Working on Our Present Moment

January 31, 2019


You’ve likely heard this wisdom:  Don’t take impetuous actions or say impetuous words when you’re HALT.  That is, hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  When you’re HALT, your present moment is very small.  Long term consequences have been crowded out, almost as if they don’t exist.  I think boredom is another danger.  Out of boredom, one might needlessly needle someone.  Know what I mean?


At my church I wear the hat of Historical Chairman.  As such I watch over the long term, the larger present moment, otherwise known as tradition—Judeo-Christian, United Methodist, and local congregation.  One way I do that is to present displays to illustrate each season of the Christian year.  This is more joy for me than I can even describe!


Perhaps I can describe it a little by sharing a report I gave to our church council this week.  A note of explanation:  We’re in the season of Epiphany, which takes us this year from Epiphany Sunday–January 6–all the way to Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday–March 6.  Are your eyes glazing over yet?  Well, an emerging epiphany for me is that people like rhyme.  A lot.  Rhyme can take swathes of information, consolidate it, present it in a way that makes eyes shine–far better for eyes to shine than glaze over!  So, enjoy the poem, and the images that follow.


Historical Committee Report to Church Council

January 29, 2019

Phoebe H. Dishman, Chair


‘I don’t deny that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.’ – G.K. Chesterton


A happy hat at Trinity

Is mine again to wear

Curator of church seasons

Also known as historical chair


It’s clear historically speaking

That there are several reasons

The church should organize itself

According to the seasons


The seasons teach our story

Repetition works it in

The colors and the images

Touch us deep within


Advent and then Christmastide

Epiphany and Lent

Eastertide and Pentecost

And now the year’s half spent


Then here comes Ordinary Time

Another half a year

Leads us up to Advent

Again to Christmas cheer


And then it’s January

Wise men from afar

And then a dove and a blessing

Epiphany—here we are


There is of course an exhibit

In the cases in the West Wing

We hope it brings a smile

We hope it makes you sing


Star of wonder star so bright

Star with royal beauty bright

West Wing leading still proceeding

Help us shine the holy light


Epiphany’s ours for another month

Ash Wednesday marks its end

And then we’ll curate Lent

On that you can depend


And all to fortify

And all to open our eyes

And all to impart a grateful heart

Grounded and growing and wise






Bright Eyes

January 18, 2019


I kept The Child this morning.  I’m pleased to think that week by week she’s learning things from me, her venerable ‘Honey.’  What I know for sure is that I’m learning from her.  Not least to slow myself down and let the magic of a one-year-old girl work its quiet warm sweetness.


So here’s a confession:  I love earrings, the bigger the better.  Having been warned  by sadder but wiser fellow grandmas of the danger of ripped lobes, and owing a pair of big silver clip-ons, I made these clip-ons into a fun ritual with the Child.  Week by week, in my arms, she would spy one, then the other, yanking them off my ears, shaking them to kingdom come. We both thought this was hilarious.  And we got used to it.  And I did not think beyond that.


About a month ago a close relative of The Child spoke a quiet prophetic word:  ‘She might be learning from that game that it’s fun to do it to others.’  Cut to the heart!  I wasted little time in self-reproach but you can believe the silver earring game was over.


Today I arrived at The Child’s house and took her in my arms.  When she stopped wriggling and realized Honey had her, she delighted (and sobered) me by looking quickly from one of my ears to the other.  Then, in turn, she fingered each of my empty lobes.


She further educated me by rolling with the new reality.  Abandoning my lobes, she placed a tiny finger on my mouth, and I said, “Mouth.”  Then she placed a tiny finger on my nose, and I said, “Nose.”


It must be revealed that when I was in the kitchen cutting up a banana for her, she speed-crawled to my feet, and it wasn’t me she wanted, oh no.  She was here to practice a new skill: opening cabinets. Whereas my boys of yore would have instantly raked out the contents, she spent some time examining the inside of the doors themselves.  She was so thrilled with her findings that she planted a kiss on the navy-painted wood.  Only then did she bring forth one Tupperware lid for examination.  One!  Such restraint.


We went for a walk.  From my perspective of stroller-pushing servant, I watched the back of her head, as the fog dampened her hair.  I was too entranced to give a thought to what it was doing to mine,  baby-fine as hers!  I watch the precious head swivel to each new sight and sound.  Gray squirrels frisking, rooster inexplicably bellowing at 9:30 a.m.  Approaching her own dear house again, I stopped the stroller, planted a kiss on her calm round cheek, presented her with a bright red leaf from a gum tree.  She took it by the stem, shook it to kingdom come.  Then she began to deconstruct it, reducing it to smaller and smaller pieces.  I see a lab girl in the making.  Or a cabinet maker. Or a theologian.  Or a mystic. At any rate the cutest one-year-old girl that ever was.  See what you think:




After all of this
I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your elderly will have revelatory dreams;
your young men will see prophetic visions.

Joel 2:28, New English Translation


Let’s face it.  I am no longer young.  I am in fact a ‘lady of a certain age.’  A venerable elder.  But, elderly?? I resemble that remark! Well my dear, if the shoe fits, wear it.


And I did have a revelatory dream:  “If you move your elliptical machine to a new place, with a different view, perhaps you will get on it and exercise.”  So I did.  My exercise station now affords a closer view of our beloved disappearing fountain:

august 8 2010 sabbath garden water.jpg

and a heretofore unavailable while exercising view of our myrtle grove in the back corner of our yard.  Aha, you skulking squirrels and thrashers, I see you!


The new vista pleases me, and hast caused me to climb upon the elliptical two days in a row (I know, I know, will it last?)


So I was watching the fountain this morning and what should I see but a small goldfinch, flirting fearfully with the upper rim.  He or she fluttered in every one minute or so, five or six times, drawing ever-closer to the rim.  But thirsty as he was, he just couldn’t work up the nerve to brave the turbulence. He flew away, out of my sight.  Five minutes ensued. I kept pedaling and had almost forgotten him when back he came, this time to the rocks at the base of the fountain.  From this sturdy foothold he was free to drink a delicious draught of fountain water as it cascaded smoothly down.


His persistence in finding a way that works for him is an inspiration to me.


So is the attitude expressed is this song that recently came my way!


She is only a little chickadee
Just a common backyard bird
And she knows no care or worry
She is happy in this world

Just a simple little chickadee
With a simple song to sing
She’s not a peacock or a toucan
Not some fancy-colored thing

But she can fly high, she can fly
Anywhere she’d care to roam
And call anywhere
Her home

And I said, Tell me, little chickadee
Don’t you wish sometimes to be
Someone bigger, someone more beautiful
And this is what she said to me

If I were bigger, or more beautiful
If I had fancy colored wings
It would not make me someone better
‘Cause these are not important things

‘Cause I can fly high, I can fly
Anywhere I care to roam
And call anywhere
My home

Chenille Sisters, from “Teaching Hippopotami to Fly,” 1996

chickadee 003.jpg

Here Comes the Sun

January 9, 2019
This morning I was arrested by an epiphany:
Some years ago my son gave me the highlighted art. We all know how quickly the sun moves on.  As do sons.  And opportunities to say thanks. So I hastened for my cellphone camera. How dearly I wanted to capture the moment, send it from my heart to his.
Books and birds, yes.  Other day I found a feather rising pristine from the St. Augustine.
I gathered it, giving thanks for the bird who was pleased to spare it for my enjoyment. (White-winged doves annoy me; knowing this reactive part of myself, I try to catch them being good!)
Ah, but then I found another feather, and another…seems this unfortunate had been exploded and taken away from our front yard, leaving only a flurry of feathers.  Whether it was a thunderbolt from above, or a cat come a-creepin, I don’t know.  At any rate I didn’t want the original feather anymore, so I returned it:
Yesterday morning I kept granddaughter Amelia.  Such joy to have sunshine and warmth enough to take this one-year-old outside and let her crawl.  My friend calls Amelia ‘the ever dutiful and ever diligent investigator,’ which is exactly what she is. Such wonders she found.  Her favorite was acorn caps;  I watched like a hawk, as she’s still inclined to pop interesting things in her mouth.
Her granddaddy came over; we delighted Amelia by playing ten minutes of ‘kick Amelia’s new soccer ball back and forth.’  Our audience of one shrieked with laughter, but I noticed it was only when I kicked the ball.  True, Honey is not very coordinated.  But I did improve as the game unfolded.
She gave Granddaddy some adorable looks, including her latest face–a droll comical O with her mouth.

Fierce Pleasure in Things Being Themselves

January 7, 2019

“I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such a fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do.  The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me; the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud.”   –G.K. Chesterton, in a letter to his wife Frances


The rain in Southeast Texas has been copious and relentless.  It was dark the other morning when I under my umbrella stepped off a curb into the street and encountered the unutterable muddiness of mud.  One foot zoomed away from me.  By some miracle I recovered, and did not fall.  Quoth I:  “Whoa.” For now the rain has hit the pause button. But on day three of sun, water is still standing. So while glorying in the fresh clear air, I’m also watching where I step.


My friend and former high school classmate Ted is in Moscow, teaching at United Methodist Theological Seminary.  This morning I found he’d posted pictures of Russian snow—‘Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.’ He also imparted news, half-remembered by me, that Russian Orthodox Christians observe January 7 as Christmas day.  So, Christmas greetings to my friend. I’m proud of you.


In September 2017 I was staying with Ted and his wife at their house in Dallas until such time as the water came back on in Beaumont.  They were gracious to take me in and tuck me into their ‘hurricane suite.’   Bonus for me: one day I witnessed his joy at receiving  a new camera he’d ordered.  That very night he employed it to capture a stunning portrait of a full moon. “The glory of God is a human being, fully alive.”  Merry Christmas, Ted!


Fierce pleasure in things being themselves:  I continue to exult in the progress of my granddaughter, and she continues to exult in learning the world.  On New Years Day she turned one.  A few days later there was a birthday party for her, at her house. The house and yard were full of thirty celebrants, young and old.  It got a little boisterous, in a good kind of way.  At the center, our Amelia.  At her center, a kind of perplexed serenity, a gorgeous calm:  “This is an odd kind of day.  A bit much going on for someone as young as me. I could be reactive about it.  But I choose to study it.”  And that’s what she did.


Two images: presented with a small cake, she dipped a delicate investigative finger, as a good scientist should, and transferred a bit of icing to her palate.  Hmmm, pretty good. And so, another dab or too, and she was done.  Wish I had that restraint!


[the moment captured, by grandmother Mary]

On the grass in her back yard, her focus was not so much on the heartfelt gifts surrounding her as the crinkly tissue paper and fascinating bags and boxes.  And oh, such a wealth of dead leaves!  Madame scientist picked up one after another, turning each this way and that, studying the texture, crushing, opening tiny palm to see the result.  And yes, she did try to eat a couple.