I love purple.

I’ve loved purple my whole life and didn’t have to wait to become old to wear it.

Now, I struggle with what it means to know a purple vision–a vision with color, unique and bold.

I work at Barnes and Noble.

I love my job as a barista, but I really don’t want to be working this job when I am eighty.

The rub comes in my eyes.

I can’t envision what is next.

Our scripture claims that without vision, the people perish. They dwindle away and need a prophet like Isaiah to remind them of a future.

I need an Isaiah. I need a purple vision.

Lord, I am thankful for my job and for the past which has placed me here, behind the counter, steaming milk for special drinks, but I need a special drink. I need the milk of your kindness and my own barista to point me in the right direction, to speak a prohetic vision into my purpleless life. Thank you for sending one, I pray in anticipation.

Putting the Bible to Bed

January 27, 2012

In 1984, I lived in a small community in Sheffield, England.

The community was located within a working-class neighborhood in the Industrial North.

The community was Christian—people joined in a commitment to the inner-city poor.

Followers of Jesus lived in several three-story semi-detached houses near one another. We ate and worshiped and studied together.

We visited and communed with people of other faiths.

Pakistanis surrounded us in brightly painted houses, transforming the ugly sooty brick structures into a collective colorful rainbow arched along the street.

Corner grocery stores sold exotic products I knew nothing about.

Men wore turbans and did not cut their hair.

Most were Sikhs.

We visited a Sikh temple for a service with our neighbors.

At the close of the day, their Holy Book was put to bed.

Like a child, the book was tenderly placed on a mattress under an ornate canopy, covered up, and tucked in for the night.

I was fascinated at the literal nature of the ritual and have pondered it since.

The beauty of the rite was in the intimacy, and the perspective it revealed—that their Holy Book was a living entity.

I wonder if we are as aware as they of the living quality of our Holy Book.

I wonder if we can even figuratively put the Bible to bed.

Lord, thank you for other cultures and religions and what we can learn from them. Help those of us who call ourselves Christian to view the Bible as a living thing.

 

Patience: You’re Walking

January 26, 2012

Each morning, when I sit down at my desk, I see signs.

Quotes and poems and scripture written on index cards and taped to the desktop monitor behind my laptop.

To my right, are post-it notes.

Yellow-squared reminders of where I’ve been, where I’m going.

This morning, when dismay begins to set in, I glance over to gain strength.

Patience: You’re walking is the message this morning.

Merely five months ago, I could barely walk.

Crippled by depression, my steps were so slow and labored, it took me fifteen minutes to walk from my car into the grocery store.

I won’t tell you how long it took to shop, even for a few items.

I couldn’t open a milk jug or a piece of candy. My strength was gone as if someone cut my hair.

It is painful for me to go there, to remember the depths of despair, but I believe, like all our history, we benefit from our experience.

It is a teacher, a kind and gentle guide.

Lord, when I forget my past, even the painful parts, I dismiss the lessons and the learnings. Help me this morning to see in the mirror, that my hair is growing back.

 

I grew up in the Baptist Church.

Some would hold this against me.

But I want to tell you a story:

In the 1960’s, my home church, First Baptist of Marietta, helped a refugee family from Cuba.

By family, I mean a young mother and four children.

By help, I mean Help.

The church pooled resources and love to bring the family to the United States, to buy them a home in Marietta, to help them get settled and forge a new life for themselves.

The father and husband was a Baptist minister who was arrested in Cuba and put in prison as a perceived political threat to the Castro regime and government.

He would remain there for ten years.

I’ll never forget their reunion in Miami. Church members were present, as the airplane landed and Rev. Valdes walked down the steps and into the arms of his beloved wife, Carmen, The children–Ben, Otto, Carmelita, and  Ruthie–embraced their father, one they barely remembered.

The church taught the family English, enrolled them in school, and assisted Mrs. Valdes to begin a means of self-support.

They bought her a sewing machine.

She was an excellent seamstress and could create beautiful clothes out of fine fabrics and cotton prints.

I recall the black velvet jacket she sewed for me and how elegant I felt wearing it.

From this small beginning, the English School was born.

It is now over forty years old and has as many as twenty-seven different countries represented. Classes are taught in five levels and include one on citizenship.

I am a new volunteer.

Last night, in the beginner class, there were students from Russia, Italy, Laos, China, Nicaragua, and Senegal. It was rich, as we discussed medical treatment and how to negotiate a visit to the doctor. “What’s the matter?” the nurse in the picture asked with her chart. My head hurts. The patient responded. I have a stomach-ache. The teacher emphasized the “k” sound in stomach.

I’m not sure where all the Valdes children are these days. I imagine they are married and have their own careers and children. Maybe one of them is a seamstress like their mom.  I am friends with Ben and Otto on facebook and know Otto lives in Miami and is a minister like his dad.

I do know, the church made a profound difference in their lives, and in countless others since.

That is the way of ministry. It starts from need, often a small one, and grows into a garden from a single seed.

Lord, thank you for the gift of language and the Universal one with which you speak.

Doors

January 23, 2012

Once upon a time, I had a kitty-cat named Tisha.

Her full name was Tisha-ton-waka-wa-mani, meaning the Hawk that Walks Hunting.

Tisha traveled with me to undergraduate school.

I was blessed enough to find a college that had both an Environmental Science major and allowed pets. It was progressive.

The problem with Tisha, a beautiful calico, is that she hesitated at doors.

I have since come to realize that all cats do the same.

They meow near the door as if they want to go outside, but when the door opens they stand there, as if evil lurks on the other side.

Or the threshold is dangerous.

I’ve decided Tisha was right.

The threshold is dangerous, and so is the open door.

We are wise to use our whiskers, not only to judge the portal and determine if the opening is large enough for us to fit through, but to sense what lies..or lurks..on the other side.

We are wise to take our time.

Lord, help me to be more cat-like and prudent, and to realize not every door is one we should rush through.

His eye is on the sparrow

and I know He watches me.

  — Civilla D. Martin, His Eye is on the Sparrow 

Yesterday morning, I had a moment of panic.

It was when I saw a Titmouse hanging upside down from a rafter.

At first, I thought it was a Nuthatch.

They are supposed to hang upside-down and can move, like a Brown Creeper, up and down the bark of a tree trunk like it was a two-lane highway. They travel in both directions.

But then, I realized it was a Titmouse and became concerned. They are not quite as agile and my fear was that gravity would take over and pull the little winged thing, feathers peaked into a Mohawk, to the ground.

I thought of the gospel song, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, and awoke to the rest of the line in my mind, my own lyrics, ..and the Titmouse..and the Wren.

Is there any creature outside God’s care and watchful eye?

I don’t think so.

Like the center of a yarned Girl Scout project, we are often like the Titmouse and hang upside-down in God’s Eye, precarious but well-positioned.

Lord God, thank you for watching over me like you do that risky little Titmouse who almost gave me a heart attack yesterday morning.

Walking on Water: A Dream

January 18, 2012

Last night, I dreamed I was walking on water.

It was a beautiful dream.

I was with my mother and we covered a great distance.

The amazing thing about the dream was that it was easy. Simple.

It was as if we were walking on ice or snow, like a tundra, headed to a distant pole.

But it was water.

In the dream, I exclaimed to Mother: “We’re walking on water!”

I called my mother in real life to tell her about the dream.

She responded, “I take that as a good sign.”

Yesterday morning, we met for coffee and our new accountability group.

Just the two of us, and our journals, and our lists of goals.

We talked and prayed and shared our deepest hopes for a new year, our needs and growing edges.

It was rich and as robust as the coffee.

I think the dream affirms the journey each of us is on and that we are making it together.

We are crossing continents.

Thank you, Lord, for the dream and for the reality that you call us from the boat onto the water, and that the walking is easy, especially with a friend.

 

Everyone’s a mystic these days and has sojourned in a monastery.

Everyone speaks of a “mindfulness” of prayer—a spiritual “best practice” where breathing is slowed and attentiveness is key.

But I want to talk about the heart, not the mind, and the heartfulness of prayer—the better practice.

Sometimes we are knitting, or rocking or running or cooking, and we can be like Brother Lawrence, practicing the Presence of God while we do these things. This is prayer.

We knit one, pearl God. We stir the spoon and stir the Spirit. We run laps and run to God.

But what happens when we are less intentional? Not just off our knees and into the rocking chair—step one in expanding our idea of what it means to pray, but step two, when we are out of the rocking chair and onto the sofa, watching a football game?

I believe this is prayer too.

Most of the people I know don’t live in monasteries and have little time to knit or cook or rock.

Most of the people I know are in meetings and on the phone, are in class and in conversation– are very busy. And when they finally get a moment to themselves, it is usually late at night and they are too tired to do anything but plop down in front of the TV. They couldn’t stir a pot or take a stich if they had to, much less tax their mind or spirit, with one more contemplative hoop.

But prayer isn’t about the mind and no amount of focused, centered, even quiet time, can wed us to God.

It is about the heart.

Word Search

January 16, 2012

Untoward: difficult to guide, manage, or work with: unruly, intractable

I have spent the last hour, searching for a word.

The word is often what I am—untoward.

This morning, I have been stubbornly insistent upon finding it.

Ontward was the word my brain formed, but no amount of Googling, dictionary and thesaurus mining or inner play with related words surfaced the one I was seeking.

I finally gave up and prayed.

Which is when the word came to me.

Lord, when I get frustrated and am ornery, stubborn, and untoward, help me to remember the Word Search that truly matters is You.

 

Wind Chimes

January 15, 2012

Who has seen the wind?

I have.

Like many of you, I have wind chimes in my yard.

They hang like Christians, giving witness to the Wind.