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Dappled Things

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.
13. Pied Beauty
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;         5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:         10

                  Praise him.

One of the deacons began the deacons meeting last night with this poem by one of his favorite poets.  It is not his favorite poem by Hopkins, but it was, he thought, appropriate for this week of Thanksgiving.  Indeed… praising God for dappled things… for the manifold diversity of creation, that which is inherent in creation and that which humanity visits upon it… just write for Thanksgiving week.  I’m grateful for the deacon’s adept analysis of this poem– I am hesitant in my own interpretation and analysis of poetry.  He unfurled it with ease.  Ending his reflections with a musing about whether or not the penultimate line suggests that God does not change.  If I’m recalling his reflections correctly, he wants to leave open the possibility that God does change– for anything in dynamic relationship changes… and he believes himself to be, wants himself to be in dynamic relationship with God.  But his last word was subtle, provocative– Even if God changes, God is none-the-less constant.  And then he offered the poem again as a prayer.

It was breathtaking.

I’ve just begun to set a dappled table for a dappled Thanksgiving feast.  Cockeyed turkeys (made from pinecones, bright feathers, pom poms, and googly eyes) and napkins beneath turkeys made from clothespins and fabric leaves atop woven foam placemats, all upon a beloved batiqued table cloth.

I’ve had dappled days– a bit of this, a bit of that– all full, all wearying, all beautiful in the diversity of activities that fills them.

I’ve led a dappled life.  Made beautiful by its spots and variations.

Glory to God for dappled things. Indeed.

Speechless…

Alright, I admit it.  I felt extraordinarily sheepish when I posted a banal reflection on my anxiety about cutting my hair and then saw, moments later, the news out of Ferguson, Missouri.  What’s worse than saying nothing at all in the face of such circumstances?  Talking about one’s hair.  Lord, forgive me.

But did I jump back on the blog and fill the screen with anger, sorrow, shame, grief… no.  The best i could do was to post on FB a simple hashtag #blacklivesmatter and a three word prayer- Lord, have mercy.

And while I’ve appreciated the eloquent reflections posted by many whom I love, I still don’t have much more to say.  I’m brought to my knees– by beautiful black boys who die violent deaths-daily, by systems that make it safer to be white than black in America, by decisions which make it seem that gunning an unarmed person down could be justified, by a city on fire.  Lord, have mercy.  Have mercy, upon us.

I’m preparing to preach a sermon on the annunciation of John the Baptist- Luke 1:5-25.  This is a passage that never makes the lectionary.  I’ve never had occasion to preach on it before.  But I heard a sermon on it once that irked me.  I recall the sermon being extraordinarily hard on Zechariah for his lack of faith.  The preacher seemed to interpret Z’s muteness post angelic revelation as punishment for faithlessness.  I can see where one gets this from the text, but I think that after, what, 15, 20, 30 years of 12 consecutive months of disappointment, grief, disgrace (to borrow Elizabeth’s word)… promises like the ones Z received are going to render one speechless.

I’m rarely speechless.  But Z, I’m with you tonight.

I don’t know what came over me this weekend, but I became convinced I want a pixie cut.  I’ve had longish hair for some time now.  Around the time I first did that Thanksgiving exercise in worship, I made a radical color shift, becoming the red head I had always wanted to be.  I’ve been coloring my hair various shades of red ever since (though with great infrequence… ah, graduate school income…) and realized once I had the color hair I wanted I wanted LOTS of it… and so I started growing it… And it has been longish for the better part of the last six or so years.

And I have had great cuts.  It’s working for me.  And I have NO idea what a pixie cut will look like/feel like on me– even having tried an online tool that lets you put celebrity cuts on your head.  But I have been admiring such cuts for some time and I feel ready for a big change.  So, I have an appointment at two tomorrow with a brand new (to me) stylist… and I’m thinking a pixie cut with some sweepy bangs… and fresh color too.

I polled some friends about this and the refrain seems to be “It’s just hair.  It will grow.”  But I’m remembering the super short hair cut my sister got in high school and how hard it was to adjust to for her.  She wore hats for days.  She said something like “I never realized how much of my femininity was tied up in my hair.” I wonder if I’ll grieve it.  If I’ll regret it.  Yes, it will grow.  But it will take time… and there will probably be super awkward stages in the growing out process.

Here’s something I’m looking forward to… frequent hair cuts.  Getting my hair washed by someone else on a regular basis.  And… the excitement of something totally new and different.  And if I’ve got a good stylist… I imagine she’ll help me figure out how to grow it out… if I want to…

It seems silly to feel scared about this.  But I do.  I wish I could do this with a stylist who is known to me.  But… this is highly recommended salon.  And I don’t have especially tricky hair to work with.  So going to let go and trust.

Wonder why I want to do this all of a sudden…

It worked again!

Several years ago, I had a creative idea for worship on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It happened to be a moment when there was some anxiety in the congregation about members and friends whom we weren’t seeing anymore. And I thought that while Christ the King is the actual holiday- this church family needed an infusion of gratitude, gratitude for their church family in particular- not just felt, but expressed. So we celebrated Thanksgiving rather than Christ’s kingship that year.

And this is what we did- Every worshipper got three colorful thank you note cards in their bulletins.

We read from Phillipians 4:8… about thinking on excellent (pure, pleasing, praiseworthy, etc.) things. And then I explained what I had planned for the day. The main event for the day was the writing (by everyone present) of three thank you notes.

  1. One note to someone present that day, for whom particular appreciation is felt.
  2. One note to someone absent that day, for whom appreciation is felt and whose presence is missed.
  3. One note to God.

Before the note writing, however, three or four verbal thank you notes were offered to prime the pump for the writing of the whole.  I gave thanks concretely and directly for a person or people in the community for whom I was feeling particular appreciation that day.  Then others stood up and did the same.

After the verbal thank yous were spoken, a mix of music began to plan and everyone was invited to take up pens and write.  The mix was 11 minutes long and it included:

Thank you, by Dido-  (Wow!  What a video!)

Thank you, by Ashanti-

I want to thank you, by the Mighty Clouds of Glory

Not the typical music heard in that sanctuary, but it set a nice tone for the activity.

I encouraged people to seal the notes to church members/friends in envelopes and write the name of their intended recipient on the outside of the envelope and place those notes in the offering plates for addressing and mailing the following day.  I encouraged them to keep their note to God as reminder of their gratitude.

And a huge pile of colorful notes made its way back to the church office and were scattered through the community the week of Thanksgiving.  It was MARVELOUS.

I repeated the exercise while working as temporary supply in a congregation recovering from a difficult season in their life together.  And again… though it was a deviation from the norm in every sense– it worked BEAUTIFULLY.

And so, when I found myself responsible for leading worship in our Emergent service, where everyone sits at table, and is accustomed to contemporary worship— I thought… “It’s time to do it again!”  And so we did today.  And I wish I had taken some pictures.  It worked beautifully once more.

I usually beg, borrow, and steal creative ideas for worship.  I am grateful to God for the inspiration to create this exercise several years ago.  And to repeat it twice more thus far.  I shared this idea back when I first used it.  That blog is now locked down and inaccesible.  So I’m sharing it again.  Perhaps too late for use this year (what with Advent starting the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving!) But perhaps someone will stumble upon this next November…

 

(Each time I’ve done this I found the PERFECT cards for it at Target… I’ll be darned if I can find them on-line however… The worship coordinator today found them there too!)

 

Crafty

I’m not, generally.  But somehow in late November I get a crafty itch.  And decide to buy foam and glue and googly eyes and glitter and what not… And then I get half way into the project and remember… oh yeah… I’m not crafty.

I say this as the Thanksgiving projects are underway, but not complete.  And as glitter clings to me and is taking up residence on my keyboard (thank goodness it’s a covered keyboard.

But the family time is a gift.

And I’ll surely have another crafty stretch for C’s upcoming birthday.

And then I’ll be ready to hang up my crafting hat for another year…

Playing along with the RevGals… for my 21st consecutive blog post!
1. What is your cure for the “mulleygrubs”?
Never heard this turn of phrase before today… if it is the same as “mulligrubs” Google tells me it refers to a despondent, sullen mood… Sleep is usually a good cure.  Prayer focusing on gratitude and surrender.  A phone call to any number of the lovely people in my life.  And… being of service to others… sometimes in spite of myself.  That basically always does the trick.  Self-absorption is usually at the root of despondence… for me.  Getting out of myself is its cure.
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
We will be here, this year, in our new (to us) home.  We are hosting friends who live a bit over an hour north of here.  Most details are yet to be figured out, but I know that they are bringing a me-friendly pie.  And that makes me happy!
3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
Again… not positive yet… there will definitely be turkey (perhaps we’ll brine again…), and probably sweet potato and green apple stuffing (that’s the one staple T-giving dish in our married life, and maybe wild rice casserole (a staple from Kev’s family).  I’d like to make a modified version of my mom’s applesauce muffins… those were a growing up staple… and I love them.  They taste like Thanksgiving to me.  I suspect we’ll make brussel sprouts– probably with bacon.  If not brussel sprouts then something else green.  And I imagine there will be gravy.  And our friends are bringing pumpkin pie.  That’s probably enough…
4. What do you wish could be deleted (or added) to your traditional Thanksgiving day?
We don’t exactly have a traditional Thanksgiving day.  Every year, it seems, we’re somewhere different with someone different.  So, I guess I’d like to establish some Thanksgiving tradition.  Maybe that’s what I’d like to add.  I hope to add some crafts this year too– may do some crafting with C this weekend.
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
I am immensely grateful to have a call.
I am immensely grateful for the experience I had teaching in a seminary last year and for my marvelous mentor there.
I am immensely grateful for this house that feels more like a home than any house we’ve ever lived in.
I am immensely grateful to be and have a co-pastor.
I am immensely grateful for my generous, gentle, patient, playful husband.
I am immensely grateful for my healthy, growing, vibrant, articulate, delightful daughter.
I am immensely grateful for the massive network of loving family and friends I have scattered all over the world.
I am immensely grateful that several loved ones will be able to be here for C’s birthday weekend and my installation.
I am immensely grateful for the generosity of family members and church members.
I am immensely grateful for progress in my spiritual life.
I am immensely grateful to have ENOUGH.
I am immensely grateful for my breath.
So, so grateful.

Warnings

Three times.

That’s the number of times I’ve been pulled over since moving to the great state of Indiana.  And the number of written warnings I’ve received.  Not the sort of thing one likes to broadcast, but here I am writing about it on my public blog.

The first time I ran a stop sign on the way into my daughter’s school parking lot. Brain was shut off partially because I had been following directions of crossing guards at the previous two intersections– who often waved me through stop signs… and… I guess, because I was focusing on safely parking and getting my daughter in the school building without hitting others cars or children (it was the second week of school, I believe.)  I’ve never run that stop sign again.  Nor will I.

The second time I was driving 35 mph in a 20 mph school zone, minutes after dropping my daughter off at school.  I was on autopilot and didn’t realize I was still in the school zone when I let my speed climb to the normal cruising speed for the street.  I was grateful for just a warning.  And I am SUPER careful in school zones now.

And tonight, I was driving without my lights on.  How on earth was I doing this?  Well, end of a long day at the end of a long week and I drove from a meeting at a parishioner’s house to the church to accompany my colleague on a venture to pick up her phone.  Turned off the car.  Turned off the lights. Got out of the car and she told me to head home because a custodian was still there and she felt safe handling it on her own.  Got back in the car.  Turned it on.  And clearly didn’t turn the lights back on.  And minutes later lights were flashing behind me.  And I hadn’t the foggiest idea why.  A very nice cop figured my car must be new (it really is still pretty new to us… and I’ve driven it at night very little!) and wrote up a warning.  I’m guessing I won’t do that again.

Sigh.

In all three of these incidents my brain was either shut off or wandering… well… actually wandering.  I can get so lost in my head that my attention to the physical world around me fades away. I honestly think this is at the root of all three incidents.  (And perhaps a bit of bad luck, too… the number of people I’ve witnessed making the same mistakes– the first two anyhow– and NOT getting pulled over is staggering.) This is part of why a regular yoga practice is important for me.  I need to do things that get me out of my head and into my body.  A lot of times my mind is whirring even during yoga.  But sometimes, I focus only my breath and the present moment.  And usually I leave yoga more aware of my body.

These warnings are disciplining my driving tendencies, but they also invite me to cultivate greater attention to the present moment.  What are some practices that help you with this?

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