirty years
since I last came
to this wooded camp.

I was living in the city then
going to church
with hundreds
of young men and women
artists and businessmen
trying to find themselves
in their crazy twenties
in a crazy city.

I was trying to find something then too,
God, friendship, myself, meaning.

I was awkward.
I was other.
I only fit in,
around the edges.

What would the camp be like
for me
thirty years later?

I came,
a blessing.

At this retreat
we came
to practice
pronouncing blessings.

Blessed are you
o road,
that has carried
so many school buses
and church vans,
so many hopes
and fears
to these
hallowed woods.

You’ve been repaved
so many times
over the past
three decades,
May you continue to be
a path
to those who seek.

Blessed are you,
o acorns.
Your ancestors
were buried
by forgetful squirrels
when I was here last.

May your descendants
continue to fall
the reflections
of other

Blessed are you
o squirrels
running from tree to tree
following ever bending
leaps of faith
we wouldn’t dare.

Your great great grandparents
leapt from tree to tree
the same way
years ago.

May your faith
and playfulness
live in your grandchildren
and continue to inspire
those yet to dome.

Blessed are you,
o buildings,
so many the same,
though renovated,
and some new.
May you continue
to shelter the seeker
and provide memories.

On the deck,
in quiet meditation,
we looked at the trees
the way
I’ve sat
and looked
at paintings
in art museums.

By the lake
I’d often swum
a piece of bark
on the outdoor altar,
it’s probably now been moved
during a Eucharist.
What does this alter
have in store
for me?

I’m finding,
what I was
truly looking for
three decades ago,
not some great insight,
or goal,
but the beauty
of always
and always
being found,
the beauty
of always
and always
being blessed.

#DigiWriMo : Paying Attention to Traces

I am distracted. It has been a long week, which isn’t over yet. This morning the sky is still grey and the remaining leaves are still orange brown. I am still going to bed early, not sleeping well, and waking up early. Perhaps it is good that #NaNoWriMo and #DigiWriMo take place in November, after we change back from daylight savings time. I am awake early, which is often my best writing time.

But I’m still distracted. I glance at the time. Do I have enough time to write a good blog post before I need to get in the shower and get on with my day?

I spend a little time reading about William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during World War II. Today is his feast day in the Episcopal Church. I should spend more time reading about him and reading the lessons appointed for this day.

But I also want to read some more of #DigiWriMo. So, I look at twitter and am led to a post by Kate Bowles. On the #DigiWriMo site, she wrote Traces.

We’ve been talking about cartography in #DigiWriMo and I’ve been thinking about Songlines, about the dreaming track. Writing digitally is part of my dream time. It is the pile of stones I leave along my path.

I think of such piles of stones and I think of cairns and burial monuments.

In her blog post, Kate writes about the markers as a way of saying “I was just here. We all were.” I think of the monument friends put up digitally after a friend’s son died. “Isaac was here”. I joined in, both in my writing, and physically. My wife and I drew “Isaac was here” in the sand on Cape Cod on the day of Isaac’s funeral.

As I read Kate’s words, I think of the idea of becoming, by being, of saying something, and by saying it, making it happen. We become connect to others. We pay greater attention. I’m reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, “An Altar in the World”. Currently, I’m reading the chapter, “The Practice of Paying Attention”.

It is a hard discipline in this over stimulated world, especially for those of us who probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD when we were younger.

I’ve managed to pay enough attention long enough this morning to write this blog post, but probably not enough to give it a good editing. I’ll hop in the shower, and then head off to work, trying to keep my eyes open for traces.

#DigiWriMo : The Mist Lifts

Let’s suppose that in some parallel, there is another #digiwrimo blogger equally dazed by dawn, walking on the other side of the valley. Equally somnambulist in reverie.

- Howard Scott in his blog post, On audience, on place #digiwrimo

As I read his blog post, I started composing a comment as a response, oxygen for his blog as he journeys. But I got to the quote above and thought, I am the parallel. I had been writing about the fog where I live, as a comment to a friend’s Facebook post about fog, and in my own short poem

As the mist lifts,
the remaining leaves
now brownish orange
cling to the trees.

Yes, I too, “too think of blogging as creative catharsis and personal archaeology”. Yet my writing is not academic writing. I write as a social media. Although, today, I’ll go speak at a junior high school career day about being a social media manager.

As to adding comments to the stuff I wrote prior to the 1990s, in 1983, after I had been on the Internet for a year, but not sharing my personal writings there, I’ve started putting some of that online. 1983. I haven’t been back to see if people left comments, and the project got put on hold when we packed up my journals and moved.

#DigiWriMo : We Will

Fifteen years ago, Kim and I made vows to love, comfort, honor, and keep one another, in sickness and in health. A year later, we vowed to see that our daughter Fiona would be brought up in Christian faith and life. These are important vows, sacred vows, but they are not the only important sacred vows that were made on those days.

After Kim and I made those vows, the whole congregation was asked, “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?”

They answered, “We will”.

Likewise, when Fiona was baptized, the whole congregation was asked, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”

Again, the answer was, “We will”.

Over the past fifteen years, we’ve had more than our share of sickness. I write this as Kim continues to recover from sinus surgery. Over the past fifteen years, there have been plenty of times when those who attended our wedding had the opportunity to act on their vows and support us in our marriage and in our raising of Fiona. To those who have kept their vow to help us keep our vows, “thank you”.

Kim and I have likewise made similar vows to others and done what we can to support them. Yet, to me, it is about more than just the vows that we make, in person, at a baptism or wedding. We are part of the very body of Christ. By making those vows, we join with the vows made at all weddings and baptisms and we have spent time honoring those vows by upholding friends torn by grief or addiction, even though we were at their weddings or baptisms, not in person, but as part of the body of Christ.

I am writing this as part of a broader context. Besides being members of the body of Christ, I am also a member of an online community of writers, the participants in #DigiWriMo. Yesterday I started a discussion with Kyle Matthew Oliver about Digital Cathedrals. How is the sacred manifest online? How does it relate to what we are doing in #DigiWrimo? Kevin Hodgson jumped in with a great tweet:

“That idea of the journey to discover who we are through writing is key. We help each other along the way.”

For many, the language of liturgy, church, and religion may be a barrier, so I’ll take Kevin’s tweet, and rework it to the Liturgy of #DigiWriMo, something I hope will be accessible to people no matter what their faith structure.

“Will all of you participating in #DigiWriMo do all in your power to help other participants discover who they are through their digital writing?”

“We Will.”

#DigiWriMo An Altar in Cyberspace

On the first two days of #DigiWriMo, I managed to put together four different, fairly long blog posts. I haven’t stated goals, like 50,000 words for the month, a blog post a day, or anything like that. Instead, I’ve set off without any specific goals, other than to write and interact.

Today, I read through various posts and none of them particularly gave me grist for the mill. Probably the closest was Kyle Matthew Oliver’s blog post, #DIGIWRIMO POST: ONE WORLD, ONE LIFE IN THE DIGITAL CATHEDRAL. It was exciting to see another #DigiWriMo participant interested in topics like this, but I didn’t find anything that I felt compelled to react to.

My one random reaction was to mash up the title of two books, The Digital Cathedral, which Kyle refers to and The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The Digital Cathedral, The Digital Bazaar, and … What about the digital hermitage? The Digital Camino? Perhaps all of this returns to the discussions of cartography.

This weekend, I am going on a church retreat, and we’ll be reading a chapter from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World. Should I be thinking about An Altar in Cyberspace? I checked the book out of the library. It seems like I keep running across people suggesting I should read some of Barbara Brown Taylor’s books, so I’ll read a little now. Then, I really should try to get to the online book study group that I’ve barely been keeping up with.

Postscript: After writing this, I went to check Facebook and found a sponsored post from Amazon highlight The Posthuman and An Altar in The World. Clearly, Amazon is paying attention. Can we learn anything from this for a digital church strategy?

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