I said goodbye to a friend today.

Actually, I said, “So long. See you on the other side.”
He died two hours later.

But death for him—for all of us—was a process.

A slow turning towards a Light, the shadow falling more and more on this life.

His scant shoulder sharp under the white sheet. His eyes seeing what we cannot.

His wife and children, grandchildren and friends helped him over. What choice did they have?

And what a gift, the final one they could give him.

He’s singing now.

His words are clear.

His body is robust.

His spirit soars.

But his spirit always soared.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.

Thank you, Fred.

 Abientot.

I am ‘minding’ Gigi again, my sister’s toy poodle. Did I say she was a puppy?

She likes to run and jump and play with everything. She has unwound my spool of yarn. Her creamy fur is long enough to sheer—and spin. She looks like a little lamb. My son jokes that I could make money off of her coat.

Yesterday, I turned her loose in the back yard where she ran through the wet clover, up to her shoulders. Then, she did something I hadn’t witnessed since I visited the Dingle Peninsula. She jumped straight up into the air. All four paws leaving the ground at the same time.

She defied gravity like the lambs I saw in Ireland.

I’m not sure there is anything cuter than a lamb, or Gigi.

Or more innocently in need of care and protection.

I get the Psalms and Jesus’ words on sheep, but I think the analogy would have been stronger had they compared humans to lambs.

If sheep need to be protected, go one step further, imagine a little white ball of fur frisking on a hillside, popping into the air near a cliff over-looking the tumultuous sea.

Imagine Jesus as skilled in animal husbandry.

I like that use of the word husband, as one who cares and protects and tends.

I like the idea that a husband could be in my future. We will see.

This morning, I opened a lovely message from a writing/thinking partner on facebook who is a brother in faith.

His words were a blessing I receive. He wishes for me a husband, a soul mate, who will love and care for me. He said, “You are a wonder.”

I don’t know about that, or if more than one soulmate–or Anam Cara since we’re speaking of Ireland– exists. I said I also wanted a sex mate, and I do. It is such an important ingredient of marriage.

I guess we are all wonders and we are all lambs.

Lord, sheer me, shoulder me, shelter me, like a husband. I am your wonder and a little lost in the world.

Yesterday, I was in church.

It was International Sunday at First Baptist in Marietta.

Twenty-five different countries were represented through a procession of flags and students. Colorful costumes, children, skin tones made it festive. Volunteers in the English School were thanked and six new US citizens received certificates and American flags.

It was a good day.

The children’s minister talked about mouths and their purpose: to eat, to speak, to praise God through song and liturgy.

She left out kissing.

Which would have gone right along with the pastor’s sermon on lust.

Taken from Matthew’s Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount, the preacher approached a difficult subject with finesse and sensitivity.

He spoke of desire as a gift from God.

He spoke of the silence of the Church at best on the subject of sexuality, and at worst, the negative Puritanical message most familiar to us, that sex is wrong and desire is a sin.

Perhaps these are the reasons I dreamed of kissing last night.

It was an innocent enough dream, a man, a woman, an old rambling house, a large extended family, and kissing, a lot of kissing. And in between smiling. A lot of smiling.

The two seem to go together.

Thank you, Lord, for making mouths and the joy which comes from kissing. Help us to remember they are your invention.

 

 

Chill

March 16, 2012

Language is dynamic.

It is constantly changing from one generation to the next.

A good example is ‘chill’.

Until recently, chill was a noun and a verb.

Now, it is also an adjective.

Take the recent conversation I had with my son about his birthday:

I want to chill, I want a chill birthday, were the words my firstborn uttered.

I get his meaning. I understand the words.

Our family tends to go overboard when it comes to birthdays.

I was very tempted to drive to Nashville in a day to deliver a homemade caramel cake, but I am attempting to respect his wishes.

Still, I like the word chill as noun, for I have known one, early in the morning when the dew has fallen.

Within relationships when a member holds a grudge.

Within my own heart.

Lord, I don’t want a chill life. I want to soar. I want to feel.

Please help me locate the places in my heart that have grown cold, cool, towards others, towards you.

Help me to have warm hands and a warm heart.

 

Arrogance

March 10, 2012

I believe arrogance was the original sin.

Before disobedience.

Before the chomping of the apple, fruit juice rolling slowly, slowly down the bronze of Eve’s body. And Adam’s.

Disobedience was action, but arrogance was an attitude.

And attitudes always precede what we do—or don’t do.

In my life, I’ve sinned against God by thinking I know what’s best and am above the law.

I am special. I can bend the rules.

I can stand with my arms folded, taking it all in, while others bow and bend.

And yes, I am special, but my specialness resides in my relationship to the Creator who knows me better than I know myself. Who loves me more. Who knows what’s best.

Lord, this morning, help me to be humble. To know how limited I am. Prevent me from being arrogant, which leads to pride, which causes disobedience.

Help me to enjoy all you’ve created and not ask for more.

Forgive me for the amalgam of sins which stems from my arrogance, including the sin against others, probably the most insidious.

What Are We Going to Write this Morning?

This is the question which I ask daily after prayers and coffee.

It is a good question, primarily because the operative word is ‘we’.

We is a synergism between God and me, a way of viewing and living the day.

I know no other way.

I’ve tried it on my own and it wasn’t stellar.

What are we going to wear? What are we going to do?

These are questions which follow.

I don’t always hear right or respond cooperatively, or obediently, but I try.

It turns out God is a great fashion expert, and God has stellar suggestions on how to spend, what are often the long hours of my days.

Agency—Part Two

March 8, 2012

I want to speak this morning about the agency of the Holy Spirit.

The third Person of the Trinity in which we move and breathe and have our being.

The One who inspires and guides and intervenes for us here.

For too many Christians throughout history, the Spirit has been positioned as the third place in some sort of God-hierarchy, a less than God the Father, not even close to the Son,..

And yet, the Spirit is the Son and the Father or Parent. The Spirit moved over the face of the earth at the dawn of creation, stirring up the waters, blowing breath into Adam, flying close and fierce as a giant bird, stirring, transpiring, covering, loving.

The Spirit was on the cross in the Christ, stretching, dying.

The Spirit was in the tomb, and in the garden, speaking to Mary.

In the ThM program at Emory, I wrote my thesis on the relationship between the pneumatology, religious practice, and pneumatic experience in Julian of Norwich’s Showings.

Among other research, I explored the names Julian uses for God and particularly her use of Holy Spirit. I catalogued and chronicled and made a fairly good case via agency for her theology of the Spirit or pneumatology—not so unique from others during the thirteenth century.

The Church seemed to grasp then that when you get one Person of the Trinity, you get all three. At any point.

The Trinity was not divided but One. Not a hierarchy but a Person. Not sectioned and assigned but whole and inclusive.

I long for such theology in the Church today.

Agency

March 7, 2012

I want to speak this morning about agency.

Not as real estate or Central Intelligence but as power.

We all need a sense of agency, the ability to move, to act, to make a difference.

Agency requires a certain freedom and confidence. It is vital to who we are as human beings.

A baby knows agency when she cries because she is hungry and receives nourishment.

She has exercised her will and her need and has affected change.

Two year olds know it well. They stubbornly insist on their own way out of a keen sense of their wants and needs and a new found power to act and change their environment. They must be taught the hard truth that we can’t always have it our way. Still, sometimes we can. Sometimes we can make a difference.

Thank heavens.

Teenagers experience agency when wise parents turn more and more power loose to enable their child to become independent, to make good decisions—and sometimes mistakes–to stretch their wings on their way to adulthood.

And adults..well we possess more agency than we sometimes want.

Even if we don’t feel that way.

Often we feel powerless in our lives, powerless to affect change, to act, mobilize, move into the fullness of our potential. We are overwhelmed by choices and so do nothing, like the main character in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground.

And sometimes, our circumstances prevent such movement.

Still, agency is within our grasp. It may mean, like Thoreau in jail, we cannot escape our physical circumstance, but our minds and our spirits can still be free.

We have the power always to choose our thoughts, our attitudes, our response, our inner life.

Prayer may be the best agency I know.

It affects change. It brings about transformation, within and without.

It is one of our greatest gifts, to be with God in an active choice. A decision. A movement forward in the agency that is the pentultimate Central Intelligence, the real estate of our faith.

Prayer is power.

May we exercise it today.

GiGi

March 5, 2012

Gigi is my sister’s dog.

I am puppy sitting.

She is a toy poodle with curly champagne-colored fur.

She is teething.

Her little tail quivers.

But the remarkable trait about her is her eyes.

Isn’t that the way of all animals? And humans too?

Our eyes give us away.

We may try and squint them, hide behind sunglasses and hair, but we cannot hide the truth they tell.

Our eyes are windows into our souls, deep wells of living water.

Into each person—and I believe animal—the image of God is poured.

Like young chicks to a mother bird, we are imprinted.

Maybe you can pray this morning, that I will be a good aunt.

She is asleep now on my gold couch, exhausted from exploring.

 

Once, I was a serious photographer in Key West.

I snapped shots of shrimp boats, pelicans, piers—all in black and white.

I sought good contrast and compelling content, two old men talking, a reflection in a store window, hippies living on a floating home, their laundry drying in the salt wind.

I carefully composed each shot in the lens, arranging the aperture on my Minolta to take in the perfect amount of light.

I looked for voice, a way of speaking about what I witnessed, my own film narrative.

When I returned to the dark room, unrolled the images from the canister, bathed them in chemicals, the experience sharpened before my eyes. It was a way of stopping time.

I since have realized the lens’ limit. The story is only half told.

We don’t know by looking, what the men were talking about, the philosophy of the hippies, the store owner’s dreams.

Or what happened to the kitten..

One of the best shots from that spring break long ago was of a little gray kitten in a junk yard. She is nestled between boxes and wooden pallets, also gray from the weather. She is camouflaged, but her eyes tell a story.

She wanted help and I took a photograph.

The lens is a way of distancing oneself, hiding from the story.

It becomes protection and prevents us from becoming engaged.

We shoot others, but disappear, like a washed out image in a tub full of chemicals, prematurely removed before it’s time.

Instead of strong blacks and whites, there emerges amorphous gray. Nothing significant is revealed. The story is underdeveloped.

The kitten needed to be rescued, picked up, stroked and given a home.

I took a photograph and left.