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Appeal to people’s spirit rather than their training.” — They Didn’t Teach Me this in Seminary… Part Two of Five Ways Intertwine is Helping Me Slow Down and Show Up

We’re sharing 5 stories from our recent Sunday gathering Meet Me at the Treefort: The Wild as Teacher — with Ben Weaver. These are stories that reflect the “slowing down and showing up” ways of being that Intertwine and collaborators and co-conspirators are learning to inhabit.

Part Two: “Appeal to people’s spirit rather than their training.” — They Didn’t Teach Me this in Seminary…

During our gathering, Ben Weaver shared his poem “The Red Birds of My Blood.” Here are some of the lines:

Appeal to people’s spirit rather than their training. Validate their willingness to deviate.


The predictable stories are the ones written in fear while the stories with no clear endings or beginnings are lived in witness to love.

I wasn’t trained for what was created on Sunday. In preparation, Ben and I talked about trusting what he and I and the Intertwine community already have within us. We would bring our honest selves and let the morning unfold as it would.

I’ve been trained up in stories of maintaining good order. I’ve been trained to serve from the top down with the best of intentions. I’m a Master of Divinity (Ha! That title is ridiculous!) and an ordained pastor, and I’ve been taught that my voice is the voice that speaks from the pulpit.

I’ve been trained to be skeptical of certain voices — voices that may represent a story that isn’t “orthodox.” I remember one conversation that was a part of my candidacy process to become ordained. The chair of my candidacy committee, in hearing about my passion for earth and care for creation, warned me, “Just don’t start worshiping animals.” It was one of those micro-agressions that I internally rolled my eyes at, but still it carried this “we’ll be watching you” vibe.

A shot of us setting up for that November 2015 gathering.

I’ll never forget our first public gathering. It was before we even had our name, Intertwine. November of 2015, a group of us gathered on the banks of Mississippi below the Lowry Bridge at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s small outdoor amphitheater. My friend, Bob Klanderud, a Dakota elder and storyteller, joined us. He performed a smudging ceremony and shared stories in which he spoke of the river as kin — as a spirit very much alive. I remember struggling to speak after he shared because my training and voices like that of my candidacy chair boomed fear in my body — the fear of saying something unorthodox. Caught up in mental syntactical gymnastics, I did all I could to toe some imaginary patriarchal line in my speech. It was painful, but Bob’s wisdom and care (thank the Creator!) brought us back to river when he invited us to offer prayers and tobacco as his tradition instructs.

This is what much of the trauma that exists in the bodies of the privileged and dominant culture looks like… The worry of getting it wrong. The worry of failing the powers that be. Ironically, it is exactly those powers that are most failing earth and us all. As was said in the first post, the same practices that got us to this anxious existence (our fear-driven control and consumption) aren’t going to save us from it.

It’s time to deviate from training and attend to spirit. That happened Sunday. Our seminary faculty that morning were water, cottonwood trees, and the children in our midst. We deviated from training when my daughter came up to me in the middle of my sharing something with the community, and instead of shushing her or sending her away, I was encouraged by community members to just be present to her.

Here’s some of what Etta drew while sitting in my lap during the gathering.

We opened ourselves to stories with no clear ending or beginning when, instead of one voice speaking from a pulpit (we don’t have one of those), we created an open space for any and all in the community to speak their stories and struggles, wisdom and wondering.

I think what I’m trying to get at in this post is that we need to re-member trust in one another and in earth. The training of dominant culture is shallowly rooted in fear (of not belonging and of not enough) which leads to control and distrust. It’s diseased by a story of a distant divine dad (a Boomer-aged, CEO, cis-gender, hetero, neatly-bearded, Christian white man) who promises to dote over you if you fall in line and doom you if don’t. It’s beyond time to deviate.

It’s time to hear the stories of Dakota wisdom that recognizes divinity and kinship within all creation. It’s time to remember that story within in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the divine breath birthing and filling all of life. And if divinity is within all, then we ought to listen to and honor all the divine life we encounter. Namaste, the divine in me bows to the divine in you, Mississippi River… In you, child tapping on my shoulder… In you, Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples who have inhabited this divine land for thousands of years prior to my ancestors’ arrivals… Even, in you, divinity within myself — the Love I am witnessing come alive in my own experience of deconstruction and decolonization.

From what training do you need to deviate? It’s easy to recognize. Just pay attention to where fear and anxiety creep into your body. What are those stories you hold that further isolate and separate you from other life?

We don’t have to carry those stories with us anymore. Love can move us beyond fear. Deviating from training looks like making room for honesty. It looks like allowing room for all voices, and particularly the voices of the voiceless, to be heard. It looks like listening. It looks like humility. It sound like, “I don’t know” — “I need help” — “I’m sorry, help me make it right.” It looks like the restoration of community. And community is a space of profound healing and new possibility.

There is no clear beginning or ending to this story, but when we all write it together, we are witnesses to love. How can our community affirm your spirit and validate your willingness to deviate from toxic training?

Next up: “Everything you need is already inside of you” — We’re not here to consume but to create.



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