Thursday, August 29, 2013

10 Quick Things White Folk Can Say to Each Other to Make a Difference

So the observance of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's I have a dream speech is already yesterday's news.  But before we leave the memory too far behind, I have a suggestion to the speaking-impaired among us.  I refer not to some physical malady, but to the emotional, spiritual or psychological impairment many of we humans suffer when confronted with the inappropriate behavior of another.

What follow are 10 short sentences of what can be said when you hear someone say something racially inappropriate.  Commit them to memory.  Practice them in a mirror.  And when you hear them (and you know you will), speak up!  The world can no longer afford the luxury of your silence.  It never could.

So stand up and be counted.  It may be scary.  It will definitely be uncomfortable.  But it's well past time when it's socially acceptable to simply sit in silence when another is misbehaving.  Social accountability is one of the most effective ways of bringing about change.  So practice these simple sentences and start holding the misbehaving among us socially accountable:

1.     Stop it.  Or, if you prefer the more polite version, Please stop it.

2.     I do not want to listen to this.  (accompanied by your actual walking away if the behavior does not stop).

3.     I do not appreciate that. 

4.     That's not funny.

5.     That's not okay.

6.     That's rude.

7.     I don't feel that way.

8.     That's disrespectful.

9.     You did not just say that!

10.     We don't use that language in this house. . . at this table. . . in my presence. . . 

If you really can't seem to come up with your own, use these.  They're short and to the point.  They seldom invite a big discussion, which is probably what you're wanting to avoid if this makes you uncomfortable.  But it does make it clear that (1) you are not in agreement; (2) you will not be co-opted into giving silent permission for the bad behavior; and (3) where you stand is made clear without much of a fuss.

And from those small steps, great things can happen.  Who knows, maybe when Cousin Sam gets it that Aunt Celia is losing respect for him because of his language and attitudes, he might actually begin to think about changing those words and attitudes.

It's a place to start.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Later & It's Still a Dream

I come from a tradition (Presbyterian) that strongly believes that words have power, that the act of speaking itself creates reality.  And so today, 50 years on from when Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke into our past as well as our future, his words still move, still challenge, still sting and still encourage.

If we white folk read or listen to Dr. King's speech today as if it were an interesting historical note with no relevance to who or what we are today, we remain part of the problem.  Until we can hear these words speaking into our present, there truly is no hope for our future, for much work remains to be done before the dream becomes reality.

When we would say that there's no money for reparations or to right the wrongs of centuries, I hear Dr. King's voice reminding us:  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

When we would urge patience or more waiting for just the right time, from 50 years past, Dr. King's voice chastises:  We have come . . . to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

When we take what is and call it good enough because it isn't happening to us, Dr. King reminds with biblical warrant:  . . . we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

When we cynically appropriate Dr. King's words when speaking of his own children*, I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, we disregard the words surrounding his dream about the sweltering injustice of Mississippi . . . the vicious racism of Alabama . . . the not-yet-realized reality of former slave and former slave-owner descendants sitting down to table together . . . When we descend into such ashes-in-the-mouth-that-knows-no-shame badness that would steal the dream and crush it to bits that shame is too small a word to describe, our cries of justice fulfilled ring hollow even in our own ears as desperation and self-interest seek to advance themselves still on the backs of others.

. . . when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Isn't that a day worth speeding up?

Today at 3.00 p.m., join your voice to the bells ringing throughout the country . . . ringing to remind us . . . ringing to call us back to our best selves . . .ringing out the possibility of a dream still not yet realized . . . ringing us back to the urgency to know that the dream is here and it is now and it is necessary . . . 

*In striving to end Affirmative Action and other similar programs to advance opportunities for minorities in the United States, particularly those of color, certain politicians quote Dr. King's reference to his own children as 'evidence' that Dr. King opposed or would have opposed Affirmative Action.  It is scandalous and they know it, for the fact is that we still live in a nation where the children and grand-children of Dr. King are judged by the color of their skin and that has nothing to do with Affirmative Action.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Upside Down & Inside Out

So a friend posted on FB today about the map thing -- how the Mercatur map I grew up with is inaccurate to the point that it makes Greenland and Africa look virtually the same when Africa is many times the size of Greenland.  If you're a fan, you may remember  this scene from the television series West Wing.

It was a learning moment for me to see the adjustments needed to make our maps more accurate.  But the biggest 'get' was with the idea of turning the map 'upside down' (or more accurately, inverting it -- there really is no 'up' side when it comes to representations of a sphere like the earth, is there?).

But that was the point -- at least for me:  I was understanding the mere flip of a map to make everything 'upside down' when all that happened was the flip of a page.

Have you ever wrestled a road map while trying to find your way?  My own paper-scrunching-folding efforts always lead to me turning the paper a full 360, trying to find the perfect way to view the representation before me so that I can make sense of it.  And isn't that all a map really is?  A way to make sense of the larger world it represents?

I keep hearing folks talking about 'thinking outside the box' as if there actually is a box to think outside of.  There is no box.  And flipping the map does not make the world upside down.

We have to have structures in order to make sense of our world, or so I'm told.  How to prevent the structures created for our convenience from becoming our governing truths:  now there's a question.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Want to Go Home

There is a big chunk
of me that wants to
go home – with no
home to go to, for
the home I want is
the place where
and the people who
understand without
explaining – share
without defining –
receive and give with
no thought of the 
exchange, nothing
weighed in the balance
– and too many of them
are no more and time
has moved on and home
is not home anymore

It is a place in the now
that only resides in my
past – I have become 
a woman of a certain
age who wants to go
to home that no longer
is and I am sad – but
not too sad – for I have
long lived in foreign
countries – in the homes
of others – the perpetual
guest relying upon the
kindness of strangers
for no matter how well
we may know each other
you are not home for me
nor I for you

so maybe that’s what 
heaven is – home – 
where all the guards
come down and all is
well even when not well
because it is home
and that is enough
and more than enough
for now, for always
I hope I’ll recognize
it when I get there

it’s hard and tiring
work to be the perpetual
guest and of late, I do
not do the work well –
insufficiently grateful,
graceful – forgetting for
a time that I am not home
and leaving the mask on
the dresser when I leave
the house only to find
that I forgot when no one
else did and they wonder
who I am, this maskless
woman they do not know

Yes, I want to go home
I used to think it was
enough to be at home
in my own skin – but I 
was wrong – Lord, how 
I miss my own kind –
so different, so same
where we all know the
words to the songs of
our lives together and 
don’t much care if we
sing off-key or on
where we all know the
endings to the stories
before they’re even begun

I miss my people and
I want to go home

Friday, August 23, 2013

1st Grade Blessing

May the sun shine on the sidewalk before every step you take . . .
May the clothes you wear sit comfortably upon your shoulders . . .
May learning be the joy that awaits you each day . . .
May new friends be around every corner . . .
May your teachers love what they do and who you are . . .
May safe haven be forever yours in the halls and corridors of life . . .
May the smell of chalk and cafeteria foods and books fill you with delight . . .
May the stories of your day fill all who hear them with smiles . . .
May learning to tie your shoes be a moment of great satisfaction . . .
May your Gran’s refrigerator be filled with the pictures you draw and
          the stories you write . . .
May you never bully or sulk or complain – because you have been given much,
          much is required of you, even when you are only 6 . . .
May God’s ways guide your ways all the days of your life . . .

Thursday, August 22, 2013

White Like Me

Reading Jamie Utt’s blog post, "That's Racist Against White People!" A Discussion on Power and Privilege, I come again, particularly in the comments discussion, to the place of curiosity about one of the many things that make us human beings different, each from the other.  Why do some folk, white like me, receive information about white privilege with a reaction of defensiveness, hostility and anger and others do not?  Why do some externalize the message and some internalize it?  What makes the difference in our ability or inability to hear, to listen, to be changed or to reject out-of-hand, to become more entrenched?

Utt’s interaction with a FB friend is instructive: they made progress when the conversation could be turned, even a little, from a direct discussion about ‘them’ and ‘us’ to a conversation about ‘us’, all of ‘us’.  So maybe it’s as simple as feeling included.

Yet I find even that problematic.

Long ago in a group discussion, a loving, sincere, good, young white woman commented, "but everyone's been oppressed in some way".  My thought then and now is that this point of view is a part of the problem of the well-meaning – no – everyone has not been oppressed.  To say everyone has is to say we're all in the same boat oppression-wise, which is just one logical step away from saying no one is oppressed (or perhaps better, since 'it's' happening to us all, what are we to do?)

To claim that we’re all in the same boat when it comes to oppression is to make meaningless any desire or effort to challenge systems that benefit one group at the expense of another.  In Jesus world where I (at least try to) live, that's just not on.  I cannot benefit from the pushing down of others and call it good or even just the way it is (the last refuge of moral bankruptcy).  In Jesus world, it's my job to know and to work to change, or at a bare minimum, not lie and deny.

And before we white folk cry foul, we might do well to spend a little quiet time in prayer asking God to reveal to us the ways in which we profit and benefit from the treatment and mistreatment of others who are not white in our time and place (the old adage about walking in someone else's shoes requires the thoughtful, deliberate, intentional exercise of our moral imagination).

If you think it’s not a problem, consider former Senator Jim Webb’s book, Born Fighting, where in the Foreword, he writes, “The fundamental assumption – flawed . . . was that the reins of power were unfairly held by the so-called WASPS . . . since much of American society was dominated by Caucasians of Protestant, Western European descent, then by definition all of those who, however loosely, fit this category were assumed to have shared a presumptive advantage . . .”, a position he condemns.  Senator Webb cannot accept that his ancestors, some of whom may have been dirt poor, had it better than the slaves.  I understand the crushing poverty of the Appalachias.  But you cannot compare situations in one narrow aspect and call it fair.  Slaves and indentured servants were not the same: indentured servants had a certain future that slaves did not – freedom.  And indentured servants did not have their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children sold and forcefully removed from them.  And with the importation of slaves from Africa, white indentured servants became a higher class of worker.

Senator Webb, whose Scots-Irish ethnicity I share, misses the crucial point when it comes to black-white dynamics in these United States: no matter how bad we may have had it, we chose those paths, we and our ancestors.  With the exception of the imprisoned or impressed, no matter how poor or disadvantaged, we chose to come here.  And we were free to choose whether to remain or move on, as his book later points out in terms of those who migrated further west.  More plainly put: we started out white.  And no matter how much we want to cringe away from the reality of it, it is a disadvantage to be black in the United States.  It was in the 1600's.  It is today.  Even for the poorest among us, to start out not-black is to start out several steps ahead in virtually every aspect of our collective life.  And it does not negate the struggles of my people to admit it.

So how do we white folk talk about this?  What do we do?  How do we ‘give back’ our privilege, our edge?  Should we?  Should we even want to?  Those are all fair, if tough, questions.  But we’ve got to begin from the place where we recognize and acknowledge that we have an edge, an advantage, that we did nothing to earn and that our ancestors and the systems they put into place that continue into today, guaranteed would flow to us and not to others.  That might be a beginning.

But fighting about whether it’s true, this thing we call white privilege?  The time for that is over.  For now is the time for the grown-ups to lead the conversation.  And grown-ups do not fight about reality.  They deal with it.


SIDE NOTE to Fox News and others on the usage of the word ‘cracker’ and equating that to racial slurs against black people: I’m a West Virginian, so perhaps the language just doesn’t have the same history with me as it does folk of the South (to my Northern friends – West Virginia is not a southern state).  Even so, this is what I know: if someone were to call me a cracker, I would simply think it was funny or odd.  It would have no application to me.  But whenever the ‘n – word’ is used in the United States, every black person feels the assault.  I never had to have ‘the’ talk with my children about being called crackers on the street.  I do not have reason to fear for my or my family’s safety simply because the word cracker is used in a sentence.  I do not have to go out into the world always on psychic guard against the random attack of language on my personhood.  I don’t like any name calling and try my very best not to do it.  But I’m with Mr. Utt: all names are not created equal and hurt feelings are not the same as oppression.  Both matter.  But they are not the same.  One is transitory; the other is forever.

*An obvious play on the title of John Howard Griffin’s book Black Like Me, taken from a line in the poem Dream Variations by Langston Hughes:

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hand Me My Sunglasses, Won't You?

Hand me my sunglasses, won’t you?
I know the sun has set
but can’t you see the moon’s
hurting my eyes?  so bright it hangs
now in the sky I can scarce look
forward for fear of seared retinas
and I am the one driving, you know?

Hand me my sunglasses, won’t you?
The moon’s burning my eyes –
what right has the moon to sear
itself upon my retinas like it’s some
kin or other to the sun?  Can you
explain that to me?

Hand me my sunglasses, won’t you?
They’re in my purse . . . I need them.
Yes, I drive with sunglasses in the dark
Don’t you?

Hand me my sunglasses, won’t you?
I need to turn down this world just
a notch or two – the moon’s just too
bright tonight – I’m scared it can
see into my soul

Hand me my sunglasses, won’t you?

Every traveler needs a co-pilot
a fellow traveler on life’s road
one who can toss me a cigarette
out of my raincoat pocket with
nary a glance or thought – two
moving as one – Michigan’s never
been my dream, but so many other
places fade into unreality in the rear-
view mirror as the moon before me
blinds me to all that’s left behind
in the darkness on the road traveled
or less so – it really doesn’t matter
when there’s someone to hand me
my sunglasses and care about my
explanation – who needs sunglasses
in the dark?  It’s the question begging
to be asked as I look to my right and
remember again that I am alone

*Hats off to Simon & Garfunkel.  Bonus points if you get the reference (well, if there're no bonus points, at least there's an implicit admission of a certain age, eh?).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Preacher Love: Some Days It’s Harder Than Others

It’s easy to love the loveable.  That’s as true for preacher-people as it is for anyone else.  The hard part is to love the unloveable.  And that’s harder, sometimes, for the preacher-person than other folk.

Why would I say that?  Aren’t preacher-people in the loving business?


And that, I think, is what makes it so much harder.  Because it’s a supposed to thing for us.

So when someone is weird or jerky to me, there’s an unspoken assumption by everyone (me included) that somehow I’m supposed to be above it all, impervious to the slings and arrows.

Turns out I’m not.

And sometimes, because of that unspoken assumption, people give themselves permission to behave in ways towards me that they would no one else on earth.

That stinks.

So with all the shoulds swirling around my head, I sometimes (often) forget the basics:

1. Loving is a get to, not a have to, thing.

2. Allies are essential in the loving business and should be chosen wisely and well.

3. Sometimes I’ll get it wrong.  It’s not the end of the world.

4. A preacher is not another order of being.  I am as flawed and inspired as the next person.  That’s as it should be.

5. Some people need loving, but they don’t need it from me.  I am not anyone’s savior and sometimes, I’m not even the one to be that person’s friend or confidant.  Sometimes the need must be met elsewhere.  And that too is as it should be.

6. Letting go is not saying the problem is insoluable.  Letting go is saying not me, not today.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Feast of Kept Promises

Psalm 50 (The Message) reads in verse 14 one of the most beautiful statements of what humanity has to offer God that I’ve ever read: . . . serve High God a feast of kept promises.

I’m having friends to dinner this coming Sunday and a proper dinner party it will be, with many courses and much time spent in the choosing of the menu and the preparation of the food.

I wonder what my friendships would look like if I spent this much time and effort taking care of them every day?

And I wonder what my life with God would be like if I understood every word that came from my mouth to be a God offering?

If I dedicated every moment to keeping promises to God?

I wonder how much more joy-filled I would be if I truly understood my life as a feast of kept promises to God?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: Holding Fast & Letting Go

Archeologist Robin vanAuken writes of her vocation as being a ‘steward of the past’.

But not all that is past is created equal.  Some is treasure.  Some is trash.  Context makes the difference.

How many of us have gone through the leavings of someone we loved after they died?  How much of what they left behind did we keep?  How much did we give away or toss away?  Context matters.  Their past is not ours.

In deciding what to keep, my Great-Aunt Virginia undoubtedly asked, “might I need this”?  When I’m going through my dead Aunt Virginia’s papers, however, I do not ask whether she might have need of it. The question I ask is not about Aunt Virginia’s need; it’s about mine.  And that shift in the question changes everything.

But what has that to do with stewarding the past?  With what we of today are to keep from yesterday to carry in to tomorrow?


It has to do with humility.

It has to do with care.

It has to do with understanding.

And it has to do with love.

Humility: some people of the past genuinely believed that the ownership of another human being was not only consistent with being a godly person, but it was so entrenched in their worldview that they genuinely believed the person over whom they claimed ‘ownership’ had a duty to be owned and not resist.  We have to be humble about our understandings when it comes to things biblical.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  Seriously, harmfully, wrong.  And almost always, our wrongness arises out of our certainties, out of our pride that we can know absolutely what God intends – not only for ourselves, but for others as well.  Our certainties, especially when they concern what someone else should do, must be tempered with humility, with the simple realization that I might be wrong.  Or those I revere who came before me might have been wrong.  Their path need not be mine.

Care – as Christians, we have a duty of care.  But care of whom?  Of what?  And to what end?  In Luke 9.60, Jesus tells a young man whose father has died to leave the dead to themselves and come now.  It’s cruel-sounding, this command not to even attend his own father’s funeral.

The call to the Christian is to be concerned with, to care about, the things which concern God.  And when it comes to the work of this world, God makes it clear that God’s focus is on the living, not the dead – on the present and not the past.

We are to take care of Jesus’ message, yes.  But it is for a purpose and not merely for its own sake.  Church is not a cemetery.  Nor is it a museum.

Jesus’ message is a living gospel proclaimed by living people to living people.  It is a word from the past, but it is a word for the present.

If we preserve Jesus’ message perfectly but keep it under glass, we have killed it.  The gospel is a living gospel or it is no gospel at all.

Understanding is necessary in order to have something worth proclaiming.  Amidst my Aunt Virginia’s papers were coupons from the 1920's . . . her ledgers of the money she spent day-to-day . . . her bridge scores . . . and stock certificates.

It takes understanding to be able to tell the important from the unimportant . . . that worth preserving unto the next generations and that which can be cast away.  Without understanding, one might  keep the bridge scores and toss the certificates.

Understanding requires intentionality.  It requires listening.  It requires learning.  It requires letting go of what we think, as if our opinions were our gospel, and being open to learn from others.  It requires a teachable spirit, one willing to learn.

Finally, stewarding the past has to do with love – a love that embraces and values the one in need standing right before us as much as we do our memories of those who have gone before – and even more.

To be good stewards of the past challenges us to examine what to keep and what to throw away.  And that requires from us large doses of humility, understanding, care and love.

Ultimately it requires that we surrender our own questions of the past and ask instead whether in the keeping or discarding we are about our Father’s business or our own.  As church, the only business we have is our Father’s.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heart Beats & Hand Grenades

Of late I feel my heart beating
it’s disconcerting, to say the least
one of the luxuries of a heartbeat
is unawareness – blythe indifference
lack of attention to it all as this
marvelously crafted body does what
a body is to do – without notice
except that now I notice and somehow
the noticing feels like an unexploded
hand grenade of ticking – or ticking
down – time – and I have to say –
I don’t like it much –
but who asked me?

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Other People Say About Me Is None of My Business

Someone once dear to me returned from one of his first meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous and reported that a woman there had made the statement, what other people say about me is none of my business. 

We laughed together at her ignorance, so sure of our superior wisdom.  Boy, were we stupid.  Turns out she was right, that wise AA old timer.

It can sound silly, can’t it?  If it’s not my business, whose on earth would it be?  Isn’t anything that’s about me by its very nature my business?  Sure.  But here’s the thing: what other people say about me isn’t about me at all.  It’s about them.  What they think.  How they see.  What they understand – or don’t.

What I speak of others betrays my mind, my heart, my deeds, not theirs.

It’s so freeing to be rid of the desire for reputation.  It’s freeing not to have to worry about the whispers of others.  It’s freeing not to have to respond to the accusations or assessments of others.  It’s freeing to allow others, as friend and pastor Mark Davis recently observed, to think anything they like about me . . . to judge however fairly or unfairly they will . . . to simply allow others to think that I am an idiot if they so choose and be none the worse for it.

What others think and say about me is none of my business.

Now that’s worthy of a cross-stitch.

I think I’ll add it, coming to a total of two my imperatives for this stage of my life:

1. I might be wrong.
2. What others say about me is none of my business.


“Who steals my purse, steals trash . . .  but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.”  –William Shakespeare [Iago in Othello].  The irony is that Iago means to do exactly that – steal the good reputation of Cassio in the eyes of Othello.

With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.  –Oscar Wilde

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men . . .”   –Philippians 2.5-7 (KJV).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 Marks of Friendship

I listen to the radio this morning and hear the tail-end of something, so I may have missed the main thing.  But this is what I heard: you’re known by the friends you keep.  The speaker went on to talk about our sin and seemed to be saying to watch out for who we hang out with.

Fine advice, perhaps, for our teenagers, who may not yet have developed their resistance muscles sufficiently to stave off temptation to all kinds of stuff we’d rather they didn’t.


But I am more minded of Jesus and his collection of friends, who weren’t all that.  In fact, they were gluttons and drunkards (Matthew 11.19) . . . his betrayers (Matthew 26.50) . . . tax collectors (Luke 7.34) . . . those who could do nothing for him in return (Luke 14.12) . . . the dishonest (Luke 16.9) . . . those whose station in life gave them no right to claim him as friend (John 15.15) . . . the sinners (Luke 19.7) . . . those Jesus claimed as friends were unsuitable in every way.  Even being seen with them ruined his reputation.

In friendship, as with all human relationships, there is an unspoken assumption of mutuality – that we can and do do for each other.  There’s nothing wrong with that, so far as it goes.  But the reality of lived relationships is that there are times when one must carry the other, be the strength for the other, show the other the way.  Sometimes it’s my turn.  Sometimes it’s yours.  But sometimes, it’s always your turn.  Or mine.  There is no graph or chart by which to measure such things, for the fact is, it’s not only some days that my need is the greater; sometimes it’s a whole lifetime when my need is the greater.  And sometimes, as Henri Nouwen learned when he lived in the L’Arche Community, the one who thinks he’s meeting the needs is actually having his own needs met.  Things are not always as they seem.

I think Jesus knew that.

I think Jesus picked his friends based on their need of him more than out of his need for them, but in the picking, I suspect Jesus received as well as gave, learned as well as taught.

But back to the original point: there are marks of friendship.  Here are my top 10:

1. You say yes just because I asked.  Simple as that.

2. You meet me where I’m at, and don’t wait for me to get to where you think I should be.

3. You like my hair, my tattoos, my clothes, my house, because I do.

4. Yes, you tell me the hard things, but mostly you don’t – because you know that I already know.

5. You never have to say that anything is for my own good.  We both already know my good is all you desire for me.  It never need be said.  You’re my friend, so you never preach.

6. You rejoice when I rejoice.  My happiness makes you happy.

7. You have no agenda to change me.  You love me as I am.  And you are wise enough to know that for the stuff that needs changing, change will come because we spend time together, not because you tell me to change it.

8. You know I will let you down.  But you already forgave me for that when you decided to be my friend.

9. You don’t keep score.  You know that some days, maybe even most days, you’ll be a better friend to me than I am to you.

10. You know that while I may be what I do, I am not all that I do.

It all comes down to acceptance, doesn’t it?  Acceptance doesn’t mean that you jump into the deep end of the pool with me.  It doesn’t mean that you make my problems yours.  It doesn’t mean that you let me walk all over you.

But acceptance does mean that you take me as I am.  It does mean that you don’t worry to much about how good or deserving I am, because you’re wise enough to realize that I am a work in progress.  It does mean that you see my worth regardless of the judgment of the world.

It is a great gift – this gift of friendship that has been given me, for I have been blessed with many people along my life’s journey who have greeted me thusly.  I hope that I have been a good friend in return, saying yes to all your crazy schemes and dreams as you have to mine . . . been there for you as you have been there for me . . . or not . . .

So to all I call friend, thank you for carrying me when I needed it.  Thank you for your time.  For your caring.  For your forgiving in advance.  For knowing me just as I am and finding in that something to call good and worthy.  For being my friend.

I hope I live up to the honor.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Remembering Uncle Bob

I remember Uncle Bob, but I don’t.  He was the uncle I saw the least and knew the less.  Maybe that’s why in my child mind, he remains my favorite uncle.  Uncle Bob was like magic – red haired and fair skinned, he was so different from me, the clone of my Dad.  And he was tall.  In my child mind, he was a giant.  He could and did lift me up so my head touched the ceiling.  My Dad never did that.  (I think he was too short – or maybe he didn’t know how to have fun like Uncle Bob.  Or maybe lifting little girls up to the ceiling is the job of uncles.)  So I remember being a giddy girl seeing Uncle Bob coming into the house where Grandma and Grandpa lived.  Did I beg him to lift me up?  I think so.  And he always did.  With a twirl and a whirl the hair on my head gently grazed the ceiling and back down I went.

It was over too quickly, this intimate face-to-face lifting in joy moment of an uncle who would later die a painful and agonizing death in the remove of his bedroom where I never went for he did not want to see or be seen and where somehow that – the dying – became more real than the living.  How does that happen?  How does it happen that a moment, a breath, even months or years of a dying erases decades of a living?  Now I remember Uncle Bob the way I want to – the way he was when I was a little girl – and he is smiling again.  And it is good.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Wanderers Among Us

Jim Webb’s opus to the Scots-Irish is, I fear, a book I will not finish.  Given me recently by a friend, I sit down in anticipation to read not just of his people, but of mine too.  But his history is not mine.  He speaks of red-necks and trailer trash.  My people, my Scots-Irish people, were farmers by and large and country people.  But they were not and are not red necks or trailer trash.  The South is not my culture.  Slavery is not my defining react-against event.  The Civil War is not something my family speak of in the present tense.  And labor unions are not anathema to us – we will always join with others when it makes sense.  And we’re not afraid of education.  Some of us just haven’t had the same chances as others and others of us understand that education comes in many forms.

We are West Virginians.  He gives us some nods in the book, does Mr. Webb, but I realize anew as I read how vastly different our experiences are.  And he can claim the vote in favor of George W. Bush in West Virginia in the first election to be about guns all he wants.  We all know it wasn’t about guns; it was about steel.  And Mr. Bush promised to bring it back.  He lied.  We should have known that.  It’s a been done thing with us.  But that’s another story.

But there is one thing in the few pages I read before I put it down in frustration that does resonate: the wanderer gene.  It may sound funny to describe a family, a tribe, that has inhabited the same few square miles of ground for centuries as wanderers, but it’s true.  Substitute the word restless for wanderer and you may have a better idea what I’m getting at.

I come from generations of restless people.  In our time, you’ll know them as the ones who cannot sit still for very long, the ones who don’t stay long at a party before looking at their watches, the ones who know a little about a lot, the ones who, if they have land, walk it often and know it well.

My grandmother, Mary, was a wanderer at heart.  She never got too far off the farm for very long, but she wanted to.  Every chance of a trip, she sprang to it.  Every ride down the road, she was there.  And when she was at home, she walked.  Constantly.  When a chore didn’t tie her down to place, she was a woman on the move.  All the time.  If she’d been a man, she’d have fought in every war just for the chance to go somewhere, anywhere.  The night I sat with her in the hospital after she broke her arm and she got mad at me for refusing to take her home, she walked around the circle of the nurses’ station all night without stopping.  All night.  Her hip would barely hold her.  But she walked.  Her sight without her glasses would barely lead her.  But she walked.  Even with no destination, she walked, sure, somehow, that the next step would bring her to something better than the last one.  Or maybe she just needed to walk.

That’s the thing of we Scots-Irish in my family – we’re home bodies who are restless.  So we want to be here and not here at the same time.  Some of us walk our desire.  Some of us spend our lives out-of-doors.  Some of us travel for work or for pleasure.  Some of us run ten errands a day.

Some looking from the outside in think we were made to work; that we’re not content to just sit still.  But that’s not it – we can do nothing like nobody’s business.  What we’re not content to be is in one place for very long.  Variety is the spice of our life, even the variety found in sameness.  So some of us who seldom leave the house where we live can tell you every kind of flower and weed and bug you might want to know.

My own restless wandering gene is harder to catch as it tends to arcs of time rather than moment to moment.  Maybe that’s the luxury of living in a healthier time, being assured in probabilities of a longer life span.  I don’t know.

I do know that after a month or two in the mountains, my feet literally itch to go somewhere – anywhere, whether with purpose or without, I have to just get out of here and go somewhere.  It can just be for the day, but go I must.  And every seven years or so, it’s time for change – life change.  Sometimes that involves moving.  Sometimes it involves changing jobs or careers.  Sometimes it involves schooling.  Sometimes it involves nothing more than a new hobby.  But every seven years or so, the orientation of my life must change.  I must look in a different direction, navigate a different vista.  I may not move an inch in life space to do it.  But move I must.

It’s been seven years here.  And I’m getting restless.  Wonder what the next change will be?  And I wonder whether the dreaming/visioning process I’m dragging the church I serve through is necessary to our shared future (what I want to believe) or just another symptom of my own wandering gene.

The others will tell me.  Of that, I am sure.  For if a vision isn’t shared, I suspect it isn’t a vision at all, but a dream.  Dreams are had one by one, but visions – those are community things.  And so, for now, I wonder if anyone wants to wander along with me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Perfection Is a Piece of Mail

Isn’t a piece of mail a wonder?  I sit at my kitchen table and look out the window and see the tiny country post office across the field.  In the morning and later this evening, a truck will pull up dropping off or picking up the day’s collection of mail to deliver to parts unknown to me.

How many hands that letter or bill will pass through before arriving at its intended destination, I cannot say.  But that it all works so well, that it almost always gets where it’s meant to, is a wonder.

Every system that must work perfectly in order to work at all is a wonder.  Much of life doesn’t work that way.  I can open a bag neatly or tear it and still get to its contents.  I can usually be a few minutes early or late to an appointment and be none the worse for it.  I can miss a few pushes on the swing and momentum will still carry you for a time.  Nine times out of ten, even if I miss my target chopping wood, I will not chop my foot off.  Life carries lots of margins for our errors.

But everyone must work in perfect concert for this piece of mail to get to its destination.

The wonder is that it does not fail more often.  Perfection is not, or so we believe, what we humans do best.  And yet here we are, receiving our daily mail with nary a thought how truly amazing that is.

Maybe we’re better at perfection than we thought.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: Every Choice Has a Future

Luke 12.29-34 [where your treasure is . . . ] and Isaiah 1.16-20 [9 imperatives lead the way to God’s vision of a changed society]

Every Choice Has a Future*

Most of us will not be remembered in the history books.  But history’s record is not merely that written down by human hand.  What the earth is today is the result of all it has been up to now.  And what the earth will be is being written by us, all of us, each alone and all together, in the now.

The Luke text rests on one single notion: stop worrying about getting so that we can focus on giving – our giving as a response to God’s giving.  

Jesus could not be more clear when he observes that where our treasure is – that is, where our focus, our energies, our attention, lies, there is to be found what we value.  We choose what we value, whether we realize it or not.  God would have us choose that which matters most.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God delivers 9 imperatives in 2 verses: look at Isaiah 1.16-17: wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. 

In other words, clean up your act . . . vow to do better and do it . . . get rid of the bad stuff in you, in your life – God doesn’t want to see it anymore . . . say no to wrong . . . spend time – this valuable gift God has given you – learning, actually learning, how to do good . . . look for justice – search it out, work to make it happen . . . rescue those in need of rescue . . . stand up for the children who have little in the way of love . . . shout for the elderly who have no one to stand up for them . . .


Choose who you will be and how you will be.

Every single choice you make has a future, says God.

Science speaks of two concepts that have application: the butterfly effect and the law of unintended consequences.  The butterfly effect, at its simplest, holds that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in Brazil may be a cause of a later hurricane or tornado.  How it works is complex, but the idea is fairly simple: small, barely noticeable acts, can and do have far-reaching consequences.

The law of unintended consequences addresses outcomes or consequences that were not intended by a purposeful action.  In other words, what happens is not always what I meant to happen.  Sometimes the opposite of what I hoped happens.  Sometimes what I wanted to happen actually does happen, but so do other things that I didn’t plan on – good and bad.

Every choice has a future – and we cannot always know what the outcome of our choices will be.  The point of this, however, is not to freeze us into indecision, for as we are reminded in Isaiah, the path before us is fairly clear.  To step off that path and walk in our own ways rather than God’s is to invite the unintended consequences of our choosing to take hold.

Every choice we make has a future.  And our choosing, just like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in Brazil reaches far beyond ourselves and travels we know not where, for the future is a far and distant country to us.

In that country live children we will never meet.  Whether they will know lives of peace or war . . . lives of plenty or want . . . breathable air or dark days that more resemble the nighttime . . . whether they will be seen as treasures or disposable garbage . . . we are choosing that future now.

Friends, every choice has a future and we are making ours and theirs right now.  Please God that we choose wisely and well.  Amen.

*Shout out to Walter Bruggemann in his commentary on Isaiah for the title.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why the Anger at the Poor?

If you’re not poor, I’ve got a question for you.  Have you found yourself angry of late with those who have less than you?  And a follow-up, if you would allow me: why?

Why, oh why, oh why, are we so angry with the poor?  Why do commentators trash talk folks who work at MacDonalds and other fast-food chains for staging a walk out seeking higher wages?  Is it wrong to protest?  What’s so bad about going public with your desires?  About banding together with others in similar situations?  About exercising the same power that the corporations use in order to try to change your circumstances?

Whether you think someone ‘deserves’ a higher wage isn’t the point in a protest by workers.  This isn’t about changing existing laws.  This is about employees seeking a raise.

To compare your situation when you were 16 and presumably living at home with no expenses save those your parents assigned to you to the situation of someone who actually must survive on their wages is specious and insulting.

To tell someone who may only ever be qualified for a minimum wage job to move up the ladder is condescending.

The valuation of labor in a society has little to do with intrinsic worth to the society.  A corporate CEO is not inherently more valuable to a society than a food service worker.  Think of it this way: one of them, if they get it wrong, could actually kill you on the spot.  (Hint: it’s not the CEO – it usually takes a CEO much longer).  And while I enjoy sporting events as much as the next person (well, okay, I probably don’t), intrinsic worth has nothing to do with their levels of pay, especially at the higher end of the scale.  Ditto movie stars.  Ditto, ditto, ditto.

If we measured pay based on intrinsic worth, wouldn’t we begin with those who provide food and shelter?  The farmers, grocers, restaurant workers, home builders (meaning the actual carpenters and joiners and not the company’s head), etc.?

Walking in the shoes of another is more a good and healthy exercise than it is a catchy bumper sticker.  The next best thing is to imagine those shoes.  Imagine trying to actually live on a minimum wage.

It’s not, perhaps, that it can’t be done.  I’m not in a position to say.  But even if it can be done, the thing is that there’s no margin for error – none.  There is no breathing room.  One blip and the whole house can come tumbling down.  One trip to the emergency room and the budget’s shot for months, if not years.  One request home for money for a school trip is a family crisis.  And one family member with out-of-the-norm expenses (such as an on-going medical problem) renders the entire family unit unviable.

When those who have groan and worry, those who do not have have long been beyond the place of groan and worry and wonder what all the fuss is about.  When those who have lament, those who do not have pray, not necessarily because their faith is deeper, but because there is no other place to go.  I think, anyway, for I’ve been either blessed or cursed never up to now to have to know.

But this I do know: it is unseemly at best for we who have so much to begrudge those who do not in trying to attain more.  And if you think organizing a labor movement isn’t work, I suggest you give it a try.

Years ago, I asked my uncle Harvey, who worked his adult life as an executive for Good Year International, what the solution is to low wages, inequalities, and poor conditions in the work place.  His answer was quick, unequivocal and clear: labor unions.  Genuine, international, independent labor unions.

I was surprised at the answer coming from him as it did – this, after all, was a man who spent his adult life on the corporate side of the equation.  It took me years to understand that his work had actually given him a bird’s eye view, leading him to the obvious conclusion that only with parity of power can there be fairness.

So to the fast-food workers who go on strike seeking higher wages and benefits, I say well done and Godspeed.

And shame on you, Brian Kikmeade, Steve Docy, the Employment Policies Institute, Neil Cavuto, Tracy Burns, for a failure of moral imagination that at the least, cannot appreciate folks with less using the same strategies that you use to advance in your own lives (making allies, expressing your concerns, seeking advantage, working together cooperatively, to name but a few).

Friday, August 9, 2013

3 Deer, 2 Frogs & 1 Happy Little Girl

[sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas]

Last night driving over the mountain, I encountered 3 deer and 2 frogs along the way – and all 6 of us survived the encounters. . . frogs jumping gamely across the road looking like rubber bands in super slow mo stretch – laconic is the word that comes to mind as I chuckle at their slow-quick pace.

One deer was just a brief sighting of hind legs disappearing up the mountain – how they do that remains a great mystery to me . . . somehow they’re made to traverse the world both perpendicular and horizontal.  Is it wrong to envy that ability?

The other two deer stood attention along the roadside as I swept by – old enough to understand the concept of a car, they steered clear and all was well.

I stopped to check in on young friend Katie, back from her hand surgery earlier in the day only to learn from her father that Katie was already across the road at her grandma’s.  A few seconds later, Katie came bounding back to her house, hand wrapped and bespeckled with bee tape (a bonus from the nurses and docs who attended her surgery), one pin in hand heavier than when she left home this morning, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

She didn’t show it much, but I suspect Katie was pretty nervous about the surgery – who wouldn’t be?  But with the gift of the young, she had already left that moment long behind by the time she and her parents got back over the mountain to home.

Life here was good yesterday for 3 deer, 2 frogs, and one happy girl (not to mention the one who got to be there for it all).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Mother & Child Reunion

Driving home from a friend’s, on the upper bank stands a doe and her fawn, preternaturally still as only deer can be when hoping against hope not to be seen by a potential predator.  It actually hurts me to think that I am this gal’s predator, but there it is – reality in all its gore and glory.

We’re frozen together in time, the three of us, she and I gazes locked . . . until the fawn breaks the impasse, moving away with the nonchalance that only the young can afford.

As I leave the country lane inhabited by the two, Paul Simon’s Mother & Child Reunion reverberates from my brain down my spine, its words playing over and over again, unbidden in the course of a lifetime that includes the peaceful meeting (this once) of predator and prey. . . and the reunion is now and it is good.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back in the Days When Tomatoes Grew on Trees

Back in the days
when tomatoes
grew on trees
sun-ripened atop
the forest canopy
I stooped to pluck
one – just one – the
perfect balance of
color lush red and
soft pulp and I did
eat and it was good*

*Eve's version

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Forgot That I'm Good at This

I forgot that I’m good at some things – like hospitality.  I had some friends over for lunch today, a last-night spur-of-the-moment thing.  So I took what was on hand and made deconstructed (yes, I just used the word ‘deconstructed’ in a sentence and I’m proud of it!) BLTs.  It all came together beautifully.

Here’s the thing: I love to entertain folks in my home.  Always have.  I can remember making a turkey dinner with all the fixins for some friends when I was 18.  And making my parents a Valentine’s Day dinner of manicotti when I was 16.  There’ve been a long line of shared meals over the years, but in recent times (measured from when I became a pastor), that practice has dwindled to a mere trickle of hospitality.

What happened to my hostess mojo?  I have no idea, but I suspect it went where my energy did – into my job (I know, it’s a vocation, a calling, not a job – but it’s a job too – shout out to Erin for the reminder).

I think I’m on a come-back – I’ve already planned a late-evening dinner later this month and have begun doing some thinking on the menu.  Yes, I admit it, I hope to impress.  But even more, I hope to delight.

A seminary buddy once observed that whenever he has guests, he always serves bread and wine, because friends around the table is always sacramental.  Sloane’s right.  It is sacramental.

There’s holy ground around the table.

We didn’t have wine today, but we did have bread and cranberry juice – close enough.

Yep, definitely a come-back.

*Deconstructed BLT’s (easy)

1 half loaf of any good rustic bread – I used rosemary bread today (if you really want to show off,                bake your own.  I used store bought.
½ pound pepper bacon (Schwann’s has some good stuff) - baked until crisp (400 degree over for 12-           15 minutes)
2-3 fresh tomatoes
mozzarella cheese 
olive oil & balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
romaine lettuce
olive oil w/ salt and cayenne for dipping

Warm the bread and cut into rectangular slices good for butter spreading or oil dipping.

Break bacon slices in half as a good size for impromptu sandwich or just as finger food
Slice tomatoes onto plate interspersed with slices of mozzarella & drizzle with olive oil & vinegar.  Salt & pepper to taste.

Use the smaller (middle) leaves of romaine and serve standing up in a cup or glass.

It’s all finger food except the tomato/mozzarella salad, that can be put together in any combo your guests desire.  

Serves 3-4.

Monday, August 5, 2013

But It's My Candy!

[Picture me standing before the congregation on Sunday with an orange plastic bucket filled to the brim with candy.  I take out the two chocolate bars – big ones – and begin to eat them, slowly at first and then more quickly shoving bits into my mouth even as I talk.  Wait for it with me – someone will break – they always do.  Sooner or later, someone will ask why I am not sharing.  Usually it’s one of the kids.  This time, it’s one of the grown-ups asking from the back, “when are you going to share?”.  I smile.  It doesn’t ‘work’ if no one protests.  And thus we begin our conversation about sharing – this time with a twist, as I ask them why I should share.  After all, this is my candy.  I bought it with my own hard-earned money.  If you wanted candy, I ask, shouldn’t you have brought some yourself?  Why should I share mine?  And thus begins the dialogue about why we not only should, but must, share out of our plenty.  And I wonder again why it’s so easy to understand about a bucket of candy and so hard to understand about wealth and bounty and privilege and blessing.  And the sermon goes something like this . . . as I share the bucket of candy but take it up again at the end and clutch the leftovers tightly to myself.*]

In the kingdom of God: there is no ‘they’ there.  It is all and always and only ‘us’.  Isn’t that the Golden Rule (do unto others . . . ) in a nutshell?  This understanding that it’s all an ‘us’ proposition is the foundation of biblical justice.

The Bible is replete with discussion not only of God as just, but of God’s call . . . no – God’s demand that we, as God’s followers, treat all others (whether followers of God or not) justly (read: as we ourselves would wish to be treated).

The word justice appears in the Bible 173 times, beginning with Genesis 18.19:  speaking of Abraham, it is written that he would keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice . . . 

Justice is fairly easy to recognize.  Injustice isn’t.  Sometimes, we convince ourselves that our injustice is actually justice.  A reality check is always helpful.  The constant companions of injustice are deception, violence, robbery, greed.  If we’re acting justly, there is no need to lie, to stretch the truth, to cover up.  If we’re acting unjustly, truth is nowhere to be found.  If we’re acting unjustly, we’re doing violence to another.  If we’re acting unjustly, we’re taking what is not ours to have.

Micah 6.8 is perhaps the best known biblical passage on justice: what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness (or mercy) and walk humbly with your God?  This is the Prime Directive of the Divine.

In Matthew 12.18, when Jesus is baptized, the divine promise of him is that he would proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

In Acts 24.25, the scary message of the gospel to the Roman powerhouse Felix was justice – a message which frightened him out of his wits.

All of this brings us to the conversation of the modern concept of privilege.  Privilege is the idea that a group of people enjoy unfair advantages brought to them not by merit or effort, but simply by random circumstances, such as birth.  Privilege is another way of saying something is unjust, systemically unjust.

Privilege is passive injustice – if I am privileged, it does not mean that I have done something directly malicious to another person.  I may have never told a single lie and still be privileged from the lies told by those who came before me.

Privilege is the hardest injustice to undo because it requires the privileged one to give something up that they themselves did not steal to get.  It require me as it’s beneficiary to recognize that I didn’t steal this, but someone did.

And privilege is hard to talk about because it breeds great resentment and feelings of helplessness among those accused of possessing it.
Here’s the thing: we’re privileged.  We live in the United States.  That’s an advantage.  And it’s not all about worth, merit or hard work.  Some of it is.  But some of it is about unfair advantage.  The same thing about gender.  And about race or ethnicity.  And economics.

None of this is about making people feel bad about the color of their skin or their gender or their citizenship.  It is about readjusting our thinking to understanding a couple of things biblical:

1. To whom much is given, much is required.  Luke 12.48

2. Truth is a divine imperative.  How I feel about it is pretty much beside the point.

3. Justice is God’s business – always.  And because it’s God’s business, it must also be ours.  Even and especially when we’ve been on the receiving end of the fruits of injustice.

4. If my politics towards others are not informed by Christ, I have no place to stand.  So when we talk about Obamacare, gun control, welfare, immigration, military spending, and the myriad of other concerns we share as citizens, we cannot begin with what we think.  We must begin with what God thinks.  We must seek out the mind and heart of God.  We must listen for a word from God.  We must be humble.  We must recognize that God speaks to you as well as to me.  We must be open to hear a convicting word – one that makes us uncomfortable.

6. Because, perhaps most important of all, if God is always and only telling us what we already believe, chances are we aren’t listening to God at all.  And that, friends, is the core of injustice.

If we’re to be about our Father’s business, we’re to be about the business of stewarding, of taking good care of, God’s justice.  After all, there is no other justice than God’s.

*In answer to why I should share the candy, answers included “good manners”, “the Golden Rule” and my own personal favorite: “you’re the pastor.  You’re supposed to share!”  (Had to be someone who doesn’t know me so well on that one – I was an only child long before I was a pastor.)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Good News: You're Welcome Here

A woman new to these mountains shares with a neighbor, one of my flock, about being ousted from a church because she has tattoos.

He calls me with a question: Do churches really do that?

Me Sadly, yes.

Him Why?  Who does that?

Me People for whom the rules are really important, I suppose.  And there is a reference in Jeremiah to the avoidance of designs on our bodies (tattoos).

Him But why?

Me I don’t know.  All I know is I’ve got a tattoo.  So maybe you could tell her that so she’ll know she’s welcome here.

Him I’ll do that.  And I’ll take her some cucumbers.

Fresh garden cucumbers are a fine accompaniment to the good news, don’t you think?  Eddie and his cucumbers make fine evangelists.

And isn’t you’re welcome here the good news at its heart?  I know it was for me.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Note to Self

736 . . . rescue . . . the P . . . instead of 441

I have absolutely no idea what this note that I must have written to myself within the last day or two means.  I have no memory of writing it though it is unmistakably my scrawl.  I have no idea what call or comment inspired it.

I don’t know about you, but I have a myriad notes to self scattered about my desk – reminders, return calls to be made, thing I hear and mean to remember, thoughts and ideas for a later time.  Usually the act of writing itself serves to enable me to remember and act.  But every now and again, there’s a loose canon – a note that gets lost amidst the detritus that evidences my work life – and I find them later, often with a groan, sometimes with a chuckle, and sometimes, like today, with a great sense of mystery – whatever does it mean?

I imagine a mystery with rescue . . . the P . . . as the only clue.  Then I wonder over the possible theological meanings (hey, it’s not much of a stretch – that is my job, afer all).  Then I either put it to the side or toss it to the trash, hoping the remembrance it was meant to inspire wasn’t too awfully important and move to the next note to self.

Note to self:  don't forget to return this week's phone calls.  Explain that my voice isn’t great just now and it’s been an exhausting month (a good one, but a tiring one) overflowing with human interaction and this introvert (yes, really) needs to recharge a bit.  And don't forget to say thank you for the birthday wishes and songs – I really do appreciate them.  Really.

Note to others:  for those chores I may have overlooked, remind me again please.  Yours may be one of those notes floating in the suspension of time that is my desk just now.

Final note to self – don’t forget to post this.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Revival has come and gone and July has drawn to a close.  Vacation Bible School lessons have been learned and volunteers can put their feet up until next year.  Vacation to Chicago had and memories await storing.  The local Volunteer Fire Department has commemorated the community’s vision and its 35th anniversary.  Ice cream made has been eaten and dunking preacher balls have been thrown.  And one very tired but very happy preacher is ready to say good-bye to another July.

July is my birthday month and in years past, I would celebrate from beginning to end, labeling July as “the month of Beth”.  I haven’t done that for a long time, but this month brought it back to mind in a very different way than those days when I would self-reward the whole month long.

This July’s month-of-Beth celebrations include a grandson at the age of discovery and great good humor. . . local friends, old and new sharing their journeys of faith . . . time well met at the communion table again and again and again . . . songs of faith and love and sorrow and pilgrimage whispering into my soul . . . prayers colored into lasting shapes to remember the ones prayed for by . . . young moms laughing with delight at their children racing across the lawn . . . families struggling to find their place and their way . . . time spent with my son, whom I respect as well as love, enjoy as well as treasure . . . doors opened by friends to this weary traveler . . . a hiatus in conflicts that just might become something more than a cease-fire . . . a congregant finding joy as well as meaning in the Bible as it speaks directly to him . . . old ladies sitting on lawn chairs doing their job – watching the children with joy in their existence . . . sorrys offered and accepted . . .

Yes, July has passed.  It was a very good month.  And I am grateful.