Psalm for a Brown Thrasher

Praise for the brown thrasher

who by its nature

knows what to do with a host of dead leaves

after a killing freeze:

Thrash them, for tasty bugs.

Selah.

Praise for the prophet, who left us this conversation:

Jeremiah: Why is my pain everlasting and my blow grievous, resistant to healing? You have surely been to me a dried-up spring, waters not to be trusted.

Adonai: If you turn back, I will bring you back, before Me you shall stand.

And if you bring out what is precious from trash, you shall be as My mouth.

Amen.

January 3 – Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Like many in southeast Texas after the recent deep freeze, I’m adjusting to the stricken landscape. Azalea skeletons, mushy lilies … Still, we stayed warm in our house, and unlike some, we didn’t have to have the plumber out. Gratitude. And spring will come, with new green – oh how my spirit has to resist sometimes, when dragged toward existential despair! Thus my disciplined eyes this morning, watching … And here you are! Gray squirrel making his rounds. Sprightly in his silver coat, snowy front, and those mysterious touches of winter white on the backsides of his ears. Untroubled, hopping from one thin place in the grass to the next, pawing through the straw … Aha! A bite of breakfast. Morsel consumed, whatever it was, with relish. Thanks for the lesson, little friend!

Epiphany Sunday

First day of a new year, home with a head cold. Granddaughter turns five. I have to settle for my husband’s report that Amelia likes the Amelia Rose notecards we gave her. Perhaps not the most age-appropriate gift but I wanted to encourage her growing mastery of letter writing. At our “partner desk” at my house she’s dashed off several notes to relatives, my role being to write the address and lift her up to the mailbox. And oh there have been some delighted and mystified recipients of her hieroglyphic stylings. Now she can “write” on good card stock with hot pink lettering and aqua envelopes. If the spirit moves!

In my reading this afternoon l came across a little piece counseling writers to write a line or two every day, just to keep their hand in. Perhaps a haiku, or something haiku-ish? This stirred me, a little. Then I checked my email and behold, a friend had “liked” something I posted to Everlastingarms – three years ago.

Well, I may be germ-addled, but I still have a spark of life in me, and I know a nudge when I feel one or two, and I did see something out my window earlier. So here’s my haiku(ish) for January 1, 2023:

Regarding “bare” tree

Great jumping Jehoshaphat!

Hawk lifts into sky

Labor of Love

Trinity’s Faceted Glass Windows – lesson – October 30, 2022

Thank you for inviting me to share a project that’s grown more and more dear to my heart.  I’ve been around our sanctuary windows since they were installed in 1964. But being ten at the time I didn’t take notes.  As a focus of my attention since 1964, our windows came and went. For me, they were a given. Appreciated, but perhaps a little taken for granted. But one day last spring a member of my Sunday school class surprised me by saying he would like to understand our windows better.  He would like to better appreciate what the images mean. To understand, to appreciate, to love—this got me to thinking about how our minds and our bodies work together to discover meaning.  For instance, I’ve always been less interested in mastering our windows’ theology with my mind, and more interested in how our windows feel to my hand.  That’s just me. The colors attract me. I place my hand on a particular color, red for instance. Or cobalt blue. Or maybe purple. I place my hand on the glass, the cool smooth, the jagged edges, and it sings to me. I feel it. And when the sun spills through our glass in the morning, or the late afternoon, I’m just happy to be alive. If that sounds strange to you, well, the Apostle Paul said it takes all kinds. 

It takes all kinds to make up the body of Christ. And if we’re lucky we meet in a beautiful building. Our bodies, our buildings—what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands—this is a crucial part of how we’re formed in our Christian faith.  Made in the image of God we are, and meant to keep growing in wisdom and in strength. And so in that spirit I directed my mind to learn more about our windows.  The first fact I mastered is that our windows are made of faceted glass, also called dalle de verre. People started working with stained glass way back in the Bronze Age. For centuries it didn’t change much, though we got better and better at making it into windows. But faceted glass—dalle de verre—is a form of stained glass developed quite recently, which is to say, after the first World War.  So you can call our windows stained glass, but it’s much more precise to call them faceted glass. Dalle de verre, which to me has a nice sound to it.

Having more or less mastered the concept of what our windows are, I took a deep dive into the life of our designer.  Her name was Odell Prather. Billie to her friends. I never knew her; she died in 2001. But as with so many deep dives into a story, I fell in love.  I’m so happy to introduce you today to this extraordinary woman. 

Most important of all to me as a church historian, I’m counting on the work you’re about to see to connect us all more firmly to the story of our particular church in Beaumont, Texas, and by that means to each other.  It’s been my experience that the more we know and feel about a subject, the more dear we hold it in our hearts, minds, and bodies. So without further ado…our windows.

https://trinityumcbeaumont.org/trinitys-faceted-glass-windows

Call and Response

Psalm 65     For the lead player, a psalm. For David, a song.

To You silence is praise, God, in Zion,

   and to You a vow will be paid.

O, listener to prayer,

   unto You all flesh shall come.

My deeds of mischief are too much for me.

   Our crimes but You atone.

Happy whom You choose to draw close,

   he will dwell in Your courts.

May we be sated with Your house’s bounty,

   the holiness of Your Temple.

With fearsome acts justly You answer us,

   our rescuing God,

refuge of all the earth’s ends

   and the far-flung sea,

Who sets mountains firm in His power

   —He is girded in might—

Who quiets the roar of the seas,

   the roar of their waves and the tumult of the nations.

And those who dwell at earth’s ends will fear Your signs.

   The portals of morning and evening You gladden.

You pay mind to the earth and soak it.

   You greatly enrich it.

God’s stream is filled with water.

   You ready their grain, for so You ready it,

quench the thirst of its furrows, smooth out its hillocks,

   melt it with showers, its growth You will bless.

You crown Your bountiful year,

and Your pathways drip with ripeness.

The wilderness meadows do drip,

   and with joy the hills are girded.

The pastures are clothed with flocks

   and the valleys are mantled with grain.

      They shout for joy, they even sing.

Be Still and Know

A Response to Psalm 65

If

I do my work

Of stilling my being

Of training my mind

And tending my body

And opening my heart

Then God will be free

To do God’s work

Of gladdening

Grace-ing

Melting

Maturing

Ripening

Restoring

Satisfying

Smoothing

Quieting

Quenching

Crowning and robing

Filling me so full

That I will shout for joy, even sing

I will be a stream, a fountain

Flowing from the throne of God

If I do my work

Of silence

And song

And you do yours

And we gather to tell about it

Then God will be free

Soundscape on Evangeline West

Refrigerator humming.

Steady traffic on Major.

Me breathing as I edit a newsletter.

Occasional outbursts of:

Light showers.

Torrential downpours.

Buzzing chickadees.

Chirping cardinals.

Rollicking wren.

Furious blue jays, high-pitched “Help meeee” of broad-winged hawk.

Motorcycle on Major: whine ascending to b’dowdowdow.

Grinding gears of large item pick-up.

Squirrel munching seeds under the birdfeeder. Okay, I can’t hear him. But I see his jaw moving.

Swamp Canary

A thrill for me all summer has been the pre-dawn planets: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. For weeks my adult Sunday school class has patiently watched as I sketch the latest sighting on the blackboard. They can’t fathom that I get up at 5:30.  Me either. This Sunday just past, I came in from my planet gazing, sat down with my coffee, opened my email, and behold! My friend Jim had circulated a poem, “Star House,” in which he expressed how experiencing stars and planets in the night sky calls him to awareness and connections and creativity.  And so it was that later that morning my class got to hear my own planet report AND a poem! One of my classmates liked it so well she asked how to join his circulation list.

After church I got in my car, un-silenced my phone, and behold, a text had come in. It was a thank-you from a colleague for a card I sent his wife, who is ill. He said her bed was now positioned so she could watch the birds at their feeder. He had opened my card for her, and she said the bird on the cover was pretty.  I re-read the text, then drove home. I will leave it to you to imagine my state of heart.

Home, where I took up a poem I’ve been crafting. Subject: Prothonotary Warbler. A light verse about a little ray of sunshine I saw on a tree at the edge of the Neches River.  People call them Swamp Canaries, for their color, and their custom of belting out incredibly loud song from the hot humid depths of thickets. I’ve seen and heard three or four in my time, always in the woods, or at river’s edge.

After a while I lay down the poem and moved to the sun porch, where I took up the Sunday paper, then Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. Presently I saw movement outside – not the swoopings and bathings and feedings of the usual crew.  No, it was more like the erratic flutterings of a big yellow butterfly.  Swallowtail?  No, too all-yellow for that. Whatever it was seemed to be taking the measure of our backyard, in a kind of hyperactive way.  I sped for the binoculars, tore off one eyepiece in my excitement, finally got them to my eyes, and there he was in a tree. Prothonotary warbler. In 38 years, first one I’ve seen in this suburban yard. There he was, briefly, and then, oh my, he flew straight to the window where I was, and hovered. We took the measure of each other.  Then he was gone. All I can do is report my findings.

Mark Twain wrote, “There’s no accounting for human beings.” I, for instance, when mildly perplexed, go earring shopping. Somehow it steadies me. Another quirk: I had my Big Thicket Association editor’s earrings on today, figuratively speaking, and was enjoying a sprightly email conversation with someone about the pitfalls of getting people’s names right, in person and print. Eventually I turned from that to another task, only to find a poem about name-confusion struggling to organize itself in the rhyming room of my brain. I tried in vain to ignore the shouting and scuffling. Finally I caved, and entered that well-beloved room, and took charge. I mean, like new earrings, why not?

Once upon a cruise

Upon the open sea

I chanced to hear some news

It was a novelty!

“At sundown in the Book Room

A Sabbath group will meet

For prayer and fellowship”

Well, this gave wings to my feet!

I’m Methodist not Jewish

But research is my game

To pass on this, far be it from me,

When it clearly bears my name!

I got there early and took my post

With a view of the setting sun

And just when I was wondering

If I’d be the only one

Six Jewish people entered

And confusion soon ensued

Are you the rabbi? quoth they,

And I didn’t want to be rude

So I explained my presence

My full name gave to them

And then confusion swirled some more

Till it overflowed the brim

Fishman! Fishman! they cried out

We know your family well!

But are you the New York Fishmans?

Or the ones from Phila-del?

Well, we finally got things straight

And no harm at all was done

Of all the stories of that cruise

This is my favorite one.

An Interesting Few Days

Super Bowl Sunday and cold outside

Warm greetings I do send

In the form of a poem and please forgive

The rhyming rules I bend

In writing this brief account

Of a week not according to plan

But could have been worse and I’m grateful for that –

Here’s how it all began:

Across my path a zooming speck

Its aim was all too clear

It sensed my human warmth and O!

It took a little veer

Like the pretty snake of old

Twas looking for a home

It lodged within my cells and then

I fell into the gloam

Not very sick but ostracized

From healthy company

To ‘not very sick’ I lift my glass:

Moderna! One two three!

Ostracized? Or Sabbath rest?

What shall we call this week?

Some shows I watched, some books I read

Some deskwork I did seek

A travelog I did create

Of a recent expedition

Sat in the sun, turned off my brain

And reveled in no obligation

Except to bask one day at a time

Beloved and on the mend

And smile at the gift this morning brought

Zooming around the bend

No speck this time but an elegant bird

Chestnut brown her wing

Streaks on her breast and golden eye

Doing her breakfast thing

Turning the leaves at the edge of the hedge

A vigorous thrashing she made

My mouth turned up in simple delight

At the angel in my glade

And so this frosty Sunday

I send you from my home

Smiles and joy and gratitude

And from my heart: Shalom.