Thursday, June 28, 2012


     Summer.  It’s shoes off time - that time of year when the shoe pile at the foot of the stairs grows ever larger - a pile of flip flops, Chacos, Tevas, running shoes. You know it’s summer when footwear gets kicked off at the door.  And this week, with both girls home, shoes will be everywhere.

     Taking off your shoes says “I’m slowing down, I’m through with the “doing” of the day, now I can just ‘be.’”  In summer, it’s a kick back moment, but it’s also a moment to remember the goodness of the life we live.   God stopped Moses in his tracks.  “Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."    My back porch is not Horeb, the mountain of God, and I don’t see a burning bush anywhere close by, but moments at home, of being family, of simply being present to life can be all be holy ground, if I can pause long enough to let that awareness sink in. 

     In Seasons of Your Heart, Macrina Wiederkehr writes “Taking off your shoes is a sacred ritual...It is a way of celebrating the holy ground on which you stand.  If you want to be a child of wonder cherish the truth that time and space are holy.  Whether you take off your shoes symbolically or literally matter little.  What is important is that you are alive to the holy ground on which you stand and to the holy ground that you are.” 

     So, go kick off your shoes, celebrate summer and remember you are holy ground.


Ridin Solo

I took the kids to see Disney's Brave and was pleasantly surprised to see a strong heroine, Merida, who doesn't need to be rescued by a prince. She whips out arrows while on horseback, nailing targets on the move. Disney is way overdue is sending out a healthier message to young girls about following their talents and passions, without waiting on that perfect prince.
In author Eric Klinenberg's book, "Going Solo," he makes the interesting observation that we're becoming a nation of independent souls who are crafting new ways of going solo. In 1950, only 22 percent of American adults were single, but that has changed today to be 50 percent with 31 million—roughly one out of every seven adults—living alone. He brings out the fact that our demographics are changing with the number of people living alone making up 28 percent of all U.S. households, which makes them more common than any other domestic unit, including the nuclear family. I'll be honest. As a family gal, that makes me sort of sad.
But you have to love Brave's heroine Merida. She stays true to herself, refusing to chose a husband she doesn't love. More importantly, she learns the lesson of pride and how it tears the fabric of relationships, a lesson she'll dearly need should her prince-sometimes-charming ever show.
         For that matter, even if he doesn't.
The best movie I've seen in awhile is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where a bunch of people on their last leg so to speak find more authentic ways to live their lives and relate to others. I think we have to drop our masks and Hollywood conditioning to do that. I caught myself in Brave looking for the Hollywood "love interest" part of the script. Good for Disney, he was a no show. Merida had to do the hard work of growing all by herself.

     Never thought to find myself here,
     On this middle-land, this in-between.
     Water on either side, tide rising.
     Where do I go?
     I've come too far to return.
     A growing pool separates me from the safety of beach.
     But out there, in the depths,
     Who knows what I'd find?
     Or what might find me?
     I don't have all I need to go that way.
     Maybe in time, I will.
     But the tide is rising faster than my courage.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Star Wars, strangers, and sunflowers

     I had been looking forward to the Friday after my birthday ever since
my friend Sarah told me she had a surprise planned for that night. I
love surprises, whether I am on the giving or receiving end of them.
All I knew was that she was picking me up at 6:00, I did not need to
dress up, and we were going downtown. Having vast experience with my
tendency toward tardiness, Sarah had purposely set the pick-up time
earlier than we actually needed to leave. As she'd predicted, I was
still getting ready when she arrived. But by about 6:15, we were
headed downtown to some mystery destination. After weaving through
tourist traffic, we finally found a garage with room for us to park
and started walking down Meeting Street. By the time we passed the
locksmith shop with all the keys pressed into the sidewalk, I
suspected we were heading for Theatre 99. Sure enough, we went behind
the bike shop and climbed the stairs to the small theatre. It was only
after the usher had torn our tickets that Sarah handed me mine and I
saw my surprise revealed! We were about to see The One Man Star Wars Trilogy!
     For the next hour, we listened and laughed as geeky comedian Charlie
Ross reenacted the original Star Wars movies on an empty stage, doing
character voices, sound effects, music, and inside jokes. I had tears
of laughter running down my cheeks by the end. It was the perfect
birthday present. I know the Star Wars movies backward and forward,
and Sarah knows well my geeky obsession with them. That was the best
part of the gift, I think. She knows I love surprises, knows I'm
always running late, knows I'm a Star Wars fanatic. The being known
meant as much as the experience itself. Sarah is also someone who
knows how selfish and petty I can be, who has been snapped at when I'm
in a bad mood, who has taken care of me when I was sick. Isn't that
what all of us want -- to know that someone else cares enough to learn
who we are, from the trivial quirks to the shameful secrets, and still
stay with us? It is my deepest desire, if I'm honest. My heart
flutters with longing when I read Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13:12,
"Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been
fully known." I am thankful for the few friends who truly know me,
hopeful that one day I will know and be known by a husband, and
praying that in God my deepest desire finds it deepest answer.


"I was a stranger and you invited me in."  Matthew 25:35

     People normally don't invite strangers into their homes.  Strangers are people you have never met, never talked to,  never laid eyes on.  And yet...
     This week we are in Austin, Texas, apartment shopping for our youngest daughter who will be attending graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin in the fall. (Hook 'em Horns!)  My extroverted, well-networked husband sent out a plea on Facebook to all his friends in Texas for any help in locating an apartment.  We received lots of helpful advice and one amazing offer.  
     One of Don's friends contacted another friend, an Austin local, to ask for advice.  That wonderful artist friend not only offered a potential apartment site, but also invited us to stay at her house while we visited Austin and looked around.  She and her family planned to be gone during the days we were in Texas and offered us the use of her charming art-filled home in the historic Hyde Park district...that is, if we wouldn't mind feeding the cat while we were here.  We were strangers with at least two degrees of separation.  We had never met and communicated only by email.  
      A friend of a friend offered her empty house, wi-fi password,  and even instructions for the coffee pot. She welcomed us into a home away from home.  Hopefully, on a later visit to Austin, we will meet, maybe have dinner and become friends.  But for, now, we were weary travelers and a stranger invited us in. 


Lean Forward

"Lean forward into your life... Just tip your feathers a wee bit and see how dramatically that small lean can change your life."
                                                                      -Mary Anne Radmacher
     I like to meditate on visual images, particularly ones in nature that keep reappearing on my path. For the past two weeks, that image has been sunflowers. I was delighted to find a vase of them at Sea Biscuit Cafe on the Isle of Palms, where I like to sneak off on some early mornings when I'm on that side of town. They are so bright and cheery, brash and bold, dominating wherever they are. 
     I like how they catch me unexpected, their tall size allowing them sneak peeks over fences.  
     I like how they lean into the light and seek out the light. They remind me that my day will go down in great part based on how I orient myself to the light.
     I like how the spirals of seeds in the sunflower heads feel soothing to me.             Mathematicians study them with their special pattern of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence. I just like how ordered and calm everything seems at their center.
     Mostly, I like how they remind me to just be happy - the way, before worry and/or the daily grind dominates a day, we were created to be.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unexpected Celebrations of Life

The River of Life
     My good friend Danielle sent me a countdown text for how many days until our July raft/hiking trip through the Grand Canyon will be. It’s the trip of a lifetime, something we’ve been trying for years to do. It’s a sacred place of ridges and cliffs, glowing rocks and red waterfalls, rare condors with their nine-foot wing spans.
     Why then, is fear seizing my gut?
     In the abstract, it seemed like such a great idea, but now I’m trying to shove a week’s worth of stuff into a pack that is not allowed to weigh much more than 10 pounds. Then there’s the fact that we’ll be sleeping on the ground, enduring blazing heat and living through thrashings by the Colorado River, something I hadn’t worried about until a friend sent me a link to this hilarious video by comedienne Jeanne Robertson, “Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.”

     Then horror of all horrors, I’ll be without cell service for 8 days. How does one live without that?
     I have no doubt the trip will change me. In one sense, it’s a rite of passage for this season of loss in my life. My divorce is final just before I leave. On the wall in my office is the Radmacher quote: "I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
     So, I keep culling through my pack, seeking just the essentials for my spirit to thrive, psyching myself to take the plunge.

     It was a lot of birthdays in a ten-day stretch. On Tuesday, my friends raised a birthday toast to me as we sat at a waterfront table on Shem Creek. The previous Saturday, I gave lots of treats and special fun outings to my dog Hurley as he turned four. And the Sunday before that, I got to fill the pulpit at a small church on Pentecost, the traditional birthday of the Church. My sermon encouraged us all to be amazed at the workings of the Spirit in our lives and rejoice, as in the story from Acts when thousands of new disciples joined the Church on Pentecost. Looking at another biblical story of the Holy Spirit, though, my sermon reminded us that we, like Ezekiel, can see a lot of "dry bones" surrounding us, situations that look hopeless and irredeemable. Birthdays are a time to acknowledge both the joy and the hopelessness as we reflect on the last year of life and look to the next one.
     In both these biblical stories, the wind of the Holy Spirit blew in and brought about new beginnings. The dry bones lived again, and the small group of disciples grew into the Church. I love that hope for change, for newness. I don't know what that might look like in the life of the Church, or in my life, or even Hurley's. But I am hoping that the Spirit-wind will sweep in some good changes, and that this time next year, we will have a lot to celebrate.


     Don and I were sitting on the back porch, enjoying one of the last cool evenings of late spring, when we heard the tinny music of an ice cream truck slowly making its way through our neighborhood.   Our girls are grown and gone, but we considered grabbing a dollar or two and running out the door to get a rocket pop or a nutty buddy or a dreamsicle or even some soft serve ice cream - just for ourselves. As we pondered, the repetitive music kept tinkling away.  
     “What is that tune?” I wondered out loud.  We both paused, listening attentively.  It was familiar, but I couldn’t place it.  After running through my mental list of childhood camp songs, I listened again and started singing along.... “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”  The ice cream truck was playing Christmas songs!  The truck rattled on through “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way” and the fa- la -la’s of Deck the Halls.  A cheery “Silent Night” faded away as the truck turned out of the neighborhood.   
     Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the familiar in an unexpected place.  We see a friend from home in a faraway vacation spot and it takes us a minute as we pause and wonder "Is that _______?"  We hear a the voice of a familiar actor speaking in a commercial and pause to recognize them.  "Is that ________?"   I think the Holy is like that as well, surprising us by showing up in unexpected places, waiting and hoping that we will pause for just a minute to listen and wonder "Is that _________?"