Friday, May 31, 2013

When is Good Good Enough?

When is being good good enough?  When can we say that we have done our share?  When can we rest on our proverbial laurels?  When is the struggle over and the time just to live, to be, at hand?  When is being good good enough?

It seems the answer is never.

But it also seems, at least to me, that in our time, we’ve misunderstood the philosophers and theologians of old when we insist that we must always be striving.  We hear their exhortations as absolutist statements with perfection as the elusive runner’s tape before us, the goal post ever moved with enough never being quite, well, enough.

Why is that, I wonder?

Why do so many of us humans, at least here in the northern part of the western hemisphere, impose upon ourselves and others the nefarious idea that in order to attain happiness, there must always be the possibility of more?

Life is not an assembly line and human productivity (whatever that means) was never intended to be measured by the corporate bottom-line mentality.

I think what I hear in the echoes of time is not the call to always strive, but to simply recognize that the work will never be finished, which is not the same thing at all.  In fact, it’s the opposite:  in recognizing that the work that I’m called to will never be finished, am I not freed to slow down a bit, recognizing that there is always work to be done, but there is also always play to be had as well?  The only real reason to hurry is the mistaken belief that the work can be finished, the goal can be attained, as if we were rushing towards the end of something.

Who wants to do that?

When is good good enough?

Right now.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

10 Reasons to Be Grateful

[Sigh] So how to be grateful when I’m not . . . grateful?  Oh yes, the outside in approach – you know: changing my behavior can and will change my emotional state, my feelings, the way I see things – outside in.  Simple, right?

Well, maybe.  Let’s see – I know: I’ll do a gratitude list.  I don’t even have to mean it; I just have to do it.  So here goes.

I am grateful for:

1. Silence
2. Alone time
3. Acerbic wits – they make me laugh
4. A self-righteously smug attitude which protects me from all the C.R.A.P.
5. Protestors – love them
6. Bears – they actually get to growl
7. People who hate the very idea of women clergy – without you, who would I feel superior to?
8. Racists – ditto #7
9. Paperwork – it gives my life purpose if not meaning
10. Meetings – what would I do without meetings?

Okay – I don’t want to get carried away, after all.  I am a curmudgeon and I’m in a particularly curmudegonly mood that I don’t want to spoil with too much gratitude, so I think I’ll end it here before I go all mushy and come up with a real list, something that might read:

I am grateful for:

1. Roof overhead
2. Chirping birds
3. Laughter
4. Green
5. Cars and the possibilities of travel
6. My family
7. Electricity
8. Food
9. Hospitality
10. Smiles

Yep – there it is – that warm and fuzzy feeling I so hate.  Darn it, where did my curmudgeon go?  I know I put it somewhere.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Falling vs. Fallen

Traveling back and forth between my home state of West Virginia and Virginia (where I now live), I have been in turn amused and bemused to note a difference in road signs warning of the same situation: Falling Rocks (West Virginia) and Fallen Rocks (Virginia).

What could have created the difference?

Do West Virginians perceive themselves as sufficiently adroit and quick-responding drivers to avoid the rocks as they fall?  Probably, and not without cause.  Have you driven those curves in those mountains?  It requires some skill as well as courage.

Do Virginians think the greater danger presented is to be found on what’s already on the road versus what might be falling down from above?  Perhaps.

Falling versus fallen – maybe it’s a theological difference (I know, I know – I stretch the point).  Maybe Virginians emphasize our fallen nature while West Virginians emphasize our grace-filled redemption (represented by some, particularly mystic, writers, as falling into God).  As a West Virginia home-girl, I’d like to think so.

Apropos of nothing at all important, I puzzle and come to no conclusions, except to note that one picture really is worth a thousand words.

But West Virginia has taken the extra step of naming a town (well, not really a town – just a zip code, really) “Falling Rock”.  Now that’s committed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Turned to Light

If we are mostly water, can sound turn us into light? – Jordan Arsonist on FB

Sonoluminescence:   a phenomena by which a bubble of air in water can focus sound to cause light.    Physics Page FB

As Jordan asks, I am left wondering, since we humans are mostly comprised of water, and since, in some sense, our bodies could be compared to a bubble, whether sound could turn us into light.

Having no scientific ken, I can only come at this from the vantage of the pedant or the poet, focusing entirely too much on either the minutiae or the vagaries and beauty of the thought.

If I were a bubble, what sound would render me light?
Would it be your voice?  The early-morning bird song?
The throaty laugh of the young child bemused and beholding?
No – much as I would wish it so, for I have heard these things
and remain steadfastly fastened, bound, to this non-light way
I think it would take the literal voice of God – transmuted
into sound wave upon shocking sound wave to reveal
the light that is you which might then reveal the light that is me

I think I’ll stick with the physicists to understand and then explain it to me – I have no mind, no sufficient imagination, to encounter even in my questions the idea of the air in a bubble being carried into light by sound.

So it’s the physicists – and the poets – that will have to do – for now.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Days

Perhaps we might consider honoring our war dead by renewing the efforts of the living that such sacrifice never be called for again, that swords be the last resort rather than the first, that we send our old (for we have already lived long) rather than our young, that we love more and fear less, that the concept we call ‘war’ might pass so far in our memory as to become nothing more than a horrific recall in the books of history.

Perhaps we might, this Decoration Day, remember the words of Robert E. Lee, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”  Maybe we will sit down at our tables this night and speak in hushed tones to our young of the terrible times when we humans lost our way and offer our memories as a solemn warning.

Perhaps we will read our children not Tennyson but Twain*, not news dispatches from the front, but Edna St. Vincent Millay** and Judyth Hill***.

Perhaps, with just a hint of prescience, we will pull back from the brinks of our own making and call that our homage to those gone before, whispering our sorrow that we did not do better sooner.

Perhaps we will repent that as a species we continue to find it easier to kill than compromise, to manufacture weapons than to petition another for redress.

Perhaps we will begin by refusing to call their deaths good, coming as they did on the crosses of our own failings.


*Mark Twain’s The War Prayer, a harsh reminder that (as in our own Civil War) our prayers for our own victory, if granted, come at a terrible cost, was not published in his lifetime.  Twain noted, “None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.”

** Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote The Conscientious Objector some time prior to 1934 when it was published.  An ardent supporter of WWII, in her earlier years, she was a pacifist and The Conscientious Objector is a poignant reminder to count the cost, as she resists offering up friend or enemy to death.

*** Judyth Hill’s Wage Peace, written in the wake of September 11, 2001, is a beautiful reminder that we need not breathe out what we breathe in , reading in part:
Wage Peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble.
Breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red-wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
Breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields. . .
Act as if armistice has already arrived.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: How God Is Is Who We Are

To understand God as Trinity is to understand ourselves as church.
In the Orthodox tradition, the church is the icon – the visual sign and symbol – of the Trinity.  We – the church – are the incarnation of the Trinity in the present tense.
Trinity is not a unity of decision or will; rather, the Trinity is a unity of identity – unity is an integral part of who God is.  And because it is a unity of who God is, it is a unity of who we are.
But what does it mean to be one?  As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 12:
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. . . there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Thus, quite literally, to wage ‘war’ against each other is to wage war against ourselves.  In a very real sense, if I kill you, I die.
I am church and so are you, for without you or without me, there is not church, for we are always and only church together.
A poured forth people, we are God’s own icon. . . of the one-ness of the Loving God.  We’re the peace sign to a world at war with itself.  We’re the grace note to a world of discord.  We’re the solid ground, the standing place in a world off kilter.  We’re the glory of God shining into the darkness.  We’re the patient ones in the face of suffering, showing that there is nothing to fear.  We are the love of God poured forth into the heart of a world stretched beyond its patience, near if not beyond its own breaking point.  We are the heart of God laid bare to the world.
That is who we are.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Joyful Feast

We sat down last night to lamb kebabs and tzaziki, salads and caprese, hot dogs for the kids big and small among us, home-grown asparagus with home-made hollandaise, cookies, laughter and love.  There wasn’t a bottle of wine or a loaf of bread in sight, yet sacramental it was, every bite an explosion of joyful surprise and a spirit of contentment pervaded the house.

Sprawling on the couches, the women surrounded by weaving children laugh and talk and laugh some more, while the men sit and chat at the table, comfortable amidst the litter of our leavings.

Friends-in-the-making, we women ministers reminisce about our talk earlier in the day, about Deb’s coming life-changing new call, our silly moments and the more serious ones blending together, and amidst it all, even Sidney the cat is on best behavior, submitting as never before to the frighteningly loving ministrations of young children who adore soft things.

The moon shines bright in the cold night sky lighting the way home for departing guests who leave bathed in its beauty.

It is a good night.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Where, O Where, Did I Put My Joy?

I’ve lost my joy
Lord, where did I put it?

Did I leave it in the car?

Did it fall under the couch?

Did it disappear into the 
dryer with all those 
unpaired socks?

Maybe I put it in the 
freezer with the car
keys I put there that
one time and when
I found the keys 
I forgot to grab the joy

Maybe it’s in the 
bottom of my purse
where most of my
other lost things 
are – but who wants
to look there?

For the life of me, Lord,
I cannot think where 
I could have put it –
so help me out here,
please – I know you’re
busy with the planet
but I really miss my
joy and don’t know
where to find it –
Little Bo Peep’s
got nothing on me
and yes, I know sheep –
especially the lost kind –
are way more important
than my joy – at least
to the sheep – but won’t
you please, please, help
me find my joy – I do
miss it so – and I am
definitely no fun anymore
trust me when I tell you 
this – I used to be – but
no more – the light is
dulled and there is no
clapping of hands and
no crisis to blame –

I’ve just misplaced my
joy – who does that?
Who loses something so
precious in the detritus of
a life, like it’s worth no
more than the pennies I’ve
bled into the crevices of
the couch over the years?

I’m sorry I didn’t take 
better care of it – this
wondrous gift – I remember
it – can even catch sight of
it scurrying around the 
corner just ahead – but I 
cannot seem to find it –
won’t you help me?
Give me a hint?  Help me
retrace my steps to the last
place I put it down?  I can’t
even remember that – that 
last joy moment – when I 
decided (for I guess I must
have decided, even though
I do not remember even 
that) to put it down – surely
just for a moment while I
picked up something else –
why would I do that?  

I wish I knew.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

China Patterns

Lucille and I stand in her
Spode Maritime Rose pattern of my china,
which belonged to my Grandmother,
Bertha Arminta Taylor Keadle
dining room and sort through
her beautiful china patterns
choosing what we will use
for the Mother’s Tea, marveling
in turn this one or that – me oohing
and ahing genuine appreciation
for the colors and designs and
feeling the fine thinness of one
cup so delicate I fear to hold it
too long in these inelegant paws
as Lucille tells me of this auntie
and that cousin and another of the
sisters – gone – all long gone – who
left behind these marks of beauty
to be shared by women they will
not know in times they will not have
holding their treasures with hands
that touch, meet, only on the surface
of the beauty of their beloved things

I love china patterns

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Can Only Imagine

When tornadoes and tsunamis and gunmen interrupt the world, it is the children who capture our hearts and imaginations, we who stand on the other side of the dividing line that is ever present between we who have lost and we who have not.  Every parent’s fear became reality for too many today and today and today and a dividing line stands between us, for we on the ‘safe side’ of the line can only dress rehearse the horror, as if it were a talisman of protection to imagine the unimaginable.  For those whose children have died, sorrow.  For those whose have not, embrace of the day, for there is no safety in tomorrow.  And I, still on this side of the line, can only imagine.

There you stand
on the other side
of the line that
divides us –
always will –
until it doesn’t

That line of before
and after where
the beforeness of
you imagines that
it will never be
that you are me

that place of pride
where you stand
with your child
safely at your side
looking with just
a bit of fear over
the line at me –
who just a moment
ago stood with you
but now –
now I can never go
back to the land
of certainty
the land of the 
smug unaware
not me
not me

the other side
where a child
stands at my side
no longer
is lonely territory

the other side
is the screaming
place and there is
no comfort and you
would not come to
me even if you
could – I would not
ask you to – it would
be too cruel to ask
that you stand with
me bereft of your

Rachel is not the 
only one who weeps
you know

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We Fling Life

We humans fling life wherever we go.  It’s one of the things I like about us – this life flinging.

A neighbor calls this morning to see if I want some cucumber starters to plant and life is flung as gardens and patches and starters are shared and planted and dug and replanted and tended and harvested only to begin again in another season.

A family’s young travel the seas and the highways for fun and for work and life is flung, our DNA sent out into the world and I think of my own man-boy son deep sea fishing and say to the sea you better be nice to him – that’s my DNA you’ve got in your hands.

A church gathers in Scotland and debates in its Scots’ way, leaving no one satisfied and many hands wrung and flung – life.

A tornado weaves its way through a plain designed perfectly for such things, leaving devastation and death in its wake . . . and a man sitting in his rocking chair bedecked in his overalls house gone and life is flung with each sway of his chair.

A friend walks through the woods and gathers on her shoes the detritus of the forest and carries it back to her home and somewhere on a blade of grass rests a seed of something new waiting for the right combination of rain and sun and dirt to burst forth – life is invasive that way and we fling it wherever we go whether we mean to or not.

Just another life-flinging day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why This 50-Something Female Should Avoid the Movies

Okay, so I’ll be 58 in a few weeks, so the 50-something moniker is a bit of a stretch.  But I digress.

Saturday I went with some friends to see Star Trek: Into Darkness.  Loved it.  And yes, I am a Trekkie at heart – deal.

Again, I digress.

I should have known it would be an interesting day when, upon presenting my happy self at the ticket counter, the lady (who, I must point out, appeared to be older than my own mother by several years) said, “Senior” with no question mark in her voice as she proceeded to ring me up.  The best honor system ever devised kicked into high gear as I, with some umbrage in my voice, I confess, protested her judgment that I am at least 65 (and no, don’t try to comfort me that the age there for the senior discount might ‘only’ be 62 – trust me, it’s no comfort).  Trying to make it all better (I’m betting she is somebody’s mom), the lady said, “I just wanted to be sure you got your discount.” – Yeah, that helped.  Not.

Flash forward to getting into our seats laden with the obligatory popcorn, drink and candies, oh, and the raincoat I take to movie theaters (no old lady jokes will be tolerated) to use as a blanket in case I get cold.  Have you ever noticed that there’s no place except the floor (and who wants to bend clear down to the floor?  As I said, keep the old lady jokes to yourself) to put anything down while you get yourself arranged in the seats?  Well, I have.

I thought I was home free after having the candy fall through the adjacent seat to the floor, after I struggled to find the cup holder to put the water bottle into, as I gracefully sank down, popcorn bag in hand, into the comfortable seat awaiting me, only to lose my balance a bit on the way down and fling my right arm (yes, the one with the popcorn bag in the hand at the end of the arm) outward in a poor imitation of an emcee presenting a favorite guest (think Ed Sullivan here for those of you old enough – see, now you’ve got me doing it).  Popcorn flew everywhere.  Thankfully, the folks sitting in front of me had not yet arrived, sparing themselves the butter-salt shower that in another time dimension (it was a Star Trek movie, you know) awaits them.

After the movie, I only sighed a bit as I crunched my way to the end of the aisle and out the theater, with the obligatory pit stop on the way out (in my defense, my much younger girl friends did the same).  Thankfully, there actually was a hook in the stall (you try dealing with a raincoat and purse when there isn’t one – it’s no fun in that position to wrap your raincoat around your neck like a scarf and your purse like a feed bag, let me tell you).

Almost home free, I approach the water faucet to wash my hands.  How hard can that be?

Well, I stood there and waved my hands again and again under the faucet.  This, for me, is not unusual – for some reason, those sensor things never recognize my hands and I always end up doing some kind of dance of hand waving that I’m sure would be recognized somewhere in the far reaches of the world as a ritual to a god I’ve never met.  Enter Melissa (one of the friends, whose birthday we were celebrating with this outing) from stage left.  I didn’t realize that she had been standing slightly behind me waiting for me to finish when she stepped up and without remark, turned on the faucet with the lever usually provided, and stepped back.

I stood there for a moment – a nano-second, surely –  in disbelief, realizing that I had been trying to wave the automatic water stream into action when there was no automatic water stream.  After the nano-second, I burst into helpless laughter and another nano-second later, so did Melissa – a good friend always waits to see if you get the joke when it’s on yourself and Melissa (Woman Who Brings Water to me now and forevermore) is a good friend.

Next time, I think I’ll just take my senior discount with gratitude and move on.

After all, I’ve earned it, don’t you think?

It’s either that or avoid the movies altogether.

And I really like movies.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If It's Positive You Want

If it’s positive you want,
I am not your gal

I get it – I really do –
I’m as tired as you
are of all the kvetching,
whining, complaining
good-old-days yearning
downright bitchiness
of it all – very tired

and yes I know there is
a time for everything 
under the sun – even 
Solomon wasn’t original
to Solomon, you know –
so yes, there it a time for
putting on our happy hats
as we dream our big dreams

but life is no longer Eden
and I stand where I stand
right up to my kneecaps
in the shit of it all – and
I dare not pretend otherwise

for that lie won’t hunt,
that dog won’t dance
that girl won’t do

everything is not possible
but some things are

everything is not desirable
but some things are

everything is not good
but some things are

so when you tell me to
“be positive”
what I hear is
“be someone else”

for the someone that I am
is not an atom
but an ion
with cations and anions
mixing it up freely
sometimes one
sometimes the other
holding the fore

for are not positive
and negative
negative and positive
simply aspects of Truth?

how do we leave out one
in favor of the other
while standing in the land
of the True?

and is not the land of the True,
rather than the home of the 
free and land of the brave
the better place for standing?

And what is true is this:
I am neither brave nor free
Constrained by fears – my
own and others – fettered
by the bondage of past and
present, realities and perceptions 
does the myth of freedom (whatever
that may mean) crumble as dust
at my feet and it is there – in the
dust – that the ions have their
dance – positive . . . negative . . . 
negative . . . positive . . . 

So you want me to tell you of
a future where all will be well?
Here’s the thing – we have to
get there from where we are –
and where we are is the place
where plowshares have not yet
been yielded up from swords

where lions still eat lambs
for supper and call it
lip-smacking, freedom-
loving good

where Jew and Greek,
male and female,
slave and free
still walk the land
differences intact

and yes, we will get to that
promised land

but we must get there
from here

so what is my vision?

a time when and a place where
the people – us – are moved
to get busy and do the work
picking up our hammers
to strike a different chord 
in the heart of the sword

a time when and a place where
the prophets will rip the duct tape
from their mouths and stand and
speak and stand and speak and stand
and speak until – at long last – their
Truth begins an ionic shift into
the change we wish to be 

a time when and a place where
we stop yearning for yesterday
as if it were Eden – it wasn’t
[please, not another fb post about
the great 1950's – do we not notice
that all the faces were white?  I know
some do – for their faces are not there
and as my Grandma used to say – 
there wasn’t that much good in the
good old days]
and start yearning for the reality that
we are to be the enough it was 
created and dreamed to be
back when God stood on
that mountain top and 
looking out, bespoke,
I have a dream . . . 
and she and he is you and me

but you want positive
and I am an ion
and in positive world
I just won’t do


Read How the US Turned Three Pacifists Into Violent Terrorists and consider the language usage and how it shaped a reality -- for the three and for us.  Consider the trespasses that need forgiving -- 

The misuse of language is frighteningly effective when people acting non-violently against instruments of violence and the indifference that allows their continuation are labeled by government prosecutors and agencies as guilty of acts tantamount to terrorism and the courts support it.

To my gun-toting friends who insist on open carry laws, etc., I would point out that your rights to carry remain intact while my and others rights to speak and act against bigger weapons are not. This, friends, is the genuine constitutional threat of our time and it is not limited to Democrat or Republican, as all presidents in recent memory claim ever more power under the aegis of our fear of attack.

Why are we not collectively screaming against this overkill of ‘justice’ in the conviction of three peace
activists acting against the nuclear arming of a nation?  Why are we not outraged that what was an act, at most, of ‘trespass’, has been elevated to the crime of sabotage?

The real 'sabotage' was to reveal the weakness of our own mythic self-protections for the lie it is.

If the story of the Emperor who wore no clothes were re-written for our time, the little boy would have been sentenced to prison for the danger he presented of revealing the self-evident truth.

Shame on a government of, by and for a people who can no longer bear such things as truth.

But as a Christian and follower of The One, I have to agree with my government: symbolically hammering a huge piece of equipment is indeed an act of 'sabotage' and it is intended to be: it is sabotaging our lies to ourselves that our safety, our security, our future, reside on the backs of weapons of mass destruction, for they do not. The lie has been revealed for the cruel hoax it has always been. And indeed, if power is to remain power, such revealing must be quashed at all costs.

Well done, good and faithful servants. Sleep well tonight knowing you have stopped the danger presented by three people armed with nothing save Truth and the will to face you head on. Except that you haven't.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Little More

Sitting yesterday in another meeting about visioning for a future to be born out of a changed present, invited, challenged, advised, directed, to think “positive”, I strain against the constraint and wonder why – is it the being told that bothers me?  Or is it “positivity” itself I so reject?  My answer arrives standing outside with a fellow curmudgeon, who invites me to have a bad day as we part, both laughing, both getting the joke.

I am yearning 
for a bit of
Old Testament

a little prophetic
in my vision

a little bigness
in my dreams

a little more God
a little less me

a little more Truth
a little less
the positive

I am yearning
for a little more

as I am asked to
settle yet again
for a little less

Monday, May 13, 2013

SermonCliffNote: Love Was Born

Scripture Text: John 17.20-26 (The Message)

Jesus prays . . .

I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me.
Jesus prays for his disciples and Jesus prays for us, the ones who come after the disciples, the ones  who will believe in him, trust in him, love in him, because of those very disciples who so failed him in his own lifetime.  And there Jesus is, praying for them, for us, and here we are today, the answer to his prayer.  Extraordinary and humbling as it is, we are the answer to Jesus’ own prayer.

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us.  Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
We are called to a oneness with the Very Creator of All – but what is Jesus’ goal?  That we be of one heart and one mind with . . . God!  Then – then, when we are of one heart and mind with God, then  – might – the world believe that God sent Jesus.

The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me.  Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.
The same glory – the same shiny-like-a-penny newness – the same glow-in-the-dark love light – that glory, that same glory that God gave Jesus, Jesus gives us.  And that glory light is a unifying thing – nobody takes a bad picture in God’s lighting and it’s always a group picture.  Unified we become matured, ripened; and then will we be exhibit A to the world that God sent Jesus, and sent him in love – a love that extends through Jesus to us and through us to the world.

Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world.
God loved Jesus before there was even ground for him to stand on.  God planned for Jesus and gave him birth.  And those are the shoes Jesus would have us stand in as well – the Jesus shoes – standing upon the solid ground of God’s own creating love.  It is a splendor thing, this kind of love.  It might be standing right in the middle of the worst day that ever was, and yet, and still, there is splendor and glory.

Righteous Father, the world has never known you, But I have known you, and these disciples know That you sent me on this mission.  I have made your very being known to them— Who you are and what you do— And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them.
Paul says that we only see God as through wavy carnival glass, that is to say, we don’t see God very well at all.  But Jesus says: the world may not know you, Lord, but I do.  What Jesus knows of God is who God is and what God does.  And what Jesus knows, we know.  Why would Jesus give us such knowledge?  So that God’s own love for Jesus would be and become a real thing – living in us as surely as it lived and lives in Jesus himself.  That is the unity of which Jesus speaks – the unity of Love.

Jesus prayed and Love was born.
God dreamed and a world was born.
Peter preached and a faith was born.
God imagined and life was born.
Paul taught and a people was born.
God loved and we were born.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Jesus Loves You: The Greatest Pick-up Line Ever

Jesus loves you!
Click below to meet your true love.



The juxtaposition of the two statements above greeted me on FB yesterday morning and I just had to laugh.  Out loud laugh.  Snort laugh.

Really?  Jesus loves me and thus I am but a click away from true love?

Jesus love as the tag line, the enticement, for me to enter a singles (albeit Christian singles) web site?

I’ve seen Mona Lisa sell toothpaste and now I have seen Jesus ‘sell’ love.

We are so silly.

I wonder if it makes Jesus laugh or cry.

Hoping the former, fearing the latter, I’m choosing to chuckle my way through the day.

After all, Jesus loves me and that, of course, means that I can have a great online hookup.

Lucky me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

7 Reasons to be Grateful God Does Not Work on the A & F Principle

As I read CEO Michael Jeffries’ quote about hiring and marketing practices at Abercrombie & Fitch (“We go after the attractive all-American kids with a great attitude and a lot of friends.  A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes and they can’t belong. . .”Salon), I wonder what the world would be like if God thought like Michael Jeffries.

1. “For God so loved the world . . .” would obviously need to be rewritten.  Maybe instead, t-shirts would read, “For God so loved a teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy-corner-of-the-small-town-world-where-I-live that . . .”, for surely, God would only love the part where I live.  After all, I am one of the cool kids . . . aren’t I?  God?  Are you there?  Hey, wait up for me, God!

2. God would come to earth as a trickster rather than a savior, doling out spiritual wedgies and inviting the nerds and geeks to the God parties just to make fun of them for the amusement of the really cool ones already there.

3. The heavenly banquet where all are welcome would more resemble a kegger where some (you know who you are) would only be allowed in to be made fun of and forced to drink themselves to death.

4. The only prisoners we would be required to visit would be those who got caught out in Wall-Street shenanigans.  Everyone else would be on their own.

5. Mother Teresa would have run a sweat shop to make those fabulous A&F clothes rather than caring for the sick and she would be called Dude rather than Mother and the people that made the clothes would never be allowed to wear them.

6. Hell (and there definitely would be a Hell in Abercrombie world) would be populated by the worst dressed among us and thus on earth, our money would be spent on the most expensive clothing.  Oh.  Wait.  Er.  Never mind that bit, eh, God?

7.  Heaven would be populated with young white American (translate USA) males and the rest of us lucky enough to be there would simply be stage props for the real heavenly host.  Sadly, Mr. Jeffries will not be in the heaven he envisioned.  At 67 years of age, he is just way too old to be cool.

Thankfully, the world is not high school and God is not the head cheerleader or captain of the football team.  God loves them, but God is not them.  It’s an important distinction.

And so, Lord, today I thank you for not being like a clothing CEO.  I thank you for caring about all, including and especially the so-called least, among us.  I thank you that heaven is not an A&F commercial.  I thank you that there is no bottom line with you.  I thank you for the love that is you, shared and bestowed on the geekiest and coolest among us, without any such silly distinction.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Could be Talking to God: Which Woman Would I Be?

“I could be talking to God”:  my own ‘series’ of reflections that I could have/should have written instead of the one I did - thinking not of what others should do, but what I actually do do:  what I should do but don’t or shouldn’t do but do.  I ponder my own role and leave yours to you.  For the fact is, every time I open my mouth, I could be talking to God.


Written as my own ‘instead of’ to the post HEY WHITE FOLK

O God, the woman dressed so nice
to go out to dinner with her husband
the one who left her keys in his pocket
and stood behind the barrier of flesh
and prejudice
unable to do the tiniest thing of 
snatching the keys from his pocket
with a smile, a glint of the eye,
promise of things to come
back in the safe nest of their
own haven of love and goodness

that woman
the woman denied access
for the color of a skin
she cannot, will not, should not

she and the other women
the white ones who walked by
pretending blindness
as she cried her shaming
burkhaed by their ignoring
into the oblivion of not

were I there, which would I be?

I want to be the hypothetical woman
the one who stops and stands with
(I am trained for that, you know)
who questions and insists and shouts
and speaks softly yet effectively

because I want to be the rescuer
but I wasn’t there
and if I were, who would I be?
For I am no one’s rescuer
that’s just the dreamscape
of my imagining where heroines
stride the land and look an 
awful lot like me

who would I be?
who would I really be?

I wouldn’t be her –
I am not sufficiently brown
to draw the stares, the sneers
I wouldn’t be her because I
can’t be her

but please, please, please, God
don’t let me be them –
the walking by ones

that’s my fear
the dread of my own closets
how easy from the sidelines to cheer
and shout and jeer

but were I there,
would I have been different?

Lord, I hope so
I pray so
help me to know so

help me to remember that
even though I wasn’t there
I am often there
that I am a human
and thus called to stand
with, be beside, solidify
myself to the hurting ones
the silenced ones
the pushed aside ones
the burkahed ones

help me to be, to become,
that woman
because I am there
because I am here



HEY WHITE FOLK . . . and yeah, I’m one of you – of us, I should say.

Now that I have your attention . . .

Please read this article by an American woman physician about her ill treatment based only on the color of her skin.  Please.  Read.  It.  Please.

And when you’re tempted to argue, to disagree, to distinguish, please, please, take your fingers away from the keyboard and consider, if you will, for just a moment . . .

When you walk down a city street, have you ever noticed that the young men of color will often not look you in the eye?  Have you ever thought that maybe it’s not about them, but about you?  Have you ever considered how it must hurt them to see fear, suspicion, contempt or loathing in your eyes?  Have you?

When you sit and listen to that joke, that remark – yeah, that one – and don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean – we both know better, don’t we? – does it occur to you that in the mere listening, you and your own attitudes are being changed?  That your ‘tolerance’ for the intolerable is being built up?  That you are gradually, oh so gradually, becoming one with the one telling the joke, making the remark?  That there is a cost to us all when you are silent?

When you demand that brown people apologize for acts of terrorism around the world in order to make it clear to you that they do not agree, has it occurred to you that no one expects you to apologize for Timothy McVeigh?  For David Koresh?  For Jim Jones?  For Adolph Hitler?  For Joseph Stalin?  For the white person down the street who just broke into the house of your neighbor of color?  Did it ever even occur to you to go that neighbor and apologize for your kind?  Of course not.  Why, then, should it occur to ‘them’ to apologize to you – for something they did not do and with which they do not agree?

And to all the white women who passed by so easily, did it not occur to you not to pass by?  To stand with a sister in trouble?  To show your solidarity in rejection of this ill-treatment?

Because, you see, it isn’t just the one act that hurts so much.  That’s bad enough.  But when the privileged keep walking by as if it were our right, we reinforce the ugly.  We say it’s perfectly fine with us.  And it shouldn’t be.  But as Dr. Jilani points out from her own life experiences, unfortunately, it is.  It is fine with ‘us’.

If that does not sicken you, then I fear for us all.  A woman’s spirit was being annihilated.  And no one stopped to help.  Who taught ‘us’ that it is permissible to be so numbed, so indifferent, so afraid, perhaps, to the suffering of another happening right before our eyes that we could just walk on by as if it weren’t happening?  Shame on them.  Shame on us.

So some practical advice to the white folk:

1. Cut out the racism and the bigotry, the jokes.  Check your fears at the door and don’t make your fears someone else’s problem.  If you’re a Christian, remember that Jesus doesn’t like it.  Really.

2. Take up for other people when they’re being treated badly.  As a human being, it is your job.

3. Do not listen to the jokes and cracks.  I don’t care who's doing the telling.  Do not listen to them.  Say you will not listen to them.  If they do not stop, leave the room.

4. Stop complaining about how hard it is to be white.  It isn’t.  It’s hard to be human.

5. The Golden Rule has all kinds of applications.  Consider this: the next time you’re afraid of someone because they’re different than you, ask yourself why they might be afraid of you.  Put yourself in their shoes and act accordingly.  It is, after all, the Rule.

6. The idea that if one person of a group acts in a certain way means that they all do is just foolish.  Think not?  Well, if we’re to follow that line of thinking, every woman on the planet must hate, fear and suspect all men, because virtually every woman on the planet has been endangered at some point in her life by a man – not all men, but a man.  Does that mean no man can be trusted?  Of course not.  Does that mean you men must apologize to we women for your kind?  No.

7. It is not the job of the one suffering to explain themselves to you.  Don’t ask them to.  It hurts too much.

8. Stop thinking, acting, believing, as if we’re better than everyone else.  We’re not.  Nor are ‘they’ worse than we.  Life is not a contest and the ‘who’s better’ game is a destructive waste of time.  Consider that those you fear and hate the most are probably more like you than you can imagine – wanting simply to live in peace, provide for their families, have enough to survive.

9. Mom wasn’t wrong.  If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Greening Time

The rains have come
and it is greening time
in the mountains
tree canopies explode
into being as the view
from my desk shifts
away from the world
outside to a wall of
green and I can’t wait
for the grandbaby to
get here and hide out
under the wisteria
in his own special
cave place surrounded
by the greening – it
is life abundant and
it is good

Monday, May 6, 2013

Things That Make You Go Aaugh! - The Passive Aggressive Ones Among Us

Years ago, a friend pointed out to me a passive-agressive trick I had - she called me on it fair and square.  She stopped me dead in my tracks.  What had I done?  I wanted to ask her to babysit so I called and asked her what she was doing tonight.  When she said nothing, I then asked if she could baby-sit.  I was actually thinking that I didn’t want to ask her if she already had plans, but she went off on me a bit, pointing out that I was trapping her (or trying to) into a yes answer, by getting her to commit beforehand that she was available.  It was a valuable lesson and I haven’t forgotten it.

I don’t know why it took that moment to point out to me the necessity to simply ask for what I wanted and allow the other person the freedom to agree – or not.  I didn’t think I was manipulating, but I was.  That, I think, lies at the heart of passive/aggressive behavior: the attempt to manipulate the outcome and in the process, denying the other person the freedom to be the other, separate and distinct from my wants, desires, whims and even needs.

I am grateful to the woman who taught me to stop it – truly.

If you knew me now, you’d hardly credit that I was ever anything but direct in my dealings with others.  Even then I usually was.  But when I reflected more, I realized that when I was uncertain of response or particularly vulnerable, I would retreat into this indirect kind of manipulating behavior.  I hate it in others and I hated to find it in myself.  I think I can safely say that I left that bad habit behind long ago.  I sure hope so.

For the fact is that the passive/aggressive personality is the most defeating type for me to encounter.  I simply do not know what to do with them.  And if we’re in a stressful situation, their passive interactions heat me right up into aggression, which makes me even more frustrated and then more angry.  Calm and direct communication does not work.  Restating the situation does not work.  Reflective listening does not work.  Even agreeing with everything they say doesn’t work.  Believe me: I’ve tried.

So what to do?  Darned if I know.  All I can do is help you identify if that’s the kind of person or situation you’re in.  Once you know that, the only advice I’ve got is to keep your sense of humor.  Either that or beat a hasty retreat.

Things that make you go aaugh!:  How to recognize a passive/aggressive person or situation (questions they’re likely to ask and what they
really mean – I think):

1. Are you hungry?  (Fix my lunch.)
2. Where’s the butter?* –or– What did you do with the butter?  (Get me the butter)
3. I’m too tired.  (I don’t want to do it with you.)
4. I need more time.  (I don’t like it because you suggested it.)
5. Let’s consult an expert.  (You couldn’t possibly know anything about that.)
6. That hat would look great on Jenny.  (Who is, of course, taller than you by a foot.  Translation: you look like a mushroom troll, dear.)
7. Changing the television channel during a show you’re watching and then saying, “Oh, were you watching that?”  (Translation: I want to watch something different, but figure you won’t agree, so I’ll just act like I didn’t even know you were in the room.)
8. I thought you liked Chinese.  (Translation: I like Chinese; you hate Chinese, but guess what?  We’re eating Chinese.)
9. [and perhaps my own personal favorite, she said sarcastically] “Nothing.”  (In answer to the question, “What’s wrong?”).  Something is clearly ‘wrong’ or the other person would not have asked.  The denial of the reality sitting right there between them is of no moment to the p/a – “pay no attention to the big ugly on the table because there is nothing wrong!”

*Hats off to Nora Ephron in her book Heartburn.  Definitely worth the read for her take on the passive/aggressive type and the recipe for mashed potatoes is a nice bonus.

And yes, I know sometimes people genuinely need more time, feel the need to consult an expert, or are just plain tired.  In the p/a folk I encounter, generally these are not their first lines of defense but rather operate as fall-back positions when nothing else has worked – after all, who can argue with “I’m too tired” or “I need more time”?  And that’s really the point for the p/a, isn’t it?  To stop the conversation or head it off from going where they do not wish it to go for whatever reason.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

SermonCliffNote: Pray, Love, Eat

On the text from Acts 16.9-15

Eat, Pray, Love is about one woman’s journey.  She travels around the world, from Italy to India to Bali.

The woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, says at the end of her journey, "...I've come to believe that there exists in the universe . . . "The Physics of The Quest" . . . the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: "If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting . . . and set out on a truth-seeking journey . . . and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself....then truth will not be withheld from you." Or so I've come to believe."

Consider in this light the account of Paul’s journey in Acts.  All he and his companions had were vague instructions to go to Macedonia and find a man.  But where in Macedonia?  What man?  Help him how?

The vision did not say.

And isn’t it interesting that the vision was of a man asking for help and what they found were women who didn’t need a thing from them?

That variation didn’t bother Paul and his buddies at all.  And maybe there we find one of Ms. Gilbert’s clues to the truth of the journey: the journey may begin with a vision, but the vision is not the journey; nor is it a road map.

For Paul and his companions, the details didn’t matter, for they knew the real truth about visions from God: when you have one and you honor it and respond, things happen – good things – God things.

We can learn some things from this intersection of dreams and faith:

1. What God wants from us always begins as a dream, a vision, an idea –  born in the heart of God.  And when God dreams, it’s a big deal.  World big . . . universe big . . . Garden of Eden big . . . I might dream of a new car or a new house, while God dreams of a new me.

2. Where we end up will not be where we thought we would be when we started.  We have to be open to change along the way.  Paul started out looking for a man but found instead a group of women.  Anyone who has ever had a child or built a house understands this: you start out with one vision in mind, but you end up with something or someone entirely different.  Do you love them any less because the house or the child is not a carbon copy of your dream?  Of course not.  So it is with God – we are in partnership with God and in enacting our dreams, something beyond what we imagined will emerge.

3. There is a sequence to these things and it must be followed: first the dream, then the journey and only then the destination.  We cannot put destination first as if we were planning a vacation trip when we venture into God country.  No – in God country, we must first allow for the dream.  Then we must set out on our journey.  And only then will we arrive at our destination, and as poet T. S. Eliot says, “We shall not cease from exploration. . . And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”  The journey is a circle rather than a straight line.  It is a circle that takes us from dream to dream, from God to God, with people to be met and lessons to be learned along the way.

4. Finally, we must remember that we have something to offer.  Paul’s dream vision saw a man pleading for help.  What help?  The truth is we can’t know.  What Lydia’s own purpose was, we do not know. How that help was used, how it changed Lydia and the people of her household, we do not know.  But we do know that she had a purpose and that they were changed and that the help was used, for that is how it always works in the Bible.  Joseph wasn’t made head of Egypt just to be the head of Egypt: he was put in that position in order to be able to help his people when they needed it.  Moses wasn’t made a leader just so he could enjoy the benefits of leading: he was made a leader because the people needed a leader.  So with David and Mary and Paul himself.  They were gifted by God and thus had something to offer the world.  So too are we.  The tricky part is to recognize what it is exactly that we’ve got that the world needs and then to offer it – freely.

And so we pray – and praying, we enter God’s dreams.  We love – we act to help.  And then we eat – we sit down at table with others, invited into their lives, sharing their dreams.  And the cycle continues, the circle is complete and complete again.  And God says that it is good.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Help! I’m Caught in a Country Song & Can’t Get Out!

It’s true – I am caught in a country song
and I cannot get out – cannot escape,
cannot get away – and the refrain, the
chorus, is not of my own making –
what’s a poor town girl with more
blue grass than red neck in her veins,
to do?

You can always count on a good country
song to have a tragedy – it’s kind of a rule –
there must be tears jerked out of your
eyes for it to be a really good country
song, after all – don’t know who made
the rule, but for sure, I know it is a rule.

I can resonate, my feet can tap, my soul
can dance, to the rhythms of my people’s
dulcimer-strummed truths accompanied
by nasal twang and throat-low lament
worn, always worn, with a sly side-smile,
shy, quiet, insistent, in its urgings

But there are no trucks in my back yard
no girl-boy gone bad moments to trace
into my present and no semis of any
sort rolling down my highways –
and I retired my own mall hair a very
very long time ago – I hated the 80's –
and I am not a country gal – love them,
come from them, but am not them –

so what happened that I am ensnared
so why am I caught with the drama
how, oh how, do I find my way out
of this country song of a life I did
not write and do not know the words to?

I much prefer the joy and abandon
of rock and roll, the soul-touching
sweetness of classical, and if there
need be soul-wrenching, give me
blue grass!

I do not want the bawdy, howling
soap-opera dramatizing country
song – it is not my life – but
somehow it is – and hear me well --
I am too old for this!  And so are you

There’s the tell – whenever there’s a
you in the story, well, there’s country


Ramp up the guitars, boys, here I come
and I have a story to tell
get out your hankies, ladies
it’s gonna be a tear-jerker
and it goes something like this

[cue YouTube Cowboy Music - Instrumental]

That’s right
You heard me
I say it again: 
for if you 
did not care
what I think 
or what you
think I think, 
why are you
telling me 
how wrong it is?
I wonder what it’s like – 
conversation you’re having
all by yourself 
you call
talking to me?

[plug in your own
rhapsody of sorrow
here – sing and repeat]

That’s right
you heard me . . . 

[fade to black]

Friday, May 3, 2013

For a Friend Saying Good-bye to a Grandmother

Grammie, Grandma, Nana, Mimi, Ooma, Grum, Gran, Grandmother . . . know them or not, we all have them – those wonderful women who made us possible.  As a Gran myself now who long ago said her own good-byes to the ones who came before, I remember why I loved them so . . .

A grandmother is someone . . .

whose face lights up just because your face is in the frame . . .

who never forgets your birthday – chances are she was there . . .

who makes things just for you and saves them until you get there . . .

who stands on the porch and waves her good-byes and throws her kisses right into your heart . . .

who is always there – whether you’re thinking of her or not, she’s thinking of you . . .

who smells of magic – and cinnamon – and cookie dough – and love . . .

who will travel on airplanes even though she’s afraid to fly, just to come take care of you when you are sick . . .

who always has treats in her purse and never minds you digging around to see what you can find . . .

who, no matter how old she is, defends you against the world and all its bullies . . .

who laughs delightedly at your jokes and patiently listens to you read and claps at all your school performances . . .

who saves every letter you ever send her . . .

who never holds your mistakes against you, for she has lived long and seen much . . .

A grandmother is a best friend wrapped in an apron, salted with grey hair and etched with the lines of laughter down which have traveled the track of tears . . .

and her handprints are all over you . . . for as long as you’re here, you wear her love like armor and carry her gift of acceptance like a fine jewel in your heart.

Mothering God, I thank you for the grandmothers.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tired of the Fight

I don’t know about you
but I am so very tired
of the fight . . . I didn’t
come armed for it –
left my weaponry
at home – a pretty big
oops when meeting the
days these days . . .

and I forget . . . all I
have to do to stop
the fighting is . . .

stop fighting . . .