Ranae Hanson was the scheduled speaker at semi-programmed meeting for worship on November 17, 2013

Today we greet another morning, Friends. How fortunate we are!

If you are new here, you may wonder who gets to sit on this facing bench, who gets to stand up and speak? The answer is–just about anyone. Today I am just about anyone. God/Life/the Joy within–messages from these can come through any living being. I pray that, today, some of the divine joy may come to you, may not be disturbed by me.

These last weeks I have been noticing my own joy. It’s a rather private, quiet, but pervasive joy. Maybe mostly invisible on the outside. This joy has revealed itself as I’ve settled into the enormity of the challenge and grief around us. I recommend an article by Robert Jensen titled, “The Future Must Be Green, Red, Black, and Female”—that is, in tune with natural laws, not capitalist, anti-racist and aware of white privilege and reparationist, and gender just. Jensen points out that we can’t insist on hope but that, if we open our eyes to reality, we may earn the right to hope. I have found this to be true. As I have acknowledged the bleak condition humans have created on this earth, I have, perhaps oddly, opened myself more to awareness of joy.

Today, let me I share with you some of that joy. I invite you to welcome memory of your own. What brings me joy may not bring joy to you or may not be available to you. What brings joy to you is likely not available to me.

You may, for instance, find joy in morning coffee. I don’t.

For me, joy–

Putting the new green tea leaves into the mesh basket infuser. Smelling the first hint of tea as the water fills the cup. Waiting–half a minute, one minute, or two depending. Then sitting with my pen and my leather-bound journal and my daughter’s snugly kitten for morning writing and tea. Outside the window, a tree. Joy.

Here are some others, joy too deep for words.

Seeing an empty bird feeder, I fill it. Birds come.

I go to the yard. I rake leaves. Noticing a lingering scent of prairie drop seed; I remember summer. Rose hips droop from the rose bush. I will pick them soon and then, as they dry, the house will fill with memory of summer roses and promise of winter tea.

I drive north to spend the weekend with my mother. In the dark of the lowland just before Embarrass a fox bolts out, right in front of my car. We both hit our breaks and swerve. Then, slowing, we pause. We look at one another. We are safe. I did not kill her. She did not die. The white plume on her tail bobs toward me once and she walks into the ditch. I drive home to my mom’s. I get out of the car. Above me a crochet of stars. Before me a night-blackened lake. Around me the trees that form the pattern of my life consciousness, gift of the earth, gift from my father, beloved of the Ojibwe, gift of life. I walk through the silence to the house. Off in the swamp a fox hunts, a deer mouse probably passes, and, across the lake, the bones of my father and the other hunters and fishers and miners and mothers and babies lie under the spruce and the pine.

Back in the city I bike on trails behind the U of M campus, across our mother Mississippi (I was born at her start; my children were born by her side), along the river road and the train road. A hawk remains on a fence post as I bike past. Breathless joy. Some people I do not know sat through long committee meetings to argue for, haggle out, and finally approve this path; other people cleared the way and laid it; someone set that fence post.

On campus, to my global studies class room comes a colleague. Mary Ann Prado started the campus resource center. She has helped thousands of students find housing when they were homeless, food when they were hungry, clothing when they were without. The students open our circle to greet her. She tells us that she left her home near Tacloban, the Philippines, when she was 15. She says that she has, at last, made phone contact with her father. He is safe; the cousins she has heard of so far are alive though their homes are gone. She asks us to remember the children who are now without parents, the parents who are without their children. She says she will be sending a box, on a boat–no rush, it will be needed in six months–and suggests that we give coloring books, something for the children to do. Moses, who has brought to his classmates both his fierce independence and his horror at the oil spills across the farmlands of his home in Nigeria, stands up first. He brings her $20. Darlena, a former army recruit from Chicago, a woman who first began writing and typing two short semesters ago but who now tutors others, cajoling, almost bullying them into sticking out school, stands up next. We stay a few minutes together. Mary Ann’s eyes brim over, letting out her grief, letting in the love.

In all of this, can you hear joy?

Joy impregnates, William Blake said; grief brings forth.

What will we birth from our joy, my friends? What will our grief reveal?

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