In Stillness and Song

In the past months, I’ve been sailing on Puget Sound, changed jobs, continued work in my doctoral classes, travelled to a conference and presented a paper, celebrated holidays and a birthday, worked on a long-term writing project, spent a few weeks sick, and now—suddenly—we’re at the end of the year.

It’s not that I don’t have lots to say. There are so many things that need saying, and there are also so many people saying so much and so little about all the much-ness that’s happening in our world right now. Truly, I’ve found it hard to keep up with the constant stream of shootings, bombings, and acts of violence in our world. Not a day goes by that if I log into social media I won’t see video of police assaulting or killing an unarmed person of color. Not a week passes that I don’t hear about a suicide, or experience of violence against an LGBTIQA person. Globally, we’ve come to live with war like it’s a given law of the universe; as if we weren’t collectively feeding it with every choice we make, dollar we spend, and vote we cast.

And in all this, I have found myself turning to music and to silence. These two things open up such space for grief and room for imagination towards peace, hope, kindness, gentleness, and humanity. In the past year, I have taken to silence—whether on the water, at home, or sitting for two hours at a time with the good folks at Underhill House (a drop-in center for quiet, meditation, and prayer, open weekly on Thursdays in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle). I find that the stillness and quiet is much needed to listen to what is stirring up in me.

And in these months, I have also taken to music. In the past year, I’ve acquired a baritone ukulele, a banjo, a banjo-lele (that’s right a banjo body with a ukulele neck and tuning), an autoharp, a couple melodicas, harmonicas, a travel guitar, a drum or two, and a bugle. This might be a little excessive.

As a child, I was gifted and cursed with the capacity to become dramatically proficient in a lot of areas. Visual art, logic, spatial reasoning, and math came early. After a few early failures, cooking and writing followed. What this meant, however, was that I expected to be able to be quite good at a thing without having to work for it—exhibit a: standardized testing.

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So, when it became apparent that beyond singing melody, I was going to have to work for music, I quickly gave up. I spent my adolescence quietly simpering along trying to hold the melody while my father and older sister played guitar and piano, singing harmonies around me. It was a world that I loved, but one that I had to work for. I had a passably pleasant voice, but I wanted to be a star—which was not going to happen.

I had an early attempt wherein I assaulted our dog’s sensitive ears with my saxophone squawking. It was the one and only time I ever heard that dog howl, and her tortured bellow mirrored my own disappointment with my failed music making. I wanted my body to usher beauty into the world, and just wasn’t coming easily to me.

Although a baby grand piano sat in the center of our house for a decade, I didn’t dare touch it until my sister had moved out of the house. Only once she’d gone away to college, did I finally ask her, on one of her visits home, to explain to me how to form major and minor chords, and finally, I tentatively began to hammer out chord progressions into some halting resemblances of songs.

My father gave me a guitar one year for Christmas, and I fumbled my way through the chords of D, G, and A for a year before my sister saved me from humiliation by graciously permanently borrowing the instrument from me.

I dedicated two years of church attendance to focusing in and only listening to harmony lines—using my time running sound to isolate the mic’d voices of tenor and alto singers and sing along with them in my headphones. In choir, I’d get stuck on Tenor II because it was most often on melody. To sing anything else, I’d have to sandwich myself between two people with stronger ears.

It wasn’t until college that I’d finally worked enough and internalized my high school choir director’s wisdom to “listen louder than you sing.” Come to think of it—using my body to make music wasn’t all that different than my experience with sports and physical activity.

I always loved and envied the grace filled movements of the athletically inclined. I always grew extremely frustrated when my father or a well-meaning friend attempted to explain the mechanics of a backhand swing, a layup, a backstroke, or a perfectly thrown spiral. I understood the physics, the mechanics, and the math of it all. I could diagram, draw, or explain the motion.

The trouble was getting the strange and squishy of my own muscles and bones to cooperate in a way that would bring beauty, rather than shame or despair, into the world.

From a young age, I’d learned that my body held secrets that it wouldn’t be safe to disclose. My secrets were too big and unwieldy for my home or my world to handle. My church pews and dinner table couldn’t bear the fleshy questions contained inside my skin. So, it was with a necrotizing guardedness that I sought to move and make music in the world.

These things couldn’t come easy, because I knew that I couldn’t do them perfectly—not just in the sense that it took practice to learn and grow in skill, but because my intonation; the swish of my hips or wrist; the quickness of my tears might serve to unleash the secret that my body had to keep contained in order to stay safe.

So, by and large, I learned how to hide and seek in a world of words and ideas—things I could process and control how they came out. It’s much easier to vet emotion in a paragraph than in a sweaty victory dance or a raucous jam session. To allow my emotions to flow within my body might mean being seen and known; to be found out.

Two years ago during Lent, a year post-divorce and coming out to my parents, I invited friends to give me music to which I would dance. Forty days of dancing repentance. It was a continuation of a beginning of telling truth with my body; righting the world—or at least myself in the world—by living into a fragile freedom.

No one was ever born to hide inside their own skin.

Thus, I’ve not written as much here in the last several months. Instead, I’ve taken the grief and hope that wrestles in my body and I’ve sat with it in deep silence, allowing myself to feel rather than articulate what’s going on in me. And then, I’ve clumsily caught up strings and keys and fumbled my way into music that’s less pretty than it is emotionally honest. And this feels like a way forward.

When I am swept up with sorrow and desire for myself, my neighbors, my family, and the world, I have other options than to try to tell with words a way forward through the mess. Other options besides arguing or clamoring for my voice to be heard. Instead, where I feel the weight that’s sunk down like a rock in my gut, I can feel face and limb tremble, and let tears and song swell.

I needn’t fight to be understood or bury my body in a tomb of silence. Instead, out of deep soul-quiet, I can let it out—in all the imperfections—my tender trying.

It’s with our bodies, that we make and heal the world; in our practice of showing up when it doesn’t come easy just showing up in our own skin.

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The Church and The Flag (Confederate and Otherwise)

While I have long advocated the removal of the confederate flag, the reality is, growing up in the States of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, my life path could have easily veered and led to me driving a Chevy pickup down a backroad with a gun rack and 10-foot flag flying behind it.

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(image of author as a child, waiving a USAmerican flag)

It seems far-fetched, but it’s not so hard to believe. I remember when Georgia governor Roy Barnes pushed through the ugliest flag in the Union in order to try, as a compromise, to remove the confederate battle flag (though the new flag still had a smaller version of the battle flag on it). And there was significant outrage among the rural white people in the state. And then, 2 years later the next governor pushed through a change to another flag, which still flies today, this time, the confederate national flag instead of the battle flag.

I have heard the most elaborate arguments about heritage, symbols of states’ rights, and honoring war veterans. I’ve heard these words from politicians, neighbors, and relatives. But I never heard these arguments made in church. Thank God. Perhaps, in the shadow of the cross, there was enough decency and humility to be honest; to say that symbols that evoke hatred and racial oppression are important to study and remember so that we do not forget our shared stories of trauma, but they do not belong as symbols to be revered. Perhaps. Or perhaps there was just enough honesty to feel ashamed, and thus to seek out another symbol under which to lay claim to power.


Every church of my childhood had a cross and two flags. The Christian flag (did you know we had a flag?!?!) and the flag of the United States of America. I learned the Pledge of Allegiance and said it each week in church. On Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence  Day, we recognized and applauded military personnel. I’ve been in church services where people ecstatically raised their hands in worship as the congregation reached the chorus of America the beautiful: “America, America, God shed his grace on thee. . .” Even as an adolescent, it was not lost on me that these people were literally singing a worship song to a nation state that they primarily revered for it’s military power.

The confederate battle flag (and national flag, for that matter–here’s looking at you, Georgia) is inarguably a symbol of racialized oppression and disunity, with concrete historical ties to slavery, segregation, and white supremacy. But make no mistake, “Old Glory” is every bit as blood spattered and represents a heinous history and ideology:

  • Genocide of dozens of sovereign nations of indigenous people
  • Continued second-tier status for U.S. owned territories
  • Exploitative global capitalism
  • Military oppression around the world
  • US Exceptionalism
  • Using the myth of the merit of citizenship to oppress, exploit, underpay, imprison, and then export immigrant workers and families all to subsidize our capital corporations

And while there are those who would argue that a flag is a symbol of our ideals, not our shortcomings, I have to ask, at what point do we finally admit that our nation-state does not, in fact, provide “liberty and justice for all”? Or perhaps, what should be clear, in the case of the US flag and the Confederate flag, we are willing to stomach just about anything as long as it is a symbol of our own supremacy.

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(image of author, age 11, at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA, wearing a USA hat)

It is this dynamic that is at play when mass media refers to African American, Latino American, Native American, and Asian American communities, crime, problems, etc. But does not discuss White American communities, crimes, or problems–problems like white supremacy, rabid defense of gun ownership and access that is irrevocably linked to mass shootings the vast majority of which are committed by white men. When it is convenient for white problems to disappear, the word “American” means ever citizen of every race. But when it comes time to assert white supremacy, “American” becomes an implicit stand in for White Americans, by use of racialized modifiers to single out “problems in the Black Community.”

It’s this “American” means everybody when it’s time to take responsibility, but “American” means white when it comes time to determine who holds power, that makes this word, and this flag, so slick with blood.


This is why I detest the Confederate flag; this is why I detest the American flag.

I do not pledge allegiance. I do not stand, I do not place my hand on my heart. I do not sing the national anthem.

My allegiance and my heart belong to my human brothers and sisters. I do not give a damn what nationality they are, and this country and this flag represent a nation that has grown up out of racialized oppression, beginning with the genocide of this land’s first inhabitants and growing from there.

As a Christian my faith compels me to follow a God who moves towards all people to bless our differences and bring us into community. The heart of my faith, as taught by Jesus is to love God and love my neighbor. And from everything that I can see, the flag is a veil that is meant to obscure–to hide bloody truths, to shift directions with the wind of convenience, and, because I am a white USAmerican, it is meant to enforce my power in this world, over and against my neighbors. And that is not a poison that I am willing to ingest.


People of a faith that’s most important tenant is love have a responsibility not only to demand the removal of symbols of inequity from our houses of worship. We are also faced, in the faces of our brothers and sisters, with the call to repent of our allegiances to the symbols and ideals that callous our hearts to the lived realities of oppression. As the book of Common Prayer leads us, we must “repent of the evil that enslaves us; the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.”

The flag–like military force, police brutality, privatized ICE interment camps, the stock market, and unmanned drones–is an abstraction that allows us to think of ourselves as loving and good, while enacting evil on our behalf. Removing the veil from our eyes and de-sacralizing the symbols is only a first step that opens the wound so that we can do the difficult work of repentance.

Lent Weeks 5 & 6: Kneading and Proofing

So this post is a little late. Last week, back before the parade of palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” we marked the 5th Sunday in the season of Lent by exploring the theme of kneading.

The ingredients were gathered: water, wheat, yeast, and time. Brought together by this week’s action-based installment, the congregational participation was to watch and listen.

As it came time for the third reading, we raised partition dividing the parish hall from the kitchen. And there, behind the counter, I leaned into the dough, pressing down through shoulders to palms, developing the gluten and calling the body of the bread to stretch and shape into something different, something new; something not quite yet what it is becoming.

And while I leaned my weight into the bread, calling it into being, I sang over it a song born out of a season of my own waiting, repenting, and being kneaded into something authentically true and yet, more whole.


There was a lot of vulnerability in this installation. Like the movement of the grain, I kept wondering if what I was doing with my body in the space would be enough.

While I grew up singing in churches, I’m aware that the songs I write aren’t exactly the kinds of songs that people listen to or sing. It’s more like musical poetry–I utilize words that a lot of people don’t say very often.

And yet, it felt so important to sing. Our participation in Lent is often really just the process of being kneaded by God–leaned on by a holy weight; stretched; called into being something authentic to our constitutive ingredients, yet substantially new. And I can only imagine that God-in-the-kitchen, kneading us, has to be singing over us as well.

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And now, this sixth week, a week where we bless the palms, enact the passion story, and prepare to move into the narratives of passover, betrayal, death, abandonment, and then finally, the scandal of resurrection.

Here we wait for the flavor to develop and the shaped loaf to slowly fill out into the final incarnation. It is the process of proofing, of responding to the conditions of the world and becoming ready for the process of transformation.


Here is a link to a recording of the song that I sang in week 5. Blessed holy week, friends.

Lent 2015 Week 3: Yeast

During Lent, I am working as the Artist in Residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle. Each week, I install a participative, kinetic piece of artwork connected to the week’s lectionary texts and the theme “Becoming Whole.”


Each week of this residency has posed its own challenges and joys. This week’s element has proven to be the most challenging one, conceptually, to link to the themes of “becoming whole,” the lectionary readings, and the children’s Godly Play story.

Combining the previous elements of water and wheat, this week we set out a bowl of dough beside an open widow between our worship space and the memorial garden where the ashes of many beloved community members are interred. Our action completed, there is nothing left for us but Sabbath–the fullness and wholeness-making of waiting, breathing, and watching the action of the world unfold.

And quietly–in plain sight for those who know how to slow down and look for it–the hidden mysteries of bodies in motion, transform substances and labor into another kind of wholeness altogether. The reality is that the yeast is present, active, working when we can neither see it, or force it to do its hidden work.

For today’s installation there were three movements or actions of prayer:

First, there were the hidden actions–performed by Rosie and me. While the congregation gathered and began the liturgy in the adjoining worship space. The two of us moved our bodies throughout a curtained-off storage area, hanging textiles and creating a sculpture out of water and paper bulletins from the previous weeks of Lent. Our movements were governed by intentionality–driven by the understanding that the piece of art was not the end result of our manipulation of matter in the space. Instead, the art was that we were moving at all–using our bodies to shape something in the hiddenness of a forgotten non-space.

Below is a time lapsed video of this week’s piece.

Second, the congregation was invited, at the time of the third reading, to enter the storage space. The moving partition (a green accordion curtain) was retracted to reveal the evidence of our bodies’ action in the space. In this movement, the congregation was invited to participate through bearing witness to the presence of our bodies and our work. Once the last person exited the space, the partition was closed and we continued with the service.

Finally, the third movement occurred when I joined the children in the Godly Play room. There, we began with a prayer of three breaths, the youngest child leading us in breathing deeply together, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Next, we quietly (and not so quietly) and slowly (and not so slowly) explored the room. We paid attention to what we saw, heard, smelled, and felt. We walked around on tiptoes and on our knees. We shared what we noticed differently as we slowed down and moved through the space in different ways. Some noticed air moving; others commented on the Christ candle’s flame; we were all aware of each others’ bodies moving in the space. Finally, we ended by again praying the prayer of three breaths.

The purpose of each of these actions is, of course, to experientially reorient us to the liturgy, and to call us to turn, to stop, to wonder, and to look deeper into the mystery of how this Lenten journey orients us toward living in our bodies with God and the world as we become more whole.


The actual sculpture part of this week’s work was a playful engagement with the Old Testament concerns with Sabbath, the Psalm’s imagery of a bridegroom’s pavilion and the hidden work of bees, and the gospel’s question about the permanence and impermanence of the temple structure and the mystery of Jesus’ own body as sacred location transformed by death and resurrection.

To get at these things, I wanted to invoke something of a tabernacle, a sacred place of impermanence. I also wanted the hanging fabric to call back memories of crawling into the temporary spaces created by children–living room tents made of couch cushions and tablecloths; or to recast as sacred, the simple rhythms of daily work, like drying laundry.

In the middle of this, the focal point is a hollow tear drop shape, hung in the open doorway of a closet. The shape is formed out of paper bulletins intercepted from the recycling bin, and soaked in water. These sheets of paper, made both pliable and fragile, are then wrapped around a spiral of wire suspended in the air. Inside this semi-transparent structure, hangs a glass bowl, foaming with active yeast and kept warm by the glow of candle, hung below it, an icon of Mary, orans, bears wit(h)ness to the silent actions of papery shelter, water, yeast, and flame.

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I wanted to glimpse something of the whimsy, fragility, and sensual holiness of the hidden movements–the secret life of the world–working while we Sabbath, to birth a new wholeness, expanding in precious breath and bodies. Creating this piece, I kept finding myself caught by the presence of moisture, heat, fibers, gasses, light & dark, and time. I am called back to my own body–to remember, that the piece of art is not a static end result, it is the prayer of movements and presence, of bodies and witnesses, of breathing together and slowing down to notice what it is hidden in plain sight.

I am devastated, undone, enchanted, and in awe at the fragility of our bodied life in the world–the tender strength of tissues stretched, of love and ligament, of water and breath that holds us together in sacred communion with one another and the earth. These are holy gifts for holy people.

Lent 2015 Week 2: Wheat

This series of posts represent my weekly reflections and creative process as Artist in Residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle. The liturgical theme for the season is “Becoming Whole.” This week’s installment focused on working with wheat.


Choices. Grind the grain or plant the seed?

Choices. Breed the wheat for better bread or for easier production.

Yield–to the demand for more or wait, for the divergent genius of genetics to produce another measure by which to judge what is most productive. Today’s bread. Tomorrow’s bread. Both necessary for survival. And spectres of scarcity stalk our pauce imagination.


This week, we are tossed into questions of dependency and promise. Do we trust to faithfulness or take matters into our own hands, forcing our way into what we see as best? It is necessary to eat today, and it is necessary to save seed, plant, and harvest for each day’s tomorrow. And in this dance, how should we understand God’s faithful action in covenant relationship with the world? And how do we understand our own faithful action in response to deep complexity of the needs of our communities?


This week’s installation is another interactive piece called “Ground of Being.” It is a piece experienced in two parts. Congregants are invited to make a choice, to respond from their own locatedness and make the choice: grind grain for bread, or plant seeds for wheat. The wheat berries for both, drawn from the same central bowl. All the while, I kneel on the floor and keep the time, moving my hands in and out, through and with the grain. For this week’s e-installment, I recorded a video of myself, doing the same sort of action.


Frankly, the work with the grain is oddly sensuous–inviting a different experience of the passage of time being marked with my body as I interact with the grain in the middle of a group of people moving around me, taking the same seeds and burying it in soil or grinding it into flour. There’s an intimacy to the action, touching these grains longer than I ever would to simply plant, harvest, grind, knead, or chew.

The video is uncomfortably long. The rhythms, changing speeds, emotions, and movements call out for us to linger. What timetable does the body want on this journey of becoming whole?

Typically, I only experience such prolonged connection with these seeds once they are inside of my body. To externalize this intimacy and dependence and bring it into the public worship space was profound for me as the artist. My desire with this work is to press us into the bind and promise of our interactions on both sides of bodily provision. How are we faithful? How is faithfulness extended to us? What is the relationship between our own reception of sustenance and wholeness and the ability to participate in the wholeness-making of future generations?

What surprised me was the vulnerability of slowing down and drawing so much attention to my body’s relationship with food in the middle of community. I wondered if my body’s work in the space would be enough–if it would fill up what was being asked of me as an artist in relationship with this community. Do these sacramental movements provide the kind of sustenance our bodies need–the real presence of Christ–in the shadows of scarcity that we all face in particular ways?


I welcome the responses and engagements of those who engaged the piece in person or via the video.

Lent 2015 Week 1: Water

During the season of Lent, I am practicing as the Artist in Residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle. Each week, I’ll post a brief reflection on my work with the week’s theme and my own artistic process.

Water

Each of the past two Saturday’s, while most of the continent has been hit hard by cold winter weather, we who live beside Puget Sound have been lavished with warm sunlight to mark our slowly lengthening days. And for the past two weekends, I have taken to the water.

Hearing water rake and curl past bow of boat, slipping through changing hues of gray and green and blue, slows me down–takes me out from linear tick of time, and into a melodic, syncopated keeping; a cycle of belonging that invites me to hold and be held by the world in holy ways.

As I contemplate the readings for this week’s practice of Lent, I am–of course–flooded by the imagery of water. In the creation narrative of Noah’s family and the flood, God establishes a covenant of belonging with humanity and all creatures of the earth, promising to provide for and not destroy us with rising waters. The author of 1 Peter ties the ancient flood with the rite of Baptism, by which we are joined with Jesus. And Mark’s gospel tells of Jesus’ own baptism, where God proclaims the belovedness of Jesus.


And so, for this week’s piece, I wanted to create something that spoke to the wholeness of water–the connection of water with every living thing on earth, our participation and belonging to the belovedness of Jesus through the waters of baptism, and the complexity of our human impact on the water cycle around our blue planet.

I’m also keenly aware of the way in which water invites my body to slow down–to know my belovedness, belonging, and connection to the world in deeper ways. I wanted this piece to invite an actual interaction with water. Moreover, I wanted the piece to require human participation in order to work.

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By creating a fountain that doesn’t run on electricity, the viewer cannot experience the activity of the water cycle without literally being drawn into the action of the fountain itself. While the global water cycle is propelled by solar warming, air flow, evaporation, precipitation, the aspiration of plants, condensation of atmospheric moisture, and countless other factors, still, human participation in the water cycle cannot be denied.

There are over 40,000 large, human-built dams (40 feet or taller) shaping the world’s waterways. And it’s estimated that somewhere around 60 million people have been displaced by these projects–this, of course, doesn’t tally the impact on other species. (These stats are widely reported by various bodies, but I’m drawing info from http://www.internationalrivers.org/)

And while our ambitious water projects often provide electrical power and can hold back water, allowing room for agriculture and cities, time itself is on the side of water. We know the power of floods and mudslides. Dams give way. Levees are allowed to fall into disrepair. Zoning permits allow developers to build homes where geologists have warned of impending erosion. 

From the flotilla of trash in the Pacific Gyre, to the sterile rivers of Appalachia turned green from copper mines, we shape the water cycle. We also plant riparian buffers, welcome back Salmon to their ancient streams, and are moved by compassion to respond to our global neighbors devastated by deforestation, desertification, agricultural erosion, and drought. Insomuch as we are participants in damaging the water cycle, we also have potential to participate in its repair. But doing so may require us to slow down, consider the whole before rushing to another technological solution, and commit ourselves to faithful, actionable repentance.


For my creative process on this piece, I kept circling around the biblical creation narratives of an ordered world emerging out of watery chaos. There’s the Genesis 1 account of a world formed by God hovering over water. This is followed with the story of the great flood. Later, the infant Moses is launched out on the waters, the nation of Israel flees slavery through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and the desert wandering people of God cross into abundance by moving through the waters of the Jordan river (I’m aware that these accounts can be told in ways that disregard the fate of Noah’s neighbors, the drowned Egyptian army, or the invaded inhabitants of Palestine–yet these people too are connected in this water cycle).

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The echoes of these and other Ancient Near Eastern accounts of worlds emerging through water birth are brought to bear in New Testament accounts of Jesus’ baptism which becomes sacralized in our understanding of Christian identity and our participation with God in the ongoing creation/wholeness-making of the world. But our belovedness offered in Jesus is present in the earlier Genesis account, where God places the rainbow as a sign of covenant in the sky.

In the piece, above the baptismal interaction of participants, water, and leaves, a small lantern hangs watchfully overhead. Inside it, a rainbow of sea glass is immersed in water, illuminated by a flame; human waste, transformed by water, represents the symbol of a God who remakes the world on our behalf.

I wanted to hold these things together with the ecological realities of water and our planet. My idea was for a fountain made up of elements that would break down, and that is powered by the actions of those who encounter it. I wanted to communicate the beauty of what was happening in the given moment, while also drawing attention to the experience of impermanence. The piece is built in place, meaning that the form that is encountered is only an iteration of these particular elements.

The elements: stones from the garden pathway at St. Paul’s, cups made of clay, a rain chain of rolled Madrona leaves, harvested from the fallen branch that forms the upright structure of the fountain, and water, that with enough time and interaction, can transform each of these elements, freeing each to become something else in the community of the world.

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Part of the beauty of sacramental theology is that the actual actions of participants matter. We are invited by God’s Spirit to know and live into our wholeness-making participation in the watery life of the world.


Our lives depend on water–the particular molecules filling our bodies and surrounding us in the air, and the regional and global cycles. And, we are active participants in a biological, geological, and hydrological communion. Each molecule is wholly water, and altogether, the coming together and breaking apart of hydrogen and oxygen, mirrors our own coming together and breaking apart as parts of the whole community of life on earth.

My hope is that through interaction with this piece, entitled “Water Cycle” participants will be invited to experience their bodily participation as prayer/action–a sacramental sign/act that opens their imagination to participating prayerfully in all of their life’s movements within the water cycle. In this way, the piece is meant to echo baptism–a holy birthing and reordering of our life in the world; an invitation to be taken up in the belovedness of God and flowing as holy, embodied persons, participating in the life of the world.

Like the shape of a cresting wave–“Water Cycle” can be felt and experienced only while it is being expressed, but even in that moment, it is being transformed into another iteration–just as whole, beautiful, and sacred as the one that is disappearing. I want participants to slow down and feel something of the connection between the wholeness of the part and their participation with the whole. In this way, the art is not the sculpture, but the action and the elements coming together to birth a deeper, unfolding mystery.

Risk and Wordlessness: Learning Love and Justice

For the most part, I write when I feel compelled to write. And I have spent a lot of time feeling compelled to write, working with words to distill and dispel; to shape the stuff of my deep convictions into communicable bursts of meaning.

So it’s with some reluctance that I have been giving myself to a kind of unknowing that has meant fewer words in the last several months than I am used to inflicting on the world.

I’d like to say that it has something to do with playing more. Or something to do with praying with my body on a boat, afloat and pressed by wind, back and forth across the waters of Puget Sound. And that is true. I think it also has something to do with being soul-quieted by profound experiences of love.

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There is so much that needs to be said about the world around us. But more than words, we need deep, abiding experiences of love.

Loving, grieving, and risking, are three sides of the same coin. The love-grief-risk act is one done with our bodies. It is kindled in the tender power of our flesh. And this action is played out when we make/believe—daring to risk our bodies on the imagination of meaningful connection with others. To move towards love is to pray the prayer of our bodily vulnerability.

We constitute justice and reconciliation, healing self and world, when we accept the invitation to participate in the playful re-creation of the world through a social imagination based on loving attachment to those who are other than what we know and expect. That is to say, we change the world when we let ourselves be loved and, in so doing, learn to love.

But to love and be loved, we must grieve the loss of what we wanted and didn’t get, what we had that died, and what we never believed we could really have. And to love, we must risk saying yes to falling head over heels for something that we know will eventually end in one way or another. To love is to say yes to the invitation to play each time the invitation is extended.


In the wordless places of the last few months, I have been shocked—nay, flabbergasted—by the capacity of my body to hold such sorrow and pleasure. Deep belonging and grieving go hand-in-hand, each opening up more space for the other. We can never explore these vast spaces on our own.

In ways I could never imagine, I am become brother and lover in the arms and hearts of those who love me well. And this expansion of my heart is opening space in me that makes room for more creative peace-making justice than mere indignation or sorrow ever could. Such opening precedes language—unfolding room within me and for me in the world, in ways for which I am still acquiring language.

One way that this imagination is beginning to emerge, and that I hope to write more about in coming months, is that I am growing into a sense of identity rooted more in belonging than in the narratives of ownership that dominate what it means to be a white male in this culture. As I am listening to where I belong in conversations about being human and humane, I don’t have to define the terms of the conversation (an explicit strategy of debate, legislation, and legal ownership), and can, instead, listen to the pattern language happening around me and then playfully engage with where my experiences of hope and love are inviting me to grow my piece of the dialogue.

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I don’t expect this post to make a whole lot of sense to most folks. Like I said, I’m playing on the edge of the capacity of my words right now. What I can say is that I feel personally happy and loved, profoundly grieved at the state of our world, and persistently hopeful that we can, by loving/grieving/risking, grow our capacity to say yes to the kind of play that repairs the world.

Right now I know these things mostly through the feel of the pull of wind against sails straining the till in my hands, through the tender touch of lips and strong hands, and through the joy of falteringly chorded songs sung with those who have become my family.

And words too, are a bodily experience, existing first in throats, and lips, and tongues before landing in ink or pixels. I believe that the words will continue to grow, I feel them in the way my body is learning how to love.

To write about justice, I must first allow experiences of love to open space in my life where I can risk loving deeply, with my whole self, so that my words belong to my bodily life, bearing wit(h)ness to grief and hope. Only then can words lead to any kind of justice.