Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"MY EARS HAVE HEARD OF YOU, BUT NOW ... "

(An offering based on this week's lectionary scriptures: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 and Mark 10:46-52).



We can be found
along life’s road …
disciples who have seen,
followers who rebuke, 
one of many in a 
muttering crowd,
overlooking (or stepping over)
the one, the beggar,
whose only possessions
are faith and hope
and a name 
that is covered
with the dust 
of his or her days.

A dusty faith whispers,
“My ears have heard of you, O LORD …
my ears have heard of you.”

How many cries 
from the roadside
have been the cries
heard that day …
“JESUS, SON OF DAVID,
HAVE MERCY ON ME …
SON OF GOD, 
HAVE MERCY ON ME!”

A stepped-over hope whispers, 
“My ears have heard of you, O LORD..
my ears have heard of you.”
There is no contentment 
in hearing alone.
The implications are great
and costly for us all
in the one answered question …
“What would I have you do for me?
I WANT TO SEE!”

And the one 
who has answered the question
declares,
“My ears had heard of you, O LORD,
but now my eyes have seen you!”

Let those who have sight
be beggars no more
for there is great wealth 
to be found 
in such witness.

Monday, October 8, 2018

"A Life Reduced to a Piece of Paper?" (I think not)


It would do us all good to celebrate the plain, quietly courageous, doing-the-best-they-can sort of people more often.  Sarah M. Johnston is one such person. 

She was the third wife of my paternal great-great grandfather. Sarah Mathilde Jones (born 1863) and Henry Talley Johnston (born 1840) had corresponded for a while before she arrived on a train and married him just one day after they met face to face for the first time. He was much older, a Civil War veteran, a father of 11 children, and a widower. She was a writer from Alabama (she wrote for the Atlanta Constitution at a time when women columnists were few and far between); she had never married and was very alone …her immediate family had died around her. After Henry’s death and having lived with his daughter (Anna, after whom I was named) and other members of his in the family, she quietly and secretly made arrangements to move into the Confederate Women’s Home in Fayetteville, NC. Even though all in the family seemed to have a soft place in their hearts for Sarah, she felt it was the loving thing to do.

The Confederate Women's Home is no more … torn down … reduced to a cemetery and 6 boxes of papers in the North Carolina Archives. In the boxes are notations of complaints by the residents of sub-standard food, poor nutrition and miserably cold rooms. I have letters in my possession from Sarah voicing these same complaints. In one of the boxes in the Archives is also confirmation of such issues found in a report written by the Home Administrator during Sarah’s years there. How sad for these women.

My Great-Great Grandmother Sarah’s end- of-life was reduced to a few words found on a piece of paper in one of these boxes in Raleigh … “Sarah M. Johnston: Died October 8, 1949 3:00AM”

She was much more than a few words on a piece of paper in a box in the North Carolina Archives . She was a writer … a risk-taker … a wise and gentle woman. Sarah was one who was immediately received into the family and one who found love to offer this man and his children. I would have loved knowing this woman.

So, on this date of her death, October 8th, I think of Sarah M. Johnston, a woman who was much, much more than a piece of paper in this world.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"You Are What You Eat"



Ponderings on John 6:51-58

The brass tray was held briefly in front of the little girl as she knelt at the altar. Her dimpled hand reached out for the most perfect cube of bread that she could see. It was such a tiny bite.  She tried to carefully lift a small glass cup filled with grape juice from the next tray.  Sigh, she did it again.  She tapped the cup against another one, making a noise that turned her father’s head toward her. It reminded her of what she had always been told … that she had never really been a very careful child.   She tried to drink the little bit of grape juice but always, ALWAYS there was some left in the bottom of the small glass cup.  She never felt nourished, never satisfied.  By the time that she went back to the pew, she had forgotten the taste of the bread and juice.

Later, there were times in the girl’s life when it seemed too hard and too much to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’.  Times when she dreaded going through the motions (would she go to hell for doing that?).  Times when the bread was no more than a wafer that had no taste.  It stuck to the roof of her mouth.  Yes, it was too hard for her to eat something that was not palatable and drink that which did not quench her thirst.  Too hard.

The young girl who felt as if all things were too difficult and too much, relaxed as she grew older.  The little child who yearned to be careful (but who never really was) and who wanted to remember the taste of the bread and juice, is now a woman who has heard “Eat my flesh … drink my blood.”  She smiles as she remembers the words of her
mother, “You are what you eat.”  And with that, she is handed a chunk of bread. She soaks it in the juice of the chalice and becomes as messy as a child might be.  If the juice drips on her hand, so be it.  If she must chew the piece of bread on her walk back to the pew and chew even more as she is seated, that is OK.

She has grown into savoring the moment, smelling the juice, tasting the bread, feeling the stickiness on her hand, looking at the crumbs on the floor. It is a not-so-careful thing for sure.  Messy, in fact.  It can be too hard for some and too routine for others, but her silent prayer is that she might become more like the One who has said, “Do this in remembrance of me…”, even if the thoughts of what she is asked to eat are, at times, hard to digest.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

"Compassion Gauge"


(You gotta stick with me on these ramblings!!!!)

I carry a band-aid with me in my pocketbook. Always. You know, what if someone needs one? Well, last Friday, someone needed a band-aid and so I gave it to him. (Note to self last Friday: Put another band-aid in my pocketbook. I’ll have to wait until I’m back in High Point to do that).

I always keep my gas tank, at the very least, ½ filled with gas. It is an assurance for Mom that if she needs me to make the drive from High Point to Statesville quickly, I can do so without stopping to fill up an empty tank. So, keeping my gas gauge showing at least ½ full is standard practice for me and comfort for Mom.

(These two observations will eventually come together… I promise)

Dr. Mary John Dye, in last Sunday’s sermon at Broad Street UMC / Statesville, NC, asked us to consider our “Compassion Gauge”. Was it ½ full … almost empty … filled to the brim? Are we just as concerned about the level of love and compassion within us to offer to others as we are with the level of gas in our cars? After all, love and compassion are reflections of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ spiritual refueling for himself and the disciples was to go off to a quiet place and pray … to be still … to be filled with the love and compassion that was that of Jesus’ whole being. I can’t help but think of those times when “Anna” steps in front of Jesus and, as a result, I find myself lacking for that which fills up my “Compassion Gauge.” (Lead me to that quiet place because this gal can’t always seem to find it alone).

I left the worship service last Sunday thinking that my Compassion Gauge might just be ½ empty (as opposed to ½ full). As I walked toward the doors of the sanctuary, I whispered to Mary John that I needed to hear the sermon … that it, perhaps, was for me.

Children were standing at the door with baskets. One child handed me a band-aid! It was to remind me not only that Jesus healed but also that I am to be a compassionate healing presence for others. AND OH, I NOW HAVE MY BAND-AID BACK TO PUT IN MY POCKETBOOK FOR SOMEONE ELSE!

Another child handed me a heart to remind me that the compassion of Jesus Christ flows through me. I drove back home thinking that I should have asked for a 2nd heart for Mom. As I looked at the heart several days later, I saw that there was that extra heart to give to Mom! I could push on the center of the little green heart and another one would pop out of it! One to keep … one to give away … and one isn’t lessened by the giving away of the other!

My “Compassion Gauge” is moving in the direction of FULL! A child replaced my band-aid to remind me that a healing presence was much more than something that I pull out of my pocketbook. Another child handed me a heart and, without a word, whispered “Give some love away and keep some for yourself. The shape of it all remains the same!” And a pastor reminded me of those moments that have LOVE and COMPASSION written all over them when Jesus says, “Let’s go away to a quiet place and get that Compassion Gauge at the level it should be.”

Sunday was a good day for me … I am filled!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"The Verbs of the Shepherd"



You know that I am a “word” person. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the verbs of my shepherd in Psalm 23 are precious to me. God MAKES me to lie down, LEADS me to quietness, RESTORES my soul, GUIDES me in paths of righteousness, COMFORTS me in dark places, PREPARES a table before me even in the presence of my enemies, ANOINTS my head with oil. Yes, I am LED by the shepherd and FOLLOWED by goodness and mercy. These verbs are not only the promises and testimonies and heart-songs of David and not only mine that I claim, but be assured that they are yours as well.

The LORD is David’s shepherd. The LORD is my shepherd. The LORD is your shepherd. We are part of a wonderful flock. How sweet it is to hear the voice of our shepherd. How powerful it is to testify to his care for us and presence with us. Just as David’s words are to us, so might our words be for others.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"7-17-18 ... Along My Way"


He was walking along my way today…walking too far in the street. He stopped and I swerved. He bent down to adjust his well-worn, fur-lined snow boots. 96F temps and he was wearing snow boots. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who wear their possessions each day. O God, keep him safe.

He was walking along my way today… walking with a cane and struggling in his steps. The elderly man was wearing a pale green polyester leisure suit (when have I seen such a suit as that?). He stepped off the curb and almost fell back as a car drove by him. He shook his cane and shouted at the car. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who walk alone when they shouldn’t be. O God, keep him safe.

He was walking along my way today… head down, staggering, holding tight to a half-empty liquor bottle. His opened shirt caught a breeze and flew into his face. It wasn’t easy for him to stagger and hold onto a bottle and struggle to keep his shirt out of his face. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who stagger through life, in whatever way, for whatever reason. O God, keep him safe.

Yes, all three have laughed and cried and hoped and feared just as I have …. and all three are loved by God, just as I am. Thank you, O God, for such reminders (and oh, please keep them safe).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Thoughts As We Welcome Our New Pastor .. Dr. Mary John Dye'


(Ephesians 4:11-16)

When I was a very young child (soooo long ago) there was always a “buzz” in the sanctuary of Broad Street UMC/Statesville, NC whenever our missionary to Hong Kong, the Rev. Lonnie Turnipseed, would come back to the States and worship with us. I would hear those around me whisper, “Lonnie Turnipseed is here!” Oh, I was too young to completely understand the work of a missionary, but I knew that it was God’s work. So, when he worshiped with us, I would search the sanctuary, hoping to catch a glimpse of “the missionary” ... the one who had created such a "buzz"!

About 8 years ago, after the worship service was over and most of the people had left, I heard the words "Lonnie Turnipseed is here!" I felt very much like a child in the sanctuary again. I looked around, hoping to see this person of my childhood. I saw him! He spoke to me for a few minutes and tolerated me telling of my childhood memories of his visits to our church.

It was then when I REALLY looked at this man and saw that there was no aura surrounding him or halo above him. I heard no angelic voices singing in the background. He was an ordinary man called to do God's work. I was looking into the face of Lonnie Turnipseed, but also seeing you and me and our pastors... ordinary people called to do God's work.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear a "buzz" in the sanctuary when it begins to fill for worship each Sunday? "Look, look around at all who are here. HE is called to do God's work! SHE is called to do God's work! Just look!"

Today will be such a day. Today I might feel like that child in the sanctuary again. There will most certainly be that “buzz” flowing through the sanctuary as we welcome our new Sr. Pastor, Dr. Mary John Dye, to Broad Street UMC in Statesville, NC. We celebrate all that God has called her to be as pastor and preacher and pointer-of-the-Way. We pray that the buzz that is flowing throughout our church tomorrow and into the community in days to come is not because of Dr. Dye’s presence alone but because of this wonderful partnership of pastors and staff and parishioners, living into who God has called us each to be.

Now THAT is buzz-worthy for sure!