and the table will be wide

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Artwork also by Jan Richardson (talented lady!).

This coming Sunday might be my favorite in the church year: World Communion Sunday, where we celebrate the unity found at the Table of Reconciliation no matter where we come from, or what language we speak.  In my planning for Sunday, I came across this blessing by Jan Richardson, and thought I’d share it here.

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere
will be the feast.

flights of fancy

Thanks to Jen for the fun pic!

Thanks to Jen for the fun pic!

The joy of catching up with my dear friend Gina, who’s been in St. Louis training to be a flight attendant for the past 6 weeks. She passed with flying colors (I’ll let you surmise how many times I used that pun with her over those 6 weeks…) and we all missed her greatly.  We wore hats, sipped tea and ate cucumber sandwiches and did our best Downton Abbey impression.

Taking part in my great friend Rob’s installation service at his new church.  There was a palpable energy about the place, and the sort of excitement that mutual appreciation can bring.  Selfishly, I’m just delighted God brought Karen and Rob (and Gracie and Jake) to North Carolina.

A lengthy, laughter-laden conversation with my mamacita.

can’t stop smiling

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A tree outside of my church smiling at me.

Catching a glimpse of an arm, decked out in a pearl-snap plaid shirt, casually dangling out of a truck window.  It reminded me of my granddaddy.

Running into a church member in Walmart.  It made that place almost bearable.  Almost.

fair play

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This past Saturday, my friend Jen and I went to the Lee County Fair for an evening of the sort of fun that can only be found at a fair.  It was a drizzly, muggy evening, but the rain held off enough for us to enjoy snapping pics of the colorful rides, swinging up in the air, eating entirely unhealthy food and feeling like a kid again.  We both enjoy taking pictures, and there was so much to see that I had a bit of field day.

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(My carouselfie.)

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(Jen’s pic of me on the carousel.  Great photographer, that lady!)

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View from the ferris wheel.

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What is that amorphous fried thing, you ask?  Oh, just fried banana pudding.  Yep, that’s right.

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And this?  Fried brownie bites, of course.

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First place tobacco.

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Here’s the very fun portion of our fair festivities when my friend Jen got hypnotized on stage.  Here she is amused and calm.

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…and here she is slightly more calm, ha.  It worked pretty quickly on her.

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All in all, no harm was done, and the results were amusing.  The girl on the end is trying to tie her shoes, which unfortunately she lost the ability to do, thanks to the hypnotist’s instruction.  Later on, he fixed it.  She was elated.
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And now for a few nighttime fair shots…

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IMG_6297 IMG_6300 IMG_6301IMG_6295What a delightful, whimsical evening.  Full of fried food and relaxed by the sort of laughter that only flying through the air and watching a friend get hypnotized can produce, I left the fair a happy gal.  Can’t wait ’til next year.

clover + commentary

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Finding yet another 4-leaf clover, this time outside of the coffee shop where I work on my sermons.  That makes at least ten this year.

While catching up with a teenager in the church, she offered to help me with my sermon for this week and WOW, did she ever.  Such wisdom, freshness and insight.  I might use the “Sarah Commentary” every week!

Dinner with my good friend Barbara, which was long-overdue.  It is a gift to walk beside others in ministry and share thoughts and ideas knowing that the other person really “gets” it.

swing states

Glimpses of grace of late:

Learning East Coast swing.  Well, I use the word “learning” pretty liberally — “attempting” might be a better word.  But I enjoyed myself immensely, so that’s what matters.

A delicious cup of tea after an equally delicious Sunday afternoon nap.

The romance, drama and splendor of Great Expectations.  Oh, that Pip.  What a film.  

Gratitude (a prayer)

I came across this today while looking in a book of liturgy Stewards at the World Council of Churches were given.  I was searching for an affirmation of faith for worship on Sunday, and this doesn’t quite fit our theme, but I found it so powerful, I wanted to share it.

Gratitude: a prayer of the Focolare Movement by Chiara Lubich

I love you
not because I learned to tell you so,
not because my heart suggests
these words to me,
not so much because faith
makes me believe that you are love,
not even for the sole reason that
you died for me.

 
I love you
because you entered into my life
more than the air in my lungs,
more than the blood in my veins.
You entered
where no one could enter
when no one could help me
every single time no one
could console me.

 
Each day I have spoken to you.
Each hour I have looked to you
and in your face
I read the answer,
in your words
the explanation,
in your love
the solution.

 
I love you
because for so many years
you have lived with me
and I have lived of You.
I drank from your law
and I did not realize it.
I was restored,
but I was unaware
like a child suckling at its mother’s
breast
but not yet knowing how to call her
with that sweet name.

 
Let me be grateful
— at least a little —
in the time that is left to me
for the love
you have poured upon me
and that has compelled me
to tell you:
I love you.

 

reflections on my ordiversary

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Today marks 6 years of my ordination as a minister.  I think I’m at somewhere around 15 years of ordination as an elder (sometimes called a ‘ruling elder’ in the Presbyterian Church).

Ordination is a strange sort of calling.  I preached this morning on the story of Moses being called, when God revealed God’s divine name (hint: it’s not Bob).  As I put on this robe and stole, and stood in the pulpit of my church (my? well, God’s, but I’m graciously allowed to hang out there) and preached a word I hoped would bring hope, I felt what I usually feel.  Joy, mingled with anxiety, wrapped in expectation, with a dash of adrenaline and eerie calm.  All of that smashed up together is how feel when I preach, but then of course you add the reading of people I’m doing during the sermon.  Yes, I read a text from scripture, quite closely, I would hope.  But just as closely, I am trying to read people in the pews.  Is she feeling invisible?  Is he thinking this is taking too controversial a turn?  Is this connecting with so-and-so in the way I hoped it might?  Do people seem engaged (hopefully) or entertained (it’s not the Whit Show, so hopefully not)?  Do they seem confused or connected?

All of these thoughts roll around in my head, while at the same time, God does something strange.  Maybe like Moses-Take-Off-Your-Shoes strange.  It’s kind of a tingly feeling, where the words and the people watching become something else.  I can’t really describe it beyond saying it is holy.  “Take off your shoes, you’re on holy ground,” holy.

I feel it other times, too.  When I’m with someone at the end of this life.  When someone shares something incredibly personal, and I know what it costs them to do so.  When I preside as two people make a covenant before God to love each other always.  When I break bread and pour juice and welcome people in the name of Christ to the Table of reconciliation.  When I hear music knowing that people mean every word and note.  When I see folks genuinely care about each other, not by asking “How are you?” but by making the Passing of the Peace in worship a free-for-all of hugs and friendship, and handing out homemade muffins afterwards.  Holiness abounds, it really does.  Like Annie Dillard said, “holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.” 

How wild is it that it’s my job to recognize such holiness?  To notice the stories behind the faces I see, to delve into strange tales of burning bushes and bare feet and say, “Hey, y’all, this matters.  Here’s why…”

I often feel like this calling is so much bigger than I am (not hard to be), and always has been.  What made my kindergarten self announce to my class I would be a missionary when I grew up?  What made me feel so completely at home in church, and know I’d give my life to it?  There are so many people who shaped this strange and wonderful journey of ministry for me, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.  So thank you.  And thank God that I am where I am, doing what I do, attempting to live out this call with something of humor and honesty.  

6 years under my belt (or stole, as it were).  That’s a lot of coffee.  (And an awful lot of grace.)