Monday, November 30, 2009

Mary's journey

This is a posting from our blog, lopetsinlaos, but I thought I would share it here on the Ashram as well.

It’s advent season in the church calendar. It’s the time of year that I like to stop and ponder so that the season doesn’t pass by only to end with a heap of wrapping paper and extra pounds from the big Christmas meal. The cool weather, Christmas music, and lights all help to serve as reminders that this is a special season...a special time of the year. How easily it can become buried in running around from store to store to find those “perfect” gifts. I have found myself in the last minute shopping crowd more times than I care for.
This year, the advent season means a season of moving and packing up for us. We waited to begin packing until after Thanksgiving. Thankfully (yes, I am thankful) it allowed us to enjoy a few extra weeks of “normalcy” before we have had to enter this transition stage. I have dreaded the transition stage. Truly dreaded it.
Last night I sat at our Sunday fellowship, in the darkness, as they lit the first advent candle and talked about the idea of “awakening”. I found myself numb and barely able to concentrate on what they were saying. All good stuff, stuff that I wanted to hear and chew on. As I said, I like to be thoughtful and ponder the meaning of the seasons. I don’t want them to just pass me by. But moving and transition seem to be trumping this Christmas season. Does this mean that our Christmas will take the form of packing and saying good-byes? Is it possible for us to open our hearts to the Christmas story? To stop and reflect and take time to really be present to the arrival of Jesus?
As I lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself that we have to be moving out of our home so quickly (December 15 is the deadline for all of our stuff to be out) a thought entered my mind. Mary and Joseph were sent to Bethlehem to have their baby. Mary must have felt the desire to nest and make a home for herself and the new baby. And yet, she packed up her few belongings and set off on a long journey on the back of a donkey. She wasn’t able to “book” her return ticket...she had no idea where they would be staying until the baby’s arrival. They had no reservations at a comfortable hotel. Wow, she must have been feeling anxious or overwhelmed...I know I would have.
Somehow in my moments of self-pity, this reflection of Mary came to comfort me. In a time when it made the most sense for her to stay put and rest and await the baby’s arrival, she was packing up, moving to an unknown destination, and with a lot of question marks ahead of her. She merely had to trust that God was leading her to a good place. That he was with her. That he would take care of her and her baby. Blind faith.
And here I am. I am feeling the unsettledness. I am not about to have a baby (thankfully...), but I am leaving our place of stability. I am heading out into a time of unknown. How long will it take us to find a home in Laos? How long will we be “homeless” and living out of our suitcases? How long until I can find a sense of normalcy again? And so I can look to Mary’s story...her own moments of unknown...and be comforted.
While this isn’t my ideal way to spend the advent season, there is still meaning to be found in the Christmas story. I can journey through this advent on the back of a donkey, and hopefully learn the same lessons of faith from my friend Mary.

Advent I: Awake – week of Nov. 29th 2009

Wake up! Rub away the comfort of drowsy eyes and take a look around. We live in a world of injustice and pain... Can you see it? Can you hear it? It echoes from the groaning of the earth consumed by greed, to the cry of the refugee torn from her country, to the silence of the man sitting cold and alone on the park bench downtown.

Advent calls us to become aware of the need for healing, for hope, and for help. Advent calls us to be awakened to the need for Messiah. As the faithful waited for the advent of the Messiah many years ago, their longing was filled with the desperation of those on the margins. During this Advent, let's participate in that desperate expectancy by remembering and confronting the brokenness and struggle around and within us.... so awaking ourselves both to the need for and hope of God's life-renewal.

Some suggestions for action:

· Fast this week... skip lunch, or simply eat rice and beans for supper. Remember those for whom choosing what or whether to eat is not an option.

· Donate time and money saved by fasting to Kid’s CafĂ© (E. 7th St Center).

· Sit outside for an hour... on your porch, in the park, where ever. Experience the cold and remember those with whom you share this hour.

· Donate a coat and/or scarf to Kentucky Refugee Ministries as they welcome folks relocating to Lexington who are not used to the cold of winter.

· Read Scripture: Mark 14: 32-42  -  your eyes are very heavy…keep awake!, Matthew 24:37-44  -  be awake and ready, Romans 13:8-14 – now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.

Readings - First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Sunday, November 29, 2009

east end tree lighting

everyone is welcome to come and share in the hot chocolate, hot cider, and caroling at the east end holiday celebration here.

Christmas Tree Lighting &

Ornament Ceremony

Monday, November 30th

5:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Isaac Murphy Park @

East Third & Midland

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Which to choose?

Here is a poem from Marcie Hans that I posted some time ago along with a Leunig cartoon from Geoff. I think these two go well together. Taken together I think they are a good source for meditation as we try to figure out how to relate to one another in a world torn by war; also pertinent as we enter the advent season and prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace (CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT).


Fueled by a million man-made wings of fire
the rocket tore a tunnel through the sky
and everybody cheered.
only by a thought from God –
the seedling
urged its way
through the thickness of black –
and as it pierced
the heavy ceiling of the soil –
and launched itself up into outer space-
No one even clapped.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


For the past three months we have been gathering on Wednesday nights at the High Street House to share a bowl of soup and to share our stories. We have received these times as sheer gift, as we continue to get to know the people we are choosing to do life with here in Lexington. There has been lots of laughter, many beautiful and/or goofy photos, some tears, a few revelations of the "I can't believe I didn't know that about you" kind from those who have been family together for years, along with much courage as people have shared painful and difficult chapters of their story, some the writing of which has yet to be completed. After hearing from two people each week, we sit them on the missionary chest that serves as an altar for our community, and then spend some tender time in prayer for them, with gratitude and blessing for their story as it gets caught up in the unfolding Story of God.
Last night we heard two more beautiful stories, both of which offered the precious gift of vulnerability. I found myself thinking about them as I lay my head on the pillow last night and again as I rose to run this morning. Both of these stories are being shaped by relinquishing, by letting go of something.
A young woman shared the damage that the perfectionism she had internalized had wrought in her life and of the freedom she had found in making the decision to walk away from formal education as a bright and motivated student who was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Relinquishing expectations and opportunity has begun to heal the harm perfectionism has caused her. She concluded with eloquent tearfulness, as she described something else that has caused her pain over the years of which she is being invited to let go: her perception and experience of a profoundly masculine God. This belief has led her - as a young girl and as a woman - to question what it means for her to be made in the image of God: something which God intends to lead to wholeness and identity security, but which for her has led to feelings of somehow being "less than" simply because of her gender. As she opens herself to experiencing the femininity of God, she is continuing her journey towards wholeness and shalom.
The second story we received has also been deeply shaped by relinquishing and was told by a young man who is a relative newcomer to Communality. His two decade search for a life and community that embodies his evolving understanding and experience of the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures has led him into voluntary homelessness in Lexington. He shared his experience of being invited by God to be homeless for a season, to relinquish the security of home and the stuff to which he finds himself deeply attached. I found the gentle and authentic spirit with which he told his story compelling and it has continued to cause me to reflect on my own need for security and control, and the comfort I find sitting in the midst of my books, something which he has specifically chosen to relinquish.
The gift of story is profound and one for which I am deeply grateful as I seek to live more faithfully into the Story of God.
(I found the image for this post online, but was unable to identify the artist for which I apologize.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

why in the world?

spotted this article at jonny's site and thought it worthy of a link here.


Tobias Jones: why I'm setting up a woodland commune

Why would anyone give up a normal family life in order to set up a community for people in crisis? A writer explains why he has decided the time has come to take a deeply unconventional leap in the dark

"why in the world?" is a common (and natural) reaction/question when someone declares a desire to open their home.  Tobias Jones gives a compelling and gracious answer in this article.  though it remains to be seen how things pan out ("between our dreams and actions lies this world" - mr springsteen) i'm inspired by the someone who is so clearly inspired.  Sherry and I also enjoyed hearing Tobias speak about his journeys (resulted in this book) a couple of Greenbelts ago.

an agrarian solution to unemployment

you can't listen to "the news" very long without hearing about "the jobless".  i thought this was an interesting piece from earlier in the year...a way to both address employment problems in Japan and meet a growing market for local food. (in the Wall Street Journal)

here's the link...and here's a taster

Seeing agriculture as one of the few industries that could generate jobs right now, the government has earmarked $10 million to send 900 people to job-training programs in farming, forestry and fishing. Japan's unemployment rate was 4.4% in February, up from 3.9% a year earlier, but still lower than the U.S. or Europe. Some economists expect the figure to rise to a record 8% or so within the next couple of years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanksgiving to friends......

This morning I received an e-mail from a social networking site reminding me that today is the birthday of a friend of mine. The friend's name is Terry Fraley (Terry is the big guy in the blue shirt on the far left of the picture). A few people within our community will know who Terry is, but most of you will not. The reason that I'm writing about this is because Terry died on February 7, 2009 at the age of 44. Terry had numerous health problems that plagued him over the years of our friendship, and many of these problems were exacerbated by a prolonged battle with prescription drug abuse and the grinding stress of chronic mental health problems. Terry had Borderline Personality Disorder and was a self-injurer. I remember a couple of Terry's cuts being so bad that it took up to a dozen or more stitches to close them. "How could someone ever do that to their body?", I remember asking myself in those days. Though sincere, I was ignorant, generally clueless about the reality of mental illness and not a little judgemental in the ways that can only be exposed by the deep down gut-wrenching examination in which these types of "no suitable answer" situations place us. But just like Jesus, through his suffering Terry helped me to learn; and he helped me to be redeemed in a manner that could not have happened otherwise. He was another in a long line of tortured mentors helping me to love better, bringing enlightement to my ignorance and a more sober sense of conviction to my efforts.

Sometimes I did not see Terry for months on end. One time while we were out of town Maria and I loaned him our truck so that he could go and see his daughter in Hazard. We also gave him the keys to our house so that he could use our computer to work on his resume. When we returned we discovered that Terry had used our checkbook to pay his rent and had been ordering things online with our bank account information. When confronted Terry confessed readily to all of it. We tried to work it out amongst ourselves as believers living by grace; we were dissappointed in the initial results but pleasantly surprised in the long run....we tried to suffer long with each other...we went through a couple of revolutions just like this...we held on to each other, tenuously, for years. We were rarely ever together in "Church," but we kept finding our way back together when it seemed to matter the most. And on more than one occassion we were able to find our way back together because our mutual friend Scott Morehead was always helping us to build the bridge back to one another.

Terry always possessed great admiration for Scott, and absolutely loved spending time with him. I think that in some ways Scott was Terry's ideal self; he was an accomplished physician, devoted husband and dedicated parent. Terry was very bright and capable, but his myriad struggles were always there to put strict limits on his upside. He loved studying bio-chemistry and medicine, and could do well with it when his mental health was stable and his ego was in check; but that was an exceedingly hard balance to strike. I think these reasons helped to make Terry's friendship with Scott a very special thing for him. And it was always a wonderful picture of the reconciliation that we all have in Christ, the Christ who respects us enough as persons to not respect our pretensions, positions or titles. Whenever Terry and I were estranged, Scott was always there to help build the bridge that brought us back together.

I remember Scott calling me one day to tell me that Terry was in the hospital after a bout of congestive heart failure. I went to visit Terry and tried to encourage him. Because we were very concerned about his health, Scott and I talked more than once about how our hope was that we could simply help Terry "end well." We knew that the end probably wasn't too distant. We were learning. We were beginning to understand what it means to simply sit and be present to a friend instead of trying to "solve" them. I had taken the time to study the different dimensions of Terry's mental health problems and was much better prepared to be a friend to him. His suffering had produced a wealth of new wisdom and insight in me. I would henceforth be a better friend to others because of what Terry's struggle taught me. Just like Jesus, I had been transformed by his suffering. I distinctly remember telling Terry I was sorry that it took me a long time to learn these things and be more present to him. I confessed and he accepted my confession.

I think that it was around the time of Terry's hospitalization that he began going to First Alliance Church pretty regularly with Scott and his family. Scott would pick Terry up in the morning and on a couple of occassions Scott and Tammy (his wife) had Terry come over for lunch. Terry even began singing in the choir at First Alliance. It seemed like he had finally found his place; and I was profoundly happy that he had found his place even if it wasn't our place (Communality). My very limited ecclesiology and immaturity in love would not have allowed me to see this for what it was even a couple of years prior. I was still too caught up in trying to build up my own "project" and therefore not as able to see what Terry really needed. But the good news is that Terry ended well! He was in a pretty good season of life. And he ended well because a few friends, by God's grace, were able to "fulfill the law of Christ" by a severely bent but never broken commitment to "sharing each other's troubles and problems(Galatians 6:2)."

On an evening not too long before he died, Terry stopped by to pay a rare visit to our old guys group at the Golfview House. That night we were studying 2 Corinthians chapter 6. We read through the section where Paul says "Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you. Our hearts are open to you. If there is a problem between us, it is not because of a lack of love on our part, but because you have withheld your love from us. I am talking now as I would to my own children. Open your hearts to us (2 Cor 6:11-13)." I will never forget what Terry shared after we finished reading that passage. He said that he realized that what Paul was saying applied to him and his relationship with the rest of us; that we had opened our hearts to him but he had not done the same with us. It was stunning. Why was it that Terry showed up on this particular night? Looking back on that night, I've come to believe that this was a special gift that God gave to us. It was God's way of allowing us to celebrate the bond that had never been broken between us. And it was God's way of helping us to understand that it is ultimately the Triune God's open heart (not mine, or your's, or Paul's) that makes it all possible. What a special gift it was to share that moment together.

So, I wanted to share these thoughts today to celebrate Terry's life and give thanks to God for the many profound lessons that he taught me and the time we shared. When I looked at the e-mail this morning the first thing that I thought about was my dear friend Scott. Like Terry and I, my relationship with Scott has been sorely tested at several different points; and because it has been tested it has also been refined and strengthened. It has taken me a long time to realize that and see it for the profound gift that it is-grace upon grace. So, I also want to give thanks for Scott and for the time that God allowed us to share with Terry and the treasured memories that we were able to build; memories that knit together the otherwise broken fragments of broken lives. So, on the day that would have been Terry's 45th birthday, I give thanks to Terry and to God for assisting so profoundly in my own "new birth."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Biz Lex Article on Mountaintop Removal

It is beyond me how anyone can,in good conscience, support the destruction of our brother's and sister's homes in Eastern Kentucky... rings a bell along the lines of the Head saying to the Foot that, "I have no need of you". So since I don't need you and you happen to be living on top of something that I want, I will pillage the earth to remove it.

Check it out: "Our" very own Buisness Lexington Newspaper supporting mountaintop removal. All in the name of "progress." It was the front page article this last week. I have a hard copy if anyone wants it.

Our Promise, Our Plight

How long must people go with their hands over their ears and eyes?

Friday, November 06, 2009

coal - take action

from - this is a close-to-home justice issue.  please prayerfully consider taking action.

Dear friends,
We know many of you are still recovering from the unbelievable organizing you did for the day of action on Oct. 24, and you know that as a campaign is mostly focused on the global negotiations coming up in Copenhagen.
But sometimes things happen at inconvenient moments.
And if you think it's inconvenient for us, imagine what it was like for residents of Pettus, West Virginia to wake up last week to find that the blasting had started on Coal River Mountain, one of the epicenters of the fight over the hideous practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains. Coal River Mountain is an iconic symbol of the energy choices our country now faces: we can blast off the mountain's top to scoop out the dirty coal inside, or we can harness its enormous wind potential and start to build a better world.
So we're going to ask those of you on our USA e-mail list to take a small but signficant action to help our friends who are fighting the good fight there in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Could you please take a few minutes to send a message to decision-makers in the Obama administration, and ask them to intervene at Coal River Mountain?

Click the following to send your message:
The Obama administration officials who could stop this need to know that it's not just people in the hills of Appalachia who can hear the explosions--we all know what's going on.  And we know that every lump of coal that comes out of those hills adds to the carbon burden of the atmosphere we all share.
Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist who first gave us the 350 number, has pointed out that the western world needs to be off coal in little more than a decade if we're ever going to get back to 350--and this is the obvious place to start. It would be a small gesture our government could point to when it gets to the UN talks in Copenhagen this coming December--and for the brave folks who have been fighting this fight to save their homes for decades now it would be a very big gesture indeed.
Coal is near the heart of the planet's climate problem. Let's take a moment to help here, in no small part because it will help in the climate talks ahead.

So many thanks,

Bill McKibben and the crew

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

coal talk

this from our friends at KFTC...


This Thursday evening at 7pm in Memorial Hall, the university of Kentucky is sponsoring a forum on coal featuring four panelists:

Joe Craft, President, chief executive officer and a director of Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. ( "ARLP") and also president, chief executive officer and Chairman of the Board of ARLP's General Partner, Alliance Holdings GP,LP, Fred Palmer, Senior Vice President of Government Relations of Peabody Energy, Tom FitzGerald, Director of the Kentucky Resources council, and, Jeff Goodell, Author of Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

This event is free and open to the public. You don't need to register in advance to attend Thursday evening's panel.

Attendees are also allowed to submit questions to the panelists the evening of the event.

For more information please look at their website at

Ondine Miranda Quinn

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Central Kentucky Organizer

250 Plaza Dr. Suite 4

Lexington, KY 40503

(859) 276-0563 (office)

(859) 368-4438 (cell)

(859) 276-0774 (fax)

KFTC is a 28-year-old grassroots organization that believes in the power of people, working together, to challenge injustices, right wrongs, and improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians. Visit us online at!