Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What’s Going On

The ultimate starting question for the preacher
What is God doing here and now in the world?
What is going on here? Wherever here may be in your context.

Marvin Gaye captured it in 1970 wondering what was going on in the world as he saw and cried out for it. The Funk Brothers helped, even on bass from the floor of studio a.

Brothers killing brothers
Only a love that can snuff out hate

There is little understanding here today, what's going on, in 2017
Who is ISIS? I don’t know.
Can I trust Russia or China? I don’t know.
Is the Commander in Chief really my president or yours? I don’t know.


What’s going on?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Epiphany

Today I had an epiphany. In fact, a few.
I had put off my own writing assignment for 167 hours. What a hack! I gave eight students a simple assignment to complete and I could not do it myself for nearly a completed week. Only in the 11th hour, really the 167th hour, a full week late, I made myself try. The hour was drawing near and I knew I could not ask them to share on what I would not do myself.
So I stepped out:
Breathe for 10
Write for 15
Reflect quietly and give thanks for 5.

No wonder this 30 minutes was so difficult, so frightening. I had a storm of creativity that followed. I felt free and hopeful in ways I had not felt in months, maybe years. I had been waiting for a breakthrough and here it was as I dragged myself out of bed and on the way to the Divinity School. My nose was so very swollen and there was a tightening of my chest as mucus exploded up and down the shaft. I felt like shit. Praise God, I had not had a cold in many months, but to have one again in November was frightening and made me wonder if this would become my next sinus infection. Yet all of this virus (God I hoped, and not a bacteria) was no excuse for my delay on a simple writing assignment that I had assigned. I didn’t get sick until last Thursday evening so what was my excuse for not writing on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday of last week. I just did not want to sit down and write. My life has felt bleak, without direction, without friends, with family that ought to make me feel jubilant and that I don’t feel jubilant 24-7…that just makes me feel guilty. Why can’t I go back to sales and just make some damn money. Be good. Mary Oliver says I do not have to be good. Well, good, because I’m not.

But my pity party had to end. Thank God I procrastinated on my writing, my completion of my own assignment, and waited for the time to be God’s time.


If you don’t know what to do, just wait longer.
It may not be success in a next second world, but it might mean epiphany.
At least every once in a while.

Friday, June 9, 2017

When I'm 42

Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack sang a song in Free to Be You and Me, When We Grow Up. It was written by Diana Ross. I have always loved this duet.



When I'm 42.

When we grow up will I be a pretty
will I be big and strong

Well, I don't care if I'm pretty at all.

Can you live in your skin now?
Is it enough? Are you good and true and full?

God thinks you are. God loves you as you are and is situated to help you live your purpose.

Who loves you like this?
Humans are too selfish for this kind of service. If we are this obsessively focused we tend to have personality disorders. We are infatuated in an unhealthy, unbalanced way.
But God is obsessively in love with you. Lavishing love without a break.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Unvarnished

How much of your heart is
lacquered
covered up
hiding blemishes

It's enough
     It's enough to be spontaneous
letting your light shine

don't let your illumined self be dimmed
one iota

There is risk
without a covering
a protective layer
but your natural grain
It's your genuine self


Friday, May 26, 2017

Morning Song

This morning I awoke at 530am. It is Friday.

As the dog began to bark I did not hope that he would relinquish the call for me or anyone from upstairs, but I went down to greet him and begin the morning. In late May the morning is already breaking into the day before 6am, but in the hotel or the rental house I would have wished it dark.

Now I am ready to start. The downstairs are bright and clean and I have a client at 9am and now I can have an hour with the dog and the sunrise and raisin bran and counterculture coffee and filtered water from the new fridge. Everything is new and I am stirred no less than the coffee run through the french press.

The morning has broken and I am entering into new light. I am ready for new things. I am not afraid. I am ready to face the day. I am ready to greet children and welcome their commentary on the changes to their surroundings. Some change comes with criticism at first. Let it come. It's all part of their stirring, the process of adjusting to a new wineskin. Their home is new, but they were paradoxically once in it, but in it in a different skin. Before it was yellow on the outside and there were carpets upstairs. There were two sofas in the living room and no doors on the front office. The back deck was rougher and darker and now it is lighter and smoother. The berm was not cut back showing the fence and lost soccer and kickballs on the other side where there was once a thick brush. The prayer wall has been reconfigured in a low long line beside the house. Things are similar, yet decidedly different. How does all of that feel to a nine, or an eleven, or a thirteen year old? I don't really know. It feels great to an almost 42 year old. My birthday will not come (June 18) with me a sojourner. Instead, I will awake here, stirred, rested and ready to listen to the day.

With a word, the Lord stirs me in the morning; 
in the morning, he stirs my ear to hear like a disciple.

This word is written on a scroll held by the prophet Isaiah on an icon I have treasured for years. I wrote the words on the bare floor of my bedroom before the hardwood covered it up, sometime in the Spring or late Winter of 2017. But the words are still under there. The words are hermetically protected by the hardwood. I even saw them after the hardwood was first laid, because those floors had to be ripped up and put down again. So I know they rest protected. By the grace of God, I'll never look on them again. But they still speak to me. I can still hear them. I can still follow their commands -- to get up in the morning, to stir, to hear well, because disciples hear for action, contemplation, for wisdom. I often tell coaching clients that it sometimes takes saying something three or four times to figure out what you really think and feel about a subject. Do I believe this and both sides of it. Sometimes you have to say it three or four times to figure out what you really think. Sometimes you have to hear three or four times to figure out what you really think. In a hurried world, it takes time to hear and say things three or four times. Better to get it right and hear and speak like a disciple.

Kristen took a picture of each of our prayers and scriptures written on the floors of the rooms where we sleep during construction. Each of us received a framed picture of the words that we wrote. Each little gift was placed on our beds on the day we moved in. She truly is a great giver of gifts. Mine are the words above and once more:


With a word, the Lord stirs me in the morning; 
in the morning, he stirs my ear to hear like a disciple.

Norman Maclean closes A River Runs Through It with "under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs." My words are under the floor, just a few feet away from where my head rests each night and lifts each morning. I can't see the words anymore, but I trust that they are still there.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Moving Day is May 24th

In golf, Saturday is moving day, the day to position oneself for a run at a win on the final day of play. If you can move on Saturday you can win on Sunday.
Our moving day was today, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. We just had to be in position for the win as we had been losing for so long -- 228 days. A tree fell on our home on a Saturday, coincidentally, the 8th of October, and we moved out. We moved eight separate times from October to May -- hotel to rental house, back to the hotel when the heat quit working, back to the dreaded rental house with it's awful smell and muddy back yard. We just kept moving and moving.
And finally, a few days before Memorial Day we moved back into our home.
I had prided myself, arrogantly, that I was not a mover. I am a durhamite and settled here and specifically in this particular home once yellow, now a beautiful grey. We had been in our same home, in the same town, for nearly a decade when we were forced out, no thanks to Hurricane Matthew and Loblolly Pine that split through our roof. Rain poured in for the next 12 hours.
As I drove this morning from the Residence Inn on Main Street in Durham to our home on Denada Path, I started to feel alive and hopeful. I started to imagine that I could write again and I could make plans for the Snow in October project on a daily basis. I had begun the project as a balm, a source of healing in the days after the disaster, but mostly I couldn't find the words. For November and December, I could barely drag myself out of bed. 
But today was different. As a I drove and returned home, I felt the full weight of Spring turning to Summer. I felt like Durham was a place I could grow old again, and not just a town where all my dreams had been cast away. 
I stopped for coffee at the drive-thru Starbucks on 15-501 for Kristen and the movers from Trosa. I knew that most of the guys who would be helping with the move would be new to the addiction program, probably living in the main quarters on James Street, between our house and the hotel where we had stayed the last 24 days. The month of May included three more delays by the worst contractors and sleaziest company I have ever worked with. Too awful to even mention. Ask me face to face, and I will tell you. Or maybe, by God's grace, I will forget them completely.
But the Trosa guys, I knew these guys would be super polite, not the most polished movers, but still excellent service and just part of how we move and how we celebrate Christmas -- with one of their Frazier Firs. Can't wait to have Christmas back at home tomorrow, plus seven months.
As I write this, lstening to James River Blues by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Thinking of James Street, where Trosa residents live and sort out their next step. Reminiscing about the James River in Richmond, where William and I crossed a few weeks back and then watched Keslowski and Jimmy Johnson race with 40 other guys as a distraction to the long exclusion from our home. As I drove to help with the unpacking at the house, optimistic about what Kristen would already be directing, I started thinking about NASCAR and this weekend's race in Charlotte. I thought once I got back here to Denada Path that I'd never want to travel, never want to leave again. But instead, I started to feel settled, knowing this time for the first time in a long time, I would be coming back to my proper home. I could go away this Sunday and Monday and leave the house to Kristen alone, which she would love, the chance to work alone and fix things up with clear eyes to fill her heart so she can't lose again. Thanks Coach Taylor and Touchdown Tammy and all the crew from Dillon, Texas.
The stream of consciousness style is intended to show what it takes to survive and distract from difficult times -- music and Netflix and golf and stock car racing were just a few of the ways that I kept moving forward. We're back!!!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lent

The sometimes somber tone of Lent can at times be juxtaposed with the beauty of a bright Spring in North Carolina. Do I feel down and low or cheerful and ready for new life.

In other places around the world, winter is still in full effect. We barely had winter at all in North Carolina, for which I for one, am thankful.

Season is everything with the psyche. Seasonal affective disorder, beach season, the crispness of fall, the quiet that comes during snowfall.

Take note of the season and see how it is running with your mood or against it. How is the creator providing a day, a weather system, a whole climate in order to shape your life? Are you shifting with the seasons?

F. Buechner once said, "Preach the day." What a great thing to preach.