Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Contemplative Halloweens and the Holiday I'll Actually Have

I am having one of those autumn seasons where I want to slow down time or go back a few weeks so that I can properly savor it all--but that's every autumn season for me.  It seems that Halloween creeps up on us, and suddenly we see an explosion of decorations on houses and displays of candy in the stores.

I would like a more contemplative Halloween.  Here's how my ideal day would be:  I would gather a variety of pumpkins and candles and sip my coffee while reflecting on the beauty of the pumpkins and the flickering candles in the pre-dawn.  I'd spend some time writing and thinking about the various costumes that I've worn in stages of my life while thinking about the coming years and the costumes I'll need.  I'd punctuate these times of contemplation with meals with friends to discuss insights we've had.  I'd end the day like I began it:  with candles and pumpkins and contemplations and maybe some candy.

But that won't be the kind of Halloween I will have.  I will go to spin class where we will finish our month long competition to see who can ride the most miles.  If I hadn't missed the Friday and Monday when I was at my retreat, I'd win.  I'm likely to come in second, but that's fine.  The challenge has given me motivation to ride harder than I've ever ridden before.

Today's spin class teacher will have Halloween music.  It will be great.

At school, it will likely be a day of many meetings, like every Wednesday tends to be.  My campus Executive Director only comes to our campus once a week, which means we try to get a lot of business done in one jam-packed day.

But we will have a Halloween costume contest, which is always fun.  It will remind me that today is my 2 year anniversary of coming to the campus. 

This evening I'll walk over to a friend's house.  Will it be a time of reconnecting or will the mad rush of this holiday overtake us?

Let me try to inject some contemplation into the day.  Let me think about the various ways that we can bring light into the gloom of our current world.  Even a world lit only by candles is cheerier than one without.

Let me remember to bless people along the way today, silently of course.  We are all yearning for sweetness, even if we're too old to go trick-or-treating.

Let me keep striving to balance my need for contemplation with my need for connection.  Let me keep thinking about my ideal life and the direction of my yearnings.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Creativity Wins

I slept later than I planned to this morning--in some ways, that's a good thing, but it leaves my writing time shorter.   Let me use my shorter time this morning to make a list of creative stuff that's bringing me joy:

--I have signed up for an online journaling class.  It will involve sketching and readings from Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self by Joyce Rupp.  I first heard about the class in the summer, and I decided to use some birthday money for this experience.  I bought the supplies over time.  Yet when it came time to actually sign up, I hesitated.  I was worried about the time my online teaching is taking.  I worried about the fact that Thanksgiving came in the middle of the class. 

In the end, I decided that there's never a perfect time for a class like this.  So I signed up.

You can sign up too; it's not too late.  Let this description tempt you:   "Journaling can be practiced as a spiritual discipline and prayer, a way to process the Spirit’s stirring in our lives. Paying attention to moments, words, music can nudge us toward creating, so that we too can participate in the conversation. A journal is a way to mark this holy work."

The class starts on Sunday.  You can find more details here

--I got this Facebook message from Wendy, (who blogs here):  "My congregation's nurture committee is planning a soul card activity for All Saints' Day. I wonder if I could use the image of your Oscar Romero collage card in the newsletter invitation and/or as an example for the activity. If so, I can copy the image from your blog. If not, no worries, but know I was inspired to suggest the activity by your card, so you get credit either way. Thanks!"

Of course I said yes--I am so thrilled when anything that I do inspires others.  And I'm wondering about discernment and dreams of the future and if there's some way I can fashion a career in this direction.

Here's the card that inspired Wendy:

How interesting to think that when I made that card, back in 2011, I would have nominated Romero for sainthood, but I had no reason to think that would ever happen.  And now, he is a saint.  How quickly change can happen.

--Let me finish by acknowledging that we are living in dark times.  I began my writing time on my theology blog, praying by way of writing in this post.  I am thinking of what I wrote in 2016, and that I feel more despair these days.  But even though I don't know how we'll do it, I still believe that our creativity will get us out of this mess, and thus, it's more important than ever to be creative.

Here is part of the 2016 post:

Yesterday morning, I wrote these words on my Facebook wall: "For those of us feeling fretful on this election day, I say, "Be not afraid!" We are a nation of quilters, adept at taking frayed scraps and turning them into comforters. We are a nation of tinkerers, who can take metal scraps and turn them into cars and computers. We will be OK."

Last night, I wrote these words: "No one will listen to my political predictions ever again. I've been wrong so often in this election season that I may never make political predictions ever again. No matter how these last few states break, I would never have predicted this night."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Reformation Day"

I spent part of the night feeling chilly, and not because I set the AC too low.  Finally, a cold front has arrived to rescue us from the infernal October heat!

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday; Reformation Day itself is October 31. It put me in mind of a poem I wrote with images pulled out of the Reformation narrative. It was written years ago, during another annoyingly hot October, where I thought about weather and social change--and this poem emerged. It appears in my first chapbook. Enjoy!

Reformation Day

The catholic heat holds us
in a tight embrace for what seems an age.
We participate in the sacraments
designed to make us forget the hellishness
of everyday life: afternoons at the pool,
barbecues, beach trips, and for the fortunate few,
a trip to the mountains, a retreat, a pilgrimage.

We pay alms as we must: electric bills,
pool chemicals, cool treats. We pay indulgences
when we can’t avoid it: the air conditioning repair
man, the pool expert who keeps the water pure,
men versed in mysteries we cannot hope to understand.

Finally, the heat breaks. A cold front swoops
down upon us from the north country, a Reformation
bringing with it the promise of other Protestants,
more weather systems to overthrow
the ubiquitous heat, to leave
us breathless with the possibilities of change.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Loss and Reformation

It has been a week of staggering loss.  There's the loss that comes from a week of package bombs and the pictures of the van of the bomber, which leads many of us to believe that it's our poisonous political age has spawned a violence that won't easily be contained or changed.

Likewise, the shooting in a synagogue yesterday prompts despair and the need for deep societal change to heal the brokenness that has become impossible to ignore.

It's also been a week where we lost some great theological thinkers and leaders.  We lost them to old age, but it's hard nonetheless. I began the week hearing about the loss of Eugene Peterson, most famous for The Message, his translation of the Bible into very modern language.  I wrote about him earlier this week in this blog post.

I ended the week reading this article about the Thomas Keating, the monastic who taught so many the art of centering prayer.  I confess that I haven't done as much with centering prayer as I wish; I've studied the practice, but not practiced the practice--at least not for any amount of time.  But I am grateful for the work which has enriched so many.

Last night I read about the death of Ntozake Shange, most famous for her play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.  I remember the line of the play which seemed so revolutionary when I heard it at a performance I saw in grad school (early 90's):  “i found god in myself / and i loved her / i loved her fiercely.”  My grad school feminist mind glommed onto the idea of a god as female.  Only later did I think about the other idea in this quote, the idea that we find God already inside us.  It reminds me of much spiritual teaching, that we already have everything we need.  Some traditions take an opposite approach, that we're born broken and only when we heal our brokenness will be be redeemed/find what we're looking for.

Her work transformed me in other ways, too.  That relentless exploration of how difficult life is for modern women seemed radical at the time.  Her work was part of the feminist work of the 60's, 70's, and 80's that told us that regular life was worthy of artistic exploration and expression too, and it was such a strong counterpoint to the message I got in grad school.

And of course, her work looked at the lives of minority women who faced problems unique to them.  I haven't read her work in decades, but I imagine that it still seems sadly relevant.

Many of our social scientists tell us that we won't see societal transformation until we have done the work of recognizing and naming the problems that afflict a society.  It is often through the work of writers like Shange that we are able to empathize, even if the problems don't afflict us.  It is often through the visionary work of a variety of writers, spiritual and otherwise, that we can start to imagine what a better world could be.

Today is Reformation Sunday, a day when much of the Christian world will celebrate the work of Martin Luther, who 500 years ago made his own radical call for transformation.  He didn't mean to reform the whole world--he just saw the ways that the Catholic church could be more effective.  But along the way, he inadvertently created a new denomination, which would lead to lots of other denominations.  Like Eugene Peterson, he translated the Bible into the language of the people.  Like Thomas Keating, he gave us a way to pray without the intervention of others.  Like Ntozake Shange, he gave us a new way to think about God.

It's been a week of tremendous loss.  But in the heart of these losses, it is good to remember the breath of Reformation that blows through all of history and how often that breath is rooted in loss.  Let us use the despair of our losses to energize our art.  Let us begin/continue the work of the transformation of a very broken world.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Week in Review: Pipe Bombs and Pumpkins and Meals, Oh My!

What a week!  I know that I say that frequently when I write on a Friday or Saturday.  So, let me continue my tradition of capturing the week in a list, rather than a ruminative essay.

--It's been a week of pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats and other opponents of President Trump.  Happily, the suspect has been apprehended.  I had wondered if we might be looking at a decade of Unabomber type activities.  This current bomber was sloppier; he left a fingerprint.

--There might also be a language aspect, much like the Unabomber case, where his brother recognized his rhetoric when the Unabomber published his manifesto in The Washington Post and The New York Times.  I heard one newscast say that some of the current bomber's tweets have been similarly used to connect him to the bombings, as some of the same misspellings on the packages match the tweets.  But it's likely the fingerprint that will prove to be decisive proof.

--Yesterday I wrote this Facebook post:  On the "Washington Post" site, I think I'm watching live footage of the van that the bomber used being driven on a truck across my county in South Florida. During the long shots, I peer at the screen, trying to figure out what road they're on. I am grateful that I'm safe and sound in my office and not out on the roadways right now (because of the traffic congestion, not because I think I would be in any kind of danger from a bomb).

--I wrote this e-mail to a friend:  Yes, once again, terrorist(s) in South Florida, in my very county. What is it about South Florida that drives people to terrorism? You may or may not remember that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers got their flight training down here, and a few of them lived less than a mile from me--that revelation didn't surprise me. And the fact that someone has been mailing pipe bombs from my home county is also not a surprise. I think this person(s) was arrested in Plantation, which is in the middle of the county, while I'm in the southeast part of the county.

--Happily, it's been a much quieter week at work and home than it has been in the national news.  When I look back on this week, I'll remember my joy at pumpkin decorating at work and the subtle shift in the weather and light that I sensed last night when we ate our salmon on the backyard table.  I'll remember the Johnny Cash music fest we created for ourselves last night.  I'll remember having meals out:  on Wednesday with our undergraduate campus pastor and Thursday night with my spouse's brother and wife.

--On the home repair front we are making slow but steady progress.  On Thursday, my spouse's brother helped us pick up the barn doors that will separate the laundry room from the kitchen.  We first saw them three weeks ago--finding them at a local discount door store took over a week of internet researching.    We have chosen the cabinets and the color--that required trips to Home Depot and getting samples mailed to us.   We were going to go to Home Depot today, but we've waited this long, so we'll wait a bit longer.  I can use a leisurely morning.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Pumpkin Days

Yesterday we had our second annual pumpkin decorating day at work.  Unlike past pumpkin days at past workplaces, we decorated small pumpkins.  They're cheaper and easier.  And we didn't carve--while we are training students in medical fields, I didn't want anyone to have to practice their suturing skills.

Since I'm the one who buys the pumpkins and sets them out, I have an idea of how many of us actually decorate a pumpkin--it's only about 5 - 10% of our population.  You might argue that it's a lot of effort for the few people who play along.  But even those who didn't decorate were delighted at the idea of the pumpkins and the art supplies.

I loved the moment earlier in the week when I slipped away to buy the pumpkins from my church's pumpkin patch.  I decided to use my own money:  I'd support both the church and the school, and I could take home the unused pumpkins without guilt.  I loved the brief moment in the sun and being surrounded by pumpkins.  It's good to get out of the office and into the community.

I have lots of art supplies, so it's easy to put this event together.  I realize that other campus directors might not have such an easy time.  I'm happy to donate the supplies.  Others have brought me odds and ends.  It's a fun environment, although I know we run the risk of people discovering that we're kindergarten art teachers at heart. 

I'll likely leave the table set up today--it will give other students a chance to decorate, and it will make me happy.  And maybe we'll continue to create pumpkins like these:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

News Fasts and Reconnecting

I do not know what to say about all the pipe bombs that were mailed yesterday that did not explode.  There have been other times when I thought society was about to undergo a crucible moment, but then the events stopped.  Other times, of course, some sort of rubicon was passed, and the society on the other side wasn't the one we once had.

Where are we now?  It's a question that I ask about our society almost daily.  There was a moment yesterday when I saw awful news of a mother who listened to her college student daughter being murdered while they were on the phone together where I thought I might have to undergo a total news fast.

I have not been successful at doing that ever, except perhaps when I was in college in a small southern town that didn't get much in the way of radio signals from larger cities, and the only TV we had was in a common room.  I used to wonder how long it would take for us to find out if something major had happened--and I always framed that something major as something like the start of war.

However, during the past week, I have been on a news fast of sorts.  I've had several days of reconnecting deeply with people, often by way of hours spent in conversation.  I saw two grad school friends on either side of my retreat, and I spent the retreat itself with a Create in Me retreat friend.  Last night, I met my former campus pastor and spouse for dinner at a Cuban restaurant.

In that paragraph, what do I see?  I see a collection of friends from various phases of my life:  undergraduate school, grad school, spiritual life, married life.  Interesting that there are no friends-met-at-work in that paragraph--with limited Internet access, I wasn't even communicating with them, the way I sometimes do, by way of e-mail or Facebook.

Of course, those friends were at work, so I couldn't spend long, luxurious swaths of time with them, the way I could with others during the time of retreat.  I wonder if there are ways to recreate the deep connection times during my regular life.  Once I thought it might come in meeting for meals; now I'm thinking that the meal is not the key item, at least not if it's in a restaurant.  When I meet my local friends for a meal in a restaurant, we're often squeezing it in around our other activities.  Let me ponder the ways that I can make my regular life reconnecting time more like retreat life reconnecting time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

RIP Poet Theologians

I am seeing Facebook posts that Tony Hoagland has died.  While I enjoyed his work, he was not one of my touchstone authors.  This essay about race and the U.S. and cancer wards seemed amazing when I stumbled across it this morning while looking for confirmation that Hoagland had died.

No, this week my thoughts return to Eugene Peterson, who died on Monday.  Peterson was about 2 decades older than Hoagland; his death at age 85 might make many people shrug and say, "Well, he lived until a ripe, old age."

In fact, I could make the point that he didn't really start doing some of his most important writing work until later in his life.  Peterson is most famous for his translation of the Bible, The Message, which puts the Bible into a modern English that retains the poetry of the original, unlike those 1970's versions of the modern, Living Bible, which stripped the poetry out (that's my analysis--you may disagree).

The Peterson obituary in The Washington Post chose this example:  "The King James version of a passage from the Gospel of John begins 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' In 'The Message,' it reads: 'The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.'”

He didn't publish his translation of the Bible until he was in his 60's.  He'd written books before that, but none of his works approached the readership of The Message.

Consider this summation of a man's life, from The Washington Post obituary:  "Rev. Peterson never led a church of more than 500 congregants, rarely appeared on television and seldom made political pronouncements from the pulpit, yet he quietly became one of the most influential religious thinkers of his time."

I was late to discovering Peterson's version of the Bible--when I started going to Create in Me retreats in 2003 and 2004, I heard about it, and was instantly skeptical, as I usually am when hearing about something wildly popular.  But Peterson's language (and finding out that he had serious academic training in his youth--in other words, he could read some of the original languages of the Bible) quickly persuaded me to put aside my doubts. 

Here's a translation that my father loves, along with some of the youngest adult Christians I know.  I am in awe of a man who can translate the whole Bible, while still leading his small church of non-readers for whom he wrote those translations.

This morning, I'm hearing his message that it's not too late for any of us creative types, even though we may have to keep working our full-time jobs.  But perhaps those full-time jobs can lead us to the work that will be the most important.

Let us all take heart and do the work that calls to us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Brief Retreat Retrospective

I thought I would have more internet access across the week-end than I did.  On Saturday night, the wind howled all night, and by morning, part of camp had lost power, and all of camp had lost wi-fi.  And before then, I couldn't pick up the wi-fi in my room. 

In a way, that was good.  I was happy to be away and mostly happy to be offline.  But it would have been easier had it been the way that it is at Mepkin Abbey--there is no wi-fi unless you're working in the library.  Once I know that there will be no access, I quit looking for it.

It was good to be away, but it's also good to be home.  Let me make a quick list of h--ighlights of the week-end; perhaps I shall dive in more deeply later:

--For the most part, the drive, while long, went well.

--I liked the retreat.  I had hoped I might get some sort of epiphany that I couldn't get any other way, but if I've had one, it will take some time to realize it.  But it was good to be reminded of the kinds of simplifying I can do and should still keep working on.

--It was great to reconnect with old friends, both along the way and at the retreat.  It was wonderful to have hours to spend catching up, not just a meal.

--I had hoped to see more autumnal colors, but it's been a warm season in the southeast, so I just saw some leaves here and there.

--A retreat friend and I spent part of Saturday afternoon at the arboretum.  It was beautiful. 

--I didn't go to my favorite orchard, but I stopped at an apple warehouse on my way down the mountain.  I've munched on apples for several meals.  Delicious!

--I took far more stuff than I needed.  The retreat was not set up for sketching, so I could have left those supplies at home.  I brought more books than I needed, even with limited Internet access.  But that's one of the joys of traveling by oneself in the car--I can take supplies I may not need.

--In short, I'm glad I made the effort.  Being away makes me appreciate being home--and helps me to remember all the options I have for how to live my best life.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Traveling Mercies

I am not sure what my writing time will be this morning, but I did want to record this thought that came to me very strongly in the car yesterday.  Actually, it's been ringing in my head off and on in the months since the 2016 election--and to be honest, off and on my whole life.

I was thinking in terms of life changes, vocational changes, as I listened to various news shows on NPR.  What skills/talents/occupations will be needed to rebuild the country, not just to tear it down as so many are doing these days. I was thinking in terms of a poem, but also life changes--what should we be studying/learning right now so that we're ready when the country needs us.

Part of me thought, "You've already covered this material in a poem"--I thought of the ending of "Exercising Freedom" (you can read the whole poem here):

"You hear the voices of the ancestors,
colored with both reason and panic.
Go faster, they urge.
You are needed up ahead."

I haven't come to any radical illuminations/conclusions about any of these issues, but how interesting to frame the question of life's purpose differently:  in a few years, when the country is ready to stop ripping itself apart, what types of people will be needed?

The poem that I'm writing will go a different direction--the poem won't assume that the country will present itself as a torn fabric ready to be repurposed.  Will we wish we had learned to shoot our father's guns?  Will we wish we had learned more about canning and putting food away?  Will we wish he had bought a house in a neutral country or learned to ride a motorbike so that we can deliver relief supplies to hurricane ravaged shorelines?

How interesting to scroll through Facebook this morning to learn that others are thinking similar thoughts:

Carrie Newcomer:  "Speed of Soul Thought - We are not the resistance.We are not the resistance. We are the new world, the better kinder world, a world that is coming and already here. We are the world that cares for one another, cares for the earth, welcomes the stranger, extends and lives out radical and revolutionary love, the new world that doesn’t just tolerate diversity but values and celebrates diversity. We are the new world that is being born in travail and troubled times. We are not the is those who in fear or anger or misunderstanding would try to hold us in 1950‘s or 1930’s ideas of power and privilege. No we are not the resistance. We are the new world that is coming and already here."

Parker J. Palmer:  "We've presented this show five times, and we’re constantly struck by how hungry people are to explore, in words and music, all that its title implies. We live in hard times, but we can still live in hope—hope for what's possible when people reach deep within AND come together in community to follow our “better angels” toward caring for one another.

Despite the American myth of “rugged individualism,” no individual, no enterprise, no nation ever made it alone. We need to draw on our own resources, of course. But we also need collaborations of many sorts—which means staying rooted in the trust that collaboration requires.

Let’s fend off the “divide and conquer” politicians who sow seeds of distrust to disempower “We the People,” so big money and bigotry can run the show. Let’s turn to one another across all lines of difference, and work together toward the “more perfect union” the U.S. Constitution was written to help us achieve. What we need IS here—it's within us and between us!

I’m sharing these pictures not only to let you know that we had a grand time in Richmond, VA. I’m sharing them because that audience reminded me that many, many Americans share the values and hopes that can and must be reclaimed as this country’s North Star."

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Feast Day of St. Luke

On October 18, we celebrate the life of St. Luke, a creator, an evangelist, and a healer. Some churches might have a healing service in honor of Luke’s role as patron saint of doctors and surgeons. But St. Luke was so much more: he’s also the patron saint of artists, students, and butchers. He’s given credit as one of the founders of iconography. And of course, he was a writer--both of one of the Gospels and the book of Acts. As we think about the life of St. Luke, let us use his life as a guide for how we can bring ourselves back to health and wholeness.

The feast day of St. Luke offers us a reason to evaluate our own health—why wait until the more traditional time of the new year? Using St. Luke as our inspiration, let’s think about the ways we can promote health of all kinds.

Do we need to schedule some check-ups? October is perhaps most famous for breast cancer awareness month, but there are other doctors that many of us should see on a regular basis. For example, if you get a lot of sun exposure, or if you live in southern states, you should get a baseline check up from your dermatologist.

Many of us don’t need to visit a doctor to find out what we can do to promote better health for ourselves. We can eat more fruits and vegetables. We can drink less alcohol. We can get more sleep. We can exercise and stretch more.

Maybe we need to look to our mental health. If so, Luke can show us the way again.

Luke is famous as the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, but it’s important to realize that he likely didn’t see himself as writing straight history. He was maintaining a record of amazing events that showed evidence of God’s salvation.

It’s far too easy to ignore evidence of God’s presence in the world. We get bogged down in our own disappointments and our deeper depressions. But we could follow the example of Luke and write down events that we see in our own lives and the life of our churches that remind us of God’s grace. Even if it’s a practice as simple as a gratitude journal where each day we write down several things for which we’re grateful, we can write our way back to right thinking.

As we think about St. Luke, we can also look for ways to deepen our spiritual health. In popular imagination, Luke gets credit for creating the first icon of the Virgin Mary. Maybe it’s time for us to try something new.

We could experiment with the visual arts to see how they could enrich our spiritual health. We might choose something historical and traditional, like iconography. Or we might decide that we want to experiment with something that requires less concentration and training. Maybe we want to create a collage of images that remind us of God’s abundance. Maybe we want to meditate on images, like icons, like photographs, that call us to healthy living.

St. Luke knew that there are many paths to health of all sorts. Now, on his feast day, let us resolve to spend the coming year following his example and restoring our lives to a place of better health.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Last night, I did some packing for my Lutheridge retreat this week-end.  I moved some clothes out of the cottage closet where they've been since July.  I thought about the clothes that aren't in the closet yet, a few items I put in a big suitcase back in July because they are more wintry, but I decided to leave them in the big suitcase in the cottage.

All along, I've said that I hoped we could get the home repairs done by Halloween, but I'll be happy if they're done by Christmas.  People reacted as if I was joking.  I was partly joking, but partly serious.

The home repairs will not be done by Halloween.  But we are chugging along, so that's good.

I pour my coffee at the coffee station that I've set up in the bathroom.  Once, I'd have needed a microwave to heat the milk.  Now the microwave is in the bedroom, where it's been since late August.  I haven't had a special coffee beverage at home since then.  Once I bought a gallon of milk a week.  Now I haven't bought milk in weeks.  I used to drink hundreds of calories before leaving the house.  Now I drink my coffee black.  I wonder if I'll continue to do this once we have the new kitchen.

I know that some people are switching out their closets.  I'll do that too, when I return.  We will need the big suitcase for Thanksgiving.  And who knows--maybe we'll finally get a cold front by then.  In the past, we sometimes get a cold front by mid October, but not this year.  The heat is beginning to wear me down.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Subtle Seasonal Shifts

As I've been driving home, I've been noticing more houses decorated for Halloween.  I remember last year, amidst hurricane wreckage, seeing a house decorated here or there and feeling like we had lost a whole season, post-Hurricane Irma.  This year we have yet to have our first cold front make its way down here, so it's disconcerting to see the Halloween decorations and to reflect how late in the year it really is.

And yet the light is shifting.  Yesterday morning, as I walked up the outside parking garage stairs at school, I realized that the sun is rising more to the south now, and the building blocks the light.  In the summer when I climb the stairs, the sun is blinding.

The shift in seasons is VERY subtle this far south.  Some years, it's the scent of a cinnamon broom in a grocery store that first alerts me.  Other years, it's the arrival of pumpkins that transforms a church yard or a scarecrow keeping watch, even though there are no crops or crows.

This week-end, I will experience a much more wrenching seasonal shift.  I am off to a retreat at Lutheridge in the mountains of North Carolina, while my spouse stays here to take care of teaching responsibilities.  I hope to return with mountain apples and other goodies.

Once, I made this trip more often, but it's been a few years since I made an October trip--so I'm really looking forward to it.  The retreat is a 50 Forward retreat--a series designed for people in their 50's as they think about midlife and what's beyond.  Each year there's a different theme--this year's theme is "Simple Enough:  Living More with Less."  At the Create in Me retreat back in April, I saw the theme and had a pastor friend tell me that I should really attend this one--and so, I am!  I'm happy for all the help I can get, as we make choices about this house and about the future.

As I move about my mostly normal life, I'm deeply aware of all of those who have been disrupted during this severe hurricane season.  I feel more than a bit of survivor's guilt--it could have been me, and I'm so glad that it hasn't been so far.  As I make coffee in the bathroom each morning, I reflect on how much my mostly normal life continues to be disrupted by last year's severe hurricane season.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Blistered Palms"

Before we get too far away from last week, and the week before that, let me record 2 publishing successes.  I got my contributor copy of Gather, which published my article "Praying with Medieval Mystics."  In it, I explore Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich--longtime readers of my blogs know that I've explored the lives of those women before, but I like the ways I wove the ideas together.

I also got my contributor copy of Adanna, which published my poem "Blistered Palms," which I wrote in the aftermath of last year's hurricane season.  It was one of those strange moments, reading the poem, when I recognized the inspiration for some of it, but not the rest; I don't remember the writing process, the way I do with some poems.  I remember driving by the huge piles of brush which had shreds of trash blowing in a breeze.  It was close to Halloween, and at first I thought I might be seeing a Halloween decoration that had migrated, a ghost in those branches.  I remember the time when it seemed that every morning, a different piece of jewelry broke.

Do I see this poem as hopeful?  Yes, in a way.  I also see some of the spiritual elements of my Christian tradition, that direction to try fishing again, maybe from a different side of the boat.  And of course, there is the title, which talks to me of both the palms of hands, whether they be crucified hands or hands blistered from clearing away hurricane damaged palm trees.

Blistered Palms

When the last china cup cracked,
we found the courage to face
the future. The oracle couldn’t tell
us, but we knew.

We needed no tea leaves; the blisters
on our hands gave the palm
reader all the information needed.

In this month of broken jewelry
clasps and missing wedding rings,
tattered ghosts haunt the hurricane wreckage.

Branches claw the debris piles of our hearts.
We see the water marks even though the floods
have receded. The decaying mums
keep watch.

I have dined on stinging nettles
before sunrise. But I am ready to jettison
this suitcase of loss and longing
that I’ve been lugging
through the fading autumn light.

I will steal a sailboat
and glide to the place
where the deep
waters of the ocean meet
the mouth of the Bay.

I will cast my nets again
into the depths.
I will wait for new fish.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Romero and Me--and All of Us

Oscar Romero is now officially a saint.  I've written about him many times before, but I can't resist writing about him again.  When I made this collage card, I couldn't believe that he'd ever be canonized:

I was alive when he was martyred, but I didn't hear or read about it.  I remember reading about some of the more famous murders, particularly of the nuns, and wondering why people would murder nuns or missionaries who were there to help--I had yet to learn of the horrors of colonialism throughout history.

In my first year of college, I was asked to be part of a service that honored the martyrdom of Romero, and this event was likely how I heard of him first.  Or maybe it was earlier that semester when our campus pastor took a group of us to Jubilee Partners.

Jubilee Partners was a group formed by the same people that created Koinonia, the farm in Americus Georgia that most people know because they also created Habitat for Humanity--but they were so much more, in their witness of how Christian love could play out in real practice in one of the most segregated and poor parts of the U.S. south.  In the early years of Jubilee Partners, when I went there, the group helped people from Central America get to Canada, where they could get asylum in the 1980's, when they couldn't get asylum in the U.S.

My consciousness was formed by these encounters and by other encounters I had throughout the 80's.  I met many people in the country illegally, and I heard about the horrors that brought them here.  Then, as now, I couldn't imagine why we wouldn't let these people stay.

At the end of my undergraduate years, just after Platoon came out, my college had a screening of Oliver Stone's Salvador--what a powerful movie.  Stone does a great job of showing the importance of the Catholic church in that war-torn decade of that country.

Many of us may think that those civil wars are over, but many countries in Central America are still being torn apart by violence.  The words of Romero decades ago are sadly still relevant today:  "Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ...In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression."

But his teachings go beyond just a call for an end to killing.  His messages to the wider church are still powerful:  "A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — ​what gospel is that?"

And even those of us who are not part of a faith tradition can find wisdom in his teachings:  "Each time we look upon the poor, on the farmworkers who harvest the coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton... remember, there is the face of Christ."

If we treated everyone we met as if that person was God incarnate, what a different world we would have!

But for those of us who are tired from the work of this weary world, here's a message of hope and a reminder of the long view:  "We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."

On this day that honors a man who was not always honored, let us take heart from his words and from his example.  Let us also remember that he was not always this force for good in the world; indeed, he was chosen to be Archbishop because the upper management of the church thought he would keep his nose stuck in a book and out of politics. 

In these days that feel increasingly more perilous, let us recommit ourselves to the type of love that Romero called us to show:  "Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Self Help from Saints and Others

Yesterday's leadership conference simulcast was about what I expected:  lots of self-help "you can do it" talk, with some nuggets of usefulness, with inspiring stories, with very little here is how you do it plans.

It was interesting to start the day by thinking of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who will be canonized on Sunday, Oct. 14, and then go to the leadership conference--such different leadership styles.  I thought of how much I would have to pay for the leadership simulcast, if I hadn't gotten a free ticket because of my faculty status at Broward College.  I thought of Romero, who broadcast his homilies on the radio so that all could hear.  I thought of John Maxwell, who feels we should invest in ourselves so he doesn't offer scholarships to his conferences.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero who used his platform to become a voice for those who had no voice.  I thought of his pleading for us to be better, his insistence that the killing must stop.  Romero had a vision of how his country could be a better place.  I thought of the presenters at the leadership conference who explained how they had become better, and how we could all be better--but not much talk of societal transformation.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero, who was chosen to be archbishop because he seemed like the bland kind of priest who wouldn't make waves or find trouble.  I thought of Romero, who could have had a fairly cushy existence as archbishop, but who couldn't ignore the call to do more.  Some of the speakers in yesterday's simulcast had a somewhat similar trajectory, most specifically Tyler Perry, who could have retired long ago and spent the gobs of money that he's earned--but he feels a responsibility to all the people who work for him.  There was a hint of the larger world, and I wondered what he might say if he was speaking in a different environment.

Such different leadership styles.

As I watched the simulcast while thinking of Romero, I thought I might be too judgmental.  Maybe the many people watching the speakers would transform their leadership styles, which might make the world a better place.  Maybe if we had hundreds of workplaces that were more "transformational" and "leadershift" styled, maybe that would be enough.  After all, at this point, most of the U.S. doesn't find itself facing the kinds of challenges faced by Romero's El Salvador.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Friday, October 12, 2018

Leadership Trainings

Another week has zoomed by.  Today I will be away my main campus to go to a leadership event at the beautiful Bailey Hall of Broward College.  I saw an opportunity for a free ticket, and I asked my boss what he thought; in my last performance review, he had noted as an opportunity for growth that I go to management and/or leadership development.  He approved, and so off I will go.

I'm not sure what to expect; the event says it will "breathe new life into your leadership" by way of "a leader development experience designed to equip you with new perspectives, practical tools and key takeaways."   Although some of the names are familiar to me, I don't think of all of them as leadership teachers.  I'm thinking most specifically of Tyler Perry.

It's been an intense few weeks, both in terms of my work life (start of Fall quarter) and in the larger communities of my life.  While I expect that the retreat I'll attend next week will do more to rejuvenate me, I'm also looking forward to today.

If my boss had told me that I needed to do more to get training in pedagogy, I'd know how to do that.  If he had said that I needed to get some updates in my field of study, that, too, I would know where to seek out those opportunities.

But for leadership and management training, I've been a bit stymied.  I've seen a few conferences, but been astounded by their prices.  I've thought about working on an additional degree, which I could do for the price of those conferences.

To be fair, if I had to pay for this ticket, I'd be asking the same questions about the worth of the training.  But I'm an academic in outlook.  I want to know that what I'm learning is backed up by research, not just by the experience of the speaker.  The promotional materials for many of these workshops don't really stress that aspect of what we'll learn--how do we know what we know? 

Today is Columbus Day, the day in 1492, October 12, a lookout on one of Columbus' boats saw land after almost 2 months at sea. I’m always amazed at what those early explorers accomplished. At Charlestowne Landing (near Charleston, SC), I saw a boat that was a replica of the boat that some of the first English settlers used to get here. It was teeny-tiny. I can't imagine sailing up the coast to the next harbor in it, much less across the Atlantic. Maybe it would have been easier, back before everyone knew how big the Atlantic was.

It's interesting to think about leadership on this day when we celebrate that vision of Columbus, the day when some of us will think about who and what Columbus had to trample to accomplish his goals.  What kind of leadership do we need today?

We've had some interesting discussions of leadership in various communities of which I am a part.  How would our worlds be different if we praised kindness and compassion--not traits for which Columbus was known.

On this week-end which will celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, I'll be thinking of these leadership questions.  What happens when leaders think about the bottom-most rungs of societies?  Does that path always lead to martyrdom?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reformation Collage

On Sunday, I was in charge of the interactive worship service.  I thought about the upcoming holidays--no, not those holidays (Advent, Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany), but the holidays at the end of the month:  Reformation, All Saints, and the various harvest festivals we might celebrate.  Oh yes, and there's Halloween and Day of the Dead.

I decided to think about Reformation by way of collage.  It's been a tumultuous time in nationwide politics, so I wasn't sure I wanted us to think about Reformation in a larger, nationwide sense.  I suggested that we think about Reformation of ourselves and our smaller communities.  What needs to be reformed?  We talked about the differences between reforming and just throwing away and starting over.

We started with prayer.  I prayed for insight and openness, and then I suggested that we go through the pile of magazines that I brought and just rip out what was appealing.  Then we'd see what might be revealed.

It's a variation of vision boards, of course.  I've always wondered what kinds of collages we'd have with a completely different set of magazines.  I had a half year's worth of  O (Oprah) and Eating Well magazines.  I had some Country Living and some religious titles.  It may not surprise you to see what we came up with.

Mine (below) looks very ragged.  We didn't have enough scissors for everyone, so I just tore a bit with my fingers.  You don't need a degree in Psychology to interpret mine:

I really liked this approach from one of my fellow creatives:

I like the spirit of the Rilke quote of course, but more than that, I like the willingness to do something different:

As we worked on our collages, we shared our highs and lows.  At then end of our creating, we talked  a bit about what leapt out at us.  We finished with communion.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the service went.  I'm not sure that Martin Luther would approve; he might argue that we should be reforming institutions, not our individual lives.  But these days, it seems that everyone I meet is very tired and ready for reformation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Prayers for a Day of a Historic Hurricane

And so we wake on what might be a historic day in terms of weather:  the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Panhandle of Florida approaches.

There's not much that can be done right now.  Hopefully those on the coast have gone inland and up.  This storm looks like it will be pushing massive amounts of water onshore.

After the storm, we will all be needed.  Even if we can't be there to help with the rebuilding with our hands, we can give money; I like Lutheran Disaster Response, but we have plenty of options.  And if we can't give money, we can pray.

I'm not suggesting that we pray that the hurricane change paths; I don't believe that God sweeps in at the last minute because x amount more of us woke up this morning and prayed for that.  If my house gets hurt by a hurricane, does that mean that I didn't pray hard enough? Or that I'm spirituallly lacking, so that God pays no attention to me? Or that other people prayed better?

Those questions also show us the crumminess of a theology that says that if we just pray hard enough and believe enough and behave in certain ways, then we can control the world around us and control God.

We can't. That's the hard truth of the world we live in. No matter how good we are, hard times visit us all.

The Good News of the Bible is that we have a God who loves us so much that our God would come to our difficult planet to hang out with us. The Good News of the New Testament is one of grace: God will love us no matter our behavior.

Hurricanes are not punishment. On some level, hurricanes are the way the planet deals with extra heat and energy. Yet even those who would blame hurricanes on global warming (and thus see them as a fitting punishment for errant humans) would do well to look back to remind themselves of how hurricanes have always swept across the planet, even before we warmed it up so dramatically.

On this day when most of the southeast U.S. faces an extraordinary threat from Hurricane Michael, I'm not suggesting that we abandon prayer as a response. In fact, on a day where most of us can't do much more than watch and hope, prayer seems like a perfectly appropriate response.

Prayer for the Day the Hurricane Makes Landfall

Creator God, who fashioned this astonishing planet of atmospheric swirls, help us remember the abundance that our habitat usually offers us. Be with those who suffer from fear and anxiety. Remind us that you are with us, and help calm our fears.  Be our shelter in the storm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday Ramblings

I didn't post yesterday because I slept until 4:30ish, and needed to be out of the house by 5:15 to pick up the day old bread at Publix for my school. 

I usually don't sleep well as Sunday makes its way to Monday, but this week was an exception.  I had amazing dreams in vivid colors, the dreams shifting but seeming to cover one narrative.  In each section, I was either a retreat coordinator or someone who was putting together a massive meeting in a beautiful setting.

I spent part of yesterday tracking hurricane Michael, which I assumed was barely going to make it to hurricane status, but today it seems possible that it may make it to something much more major.  We've had the lovely breeziness that comes from having a major storm in the neighborhood.  I don't think we'll get much more than breeziness and some squally rain.  But just in case, I moved the flower pots with the autumn mums to the floor of the porch, not the arches.  I don't want to return home to shattered flower pots.

This morning, like many Tuesday mornings, I was awake at 2:00.  I thought I might do some grading, but I haven't.  I've toggled back and forth, checking overnight hurricane coverage, downloading some photos, writing a bit.

I also ordered some of my favorite purple legal pads--I usually write the rough drafts of my poems on them.  I have extras, but they're in a drawer in the antique desk.  I can't get the drawers open, and I can't get to the lever that might open them.  The desk is not really put back together, so I can't tell what's really going on.  The drawers have always been a bit sticky, but not like this, which is why I think there might be a lever.  But the desk top is loaded down with boxes of china.  So I took the path of least resistance.

I am always amazed when I get up early and feel like I get so little done.  It is time to do the final preparations to get ready for spin class--where has the time gone? 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Autumn Ramblings

I have returned home from a quick trip to the grocery store.  My front porch is now festooned for autumn, although I won't have real pumpkins until our church gets them next week-end. 

It makes me inordinately happy.

Yesterday, we went on a quest for barn doors--not because we have a barn, but because they will be perfect for the door between the kitchen and the laundry room. We went to Flagler Village, a cool space in Ft. Lauderdale that's being reclaimed from derelict housing to cool coffee places and outdoor gardens and breweries and such. My first thought: let's move here!

What is wrong with me? We already live in a cool place with a village-like vibe. We don't need to move.

And then I watched This Old House, a repeat of the first episode of the season when they will restore old houses in Charleston, SC, where we lived for 5 years before we moved here in 1998. And I felt this longing and homesickness for a place I left long ago (and could have bought one of those houses they're restoring for about $20,000 in 1992, if I had had the money).

Similarly, we had planned to go out for dinner after the pet blessing service at church, but the place we wanted to try was already booked.  I felt a bit sad, but also relieved that we could come home and relax and eat the cheese we bought in the morning.

We went to the pet blessing service, which did, indeed, restore my equilibrium. 

I wrote a whole post about it on my theology blog.

And in the end, I'm glad we didn't eat out because we finally took the serious time it takes to plan the kitchen--which cabinet goes where.  If you haven't remodeled a kitchen lately, you'll likely be amazed at how many types of cabinets you can get--and not just in terms of finishes and styles.  Cabinets can now be fine tuned in terms of their purpose too.

We are torn about the color of the wood finish--so we ordered some samples.  We have plenty of time, in a way.

We finished the day by eating some cheese and crackers and having some wine.  It was a day with a strange assortment of happenings, but in the end, satisfying.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Exhaustion, This Week and This Time Last Year

This has been an incredibly long week.  Let me record a few highlights before I forget:

--The Great Flooring Project is complete!  It's fascinating to see the difference in the woods in the house.  The 2 bedrooms and the kitchen have new wood; we kept the old wood in the living room and dining room of the house.  They were stained the same color, and at first glance, they look the same.  But on closer inspection, the wood in the living room has much more variety.  I've enjoyed looking at individual boards and meditating on the differences between them.

--A room with wood floors and not much furniture has amazing acoustics.  As I opened the living room curtains this morning, I sang some prayers I learned from singing with the monks at Mepkin Abbey and marveled at the beauty of a human voice singing plainsong alone in an empty room.

--The first week of classes means long days for me; each week I've arrived at campus between 8:30 and 9 in the morning, and I've stayed until 6:15 or 6:30 to make sure that evening classes are running smoothly--and on Tuesday, I stayed much longer than that to teach the evening class that I only found out I was teaching on Monday.  But several evenings this week, my spouse and I sat outside to have wine, cheese, and crackers while we caught up with each other.  While it hasn't been cool, the withering overnight heat seems to have lessened, and we've had a good breeze.

--Meeting people's animals is one of the delights (and sometimes a challenge) of being at a place with a Vet Tech program.  Yesterday, the registrar's kitten came to visit me in my office.  She sat in a chair across from me, looking for all the world like a student with an issue.

--Today my church will have a pet blessing service.  Even though I don't have pets, I'll attend--my spouse will be singing and playing his violin.  I'll sit and sketch.  Oddly, I'm looking forward to this.  Or am I really looking forward to the dinner that we are planning to have after the 4:00 service?  It feels like a long time since we've had a proper meal.

--Although both my spouse and I are exhausted most weeks, let me look back a year for some perspective.  A year ago, the roofer came and told us that the water running down the laundry room walls was not from the roof.  A year ago tomorrow, we took gutters apart and pulled all sorts of detritus out of them.  A year ago, we had just completed various visits from insurance adjusters.  We are still not done fixing all the damage that the adjusters documented, but we are much further along than we once were.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Awake Before the Moon

I have been awake before the moon.  This week, sleep has not come easily to me--I fall asleep easily, but I've been awake between 1 and 2.  I usually get up and get some work done, whether it's online teaching work or writing.  I've had a lot of online assignments coming in this week, and this morning, I'm finally caught up.

There are benefits to being up before the moon.

Of course, the disadvantage comes around 11:00 in the morning, when I start to feel a crushing tiredness.  Yesterday, for a brief moment, I thought about taking half a vacation day just to go home and sleep.

Instead, I placed a lunch order for our campus for next week, and then I took a camera (by way of a Kindle Fire) and wandered around the campus.  Our social media coordinator has requested that we take more video, so I asked students if they'd be willing to be filmed talking about the first week of school.

I asked some basic questions:  "Tell me one interesting thing you learned this week" or "Tell me a highlight of your week."  I was surprised by how my mood perked up as I did this filming project.

As I often do, I thought about the parts of my job that I'm liking most.  It's been a week of issues that seem unsolvable.  These are not the kinds of problems that delight me.   But walking the halls and asking people to describe week 1 was a delight.

I thought about the elements of work that have brought me contentment this week:  serving as a historian of sorts, as I recorded a particular moment in time and setting out the day old baked goods for students to enjoy.

Historian and Hospitality Coordinator (I wrote Hospitalian, a word I made up)--I'm not sure that job title really exists anywhere--perhaps on a cruise ship?

I thought about the Faith 5 techniques that so many people I know practice to some degree.  One of the central tenants is to talk about the highs and lows of each group member's day.  As I walked around campus, I felt like I was crafting a variation of that exercise.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Working for the Week-end

This has been a very long week at work.  But let me think of the upcoming week-end.  Let me make a list of what has the potential to bring me joy:

--My spouse will play his violin and sing at our church's Blessing of the Pets service on Sunday.  The service is at 4:00.

--Maybe afterward, we will go out to eat.  It's getting increasingly difficult to eat here at the house.  The kitchen no longer exists in the big house.  The grill part of the grill needs to have its gas tubes replaced.  We don't have a place where it's easy to eat.

--I would like to get some sleep.  Naps may be in order.

--I haven't been home to see how the light shifts on the new and newly refinished floors that were done during the second half of the Great Flooring Project.

--And because those floors are done and have had part of a week to cure, we can move a few items back.  I'm looking forward to having a bit more space in the part of the house where we've been living.

--My clothes have been hanging in the cottage.  Now that the floors are done, maybe I'll move them back to the big house.

Speaking of those clothes that have been in the cottage, I need to go out there and decide what to wear today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back to the Onground Classroom

Last night, for a variety of reasons, I returned to teaching in a traditional onground classroom.  But since the class only has 2 students, it's not likely to be traditional in every sense of that word.

I still don't have a clear vision for this class, since I only found out that I would be teaching it on Monday.  I thought the two students might have a vision, but when I suggested that we had many options for how the class could operate, I got blank stares.

I forget what a strange student I was.  I spent years as a student thinking about what I would do differently, especially in terms of my English classes.  It's probably no surprise that I ended up teaching English classes for so many years.

In a way, it's good that my students don't have a similar experience--they might have requested that the class be run in a way that I couldn't deliver.  Now I have flexibility.

I thought I might be teaching it as 2 independent studies.  But I think it might work better to keep meeting each week, with some weeks as conference weeks, with conferences that can be scheduled at the students' convenience.  It will be a different kind of blended class:  independent study mixed with a classroom.

My students don't have much online presence, so we won't be having a blended class in the way that EducationWorld usually uses that term.

I do wonder if my students will be losing an essential element of an English class by having such a small class.  There won't be as much opportunity for peer-to-peer teaching and learning.

I first learned about the concepts of peer editing and removing the teacher-as-expert dynamic back in grad school.  The idea seemed so cool and important to me then.

Now that I am older, I am more skeptical.  Many of my students through the years have come from deeply impoverished backgrounds.  Many of them only have a minimal grasp of English as a means of communication, and I don't mean that to sound as critical as it likely does.  Many of my students are very new to English, both as a language and a discipline--does that sound better?  They're eager learners, but they have difficulty teaching each other.

We now have decades of teachers who have tried to be more enthusiastic and encouraging about student work, so I haven't seen the damaged students that shaped the work of the early Comp-Rhet theorists that so influenced my grad school days.

Although those theorists influenced me deeply, I can't remember their names right now.  I wonder if I still have those books on my shelf at school?

Last night reminded me of the importance of having a book to take to the classroom.  My students started writing, and I tried to get onto the Internet--the slow connection made me abandon that attempt.  Maybe I will use this classroom time as motivation to do more reading and writing of the old-fashioned kind:  on paper.

As the weeks go on, I will report here on the progress of my latest teaching experiment.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Weariness Update

I have a deep weariness.  It's interesting to pay attention to my levels of weariness, which are often only somewhat connected to how much sleep I'm getting.  This week's weariness has to do with last week's news, and the realization that this level of bad news of our incivility and worse is the new normal--or are we just back to what was always normal?  This week's weariness has to do with the fact that we're at week 1 of our new quarter, which means longer hours at work.  This week's weariness has to do with the home repairs, which are progressing, but we're still far from done.

I'm so weary that I can't even envision what would fill my well.  I want to write, but my brain feels dehydrated.  It's been awhile since I had a good meal, but nothing sounds appetizing.  I'd like to sleep, but in a room that doesn't also contain a refrigerator and other items stored there for a home remodel.

I realize that I might sound like I'm depressed, but I'm not depressed so much as I am just bone tired.  And have I mentioned that our daily temperatures are still in the 90's?  People in Social Media Land are beginning to post their lovely pictures of apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and I am so tired of all my summer clothes.  And my summer clothes take up most of the space in my closet.

Part of my brain says, "Let's shake off this weariness!  Let's remind ourselves of the ways we're blest."  I think of what has just happened in Indonesia, with the earthquake and tsunami.  My home repairs are nothing compared to that.  I remind myself that I have a job that I like and various communities that care about me.  I will write again--why, just last week, I was exulting over my first piece of flash fiction that actually works.  Along with my weariness at the thought of eating has come weight loss.

Let me go out to the cottage where my clothes have been hanging since July, when our Great Flooring Project started.  Let me choose some clothes for today.  Then I'll go to spin class. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

September Steps of Progress

It is already October--hard to believe.  It is the first day of the fall quarter, both at my current school and at my old school--but for the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, it is the first day of the last quarter that the school will be open.

Ordinarily, I'd be changing out prayer books today.  I use Phyllis Tickle's 3 volume set, The Divine Hours, although in this summer of upset schedules, I haven't used it as much as normal.  I remember packing up the bookshelves and putting the other 2 volumes of the prayer books in the box.  I said to myself, "Surely the floors will be done by October."

The floors are almost done, but I'm not sure of the timeline for when we'll have everything back in the house, the books back on shelves.  When I think about how much we've gotten done, I feel happy--how far we have come.  When I think about the tasks that are still left to do, I feel overwhelmed if I linger on that list.

Let me continue to go one step at a time.

Speaking of steps, let me record a different type of progress.  On Sept. 1, as I took my morning walk, I reflected that it was the beginning of the month.  I said to myself, "What would happen if I resolved to get my 10,000 steps every day during this month?"

I knew that there would be some challenges, including my quick trip to Lutheridge.  But I made the resolution anyway.  And yesterday, I completed it!

Not much time to write this morning--there are day old baked goods to get from Publix on my way to spin class.  It's not really on my way.  But I still feel like it's helpful to have the baked goods available to the students.  I've had more than one share with me that they find it helpful to have some free food because they don't always know where they're getting their next meal.  So, they can get some goodies and a loaf of bread.

As with the house repairs and the moves towards fitness, sometimes the steps seem very small.  But the important part is to keep taking the steps.