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Gratitude, Grace, and Celebration

VOLUME 5, NUMBER 1 // Winter 2013


CONSP!RE editors “At the core, we all simply want to belong.”


The cloak of gratitude

Dee Dee Risher “We do not have to be worthy. Moments come into our unsuspecting hands; our job is to unwrap them.”

12 Dayenu

Darcie Juarez “I’ve considered myself an authority on justice, and that has made me judge others, leading me away from blessing.”

15 Let Them Eat Cake

Will O’Brien “Genuine gospel justice delights in a good party.”

18 The Banquet

D. L. Mayfield “Our parties are almost always awkward. The trouble lies with our friends.”

20 Waiting for Dessert

Megan Jackson “Someone tells a good joke, or we know the same song, and we recognize each other for the first time.”

22 Adam’s Star

Josina Guess “Would they want to talk about it? Would we have to guard our joy to not offend their grief?”

26 JOIN THE FEAST! Our coconspirators share their inspirations and experiences with celebrations and abundant grace.

28 Lament Sung to My Sons

Tobin Miller Shearer “My white privilege robs me of gratitude.”

34 Learning to be Thankful for My Father

Ryan Harker “I struggle daily to forgive the man who subjected me to a childhood of abuse and implanted within me the potential for unimaginable evil.”

36 Corpus Christi

Dawn Noelle Smith Beutler “She became for us a living and dying picture of the body of Christ.”

40 Quiet Army for Good

Jenny Stockton “To my kid brain, it seemed only logical that if I asked God out of a selfless motive, my request would be honored.”


Kelsey Toy

50 A Maker of Prayer Shawls Cheryl Hellner

Departments 42 Reviews Books and resources

44 Breathing Together: Bound in Gratitude Kathy Smith shares a moment of new vision in which she sees her neighborhood transformed.

46 Notes From Scattered Pilgrims News from our coconspiring communities.

49 Contributors

31 Under the Pressing Mountain

Kalia Mussetter “Cancer is a scary, unexpected guest who shows up at your door carrying two suitcases.”

Find more stories and a study guide at You’ll love our new blog, where musings on gratitude continue. 5

Ordinary Touch of Holy


he tradition of the Word that came into our hungry hands was brimming with praise. Some of the things for which Scripture gives praise are magnificent—for breath, for creation in all its majesty, for community and love. Some are more petty or suspect—for wealth, for power, for conquest. We are good at gratitude when things go our way, shouting a dismissive thankyougod over our shoulder. Scripture is also rich with celebration. Our Jewish forbearers celebrated cycles of the year, the months, and the moon; planting, harvest, birth, death, Sabbath. Hundreds of prayers marked the most common moments: going to sleep, using the bathroom, grinding wheat. Yet as a culture becomes more dominant, and pressured by the accoutrements of affluence, its habits of gratitude and celebration falter. As our gizmos rachet up the pace and mobility of our lives, they erode community and the places that make our celebrations meaningful. Cadences like: “God is good, all the time,” or thanksgivings for “waking me up this morning” rise from people who live on the margins, and who therefore know that nothing can be taken for granted. Life is fragile. These are refrains from people who wield small social control and know that ultimately we have no power over life and its outcomes. Those who live in the halls of cultural dominance and power can be blind to the gifts. It is difficult to be grateful for things to which you believe you are entitled. As we planned this issue, some of CONSP!RE’s crew reflected on the traditions of celebration in their own cultures (Latino, Asian, African American). Often, keeping one foot in dominant culture had cost them some of the spirit of celebration their own cultures had nurtured and protected. And for almost all of us, our celebrations have been commercialized, purchased, and farmed out. Parties we used to create at home with neighbors now come in a box: food, décor, music, entertainment. They occur at “destinations” elsewhere. This issue is about turning from that path to reclaim the simpler ethic of gratitude and celebration which grounded our ancestors. Our work is to see in ordinary, everyday moments the touch of the holy, and to recognize that, at the core, we all simply want to belong. The best parties make sure everyone at the table is embraced. —the editors 7


The Pilgrim’s Coat by Jan Richardson

The Cloak of Gratitude Dee Dee Risher


or the first half of my life, I never practiced gratitude. I was grateful for things. I gave thanks in my prayers. I was conscious that one should say thank you for the beauty and when things “went well.” But I did not know the secrets of gratitude, and I did not practice being grateful as a discipline. Somewhere in the midst of life, I’d shouldered duty and responsibility. I wanted to be worthy and do a good job. I wanted to be one who could be trusted. I wanted to be productive. Yet I never donned the light cloak of gratitude. And so I did not know that gratitude changes everything. It is the primary tool for shaping us into our unique and our best selves, perhaps the deepest spiritual tool we have. A spirit of gratitude is different and deeper than being frequently thankful for specific things. A spirit of gratitude is actually a prayer for a change of vision. Instead of being caught in the heavy currents of life and tumbling down the flood-swollen river, we float

to the surface. There, we glimpse a shock of lilly on the bank, a graceful tree branch. Yes, we are going down a river, and most things are out of our control. But to go down that river consciously, looking for beauty and wonder, means that we actually see it. My spirit these middle years has been caught in responsibility, in all the change of children growing and elders aging, people moving away, and the world of work morphing. It is easy for fear to come in. What if we 9

cannot do what we have committed to? What if our body and capacity change? (They will.) What if we are no longer loved? Gratitude is the great demonvanquisher. We cannot be grateful and in the same moment hold emotions like fear or anxiety or anger. Our wiring is not capable of it. Even more, gratitude changes our place in the chain of being. Gratitude in its very nature makes us a recipient. We are not the giver. That weight is off our shoulders. Gifts are bestowed on us and we recognize them. We do not have to produce, to be worthy. Instead, moments come into our unsuspecting or outstretched hands. Our job is simply to unwrap them. Two years ago, I began the discipline of writing down moments of beauty. I gave myself a quota of five each day. It was a challenge, so I kept a white notebook with me. I wrote about the angle of the robin’s head, the five-year-old all dressed up for ballet, the three men who are always outside the liquor store as neighborhood ambassadors. I wrote about the gold beauty of an egg yolk and the way my mother’s cornflower blue eyes look out a window. I jotted down red-skinned potatoes. I begin to thank my beloveds. Thank-yous for doing their chores, for helping me solve a technical obstacle, for their habit of cracking jokes. Thank you for filling the house with violin and piano music. I be-


came more attuned to catching every silent little effort toward the good that we made. Like every good habit in my life, the notebook got erratic. But by then, the power of gratitude had seeded itself in me. I understood what gratitude could offer my life. It was such a far cry from four years ago, when I’d biked to a friend’s house for space, convulsed in blues and anxiety. I wanted to write it out, but simply wrote myself into deeper worry and desperation. My friend came outside where I was writing, stepping into my solitude which was actually loneliness. “Let’s just write ten things you are grateful for,” she said, her eyes full of love and grief for me. Each one was a struggle. She sat there coaxing me, blue pen in hand, so I had to produce a list. Even as I named them, I did not feel their joy. Every word was forced, and every item had a thousand “buts” around it. When I left, the list felt less like a mantra in my pocket than an indictment of my small-heartedness. So it was with some wonder that I now find myself in this new place, where gratitudes step in unasked. To get here, I had to retrain my eyes. I was too used to searching for concerns, hard-edged stones to turn over and chafe in my palm. I learned that gratitude displaces anxiety. In a world which is always ready to hand me beauty, how can I hold to anxiety? Anxiety premises

a world filled with harm in which we control very little. While this is a piece of truth, gratitude also has a very large piece of truth: the world is here to offer us gifts, and our love and support of one another brings those gifts to life. Although we are in control of little, we do control how we frame things and how we understand our circumstances. Searching for blessing erased an old, tired line I’d started to whine to myself. Unconsciously, I was beginning to live life as a victim. My partner and I had made distinctive and unconventional choices in our lives, and some of them closed off options. As years passed, I began to get resentful of those closed options and adopt a victim script. Gratitude has no use for victim scripts. It’s part of the larger, stronger spirit of life. Gratitude also knocks down victimization’s ugly first cousin: entitlement. People feel their relationships owe them, society owes them; the “rich” or the “poor” owe them. Children, including my own, feel they are entitled to so many material things: electronics and cells; trendy clothes and choice over their time. Firstworlders feel entitled to consumptive lifestyle conveniences and resist all ecological limits. Gratitude crumbles these little fortresses by reminding us of unexplained interactions of redemption and miracle. Hand in hand with challenges flows a steady river of care. This has been a refrain I

learned from people born into social locations of “less power” than my own (a fact I do not think is coincidental to this wisdom). I’ve heard it spill from the mouths of migrant workers and prisoners, jobless immigrants and poor, dark-skinned mothers. Thankfulness for waking up this morning, the blood flowing warm in my veins; for shelter; for food. Thankfulness for all the things I, as a person of means and some power, expect every day. Practicing gratitude lowered the volume of my brain and opened my eyes, confronting me with my own life, lived in real time. It took my concerns out of the middle of the field—my fears, my anxieties, my competencies, and my control—and dropped me into the now. Gradually, I learned this: our difficult passages help us become our most full, authentic selves, but the alchemist that shapes us into those selves is gratitude. Our gratitudes help us discover our sacred, holy life. We do not have to be grateful for the losses. That is unnaturally hard and too much to ask. But even in great loss, there is still beauty. Continuing to practice gratitude will help us realize how loss has created within us a new spirit. We are not entitled to—anything. All is gift. Things in our lives circle around. They are redeemed. We love some part of them, and they breathe again. Once we know this, we can let so many stones fall from our hands.


Lament Sung to My Sons Tobin Miller Shearer


achary came in flustered. “Jeremiah is being angry

for no reason.” “Why is he so angry?” I asked. “He said white people did bad things to black and brown people just last year, but I said it was a hundred years ago.” I stalled for time. My son no longer looked indignant, but crushed. How to reply? “White people have done a lot of bad things to people like Jeremiah and not just a century ago,” I said quietly. “It continues today.” “But I don’t hate Jeremiah. I didn’t do anything bad to him!” I ached at his innocence and reached down to hug him. “Of course not. That’s very true.” Zachary slipped his jacket back on, pulled his knit cap down to just above his eyes, and went outside to see if Jeremiah was still angry. Apparently he wasn’t. Soon they were riding Jeremiah’s scooter up and down the sidewalk. So my next words stuck unspoken in my throat: “But Zach, it doesn’t stop there. White people have become more dependent on the privileges racism affords us than on God’s grace and provision and, too often, we are ungrateful because of it.” Of course, as much as I wish it wasn’t true, my sons already know what white privilege looks like. When Dylan missed trumpet practice after school, his teacher counted it as a temporary forgetfulness. His African American classmate’s absence was assumed to be evidence of sloth. Dylan knows that white privilege means receiving the benefit of the doubt. When we moved into our house, we ordered pizza to reward our helpers. The local pizza chain does not deliver to our predominantly African 28

Following by David Edwards

American and Latino neighborhood—unless a white person is on the phone. I convinced the manager, a white man like me, to send it over. It arrived after the guaranteed delivery time and we got it free. My sons know that white privilege means gaining access. Dylan reported once that his kindergarten teacher told him he “raised the class.” In a conference, a teacher told me she sometimes asks the whole class why Dylan does so well. Purportedly they respond, “Because he works so hard.” I hope Dylan’s classmates don’t believe that line and are smart enough to see that one of the few white children in their classroom is helped along by his skin color. My sons know that white privilege means being made the model by which others are judged. What I want to teach them is how our privileges weaken us. Because we white people are given the benefit of the doubt so often, we are denied the opportunity to rely on God. When we are given access to pizza delivery and a thousand other institutional resources, we begin to think that we deserve them. We fail to remember that God

29 29

is our provider. We do not have to pray for the courage to challenge the teacher who assumes we are slothful. By lack of practice, our faith in God is weakened. When white privilege continually makes us the model by which others are judged, we subconsciously begin to take on God’s role, evaluating and meting out awards and punishment according to our standards. We become judges instead of leaving that to God, and when we do, our faith is weakened. I will tell my sons that white privilege rob us of gratitude. Because we take so many things for granted, many of us find it challenging to be grateful. We expect life to go well for us, and so we often complain when it does not conform to our expectations. My sons may not yet be able to make the connection between racism’s provision for white people and a weaker faith; between a weaker faith and a lack of gratitude. Because frankly, it has taken me years. Most of the current writing on racial reconciliation ignores the question of how racism affects white people. It asks white people to seek forgiveness or let go of guilt and better learn to embrace people of color. But only rarely do authors examine how white people have been weakened, and how gratitude has been left out. Ultimately, it will not matter what I tell my sons. What will matter is what I show them. When my wife and I witnessed a white family member act out a glaring, racist stereotype of an elderly African American at a family gathering, we walked out, overwhelmed with embarrassment and tainted with shame. We wanted desperately to let it slide by, to accept the option racism gives us to ignore racist acts when they occur. As white people, we are not expected to say anything. But because of my sons, we knew we had to go back in, weak faith and all. Many of our friends had just been made the butt of a racist joke. We wanted our sons to talk with our friends about what had just happened. We also wanted them to be able to talk about how we responded. The Spirit carried us, and we found the courage to stand in front of one hundred relatives and call them to lament that we had all gone along with the joke; that we had laughed; that no one had interrupted. In the midst of our trembling weakness, God gave both of us the strength to talk with relatives throughout the weekend about the racism evident among us. Our sons watched and listened. I will ask them to remember. Together we will recall that racism has weakened the faith of white people. We will also remember to offer all the gratitude we can muster for the strength that God affords us, and for the grace that heals brokenness. Straddling that paradoxical space between weakness and the strength, the lament that launched this article will give way to a sense of wonder and gratitude at the gift of a faith waiting to be made whole. 30

Let Them Eat Cake Will O’Brien


t college, a group of us planned dorm mate’s birthday party. Part of the fes­tivities would be, of course, the obligatory birthday cake. We went so far as to order an elegant, decorated cake from a highly reputable bakery in town. At the bakery, as we waited for our culinary ex­travagance, I noticed a sign: We Accept Food Stamps. I was a freshman, the product of an upper-middle-class family, still in the throes of my first out-of-the-nest experience in life. Basically apolitical, I had uncon­sciously and uncritically absorbed my father’s stark conser­vativism, and I’d had little contact with the realities of poverty. But I knew enough—or so it seemed at that moment—to realize that food stamps were not meant to be squandered on fancy, decorated cakes. This bakery sold nothing but luxury dessert items: expensive, non-nutritional, and thoroughly superfluous foods. Deeply inculcated images rose in me, amid waves of confusion and even resentment, of parents purchasing chips and soda with “my tax money.” (I had not paid a tax dime at that point). As I grew older, the years confronted me with the grim realities of poverty, including the structural injustices that fuel it and the countless dehumanizations that spring from it. Understanding for the mother who longs to give her beloved child a wonderful party tempered my once-rigid certainty about appro­priate­and inappropriate uses of food stamps. We all need celebration. The memory cropped up as I was reflecting on Matthew’s account of the woman who anoints Jesus with expensive ointment (26:6–13). The story makes its way in some form into all four gospels, and Jesus says of her: “Throughout the world, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.” The evangelist makes clear that the woman’s pouring of oil is in effect a ritual anointment in preparation for burial. More than 15

Jesus’ closest companions, she has grasped the mystery of his imminent passion and death. Her gesture also sparks a socio-economic debate among the disciples, who harshly reprimand her for squandering money on an exorbi­tant luxury—money that could and should have been used for the poor. In the face of it, the disciples’ concern seems fairly legitimate (though one clearly intuits mixed motives; and John’s version imputes the statement to an unscrupulous Judas). In fact, they sound strangely North American. North Americans are not oblivious to issues of charity and even justice, but like the disciples, we have a predominantly utilitarian view of them. As generous people reared in a culture of productivity and pragmatism, we put a high premium on programs for the poor that “work.” We desire, not un­reasonably, to get the most bang for our buck. Most Americans will support food stamps that assist hungry families, but we will get very impatient when those food stamps are spent immoderately. A utilitarian vision of justice is not necessarily devious. Perhaps it is ethical (and even compassionate) to insist that needy persons be efficiently served by programs and policies. But such a view is often controlled and unintentionally dehumanizing. We create services for the poor and gauge their effectiveness by quantifying numbers and checking stats. A Song of Plenty by Angela Treat Lyon Ironically, Jesus’ response to the disciples in this story—“The poor you will always have with you”—has fre­quently been wielded by conservatives as theolo­gical censure of large-scale government efforts to alleviate poverty. Yet certainly, Jesus is countering the disciples’ utilitarian version of justice. Enter Luke’s account: a different but parallel anointing (7:36-50). This psychol­og­ically rich and socially astute narrative is a profound theological statement of the powerful, profligate love of God and the deep love of a heart forgiven. In Luke, the onlookers disdain the woman’s recklessness and social inappropriate­ness while Jesus commends her for the passionate love that impels her to this extravagance. “Her sins…are forgiven, for she loved much.” In these two anointing stories, Jesus offers us a radically different understanding of justice. True justice from the merciful heart of God is the 16

fruit of passion. Far from secular ideas of justice which imply equity, fairness, and balance, gospel justice only happens when passionate love overflows; when we so utterly revere God’s children that we are scandalized by their violation. Christians working for justice fall into the disciples’ trap of well-meaning utilitarianism: justice is achieved by effective services and efficiently managed programs. The anonymous women who anoint Jesus are prophets of gospel justice—exorbitant and scandalous, a flood of mercy. Gospel justice compels us to dramatic action because our hearts insist on it. It celebrates extravagantly, grieves extrava­gantly, and loves extravagantly. This justice is neither measured nor pragmatic. It is defiantly profligate. I glimpse it in the young woman at our inner-city church who gets the first paycheck from her minimum-wage job and blows it all the same day, buying lunch for her unemployed friends. Or when Billy, who has logged dozens of years on the streets, comes into some money and buys clothes from the thrift store for all the guys at the shelter. A financiallystrapped pastor inherits money from a recently passed relative and uses most of it to throw a big wedding party for two young congregants starting their new life with practically nothing. My pragmatic, middle-class sensibilities are rankled by spending so heedless of future realities, but I try to let the gospel mystery sink in. And I begin to understand that we need this more radical understanding of justice. The immense suffer­ing, despair, and violence we see around us will not be moved by well-meaning, pragmatic, cost-conscious programs. Only a church that is deeply, passionately moved by the suffering it sees can adequately respond. Only a church willing to burst out of the bounds of social decorum and reasonableness can make a difference in the lives of struggling people. I don’t know if permitting food stamps to be used for expensive, decorated birthday cakes is sound public policy or a sensible use of resources. But I do know that genuine gospel justice delights in a good party. Such a party, socially inappropriate and an extravagant use of scarce resources, is a manifestation of God’s reckless passion. If we are serious about justice, perhaps we should start by joining in. 17

Our coconspirator communities share what they’ve learned about celebrations and grace. Our best parties!

ow well for a meal. neighbors we did not kn few a d ite inv we as, tm ne Chris to share difficult lights and invited people the off d ne tur we , ing After eat We each lit a candle went deep ver y quickly. e on ery Ev r. yea st pa ated how a lot things from the the next year, and celebr for al go or , am dre , pe ess. The time of as we voiced a ho which dispels the darkn ht lig ge lar e on for ke of small lights ma eply moving. prayer afterwards was de



e have random dance parties in the kitchen, especially when we’re stressed out. It’s a great way to get the endorphins pumping and to put our day into perspective, and it helps us not to worry. gathering of eeting”—a colorful M py ap H , ay “G a libs, ach year, we host ristmas carol mad holiday music, Ch , ies tackiest od r go ou e ar ad we em e hom ersation. W nv co od go d an h, d ot ting the beauty an dancing, a photo bo Q-friendly, celebra BT LG s It’ . rs te ea holiday sw ade. person God has m What makes the magic? uniqueness of each



he most essential element is to be glad that each person is present. When people feel they are accepted and loved simply because they show up, it makes them excited to be there. t most notes tha n e w u o N are Henri brations” heologian rican “cele e cause m e A b , th re r natu y r to of our No ra b le ce invite, oid of any s of who to ere, il ta e d actually v e th tics. So h rselves in , and logis we lose ou te ra o c e elebration d how to ber that c m e m re n we tr y to the huma to do with re e o W m . s s il a h eta with the d n a tion a th it it v ir in p s about d e n r e c n o proper are not c leware, or b ta g in h one lists, matc simply tr y to enjoy e W u o m ch etiquette. which is s , e c n e s re p l than another ’s meaningfu d n a le b ra o more mem vent. e s s le a flaw



those who wing feasts for ro th om fr es in. No one he magic com inviting them y ul tr d an u, ns move can’t repay yo n our celebratio he w t bu t, ou nd e who might celebrates a ha to include thos us e lik ok lo who it that runs beyond people t, there is a spir lis e” es th of east can generate. be on Jesus’s “l y we ourselves an an th us yo e jo deeper and mor



Celebration today is commercial— we buy it, cater it, rent it. How do you resist the temptation to be a celebration consumer?

e try not to spend a dime on our festivities, only going to a local grocery store for supplemental items. The food for most of our celebrations is unwanted food from local grocery stores, cafes, and catered college events. For decoration, we use freshly-plucked bits of nature from around our house, like flowers, leaves, succulents, rocks. We also make our own candles.

ural bridge cult ? u o y o d w o s H ifference their flavor and class d ple to bring

eo er. Inviting p e at least eople togeth and will hav p s s— w te ra u d ib d tr o o ’s stories ne con eans ever yo ound people m ar ) n ly io al at er rs it (l inviting conve activity and ke. Building le li p ey m si th a g g in one th er. Addin dge if people people togeth be a great bri so al n ca really brings er y for each oth people to pra some pain. have shared



n our neighborhood (a poor, broken, and hurting one), class differences are tricky. Typically, white, privileged people swoop in bearing gifts from their place of privilege, adding to the indebtedness from someone who can’t ever hope to pay back. Yet neighborhood members can fall into a pattern of refusing to make the most of the capabilities and resources they have, a kind of victim script. The two extremes are dangerous. We need to find places of empowerment within our celebrations; to work more intentionally together on teaching to fish or finding who is polluting the pond. As we do, our celebrations spark community and build spaces for conversation. Have we found the correct balance? No, but we continue to experiment and get it wrong, then get up and try again. Thanks to coconspirators Christy Melby-Gibbons at GAP, Brett Anderson at The Simple Way, and Melissa Yosua-Davis of The Vine community for sharing their experiences. 27

News from our Coconspiring Communities CONSP!RE is sustained by communities and groups. Here, our coconspirators share what’s happening, from new kids to a new world; from the mundane to the inspiring. Go to and join our conspiracy of goodness! Alternative Seminary (Philadelphia, PA): Several of us participated in the December Freedom Bus ride with School for Conversion and others (described below). Our teaching on “The Politics of Christmas” has gone viral—watch it at Finally, we cosponsored a January festival celebrating the remarkable friendship of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and exploring their vocation as contemporary prophet-activists (www. Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN) is launching a series of short, online courses exploring how the Anabaptist faith tradition shapes discipleship today. One spring course is “Understanding Anabaptist Approaches to Scripture.” Learn more at Anthony’s Plot (Winston-Salem, NC): We celebrated our first Watch Night service in our neighborhood by gathering for evening prayers, mindful of those who are victims of domestic violence ( Castanea (Nashville, TN): After a long string of grave bankers’ faces, we finally found a very promising financing package to help us remodel a neighborhood apartment building. Our hopes are summed up by a volunteer from a local recovery house who told us how excited she is to see something good in a place she used to smoke crack. As a sustainable, affordable housing unit surrounded by a food forest, we hope to build up a place that fosters good news to the poor and the earth (www. Chicago Catholic Worker (Chicago, IL) The White Rose Catholic Worker has moved to the South Side of Chicago after taking a community retreat at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri. Please consider joining WRCW as a nonviolent-living apprenticeship in 2013. Dathouse (Indianapolis, IN): We’ve gotten most of the outside work done on the community center and are working on raising funds to finish the rest. We have our first family living in one of our remodeled houses, and they are doing great! We are working on our second home and continuing to learn healthy patterns of work and rest ( The Detroit Villages (Detroit, MI): We are discerning next steps in the 46

Pictured above: Freedom Ride with School for Conversion

Motor City through our participation in the Academy for Missional Wisdom, a two-year program which provides laity and clergy the theological foundation and practical skills to start and lead micro-communities of contemplative prayer and missional action. We are envisioning new connections with emerging neighborhoods and anchor churches, which we hope will become avenues for welcoming new houses full of friends and disciples ( Nehemiah Community (Springfield, MA): Pulse, our art ministry, has had a great fall with two well-attended art shows and a holiday shop. Also, one of our members was blessed by attending the 21st Century Freedom Ride with others from the Rutba Community and around the country ( ReIMAGINE! (San Francisco, CA): We’re excited to start 2013 with a group silent retreat in the redwoods of Boulder Creek, California in partnership with Camp Hammer. Then we will creatively engage with spiritual formation through our Awakening Creativity six-week workshop. Both events are open to the public, and our community is looking forward to creating space and inviting others to participate in these spiritual practices with us (www. School for Conversion/Rutba House (Durham, NC): We conspired with friends from Communality, Alterna, the Alternative Seminary, Micah House, The Simple Way, and Nehemiah House to host a 21st Century Freedom Ride (Dec 5-9). Fifty riders from contemporary peace and justice movements re-traced the route of the 1961 Freedom Riders, stopping in Birmingham to reflect with Freedom Movement veteran Vincent Harding on what we must learn from the past and what we must do in the present to become the America that has not yet been. For testimonies from our Freedom Riders, visit: The Vine (Haverhill, MA): Our community is getting ready for our annual Free Market in March. People donate quality used items, and we give them away for free, opening up early for the neediest families in Haverhill. We’re also discovering new ways of sharing life together in our city so that we might plant seeds of community in new neighborhoods and among new people. Pray for us as we begin this new phase of our journey ( The Simple Way (Philadelphia, PA): We had a busy end of the year with our Christmas toy giveaway, where neighbors “shop” in the free, brand-new toy store for their kids. We have welcomed Dan from the UK as a new resident focusing on communications, while bidding a tearful farewell to Brett “Fish” and Valerie Anderson, who finished their village house residency at the end of 2012. We are excited about helping with the Justice Conference, hosted here in Philadelphia, February 22-23 ( Tierra Nueva (Skagit Valley, WA): We celebrated thirty years of ministry! We hosted a banquet in October with many old and new friends, rich with stories. We celebrated our journey, starting in 1982 in Honduras with farming campesinos. We thanked God for raising up more workers for the fields even as he has expanded this work. We now have twenty staff walking alongside and advocating for migrant families, jail inmates, and ex-offenders, gang members living together as single dads, and women and men in recovery. Thank you God! We celebrate the work of your Holy Spirit ( 47

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More Conspiring Communities:

Alterna (LaGrange, GA) Camden Community Houses (Camden, NJ) Centurion’s Guild (Honolulu, HI) Church of the Sojourners (San Francisco, CA) Come Together (Canton, TX) Community of Faith (Fallbrook, CA) DC Area Community of Communities (Washington, DC) East Central Ministries (Albuquerque, NM) First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights (Pittsburgh, PA) Georgetown College Campus Ministry (Georgetown, KY) Hyaets Community (Charlotte, NC) Jubilee Food Pantry (Hubbard, OR) Mercy Station (Anderson, AL) Missio Dei Community (St. Petersburg, FL) More Than Thursdays (Oakland, CA) Mulberry House (Springfield, OH) Reba Place/Shalom Mission Communities (Evanston, IL) Relational Tithe (Oakland, CA) Social Action Committee, Iliff (Denver, CO) Salado United Methodist Church (Salado, TX) Sacramento Conspirators (Sacramento, CA) San Rafael First UMC (San Rafael, CA) Servants Vancouver (Vancouver, BC) Solomon’s Porch (Minneapolis, MN) The Book Parlor (Spokane, WA) The GAPS Community (Downey, CA) 48

Pictured above: Tierra Nueva at thirty years.

Gratitude, Grace, and Celebration  

Recover your spirit of celebration and refresh your vision with this exploration of the discipline of gratitude. Here is a powerful antidote...

Gratitude, Grace, and Celebration  

Recover your spirit of celebration and refresh your vision with this exploration of the discipline of gratitude. Here is a powerful antidote...