Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Anxiety of Home Repair

I am trying to enjoy some quiet before the construction begins.  I think that today's work includes dismantling the old shower, before we have the new shower ready.  We thought the new shower was ready, and then my spouse took a shower last night, and I noticed water on the floor in the adjoining room.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Oh, how I hate plumbing work.  But really, these days, all home repair sets my nerves on edge.  Yesterday, the construction crew was installing doors while my spouse installed plumbing, and I fought off anxiety all day.  I was doing a passable job until the water in the floor in the evening.

I do wonder what it would be like to have a normal response to home repairs and remodeling--instead of thinking of all that could go wrong, what would it be like to visualize best case scenarios?  That will never be me alas.  We've had a lifetime of fixer-uppers, and my capacity to visualize best case scenarios is completely zapped.

Yesterday was not completely stressful.  I polished some poems and wrote a bit more on another poem, the one about Noah's wife buying strawberries.  I got a lot of grading done.  I helped by going to Lowe's and doing a bit of grocery shopping.  I submitted grades for two classes.  I took a walk in the glorious afternoon weather.

One of the most enjoyable things was going up to the camp office to help with a project for summer.  We're gluing popsicle sticks into squares that will frame a drawing the campers will make.  The frames will be fastened together to be a lamp shade.  The group of people from the residential area of Lutheridge (the camp) sat and glued and chatted about a wide range of things.  It's a strange kind of service, but it made me happy.

It's the kind of thing I envisioned doing for so many years when I thought about moving up here.  I'm glad there's still a chance to do it.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Three Funerals, Greening Branches, and Revisions

I am feeling a bit fragmented this morning, and I really need to be grading--but of course, most mornings I really need to be grading.  I am tired, the way I am on most Mondays, a good tired from having done fulfilling activities during the week-end but also the not so good kind of tired from getting up a bit too early.  Let me capture some fragments, which I may develop into full-blown blog posts later.

--On Saturday, I officiated (led?  Not sure what the proper term is) my first funeral.  My mom's cousin entered hospice earlier this year, and when he asked if I would do it, I didn't hesitate.  We had time to plan what he wanted, which made being part of the process a good first experience.

--On Saturday, one of my good church friends from our Florida church had a funeral for her husband, followed by a funeral on Sunday for a choir mate from the Florida church.  We had not seen the choir mate since pre-Covid times, but we did see his wife, who plays the flute.  Three funerals in one week-end feels sobering.

--My mom's cousin had a green burial, which means he was buried in a bamboo casket in a place that was more a forest than a cemetery.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  Of course, it helped that we had lovely weather.  I wouldn't want to go to a green funeral in August in South Carolina.

--As funerals can be, it also functioned as a mini family reunion.  I always think, I should see these people more often, at least once a year!  But there are only so many travel dates in a year, and thus, the years slip by.

--The years slip by and children become adults with children of their own.  I attended the baptisms of my mom's cousin's children, and I spent some time on Saturday remembering how delightful elementary school children can be.  As always, when I am around delightful children, I wonder what we've missed by making the conscious decision not to have children.

--Yesterday's children's sermon went well.  I took the only mostly dead hydrangea bush to church with me.  It does have two living shoots.  I said that some years, we feel like the dried out part of the plant, but if we hold on, we'll see living shoots in our lives again.  It was much more compelling when I preached it than when I wrote about it.

--Oddly, my sermon about abiding with Jesus being a better translation than believing in Jesus was more compelling on the page than when I preached it.  Or maybe it was compelling.  It's hard for me to know.  I knew I didn't want to preach on how we must bear fruit so that we're not thrown into the fire.  I loved the idea of abiding with Jesus who will nourish us and letting God be in charge of fruit.

--Speaking of branches coming back from the dead, everywhere I look, the trees have leaves.  I know it's not remarkable.  It's late April, after all.  But it feels sudden.  I looked out the window in the pre-dawn light, and leaves block the light from the solitary streetlight, which hasn't happened since October.

--Driving across the mountains yesterday, a similar feeling as I looked at the rock faces, now covered with green trees.  The bare branches of trees don't make the same kind of contrast.  And I can see the progress of the green up to the higher mountain ranges, which are barely green at this point.

--I love the drive across the mountains to Bristol, Tennessee to preach each week.  The view never fails to take my breath away.

--We spent time yesterday on the phone with loved ones that we didn't see on Saturday.  I forget how satisfying a phone call can be.

--I also spent time stitching scraps together, another satisfaction.

--And this morning, I put the finishing touches on the rough draft of a poem.  It is now in the final drafts folder, and occasionally, I'll submit it to the few publications that don't require an exorbitant entry fee (exorbitant = anything over $2).  I rarely finish the rough draft to polished part of writing these days, and I wonder if it's because I'm not submitting much.

--The part of poetry that's most valuable to me is the seeing something with fresh eyes and making surprising connections.  The polishing is important because I can sometimes get a new insight, but that happens more rarely.  It's fun to polish, in some ways, but not as full of delight.

--Today may be the day that our open floor plan comes to an end.  For part of the year, we had no interior walls and no interior doors except for one bathroom door.  Today, we get doors hung to go with the drywall that got hung last month.  

--When people on design shows go into houses with perfectly good kitchens and natter on about the open concept they prefer, I think, "You have no idea what you're requesting."  And if I didn't have to live in the house while it was being remodeled, I wouldn't either.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Abiding with Jesus, the True Vine

I made this Facebook post this morning:  "In a few hours I will preach on John 15: 1-8, and instead of focusing on fruit and the fire that non-producing branches face, I will preach on the idea of abiding with Jesus, the true vine. Abide is a word that the writer of the Gospel of John uses frequently, and perhaps even more than we thought. The Greek word often gets translated as "believe," but "abide" might be the truer translation. How would our approach to faith change if we had heard "Abide in me" instead of "Believe in me" through the ages?"

I am thinking of all the scraggly plants I've known, plants I've been sure had died, but suddenly sprouted new leaves. I am taking one of those plants with me for a sermon visual.

Here are the closing paragraphs of my sermon on John 15: 1-8:

The Gospel of John uses the word “abide” more than any other book in the Bible, and there’s reason to think that often when translators have used the word “Believe,” that a better translation might be “Abide.” And this bit of translation goes even wider. Think about one of the more durable ideas of Heaven that we find in John, John 14: 2 where Jesus says, “ In my Father's house are many mansions”—a better translation might be dwelling places, not mansions. The Greek might be key here: Mone—dwelling places; meno—abide—same Greek root.

I am not a Greek scholar, so I’m relying on the work of others. But with that idea in mind, we could also translate the verse this way: “In my father’s house are many abiding places.” I love that language, abiding place. Even though I don’t think of vines and branches when I think of abiding places, they are images meant to convey a similar concept. One Gospel commentator puts it this way: “So the vine image is another way of talking about abiding places (places where one is deeply at home), and both the vine and the abiding places are ways of talking about love.”

These images remind us that there are many ways of being deeply at home with the Divine, in whatever incarnation we envision God. Maybe it’s centering prayer. Maybe it’s Sabbath time, where we turn off our electronics and settle in for a Sunday afternoon with the Creator and the birds. Maybe the Holy Spirit calls us to take the Good News to new places. Maybe it’s spending time returning to the parables of Jesus, thinking about what they mean for the twentieth century.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus calls us to abide with him, and that process of being deeply at home with Jesus is ongoing—and it will be incomplete. At some point, we will die, and there will still be work left to do. But when we die, it will be a homecoming, not a withering, not a burning. Jesus promises that if we abide in him, we will bear good fruit. We don’t have to spend time trying to decide what kind of good fruit to bear. We don’t have to evaluate the fruit. There’s no need to judge the fruit of others. God, the master gardener, knows the needs of creation, and does the pruning, the fertilizing, the watering, the nurturing to keep the vineyard fruitful. Our task, our mission—to abide with Jesus, to let Jesus nourish us.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Baptismo Sum

When we were experimenting with glass etching cream on Thursday, my spouse wanted me to look up the Latin phrase "Baptismo Sum."  We've both been taught that Martin Luther used it as he washed each morning, saying "I am baptized" in Latin so that he remembered this essential truth each day.

So I Googled it and said, "Look, there's my poem."  It was published in Sojourners in 2005, and I am so delighted that it comes up first or second in a search for the Latin word.  True to Google form lately, I couldn't find out what I wanted to know.  But instead of my usual frustration at how bad search engines have become, I had the happiness of being bounced to a poem of mine--a poem that holds up.

I'll paste the poem below, since Sojourners does limit how many articles one can view.  But if you want to see it at the Sojourners site, go here.  Sadly, the artwork that originally appeared with it is not there, but the poem is preserved.

Baptismo Sum

In this month of dehydration,
we keep our eyes skyward, both to watch
for rain and to avoid the scorn
of the scorched succulents who reproach
us silently, saying, "You promised to care."

And so, although we thought we could stick
these seedlings in the ground and leave
them to their own devices, we haul
hoses and buckets of water to the outer edges
of the yard where the hose will not reach.

The idea of a desert seduces,
as it did the Desert Fathers, who fled
the corruption of the cities to contemplate
theology surrounded by sand
and stinging winds. My thoughts travel
to the Sanctuary Movement, contemporary Christians
who risked all to rescue illegal aliens.
I admire their faith, tested in that desert crucible.
I could create my own patch of desert in tribute.

Yet deserts do not always sanctify.
I think of the Atomic Fathers
who hauled equipment into the New Mexico
desert and littered the landscape with fallout
which litters our lives, a new religion,
generations transformed in the light of the Trinity test site.

I back away from my Darwinian, desert dreams.
The three most popular religions
in the world emerged from their dry desert
roots, preaching the literal and symbolic primacy
of water, leaving the arid ranges behind
as they flowed toward temperance.

I cannot reject the religion of my ancestors,
who spent every day of their lives
remembering their baptism before heading to the fields
to make the dirt dream in colors.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Eschatology: Protests and End Times

It is a strange moment in history--or maybe it won't be at all.  Let me capture some thoughts, so that in later years, when I wonder why I didn't write about _______, maybe I can reconstruct.

--It's been a week where more campuses across the nation join the protests that have been happening at Ivy League campuses.  From what I can tell from a distance, these protests are pro-Palestinian, but some of the protestors have tipped into ugly, ugly antisemitism, some of it tinged with misogyny (and some of it dripping with misogyny).

--I think of anti-apartheid protests on campuses during my student days.  No college commencements had to be cancelled, not any that I remember.  The demand to divest from South Africa seems more doable than the demands that today's students are making.  I do realize that I'm biased.

--I think of my history of teaching, and how few radicalized students I've had.  Far more common was the discussion that we had during the Iraq war in 2004, where a few male students decided to join legitimate companies that would send them abroad as mercenaries--what did we call them then?  Why can't I remember?  They didn't want to join the military because the pay as a mercenary was much, much better, and the time period required to commit was far less.  They were aware of the danger, and they were aware that their ability to earn really good money in a short period of time was very limited.  They saw it as an opportunity, and some of them took it; I have no idea if they survived.

--As I heard about various administrators at campuses making a variety of decisions, I have been so glad that I am not an administrator anymore, even though I've never been an administrator at a college where students were going to demonstrate and shut down parts of campus life.  As with the students who went off to be mercenaries, most of the students I've known have had to work multiple jobs and juggle family commitments.

--Last night, as I saw the news that USC (the USC in California, not my alma mater) had cancelled graduation, I was attending my last class meeting of Systematic Theology.  We were all on Zoom, and I thought about the fact that we were talking about the doctrine of Eschatology and all the ways we've interpreted the End Times both as Church and as individuals as the U.S. seems to be inching closer to all sorts of End Times.

--I was already expecting this summer to be full of bad news, but I was expecting hurricanes and other types of bad weather.  We've had about 420 days (13 months) of record breaking ocean temperatures, with 2023 being off the charts, and 2024 being even higher.  I am so glad that I don't own a home in a hurricane or flood zone anymore.

--I am also glad that I don't live in Chicago.  I am glad that I'm not going to be at the Democratic National Convention this summer.  Will it be a repeat of 1968?  Or by then, will we have issues with China taking all of our attention?

--Perhaps I have China on the brain because I just finished 2034, a book which has a confrontation with China as the apocalyptic trigger.

--My spouse wanted to experiment with glass etching paste and the tiles that we're using in our bathroom.  So yesterday we went to Michaels, got supplies, and spent a fun afternoon seeing what the supplies can do.  We did some experimenting with strawberries, creating a sauce for our grilled chicken.  It was delightful to have some creativity time on a sunny, Spring afternoon before my last Systematic Theology class in the evening.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Strawberries at the End of the Semester

Yesterday was the last day of in person classes at Spartanburg Methodist College; we still have final exams, but I don't need to be on campus for those.  It was strange to say, "Have a good summer!" on April 23 as we left each other.

It was also strange to hear about all the various pro-Palestine demonstrations on Ivy League campuses, who are on a similar schedule.  My campus was very empty, with many students not coming to campus.  It's hard to imagine them protesting.  Back in the fall, about a week after the October 7 Hamas attacks, I asked one of my classes if they felt distress.  Most of them had no idea what events I was referring to, and one of them wanted to know who was making money from it all.  We talked about war and munitions and who makes money, but we didn't spend much time on the historic conditions underlying the conflict.

I got to campus feeling frazzled yesterday morning.  I usually zip down the mountains and get to campus early.  Even if there's road construction early, it doesn't lead to the kind of congestion early in the morning like it does later in the day.

Yesterday was different.  Something had happened the exit before the one where I usually exit to get to campus, and the whole interstate was shut down for awhile.  Happily, I had phone numbers plugged into my phone, so I was able to call the office to alert them.  I got to campus minutes before class was to start.

I spent the day feeling tired and a bit off, in part because of the morning traffic troubles and in part because of the time of the semester.  Happily it was not a day that needed me to be my high energy self.  

As I drove home, I noticed the signs by the highway advertising fresh from the farm strawberries.  I decided to stop, and happily, the roadside stand was right at the exit.  

I bought a big basket of berries, along with some onions and sweet potatoes.  Today I'll make some sweet biscuits to go with them.  My grandmother always made a yellow cake to make a  strawberry shortcake, but I prefer biscuits or pound cake.

I haven't emptied out the basket yet.  Hopefully I won't discover they're all moldy.  I did ask the woman in charge of the farm stand about pesticides:  "Could I eat a few berries on my way home?"

She answered, "Yes, ma'am.  I eat them all day, every day, straight from the field."

I love having farm stands on my commute, even though my commute is done for the summer (summer!).  I love buying a big basket of berries for $16.00 and figuring out what to do with them.  I thought we might have berries alone for dessert last night, but we did not.

We will have berries today, as I move from into the grading portion of semester's end.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Systematic Theology Rough Draft Process

As is usual on a Tuesday or a Thursday, I have less time to write.  Soon I need to get ready to head down the mountain to Spartanburg Methodist College--but today is the last day of face to face classes for me this semester.

Yesterday, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew that the tile crew would return.  I knew that I had plenty of tasks to do at my desk, and my spouse has a wide variety of home repair tasks to choose from each day.  I sat at my desk and got to work.

I got grading done and e-mails done and a bit of writing revision, the tinkering just before a paper gets turned in kind of revision.  I went for a walk in the chilly Spring air--chilly, but in a crisp way, not in a kill the plants way.  The sky was so blue, and the landscape is filling in; soon we won't be able to see much beyond the roadside but green, green, green.

As I came to the end of the road by the lake, I had a vision for how to write my final paper for Systematic Theology.  I've had lots of ideas for what I want to say, but no idea for how to organize it.  I came home knowing what to do, and I sat down to do it.  I organized it by doctrines of the Church that have worked together in a less good way than they could have:  Soteriology (salvation), Ecclesiology (the Church), Eschatology (end times), and Creation.  To sum up:  our focus on salvation for individual sin coupled with our belief that we're just here as a holding place before heaven has left societal "sin" running rampant, putting all of creation at risk.  

I have a complete rough draft!  I just need to go back to add some quotes, and do some polishing.  I didn't think it would come together that easily.  I expected to have a skeleton at the end of the day, 4 pages that could be expanded later.  But I have nine full pages, so getting to the 15-20 page requirement will not be a problem.  

It's a relief.  In some ways, this should be an easy paper to write; we have a lot more latitude since it's our final paper for the two semester Systematic Theology paper.  But that latitude made me cautious.  I also have a paper to write for my Environmental History of Christianity (EHC) class, so I don't want to use similar ideas and get flagged for plagiarism--that, too, made me cautious.  

The paper I just wrote is not likely to overlap with the paper I will be writing for my EHC class, which is due May 11.  I'll be using different outside sources for each.

It feels good to have a rough draft.  I still have much work to do;  with all the classes that I'm teaching and taking, I have at least 5 deadlines to keep in mind, with smaller deadlines along the way.  But in some ways, that's easier than if they all came crashing to an end during the same week.  Steady, steady, and it will get done.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Hearing Voices--Or Not--A Children's Sermon Success Story

My day is quickly filling up as the various ends of semesters all come into sight.  But let me record a moment from yesterday's worship service at Faith Lutheran that went really well.

Yesterday's Gospel was John 10:  11-18, which talks about the sheep hearing the shepherd's voice.  For the youth sermon, I wanted to demonstrate how hard it can be to hear individual voices when there's so much noise, and how hard it can be to hear God's voice in the midst of all the noise.

Before the service started, I wrote statements on paper slips, like "Hey, sheep, come here and I'll make you a star."  "Hey, sheep, I can make you rich."  At a moment in the sermon, I orchestrated the adults in the background to say all their lines at once, and if they didn't have a line, they could say, "Hey, sheep, over here."  The youth would listen and try to decide which voice to follow.

I was surprised by what a cacophony happened when everyone spoke/shouted at once.  When I had the congregation stop, I asked the youth which voice they would follow, and then I asked if they could hear any individual voice.  They could not.

It worked beautifully to demonstrate my message.  And then, we were able to talk about how we hear God's voice:  in silence, in church, in songs, in reading, in being in community with people who want the best for you, in prayer.

I felt like my adult sermon went well too, and what makes me happier is that I was feeling very stymied on Saturday morning.  By evening, after much prayer and thought and writing and discussing with my spouse, I had two sermons that worked.

It won't always be that way, I know.  But I'm always grateful when inspiration comes, even if it's at the eleventh hour.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Spring vs. Autumn in the Mountains

The weather has shifted a bit here in the Southern Appalachians.  We had summerlike weather for much of the week, where I went for a walk amidst the dogwood blooms and azaleas and returned home dripping with sweat.

Today we're back to chilly rain.  It's much more autumnal than spring.

I went for a walk with a neighborhood friend, and we talked about which we preferred, autumn in the mountains (me) or spring (her).  We're both artists of varying types, so we have an eye for color and texture.  She loves the various flowers and so many shades of green.  I am partial to autumnal leaves.

But I love every season here so far.  I like the austere grays and browns of winter too.  Each Sunday as we've driven across the mountains, I've enjoyed seeing the face of the craggy rocks left behind when the interstate was created, the face that is often obscured by trees in other seasons.  It's wonderful to enjoy the lushness of summer without sweltering heat or fear of hurricanes.

Speaking of driving across the mountains, it's time to put on my church clothes and make that drive to Faith Lutheran, in Bristol, Tennessee.  If you want a sneak peak at the end of the sermon, head over to this post on my theology blog.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Communal Poetry Project

Two years ago, I was part of a seminary class that studied Jericho Brown's duplexes.  As part of my final project, I wrote some duplexes of my own.  I went through my poetry notebooks looking for lines that didn't make it into a poem, and I created a Word document of them.  I ended up with lots of abandoned lines in a big document, and I return to the document periodically when I need inspiration.

This week, I used those lines in a different way.  I needed something different to do with my English 100 class.  I decided to celebrate National Poetry Month with a communal poetry project.  Along the way, I talked about how doing different kinds of writing can make us feel refreshed when we return to academic writing, so it wasn't only a diversion.

I took the document that I created a few weeks ago as part of my internship.  I was trying to create a Mad Libs kind of thing to prompt people to tell their spiritual stories, and I modified it for the poetry project.  I knew that these students needed something to get their creative ideas flowing--or to have something to use in case they didn't get any creative ideas at all.  I created a fill in the blank document that would prompt them to make a list of nouns, verbs, emotions, and then a different fill in the blank document with words missing from lines from famous poems ("Hope is a thing with ______"), hymns ("Oh for a thousand tongues to _____") and pop songs ("You turn me round and round like a _______").

Before class, I cut up the lines from my abandoned lines document and put them in a bowl.  We had a time of taking those lines and adding lines.  If nothing came to them, they could use one of the items from the Mad Libs documents.  At one point, I collected slips with my line and the student line and gave them to a different student to write a new line.  Students ended up with 9-15 slips of paper on their individual tables.

Before class, I had rearranged the tables (I love a classroom with tables that are mobile!).  On the back tables, I taped blank paper, which created 9 blank documents for my analogue cut and paste.  I brought tape with me to class, and I gave students a piece of tape and had them go tape a slip to the longer sheet of paper.  It wasn't as chaotic as I thought it might be. 

We ended up with pieces of paper that were fairly full, but still had space.  I mention this because I wasn't sure how many blank sheets to create.  And as students walked back and forth, they had plenty of room.  Ten students participated, so I'm not sure how this would work with larger groups.  I'd probably have a few more blank documents.

I then read each of the communal poems out loud.  It was interesting to see how the lines spoke to each other.  I talked about the kinds of academic papers we might write if we were asked to write about poems like these.  I also asked about their process.  Only three students read the slips that were already there as they thought about where to tape their own slips.  The process for most students was fairly random, and I was amazed at how the poems held together.

At the end of class, I had students write about the process to tell me what they thought.  Three students said that their favorite part was when I read each poem; that made me happy, because I felt a little unsure of that part.  And the best part--one student talked at great length about how amazing the experience was, the whole process.  Hurrah!

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post confessing that I was failing National Poetry Month.  Yesterday, I feel like I succeeded.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Internship's End

Last night, my internship experience came to a close--it was a natural end, nothing dire.  But it does feel like an event worth noting.

First, some background.  Wesley handles internships differently than some  schools.  It's a part-time job coupled with a class where we meet each week to process our experiences together as a group.  The part-time position can be in a church, the typical learning to be a parish pastor kind of job.  But it could also be in any number of other settings, from prisons to hospitals to non-profits.  If a seminarian has a specific vision, as I did, she can file the paperwork to have her site considered.

I was lucky to have this flexibility.  When I was thinking about possibilities, I wasn't sure where I would be living.  The campus housing was slated to be torn down, and I was mulling over options.  I decided that an internship that I could do remotely made sense.  I had been impressed with the way the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA offered online options for spiritual growth, so I reached out to them.  They were agreeable, and happily, the paperwork was not too onerous.  I know that Synod staff are busy folks, and I hated making paperwork requests.

During my seminary journey, I've never been too worried about traditional classes:  I know that I can write, and I can read rigorous books and journal articles, and I have little problem meeting class deadlines.  But the internship process worried me a bit, with its additional parts:  class instructors, internship staff from the school, and Synod staff.  Happily, everything went smoothly.

When I first started at Wesley, the internship stretched over two years, with the class meeting every other week.  I prefer the more intense model that I just completed.  Much can go wrong over two years, and I would hate to have to start over.  Much can go wrong over one year, and I'm glad to have this requirement completed.

When I talk about much that can go wrong, I know that may sound like I'm being a bit of a drama queen.  But I've seen classmates derailed by events, like the death of the mother who was providing childcare or a pregnancy that turned problematic or any number of other health problems.  I know that internship sites that seem fantastic can change.  I feel fortunate that I didn't have any stumbling blocks.

I also feel fortunate that my internship journey has been filled with wonderful people, people I worked with directly and indirectly at the Synod level, faculty, classmates.  I have felt supported and nurtured at every turn.  I know that not everyone gets that experience, and I am so grateful that I have had the experience that I just completed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Wednesday Wanderings: Spring Air and Step Counting

Another day of feeling a bit fragmented now, but better than past mornings.  Let me record some thoughts and see if I discern a thread:

--Last night is the first night where I didn't wake up congested and unable to breathe in the middle of the night.  I am a bit more rested today.

--I am also a bit more rested because I didn't go to Pub Theology last night so that I could go to bed early, and then I did go to bed early.  I was sleeping before the sky was dark, around 8:15.

--When the Indiglo feature of my watch failed, I decided it was time to buy a new Timex.  I got the one that counts my steps.  I am hoping to use that feature to get my health goals back on track.  I am still a bit distressed and depressed over how much weight I've gained in the past year, somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds.  In one year!  In some ways, it's a genetic gift, this ability to store calories.  But it's a genetic gift that would be useful in a very different kind of environment, one where food wasn't secure.

--I need to buckle down and just count calories.  I hate tracking calories.  I've used various apps.  This morning, I was thinking about giving myself permission not to keep track of calories if I hit 10,000 steps.  Of course, I don't hit that step goal until late in the day.

--This morning, I'm feeling less fractured because I have been hitting my step goal consistently for a week.  I have also made it up to the weight room twice each week, which is my goal.  But I've been wondering if perhaps I should just pop in during each walk that I take by myself.  Not worry about reps particularly, just do a round of arm exercises.

--I am intrigued by how many students don't come for conferences they signed up for.  In all my years of teaching, that hasn't happened.  Of course, the last time I taught face to face when I could cancel classes and have conferences was thirty years ago.  Still, it's odd.

--I did get a lot of seminary work done yesterday while waiting in my office for students.  That, too, has helped me feel better this morning than I felt Monday morning.  Even though I know that I can crank words out, I feel better for having done it.

--It's been so warm this week that we've slept with our bedroom window open.  There's a fresh, spring smell in the bedroom that I never had in South Florida, even when I opened windows, on the rare weeks that the temperatures were cool enough to open windows in South Florida.

--The tile work in the hall bathroom is going well.  We have spent some time wondering if we've chosen tile that replicates that linoleum that we had in South Florida that tried to replicate Moroccan slate.  It's beautiful tile in the same way that the linoleum was beautiful.

--Speaking of tile work, time to get ready for this morning's arrival of the tile guys.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cutting Paper for the Process Project

Before we get too far away from a teaching success story, let me record it.  First, some background.  Long ago, to teach the process/how to essay, I had students create something out of Legos and then write instructions so that others could make the same creation.  It was never easy creating those directions.  Was it better than the typical process/how to essay experience?  I thought so.

Years went by, and I moved from teaching to administration.  The Lego bucket took up room in my closet, and I gave it away.  But now I'm back to teaching in person.  So, instead of the typical process essay, I returned to the variation of the Lego project that I documented in this blog post.  It involves cut up paper shapes.

I was feeling weary thinking of all the paper I would need to cut.  And then I thought, no, let the students cut the paper.  They would retain a bag of shapes for themselves, and with the extra shapes they generated, I required them to choose two more shapes.

It was meditative, watching them cut paper.  And I had them create a daily writing assignment about the process of cutting paper, so there was some writing involved.  It wasn't just a day cutting paper.

They didn't realize it, but the cutting of the paper was the easiest part of the project.  This batch of students isn't great at creating instructions that anyone can follow.  Maybe nobody is.  But it's a good experience for them, good to wrestle with language at its most basic level:  take this shape and put it in relation to these other shapes.

Today we will wrestle with the language of the trees, in advance of Arbor Day, and Thursday we will wrestle with the language of poetry.  Classes are winding down, but there are still a few days left.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Failing at National Poetry Month

Once again, I am failing at National Poetry Month.  Once again, it barely registers.  Occasionally I see that someone is hosting a reading or actually doing a reading--or just reading extra poetry.  Or any poetry.  People weigh in with their wonderful news of books being published or books being accepted for publication, and I feel like I'm in a distant country thinking, oh, yes, I used to do that.

Part of the problem, as I have said before, is that National Poetry Month is in April, which is not a good month for me, and probably for many academics.  All of the classes that I'm teaching rev into high gear as we race to the ending.  I'm taking classes too, and similarly, those classes will be over at the end of April.  And I usually have at least one retreat.

But I do want to remember that I haven't actually failed.  I have been revising one poem, "Cassandra Keeps Her Own Counsel" and drafting another, "Good Friday at the Mammography Center."  I am trying not to remember past years when I might have been creating a poem a day.  Most of those poems from past years, created in a daily rush, weren't very good.  I feel much better about the two I've been working on.

Once I filled sheet after sheet in my purple legal pads.  I wonder if I'll ever go back to composing that way.  When I broke my right wrist two years ago (two years ago this very day), I had to experiment with composing a different way.  I no longer speak my poems into a Word doc, but I'm still drafting them that way.

So, maybe I'm not earning an F for National Poetry Month.  Maybe a D or a C-.  

I am kidding, of course.  There are no grades.  The poetry and process--those are the rewards.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunday Snippets to Capture a Week in Home Repairs and Fiber

I am not sure what my writing morning looks like--but there are hard deadlines ahead, like needing to be on the road by 7:30 to drive across the mountains to preach and preside at Faith Lutheran in Bristol, TN this morning (the service starts at 10, and all are welcome).  Let me record some thoughts before they slip away:

--Yesterday for two of my online classes that I teach, I sent out an e-mail reminding them of their last assignments.  Their last day is Friday, April 19.  As always, when we get to the end, I think about how it feels like just yesterday that I was entering dates into the syllabus thinking about how far away April seemed.

--Yesterday we went to the big box home repair stores early-ish in the morning, around 8.  They were eerily deserted, very unlike South Florida stores would have been on a Saturday morning.  I'm relieved, don't get me wrong.  And I still had to wait to get my paint color mixed, but it wasn't because there were 10 people ahead of me in line.  The paint guy had gone off to do something else, and it took awhile to find him.

--We are making progress on the house.  We go in a spurt, get things done, and then progress lags for a few weeks (or more).  We could blame this cycle on all kinds of things:  supply chain issues, shortage in dependable workers for things we can't do.  But as I look back over our whole lives, it's always been this way.

--On Friday, I made this Facebook post:  "Carl is distressing paint, the tile crew is listening to salsa music, and I have workplace training videos about workplace discrimination and harassment playing through my earbuds. These laws are not new to me, although this year, it's a different company that has created the training videos--listening to them with salsa music playing is surreal."

--And then two of the training videos wouldn't load.  Sigh.  I tried not to think about the fact that the last time I had completed these kinds of training videos, it was for a different school (same group of workers though, working on a different part of the house), and I got paid for my time, and I was able to access the videos and take the quizzes.

--I am so tired of being subjected to these videos that show all the ways that humans can be awful to each other in the workplace.  But I am glad that I am no longer the administrator who must make sure that everyone has done the training.

--I have been feeling stuffy for weeks:  is it because of drywall dust or allergies or a cold or paint fumes?  Yesterday when my throat started feeling scratchy, I took a Covid test, just in case.  It was negative.  So that's good.  This morning I'm back to feeling stuffy, but not throat scratchy.

--I went to the computer this morning wondering if we were at war with Iran, if the electronics would be working.  Or maybe this week-end's confrontation between Israel and Iran will be that kind of little thing that looks like it will lead us all to apocalypse but doesn't.

--I was sad to hear of the death of Faith Ringgold, but happy that she had a long, productive life.  And I am so grateful for all the work that she did to make people take fiber and fabric arts seriously.

--I was lucky to see her work periodically, and once, in a small gallery, where I could get close.  But what I remember most about that trip is the Art Appreciation instructor telling her students to pay close attention to the work and saying, "And Dr. Berkey-Abbott is a fiber artist too."

Friday, April 12, 2024

A Different Approach to Responsive Readings

Last week at the Create in Me retreat, we did some worship planning. In a way, it's a familiar aspect of the retreat. But this year was different: we had one person who had done the prep work in advance (choosing texts and music, thinking about the order of worship, recruiting some leaders) and worship prep was an afternoon option, not a morning requirement.

We didn't have as many people who wanted to participate, so some approaches wouldn't work as well. For example, in the past, a Word team might have acted out the Bible reading, but with just one person, that's not as viable. In the past, the Movement group might have put together a performance or brought silks for the congregation to use, but not this year.

In some ways, the final worship service was more participatory, which I didn't anticipate. We didn't have a Movement group, so we adapted one song to have movements that the whole worship congregation would do--and it worked.

I was in charge of the Word team, which was one other person. She read one passage, which was fine. But I wanted to do something different with the other two Bible passages. I thought about drafting people to help me act out a scene, and there probably would have been people who were willing. But in the worship prep afternoon session, we came up with a different idea: a responsive reading.

Most of us probably think of responsive reading as something we do with a Psalm. But I was happy to experiment, and so I spent an hour with the Ruth and Naomi text and the David and Jonathan text (our retreat had a friendship theme this year) and created the following. I'm posting it here, because the responsive reading went well, and I wanted to remember that it worked:

The Story Ruth, Read Responsively

Right Side

All our men have died, husbands, sons, and we are left alone.

Left Side

I advise the women who married my dead sons to go to the house of their mothers. Perhaps they can marry again. We cry together.

Right Side

We know that I am too old to remarry, but they are not.

Left Side

I cannot give them new sons. They should find someone else to marry.

Right Side

Orpah leaves, but Ruth does not.

Left Side

Ruth says, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live.

Right Side

Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

Left Side

Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.

Right Side

May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Left Side

If Ruth wants to come, I will not stop her. We go to the land of my people, Bethlehem. We get home just before the barley harvest.

The Story of David and Jonathan read responsively

Right Side

Jonathan loved David—the bond was immediate. They made a pact.

Left Side

To seal the pact, Jonathan gave David his robe, his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.

Right Side

David was successful in war—too successful.

Left Side

Jonathan’s father, King Saul, vowed to kill David.

Right Side

Jonathan warned David and came up with a plan to save him.

Left Side

David hid, while Jonathan reminded King Saul of all the good David had done.

Right Side

King Saul changed his mind and vowed that David would not die but live.

Left Side

In this way, Jonathan saved both David and his father.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Encountering the Text in New Ways

Before we get too far away from the Create in Me retreat, I want to make sure I record our experience with Bible Study, which was different from any we had ever done.  We had as our text Luke 5: 18-25, the story about a paralyzed man lowered through the roof where Jesus was teaching and healing.  We did some Ignatian types of meditation, imagining ourselves as part of the story.

Then we did a different kind of encountering of the text.  We were divided into groups, five to a table.  We listened to our leader read the story again, and we circled words that leapt out at us.  We listened to the story again, discerning the one word that was important.  Each member of the group shared their word, and we put them into an order.  It might have been a sentence that made sense or perhaps not.  Then we were given big sheets of paper and a stick of charcoal and we wrote the words over and over again.

My group's words were:  friend glorifying their faith friend.  My word was "their"--I was interested in faith as a collective action in verse 20:  "When he saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, our sins are forgiven you.'"

Here's the drawing on the first day:

I tried to fill up all the space, but we didn't have to do that.  I was interested in words on top of each other, but we didn't have to do that.  The member of our group that wrote words in a circle on the page ended up with a very different sketch that was also pleasing.  In fact, I liked everyone else's better than mine, but that's not an uncommon feeling for me.

The second day, we did a different interpretation of the story from Mark, and then we returned to our sketches.  We drew some more.  We were trying to be alert to see if shapes emerged, shapes or anything else.  I thought my paper looked like a big mess, so I did some smudging.  I took my finger and wrote the word "Friends" across the smudging.  Here's the result:

I wanted to play with color pastel, but those weren't the instructions.  In the future, I would add color.  I really enjoyed the meditative aspect of the work.  It reminded me of cutting paper, which I can find oddly soothing.

I thought this worked well as a group activity at a creativity retreat.  I wonder how it would work in other settings.  The charcoal can be very messy--a bonus and a drawback, depending on the group.

Did it provide deeper insights?  I'm not sure.  I preferred it to the Ignatian imagining.  But I do confess that today, just six days later, I couldn't remember which words we chose.  I remembered the word "friend" but not the others.

I am trying to come up with something to do with my English 100 class next week.  Maybe we'll try a version of this.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Poetry Scenes and the Teaching Life

We had hoped the work crew would have made significant progress on the bathroom install, but rain has interrupted the plan.  You might wonder why rain interrupts the plan--the tile cutting is done outside. Happily the person in charge stays in touch with us.  And even more happily, I don't feel like we're in a race against time, the way I would in South Florida, where, as Brian McNoldy reports, "We're now at 400 consecutive days of record-breaking ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic."

I still have a bit of sadness left over from yesterday.  It is sadness that makes no sense to me.  Why be sad about past houses, past jobs, when I am happy now, too?  And the job that I had in 2017 no longer exists, and the school I was at exists in name only, so it's a different sadness than the house sadness.  Actually, between affordability and sturdiness and climate hardiness, I am much happier in our current house.

I have also been reading about the closing of colleges, most recently the announcement yesterday that Goddard College would be closing.  Even in schools that are staying open, so many liberal arts programs are being cut.  I feel fortunate to be at Spartanburg Methodist College, but also a bit worried--how long can all of these small schools stay open?

It's not a new worry.  Even decades ago, when I was finishing the Ph.D., we had these discussions.  It's disheartening to see how we have devalued education.  It's disheartening to see students who can't put the phone down for five minutes at a time--in some ways, the connectivity of the smart phone is more of a threat to a good education than all these closings and actions of state legislators.

Again, I'm glad we're in a more affordable place, where we can drift into retirement, if need be.  I think some of my sadness is fueled by thinking about the grad student I was and the world she thought she would be inhabiting.  I'm also seeing poets with books in the world this year and feeling sorry for my own work.

I remind myself that I'm working on an MDiv, and that with luck, there will be time to return to the pursuit of poetry publication later.  Maybe I will be one of those poets who burst onto the national scene much later in life, giving hope to everyone who feels that time has passed them by.

Or maybe I will continue to create my poems in this much more quiet way I've developed, no bursting onto any scenes, national or otherwise.  I'll drink my tea, craft a poem, and work on a quilt--it's the kind of life I've always wanted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Eclipse Regrets

I now have eclipse regret.  Perhaps I should have gone on a quest for totality.  I knew we were going to be at 85% totality, and I thought that would be enough.  But now, seeing other people's pictures and reading about their experiences, I'm wondering if I should have made more of an effort.  After all, we won't have these opportunities often, at least not in driving distance.

I'm also feeling a tinge of sadness for other reasons.  I made this Facebook post yesterday afternoon:  "Strange to think about how much has changed since August 2017, the last time I viewed a solar eclipse. Back then, I wrote this conclusion to a blog post: 'Make plans now: August 12, 2045, my house will be on the path of full totality. If the rising seas haven't washed it away, you're all invited to my house. Full totality will be at 1:37 p.m.' That was my Florida house, now someone else's Florida house, and that post was just a few weeks before Hurricane Irma."

We stayed in that house for four more years, many of them years of trying to stay sane in the midst of home repairs from hurricane damage.  Sure, we were one of the lucky ones--our insurance paid for the repairs, with minimum struggle to get them to do it.  We thought it was going to be a struggle, with a need to send documentation about our contractor and to get said contractor to fill in reports periodically to get the funds released periodically--and then, out of the clear blue sky, the funds were released in one big check.

I spent the next four years expecting the insurance company to come and demand paperwork or demand their money back or somehow make my life more difficult.  Happily, they did not.

Thinking about 2017 makes me sad for all sorts of reasons.  Even though I didn't have the amount of leave accrued in my new job that would have let me go on a quest for totality, I was happy in that job at that moment.  We had just had a successful accreditation visit.  Our new president who was in charge of two campuses was still mostly at the Ft. Lauderdale campus, still mostly not concerned with my campus, the Hollywood campus.  It was all going to go badly in many different ways in the coming years, but if I had any sense of that fact, it was only a glimmer.

There's also some sadness because we spent that 2017 eclipse in and near the pool in our backyard; my sister and nephew were down for a visit, and we were having a marvelous time.  We still have a marvelous time together, but it's different now, in the normal ways that everything changes as we age.

I have spent time trying not to look back, but every so often, I'm stopped in my tracks.  Usually, I'm stopped for happiness.  If I could go back to 2017 Kristin and tell her how life has changed, she would be amazed:  a home in the mountains, almost done with an MDiv program, a part-time preaching position, and a teaching job at a small, liberal arts college.  That list represents lots of dreams coming true.  It also represents some severances:  something we don't always remember when we think about dreams coming true, that dreams coming true mean some dreams fade away.

It is time to get ready for that teaching job--off I go, soon, down the mountains to teach English at Spartanburg Methodist College.  I teach, while the bathroom install is happening here.  It will be good to be away.

Let me close with another Facebook post from yesterday:  "Today I looked at the sky and looked at the ground, hoping for interesting shadows during the eclipse. No interesting shadows, but I did realize for the first time that one of our spindly trees is a dogwood, one of my favorite trees."

All reactions

Monday, April 8, 2024

Preservation through Prose: Spiritual Memoir for Yourself or for Valued Elders

Instead of doing a big post looking back at the Create in Me retreat, I am much more likely this week to write a series of smaller posts.  This morning, we are hoping that our bathroom remodel gets underway, and I still have to go to campus this week.  In short, it's not going to be a week of lots of downtime.  I'm hoping for some downtime in May.

But before we get too far away from the retreat, let me remember my writing workshop on Saturday, a workshop called Preservation in Prose, a spiritual autobiography/memoir workshop.  It was a delightful group, even though there were only two people in addition to me and a person who came late.  And even more delightful--I got some writing done too.

What we did is adaptable for individual writers and for larger groups.  It's good to capture our own stories, and it's also a way to capture the stories of other people who aren't as interested in writing.

I began with a collection of objects on the table:  quilt squares (one old and tattered, one a take-away from Quilt Camp), a nail, a game piece, an Easter bunny sticker, a Scrabble tile--in short, anything I could find on various tables at the Create in Me retreat, plus some goodies from an Easter Egg hunt bag of treats prepared for kids.  We each chose one and wrote about why we chose it.  Then we discussed.

We moved to a different kind of imaginative writing.  First we imagined ourselves twenty to thirty years from now.  It's a variation of asking my students to imagine themselves as 80 year olds.  I had them write a letter from their older selves to the people they are now.  Then we did the same thing in reverse.  Have your late adolescent self write to the person you are now.

Then we made some lists like this one:

6 natural objects

6 humanmade objects

6 ordinary actions

6 art materials

We talked about metaphor, simile, and imagery--how can our concept of God change if we compare God to something on the list?  

From there, we filled in this list on one side of the handout that I created:

Detail of shift from one season to another ________________________________

Type of noise ________________________________________

Element of nature _____________________________________________

Type of emotion _________________________________________________

Favorite flower __________________________________________________

Something very tiny ________________________________________________

Floor or wall covering ______________________________________________

Something nourishing ________________________________________________

Favorite fruit __________________________________________________________

Element of self-care ______________________________________________

Something only found in a park _________________________________________

Something that oozes _____________________________________________

Favorite treat ________________________________________________________

Something that turns _______________________________________________

Favorite musical instrument ________________________________________________

Something that grinds ___________________________________________________

Something huge_____________________________________________________

Something only found in a big city ____________________________________

Favorite food made for you by an older generation ___________________________

Then we filled out this list with the items from the first list:

--A commitment to God helps us offer __________________________________.

--We yearn for the day when justice covers the earth like ______________________________.

--We are crushed into bits smaller than _____________________ by Powers and Principalities, by the forces of the world, by Satan.

--Truth rolls down through the valley like ________________________________________.

--When I work with God, it’s as if _______________________________________.

--When I think of redemption, I think of __________________________________.

--I first heard God’s call as __________________________________ .

--Evildoers cover their rotten foundations with _____________________________.

--We burn with __________________________________for the vision of new life that Jesus offers.

--I have seen the Holy Spirit moving through world like ________________________________.

--My spiritual history is like ___________________________________________.

--Injustice grinds us like a giant ____________________________________________.

--The____________________________ of justice turns slowly, but the turning does occur.

--The community of God is like _____________________________________________.

--The ___________________________of justice has found fertile soil in my heart.

--A partnership with God is like _________________________________________.

--_________________________grows in the garden of redemption.

My brain created some poem fragments that had nothing to do with the two lists--that was a delight too.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sermon Conclusions and Unexpected Blessings of a Retreat

I will write more about the Create in Me retreat when I have more time tomorrow.  Soon I will need to put on my presentable clothes and drive across the mountain to preach and preside at Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee.  One of the blessings of the retreat:  yesterday, it gave me a way to conclude my sermon on the disciples in the locked room and doubting Thomas:

God meets us where we are. I was at a creativity retreat at Lutheridge this week, and at the creative writing workshop I offered one woman said of her spiritual journey, “Jesus knocks on the door. All we have to do is answer it.” This week’s Gospel reading tells us that we don’t even have to open the door. If we’re too tired, too full of doubt and despair, Jesus doesn’t need us to do a dang thing. That’s the nature of grace. Before we even realize we need to open the door, Jesus appears, offering us what we need, getting us ready for what’s ahead.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Retreats and My Current Life

A few weeks ago, I was at Quilt Camp at Lutheridge.  This week I'm at a different retreat at Lutheridge, the Create in Me retreat.  Both of them make me happy, but in different ways.  Create in Me has a variety of activities, with workshops and Bible Study and much more involved worship services.  Quilt Camp gives us lots of time and space to work on our own projects that we bring with us.

When I'm at one, I'm missing the other.  Having gone to both for several years now, I know to expect this feeling.  I'm also missing past years, past people.  Again, I know to expect this, but it often makes me feel strange.

It's not a new revelation:  I'm happier when I'm not comparing experiences.  Still, it's so hard for me not to compare.

I've also been thinking about past years, about how sad I was as I made my way home to the flat land of Florida.  I've been thinking about how astonished past Kristin would be to find out that I had finally found a home in the mountains.

Of course, one of the disadvantages of a house here at Lutheridge is that I don't really feel like I'm on retreat, like I've been away, when I return to my house each night.  Of course, one of the advantages of my current life is that many of the elements of retreat life are present in my daily life.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Eclipse Glasses and Easter

I thought about crafting a sermon for the adults around the ideas of Easter and the eclipse.  But I decided to use the ideas for my children's sermon--in the church where I am Synod Appointed Minister, the adults listen to both the children's sermon and the one for the adults.

I ordered enough eclipse glasses for all, children and adults, and before the children's sermon, I gave each child a pair, had them put them on, and took a picture.  I've edited these pictures to protect the privacy of minors.

Then I had them take the glasses off.  For those of you who haven't gotten your eclipse glasses yet, these are very dark, as they should be.  If you put them on and can still see objects as you look through them, they won't protect your eyes when you stare at the sun.

I told the youth to be listening in the post-Easter readings, because people would have this same experience when they met the risen Jesus.  They wouldn't recognize him at first.  Then something would happen, usually involving food, and it would be as if they took their eclipse glasses off--suddenly they'd be able to see what was right in front of them.

Our lives are the same way.  God is at work in the world, but often, we can't see it.  Maybe we're wearing our eclipse glasses of grief, despair, or cynicism.  Maybe we're too anxious to look.  Maybe we're focused on the wrong thing, while something of celestial magnificence is happening.

Jesus appears, and gently, he reminds us to take off our eclipse glasses.  In the breaking of the bread, we recognize divine love.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Life in the Drywall Dust

Another fragmented morning.  Let me collect some fragments and see what mosaic might emerge:

--I sit here in the middle of drywall dust, trying to stay out of the way.  Those of you who have never seen a wall installed likely have no idea of the process.  A wall that is put together well has that inevitable feeling of having always been.  The seams are hidden away, the nails that connect the drywall to the studs blanketed beneath plaster.

--But it's good to see signs of progress.  I try hard not to think about how far we still have to go.  Those home remodel shows make it look so easy:  zip, zip, here's your new house.

--I have spent a lot of time this week feeling planted at a desk, both in a good way and a bad way.  I've gotten a lot done, as I sat at my desk trying to stay out of the way.  But I am feeling like I need to move more.

--Yesterday I stayed planted at my office desk at Spartanburg Methodist College.  I was meeting a friend for early dinner, so I stayed after my last class.

--I have gotten seminary writing done and other tasks too--tis the season for lots of grading.  I also did a bit of shopping.  I have enough clothes for teaching 2 days a week, but in the fall, when I go to five days a week, I needed one or two more sweaters to finish some outfits.  They are cheaper now than they will be in the fall.  If I got my order in before Land's End sold out of them, I should be set.

--Over the past two year, my apocalyptic gal's inner sense perked up at mention of bird flu getting into wild bird populations.  Now it's infected dairy cows.  Happily, there is a vaccine, although I don't think we know how well it works.  And it won't infect humans unless it gets deep in the lungs--that's what's kept it at bay this long.  But still . . . this is the pandemic I've been expecting for almost two decades.  It's not here yet, but it's closer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

One Last Look at Easter 2024

Before we get too far away from Easter Sunday, I want to record some memories.  It was a whirlwind day, in many ways.  But compared to other church folk, my day was laid back:  no sunrise service, no Easter egg hunt, only one service.  

In some ways it was like any other Sunday.  We got up early and got ready for church at Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee.  I had a decent enough Easter outfit, but as always, I didn't like my shoe options.  I decided to wear my special Easter socks that come just over my ankles with sandals.  It was warm enough for bare feet, but my feet are in rough shape--Maundy Thursday feet, not Easter feet.  It usually doesn't concern me, but Easter felt different.  In the past I've solved the problem with toenail polish, but I hadn't planned ahead.

I found a way to solve my sermon, did a bit of polishing, and printed it out.  We put our stuff in the car and headed across the mountains, which looked soft and furry in the early morning light.  I couldn't get a good shot of them, but this gives you an idea.

And later, when we stopped at the Tennessee Welcome Center where we always stop, I saw this glow in the mountains.  I knew it was a trick of clouds and sunlight.  But it had an Easter morning vibe that this view doesn't usually have.

We got to the church early-ish, before most folks, because we had no Sunday School.  The wooden cross sat outside, wrapped in chicken wire, empty.  But it wasn't long before people arrived and started filling it up with flowers.  When a parishioner offered to take our picture in front of it, we couldn't resist.

My spouse had suggested that in addition to unboxing the alleluias, we have noisemakers for everyone to shake when we say or sing an alleluia.  Faith Lutheran hadn't done that before, and it worked beautifully.  There was an energy in the church that isn't always there.

My sermons went well, both the children's sermon with eclipse glasses (more in a later blog post) and my sermon on the Gospel (if you want to read that sermon, I put it in this blog post).  There was a moment near the end where I felt like I might get a bit choked up at the idea of Jesus waiting for us further on up the road.  But I pulled myself together and finished the sermon.

After the service, several people told me I had done a marvelous job.  That might have just been the Easter energy.  Still, it was great to feel the Easter energy taking us all out into the world. 

And then we hopped in the car and drove back across the mountains--still beautiful, a subdued set of blues.  We stopped by the local grocery store just before we got home, and we picked up our Easter meal:  steak, potatoes, mushrooms, and red wine.  Not exactly traditional Easter, but we don't have traditional Easter meals in our house.

It was a good Easter, and I am guessing that in much later years, when I look back, I'll see it as one of the best Easters.