when we come to it

Sitting on an ancient bench beneath an even more ancient tree, resting my head lightly on a shoulder I’ve grown very fond of.

Visiting a church member in the hospital and hearing happy harmonica music waft in from the room next door.

Reading Maya Angelou poems to grieve the loss of such a powerful voice.  A Brave and Startling Truth is one of my favorites:

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

 

traveling light

ImageTowering pine trees silhouetted against the waning light of a setting sun.

Driving down a country road with my hand out the window, feeling the alternating currents of cool and warm air dance around it.

Cleaning my barn wood floors with Murphy’s oil soap, like my mother does, and being immediately transported to my parents’ home in Texas.  They say (whoever “they” are) that the sense of smell is most strongly tied to our memories.

taking off the armor

Image

Having the church shutters open to let the morning light in and create a space where folks in worship could see out, and folks outside could see in.  It’s a small thing, but if it moves us to be more outward-looking, it matters.

Commissioning our graduates today by forming a huge circle holding hands around the sanctuary and praying for them.  What a powerful community I serve.

The smell of honeysuckle in the air that takes me to my parents’ backyard in Texas.

Impromptu communal dance parties with strangers.  Music might be the greatest tool to breaking down barriers there is.

This amazing writing shared by my friend Dana on Facebook.  I need to discover more writings of Naome Shihab Nye.

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine Nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

(Red Brocade, Naomi Shihab Nye)

savoring, sojourn + spectacular

I got my oil changed today and in the waiting room there was a mom with her little girl, aged about 4 or so.  When their car was ready, the little girl seemed reluctant to leave.  The mom told her it was time to go and the little girl made a very determined face and then spun around on the stool she was sitting on, one last time.  After that, she hopped down and was ready to leave.  What wisdom kiddos teach in savoring the moment and seeking out joy.

20140514-231406.jpg

The shrine at Bramasole in Cortona, Italy in my own picture and depicted in Under the Tuscan Sun.

20140514-231425.jpg

Spaghetti with smoked salmon, avocado and tomatoes in a white wine sauce, my take on a dish I had in Florence.

A showy and spectacular full moon, and with it, a stirring breeze that whispered of changes to come.

20140514-231505.jpg

Finding yet another 4-leaf clover in my yard.  I’ve lost count on how many I’ve found in the past few weeks.  Luck be a lil’ preacher lady!

lifted up + wineding down

A woman in church (45 years my senior) saying, “Happy Mother’s Day!” and then adding, “You’re a mother to us all.” What an incredibly kind thing to say.

Coming home to another church member mowing my lawn.

A picnic of wine, cheese and crackers at dusk under a beautiful tree.

Riding a bike down a hill so fast all I could do was giggle like a 3-year-old.  (Fear not, I wore a helmet of course. I is too clumsy to go without!)

it’s a small, but fragile, world (after all)

Image A box of wonderful, fresh veggies from a local community garden, which I’m going to partake in every week!  This salad mix was delicious over smoked gouda mac-and-cheese for lunch today.

Introducing a friend-of-a-friend who’s moving to Belfast to my dear friend Catherine there, and having them already make plans for getting together.  I love how small the world really is.

Writing a sermon on the suffering of God and the suffering of those Nigerian girls (and how the two connect).  It is overwhelming and perplexing, but cathartic, to try to find God in the midst of such sorrow.  Anne Lamotte was, as always, a great help:

When something ghastly happens, it is not helpful to many people if you say that it’s all part of God’s perfect plan, or that it’s for the highest good of every person in the drama, or that more will be revealed, even if that is all true. Because at least for me, if someone’s cute position minimizes the crucifixion, it’s bunk*. Which I say with love.

Christ really did suffer, as the innocent of the earth really do suffer. It’s the ongoing tragedy of humans. Our lives and humanity are untidy: disorganized and careworn.

My understanding of incarnation is that we are not served by getting away from the grubbiness of suffering.

Any healthy half-awake person is occasionally going to be pierced with a sense of the unfairness and the catastrophe of life for ninety-five percent of the people on this earth.

Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.

*never one to mince her words, Anne used a different word here, but one that would perhaps keep some people from hearing all of the helpful things she’s said.  If that “great riches” phrasing perplexes you, it confounded me, too.  But then I tried to parse it and interesting things happened.

each one matters

 Image

I am heartbroken by the abduction of 276+ girls in Nigeria to be sold into sexual slavery.  Situations like this are overwhelming, and it can feel impossible to do something.  Well, prayer is doing something.  A Church for Starving Artists has started a movement in this regard.  It’s simple: 180 students have been named, and you pick one of those named and pray intentionally for that girl and her family.  We do this because prayer matters, and also because putting a name to the horror of this situation keeps us from detaching emotionally into seeing only numbers, and not terrified schoolgirls, despairing families, fearful communities.  Every one of those girls matters.

Here is the list of names:

Deborah ​Abge, Awa ​Abge, Hauwa ​Yirma, Asabe ​Manu, Mwa ​Malam Pogu, Patiant ​Dzakwa, Saraya ​Mal Stover, Mary ​Dauda, Gloria ​Mainta, Hanatu ​Ishaku Gloria ​Dama, Tabitha ​Pogu, Maifa ​Dama, Ruth ​Kollo, Esther ​Usman, Awa ​James, Anthonia Yahonna, Kume ​Mutah, Aisha ​Ezekial, Nguba ​Buba, Kwanta ​Simon, Kummai ​Aboku, Esther ​Markus, Hana ​Stephen, Rifkatu ​Amos, Rebecca ​Mallum, Blessing ​Abana, Ladi ​Wadai, Tabitha ​Hyelampa, Ruth ​Ngladar, Safiya ​Abdu, Na’omi ​Yahonna, Solomi ​Titus, Rhoda ​John, Rebecca ​Kabu, Christy ​Yahi, Rebecca ​Luka, Laraba ​John, Saratu ​Markus, Mary ​Usman, Debora ​Yahonna, Naomi ​Zakaria, Hanatu ​Musa, Hauwa ​Tella, Juliana ​Yakubu, Suzana ​Yakubu, Saraya ​Paul, Jummai ​Paul, Mary ​Sule, Jummai ​John, Yanke ​Shittima, Muli ​Waligam, Fatima ​Tabji, Eli ​Joseph, Saratu ​Emmanuel, Deborah Peter, Rahila ​Bitrus, Luggwa ​Sanda, Kauna ​Lalai, Lydia ​Emmar, Laraba ​Maman, Hauwa ​Isuwa, Confort ​Habila, Hauwa ​Abdu, Hauwa ​Balti, Yana ​Joshua, Laraba ​Paul, Saraya ​Amos, Glory ​Yaga, Na’omi ​Bitrus, Godiya ​Bitrus, Awa ​Bitrus, Na’omi ​Luka, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha ​Silas, Mary ​Yahona, Ladi ​Joel, Rejoice ​Sanki, Luggwa ​Samuel, Comfort ​Amos, Saraya ​Samuel, Sicker ​Abdul, Talata ​Daniel, Rejoice ​Musa, Deborah ​Abari, Salomi ​Pogu, Mary ​Amor, Ruth ​Joshua, Esther ​John, Esther ​Ayuba, Maryamu Yakubu, Zara ​Ishaku, Maryamu Wavi, Lydia ​Habila, Laraba ​Yahonna, Na’omi ​Bitrus, Rahila ​Yahanna, Ruth ​Lawan, Ladi ​Paul, Mary ​Paul, Esther ​Joshua, Helen ​Musa, Margret Watsai, Deborah Jafaru, Filo ​Dauda, Febi ​Haruna, Ruth ​Ishaku, Racheal Nkeki, Rifkatu Soloman, Mairama Yahaya, Saratu ​Dauda, Jinkai ​Yama, Margret Shettima, Yana ​Yidau, Grace ​Paul, Amina ​Ali, Palmata Musa, Awagana Musa, Pindar ​Nuhu, Yana ​Pogu, Saraya ​Musa, Hauwa ​Joseph, Hauwa ​Kwakwi, Hauwa ​Musa, Maryamu Musa, Maimuna Usman, Rebeca Joseph, Liyatu ​Habitu, Rifkatu Yakubu, Naomi ​Philimon, Deborah Abbas, Ladi ​Ibrahim, Asabe ​Ali, Maryamu Bulama, Ruth ​Amos, Mary ​Ali, Abigail Bukar, Deborah Amos, Saraya ​Yanga, Kauna ​Luka, Christiana Bitrus, Yana ​Bukar, Hauwa ​Peter, Hadiza ​Yakubu, Lydia ​Simon, Ruth ​Bitrus, Mary ​Yakubu, Lugwa ​Mutah, Muwa ​Daniel, Hanatu ​Nuhu, Monica Enoch, Margret Yama, Docas ​Yakubu, Rhoda ​Peter, Rifkatu Galang, Saratu ​Ayuba, Naomi ​Adamu, Hauwa ​Ishaya, Rahap ​Ibrahim, Deborah Soloman, Hauwa ​Mutah, Hauwa ​Takai, Serah ​Samuel, Aishatu Musa, Aishatu Grema, Hauwa ​Nkeki, Hamsatu Abubakar, Mairama Abubakar, Hauwa ​Wule, Ihyi ​Abdu, Hasana Adamu, Rakiya ​Kwamtah, Halima ​Gamba, Aisha ​Lawan, Kabu ​Malla, Yayi ​Abana, Falta ​Lawan, and Kwadugu Manu.

I’m praying for Maryamu Musa.  For whom will you pray?

cinco moments of joy

Birdsong waking me up in the morning.

An enjoyable long chat with my mamacita.

The feeling of accomplishment that comes with finally cleaning my house.  It is usually quickly followed by the question, “Why don’t I always keep it this way?”

Having friends and the fella over for Cinco de Mayo so we could all enjoy Mexican food, share stories and laugh until breathing was impossible.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.58.59 AM

Dancing in the living room to a station on Pandora radio made especially for me.

luck be a lady

Saturday was one of my favorite days of the year: the bi-annual Cameron Antiques Fair.  I spent the majority of the day making hush puppies at a rapid-fire pace as we served up plate after plate of food for hungry antiquers.  (We have been talking about making “don’t rush the hush” t-shirts because they’re always in such great demand.)  After getting set up and before all the cooking began, I got the chance to snap a few quick pictures of the treasures.  If anyone has a spare bell gramophone gathering dust in your attic, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.  I’m selfless like that.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

A couple of my dear friends, Beth and Jen, stopped by to see me and have lunch.  And a bit later, that delightful bloke of mine surprised me by coming, too.  We enjoyed a relaxing stroll through the stalls and I even found another copy of The Little Minister, a book I collect (if the reason’s not immediately obvious to you, get thee coffee, stat!).

Image

Also, there’s something tremendously grace-full about my luck these days.  When living in Ireland, I always searched for 4-leaf clovers, with no luck.  Now, they’re suddenly everywhere.  I found 4 of them last week.  4!  And then yesterday, as we were walking around my yard, Jeremy bent down to pick a clover, and it just so happened to be a 4-leaf one.  I decided to pick a clover too and, you guessed it, 4-leaf.  I just hope I don’t wake up tomorrow with a red beard and funny hat (though a pot o’ gold would be just fine).

10273436_10104767202305244_1851222694693825679_n

And a final musing for ya: this blog of mine, first on blogspot and now here, has been a spiritual practice of mine for over 7 years.  I preached a bit this morning about how meaningful it is to me, and you can find that on my Pastor’s Blog here.