Monday, November 3, 2008


My mother, just one generation before me, lived in a world where there were different water fountains, different entrances, and very different opportunities for black folks and white folks. The N word was still part of regular conversation among most white people. Lynchings were very real. In addition to all of that, in the part of the country where I grew up, citizens of this country were kept from even registering to vote, much less voting or running for office.

Some of those things are still true. Oppression is still real. Racial prejudice and hate still exist. Children in America with brown skin are still treated differently than children with pale skin. We still have a long way to go.

But this morning I cried as I cast my vote for a man who, I believe, will lead our country to a good and healthy place...and who happens to have brown skin. It is a good day. My children will never live in a world where a black man cannot be President of the United States. It is a good, good day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Out West Adventures--Day 3

Again words can't begin to describe what we saw today.

We are at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The larger visitor center and more common site to visit is the South Rim. We are really in the middle of nowhere. It's the end of the season here and already getting very cold. The park's lodging is closed for the winter already, so we are staying at the only place near the is a very cute and cozy lodge. Right now we're sitting by a fire in this wood beam lodge where they have internet. There are some French hikers at a table nearby and a retired couple at another table and some other young, hippie hikers wandering around. The World Series is on. It's fun...and we're about to go eat dinner in the lodge restaurant.
It's been another wonderful day. Just wonderful. We have planned this trip well, I think, for both of our needs. A place to stay each night already arranged and a main destination for most days. But everything else is up in the air. We're really enjoying the flexibility.
Well, they are ready for us and I am ready to eat. Tomorrow we cross the southwest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Out West Adventures--Day 2

Day 2—October 21, 2008

There aren’t really even words to adequately describe today. It was just a good, good day. It started when Andy woke me up in time to watch the sun rise over the mountains…it just happened to be the view right outside our hotel room. The time difference meant we felt like we’d slept really late when it was like 7am in Las Vegas. We had a leisurely breakfast and then headed out towards Utah. As Andy put it, we traveled from Sheol to Zion today...Zion National Park, that is.

We drove across a stretch of desert, basically, where the mountains and plateaus were absolutely beautiful!

Then we got into the river valley that runs through Zion Canyon and, finally, to Zion National Park. It is just breathtaking. It’s a desert…only an average of 12 inches of rain a year. This year they’ve only had about 5 inches. Yet this river runs through the canyon and hydrates the land. Also the canyon is primarily sandstone, which absorbs water when it does rain. Then, in some places it leeches back out and forms little springs or waterfalls coming out of the side of the rocks. Plants can root in the rock and live off the water inside. They told us that the water coming out of the rocks has been in there for about 4,000 years!

Really, it was just a wonderful day. We were immersed in God’s good creation. I kept singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah!" in my head (the Daisy May version, for the record). I was also very aware that I am journeying with this man who continues to astound me with his love and compassion for me and his abundant excitement about the world and to whom I am lucky enough to be married. Andy and I had a hard time living apart for so many months earlier this year, but we are so much better now. I just feel really grateful that we are able to take this vacation together right now. I am also extremely grateful that we can both appreciate and celebrate God together in the midst of moments like today.

Out West Adventures--Day 1

Day 1—October 20, 2008
I am writing this from the inside of a pyramid. That’s right…we’re staying tonight at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas…the one shaped like a pyramid. Crazy!

For those of you who haven’t heard, we are on a long awaited trip out west right now. We have begun in Las Vegas (only for one night) and then are going to make our way towards Albuquerque, New Mexico for a Christian Educator’s Conference. This trip is basically my graduation present from our parents and my grandma and a rare big vacation for us. I thought I’d write a bit about it when we have access to internet.

Today we flew into Las Vegas and also got to visit Hoover Dam.

Got to see a bit of the Grand Canyon from plane and could see the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead really well. The mountains here, at least out this far, just jut up from the ground sharp and dusty. They seem abrupt…beautiful…absolutely beautiful…but bare. I felt glad to witness the stark beauty of this landscape, but even more grateful for the mountains I know that are green (with bursts of red and yellow and orange right now) and rounded…full of life, though scarred from centuries of human impact. They seem wise to me, our beautiful blue ridge mountains.

Hoover Dam was very cool...and very huge! We got to go on the tour and see some of the inside workings of the electrical plant and go up to see the top of the dam. Wow. It’s even more amazing to think they built it in the 30’s without the benefit of modern technology and machinery!

Then, to Las Vegas. Oh my. It is amazing in many ways. I am very impressed with the way they just decided to have a crazy vacation city in the middle of the desert only about 100 years ago and then just made it happen. The lights, architecture, and various attractions along the strip (like mock Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, New York roller coaster, pirate ship show fully equipped fireworks effects) are astounding and sometimes breathtaking. We walked down to the Bellagio Hotel to watch the fountains dance to music and that was cool! I can’t help but feel like I’ve walked onto that island with Pinocchio and keep looking around at different things that are happening and think “this can’t be right.” (I almost never think myself conservative in nearly any way…but tonight…man oh man! I felt like the church lady or something! There are lines that ought not be crossed…it turns out I think there are some lines. Oh my.)

I’m really glad we got to include Las Vegas as a little stop on our out west adventures, but I am not sure I could manage much more time. There’s just so much going on all the time and everywhere you look…my brain is exhausted. As my mother would say if she were here: “Auditory overload!” However, I think I would get overloaded in just about every way if I stayed here for long!

I’m excited that tomorrow we head out for Zion National Park. It’s supposed to be beautiful.

Also, this trip includes a car with push button start. Seriously, you just put your foot on the break and push a button…then the car starts. It’s still freaking me out! A little too Back to the Future for me…I just want to southwest travel…not time travel just yet!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Occam's Razor...

...says the simplest answer is usually the best.

There continues to be much talk around our house and in my own head about the best timing for and circumstances around having babies. Tonight I said several of my most recent thoughts on the subject out loud as we were cooking dinner. Later I asked Andy if he had any thoughts on the matter. He said what he has been saying about babies since we got married: "I think we should have one."

When I pointed out that he has had the same answer for over four years, but that lots of the factors, timing, etc. have changed, he just said "But, it's easy. Step 1: We should have a baby. Step 2: I would love it. Step 3:...well...I guess someday it would get old."

This made me laugh out loud for lots of minutes. Would that my brain could work things out so simply.

Monday, September 8, 2008

fighting fires

It is a week of remembering...Hurricane Katrina, September 11th, and more personal remembrances of Grammy and Nette. It is still a time of sadness for many people I know who have lost people they love recently. It is a hard time for my own family. I don't know that I have much to offer, but I remembered an article I wrote a couple of years ago...more of a letter to the congregation I was with at the time. It was right after a lot of attacks had happened in Iraq and probably right around the one year anniversary of Katrina, although I didn't name that specifically. I've adapted it here and included the full lyrics of the song I was thinking about at the time. I went to bed last night feeling pretty empty and lost. Rereading and adapting this has helped me feel...well, better. I hope it reaches some of you in whatever way you need it right now.

There’s a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately by one of my favorite musicians, Sarah McLachlan. The song is entitled World On Fire, which feels all too true lately. The lines that keep running in my head are

“The world is on fire, it’s more than I can handle.
I’ll tap into the water and try to bring my share.
Try to bring more, more than I can handle.
Bring it to the table.
Bring what I am able.”

Those words can feel so true in my life. These last few weeks our world quite literally has erupted with even more fire in the way of bombs and what seems like never-ending war. While I am not in the midst of that fire, it feels overwhelming and painful to me. Thinking of all of the men and women who are away from home and in harm’s way fighting for their country, the civilians caught in a struggle so much bigger than they are, and all the folks worrying about and praying for their loved ones in the midst of the conflict. That’s a fire in our world that’s more than I can handle.

It doesn’t take something as big as war though, to set our individual worlds on fire. The loss of someone we love can turn our world upside down. A loved one’s struggle with addiction or mental illness can leave us feeling completely alone. The loss of a job can bring turmoil, a struggle about identity, and very practical problems about losing an income. These things can feel like more than we can handle.

This image of fire in our world doesn’t always mean something negative, either. New babies, new houses, new relationships, new jobs are all things that bring immense amounts of change and can turn our worlds upside down. Even if it is wanted and much anticipated change, it can get to feeling like more than we can handle.

But, I am encouraged by the guidance in the next line of the song: I’ll tap into the water and try to bring my share. That image of water reminds us of powerful images in our faith of living water that sustains us. I find myself able to connect with Christ, our living water, through worship experiences in community, connecting with other folks who are journeying through this world with me, prayer, and other spiritual practices. We must take time for Sabbath, for rest, and for finding ways to “tap into the water.”

The good news is that we do have living water to sustain us, to calm the fire, to soothe our souls. Then, we do want to bring our share to the table to try to help. We connect with God and with others by giving back and we are fed in our service. It’s hard, though, because we want to help, but can so easily commit to more than we can handle. But, we want to bring our share. All we can do, though, is bring what we are able to bring at any particular moment. Some of us will be able to offer more than others of us and the load will shift as we journey together. It is important that we honor and support each other as each person discerns what he or she is able to bring to the table.

But the most important part, to me, is that we do gather at the table together. That, one way or another, we find a way to bring what we have to the table…even if all we have in our hands is a broken heart. There, around the table, we encounter the living Christ again in the bread and juice. Together, around the table, we can help each other stand.
We are all journeying together. Sometimes it does feel like the world is on fire. We all need to tap into the water and find a way to know rest. We also need to find ways to bring what we feel able and led to bring to the table to, in turn, be filled by the grace of God. I don’t know of any other way to survive the fires that keep erupting in this world. We will find our way…on this journey together.

World On Fire by Sarah McLachlan
Hearts are worn in these dark ages. You're not alone in this story's pages. Night has fallen amongst the living and the dying and I try to hold it in, yeah I try to hold it in, but

The world's on fire and it's more than I can handle. I'll tap into the water and try to bring my share. I try to bring more, more than I can handle. Bring it to the table, bring what I am able.

I watch the heavens and I find a calling, something I can do to change what's coming. Stay close to me while the sky is falling. I don't wanna be left alone, don't wanna be alone.


Hearts break, hearts mend. Love still hurts. Visions clash, planes crash. Still there's talk of saving souls. Still the cold is closing in on us. We part the veil on our killer sun, stray from the straight line on this short run. The more we take, the less we become. A fortune of one that means less for some.


Monday, August 18, 2008

composting life

Two families I really care about recently had tragic deaths of grandparents. I've been remembering an incident of betrayal and crisis in a church where I used to work. Someone I love continues to struggle and flounder in repeated crises. And today would have been my dad's 55th birthday. So, as is all too often the case, I've been thinking about grief a lot lately.

I don't think God ever, ever wants these kinds of tragedies to happen to us. I just don't think God wills such things. I don't know why they do happen beyond the fact that we live in a broken world where death, betrayal, and tragedy are part of human existence. However, the loving and merciful God I see in Scripture is not a God who seeks tragedy for God's people.

Today I am grateful, though, for the ways God is always...always...present with us in pain and sadness. I do believe God can work in and through anything that befalls our lives...and that God does work in the midst of and in the aftermath of tragedy. God nurtures and tends. The pain and sorrow and loss become part of the ground beneath us where our souls take root.

Today I cry for the families that have lost grandparents they love, for communities that struggle with accountability and hope, for people that struggle to find their way in the world...and I cry because I really miss my dad.


I am grateful to be standing in a more solid place...that grief and sadness are no longer overwhelming in my life. I am grateful for the ways I have grown and the things I have learned from my own experiences of sadness and loss. I am grateful for the hope I have now even in the midst of sadness...deep and abiding hope that only comes from experiencing the goodness and love of God.

I am grateful for new life.