May 27, 2010


Charlotte, North Carolina, must have the best airport women's bathrooms of anywhere. They are clean and they have attendants! The woman who takes care of the bathroom in Concourse C is a treasure. She welcomes each person with a smile and a greeting. Traveling is stressful and a lot of us are not in the best mood, but she fixes that. "Come right in, ladies. Plenty of room. Take your seat and pour your own troubles!" It is impossible to leave without feeling less harried; it is impossible to leave without smiling.

Hers is not glamorous work, and I'm sure it doesn't pay very much. But she has made it a calling. She creates a little place of peace and fills it with her own contagious joy. She is doing honest work with integrity and grace. And what a world it would be if we all did that....

May 15, 2010

Saturday Sabbath

This is the busy season at the place where I work. It seems there is too much to do in the time we have over the next ten days. I have several things I need to complete before Monday, and I probably should have worked on them today. But it was a perfect May day. The sky was clear blue, the sun warm but not hot, and there was a little breeze blowing. So I hung the wash outside on the clothesline. I bought yellow begonias and planted them in my pretty blue pots for the front porch. I filled the little fountain in the front yard and got it going. I read a little bit. And tonight I will have dinner with friends.

The peril of technology is that there is no escape from the workplace anymore. It used to be possible to leave the office behind when I went home -- no more. Now it follows me everywhere, like a stalker almost. The scripture says that even God rested, took a deep breath, in the midst of work. So today I practiced being God-like -- I rested, I breathed, I played in my yard, I visited with my neighbor. And God saw that it was good.

May 9, 2010

How to eat peas

Go to the field.
Pick the first five fat pea pods of the season.
Pop them open with your thumb,
and eat them raw, right then and there!

May 7, 2010

Shopping at the Piggly Wiggly is a lovely experience, not a chore at all. The woman in the meat department does not find it at all strange to custom cut beef and pork chops for a vegetarian who knows nothing about meat. The assistant manager knows where everything is; and if they don't have something you want, all you have to do is ask and they will order and stock it for you. The aisles are wide and there are products that you don't think you would find in a country grocery store in the South -- guacamole, Italian wine, smoked paprika, adobo seasoning, polenta. The very best thing, though, is the check out. There is always someone to bag the groceries. The baggers sort your purchases in logical groups, all the cleaning stuff in one sack, the cold food together, the veggies in their own bag. Putting the groceries away at home is simple because of that. But, best of all, someone ALWAYS takes your bags to your car and loads them for you. They do not ask; it is taken for granted that this is part of what you get with your groceries.
Next winter, when I am struggling to push a shopping cart through a snow bank and the wind is cold and it is sleeting, I will wish for the good folks at the Piggly Wiggly!

May 5, 2010

An expedition into ministry

In my church, one of the questions that we ask those taking on particular ministries is:

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

Recently, I was asked that question, except the person asking first misspoke the word “expositions” and said instead “expeditions.” I’ve been pondering that small slip and have decided that it might be a very good thing to ask those setting out to minister in a new role. What if I really did promise to take an expedition into what Scripture leads me to believe and do?

I’m thinking about those who take expeditions like climbing Mt. Everest. I’ve never done anything like that, but I once knew someone who had. The climb itself required months, maybe years, of preparation. There was physical conditioning and training, planning what to take and how to carry it, deciding on only the essentials for life. There was the tricky work of timing, going when the storms would not be quite as threatening. Climbing companions had to be engaged, those who know the mountain and its secrets, its dangers, its passage ways. And for all the challenges, there was an enduring exhilaration in carrying out the expedition.

And I find myself thinking that I ought to take on this ministry as an expedition: preparing myself, working on my stamina and endurance; choosing carefully what I need to sustain me on the journey; considering the conditions, the possibility of dangerous storms, and planning accordingly; and finding knowledgeable and supportive companions to accompany and help.

What if I really did travel deep into the Word? How would I be changed; how would the ministry I do be changed? Would I experience that enduring exhilaration that comes to those who take on what seems more than they can do and even so, get to the top of the mountain?

And from the same occasion of the question to me, this poem that I have known and loved, coming to me again in a new context, with a new meaning, with a new command:

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no Winter now. The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul [we] ever took.

Affairs are now soul size,

The enterprise

Is exploration into God.

Christopher Fry, A Sleep of Prisoners (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1951)

And I hear it now as another call to expedition, to take a long stride with my soul, to explore God, to go looking for what I am being led to believe and do.

May 2, 2010


The flowering trees are like slightly wild party girls on their way home from a raucous night out. They are dressed all in pink and white, but now starting to look a little tattered. They are strewing confetti all around them. The petals litter the sidewalks and the gutters, mixing with the sand left over from winter, looking almost like snow, except for the pink and the rose color.

The peas, on the other hand, are not at all like these extroverted sorority girls. They poke their little green heads up out of the dirt, cautious and timid, as though they are not quite sure what is waiting for them. No wild abandon for them!

The hosta unfurls itself, and the lettuce and the spinach and the azaleas applaud. The world is very beautiful, and there are more shades of green than the eye can take in, more than the heart can count.

In the beginning, God saw that it was good, and, by God, it still is!