Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting back to that boat.....

I wrote this blog post over 13 years ago. I still find myself wondering why it is that so many people who claim Christ's name seem to be consumed by so much fear, even to the extent that it would cause them to willfully ignore another passage in Matthew, that one about "the least of these."  I am distressed by those who would stand on Old Testament laws as though bolted to the floor, but who brush off the very words of Christ when our own worldview is inconvenienced by them. 

The original text is in standard type. My current thoughts are in italics. 

On September 11, 2002, I joined with many of you in a Service of Remembrance commemorating the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was a deeply meaningful service, made even more so by the absolute quiet of those in attendance in the moments before it began, unusual for a normally chatty congregation, but there was a somber mood that night, fully appropriate for the occasion.

The order of worship indicated that the chiming of the hour would mark the beginning of the service. There's a button the organist pushes to begin the tolling of the carillon, but on this evening something went awry. Rather than a chime, the opening bars of a hymn I can no longer remember rang out, and abruptly stopped. Again a button was pushed, with the same result. After several seconds of silence, there came the sound of a lone, low note played manually to approximate the cadence of the tolling of the hour. As that note was repeated - over and over - it began to sound to me like the signal horn of a ship returning home to port.

The picture that plaintive sound evoked in my mind -- one of ships and seas -- reminded me of the story of stormy waters tossing a fishing boat about, nervous disciples, and a weary Jesus soundly sleeping.

Frightened by the prospect of sinking, they roused him from his cot, and in a reply tinged with sadness that they still did not fully comprehend Who he was, he spoke words to this effect: Why are you so worried? I am here with you -- why are you so afraid?

He could, I suppose, have driven his point home by returning to his resting place and letting them ride out the storm alone. He could have stood on the deck of that fragile vessel with them until it passed. But he chose to stretch out his arm and calm the sea.

During these days of war and uncertainties and insecurities that have become our own rough seas, it comforts me to know that even if Christ had not with a simple gesture stilled the raging waters, His presence would have seen them safely through.

Of course we cannot and should not go through this life blissfully whistling past the horrors perpetuated by the evil choices human beings, gifted with the same free will we all possess, make. We rightfully, understandably, wonder where God is in all of this, and our fears make us trust more in human governments to protect us from all harm than in His sovereignty. 

I have more questions than answers. I don't understand the ways of God. I don't know why it often seems He withdraws from us when we need Him most. There are so many platitudes that would attempt to explain that, and they all pale when measured against times like these. None of us like the helplessness that comes with saying, "I don't know," when asked the hard questions. I surely don't. 

Which comes back to one of the hardest, most heartbreaking questions Christ asked of his disciples, the very people with whom he walked and rested and broke bread: 

Why, knowing Me, are you so afraid? 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Morning Walk

I set out this morning for a walk, determined to make my 6 mile mark. Not only did I strike out a little later than I wanted, I neglected to take any water. I hadn't been out there very long when I realized what a bonehead thing that was to do today, because somebody has set fire to the temps again, y'all.

I decided to keep going though, because I really am serious about working my way back up to double digit miles on the weekends this fall, and because, well, I was fuzzy about other reasons until I ran across some visual reminders that logging 6 miles would earn me a cold adult beverage during tonight's football game! I will sweat for beer.

I was making pretty good time, throwing in a little jog here and there, but the heat really was beginning to get to me around mile 4, and I opted to take it down a notch and finish things out with an extended cool-down walking pace. What I enjoy about these longer walks is that I don't feel pressure to do anything but stay out there and keep moving. I don't claim to be an athlete, after all, but I am a bit of a this:

It was at this point, though, that I sent my husband a text, to ask him to please have some good cold water waiting for me when I got home. I checked my walking app to see how much longer I needed to keep putting one foot in front of another, and was delighted to see it was only just about another mile. Thank goodness the app is easy to read.

(Not really my glasses.)

Even so, I was really thinking that every footfall between where I was and home was going to be an act of sheer determination. I was beginning to get a little lightheaded, and I had my phone out to call home again to ask my husband to come get me when I looked ahead of me and saw a Knight In Shining Armor coming toward me.  

That's right, folks. He tracked me on my phone, got in his truck, and delivered water to me. Is this man a prince, or what? He knew I "needed" my 6 miles today, so he didn't try to stop me, and I just grabbed the water, mumbled a sincere thanks, and kept going.

And then, as my girlfriends and I like to say, I found a dollar. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Morning walk

A morning wrapped in gossamer, 
waiting for its gifts to be revealed. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What Really Counts

That moment when you get home from doing THIS:

....  realize you left THIS at home in the charger....

.... and you be all like....

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Grains of Salt

On July 4th my family and I attended the Biscuits baseball game, and about halfway through my granddaughter asked for a box of popcorn. I love the stuff, so of course I had to get a box for myself. She and I do not do well with that whole sharing thing.

Neither of us were able to finish our boxes. The popcorn was so heavily salted it was rendered nearly inedible. I am not unaware of the reasons concessionaires salt their wares to excess--more salt makes you more thirsty which requires another trip to the concessions stand--but too much is just too much. Did you ever, when you were a child, pour salt on a slug just to watch it wither up? Well, that's exactly how my tongue was beginning to feel after my third handful of popcorn. 

I'm not sure if this was a one-time error in salt-adding, but when we return this weekend for another family outing I will not be ordering popcorn. I'm not a fan of throwing good money after bad. 

This morning's sermon, delivered ably by Associate Pastor Rev. John Blount, drew from that text in Matthew calling us to be the salt of the world. He looked at the favorable uses of salt (as a preservative, healing agent, flavoring agent, etc.), even touching on a curious bit of folk medicine that had newborn infants rubbed with the substance. 

I got to thinking back on that too-salty popcorn while he spoke, and that set me to wondering how sometimes we Christians, truly and honestly convicted of the rightness of what we believe, overdo it with the salt, believing if some is good, then more is necessarily better. While there are plenty of Christians like me who are guilty of not being salty enough to attract folks to my faith, there are surely an equal number who are so salty that rather than serving as a call to Christ they become the reason folks just refuse to come back for more. 

I did a little research on that salting of newborn baby thing, and it appears to have had a place in ancient ritual as an effort to purify, but as recently as 2004 a hospital in Jordan reported that they were undertaking measures to educate the public about the dangers of this practice. It seems a number of newborns had been admitted with dire consequences owing to excessive sodium levels in their bodies, all down to well-meaning parents who were so convinced it was the right thing to do to guarantee their children's well-being that they nearly killed them with "rightness."

Maybe it is almost always true that too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

Rev. Blount challenged us to examine our skills with the spiritual salt-shaker this week.

Challenge accepted. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Small Boats and Big Seas

Nobody honestly can or should care what my considered opinions are on any of the headline making events of the past week, so I'm not going to limn them out here (or repeat them, if you do happen to know). For goodness' sake, I'm a part-time retail sales clerk, and last time I checked, we were neck and neck with taxi cab drivers at the bottom of the list of people world leaders or anybody else should contact for input about public policy.Yes, I know how self-serving it is, then, to publish this at all, so let's just add that to the list of my personal vanities and shortcomings. 

For purposes of this post, the point is that it really doesn't matter what I think about any of it. Folks on both sides of any of the Big Issues of the week all need to settle down and take the same advice: IF YOU KNOW YOU ARE RIGHT, THEN BE KIND. I've been on the wrong side of issues often enough to know that the louder and crasser the dissent, the more folks realize -- deep down -- that they are not right about something. When you have the assurance of being in the right, you don't need to knock other people down and run over them with your words. 

Again, I say that with a whole lot of humility, because I've too often been the one spitting in another's face because I don't like to be wrong, and somehow being LOUD was the only substitute I could come up with for being RIGHT. We get loud when we know we're wrong because it's scary when you realize that, in a sea change, the boat you've been comfortable in has sprung a leak. 

Out on a walk this week, contemplating how much fear I was reading in some of the angry posts on social media, I thought back to something I wrote in September of 2001, sometime after the 11th of that month, when I wondered in writing why people of faith are so often fearful of the future, when we have been given the assurance that there will always be a future, and a hope. It referred to that time when, on a storm-tossed sea Christ's disciples jostled him awake, imploring Him to DO SOMETHING, to which he responded "Why are you so afraid?"

I am a white heterosexual Christian woman, born and raised in the American South who was fortunate enough to be born into a family of some means and education. Those things have been my life jacket. I'm betting some of you reading this have been wearing the same brand of life jacket.

We are all of us -- black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, Republican and Democrat, churched and unchurched -- in the same boat here on Earth. Some of us are equipped with life jackets of a certain sort of privilege that we did nothing to deserve, and woe betide anyone who asks us to let them at least hold onto a corner of it so they can stay afloat, too. 


I'd been thinking about this post for a couple of days; had really decided not to post it, but in church this morning my preacher spoke from the book of Romans. The gist of the sermon was that Paul, with a history of being the biggest T-crossing Pharisee of his day, had had his heart strangely warmed*  and now found himself compelled to open up his heart to the world beyond his ken, to open his heart to view every person as one of sacred worth, to whom he was beholden because his Christ had died for them, too, and when you're a person of true faith looking at all these folks Christ thought were worth dying for, your boat gets mighty big, mighty fast. My husband wasn't in church this morning, so when I got home I wanted to talk to him about what the preacher had to say. The Bible at close hand was one of my father's, so I grabbed it, and opened it to Romans 13... and an old clipping from a magazine fell out. Our preacher had recommended that when we respond about these Big Issues to those with whom we do not agree, to remember Romans 13:8.

...for he that loveth another has fulfilled the law.

After I read that bit to my husband I unfolded the clipping that my father placed right there, haphazardly, I'm sure, sometime in 1969, most likely. It was a recounting of the Christmas Day broadcast from the astronauts of Apollo 8. They each read a bit from Genesis - and what a backdrop Earth viewed from space provided for them! Then each of the astronauts delivered a personal message, and Frank Borman was the last to speak. He was a lay leader at his church in League City, Texas at the time, and he broadcast this prayer. The world was in turmoil in 1968, and it surely is today. We seem to have a penchant for such, and that is why I found this hidden treasure so poignant today. 

"Give us, O God, the vision which can see Thy love in the world in spite of human failure.
 Give us the faith to trust Thy goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each 
one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen.'"

* Sue me. I'm a Methodist.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Name That Tune

Y'all need to know a couple things about my Mama.

She never met a person with whom she wasn't eager to make conversation in order to find some common ground. When she was hospitalized late in 2011 due to shortness of breath, one of her first stops was radiology, where she met a young man, name of Hernando.

The next thing you need to know about my Mama is that random things would often cause her to break into song. Having met Hernando, an old tune kept running through her memory, and it nearly drove her to distraction that she could not remember the words so that she might sing it to Hernando. This was especially important to her because apparently, Hernando himself had never heard of such a song existing.

I don't know how much time passed before she had the mystery solved, but as was her wont, from the moment that tune popped into her head until she found someone who knew the words it would have been the only thing on her mind.

Thank goodness, then, for this guy. His name is Jack Horner (and that's his amazing wife Gayle there, beaming in the background.) Jack has been Minister of Music at my church for 20 years, and this photograph was taken today at a retirement reception held for him after church.

Where does he fit into the Great Hernando Narrative? Well, as it happens, he paid a visit to my Mama in her Intensive Care room, sometime after Mama began worrying over the lyrics to that tune. Jack, who it seems knows everything about every genre and era of music, launched into singing the song in its entirety to my Mama, right there in the middle of the intensive care unit.

I wasn't there when this happened, but when she related it to me some hours later, there was such delight in her voice and on her face. In the days that followed she received a terminal diagnosis, and also lost her ability to speak because the cancer that was killing her made her unable to breathe on her own. It is not stretching credulity one bit to think that in a very true sense, that visit from Jack gave her one of her last genuinely happy moments.

I've told Jack this story, told him that although I know the other "real" ministers visited her, nothing they said or shared or did while they were there caused such a gleeful report, and in fact, I don't recall that she ever remarked on their visits, although I know she held them in her heart and gratitude.

You see, there is more than one way to minister to the heart and mind and soul of a hurting person. Jack sang to Mama from the Broadway Hymnal that day, and the elements of that communion were rhythm and rhyme in tango time.

May every blessing of retirement find its way to Jack and Gayle. I hope they find time to dance a little. I know a tune.....

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On the Road Again...Again

How many false starts can you abide, honestly?

True confessions time. Since the Great Hip Break of 2014 following my first ever run-all-the-way race (in which I placed 2nd for my age group, by the way), I have been terrified to start walking with any real purpose again. In the back of my mind is the thought that there is no way for me to tell if that thing is really all healed up and ready to do its job again without, you know, frickin' splintering right down the middle again. 

Once or twice after hitting the date at which my orthopedist advised I'd be able to start a very light exercise program again I've laced up and headed out, but my heart just hasn't been in it. At all. And then that winter weather, and a million other reasons that became excuses that became choices that became lifestyle, and here I continued to sit. 

This morning, friends of mine all over the country are running in races, and it is the day of Montgomery's first-ever full marathon. I never aspired to participate in one, even when I was in the best shape, but seeing so many folks I know work so hard to take part made me miss the feeling of beating my most vexacious competitor:  my own fine self

This morning I laced up and went out, and while I set no land speed records, I actually did a couple of very light "shuffle jogs" on the way, neither of which created this in the road, but as far as I can tell, my hip is still in whatever number of pieces it's supposed to be in to work the way it's supposed to. 

I don't know if I'll stick with it any better than I have the last several times I went out and came home and swore that I was back in the swing of things, but today felt good, and had its own rewards. 

Found these fellas in the street on my walk this morning. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Putting the hem in my blessings.

In October of 2011, I wrote about my Mama's unfinished afghan. 
You can read about that by clicking the link under the photograph. 

Unfinished Symphonies

In September of 2014, I wrote about it again.
Follow the link below to read why.

It's a Boy and I'm Not Surprised

What I didn't tell you is that some months back, Ellie Vogt, the mother of my friend Melissa Allen, became aware of this story and volunteered to finish this project for me. I shipped it to her home in Florida, and with great sensitivity to what it represented to me, she undertook to finish it right where it was, adding nothing; no extra length, just enough to work the needles out and make it secure. She shipped it back to me quickly, and I've held it aside until today. 

Our grandson James Henry Lucas was born on January 15, 2015, and he came home today. And then I wrapped him up in the afghan his Great Granny started for him way back in 2011. 

"Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel."  Anonymous


Thank you, Ellie. 

Thank you, Mama. 

Thank you, Jackie.

Thank you, God. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Carl Sandburg might have said it best.

May 1, 1927 -  December 31, 2014

A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on...Never will a time come when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn baby. The finest of our precision watches, the most super colossal of our supercargo plants, don't compare with a newborn baby and the number and ingenuity of coils and springs, in the flow and change of chemical solutions, and timing devices and interrelated parts that are irreplaceable. A baby is very modern. Yet it is also the oldest of the ancients. A baby doesn't know he is a hoary and venerable antique--but he is. Before man learned how to make an alphabet, how to make a wheel, how to make a fire, he knew how to make a baby--with the Great help of woman, and his God and Maker.          ~~ Carl Sandburg

January 15, 2015