The Leaving

Wherever we go, we find ourselves, and God. I believe that.

One Amazon reviewer said she felt let down that Ann found herself, and God, away from home. There's that, yes— an odd surprise in a book that dares us to live fully right where we are.

But I take it differently. Right where you are isn't always the place you've called home. It's, well... right where you are.

I think this can be a little shocking; after all, we make our identity in the things we call home, think that's all there is... think that's all we are, all God is.

Then we leave.

In going away, we discover what we could have known all along... about ourselves, about God. It was there to see, wasn't it?

Ann recalls a letter from her father-in-law, asking who is ready. Ready for what? Maybe to live fully beyond the place we've called home? Beyond the person we thought we were? Beyond the God we had so nicely boxed up and put in a special room at home?

When we leave, we find we are not ready. Never will be. Home is too strong. Who we've been is too strong. The God in the pretty little box is too small. Yet, when we leave, we have the chance to discover—like Ann did— that we are ready. And ever will be.

This is a response to the final chapter of Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts. For a thoughtful review of the whole book, join us today at TheHighCalling.

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Which Comes First: Gratitude or Gift?

In chapter 5 of God in the Yard, I admit that lists didn't change me. I feel alone in saying this, seeing the popularity of the gratitude list. But I'm being honest. And of course it doesn't mean someone else couldn't find change this way.

Today I'm particularly struck by the Lewis Hyde quotes in this chapter:

...with gifts that are agents of change, it is only when the gift has worked in us, only when we have come up to its level, as it were, that we can give it away again...


Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude.

So gratitude seems to be almost an ache, one that moves us to give what we've been given, after the gift has wrought some kind of work in us.

I do not think the receiving or the giving is simple. So much depends on our openness. Our openness depends on healing, or maybe courage. The giving and receiving seem not to be one-time experiences either. For instance, it occurs to me that the subject of beauty has been recurring in my life over time.

A few years ago I discovered someone whose life work with the poor is based on theories of beauty— manifested in pottery, jazz, and growing orchids. How unusual. It gained my attention. About a year later I was asked to speak on beauty at Jubilee Professional. This request perplexed me. What did I know of beauty, to be pinpointed as someone who had anything to say about it?

Since that time, the subject has been coming 'round again. When did it become a gift? Have I come up to its level? Is the process of receiving even near over? Yet I've begun to feel the intense need to consciously give beauty away.

Which is to say that gratitude seems to me to be a complex experience rooted in gifts. And gifts are not something we can necessarily engineer in our favor. They are given through time, in pieces, and in unexpected places.


Andrea has blogged on Chapter 2.

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Talking Back: Celebration

God in the Yard

Lent begins today.

I wasn't going to do anything about that.

Then I read Andrea's first post on God in the Yard. I love that she has resolved to play, even as part of the religious world descends into a form of mourning and purposeful deprivation.

I also read the next chapter I was supposed to read along this journey... chapter 4, Weep: Celebration.

And suddenly I knew I would create my own Lenten celebration. It would be a form of play, though it would also recognize a sense of sorrow. It would include collecting Nelson's elements of celebration recounted in God in the Yard: sound, gestures, natural elements, handmade items, and food.

I am not sure how I will gather my elements over 40 days, what I will make of them. Maybe nothing. Today I took this little stone, so opaque, so dead in its way, and put it in a crystal bowl. Like the "bottle" in which the Psalmist says God collects our tears, the bowl is cupping the stone.

For some, Lent is a giving up. For me, it is going to be a giving over... of sorrows, confusions, doubts, disappointments. To the degree that I can, I will put them in the crystal bowl. A kind of Lenten prayer.

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