(Spelling errors corrected 12/9, with apologies to all you Euors.)

I had a couple of storytelling gigs in October that fell through – and then another one appeared unexpectedly – so I got to do some telling about Moses. The Society of Biblical Literature’s journal Semeia – no longer published – had a special issue in the 90s on slavery in the Bible with some wonderfully confrontational writing from African-American biblical scholars discussing how white European and American biblical scholars pretty up slavery in the Bible. It felt wonderful to read their passion and their honesty, and to look at the Moses story again with a livelier sense of the story as an escape from slavery.

And the tiny, determined Bible study I am in is reading 1 Corinthians, where slavery is on Paul’s mind as well. To read him wth understanding, we need to know how ugly and degrading it was to be a slave. When Paul says, “You were bought with a price!” to affluent, privileged people it is intentionally and deeply challenging. To them and to me.

I have one telling coming up in December and I’m also working on our church’s annual telling of Nicholas, A Garland of Stories for the Nights Before Christmas.

And what am I recovering from – me and everyone else I know? The election. What an amazing, intense, emotional experience!


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A fast-moving month…

Bingo! September’s gone!

Not really, but it feels that way. I am on the Building Committee at our church, which turns out to be a disturbingly big commitment that eats time in sizeable chunks. Oh, but it’s fun, though. And I am working on our new welcome brochure, exposing hitherto unexplored and vast areas of technical ignorance. Baba Yaga is overfunctioning, but this is a September tradition. Also n October tradition.

I had a wonderful time telling stories for the WELCA group at Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Louisville, Kentucky on Monday, September 8. WELCA, for those who don’t speak Lutheran, is Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It was deeply moving to watch how they took care of each other – understanding and tending one another’s weaknesses without making a big deal out of it. And they took care of mine, too – came over to New Albany to fetch me because I wouldn’t drive in Louisville, put me up for the night – the program chaiman slept in her spare room so I could have her bed – took me out to breakfast – gave me jewelry, carried my suitcase. It was like being surrounded by Jesus. I’d go there again if I had to crawl on my hands and knees.

Did I mention they took me out for breakfast?

I’m reading Holly Hearon’s The Mary Magdalene Tradition: Witness and Counter-Witness in Early Christian Communities. What an astonishing book – and beautifully written, too. She’s a Biblical scholar with a storyteller’s heart, I think. I had been putting off buyoing it because she’s so young (compared to, say, Walter Brueggemann) but you know, I am coming right up on my 60th birthday which means a bunch of smart, creative, productive people are younger than I am.

Some of them are even my children.

Go figure.

I want to tell you about the cake at the WELCA telling. The church had had a reception the day before, so fo the collation following the meeting/telling there was a generous supply of cake. At cleanup, there was still quite a lot of cake – which was packed carefully and taken away by five or six women, for destinations where it might be appreciated. Quiet voices in the kitchen. “You’ll take some of this to XXX, won’t you?” “Could ZZZ use this for the children?” Again, no big deal was made. Just diaconal ministry at work.

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What am I doing this for, anyway?

When I started thinking of myself as a storyteller, there were two approaches to the role that I saw in use around me. There are professional storytellers, people like Tracy Radosevic and Dan LeMonnier who make a living from telling and travel all over the country to tell. Then there are people whose professional roles can expand to include storytelling – teachers, librarians, pastors.

It seems like I fall between these approaches. I don’t have an existing role that can expand to include storytelling – and although I approach storytelling with a professional level of commitment and energy, I really don’t want the kind of career that Dan and Tracy have.

Also, our children are grown up and we live just fine on our existing income. I don’t need the minuscule extra income that storytelling provides. Still – other performing artists say that, if I say I’ll work for free, people will assume I’m terrible. Also, if I don’t have any income, the IRS will cease believing that I’m a business – I do have income from editing, but it comes & goes; this year it has mostly gone.

I have been brooding about this for a while and spent some prayer time about it last week. What I’ve decided is to donate all my storytelling earnings for the rest of this year to organizations working towards the UN Millennium Development Goals. And since making that decision, I’ve gotten two gigs! I’ve changed my web site to reflect this policy. So – we’ll see where this takes the project. Right now, it feels good!


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The Best Thing Out of Lambeth So Far –

I have spent way too much time this last week reading blogs and news reports out of the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion’s every-ten-year convocation of all of its bishops. This wonderful picture is from Sunday’s Eucharist – click on it to see a bigger version. These Malaysian Christians, singing and dancing and playing shakers and panpipes, have brought forward the Gospel book in a miniature canoe decorated with flowers. Every time I look at this I feel a surge of joy!

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Telling Tales at Waycross

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of the day at Waycross [the summer camp and conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis] leading two storytelling workshops. Beautiful place, beautiful young people, and a beautiful spirit – the campers seemed calm and mellow. Something in the water, maybe?

With each workshop I talked a bit about reading vs. telling. I told them a very bare-bones Goldilocks and the Three Bears and then we had fun elaborating on it using details, voice, and body. Continue reading

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On Providing a Refuge from Secular Modernism

Secular modernism is the cultural frame in which much of my life, and yours, takes place. I get my medical care there. My husband works inside that frame – also my son and son-in-law. Secular modernism delivers to me this fine fruit-flavored computer I am using, and resources to do the kind of study and thought I like to do. It causes groceries to arrive at the supermarket where I shop and provides useful ant, flea, tick and spider control products. And so forth.
But there’s much more to humanity – things that don’t fit very well into the frame of secular modernism. Storytelling comes to mind – also art, music, and the life of faith community. And anyone with a modest knowledge of twentieth-century history knows that secular modernism has had significant and terrible failures.
As I’ve traveled around this summer I keep stumbling into places that invite children to step outside the cultural frame of secular modernism. I didn’t start out looking for these! Continue reading

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New Verse for “O beautiful, for spacious skies…”

Here’s my additional verse for “O beautiful, for spacious skies” which we’ll
be singing as our closing hymn on Sunday, July 6. Click on the music thumbnail and you’ll get a high-resolution jpg of the whole song – you are welcome to download and use it.

O beautiful, for those who heal, who teach and build and mend,
and serving, make their visions real as citizens and friends!
America! America! May God thy hope redeem,
may justice like thy waters roll, compassion like thy streams!

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