Thursday, June 30, 2022

Our Next Housing Adventure

We bought a house yesterday.  Here is the view looking from the street at the house:

You enter the house by going down the side path:

The doors are accessed from the deck on the back:

In some ways, the fact that we bought a house is unremarkable; we've bought 5 properties before.  But when we sold our last house, the house in the historic district in South Florida, I thought it might be the last time we would be homeowners.  We had managed to sell in a hot market--why reinvest in real estate?

There are many reasons, of course.  But here's our reason:  we had what feels like a once-a-decade chance to buy in a neighborhood we've had our eye on for years, the neighborhood of residential houses at the church camp, Lutheridge (where we go for family reunions at Thanksgiving and the location of my favorite retreats and where my spouse was on the board), which is in Arden, near Asheville, NC. For a while those houses were non winterized houses that were built in the 1950's and ‘60s. Then other houses were added to the neighborhood. As houses in that neighborhood have come on the market, we've thought about them, but the time was never right.

In fact, we had looked at the one we just bought before, back in 2011 when it was about to be offered for sale, so we had a good sense of it. It needed work then, and it still needs work, but it has good bones; it was built in 1976.  The people who bought it in 2012 used it as a vacation house.

We remembered it as "the green house."  Below is the kitchen in all of its avocado glory. 

The wood paneling is also green, as are the rafters.  Here's a view of the loft with the doors leading to storage under the eaves,  a picture taken as I stood on the stairs looking into the loft:

At the time we saw it in 2011, it had green shag carpeting throughout, even in the bathrooms.  Now it's just subflooring.

Here's the view facing the other way:

When we saw it in 2011, my mom was thinking about having a Lutheridge house as a place for family reunions, but it's too small for that.  In 2011, this house wouldn't have been a possibility for just my spouse and me.  We had jobs in South Florida, where we also had property:  a house that needed work and a condo we couldn't sell.  

Back in April, as the Create in Me retreat ended, I said to one of my pastor friends who lives at Lutheridge, "I still dream of having a Lutheridge house."  A few days later, she told me that this one would soon be available.  I almost didn't mention it to my spouse.  I assumed he would be uninterested or that it would be out of our price range.

Instead, my spouse called the owner, they chatted, and my spouse came up with an offer that was close to what they had in mind.  My spouse has said he always wanted to work on rehabbing a house when no one was living there and when there wasn't a high pressure timeline. Now he can have that experience.  I will still go to live at Wesley Seminary where I will be a full-time student, and he will be at Wesley part of the time and at the house part of the time. He will get trees and nature and a house project. Having a house project is not something that appeals to me, but this will be his project.

My pastor friend said, "The timing is excellent. Seminary housing is fine, but feels like a perch more than a nest. Now you’ll have both!"

I couldn't have said it any better.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Notes from a Road Trip

We spent over 12 hours in the car yesterday as we drove from South Florida to Arden, NC, the first of three trips we will make this month, from South Florida to Arden, NC.  People who are keeping track of my travels will note that I've been going up and down I 95 A LOT in the past 3 months.  It's one of the advantages of being underemployed.

Yesterday was different because my spouse was in the car with me.  When I'm alone I listen to a lot of NPR, interspersed with lots of scanning of stations.  Some trips, I might listen to a bit of conservative talk radio or preaching.  Yesterday, we left the radio off.  In some ways, it was peaceful.

We had lots of rain, but happily, none of it lasted long.  Some of it was intense; at one point, I joked with my spouse, "When we picked out this car to deal with flooding, I didn't think it would be I-95 that flooded."

The highlight of yesterday’s trip was when we stopped for lunch. Usually we get something quick to eat in the car but yesterday we stopped at a restaurant, Fat Jack’s in Walterboro, SC. We knew nothing about the restaurant, so we lucked out. I was able to get vegetables, and my spouse was able to get fried chicken--we could have gotten just about anything because the menu was that big, plus there was a full bar.

 But what made it more interesting is that it had clearly once been a fast food restaurant that had been remodeled.  It was staffed by a variety of women of all ages. And the food tasted good too--wonderful collard greens.

We were tired from the road, so we didn't have a lot of conversation, but that's OK too. There was an older couple beside us who talked in the sort of shorthand that older couples develop. There was a family of nine on their way to a beach vacation, and it was great to hear their enthusiasm, while at the same time I was happy not to be trying to shepherd all those teenagers. 

We ate inside, in the air conditioning, and the tables were spaced out with high ceilings above, so I didn't worry too much about the spread of disease.   We ended the day getting snacks and sodas to enjoy in our hotel room. Our middle of the day lunch didn't leave us wanting much dinner, and that was fine.

And now it's off to the free breakfast that comes with the hotel.  I'll be sharing more details about these the reasons for these trips up and down I-95 in the coming months but for now, breakfast.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Our Last Sunday at Our Local Church

Yesterday, at the end of the regular church service, our pastor had my spouse and I come forward.  He offered a prayer for us and a benediction.  While I didn’t cry like I thought I might, I did find it moving. I like the idea of being commended to the care of God as we go forth.


A few weeks ago, my pastor asked us when our last day would be. I knew that he would be preparing something like this, and while part of me wants to just slip away unnoticed, I do realize the value of being able to say goodbye. We've been part of this church for over 10 years, and it's good to have a formal way to separate.


After the service we gathered everyone who was attending yesterday for a group picture.  It's interesting to think about who is there, who has moved on, and what the future holds.


Our church also had some food brought in for lunch and a cake--it was delightful to share a meal with people.


 I thought I might write a blog post about how this church has formed me, and I might later. In many ways, my blogs have been a much more detailed record of how this church has formed me, from offering me the opportunity to do all sorts of liturgical art to preaching to supporting my candidacy for seminary, on and on I could go.

It is good to leave on a positive note, and it's easier to leave on a positive note when one is moving multiple states away. I've been waiting to feel some regret, and I do feel the sadness of knowing I will miss people.  But I don't feel like we are about to make a terrible mistake, and that, too, makes it easier to head north.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Week in Review--with a poem!

As I think back over the past week, I am just astonished at all that has happened. A week ago, I was in Columbia, SC with a cast on my arm. I got the cast removed on Wednesday, and now I have a whole new set of exercises for my wrist and hand. A week ago, we expected that Row v Wade would be overturned fairly soon, and now it has. A week ago, I wasn't sure how we would decide to move our possessions across multiple states. In the past week we reserved a moving van to do it ourselves but ultimately got an offer we couldn't refuse from a moving company. We have showed our condo to several potential renters who will come after us. I hope one of the ones who wants our piano is the one ultimately chosen.

Today is our last Sunday at church, and I have grades for my online class due tomorrow morning. Time continues to march ahead.

I've done a lot of sorting which reminds me of how much I've written never sees anyone's eyes but mine. So in that spirit, since time is short and I have grading to do let me close with a poem that I wrote last week after walking the labyrinth.

I walk the labyrinth

careful to avoid

the fire ant mounds that line

the paths. I step over velvet

pods dropped from ancient magnolias.

A dog runs across the seminary

grounds. The sun begins

the morning tasks of sweeping away the shadows.

All creation yearns for insight.



Saturday, June 25, 2022

Puritan shackles

I have written about Supreme Court decisions before. Would I say that any felt as momentous as yesterday's overturning of Roe v Wade? Maybe the one that legalized same sex marriage but with yesterday's decision, that ruling, and many others, may be in jeopardy.

By now many others have written or spoken more eloquently than I on all sorts of angles of yesterday's ruling. And there have been several decades of the court scaling back its support for the original Roe v Wade decision. But I didn't expect it to be completely overturned. Even with the document leak back in May that led me to expect it, I was still surprised yesterday when I heard of the ruling.

I am much less sure these days than I was as an 18 year old about the question of where life begins. But I am still not in favor of outlawing abortion or severely restricting it. I don't know any women who use abortion as birth control but I do know people who have had problematic pregnancies and needed to be able to abort. I haven't met anyone who is cavalier about needing to abort.

It has been a strange week what with yesterday's decision and the decision overturning a New York rule that restricts guns that came a day earlier. When I look at these decisions, I see not an issue of states’ rights but instead a fear of humans and the longing to control humans. There are days when I look at the news and I sense the presence of our Puritan ancestors still influencing so much of how we live in this country: their fear of women, their fear of others, the longing to control, their rather limited idea of what joy should look like. It's hard to shake off those Puritan shackles.

But it's also a week where I found some causes for hope. We live in a world where Emma Thompson makes really amazing movies. We have more books than ever, quality works of fiction and nonfiction. I saw three doves on a lake bank today, and they seemed unafraid of any of us: me, the man walking his dog, the lake which always wants to go over its banks because of flooding caused by global warming.

Let me collect some possible images for a poem:

Bone covers screws with a quilt constructed of calcium

Three white doves shelter in the curve of a lake bank

Wombs full or empty

A cabinet of china destined for the dust heap

A Puritan spirit swirls beneath


Friday, June 24, 2022

Of Lit Trees and Other Sorting/Packing joys

 This morning I have had a wide variety of decorative trees lit up across my kitchen counter.



I didn't want to pack them without making sure that all the lights still worked, and then when I plugged them in they were so pretty that I decided to leave them lit up yesterday afternoon and this morning.  Soon I will pack them in a box, and then I will go on and continue packing other items in boxes.

Much of my life revolves around the sorting and packing up boxes these days. Some of this sorting like photographs and childhood memorabilia, I did last year. Some of it like old fiction manuscripts from decades of writing I thought I would be doing this year but come to find out I must have done it last year—they’re not in the closet where I expected to find them. I have looked at poetry notebooks from the last 2 1/2 decades, and a lot of them are going to recycling bin. I have typed out the poems that work.

Once I would have kept these notebooks and gone back and scavenged for old ideas and old lines and reused them. Or at least I would have told myself that I was going to do that. But much like my books, there are always new ideas, and so I rarely circle back.

Once I might have kept these notebooks because they gave me an interesting insight into what captured my attention at the time. But as I get older there is only so much room to store these things. I am keeping all of my handwritten journals. Scraps of old poems and lines that never quite found their way into new poems--those will have to go.

Like my journals, I will keep my sketchbooks, at least for now. I have yet to find a way to digitize those successfully. The colors always look off.

Once I didn't have this problem with accumulating so much stuff. In our younger years, we would move once a year, always in search of a better deal on rent. With each move we would have a yard sale and the sorting.

As I pack things away, I know there is a good chance that in later years, I will wonder why I kept these things. I will donate them or recycle them or throw them in a trash bin.  But for now, it's good to make some decisions and to keep moving forward.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Last Visit to the Hand Surgeon

Yesterday I went to the hand surgeon to get my green cast removed. They took another set of X rays, and the surgeon looked them over. The news is good. Bone has grown across the screws that connect the plate to the bone. In the X rays taken four weeks ago I could see the screws, and yesterday, they were not visible in the X rays.

I left the office with my hand and wrist in a soft splint, a removable splint, with the reassurance from the surgeon that I could soon do everything I once did. I need to not lift anything heavier than five pounds for the next week, but then I can go at my own pace.

Of course, I will need physical therapy. I left with two prescriptions:  one for South Florida, and one for the next place where we move.  With luck, I will not see the hand surgeon again, as he will be on vacation in the first part of July, and I will be moving in the later part of July.

I had been a little nervous about this visit. Four weeks ago, when the purple cast was removed, the site of my stitches was a little soggy.  The hand surgeon asked if I had gotten it wet, and I hadn't, but I had gotten a little sweaty. I live in South Florida after all. The hand surgeon said there was no sign of infection, so no need to worry, but of course I worried a bit. I'm happy that it looked OK yesterday.

I am also happy to have soft splint to cover up this car from where my stitches were. It's still fairly scabby and ugly. I'll wear this splint when I go to lunch with people. No need to gross them out.

I left the doctor's office feeling fortunate. I have often said that if this had happened to me in 1885, I would be completely out of luck:  a female with a non-functioning dominant hand.  Happily, it's 2022, and my hand surgeon had skills needed to fix my fairly complicated break.

I have been thinking about how the bones of our bodies can grow again, about how they know where to grow and when to stop. I asked my spouse if he remembered from our high school health or biology classes anything about bones and how they know. My philosopher spouse told me that he objected to the premise of the question, that bones can't really know anything in an ontological way. In some ways, we see the world so differently--but not incompatibly.

I have also been thinking about the woman that I saw in the waiting room when I left after getting my purple cast on, back in May. That woman had a cast on both arms, and I thought about how tough it would be to break both wrists. I've been grateful for my spouse’s help, which makes me think about all the people who don't have any help. I've been grateful for decentish health insurance, and I've been oddly grateful that I don't have to be navigating all of these doctors appointments with a full time job.

At some point, I will get back to walking further. I've had to limit myself because of not wanting to sweat into a cast and because for much of the month of May, I had an adverse reaction to the antibiotics, which meant my walks had to be shorter, so that I wasn't too far away from the bathroom; happily that reaction seems to have gone away now.

Let me get out for a walk now, before my physical therapy appointment and before the sun gets much higher in the sky. I don't have a cast to worry about now, but I still like getting my walk done early, when there's any hope of less intense heat.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Gathering Fragments from Last Week's Onground Intensive

 A week ago, I’d be getting ready for the onground intensive for the spiritual direction certificate program at LTSS, Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.  Alert readers will say, “Didn’t you finish that program earlier?”  Yes, I did.  But alumni were welcomed back to participate, since the pandemic disrupted the program for so many of us.  Let me collect a few last fragments and photos, before I forget these nuggets.

--We began our first session with consenting prayer.  Our leader took us through a meditation which asked us where God invites us to be open, in a space of hospitality, around these issues:  security, approval, control, and change.

--Writer Barbara Peacock had interesting insights about what/how the Middle Passage taught the ancestors how to minister to each other and how spiritual direction practices emerged from this time.

--In our last session, we did lectio divina, and at the end, we all shouted the word or phrase that spoke to us, all of us at the same time.  It was an interesting variation.

--I went back and forth to the Chapel. I love the way the light streams through the stained glass lending various colors to the white marble. Stunning!

--I walked the labyrinth each morning, which I enjoyed, even though I didn't receive stunning insights.

--In my small group, conversation came back to the idea of God and bodies. One speaker had tried to connect Eros with God, and I think this speaker was trying to make some connections with alternate sexualities but I wasn't sure. In my small group, we talked about how an embodied God is difficult if one lives in a body that is not approved of by one’s larger society.

--It was good for me to talk about these ideas with other people outside of my small group, people who were not as discomfited as I was.  We talked about Eros and the Holy Spirit, which seemed a bit better than Eros and God the Father. We talked about Eros not as a sexual energy, but an energy that was embodied in multiple ways.

--I do wonder what it would mean if we took seriously this notion that all are created in the image of God. We would have to expand our vision of God. What would it mean if we worshipped a God who is disabled, in ways that so many of us are disabled? It would certainly challenge our idea of God as all powerful, which is fine with me, but I realize it would be a tough sell for others. Throughout the week I tried to straighten my fingers as I continue to heal from my wrist injury. Some days I was more successful than others. The idea of a disabled God makes sense to me.

--Should I be using the term differently abled to God? But I do mean disabled, a God without full ability, a God who may have developed other capabilities in the absence of full capability.

--We had more free time scheduled into this intensive than in the past so I reached out to an old college friend who lives in Charlotte, and happily she was free on Friday afternoon and willing to drive down.  We met at a coffee shop staffed by people who wore T shirts of the bands of our youth. The guy who took our order had a patch on his leather vest that was a replication of The Smiths’ album, The Queen Is Dead. I said, “I paid $5 for that album back in the day.” He told me he had paid $35 for his vinyl copy. Maybe I should take a closer look at the records that are in the box of records that need to be sorted. Of course I have no idea how to find the people who would pay $35 for my old vinyl.

--It was great to drink coffee with my friend on the hottest day of the year so far, as REM's “Don't Go Back to Rockville” played softly in the background. As with the best of friends, it was like no time had passed at all. Throughout the week I had the feeling of falling through a hole in time. Time has felt more fluid.

--We ended with a commissioning service and the singing of  “Ithe Lord of Sea and Sky” with its refrain of being willing to go where God sends us.

--Take a good look at this picture:



I am sure that I’ve never been at a  communion service presided over by two female African-American ordained clergy.  Wow!

I went forth, fed and nourished in so many ways.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day and Juneteenth

Today we have a variety of holidays to celebrate.  People who have good relationships with their fathers, or people who have children, may be celebrating Father's Day.  Some of us will go to church, as we normally do, although if you're like me, we may not know what normal looks like anymore.

If I was preaching today, would I talk about Father's Day?  Or would I talk about Juneteenth?  Both holidays offer interesting ways of thinking about our relationship to God.

Do we see God as a Father?  And if so, is that a loving parent or a judging parent?  I'm not crazy about the idea of God as Parent (of either gender). I think that God as Parent is an infantilizing metaphor. If God is a Dad (or so much more rarely, a Mom), then it follows that we're children, and too often, we see that as a reason for inactivity. But God needs us to be active in the world. I'd go further and say that God is counting on us. I much prefer the idea of God as partner. God can be the Senior partner; I'm cool with that.

Juneteenth offers other questions.  What enslaves us?  How are we benefitting from the oppression of others?  God offers us freedom, but can enslaved humans and oppressing humans fully appreciate that liberation?  How can we break free to become the humans God invites us to be?

It could be interesting to consider these questions in tandem, to ask about questions of agency.  What helps us grow?  What makes us wither?  What makes us strong?  What breaks our spirit in ways that echo across generations?

These questions are always essential, but they seem even more important as we approach the Solstice.  We are at a midpoint of the year.  We will never have more daylight this year than we have over the next few days.  For many of us, it may feel like we get extra time in the day, even though every day only offers us 24 hours.  Let us use this space to analyze where we are right now and where we want to be.

A juxtaposition of holidays and observances gives us new opportunities to consider essential questions in different lights.  Let's make use of today's juxtapositions.  Let us correct our trajectories if need be.

Let us be free and work to free others.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Crucial Questions for Spiritual Directees and for Us All

 Yesterday at our onground intensive, Dr. Amy Oden gave a presentation about spiritual direction which included some interesting questions for directees, questions that would be valuable outside of spiritual direction:

--When and where and with whom do you feel most alive right now?

--When and where and with whom are you able to rest and to be yourself?

--How do you listen to your life?

--What is your favorite time of day? What makes it your favorite time of day?

Our presenter noted that this question helps figure out when we are most present to both self        and God, and she says it's one of the best questions that she's using with her directees right now.

--Where in daily life do you connect with God?

Dr.Oden pointed out that we already have a connection to the holy; God is already showing up and planting seeds.  Identifying those seeds can be a crucial part of the spiritual direction process.

She presented the problems with our self-improvement culture and these problems aren't unfamiliar to most of us. One of the problems that we may not consider is that turning our spiritual life or our creative life or our relationship life into a self-improvement project can lead to a lot of self-judgment and shame. Instead of giving ourselves encouragement because we are able to meditate for at least 7 minutes a day, we feel bad because we can't go for 45 minutes a day.

Dr. Oden encouraged us to help our directees (and ourselves!) turn our gaze away from self-judgment and shame but towards desire and yearning. Many of us are already doing some of the things that are important to us we might be able to do more if we could get away from our tendency towards self-judgment and shame.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Praying with Icons

Last night's worship involved praying with icons. I wasn't sure what to expect--would we have actual icons in the worship space with us? We did in a way, but it was more like a slideshow. Still it was profoundly moving.

Our worship leader used the word icon in all of its connotations, both the traditional icon painted by orthodox artists along with more modern work. Our worship leader also included a meditation after the slideshow where he talked about how we can be icons both in the way we illuminate the work of God to others and in the way we see others as icons, even if they don't see themselves as that way.

But it was the slide show that was the best part of this service. I would have been perfectly happy to spend an hour or two meditating on these icons.

We took 10 minutes, one minute per icon.  there were several screens throughout the room so my view of the icon was not impeded. Classical music played behind the sites the slideshow.

I expected something like this icon (this version is a print that hangs in the Mepkin Abbey refectory):

Indeed a version of this icon was one of the slides, along with an icon that looked much older like it had been just dug up from an archaeological site.  I wasn’t able to find that one online.  I also was not able to find the icon of Christ wearing a crown of thorns with the crown of thorns in bloom. That one will stay with me.

We had this icon, a depiction of the Annunciation:

I thought that this work of art was much more modern but when I researched it, I found out that it was actually painted as the 19th century turned into the 20th century and painted by an African-American artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner. When I've seen it before, I thought the work was Irish.

I was much more profoundly moved by this icon, a version of the Visitation painted by Mickey McGrath:

I love the colors and the exuberance and the patterns. I loved this image so much that I brought it up on my computer when I returned to my room and spent some more time with it.

Last night was our experimentation with silence so we left the worship service in silence, except for the thunder that had been rumbling for hours. As I stared at the icon on my computer, I noticed that my west facing window was full of a strange light. I knew I could look at images of icons at any hour, but I wouldn't ever again have this exact sunset with the light diffused by the gray clouds. I watched the sky for half an hour, something I do not do very often.

I didn't even try to capture the light with my camera. I decided to use our experiment with silence as a prompt to be fully present to the light of the sunset, to the darkening sky, and to the presence of God.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Various Versions of Divina

Yesterday, we did several sessions of lectio divina.  Lectio devina is different than Bible study; the traditional approach is to read a Bible passage several times, often out loud, and to listen to what God might be saying to the listener. Often the second reading will have the listener choose a word or phrase that God is using to speak to the listener, and subsequent readings have the listener focus that word or phrase.

My experiences with lectio divina have been like the one we had in the evening worship service where the passage is a longer passage. In last night's worship service we used the text of Psalm 8, the whole Psalm.

During our afternoon instructional time, we used a much shorter passage, part of Psalm 46: 10, just 8 words:  "Be still, and know that I am God."

Our lectio divina leader told us to listen for three words and to let them minister to us. In a later reading we were to choose one of those three words as the one that was speaking to us.  We had time to meditate on the words, and we had time to share our insights with another member of the group.

We also did visio divina, a practice that is not as well known. Barbara L. Peacock was our special guest and instructional leader yesterday. She's the author of one of the books that the program uses, Soul Care in African American Practice. On the larger screen we saw a projection of the book cover: 

It's a gorgeous cover but it wasn't the first cover. She told us that the first cover had a background of kente cloth, along with the images of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and someone else (Frederick Douglass?) overlayed.  Her adult daughter who is a graphic designer said that the cover was too retro and that the fresh work inside the cover needed a better cover.  And so they came up with one.

The cover shows all kinds of abstract shapes, along with vivid colors, and we were asked to focus on one section of the cover and to see what was revealed.  Those who were willing were encouraged to share what they saw, and I was surprised by how many different images we saw. I saw a little house with a garden just under the left side of the white box that holds the title.  Others saw rivers or thorny branches or nebulas.  Some of us focused on the form of the woman with the uplifted head that his presented in shadow.

One of the things that I appreciated yesterday is that we didn't just talk about spiritual practices that we might use in life and in spiritual direction, but we actually practiced them together. The small group work didn't take up inordinate amounts of time, the way they sometimes can.

I am aware that the practices may not work for everyone, and happily, we will experience a variety of practices. I am about to go walk the labyrinth before it gets too much hotter and then I'll go to a morning worship of centering prayer--all of this before breakfast. I will begin the day nourished in so many ways.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Reunion at the June Intensive

This morning, I woke up 600 miles away from home in an old house that isn't mine--a guest house for seminary visitors.  Here is the view out of the second floor window as I write:


I'm at a reunion for the spiritual direction certificate program that I finished in January. Because the pandemic interrupted our chances to meet in person, we were invited back to this summer intensive.  I don't know if reunions will be part of every intensive, so I jumped at the chance to be part of this one.

I had a vision of more temperate June weather, but we are forecast to have highs of over 100 degrees.  I've lived in Columbia, SC before, so I'm not shocked, but these kinds of daytime highs usually come later in the summer.

The drive yesterday was not too bad. I was about 10 minutes away from home when I noticed that I didn't have my cell phone with me. I'm still using an old flip phone so I don't use it for much, but I'm driving an 8 year old car that has 100,000 miles on it so I decided it made sense to go back and get the phone. Happily I didn't need to use it.

I noticed a lot more trucks on the road yesterday. Maybe the nation's supply chain problems will soon be coming to an end.  I kept an eye on the skies, since I kept getting weather alerts on the radio, but the worst weather stayed away from me.

I got to the campus of LTSS, and got checked into guest lodging with no trouble. My friend arrived at the same time, and we were both hungry, so we went off to get a great meal of Middle Eastern food. We relaxed at the guesthouse, and sent a message to one of our group members who was travelling from Guatemala.  He needed a ride from the airport, and we offered to be there when his plane landed later.

As we sat in the cell phone waiting lot, I did wonder why so many people were flying into Columbia SC on a Tuesday night in June.  We found our friend easily, and the good seminary staff were waiting for him with keys when we returned. It was one of those times when connections worked as they should, and I am always grateful when that happens.

I am already feeling nourished in ways that I don't always feel nourished on a regular Wednesday. Even before the intensive starts, I’ve had good conversations about topics both theological and mundane. My friend is also relocating across states this summer, so it's been good to compare notes. She will be paying as much to have someone move her possessions as the move it yourself van quotes I was getting, so I need to remember to revisit this topic when I return home.

But for a few days let me put moving plans out of my head, so if there's more space for all that I can learn during this intensive.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Back to Southern

On Tuesday, I will head back up I 95 and eventually end up in Columbia SC at Southern Seminary. Even though I finished my certificate in spiritual direction back in January, we've all been invited back to have an alumni experience. I don't know if we'll get this invitation every time; we got it this time, in part, because we had had so few on ground intensive because of the pandemic.

In January, I spent some time thinking about how much had changed in the two years since I had last been to campus. This morning I am thinking of how much has changed in the last five and a half months since I've been to campus. Most of the changes will be for the better in the long run, I think (and hope). But it is an astonishing amount of change in just a few months.

In early January, I still had a full-time job with the reason to think that the job would be ending. A month later that job had ended. In early January, I still owned a house in a flood zone, although I was hopeful that I was about to sell it. Indeed I did come back and sell the house just before losing my job. In early January, I still had not taken my second semester of seminary classes, and now I have. Happily, I am still enjoying them.

The most unexpected change is my spouse‘s outlook.  Back in January, I assumed he would never consider leaving Florida. He might want to move a bit north in Florida, but he had repeatedly told me he never wanted to leave. And now his mood is different. While he will still feel sad about leaving, the cheaper cost of living in other states is more attractive than the more expensive warmer weather of Florida.  We've spent the last several months thinking about dozens of possible housing adventures. In the next few weeks, as our plans solidify, I'll say more about the next housing adventure which will not be in Florida.

The weather forecast for Columbia SC for this week reminds me that South Florida summers are fairly mild. I am leaving daytime highs of 92 for daytime highs of 106. Of course the times that the warm weather in South Florida bothered me most was in October, when it was still 92 in the daytime, or February, which has more very warm days than cool days.

Let me wrap up this blog post so I can finish some packing for the trip ahead and continue packing for the larger adventure ahead.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Leaving the Land of the Mango Trees

It's one of those mornings where I am still tired. I have been fighting off a cold, and I think I'm coming out the other side. I have been sorting and packing for days and weeks now, and there's still much to do. There was a reggae concert at the Arts Park last night, which lasted until 11, which meant half of the night was not a restful one. Let me collect a series of impressions and see if there's a thread that runs through them.

--I have been moving some items out of plastic bins into cardboard boxes.  I had moved them out of boxes into plastic bins when I thought through the implications of living in a flood zone.  I am so glad to be leaving this flood zone.

--Yesterday I tried to go ahead and reserve a moving van for our end of summer relocation. I had forgotten how much it costs to move across states, and my spouse pointed out that's not even including the gasoline, which is hitting all time high prices. I know this is why we keep money in the bank, but I'd rather have that money for other things.

--I am also resenting all the copays that I have to pay in my journey to restore function to my hand and wrist. I am keeping track of our medical spending--this year we're earning so little that it might actually be a tax deduction.

--I am trying to remember how it could all be worse. We might not have the money. We might not have the insurance. I could be suffering from a much more serious medical condition instead of one that will have an end. We could be stuck here because we couldn't afford to move. I do realize that my whininess is from a place of privilege, and I am using it to remind myself of all the systemic injustice and how much work there is still to do, so that more people have these rather basic privileges of health care and the means to relocate towards a better life. So much work still to do.

--let me move away from whining by noting some progress in my hand restoration. Yesterday I was able to write with my right hand. I didn't write much, but it was more legible than what my left hand produces.  I feel like my writing with my left hand is a preview of the writing I will do when I'm a little old lady:  spidery and tentative.

--I got my first unemployment check, just 4 months after beginning the process.  Here, too, I recognize my privilege:  I have time and resources, like a computer at home, that enabled me to be tenacious.

--Because I spent yesterday researching moving trucks, I am now being bombarded with ads for movers who would like to move us. I wonder how much that would cost.

--We are also considering just getting rid of most furniture and mattresses and replacing them on the other end.

--I also did some writing on the computer and came up with part of a poem that I like. Let me close by posting a few lines from that poem:

I will not vote on the path to the future

for others to follow.

I buy a ticket for passage

on the last boat that swims to the monastery.

I will not be here to see the mangoes ripen.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Prayer Stations for a Prayer Chapel

Before we get too far away from the Florida-Bahamas Synod Assembly, let me make a blog post about the prayer chapel I created.  Happily, I had taken careful note of how the prayer chapel looked at the 2019 Assembly:  a collection of stations with prompts for prayers and/or meditation.  I  had no desire to stretch anyone's boundaries about what a prayer chapel could be--and I didn't have any boundary stretching ideas myself.

And let me also acknowledge how hard it is to create prayer chapel ambience out of a cavernous ballroom with lights that can't be dimmed.

Below, I'll print the prompt that was on each table, along with pictures--special thanks to my spouse, who made each table look better.


Prayer Requests

Write your prayer request on a sticky note and add it to the board. Know that we will be lifting up these prayers as we visit this station, and the sticky notes will be brought to the assembly for the closing worship.

As you look at this collection of prayer requests, let us remember to pray for each other and to pray for those who don't have anyone to pray for them. Let us pray for those who can't right their prayer requests on a sticky note and for those prayers too complicated for a sticky note.


Praying in color

Use the art supplies and colored paper to pray in images and color. Or doodle or sketch or draw lines/curves/shapes.

What is God saying to you? What are you saying to God?


Anointing oil

The small bowel contains anointing oil. Take a clean cotton swab from the larg bowel and dip it in the oil. You can put your finger on the oil that is on the swab or you can use the cotton swab as a paintbrush. Make the sign of a cross on your hand or your forehead as you ask God to help and guide you.

Or use these words:

holy hands for holy work

receive this oil as a sign of God's love and faithfulness

Please put your used swabs in the basket.


Light a candle

Take a candle from the basket and switch it on. Add it to the table. As you watch the light of each flickering candle, pray for those in need.



Scrappy beauty

Think of people and situations that you would like God to transform. Write your yearning for transformation on a slip of paper and crumple it. Add it to the glass vase.

Think about how God's light transforms all the various scraps of our lives into a creation of beauty.


Scripture speaking

Sit with the Bible for a few minutes. Do you have a favorite passage? Perhaps you want to open to a random passage and meditate on what God might be trying to say to you in this passage.

If you are moved to write about the passage, feel free to use the supplies at this table.


On this table, you will find many items. Which one speaks to you about your current place in your faith journey?

You might try doing some free writing about the object. For the next 3 minutes, write down anything that comes to mind as you look at the object. You might be surprised what your subconscious offers up when you write this way.

Please leave all the objects for others to experience.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Low Technology, Low Energy Day

Yesterday I got up to discover that we had no Internet, and that was to be the case all day. In some ways it was strange not to be connected, but in some ways it didn't really matter. Yesterday turned out to be a very low energy day for me. I got shot number two of the shingles vaccine on Wednesday, and as I had been told it might do, the shot hit me very hard yesterday.

I have also been fighting off a cold, I think.  My spouse has been sick for over a week, but my cold seems less severe than his. Or maybe I have allergies. We both did an at home COVID test and it came back negative.

Yesterday, I went to the store early before the hordes of people could get there so that I could get us some more cold medicine, and then a few hours later I went to the library to pick up and enter library a book I had on hold. My spouse decided to take a nap around 11, and I thought about how bone weary tired I was and decided to take a nap too. I woke up a few hours later, stayed awake another few hours, and was back in bed by 5:00 PM. I slept through the night until about 3:00 AM. That's an amazing amount of sleep for me.

Yesterday I also felt chilled and achy, but since I don't feel that way today I'm thinking it was an aftereffect of the vaccine, not an early sign of flu.  I also have been feeling a lack of appetite--another strange symptom for me.

We have gone for over two years now without getting any kind of cold, flu, or other normal sickness. I had forgotten what it is like to feel under the weather and to wonder what might be coming my way. And now of course, the “is it cold or is it COVID?” question hangs over us all.

I do wonder if I would have given in to my urge to sleep if the Internet had been functioning. I do realize how often I use the Internet as distraction. Yesterday I got more sleep and more reading done then in a normal day. Some of that was due to my tiredness because of the vaccine and fighting off a cold, but some of it was because I didn't have the distractions of my online life.

It's good to shake up my routine, but at the same time I'm happy to have my Internet back. Now to catch up on everything that I had to let go yesterday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Poet and Other Identities

This morning, I woke up with a vague fear of abandoning my poet self. I thought about how I would feel 20 years in the future, if I stopped writing poetry, stopped submitting poetry. And then I wondered what led to this early morning quasi-panic.

I feel like I haven't been writing poetry, but that's not strictly true. In April, I did a lot with poetry for my seminary class project.  I've been continuing to experiment with my collection of abandoned yet evocative lines. I can't write the way I once did because I have a broken wrist--or to be more accurate a wrist in a cast which limits my use of my dominant hand. 

I've had time periods before when I didn't write. I'm thinking of the summer of 1996 where I wrote exactly one poem. That time was followed by a time of fertile poetry writing. I've had times where I didn't submit much because I got so discouraged or because I was busy. Submitting takes much more time than writing, and it's been a busy time period for me doing other things.  Plus, there's the question of expense. I'm not earning money the way I once was so those submission fees can feel a bit indulgent.

I don't feel the same kind of anxiety when I think about how long it's been since I wrote a short story. Maybe that's because I haven't gotten the same kind of approval for my short stories as I have for my poetry. I used to write novels in my spare time, but I don't feel guilty for wasting my spare time instead of writing novels. I do feel a strange sense of guilt when I think about how long it spends since I wrote a poem or how long it's been since I had a streak where I felt like I had some poetry superpower

I spent some time this morning thinking about the issue of identity. Once I thought of myself as a runner, but it's clear I'm no longer a runner. My blog sites still say that I'm an administrator, but I'm really not. Why haven't I changed that language? I have no intention of going back to being an administrator, at least not in academia, at least not any time soon.  So why this reluctance to change the language that describes me as an administrator?

I think of other types of identity that are tearing the nation apart:  gender, sexual attraction, political affiliations. I think of religious identities that shape a person in deep and abiding ways. I don't spend much time reflecting on these identities and what they mean to me. Is it strange that the writerly identity is the one that wakes me up at night with worries of losing it?

It is good to be reminded of what is important. After I got up, I spent some time working on a poem. And now I can go on about the day, working on my other identities that will emerge this summer:  ex- Floridian, full time seminarian, and . . .

Monday, June 6, 2022

Pentecostal Visits on Pentecost

Our Synod Assembly was held In a conference area like the ones that so many big hotels seem to have:  huge rooms with collapsible walls so that many groups can meet throughout the conference area in various configurations. This was one of the first assemblies where I was aware of the group meeting next door. They seemed to have loud music at times when we were trying to hear various speakers.  When we had meditative moments before and during worship, loud music thumped from next door.

Midway through our meeting, we learned the group next door was a group of Spanish speaking women gathered to pray. Clearly, their prayer style is different than our Lutheran assembly prayer style. Knowing that fact however made it easier to be patient.

Our closing worship was on Pentecost Sunday, and for most of the service it seemed like a regular high church holiday:  special robes, special paraments, special music. But at the end of this service, a truly special event happened.

The leader of the group next door came to address our assembly. First she spoke to our Bishop. He is bilingual, and she only spoke Spanish. When she addressed the whole group, one of the younger women translated.

Many of us were moved by this expression of Christian unity. Their faith tradition is very different from ours.  it was a group of Pentecostal women, Latinas, and we were a group of high church Lutherans. The woman from next door pointed out that the wall that separated us was the only wall that was moveable. They had spent time in their assembly with their hands pressed to the movable wall as they prayed for us and the larger world. We had spent time in our chairs praying for them and the larger world.

Will any transformations happen because of this encounter? It's hard not to think of all the gun violence across multiple cities in the US yesterday and feel hopeful.

And yet I think back to the first Pentecost, those disciples with no reason to feel hopeful about the future of the Roman Empire. Then the Holy Spirit came, and they were transformed, and the world was transformed.

The 21st century will offer many opportunities for transformation. Let us hope that the Holy Spirit swooshes through the land, giving all of us a vision for how life might be better and the energy to make it so.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost for Poets and Other Creative Souls

Today is one of the big three church holidays; today is Pentecost. For those of you who have no reference, Pentecost is the day that comes 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Jesus goes back up to Heaven (Ascension Day). We see a group of disciples still at loose ends, still in effect, hiding out, still unsure of what to do.

Then the Holy Spirit fills them with the sound of a great rushing wind, and they speak in languages they have no way of knowing. But others understand the languages--it's one way the disciples argue that they're not drunk. And then they go out to change the world--but that's the subject for an entirely different post.

You may be saying, "Great. What does all that have to do with me?"

I see that Pentecost story as having similar features to the creative process that many of us experience. If you replace the religious language, maybe you'll see what I mean.

Often I've felt stymied and at loose ends. I think back to times when I've known exactly what to do and where to go next. I find myself missing teachers and other mentors that I've had. I may wallow in feelings of abandonment--where has my muse gone? Why don't I have any great mentors now? Have all my great ideas abandoned me? What if I never write a poem again?

And then, whoosh. Often I hit a time of inspiration. I get more ideas in any given morning than I can handle. I jot down notes for later. I send of packet after packet of submissions.

Some times, it feels downright scary, like something has taken possession of me. But it's a good spirit, and so I try to enjoy the inspired times. I've been at this long enough that I know that these inspired times won't last forever.

The good news: those inspired times will come back, as long as I keep showing up, keep waiting, stay alert.

That's the message that many of us will be hearing in our churches today. And it's a good message to remember as we do our creative work.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Stormy Weather, Peaceful Synod Assembly (at least in Florida)

Early this morning, I made this Facebook post:

"Perhaps I should be sleeping at 3am. But this resort hotel bed is too soft, and the dark sky apocalyptic as this tropical blob approaches. For the past hour, it has sounded as if energetic people above us are shoving furniture across the floor, but I think that's how thunder sounds on the 8th floor of a strange resort in the unreal city of Orlando."

And then I got up to check various weather sites, even though I was already fairly sure what those sites would say.   I have decided that I'm too sore to try to sleep again.  My new wrist bone aches, but so do my older, arthritic feet.

I made a cup of coffee in the 1 cup Kuerig machine, which seems to require a lot of force to operate with my left hand.  I miss the peaceful process of my larger machine at home:  the pouring of the water, the scooping of the fragrant coffee, the gurgle of the machine, the smell of fresh coffee filling the room. 

It was strange, making our way across the state of Florida with a tropical storm approaching.  Most of the day was overcast, but occasionally, we'd see sun and blue skies.  We're here for a church synod assembly, but the conference center is at the back of the property with no covered way of getting there.  So we brought extra shoes, and I'm carrying a plastic bag with me, in case I need to wrap my cast.

I've never watched a tropical storm above ground level before.  Our hotel window faces east, and it's been entrancing to watch the sky above the scrub grass and pines, both during the afternoon and overnight.  But it's been disconcerting to be in a conference center with 3 large groups and several smaller ones meeting--our state's COVID numbers are on the rise, and meeting in person in a place where can't sread out doesn't seem wise to me.

I plan to do what I did yesterday:  drop in and out of Assembly sessions and wear a mask when I'm there.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Prayer Chapels, Synod Assemblies, and Storms

Soon we will put the last load of stuff in the car and head off to Synod Assembly.  Our assembly at the Florida Bahamas Synod is likely to be very dull, compared to other Synod assemblies that are happening. I am thinking of the Sierra Pacific Assembly, which is breaking so many hearts in so many ways. This year I am grateful for a dull Assembly. Most years, I am grateful for a dull Assembly.

A few months ago, I got it from call from the assistant to the Bishop of my Synod, who asked if I would do the Prayer Chapel. That means being in charge of setting up prayer stations, and I was happy to say yes to the request. I'm headed there not being sure of this space but my stations are flexible. Because it is a dull assembly year, with no election of the Bishop and no social statements guaranteed to provoke discussion, and because it is held over Pentecost, it won't be a high traffic time for a Prayer Chapel. In short, it's a good year to be the one in charge, and it's my first time in charge so I'm glad it's a low key year.

We also have a tropical storm bearing down on our state, so I'm not sure what that will do to attendance. We are leaving early in the morning so that I have time to set up the prayer Chapel. I don't know what decisions others will make.

We will only be gone about 60 hours, but we have packed a lot of stuff. It's not an assembly that has much in the way of free food, and I don't think the hotel has a free breakfast bar.  We're taking food so that we don't have to buy a lot of meals. In the past, at more well attended assemblies, it's been almost impossible to get a meal in the hotel restaurants because they get so crowded with Assembly participants.

It's also a time of rising COVID numbers, so I feel some hesitation about being in big groups. I am double boosted, and I'll have a mask, but I am still wary.

I just walked outside, both to get some masks from the car and to get a wider sense of the sky. There's been some rain overnight, but right now we are not deluged. Hopefully we'll get out of here ahead of the weather.  I'm glad we no longer own our house in a flood zone. I can leave our condo and not be worried about flooding--that would not have been the case with our old house.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Of Sex Pistols and Weather Systems

--As I begin this blog post, I'm waiting for the 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.  Will the remnants of Pacific hurricane Agatha reassemble into Atlantic Alex or just stay a messy blob?  It is June 1--the start of hurricane season.  I am happy not to be a South Florida homeowner.

--I am traveling a lot this summer, so hurricane season will offer a different set of anxieties.  They are lesser anxieties, but they are still there.

--My other set of anxieties:  am I navigating the state of Florida's unemployment system properly?  Yesterday I made it further than I ever have before.  Will it translate into money?  Stay tuned . . .

--Part of what I have to do to get my unemployment check is to apply for jobs, five applications per week. Yesterday I applied for all five in one afternoon. My spouse asked what would happen if I got an offer, but we are a long way from that.

 --We watched half of the Hulu series Pistol last night. It was oddly compelling even though I know where this story is headed. I suspect we have seen the most joyful part of the story, where people are just learning how to commandeer their instruments, and they are full of hopes and dreams.  Later they will become the Sex Pistols, and it's all just downhill from there.

 --I love seeing the pop culture references of the 70s, even though I was a child at the time of the events of this show. It's interesting to see all of those communities swirling around each other. If I was more in tune with my own time, would I see lots of different communities in the pop culture landscape or is it far more homogenized these days? I feel like it's more homogenized, but then again I don't get out a whole lot.

--There have been several times in the past two weeks where I have felt like my hair look like the David Bowie hair of the mid-1970s. Back in the day, I would not have been able to get my hair to look like that on purpose. Who knew that the secret to fashionable hair designs was to use one’s non-dominant hand and a blow dryer to style one’s hair?

 --Time to get ready for my appointment with the hand physical therapist. Some weeks I've become a prematurely old person, only leaving the house for doctors appointments. But I know busier days are coming, and there's still lots of packing to do. Time to start making some progress while keeping an eye on the weather systems.