Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Gay Dogs... Don't Listen," by Sarah Durant

This is part allegory, part midrash, part conversation concerning the story of Lot on the eve of Sodom's destruction. Thank you Sarah for the story of your sister's dog.

"I Shall Ascend Above the Clouds..." by Ray Atkins

This is less midrash and more a brief telling of the story of Babel (targum). Thanks Ray for your eyes.

"Is God Mean?" by Tim Seitz

Tim Seitz, a wonderfully creative yet meek soul, offered this beautifully simple window into the subversive nature of God, as seen through a paradoxical understanding of the flood. Doesn't scripture say something about using the simple to confound the wise.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I Hear Dead People, by Mike Stavlund

Thanks to Mike for offering this heart-rending meditation on the individual cost of our corporate malfeasance.

Mike blogs here about participating and creating in our Stories that Compost workshop. He chose this art by Jon White to illustrate his thoughts.

A Brief Exchange

Here was my contribution to our communal exploration of Exodus 1. Like I said, barely 7 lines. (However, I did in talking to Brian McLaren later that day discover why writing is such a labor for me, as much as I enjoy it. It seems that extroverts struggle to write because writing is such a solitary--introverted--process. Extroverts by nature find collaborative processes easier to engage in. Go figure.)

"I can't submit," Pharaoh resolved.
"Ramses, you must," Moses pleaded.
"I can't."
"Why, my brother; why?"
"Because I killed all those babies. I keep thinking about their little bodies lying at the bottom of the river to become food for crocodiles."
"Elohim is the morning star. She does not hold you hostage to your yesterdays, but with the rising of the sun extends to you new mercies."
"It's not that. I can accept that I knew no better. But there are those who did. How come they did nothing? I cannot submit to a god who would do nothing."

All in the Family, by Mark van Steenwick [for ages 15&up]

This is a contemporary midrash inspired by the fact that Moses' people were an immigrant people who had fallen out of favor with the dominant culture, simply because of a fear of what their increasing numbers might portend. Because of language and content, it is for maturer audiences (15&up).

With Child

Here is a story inspired by the Moses story, but re-contextualizes it to address more contemporary concerns.

I would desperately love to know the name of the women who composed this. All I remember is that she was caring for a baby of a different ethnic heritage than herself, which led me to believe her story was deeply personal.

Survivor's Guilt [for ages 12&up]

Here is another piece for which I again cannot make full attribution. All I know is that it was composed by Dave. Thanks, Dave (please send me your last name when you have the chance).

Update: Dave finally contacted me (6/11/10) to let me know his last name is Huth. He's a communication professor in western NY state and can be found online at

Beloved Conspiracy

I place these wonderfully conspiratorial pieces together because they seem two insightful parts of the same whole.

The haiku (the 2nd audio) was composed by Cathy Norman. I do not have a name for the first author. If anyone remembers her name, please forward it to me.

Update: We now know the first story was composed by Nancy Jarosi!

Census, by Glenn Zuber

True to form, I started recording late when Glenn stepped to the mic to share his story. I count on Glen's graciousness to send me a complete copy of his story. Until then, I am haunted by his last line. Speaking of Pharaoh, Glenn said,

"...When he saw the strength and numbers of the Israelites, he saw a competitor, a threat, instead of people who added to his kingdom."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"What About Our Needs?" by Russell Rathbun

With the inaugural Stories that Compost workshop (transFORM East Coast Gathering, 1 May 2010), I began to collect midrash on the biblical episodes I've been re-telling. The workshop was an amazing success thanks to Russell Rathbun, the co-facilitator, and the participation of nearly 30 intrepid souls, several of whom got up in the moment to tell their stories!

One of the most memorable moments for me was witnessing the reaction to Russell's declaration that the Bible's wonderful stories of faith--though useful, formative and important--are not precious. The astonishment which quickly melted into relief is a mental snapshot I shall never forget. Russell then assured everyone that, try as we might, we cannot break the Bible, which set everyone free to explore.

Then Russell read an excerpt from his new book Midrash on the Juanitos to help us understand the rich tradition of Judeo-Christian midrash in scripture:

"Idiot John continued... 'The rabbis, when they read, walk into the text. They bring themselves to it and step across the edge of the scroll onto its body, bouncing a little, believing it will hold their weight. And then on hands and knees crawl through the furrows of words, examining, brushing away dirt, not unlike a botanist examining growth patterns and evidence of the soil's mineral content, water content and whether there is deep clay below the cracks in the soil from which the words emerged. It is the cracks, the gaps, that allow them a way in. The Midrash is the exploration of the gaps. Stories and parables, proverbs and legal case studies come from mining these gaps. The text is changed by their having been there. There are footprints left behind, indentations, great hollowed out places and covered over, smoothed out portions. The tents of opposing camps are set in the text side by side. Conclusions leaned up against refutations, some decaying, some flourishing. Having once been a oral wisdom that required a speaker--and what is an individual speaker if not a unique interpreter--the text was not allowed to pass into stone, to become hardened, but was kept alive and fertile, even malleable. But with deep and unknown roots.'

My head hurt. 'What the hell are you talking about? Did you memorize that? Or do you just love your own metaphorical meanderings?'"

With that, we set to work on our own midrash based on Exodus 1. I completed perhaps 7 lines. However, in the same 7 minutes Russell composed this wonderfully incisive piece of flash fiction, full of his customarily eloquent mix of wry humor and critical analysis. In all the best ways I envy my brotha, and thank GOD for his company in this adventure.