A Fine Time to Grow a Conscience!

July 29, 2019

Friend of mine defined conscience as the capacity to feel everything we feel … at the same time.  I’m pretty sure we all suspect that’s our high calling. If that’s not a terrifying thought it should be.  Is it any wonder we fill our years instead with reactivity and/or numbing agents? I’ve been working on that, knowing that many blind spots remain. Still, I’ve made some progress.  At 65, a strange feeling is emerging.  What do I make of this curious blend of serenity and urgency?


All I know is I’m still needed, thank the good Lord, and I’ve said yes to work, work enough to fill my days and then some. A lot of it has to do with history.  Church history, family history, Big Thicket history … Each new day I try to refine my art and keep my aim clear.  For one thing, I have to discipline my poet into a good-enough curator of accurate details!  For another, I have to be careful not to deify the good old days.  At the same time I have to let the past wash over me and touch me and sing whatever songs I’m ready to hear.  The old fiddle tunes, the back-stories on 18thcentury hymns, the lament of the psalmist –  they do have a way of breaking my heart, not least because my own days ahead are fewer than the ones behind, and I’m so late in loving the songs.


My conclusion: whatever thy hand findeth to do, do with thy strength!

A Grateful Eye on the Past

Historical Committee Report to Church Council / Trinity United Methodist Church

July 23, 2019 / Phoebe H. Dishman, Chair


As the person in charge of the group that’s supposed to help our church keep a grateful eye on its past, I want to share a little lesson I learned this week about history. As many of the best lessons are, it’s close to home.  Home, where we actually live.


So, picture laundry day at my house.   When the sheets come out of the dryer, I notice not for the first time that the edge of one of the pillowcases, where you put in the pillow, is giving up the ghost.  I’ve ignored the fringe for a while, and I could go on ignoring:  my list for today is long.


But the fringe is getting fringier, and some little God-nudge makes me carry the poor case to the sewing room.  As I do I remember the adage from my grandparents’ day: ‘Use it up. Wear it out.  Make it do.  Or do without.’  And I realize that by my epiphany to repair this particular pillowcase rather than chunk it and get a new one, I’m shining a tiny ray of light into the garbage-crisis we’re currently in, thanks to the throw-away culture we’ve enjoyed for so long.


Now, my sewing area may not be used very often, but it’s doing its part to resist throw-away.  For instance, I’ve kept close to fifty partially used spools of thread from ages past.  Because, you never know when you might need, say, some red thread.  And we all know red might mean flame, or rose, or maroon, or some other shade. Best be prepared.


In this case — get it? case? — the color is gold, and the aim is to secure the ragged edge and turn it under, as little as possible, so the case won’t be too much diminished. As it happens, I have the exact shade of pale gold thread, and pretty unbelievably but true, just enough stretch lace seam tape, of lemon yellow, to secure the ragged edge. Admittedly, lemon yellow is not pale gold.  But it’s in the same family.


So, equipped by Providence, otherwise known as a healthy instinct to save things, and, as an exercise in obedience to my God-nudge, I call on history. What do I mean by history?  Just this: the sewing lessons my mother gave me in the sixties, what’s left of the seam tape I bought in the seventies for 42 cents, the portable sewing machine my mother gave me in the eighties, the just enough spool of light gold thread from who knows when, the pillow case from I’m going to say 2010, and for the next half hour I bask in the skill of my hands and the love of my mother and the wisdom of my forefathers.  And I discover once again that there really is time for things that matter. If you can figure out what they are.  In this case Jthe thing that matters is making one very small action for the common good.


And by the way, speaking of figuring out what matters, the sturdy brown box that holds my spools of thread contains this message on its cover: “Ryrie Study Bible:  Burgundy red leather.”  My mother gave me that Bible in the nineties, in response to my perceived call to get serious and start teaching Bible. These days the burgundy red Bible is falling apart. Which I reckon we can count as a good accounting.


So, as you move about this precious church of ours, keep your eyes open.  Understand that every object you see or touch has a history.  And so do the people.  When you can, go and visit the Historical Committee’s display in the West Wing. It’s all about the church season of Ordinary Time, which is not ordinary at all, simply an invitation to the Holy Spirit, as found in Psalm 90:  ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’


And speaking of ordering our days, the August prayer calendar is ready.  My gift to you.  Amen.