October 30, 2018

I kept The Child this morning.  One bliss for both Amelia and Honey (me) was the backyard swing.  I sat at the base of the oak, kept the swing going, while she went into her meditative place, with the occasional deep sigh and broad smile.  Her other granny’s dog was with us, as shown.  My eye travelled up to that which sustained our activity.  Oak and pine, intertwined, for this sacred moment. See what you think!





A Taste for Carpet

October 29, 2018

There’s nothing more ‘grounded’ than a ten-month-old baby!  Our Amelia wants very much to be on the floor, where the action is.  This means we keep a sharp eye out for things  that don’t belong in her mouth; at Honey and Granddaddy’s house yesterday afternoon, she ate some roughage, in the form of a small dried up elm leaf that had blown in the back door.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t a small dried up spider.


Like many she enjoys the sunny ambience of our sunporch.  Especially the area rug.  Where others see a beige expanse of worse for the wear, she sees delicious color spots:


Cinnamon. Teal. Vanilla. With tiny agile fingers she picks at the spots, trying to extract them.  Do they look like something to eat, or does she just appreciate the colors?  She doesn’t say.  Whatever it is, her affection runs deep.  She yearns for these spots. Yesterday she would pick for awhile, then prostrate herself a la full  yoga forward bend, and kiss the spot.  She did this several times, to the delight and wonderment of six adult witnesses.






Just Another Morning on Evangeline

October 19, 2018

I felt a flush on my cheek, an unexpected glow. From my paper-gathering in the driveway, I looked up.  And here’s what I saw.






How quickly it moved from ruby to russet to orange to peachy-gold. Within moments the show was over, the day settled in to partly cloudy.

Routine. With a trace of divine encounter.  And gratitude for quick feet and smart phones.

We do love our autumn colors, don’t we?



A Handsome Mixture

Refresh Worship Service

Trinity United Methodist Church / Beaumont, Texas

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

“A Handsome Mixture”

dedicated to Barbara Hambright Scribner, on her birthday

and Brenda Robertson Garey, who sings in the night

Phoebe Hambright Dishman, Lay Speaker


The Lord GOD gave me a skilled tongue, to know how to speak a timely word to the weary. Morning by morning, he rouses, he rouses my ear to give heed like one being taught. The Lord GOD opened my ears, and I did not disobey,

I did not run away.                                                                          Isaiah 50:4-5


John Philip Newell is a pastor and a poet.  I know nothing more of him than that, but this week I came across something he wrote, and it stopped me in my proverbial tracks. Listen:


In one of her . . . visions of Jesus, Julian [of Norwich (1342–1416)] realizes that he is [a] “handsome mixture.” . . . His face speaks of a knowledge of life’s delight and a knowledge of life’s pain. It is not a face that is naïve to the world’s sufferings or to the personal experience of sorrow. Nor is it a face that is so overwhelmed by sorrow that it loses its openness and wonder. . . . It is a soul that has experienced the heights and the depths of human life. . . . To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.


The mystic Julian sees Jesus.  What does she see?  A handsome mixture.  A handsome mixture with the capacity to look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and its beauty.  To glimpse a way forward.  To be the change we want to see. Surely that is what God is working in each one of us. If, that is, we don’t run away.  Lord, give us courage to stay.  Give us courage to bear what must be borne, so we can give birth to what wants to be.


I was born some time ago, and my parents are long gone, and I’m beginning to lose close friends, and now I’m a grandmother.  These circumstances are shaping in me a handsome mixture, well acquainted with sorrow, growing in intimacy with disappearance, yet ever-determined to put the song back in the world.  This is hard.  And the growing pains are acute. And oh, the terrible things I see.  Things that try to crush and silence my song.  When I see angry idiots addicted to being triggered, when I see them snarling over red meat thrown at them, when I see the rise of the machines, when I see the relentless raping of this good earth, when I see the way we’re stupefied and diverted by the latest bright toy waved in front of us, when I see the hyper-management projects we come up with to soothe our fear in a world beyond our control, when I see my own potential to be all of that, it breaks my heart.


On the other hand, when I see the goodness and kindness all around me and in me, when I see my baby granddaughter pulling up, engaging all kinds of fascinating mouth movements to get ready to take her place as a creature who speaks, when I throw back my head and laugh in sheer surprised delight at the finely crafted humor of a TV program, it healsmy heart.


It heals my heart.  Richard Rohr says that ‘the first step toward healing is truthfully acknowledging evil, while trusting the inherent goodness of reality.’


Ever broken, ever restored. That’s me. And you. A handsome mixture, clear-eyed and sturdy to serve.  So…morning by morning the LORD rouses, he rouses my ear to give heed like one being taught. Like one dismantled and disoriented, yet picking up joy on the wind and thrumming with a reasonable measure of energy and inclination to tell out the good news.  What a ride!


My friend awoke in the night to a song, from who knows where.

It sang itself inside her, over and over.  “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.  His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”


The songbird who wrote Psalm 16 nods her head, and adds this:


The LORD is my allotted share and portion; you control my fate.

Delightful country has fallen to my lot; lovely indeed is my estate.

I bless the LORD who has guided me;

my conscience admonishes me in the night.

I am ever mindful of the LORD’s presence; he is at my right hand;

I shall never be shaken.

So my heart rejoices, my whole being exults, and my body rests secure.

For you will not abandon me to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You will teach me the path of life.

In your presence is perfect joy; delights are ever in Your right hand.


In your presence is perfect joy. But wait.  Do you hear it?  The Psalmist is delighted, yes. She’s lyrically grateful.  She’s also well aware of the painful struggle we call conscience, and the looming Pit of things going wrong.  The Psalmist is a handsome mixture.  A handsome mixture with the capacity to look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and its beauty.  To glimpse a way forward.  To be the change she wants to see. Surely this is what God is working in her.  If, that is, she doesn’t run away.  Maybe sometimes she feels like running away.  When that happens, what does she do?  She sings.  The LORD is my allotted share and portion.  I am ever mindful of his presence.  So my heart rejoices, my whole being exults. I sing because I’m happy.  I sing because I’m free.


The poet Emily Dickinson puts it like this:

Hope is that thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


The prophet Isaiah puts it like this: The Lord GOD gave me a skilled tongue, to know how to speak a timely word to the weary.  Morning by morning, he rouses, he rouses my ear to give heed like one being taught. The Lord GOD opened my ears, and I did not disobey, I did not run away.


Morning by morning, he rouses.  At nine months, just getting started, my granddaughter feels the imperative to get up every morning and refine her skills.  She does not disobey, nor run away. Neither do I.


Monday morning I was up at five and obediently at my computer to read a weekly delight – Terry Hershey’s “Sabbath Moment.”  As always his words did me good.  As always he included at the end of his meditation a list of recommended music videos.  By the time I reach this list, it’s usually time to go do something else.  But this morning, I lingered.  I stayed. My heart swelled with the beauty of song and image, how “he aint’ heavy, he’s my brother.” Other noble and fortifying thoughts. Then I came to Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the flowers gone?”  I am here to tell you that by song’s end my heart was in shards, shards of shattered glass on the floor, and I was wailing.  “When will we ever learn?” I just let it all go and howled, for all of us.


The storm passed.  I sat there, drained, in a silent pool of light, alone in a dark house, the world little changed by my outcry.  Outside, it was still ‘slap dark.’  Then, from the sable darkness, a song rang out.  The singer was a catbird, Dumetella carolinensis.  Or so I believe. What it was doing up so long before sunrise, who can say.  Where it got the bell-like clarity, when it usually murmurs and burbles, who can say.  Whether its brief series of ‘take heart and do not fear’ angel-notes was for me, who can say.


Who can say?  And yet, I am bold to say, with the prophet Isaiah:


The Lord GOD gave me a skilled tongue, to know how to speak a timely word to the weary. Morning by morning, he rouses, he rouses my ear to give heed like one being taught. The Lord GOD opened my ears, and I did not disobey, I did not run away.


I reckon I’ll trust that, and keep showing up.  We need more handsome mixtures. More wounded songbirds, healed and set free.  Amen.



Cribside with the Beloved

October 11, 2018

Poet Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life:

“Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

I try to make those instructions the guiding spirit of this website.  Yesterday a supposedly routine tending of a loved one through an endoscopy turned into astonishment.Evidently something very much wanted to be said, and I was elected.  Here’s my poem:

Cribside with the Beloved

So there he was, prone, my own

My firstborn, on his side, mouth slightly open,

Sound asleep

Bound by guardrails

And I his mother

As so many times

Keeping watch

Only this time his slender form fills the bed

To the tune of almost six feet

And he wears a wedding ring

On that formerly chubby left hand

And he is a father

Nurse tries to wake him, he sleeps on

And I feel a twinge of fear

Not rational, for this was

A simple procedure

Which revealed a simple affliction

Easily treated

And yet

he won’t wake up

So many times I kept watch at cribside

And here I am again

With a skilled carpenter a male age thirty-six

asleep before me

and my mind goes

To another mother of a carpenter

Who held her thirty-something

So still and long of limb and full of grace

And fresh of skin other than those hardworking hands

Only he wouldn’t wake up for her

He won’t wake up

He will never wake up

Her own her firstborn

My carpenter comes back to us

With an addled question or two

Then he reaches up to my shoulder

And keeps his trusting hand there as his wits gather

Then he’s back, a man with merry eyes

Asking the nurse if it’s okay to use

His skillsaw later today

And she turns a little pale

And then I’m driving him to get some lunch

Oh how he used to love our McDonalds date

After preschool

From my car he calls his wife to report they had to remove his stomach

And replace it with a robot stomach that will use laser rays

To digest his food

I hear her murmuring on the other end of the line

At lunch we have an unexpected conversation

Springing from his experience of anesthesia

About the various ideas people have about what comes after

And what it means to live a good life

And his joy in knowing other people,

Respecting them challenging them evoking thought in them

Because he really wants to know

He has to find out who they are

And heaven opens my heart swells

And later I lie down for a laser nap

And the tears spring up like living water

and roll down my face

Because surely this is very close to heaven

I am a little surprised at the tears

But it’s just like that

When you’ve carried a life inside you

However long ago

08 Dave, thinking.jpg

21 Dave, new house.jpg





Gulf Coast Girl Visits North Texas

October 9, 2018




One year ago I met him

I’ll never be the same

A Texas Spiny Lizard

Melchizedek by name


I was gazing out the window

My loved ones gone to work

Their backyard looked so tranquil

But then I saw a quirk


I say a quirk, but dragon

Would explain with more precision

My heart flown to my throat

At this reptilian vision


Near a foot he was

This armor-plated soul

Scary toes, forbidding stare

And I could not be whole


Till I knew with whom I dealt

And so I quickly found him

A helpful reptile source

Gave a name to wrap around him


And then my loved ones called

I told them what I’d seen

They said, “Oh, that’s just Mel.

He’s big, but he’s not mean.”


Shy his kind, not hostile

And they eat their weight in pests

Still I think a healthy distance

Would suit us all the best


Melchizedek and me

A wondrous Web we share

But out of respect

I’ve learned to check

Before I sit down in “our” chair


MELCHIZEDEK [mel KIZ eh deck] (king of righteousness) — a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Gen. 14:18-20; Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6-11; 6:20 – 7:28). Melchizedek’s appearance and disappearance in the Book of Genesis are somewhat mysterious … Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the booty he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a fellow-worshiper of the one true God as well as a priest who ranked higher than himself.

–Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary