Walk Beside Me

The rhetoric of
Outrage
Burns itself out
In meme wars,
And cancels the
Righteousness on all sides.
Then the aching soul is left
With a clearer view,
That there are indeed
Two sides.
Sheep and Goat sides.
The only left and right
Are His left and His right,
The everlasting day of His presence
Or outer darkness.
And I, I simply
Marvel that He would welcome
Me and the one who walks beside me,
My brother, my sister, my friend in the skin,
Into the Day.

 

St. Elmo In The Morning

Hush and lull of quiet time in my
Daughter’s apartment as she
Prepares for a later-starting workday.
Extra time allows for the little nothing
Tasks like unknotting a shoelace,
Soaping out yesterday’s Thermos.
~
The oval mirror above the fern
Reflects the wall behind me.
Prints of birds – finches? –
And a South of France travel
 poster.
Books stacked and angled,
Bubbling fish bowl – home of Joel.

Ten foot ceilings widen narrow rooms,
And there’s curry, somewhere.
Yes, I am just rearranging prose on the page,

But the street window is open, and
St. Elmo is wet through from last night’s
Storm, and dazzling in the morning sun,
Vital and delicate both.
Baby green leaves peek out of wet, black limbs.
Wet tires slur rubbery down Tennessee Avenue
Because a time clock beckons. And the bluff face
Looks down from behind moving clouds,
Sun and shadow tagging over its rocks and redbuds.
I can trace the curved road only by glints
Of wet cars climbing through the greeny, misty
Trees, up, up, up. I wonder where they are going and
Why they need to get to the top of the mountain.

Eliza arrives with three coffees and we
Puzzle out her route through nursing school,
As the building pops in the morning damp,
And Joel recovers his nerves
After last night’s storm.


Eliza and Adrienne; March 28, 2017,Tennessee Avenue, St. Elmo
For the record, Eliza looks pained because she didn’t want her picture taken.

We Went To A Cottage In Paradise

We have come to a cottage in paradise.

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February is an icy-hearted Miss Havisham, all human warmth dormant, and we had become her victims. I mean, look at us!
img_1132Then we drove 13 hours south on cold, dark, inland roads, shivering in our sweaters, and woke up to this:

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Even if I had only one day to look at this, the trek is worth it.

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Of course we had our road adventures. In Troy, Alabama we needed to swing in and have the tires balanced. But we found beauty there. And the mechanic, while devoid of humor, got us back on the road in 20 minutes. We couldn’t ask for more than that from a Trojan mechanic.

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And we had to stop and make coffee behind a Circle K. Because priorities.

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Our early morning view from paradise cottage. This is also the church we were married in. So how is that for God’s loving answer to the February doldrums??

dscn6811Everything is different here: the New York accents, the odors of garlic and cigars and finest perfume, the Lamborghinis, the Euro clothing unlike my mid-America khaki shorts and mom sandals, the hues of skin whether by sun or by exotic birth. So different from our hard-working, stick-to-the-essentials Cullman.

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Day 2 we set our chairs up facing the sun, not like our bumpkin day 1 set-up facing the ocean. By day 2 it’s not about marveling at the majesty of it all. It’s about getting with the program.
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Day 2 also reveals that people and their multitude of body parts come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and combos. Everyone walks around barely clothed, and we aren’t supposed to think a thing of it. But who can help it? All-over tats, body parts that nylon doesn’t begin to hide, rolls, rashes, body parts that age and gravity cause to dangle beneath the hemline – all fairly traumatizing.

Babies on the beach. Oh my. They laugh overwhelmed laughs at the magnitude of this water thing and at brother shrieking in the cold, strong waves. And they toddle and waddle and no one tells them ‘no’ about anything, not digging, not flinging, not smearing. Dumplings in bathing suits and bonnets, they look like candy and happiness.
img_1188-2Redheads. Bless their hearts. Unlike the rest of us, they have a hostile relationship with the sun and can’t unclothe and sprawl out for hours in sweet, blank beach sleep. They’re beaching, but only after negotiating a cease-fire with the sun by conceding umbrella, hat, wet suit, 70 sunscreen, lip screen, towel, sand.

Deep thoughts. God’s handiwork is everywhere, and yet many of the millions of people here seem instead to be guided by absolute materialism. Florida is both ultra-modern and forever in the 1950s; I wonder why the millions come here. Why do they come to the edge of the land and lie beside the vast ocean? Just to escape February?
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Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!” Ps 57:5

Bikes. On Lake Trail along the Palm Beach intracoastal, nannies in scrubs push scions’ strollers. Yachts and sailboats lie at anchor. Tourists like me twist their necks left and right goggling rare glimpses of one of the super-wealthy doing something otherworldly like gazing at his yard or walking to the pool house.
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What I thought I looked like. . . .Words fail.

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Birds. Paradise cottage rests on a grassy hill jeweled with every bird that flew south last November. This morning one gent praised his bird-wife: ‘Sweet, sweet, purty, purty, purty, purty.’ She chickered back her satisfaction.
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Sabbath. God rides creation to commune with me. And there in His house, Andrew and I stand where we stood almost 29 years ago to say ‘I do!’ To our precious young friends in Wednesday night Covenant Group: God is faithful and spouses can still be each other’s favorite person on the planet.

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We pack early and journey north loaded with exotic cheeses and chocolates and tropical fruit from The Boys and with warmth from Andrew’s parents, back to responsibility and away from paradise. Somewhere in the 13 hours, maybe around Atlanta, our thoughts will turn toward Cullman and work and we will be glad.
img_1219“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 57: 9, 10

Elfstruck In Bankhead Forest On Sunday Afternoon

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This afternoon we stumbled upon Rivendell beside Rush Creek in Bankhead Forest. It was magical. We couldn’t understand why the Alabama woods were so clear of underbrush that we could stroll through like characters in an Austen novel.  Then we remembered the wildfires of last fall.

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We wandered through in separate directions following our own rambles as one beauty led to the next, breathing cold air and smelling water and tree trunks. I really did catch glimpses of elves in convocation.

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Can anyone go to the woods on a Sunday afternoon without thinking of the morning message? It was on obedience.  I looked at the mosses and barks and confirmed that it only made sense to obey a God who spoke breath-taking matter into breathing being.

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And we were dressed for a party, not a hike. Which made it all the more dreamlike.

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Amongst the ferns, a thousand hood-shaped leaves on the ground told us this was a cow-cumber grove. I didn’t know cow-cumbers travelled in groves.  🙂

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In the crook of her elbow, this Entwife had an eczema.

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The elves love January. They are almost material in that bare month.

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In the Addison Hyatt’s Market ladies’ room – back in civilization, but still elfstruck – I wondered at the situation that made that sign necessary.

~

How To Tell If You Are Pro-Life

According to Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B., here’s how:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/7/30/1407166/-Catholic-Nun-Explains-Pro-Life-In-A-Way-That-May-Stun-The-Masses

There is much to debate in that opinion but I want to respond to the accusation that I am a hypocrite who is pro-birth, but not pro-life, based on where I vote to allocate my taxes.

Sister Joan, I am pro-birth and I am pro-life. A Christian who is an active member of his or her church is vibrantly pro-life. Here is what I mean.

Our church only functions when its members do. It is not a business or a government-funded entity. It only does its work if the people are working, hard. I support my church with my body, my money, my prayers, my time, my affection, my passion, alongside my brothers and sisters at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church. Church members work according to their gifts and passions, from the missionary on the field to the sweeper and light-bulb changer. Because we do, our church is able to support the following varied PRO-LIFE-AND-FAR-PAST-BIRTH ministries:

  1.  The Foundry – a PRO-LIFE ministry that restores hope and dignity to men and women who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and learning to work and rejoin society. Church members volunteer in many ways in this ministry, our highlight being the annual Christmas dinner in which members of several area churches work together to serve an elegant meal to those in the program.
  2. The Link of Cullman County – a ministry providing GED and academic recovery aid, job-seeking and job-keeping training, parenting training for single parents along with supplies, supervision for visitations, craft-making and small business training, financial planning instruction, and many other vital PRO-LIFE skills which result in more fed, clothed, healthy, educated children.
  3. First Source For Women – a PRO-LIFE ministry providing resources for women and babies.
  4. Operation Christmas Child – a PRO-LIFE ministry that sends gifts of necessities and toys to children all over the world. We are a collection point for this ministry and have been for years. Everyone helps with this ministry!
  5. La Ceiba Honduras – a clinic in a poverty-stricken area which we have partnered with long-term, sending summer teams of church members of all ages down to support the full-time staff and help provide medical care and education to the surrounding people. It is PRO-LIFE, abundant life, in every way.
  6. International Adoption – When a family in our church adopts a child, it is all hands on deck, providing PRO-LIFE help with every imaginable need from tutoring, to meals, to car-pool, to medical care. We currently have two families out of the country meeting their new children. One family just returned with four sons. Four. The adoption agency was bemused several times in the process saying, ‘We don’t know the protocol for this; we’ve never done it before.’ Several families are still waiting to go.
    One accusation frequently flung at pro-lifers is “How many children have you adopted?” Because I am pro-life and I love my church family, LOTS!
  7. Committee for Church Cooperation – a ministry that helps local people with power bills and grocery needs. PRO-LIFE!

I could go on, but you get the point: None of these ministries would happen without church members doing them, personally, with their own hands.  Not writing a tax check to the government and calling it helping the poor, but sweating and looking at real people. And this is just one, one, one, little church. There are thousands doing the same thing we are.

So, Sister Joan, I disagree. My morality is not deeply lacking because I choose to meet the needs of this world by vibrantly supporting my church so it can do its PRO-LIFE work in big ways. I am pro-birth and pro-life and one of the deepest joys in my life is serving my church so it can serve PRO-LIFE – all of life! – needs of the world.

And that has nothing to do with my taxes.

NYC Day Two – People Are Amazing!

I like that New Yorkers don’t expect you to make over their dogs.  How refreshingly normal.

I like that they are amazingly polite considering how many people they rub against, until they are not and then they will scrap to the death over who is rushing who off the bus.  One woman admonished another for hurrying a disabled man, but then lost the moral high ground entirely when she refused to let it go. She got caught up in her own righteous indignation, forgot the disabled man, and attacked the character and worth of the rusher.  Alleged rusher – I don’t know that she was really rushing.

I like that they are not afraid to sweat. A third floor walk-up means sweat. Learn to love it.

I like that they know instinctively when to obey the orange hand forbidding you to cross a street and when you can ignore it; and it isn’t as simple as ‘are there any cars actually coming?’.  There’s more to it than that, I just don’t know what.

I love pondering the difficulty of “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10.  Drinking morning coffee to the sound of the rush and attempting to be still and pray must be the challenge of living here.

I love the crammed subway cars.  When despairing over the divisive nature of our country, one just needs to go ride the subway and be jammed up against a polite Sikh, two Romanians, a shy Asian student, Irving who just got off work at the garage, and sexy Sandra whose skin is dark but her hair is not.

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ile mosaic at our 110th St. sub stop.  People are amazing.  Art with tile.  The chains on the hanging weight scale and the color variations in the avocado were cause for pause and admiration.

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orld Trade Center One – look how it reflects the clouds and almost disappears.  The sculptured building beneath it by Santiago Calatrava evokes a bird’s wings taking flight.  It is designed so that on September 11 sunlight floods the interior.  Again, people are amazing.

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emorial pool in the footprint of the tower.  Andrew and I had interesting conversation about the nature of memorials, what they intend, what they achieve.  The names were sobering.

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Cracking the code.  How to find the uptown 6 train?? Well, let’s just walk to Chinatown.

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nd on the way we saw a little city drama.  Mayor Bill de Blasio leaving City Hall after announcing the ‘resignation’ or ‘stepping down’ or something of the police commissioner. . . .

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.
 . .to the heckling of a pitiful little group of protesters singing ‘nah, nah, nah, nah, goodbye’, exercising their first amendment rights and being protected by New York City’s finest.  I love America!

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ychees.  Peeled they look like eyeballs, smell like perfume, and Andrew likes to eat them.

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ueens! First time to be in that borough.

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h my, the food.  Eliot, this is for you. Yes, we had one of those pork sandwiches.  I thought I understood barbecue being from Alabama and all.

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axing eloquent.

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his is Ben smiling. Wonderful evening doing Queens.

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he hipster and the hillbilly.

Love from New York and blessings on your day!

Recipient

The Pen of a Ready Writer

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~
The pitcher is tall and silver,
Chilled like a julep cup,
Filled with nectared faithfulness,
And poured over my head
Once and again.
Each time the first time,
But also a homecoming,
Ah! You!
Is it liquid?
As oil is liquid,
Flowing thickly,
Coating,
Calming.

Restoring.

Reminding,
“This is what I do.”

And I see the healed
Standing beautifully scarred,
Singing, privileged recipients of
Salvation that flows from the
Silver pitcher, protected ones
Whose bones are whole and
Whose honor is royal.

~ From Psalm 53: 5, 6

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