Recommitting…

A few years ago I decided that I was going to stop beating myself up about Not Being A Writer and learn to love being a storyteller. On the whole that’s gone quite well, except that now and then I do actually think of something I’d like to say – and it’s become too easy to dismiss those thoughts because, after all, I’m not trying to be a writer any more.

William Stafford advises poets in Writing the Australian Crawl – when your work doesn’t meet your own standards, lower your standards. Seems like a plan to me. I’m going to try to write about what I’m thinking and reading, for my own edification…unliterary and unorganized thoughts…in short, a blog.

What I’m thinking today – the Revised Common Lectionary readings from the Hebrew scriptures for this winter look like a dim sum cart. A dab of this, a piece of that. I don’t know how to deal with this as a biblical storyteller. I like to work with big, demanding chunks of text. The word for the day: DISMAY.

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‘The Bible in the Public Square: Reading the Signs of the Times’ by Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, and Jonathan A. Draper, editors

This book has all the joys and all the frustrations of any collection of edited readings. It’s an exploration of Richard Horsley’s “empire” ideas with respect to scripture, as applied to the life of the church and the country in – generally – the Bush administration. There are 15 essays, so the reader can identify and go read more of the writers who appeal – and, similarly, feel no special requirement even to wade past the first few pages of the writers who don’t. Very peaceful.

The essays are perhaps more discursive than one might find in a journal, and it’s wonderful to hear what Warren Carter or Neil Elliot or Norman Gottwald is thinking and reading. I had to buy three more books after finishing this book (had to!), and I might have to buy a few more. I need me some more of that good Norman Gottwald stuff.

As a biblical storyteller, I find myself wishing again and again that I could tell stories to some of these scholars, that I could unsettle some of this textiness. Because I’m not a scholar myself, I can read a book like this to inform what stories I study, tell and teach – and how I tell them.

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King David in an hour and ten minutes

chagall_56verve_david_harp5

The King David workshop for which Jennie Kiffmeyer and I have prepared so long finally happened today, and I’m still feeling joyful and thankful about it. Thirty people came! We couldn’t believe it! We had (of course) enough material for at least twice the time – but conversations started that I hope will continue. I loved seeing people start to wrestle with the story. It’s so important that we don’t let the harshness of the story drive us away from it so that we don’t hear what it has to teach us.

I need to go to bed. I’m wiped! But I am so thankful that it went well.

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Shoulder-Deep in the Late Bronze Age

Spring has arrived in Bloomington and this Saturday Jennie Kiffmeyer and I will present our workshop Shepherd, Dancer, Poet, King – Teaching and Telling the Stories of King David at a diocesan conference in Indianapolis. We have worked hard, thought hard  and entered deeply into the story – and I am looking forward to sharing it.

Then I have a telling coming up for some girl scouts, and then Holy Week and Easter, which is a kind of embodied storytelling in itself. I will be telling the first Creation story at the Easter Vigil. And then Eliot and I go to the Netherlands for three or four weeks – he has business there and has graciously invited me to go along.

There is nothing going on in my head except King David, Saul, Samuel, Abigail, Hannah, and so forth. The story is so big it’s like a magnet, pulling reality towards and into the story. I can’t find closure for this pathetic little script of a post except to say that I am shoulder-deep in the Late Bronze Age.

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Have I Said Anything Interesting Lately?

We kept the feast, we told the story – it was, as always, exhilarating and exhausting. On December 21 we read my Nicholas story at the public library to a small but enthusiastic audience – we had story-related crafts afterwards and I was astonished and delighted at how well these went. Christmas Eve was lovely and on the evening of Christmas Day we had friends over for a meal and sang some of the old carols from the Oxford Book of Carols. It was a time of great peace and richness.

Before Christmas I met for a session with Jennie Kiffmeyer from Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond – we are doing a workshop together on King David at Under One Roof, an annual Indianapolis event offered by the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. And for Hilltop I’m preparing workshops for children in February and March on telling gardening stories.

But the big news is Weirdbird’s ordination! God willing, on February 6 our daughter will be made a priest in the Episcopal Church. I’m finding this to be an event that is going to require a high investment of energy & emotion – and appropriately so! – but I am trying to press on with King David. Here he is, playing his harp, as envisioned by Marc Chagall…

chagall_013_david_a_harfa

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I have a problem with Phillips Brooks today, people.

We meet tomorrow to go over the music for Christmas Eve
and I am feeling good about our choices – EXCEPT FOR THIS:

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,

where misery cries out to thee, Son of the Mother mild;

where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,

the dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
The first line of the penultimate verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem
just plain grates on me. What about all those unhappy
children? How about the impure ones? Frankly-
speaking as a mamma, here – aren’t they all kind of impure?
Born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
The children don’t fit with the rest of the verse, which
I think fits darn well with Christmas as we do it in
beautiful downtown Bean Blossom. It makes me wonder
if Phillips Brooks started with something different in line one
and changed it because it was such a downer.
I don’t mind editing hymn texts.
[That’s me you see, waving at you, hiding behind the (alt.)]
I have a rewrite of “Let us with a gladsome mind”
that I am quite chuffed about. But I am not
coming up with anything for this line – indeed,.
I’m finding it hard to think about the question.
Starving children keep climbing onto the page.
Later – I left it in, we sang it as written on Christmas Eve,
it was creepy, Next year this verse might get quietly dropped.

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A wild, rainy day in December…

…with the wind wuthering around the house. I’m preparing a program on the history of Christmas carols for a gig on the fourth Sunday of Advent at a retirement home here in Bloomington, and I have been considering the folly of attempting such a program ten blocks or so from the Jacobs School of Music at IU. How many retired music professors will I have among my listeners? Best not to worry. Maybe they will be polite to the storyteller.

The church where I worship is preparing to give a group reading of my Nicholas stories on December 20 and I am immersed in that project – as an organizer, not a teller. Right now I am working on collecting six brooms. (We used to do it with two brooms, but we’ve expanded the janitorial staff. )  The program begins by claiming the performance space – a meeting room at the library – with a Christmas Sweeping Poem. I’ll put that up over on the same page as the script, later today. Not much to do today but stay indoors and hone the perfection of various web sites.

Actually, there might be one or two other things to do, and I’ll go do some. Eat breakfast, for instance.

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