Mitzvah at year’s end??

So how did it get to be almost 2020, and how did I get to be an invisible elder?  Ah, but I do not always go gentle into that good night!  Today, for instance, I was on the leg press machine at the gym when a ditty on the blaring soundtrack caught my ear.  Now, I do not object to lyrics about undulating booties and people on the dance floor wanting to go home with each other, etc.  Only natural.  But when I hear the f-word six times and counting in one song, I am compelled to act.  I went to the desk, announcing myself to my young tattooed friend thusly:  “Here comes trouble, again.” I pointed out that I’m a poet and as such I pay exquisite attention to every word I hear, especially when it’s imposed on a group, and I’m no prude, but I find the mindless repetition of the f-word to be both hyper-aggressive, woefully lacking in imagination, and probably not kosher with his boss.  He confessed to having been zoned out as to the music, and yes, such language is against the gym’s policy, and he needs me. Then he changed the channel.


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Venerable gym rat, ringing out the old year and doing my part for the new

Auld Lang Syne

In my work I use a lot of Bibles. The one I teach from is dear to me; it’s the Spiritual Formation Bible, NIV version: Growing in Intimacy With God Through Scriptures. I am the caretaker of  two copies — one from Janice and Brenda to me, one from Brenda and me to Janice.  Mine is on a shelf, Janice’s is open before me. Brenda has one at her house.


It occurs to me that these three Bibles, given in mutual love on our respective birthdays way back in 2000, are something like the Trinity, which keeps resisting our explaining, but whose flow keeps flowing and dance keeps dancing!


In the summer of 2016, Janice died suddenly.  My son David wrote me:  “I’m so sorry for your loss, mom. The kind of bond you had with her is the kind that can’t be broken by death or absence. I love you.”


Cherished words from a beloved son, one who has himself known the sudden loss of friends.


So Janice’s Bible came to live at my house, and occasionally I come across her ‘tracks’ in the form of a word or a passage neatly underlined, with sometimes a one or two word comment.  Just this morning Richard Rohr’s meditation sent me to Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.”  And lo, Janice had been there before me, with ruler and pen! I could go on about the good works of Janice Vaughn, her keen questing mind, her capable hands, her merry blue eyes.


Also in Janice’s Bible is a yellow post-it note she must have harvested somewhere in her house—perhaps the kitchen I remember so well—and placed where it would be safe forever. It says, “I love you Mom – Matt.” To which she added, “I love you too.”



‘Twas the Day After Christmas

I meant to take it easy on this second day of Christmas, but was seized at first light by thoughts of Epiphany.  Epiphany: a flash of understanding in a prepared mind.



So having time and just enough energy to answer the call, I spent a happy couple of hours working up a display to illustrate our church’s next season. This ‘working up’ involves a lot of rapid moving about my house, generating text, gathering  objects, making connections, letting the Spirit of Seasons tell me what most wants to be said.  The display will need to be installed at church next week!!!  So here’s my staging area, compressed and ready to pack:IMG_1357.jpg

After all this unplanned for excitement the brick wall was inevitable. But I rose from my winter’s nap ready for the next phase, which was to go through memories of yesterday and ponder the personalities of two angels at our Christmas table.  Well, one was not exactly at the table – he was being carried about by different ones of us, mostly his mother.  As you’ll see he has a merry gleam in his eye which contrasts intriguingly with the high decibel expressions of outrage he emits. Mostly he’s hungry. And trying to get used to life on planet Earth.  Maybe he wishes he had more hair?


His sister at almost two is a woman of positive outlook and deep thoughts.



God of the Broken, God of the Whole

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

Genesis 32:31


A song for Father Jacob:


I know a little possum,

Pedro is his name.

I cannot help but notice

That one back leg is lame.


Still, he strolls his promised land—

Edge of our back yard.

He limps along serenely

As if it isn’t hard.


My husband sees him often

Patrolling after dark.

Too late for me—I’m dreaming.

But he catches at my heart.


Some would say our Christian faith

Might be better named.

Pedro might agree

That custom tends to tame.


We’re called to be a little wild

While to Creator tuned

As day and night we limp along

The sacred Way of the Wound.



Progress Not Perfection

December 7, 2019


In yesterday’s mail, an envelope with familiar handwriting: mine!  The December prayer calendars I mailed my brother and his family in mid-November had returned. A reasonable return, for on the envelope I had named my loved ones but left off the address.  (I’m picturing my pen interrupted when the phone rang, or the timer went off …) Oh well, it’s still December, and my brother is all of a mile from where I live, so I can hand-deliver.  Should he be reading this, today’s prayer calendar entry is this timely gem by Molly Ivins:


‘Leap I lightly, with the grace of a gazelle, to focus not on what’s wrong, but how to fix it.’


There have been other errors due to holidaze, but mostly I’m ooching along okay.


I made a bold move this year.  Our tree, my province to put up, is the smallest one ever, and has no ornaments, just companions.  To my utter surprise and relief, my husband likes it!  Evidently for him it’s the spirit, not the adornment:

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My son Dave has a twin of this tree at his house. His is on the hearth and his beautiful wife has adorned it with ornaments depicting food.  She was wise to introduce it to their 23-month-old by inviting her to touch and name each food:  grapes! hamburger! pancakes! pineapple! taco!  So far Amelia is content with that.  As for two-week-old Shep, he’s expressed no interest.  Give him a year …

Leap Like a Deer

One of my jobs at church is historical chairman.  The chief duty of that post is to create seasonal displays.  To equip myself for that, I have made a study of the seasons of the Christian church. Just so you’ll know, if you care to and don’t already, they are:  1) Advent, 2) Christmastide, 3) Season of Epiphany, 4) Lent, 5) Eastertide, and 6) the Sundays after Pentecost (aka Ordinary Time.)  As the seasons roll on, my aim is to offer evocative images of our Jewish-Christian-Methodist heritage. As each new season approaches, I leap like a deer to create something that best distills one person’s 65 years of strong attraction to that heritage and her evolving reflection thereon.


This fall, as I thought about the upcoming season of Advent, the image that sprang to my mind was deer. In our Bible, deer are often employed to suggest the ardent quest of the soul for the Holy One.  I put out the word for decorative deer, and they began to make their way into the gathering area at my house.


So, I will now take you on a tour.




Let us pause at the deer above.  I bought that deer at Ellis Pottery several years ago; a friend had one, and the moment I saw hers, I wanted one of my own. I brought it home and placed it on our kitchen island.  When my husband looked up from his paper the next morning and noticed it, he was startled.  He asked, “Why is that carcass on the island?”  Well, my intention was husbandly happiness, not consternation, so I moved the deer to another place!  Recently the deer travelled away from our home, on a mission.  It was invited to represent the Big Thicket Association in a fall display at Shangri-la Botanical Garden.  It was gone a month or so, arriving home just in time to be packed up and taken to church for the Advent display.


Okay, we’re walking, we’re walking…



The deer on this wreath are precious to me.  Long-ago gift from my mother, of blessed memory.  Enough said.



The excellent deer above belongs to my friend and will have to go home to her.  Eventually.



I thought the words above offer a good expression of the spirit of Advent.  In one sense, we’re already in the Reign of God.  Why else would our hearts be yearning and aching for it?  People sitting in darkness long for light.  Because they know it exists.


Last image:


I thought a waiting manger would work some good work on our hearts.  When we roll over to Christmastide, I will replace it with the Holy Family.


And by the way, a child was born yesterday.  And you can believe that when my son rolled him out of the delivery room for viewing, I leapt like a deer to behold his face:


“What IS this place???  Oh.  Hi Daddy.”


We have a guest in the house

In 1928 Eleanor Farjeon wrote a poem:


“People, look east. The time is near

of the crowning of the year.

Make your house fair as you are able,

trim the hearth and set the table.

People, look east: Love, the Guest, is on the way.”


Set to the tune of an old French carol, Eleanor’s poem brings special cheer to Advent, which is fast approaching.


Love, the Guest, is on the way.  It is of guests I wish to speak.  Last weekend my husband and I attended a basketball banquet at Lamar University here in Beaumont.  The guest speaker was Julius Erving, age 69.  That’s right – Dr. J!  He of elegance, and unearthly athletic prowess.  He spoke of being the son of a single mom, how with his life he always wanted to help her, not make her life any harder than it already was.  He spoke of his faith, of perseverance, of mentors, of lines falling for him in both pleasant and challenging places. He spoke of his promise to his mother that he would finish college.  Which he did. Eventually.


I was quite caught up in his story. But I had to listen hard: he is soft-spoken, and near me was a table of young persons caught up not in him but in their cellphones and comments thereon.  I really, really wanted to as the old folks used to say “snatch them baldheaded.” Not only were they ignoring the message he brought them, they were interfering with others hearing it. Ah, heedless youth.  I’ve been there.  But I hope I had better manners than that. I definitely had more healthy fear!


After a long while of this, Dr. J looked over at their table and said something about heads down, looking at cellphones.  “I see you,” he said.  Then he said mildly, “We have a guest in the house.”


Whether he meant himself,  the young people’s forebears and future offspring, their debt to life for having been given life, the Holy One within and among and all round us, or all the above, he made his point.


Their table quieted, and he continued.