Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I surrender! I’ve had enough of winter! I’m ready for spring!

It doesn’t help a bit that it’s February, and 20°F this morning. That’s downright cold for North Carolina. But last week I did order some new raspberry bushes, to be delivered when it’s a bit warmer.

It doesn’t help a bit that it’s the shortest month, when we’re having the longest, darkest nights.

It doesn’t help a bit that the hardest-hitting holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukka, Kwanzaa – are all bundled up together and over with, and now we’re looking right at … Lent. The winter of the church calendar. AAARGH!, as the “Peanuts” characters would lament.

And you should see the Valentine I made this year. No hearts. No flowers. No expression of heartfelt love.

A rhinoceros. Well, it made sense to my friend Carolyn (near Dallas, TX). She responded with a story from her Girl Scout days, when her adult leader sent her a card with a picture of a rhino flying point for a V of geese. It said not to question leadership. Great connection.

But you can have February.

Let there be March!

Or better still, April! April, Sweet April!


Well that’s basically what a friend was asking this week. What difference have I made? What mark have I made in this world? What will I be remembered for? What have I done with my many years of life? What have I achieved?

I think she was really asking that old question from childhood: What will I be when I grow up? And that brings up other questions: How will I know when I’m grown up? Do I have to grow up? Do I really want to grow up?

But back to the original question: What difference have I made?

I remember reading somewhere that the ocean doesn’t care whether you take some water with a bucket or a cup. What matters is what you do with the water. And whether you enjoy the ocean. Perhaps the question isn’t what difference have I made but what difference have I experienced.

In last year’s Anglican “Lambeth Conference,” a number of African words were shared with us westerners. “Indaba” groups is a Zulu word for meetings where significant questions are worked through in a community, and the Zulu word "ubuntu", translated as "humanity to others", describing the ubuntu philosophy: "I am what I am because of who we all are," the call to community and communion.

So I wonder if maybe that significance question might best be explored in community. What am I a part of? Who am I linked to? What are we doing together which takes us well beyond the “me” to “we.”

Another way of looking at it is to consider what we are becoming as we live in this world. I met the “be perfect” verse (Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”), when I was about 11, Lutheran, in a boarding school in India, dominated by American Baptists who just deleted this verse with their perpetual “nobody’s perfect” attitude. (Being 11 and away from home and among these very different theologies, I encountered the kind of challenge to my own beliefs that most people meet in college. It was, to say the least, very strenuous for an 11-year-old.) A good little Lutheran child, I had been nurtured with the principle of sola scriptura ("by scripture alone"), so I wasn’t content to dismiss the encouragement to be perfect.

So, I climbed a tree and took my Bible along to read and think. And I noticed that we were told to be perfect as God is perfect. It was all too clear to me that I wasn’t being told I should be as perfect as God is. Then I thought, “Oh! God is perfect as God; I’m to be perfect as me.

Then in my adult scripture study, I learned from a commentary that the Greek word that the translators interpreted as “perfect” actually means “brought to full bloom,” “perfected.”

So now I don’t think so much about what I’ll be when I grow up, but about what it is that I’m growing into, what I’m becoming, not about what I’ve achieved, but about coming to full blossom.

Well, Alfie, do you think maybe that’s what it’s all about?

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I got locked out of my blog! And I just wiggled my way back in! Just in time to share my Lent Project!

My church (St. Anne's Episcopal) does a nifty thing at Lent. We do a Lenten Investment Project. The church gives anyone willing $10.00 as seed money. Each year during Lent, various ones of us take that, add to it and do something to raise money for our outreach ministries. Each family does whatever they want to do. Bake cookies, sell crafts and arts (we have an accomplished potter and two excellent artists), sell "tickets" for babysitting, to do yardwork, dog wash, car wash, have an afternoon tea, etc. And those who don't raise the money, contribute.
This year I'm making and selling earrings (leverbacks and clip-ons). They’re all silver charms. I have four designs: Peace Wheel, Sand Dollar, Treble Clef, Acorn.
Why an acorn? Here in NC, the acorn is our symbol for New Year’s. Raleigh, the NC state capital, is the “City of Oaks.” Commissioned for the city's bicentennial in 1992 and crafted by sculptor David Benson, The Acorn (1,250 pounds of copper and steel) is hoisted from its post on a crane on New Year’s Eve and dropped (like NY’s glitzy ball) with appropriate count-down to mark the first instant of our new year. It’s much more meaningful than a glitzy ball! The promise of new life, symbol of good luck in Germany. the potential for great power in a small but potent package, a perfect symbol for power, fertility, and survival, often a symbol of patience and the fruition of long, hard labor. To keep this from getting out of hand, I'm only making about 10 of each design. 40 days, 40 earrings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Gospel, Daily Office Readings, 15 November 2007

Matthew 16:1-12 (NRSV)

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." Then he left them and went away.

Having been a little kid at the beach, I have a very early memory of the folk-wisdom: "Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight." When I lived in the mountains of Pennsylvania, I learned that if the air had a nip to it and the clouds were dark and flat on the bottom, we were in for snow. And I have learned here in NC that if we have fog on a summer morning, even if the weatherman chants his daily mantra, "Chance of afternoon and evening thundershowers," we're not going to get them, not that day. So, I get Jesus' point: Read the signs, and not just the weather signs, God's signs.

And Jesus names one of God's signs as the "Sign of Jonah." Well, the big-fish story prevails, so the most-readily named sign of Jonah is that he was in the belly of the fish for three days and came forth, just as Jesus would be in the tomb three days and be resurrected. But for me, Jonah has another sign: the useful if grumpy prophet. He's grumpy a lot. He doesn't want to go to Nineveh; grumble, grumble, run away. He doesn't like it that the Ninevites repented (because of his own preaching, mind you); grumble, grumble, go sit out in the sun. Then God causes a vine to grow, and it provides him shade, but then the worm eats it, and it withers, and he's exposed to the sun again; grumble, grumble, gripe and complain. (To the pessimist, the Sign of Jonah is that there's always a worm in everything. Anybody we know?) But back to Jonah, the Grumpy Prophet: even a grumpy prophet is useful in prompting Nineveh's forgiveness. I guess we get to choose which Sign of Jonah we'll live by: the Sign of the Big Fish, the Sign of Jonah's Worm, or the Sign of the Grumpy Prophet. To me, the Sign of the Grumpy Prophet is a lot more pertinent to my spirituality, at least for now.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I'm so glad you're writing your book.

No, you squeak, No way!
I have nothing but blank paper and empty notebooks.
I wouldn't know how to begin.

I'm so glad you're writing your book.

Oh, not me. I have no notes,
No outline, no quaint anecdotes.
I don't have anything of interest to say.

I'm so glad you're writing your book.

You are, you know, by every word you say
and everywhere you go, the lives you touch,
And the dreams you dream.

I'm so glad you're writing your book.

I've read some of its chapters
As you've shared your life with me.
I'm so glad you're writing your book.

I'm so glad you're writing your book.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


OK, I survived Independence day without undue trauma. You see, I just can't stand fireworks. Simulated warfare just dampens my spirits. So, while the rest of the country enjoys their fireworks, I seek out something else of meaning. Thoreau helped. “The Writer’s Almanac” recalled July 4 as the anniversary of the day (in 1845) that Henry David Thoreau moved into his little one-room cabin at Walden Pond. He stayed 2 years, 2 months and two days. So, I spent Independence Day with that very independent man, ignored the fireworks (as much as my two irritated dogs would allow), and had a lovely day of quiet thought: I collected pictures and quotations. I selected these to think on:

Walden Pond, Concord, Mass.

“Things do not change; we change.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“What people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“We must have infinite faith in each other. If we have not, we must never let it leak out that we have not.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“[People] are born to succeed, not fail.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Higher Laws, 1854

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Conclusion, 1854

"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature."
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 9. The Ponds

Monday, June 11, 2007


My friend Joan is in Rome. She’s attending a family wedding. She is Roman Catholic, so she is also on pilgrimage. There less than a day, she wrote to our e-mail list naming some of the places she has already seen. And she set my memory to flight.

It was 50 years ago last month that I was in Rome. My parents and I were on the way home from India. We flew from 120°F Bombay to 64°F Rome. And froze, for at least a week! We took the guided tours for a few days: Saint Peters, the Coliseum, the Palatine Museum, the Forum, etc. And then we established a pattern of arising early in the morning (along with the German Lutheran Deaconesses, at whose convent we were staying) and taking a bus to the outskirts of town. Then we’d spend the day working our way from one place of interest to the next, coming back into the center of the city. So, with Joan’s trip as my prompt, I’ve been reliving the city on the seven hills. It surprises me that although I was much impressed by the magnitude of the major tourist attractions, some of the small things of the city still warm my heart.

In Saint Peter’s Cathedral is a rather ordinary (amid the masterpieces) statue of Saint Peter, called Saint Peter Enthroned. One would ordinarily react to it with a blaze “Ho-hum” attitude, except for Old Pete’s right foot. It has been caressed and kissed by millions of pilgrims, and the toes and front of the sandal are very worn.

In the northwestern corner of the nave sits the statue of St. Peter Enthroned, attributed to late 13th century sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio (with some scholars dating it back to the 5th century). The foot of the statue is eroded due to centuries of pilgrims kissing it.

This statue still stands out in my memory. It’s sure not rememberable among the biggies: Michelangelo’s David and Moses, the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, all those ancient buildings… It’s not that it’s such a remarkable statue, but that the impulsive fisherman-apostle is loved with such deep and tangible devotion.

I am jolted by how much more it is worn away now than it was in 1957! My mom was the one who always read the guidebooks the night before we visited places of interest. She had on her list that she wanted to see the statue of St. Peter with his big toe worn away. And actually, nearly all the toes on his right foot were showing wear, but mostly the big toe. Now the wear is all over the distal end of his right foot, and even some wear shows on his left foot. My, what devotion that signifies! No wonder this statue is indelibly imprinted on my teenaged memory!

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The first gift given to the brand new baby church was the gift of all languages.

Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs, in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."

This was not the gift of tongues speaking a heavenly language. This was the gift of all languages of the people of earth. The disciples could be understood by people from all over the world, in each language that was needed. This ought to give us in the 21st century a hint that since the first gift given to the church was understandable communication, that we are called to talk with each other in a spirit of loving fellowship. Whatever differences we have, we have an obligation to sit down together and speak each other’s language. “When in Rome,” you not only “do as the Romans do,” if you want to be understood, you “speak as the Romans speak,” as much as possible in their language. So, when there are differences in our international Communion, the first thing the Spirit calls us to do is to communicate with each other gently and courteously and continue to walk together in the work of the Kingdom. And when there are differences in our diocese or in our parishes, we need to come together and communicate peacefully and in loving partnership in daily ministry. Having differences is no excuse. We are called from the first moment of our existence as church to listen and talk to each other, that we may walk together in the footsteps of Christ.

My new, homemade Pentecost t-shirt, printed front & back.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Saturday, April 07, 2007


Love from Michael

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Thursday, January 25, 2007


A psalm of mother-love and childish fears: An original psalm in response to today's Morning Prayer readings (Isa. 49: 13- 23, Gal. 3: 1- 14, Mark 6: 30- 46)

My God, how like a mother you are,
that you have known and named and loved us
even before we were born.
Like a mother you have nurtured us, every one,
from your own body: your substance, your essence,
making us all related through our birth in your love.
Namasté, we greet each other,
greeting that of God which is in every creature and creation.

You care for us most lovingly,
preparing for us in the arms of the natural world
a bounty of all that we need to survive;
surrounding us with loving friends and family,
wise leaders (although some become so foolish in the flush of power --
forgive them, and us that we do not oppose their folly),
and prophets who speak your word,
even if we do give them a hard time for their efforts.

I have seen your love and mercy,
I have heard your voice,
I have felt your touch
and smelled your earthy presence beside me.
Yet fearful and ashamed of my childish faults,
I have turned away and hidden my face
in my own preoccupations.
I have denied your goodness by refusing it.
I have diluted your love with my worries and preoccupations.
I have stupidly put myself in the forefront of my thoughts.

Save me from my multitude of peccadilloes,
Let me not worship them by giving them my time and energy.
Show me that you can accept and use my flaws and weaknesses
just as easily as you can use my strengths and talents.
Now that's a humbling thought!

God our mother, hold us close
when we wake and as we sleep.
Feed us generously --
with the bread and fish you have provided
and which now you have received from our hands
and blessed and multiplied --
that we might share in your life by caring for one another.
Take us by the hand and walk with us,
for we know that you will take us
farther than we have ever imagined.

Selah. And amen.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


My friend Claudia sent me a Christmas questionnaire to fill out. One question (13. Do you remember your favorite gift?) prompted a fun memory.

My favorite and most memorable Christmas gift was given to me more than 10 years ago. It was Christmas Day, the day after my 2nd back surgery, and Diane Thornton, contralto and then-member of Saint Anne's choir, brought me cookies in the hospital. I said, Nice, thank you, but I want another gift from you: to sing Christmas carols together. And we sure did. Those of you who remember Diane can also remember the rich timbre of her singing voice -- absolutely marvelous to harmonize with! We had a great time, taking turns selecting carols to sing from memory. As you can imagine, we were thoroughly engrossed in the moment. Then a uniformed nurse about the size and shape of a professional wrestler came bustling into my room. Diane and I cringed in abject apology for being too loud. The nurse laughed us to silence and shanghaied us to sing for an elderly man whose room was down the hall, around two corners and in another wing (a very long walk for me!) In the three months he had been in the hospital, his only visitor had been his wife. She was with him on that Christmas day. And Diane and I started all over again, singing carols they requested and sang along with. It was an absolutely unforgettable gift/experience! I will never forget Diane's precious gift of self. And her cookies were delicious.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Friday, September 08, 2006


Thursday, August 31, 2006






Saturday, August 05, 2006


Thursday, August 03, 2006


Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Monday, July 31, 2006


Saturday, July 29, 2006



Wednesday, July 26, 2006




Saturday, July 15, 2006