Eastering

Easter may be a noun defined by a day of family gathering, celebrations like egghunts and pastel dresses, and a special church service. But  Easter is more – an action word.  Like wonder and worship, it is also a verb.

“It is like a display of spiritual fireworks dazzling us with each burst: LIfe! Power! Love! Triumph! Transformation! Hope! Joy!”     ~  Bobby Gross,   Living the Christian Year

Journey Home

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Two days ago I traveled home to the Autumn woods of East Texas. There we celebrated the life and final home-going of my brother-in-law.

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Color left the trees and bled into the sky as we turned south to head home.

 

 

City lights and sights say “welcome home.”

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“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.”

Herman Melville

 

 

Wake

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Lichen growing on the gravestone of Opal and Howard Teal, Bullard, Texas

“…their wake reaches us, rocks us.”   ~ Denise Levertov

When I visit the graves of my parents, I am not visiting them, I am remembering them, along with many other family members.  In the Bullard, Texas cemetery are graves belonging to a number of aunts, uncles, maternal and paternal grandparents and even great grand parents. Lichen spreads and clings to the stones and reminds  me of the spreading and clinging of their stories in  my life.  As the poet quoted above suggests, their “wake” reaches and rocks” me.   I have  been cradled in their love and faith. I remember.  Without opening a single page of written family history, I thank God for lives lived, names that roll easily off my tongue.

Opal and HOward Teal

Veda and Woodrow Teal

Clyde and Ky Terrell

Ida and Tom Teal

Edna and Leo Warnick

Lela and Dewey Kirkpatrick

Wayne Kirkpatirick

Earnestine Matilde Curley

John Wesley and Elen Terrell

Vinnon Grady Terrell

Alice Stripling

plus many others whose names and stories I know even though I may not bring them to my mind at this moment, some who lived and died before I was born!

Alleluia!

For All the Saints (1864)

For all the saints who from their labor rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine.
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia.

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

William How

Remember

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“Judas, Peter”

because we are all
betrayers, taking
silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves
but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break our hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me?
—Luci Shaw,

 

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Little Ones

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The Littlest Shepherd…

There is so much about Christmas days that involves children. In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens  wrote “it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”  

In the singing and ringing, the laughing, standing-on-tiptoe, eyes sparkling joy of children, we experience fresh joy ourselves. Each year when our boys were young, our family began and continued traditions that were then and still are important to all of us.  I love seeing many of those being carried into their own homes today. This is little Nora’s first Christmas. She delights in  the sights and smells and sounds, and trusts her parents, her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins as we hold her and share this beauty. She does not expect it all, but she experiences it, learning and laughing. Trusting because she feels our love and care.

When I read the gospel message that we are to become like little children, I think of that quality of childlike trust.  I want to experience all of Christmas like Nora – laughing, learning, trusting.

 

Standing Still in the Light

  • IMG_1514The first step to peace is to stand still in the light. ~ George Fox

 

There is a hush in the house that is different in quality this morning, after yesterday’s gathering for Christmas Day.  Before I go back to the kitchen to finish cleanup from our festive meal, before I make a grocery list to ready for our other children and grandchildren who arrive this week, even before I sit down at the piano to enjoy playing the old carols again just for Joe and me, I claim moments  of this quiet to sit in the dark with only the twinkling tree lights and be still.  I hear again in my mind the words of the song often heard sung around the world at this time of year. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.?

 

 

Bread

IMG_0133 Advent preparation resembles the process that occurs when I bake bread.The work of milling has crushed the grains of wheat.  I choose the grains, gather the ingredients, add them in a deliberate way and begin to work, one step at at a time. But having the yeast, flour,liquid, salt and seasoning in the bowl does not mean there is not still work to be done. As I mix and stir these together, a new work begins – one of my efforts and one that is entirely the result of what has been gathered together to create new dough, a life of its own. As I turn the dough onto a floured cloth and sink my hands into its softness to knead, an ancient chemistry begins to stretch and change, creating flavor and fragrance and nourishment. The heat of the oven finishes this alchemy. This kitchen mystery is a reflection of  Advent Mystery.

 

don’t wait

to celebrate

one who hears

kneads dough with her hands

sets bread to rise,

breathing fragrant prayer

tasting this wisdom

now

 

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Surprised by God

IMG_1406This folk art crèche from Mexico was given to us as a 25th wedding anniversary present.  We lived then in Indonesia, and many of our friends were expats who had lived around the world.  The couple who gave it  had names similar to ours and the gift tag read  “A Mary and Joe from Mary and Joe to Mary and Joe!’

Thinking of Mary and gentle Joseph as simple Joe and Mary somehow gives another dimension to these little nativity figures. seeing my sweet granddaughters as they laugh and cry and run to hug me helps me give flesh to Mary , too. In her innocence, trust,  and willingness to say yes to what seemed impossible, she modeled for me the miraculous outcome of being surprised by God.  This touches me in a way that none of the Madonna masterpieces in all of art history.

Announcement

Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes

across yellowed parchment, the fine detail

of hand and breast and the fall of cloth –

Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Rouault – each complex madonna plotted at last

on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final

draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.

But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance

to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or

for heart. The moment was on her unaware;

the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,

the response without reflection. Only one

word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s How?

The teen head tilted in light, the hand

trembling a little at the throat the candid

eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory –

“Be it unto me as you have said.”

from Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnationn, by Luci Shaw

Waiting, Watching

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Outside my dining room window we planted Holly. The plants were no more than large bushes when they went into the ground almost 10 years ago, but now they have surpassed their intended purpose, which was to grow tall and branch out and give us a lovely green screen in front of our fence . Each year, they produce enough holly branches and red berries to decorate the whole neighborhood with fresh holly. But the berries are unformed in the beginning, then small  green nubs which swell. Around Thanksgiving, or our first colder weather,I begin looking out the window to watch as  the berries take on a blush, deepening to a burnt orange, before finally glowing Christmas red. As I wait and watch, the right time comes to bring some branches and berries inside for our own “hanging of the green.”

Advent’s theme involves waiting and watching while preparing for the coming Christ. As I wake and greet God’s new mercies each morning during Advent, the color in this ancient story deepens. As I wait and watch and reach, the time grows nearer for me to gather the brilliant mystery once again and celebrate.

Let It Begin Again

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sitting in early morning darkness

waiting for slivers of dawn

I light one candle,

dispelling this room’s darkness

sunday morning in church

one purple candle will flicker

all signs of beginning

the ancient Advent story

of dark need

of light coming

again