Sunday, May 30, 2010


May 30, 2010

Good evening, friends,

This week I have continued to think about Stafford's haunting lines in "Ask Me":
". . . ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my

I have revisited too the way Stafford enters time and life cycle into the question: Ask me, Stafford insists, ask me when the river is in ice. Like you, Lori, I find the image of the frozen ice motionless above the moving hidden current a powerful one.

Stafford (like you, Mark) raises the issue of impact as well. He does this in the context of relationships he has had: others have tried to help or to hurt, he recalls. Then: "Ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made."

What if we phrased the question in this way: "Ask me whether relationships I have had (have) are my life." Are the relationships we form the doing that tells us who we are?

Thinking with you,


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blog 3 May 23, 2010

Dear friends,

We left each other last week thinking about the question, "Is what I have done my life?"
Some of you looked up William Stafford's poem "Ask Me" and considered the question in the context of the total poem. You discovered, I'm sure, that Stafford has a great deal more to say (and ask) than the original question suggests when left standing alone as I quoted it.

Others of you answered "Yes" or "No," responding in our opening dialogues in the either/or format of the question as Staford initially framed it.

Thank you--all of you--for your responses. We have a fine beginning.

Today I want to begin by thinking about the issue from a slightly different angle. In doing this I hope to clarify without simplifying the depth and density of Stafford's writing. I want then to move on to the additional thorny issue that underlies Stafford's initial question.

The question that Stafford invites us to consider is a pivotal one in the context of personal identity. Are being and doing synonymous? If who I am and what I do are not the same, then what is the relationship between the two? What if, as Stafford's question makes plain, the doing includes mistakes? Where then does my value lie? How does my doing poorly (i.e., mistakes, and deliberately wrong choices) impact my being who I am?

Ask me about this, Stafford invites, but ask me when the river is in ice.

Some of you with a strong gift of common sense and practicality may be frowning. How, you wonder, does a river in ice come into this question of doing and being? Others of you may have sensed something of Stafford's oblique drift of meaning. You may have heard him saying (Hubbard paraphrase), "Ask me about the meaning of mistakes I have made in terms of who I am, and ask me when I am living in a winter season in my life."

And so, this week once again: Is what I do who I am? How does my doing poorly (i.e., mistakes, and deliberately chosen wrong) impact who I am? But this week, the question with an added turn--if I am living in a winter season of life, will my answer be shaped by that winter as well?

And for those of us who take our faith journey seriously, what difference has the doing and being of that itinerant rabbi Jesus made in the answers it is possible for us to give?

See you on screen this week, I trust, giving the hard questions your careful thought,


P.S. "Ask Me" can be found in the following collection:
William Stafford, "Ask Me," p. 126 in The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford." Edited and with an introduction by Robert Bly. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.

P.S.2-- I'm sorry that the response process has been a bit difficult. Hope to include an instructural paragraph next week that will make the procedure easier. I want to know what you're thinking. Blessings,

Dear friends,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thinking about the bottom line

May 16, 2010
Hello, friends,

We were having lunch and discussing my birthday. My friend asked, “So—what are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

“Good things,” I answered cheerfully. While only partly true, my answer was the best I could manage at the moment in the noisy restaurant.

It was later as I sat thinking, watching afternoon shadows play silently across my desk that I remembered the opening lines of William Stafford’s poem, “Ask Me.”

Sometime when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.

Is what I have done my life?

Did Abraham ask that question when he remembered how Sarah’s knowing eyes met his, then turned away as he stammered, “No, man, no wife—she’s just my sister.”

Did Moses wonder when alone in the empty desert he remembered the blood, and the surprised eyes of the soldier dying at his feet?

Did Paul, that chief of sinners, see again in troubled dreams the faces of the children when smelling the stench and blood of the arena they turned still singing toward their certain death?

We cannot know.

But we know that Paul, traveling to Damascus, had a confrontation with the risen Christ that taught him to place his life—all of it—into a new context. Years later, writing to the church at Rome, Paul said, “I’m absolutely convinced that. . . nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (The Message, p. 323).

Is what I have done my life?
When I reach my bottom line, I think that the answer depends on what I have done with what God in Christ has done for me.

See you next week.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Looking for Epiphanies

Good evening, friends,

Many of you have given gentle encouragement to me to begin a blog on my website. Now that I've taken this step, I trust that along with continuing encouragement you'll also provide practical suggestions for improvement as I learn.

Both will be needed. At this stage of beginning, writing (blogging?) carries little sense of participation in a communication process. The physical reality of sitting alone, looking into a computer screen and typing words into a silent screen seems more like a game of language solitaire than communication.

I do not yet have a clear understanding of the word "blog", either its history or its grammar, nor its current proper use. At this stage, I think of "blog" both as a noun (something I read) and a verb (something I do). Correct? My plan at this beginning stage is to post weekly a small comment (a blog?) on something I've been reading or a question I've been thinking about.

I thought today about Luke's story of the people walking along the road to Emmaus talking sadly about Friday's events in Jerusalem. As they walked, the risen Jesus joined them, and entered into their conversation. Although they did not recognize him at first, later, as they broke bread together, Luke says that their eyes were opened, and they knew him.

Perhaps through the Spirit He will sometimes join us, travelers on this cyber road. And perhaps He will permit us to sometimes sense His presence as we blog.

Looking with you for epiphanies,

Grace (Gay)