Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Logo for Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School

I really like the and the lingo.

The P.S. or PostScript to a Christmas Letter I recently received

If you do know Jesus, may He become bigger and more beautiful to you in this coming year.  May you know how present He is in all the details of your story.  The things that weigh on your heart are precious to Him.  If you do not know Jesus, seek Him out, He is already seeking you.  It is the very story of Christmas, love coming down into the dark, broken world to call many people to Love, Hope, and Light - Himself! (A. Heinrich)
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Preparing to Light the "Mary" candle on the 3rd Sunday in Advent

Mary's+GreatnessAs the Tobacco Trail Church prepares to celebrate Mother Mary, giving thanks for all she has done for us, here is a text and a meditation:

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, "Do not fear, Mary, you shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High..." Lk. 1

O Jesus, I believe you were born of Mary and are God's Son.

Your mysterious coming is beyond understanding. Yet like your holy mother, Mary, I wish that you come to me, for you promised you will. Let me serve you in any way I can and know that you are with me day by day as my life goes by.

Like Mary, your mother, though I know you only by faith, may my whole being proclaim your greatness and my spirit rejoice in your favor to me.

O Wisdom, holy Word of God, Jesus Christ,
holding all things in your strong yet tender hands,
come and show us the way to salvation.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October Workout

This morning
I reinvented
the runner inside
it was fall everywhere
leaves everywhere on Buehler’s trail

but it was almost shirts off weather
high, 60s and humid
the kind of perfectibility that the Piedmont produces in October
an array of leaves softening the trail beneath

I warmed up
down around the fitness loop
I should run my K’s here

but I want the track
for pop and speed—precision

I’ve not worked out in some weeks and I seek a measuring rod
where am I really
where would I like to be
or where should I be
who am I
as runner

Results were fair, but the morning was perfect
And some perfect
must always be enough

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I continue to be so proud and thankful to serve in this town

I was at American Tobacco this morning speaking to 11th graders from Voyageur Academy about what it means to start something–in this case the Tobacco Trail Church. First, I did not start a thing. I just caught up to what God was already doing, or better, I hang on the end of the kite and try not to get rope/string burn.

Read about church planting within the Kingdom of God.


I love you Durham and I love you ATT

Voices from Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73

This music by Beethoven inspired the poem, "Voices," which can be found in the collection, Border Ways, available at and


Wind blows
Sun shines
And a woman yells harshly
To someone on the other end of digitized audio waves
The scene is out of concert
Because the day preaches coolness, calmness, serenity
Who needs such a harsh talking to?
I’m glad it’s not me
Though I could probably use one
Run faster
Parent better
Work harder
Write with greater clarity

She is calming and walking nearer
Smiling to the person on the other end, though he can’t see the smile
Perhaps he can hear it somehow, in the turn of a word
Serenity overcomes me as it has already done on this bright day
by hearing that best part of
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73
Listen to it and choose your best part
I discovered it again for the first time
In a theater watching a stammerer find his voice
And though afraid of falling on his words into empty space
He went anyway and spoke into the mic
Found his voice and the heart of a nation
You too have a voice
Somewhere there is an audience
That needs your story

Friday, August 23, 2013

When A Dog Dies

Last month, we buried one of my best friends ever. She lays beneath the Carolina mud and clay in our back yard, about four feet below the surface. When I look down from above my backyard, I can see the stone that marks her resting place. At her death, we read several poems that can be found in Border Ways, including the title poem, Now and Then, and Dog Gone.
As I go on living without Sallie, I am moved to share the work of two artists. The first is a poem by James L. Dickey, The Heaven of Animals. The second is a short essay by my mother, Barbara J. Linney based on her experience last month. It is titled, Love of Dogs.

The Heaven of Animals
Here they are. The soft eyes open.   
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,   
Anyway, beyond their knowing.   
Their instincts wholly bloom   
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.   
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,   
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.   
And those that are hunted   
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge   
Of what is in glory above them,   
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.   
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk   
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,   
They rise, they walk again.

James Dickey, “The Heaven of Animals” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,
Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

Love of Dogs
My son called the night before I was driving to his house in Durham to stay with his three children while his wife had minor surgery. “I hate to have to tell you this, but we are putting Sallie down the morning after you get here. The vet is coming to the house to do it. I know that will be hard for you but we need you.”
“I can do it, but you have to know I will cry like crazy.”
“We will all cry. Kathryn and I took her to the vet this morning. The vet said, “I can do blood work, but I don’t need to do any tests to tell you she’s very sick.” She had lost 1/3 of her body weight, had been having seizures, and bled from her nose the week before. 
“But she doesn’t cry like she is suffering,” my son said.
“She is a working dog. They’ve been bred and trained not to complain for generations. Just because she is not whimpering does not mean she is not suffering.”
She was my son’s first dog as a grown up. He got her from the pound in Frisco, Colorado, where he went with fraternity brothers for two years to work and ski after he graduated from Furman and before he married, went to Duke Divinity School, and had three children. The people at the pound thought she was a combination Border Collie and Australian Shepherd. 
Kathryn and her Dad began to cry. They moved over to the corner to hug and try to comfort each other. Then my son said, “Is it time?”
“Some people give lots of pain drugs and go the Hospice route as long as they can, but it is not what I recommend. Almost no one does what I recommend,” the vet said.
He stood up. “That is not what I want. How will we do this? Do I bring each child over here to say goodbye?”
“I can come to your house. I have done this all over the city.”
“My wife is having surgery tomorrow. I don’t want to watch them both be in pain all weekend. Could you do it in the morning?”
“I can be there at 7:30,” she said.
I had arrived at the house before the family came back from celebrating Kathryn’s 8th birthday at Wet and Wild. I came early to spend time with Sallie. She and I had a relationship. I had dog sat many times over her 14 years. She could whine me into more food than the regulated amount. I slept in the basement bedroom with her when she stayed alone at my house so she wouldn’t cry. I knew she was a great contributor to my son’s maturing into the fine man he is.
Soon after I heard the garage door go up, William, the six year old, ran up to me and said, “Sallie is going to die tomorrow.”
“I know. I’m sorry. 
Dad and the two boys went in the backyard to dig a hole in the flowerbed at the end of the zip line. “When you come down the zip line you’ll be able to say, ‘Hi Sallie,’” Dad said. Kathryn found a ragged rock about six by ten inches in the back yard and began to decorate it with markers. 
When we were alone, I asked her mother, who is an exquisite gardener and landscaper as well as an RN, “How did that rock stay in your backyard?”
“I thought we were going to need it.”
Each child drew a picture on the rock and they saved the middle space for Dad to write Sallie’s name with a permanent black marker. Everyone chimed in, “Dad can do calligraphy.” Who knew?
We talked about it while we ate Little Caesar’s pizza and bread sticks. “I am going to cry. It used to scare me when my parents cried. I don’t know why, but it did.”
George, IV, the 9 year old, said, “I don’t think it will scare me if you cry. I don’t know if I will cry.”
His Dad, George, III said, “Some people do. Some people don’t. Not crying does not mean you don’t love.”
We went to bed and I amazed myself by sleeping. 
Kathryn set her alarm for seven so she would have a half hour to hug Sallie, take pictures and offer her a spoon of peanut butter, her favorite treat. She asked me to take the pictures. Owning an IPhone had brought responsibilities I could not have anticipated. As I aimed the camera and took four shots, each one being checked for quality by Kathryn, I already had slow tears slipping over my eyelids.
I was nervous but also calm. Will the vet be on time? What is this going to be like? I’ve put two dogs down but I handed them to the vet and left with heaving sobs. 
The vet and her assistant arrived right at 7:30. We all went to the backyard. My son had put a blanket and three chairs by the dug grave. The vet kneeled down in front of the three children and looked only at them. “Sallie is very sick. She is not going to get better. We are going to help her not suffer anymore. I am going to shave some hair off her leg with this razor, put this catheter in her vein and tape it on. Then I’ll put this needle in the catheter. It will be very quick. Her eyes won’t close.”
The vet and assistant carefully held Sallie. My son and three children got behind her and each put a hand on her. And then we all cried as she got totally still. My son stood up and read three poems he had written—one about her, one about a friend’s dog who had died, and one about it’s time for some of us to go and some of us to stay.  
When my husband picked up our one dog, who died at home, the dog slid out of his arms on the first try so I was praying that wouldn’t happen. My son gently picked Sallie up folding her into a round circle, nose touching tail, the way she often slept and placed her in the grave.  He said, “Some families like to each put in some dirt.” The children and he did that and then I did—very unlike me. Then he filled the hole quickly using all his muscle strength to pull the rain soaked dirt in. Kathryn placed the rock on top.   
We all sat and cried a few more minutes. Then we got up slowly. The parents left for the hospital. The oldest son grabbed picture albums, took them to his room and pulled out pictures of Sallie to put on his wall. Kathryn wanted to frame the best two that we had taken. William, the youngest went out front to play.   
Kathryn and I sat at the kitchen table making bead bracelets and necklaces after we finished framing the pictures. I answered questions all day long. “What do you think Sallie is doing in heaven?”
“I don’t know.” 
“Do you think she is watching us?”
“I don’t know.” 
“What did Daddy mean when he said Sallie made me a better husband and father?”
“She made him more responsible.”
“What’s responsible?”
“When you grow up, you can get a job, live on your own, and go where you want to. If you get a dog, you have to always think about feeding her, cleaning up her poop, making sure she has a safe place to stay. If you want to travel, you have to get someone else to take care of her. If she gets sick, you have to pay her vet bills. All of those duties are worth it, but they are a lot of work and you have to do it every day, not just sometimes. Being a husband and father requires all that and much more. She helped him get ready.”
Later in the day Kathryn said, “I bet Sallie’s thinking—they gave me peanut butter and then killed me. What’s up with that?”
That night after we got the children to bed, my son and I watched TV while his wife slept deeply with the help of Percocet. We told stories about when I first met Sallie at the pound in Frisco, about how he took her to the park, told her to stay, took off the leash, walked back and then said come. He did 20 feet, then 50 feet, then 100 feet. “She always came, jumped up on my chest and kissed me.” Through tears, he said, “Did I do the right thing?”
“Yes. She loved you from the moment she met you. You did what she most needed now.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

ttc forecasting from 6/23/13 -- 8/11/13

ttc worship schedule in June and July (and other random events)
That's Tobacco Trail Community if you do not know us.

Sunday 6/23/13 -- 6:30pm Occeneechee Speedway -- Picnic, Hiking, Speedwork. Meet at Grandstands.

Monday 6/24/13 -- 7:00pm Meet for Moral Monday Run at The Three President's Statue, Raleigh, Capitol Building on S. Wilmington.

Sunday 6/30/13 -- 3:30pm Worship at Mile Zero of ATT in the Grass.

Sunday 7/7/13 -- 5:30pm Worship at 6.0 mile of ATT at the Powerlines. After worship, run the powerline hills just to the East of the trail.

Sunday 7/14/13 -- 5:00pm Worship with 916 Lamond Ave Durham, NC 27701.

Sunday 7/21/13 -- 5:30pm Worship at 6.5 mile of ATT behind Southpoint Crossing Shopping Center.

Sunday 7/28/13 -- 5:30pm Worship behind Rose's on Hwy 54 on the new section of the ATT just North of the bridge over I-40.


B3 -- Boys Bruegger's Bibles meets each Monday at 7:00am at the Bruegger's at 1833 MLK Blvd.


ttc will not gather for worship on August 4th or 11th. We will reconvene on August 18th.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Running Through Luke 24

Wednesday, 4/17/13, 6:00pm
About to run 13 miles to show my support for the Boston Marathon community who experienced tragic bombing on Patriot's Day, April 15, 2013.

All week I have been thinking about Luke 24 and the road to Emmaus. The text says that the distance between Jerusalem and the village of Emmaus was about 7 miles or 11K. Along the way to Emmaus they were talking about all that had happened and the fact the He was not where they thought He would be. I am not running with others, but I will be praying to God and preparing to discuss all that happened with others.

As they were making their way to Emmaus, Jesus began to walk alongside them. At first, they were kept from recognizing Him. Will that be true for me? Will Jesus be out there running with me, but I will not be able to recognize Him? Will He be a biker coming the other way, or will He be among the trees, or will He appear as the very man from Nazareth?

Will He ask, what are you thinking about (discussing) as you run along this road? (verse 17).

The text says that they came to know Him in the breaking of the bread and then they returned to Jerusalem at once (verse 34, NIV). I get the sense that on the way back from Emmaus to Jerusalem, maybe they were running, or at least walking very briskly.

In a few minutes, I will run on the American Tobacco Trail from Southpoint Crossing to the Lucky Strike Tower and back. It is about 11K each way. I hope to return at once, listen without ceasing, watch carefully so that I can recognize Him and then if He disappears immediately, know that it is all part of His plan.

The early verses of Luke 24 talk a great deal about remembering His words and how He said what would happen to him such as being handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again. There is a great emphasis in the text on the word remember as in "Runners United to Remember." I hope that by running in light of Luke 24 I am able to remember what has happened in Boston in a way that stays with me.

The Morning After, 6:45am

It was a great run. Very tiring. I was definitely not in shape for a post-work 22K (14 mile) run. The rest of the night I had a very upset stomach and was losing all kinds of fluids. Worried I had picked up a bug, but now the morning has broken and all is better.

During the run I took a careful look at the two mile mark, where the trail crosses Fayetteville Street, where we don't worship anymore because of violence in the vicinity and harassment. There is trash all over a clearing that has been made to increase visibility on the trail. It is basically a dirt mound between the Tobacco Trail and the Parkview Mini Mart. It looks to be the habit to drop glass bottles there. How much wine and beer is represented in the trash that lies there? I want to go and clean up this clearing. God, show me how.

At American Tobacco and the Lucky Strike Tower there were all kinds of goings on. A Durham Bulls baseball game was getting started, Tyler's was thumping, there was a Zumba class in the grass in front of the Lucky Strike Tower. The lead instructor invited me to join, but I felt in a hurry to return to Southpoint Crossing/Jerusalem. Maybe I should have stopped? He walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." Maybe I was Jesus in this part of the drama, yet in no way like him because I failed to accept their hospitality and stay and eat/exercise. I was already in disciple mode, hurrying to return to Jerusalem. In my defense, I had promised to be at my own home by 8:00pm and while the scene was lovely, though not so dark and deep, I had miles to go before I would drive home and sleep (a perversion of Stopping by Woods, but you get the gist).

I don't have much to say about Boston specifically. I will be listening to the stories of friends who were there. I will try to remember. I can say that I feel more of a nudge to return to Hopkinton and run from there to Boston again. After my experience last year, I said my return would be never or a very long time away, but perhaps that has changed somehow. Perhaps those who can, need to return sooner to the Boston Marathon and consider those 42K like an extended Road to Emmaus.
The Supper at Emmaus 1601 Canvas Art by CaravaggioCaravaggio Fine Art Open Edition Giclée:"Supper at Emmaus"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

A different way of learning and thinking. Thank you Ken Robinson.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

memorization begins in earnest

For some time I have been coming to grips with the hard truth that memorizing poetry is a task setting me free, taking me across a new border, as a thinker, a preacher, and a man. It is quite remarkable that it took the completion of my own book of poetry to make the necessary space to start memorizing others' poems and occasionally my own. I am stubborn, and a procrastinator, but I knew I would give in.

My first set of tasks: four poems in the Irish flow by David Whyte. I have one down: The Seven Streams. I recited it at church and had it pretty much at my disposal. Several phrases are coming alive for me in ways they had not previously, even having read and heard this poem maybe fifty times. Memorization is an altogether different muscle and it lends itself to creativity of the mind that is quite unexpected.

Next will be Tobar Phadraic, Mameen, and Coleman's Bed. There are many others by Whyte that I am anxious to commit to memory, but I need to make patient space for some of my own, including Border Ways, and poems by Gerard Manly Hopkins, Robert Frost, William Blake, and Mary Oliver. Somehow the moment that I am calling myself a poet, I feel a need to protect and foster the craft for those who have come before me. This is great work and no waste of time for everything else I am about. I am coming into a generosity I have not previously known. Spring is four days away and the season seems fitting for new discovery.

I must give thanks to finally finding the method that works for me and the credit goes to J.J. Hayes. Read about his simple memorization process.

The Great Carl Sandburg of Flat Rock, NC