Back to my roots

 

Old Man’s Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Ohio

 

 A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these, she said, is roots, the other, wings.

Quoted by Hodding Carter in “Where Main Street Meets the River”

We had our annual family reunion last week. It was full of pun-offs, adventures, and close living quarters. We feasted on fresh Carolina peaches, sweet corn and brick oven pizza.

A bodaciously awesome pizza, if I do say so myself!

I realized as I listened to the laughter and conversation swirling around the dinner table that our stories are entwined in so many ways. We share history as well as DNA. We share losses and joys. We fight to the death to keep the essential, clarifying, and off-debated Oxford comma. (See what I did there?)

We shared peaceful views at sunset. Hiking at childhood haunts. Competitive card games. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Sunset at poolside.

The genealogists in the family (my mom being the most experienced) will share interesting bits of family trivia. Through years of research, Mom, (as well as my Dad and maternal grandmother) have uncovered when a specific ancestor emigrated to the US, what wars  they fought in, how they worshipped, and where they homesteaded. The ancestral “fan chart” is impressive with the names and dates going back to ten generations!

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Ancestral Fan-Chart created by my grandmother, Lura Morrow Hickox

For my daughters, I wish for them this same sense of rootedness and belonging. A place to be accepted and encircled with love. A reminder that they are loved and prayed for daily. A retreat from the world when its suckiness seems to out-weigh the promises of the future. A secure take-off. A safe landing zone. And enough love in their buckets to spill out into the world around them.

Our progeny: The Johnnie and The Gardener

It’s something I wish for all…  Not a wall. Not belligerence and hate. Not ridicule and judgmental scorn.

It’s really quite simple:

Roots. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

The true mark of someone who loves God is one that demonstrates their rootedness in the Divine. And the fruit that grows from it.

Jesus said:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NLT)

Benediction and Mission

Words of wisdom and challenge…

How can I respond?

How can you?

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From Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, Circular Church, Charleston, SC, this morning’s benediction.

A black man lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
with somewhere
else to be

walked on
like a Levite
who had
an appointment
with indifference.

It didn’t
happen
to us
we thought

but someone else
in Ferguson
Baltimore
or Baton Rouge.

A police officer lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
callous to
the sacrifice

walked on
like a Levite
with something
else on his mind.

That’s his job
we thought
he knew
the risk.

A gay woman lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
walked on
like a Levite

What can we do?
we asked
It couldn’t
have been predicted
we pretend

not in a country
overflowing
with guns
and anger
deeply dehumanizing
rhetoric
and our worship
of individual
whims
and prejudices.

A child lay
at the side
of the road
a schoolteacher
lay there
a moviegoer
a shopper
a veteran
a retiree
a brother
a sister
a friend
a colleague
lay at the side
of the road

and America
looked the other way
passed by
walked on

failing to imagine
it differently

failing to believe
in something better

failing to revere
the lives
we are given

and the life
of every last
one of us.

Weekly
we pass them
on the way
to church

where we tell stories
and ask
the question
whose answer
we already know:

but who is
my neighbor

if not every
black man
and police officer
and child
we see?

And what is
my response
if not to stop
looking
the other way.

I have no words…

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I have
no words
to share
what’s on my heart.
I have only
tears
and prayers,
and the promise
that You, O Lord,
will walk through this valley
with me.

I have
no wisdom
to give
in this place of grief.
I have only
hugs
and tissues,
and the blessing
of knowing Your peace,
as our hearts
are in pieces.

I have
no tears
to cry
because (quite honestly) my well is dry.
I have only
the promise
of the resurrection
and that You, O Lord,
watch our laboring steps
and shower us
with Love.

Rev. Deb Vaughn
June 26, 2016

Perspective is Everything

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Somewhere over Indiana… I think.

That momentary darkness
A burst of blinding light
The morning walk around the neighborhood
A hellish commute to work
Perspective is everything

Finding a piece of the puzzle
Learning a new bit of my reality
Asking, for once, the right questions
Trusting God enough to wait
Perspective is everything

Rising above your circumstances
Walking on and getting closer to your goal
Seeing around the bend
God giving you hope to hang on
Perspective is everything

It’s worth it
You’re worth it
Hang on
Hold on
Perspective is everything

Make my life an Alleluia

Alleluia!
Hallelujah!
הללו יה
Praise Yah! (weh)
Praise ye the Lord!

In the early Christian church, the word was not translated. It was known and loved as a word of exhortation to simply “PRAISE.”

Without qualifiers. Without reasons. Without expectations to get anything in return. Just PRAISE.

The more I ponder this, the deeper I fall into a spirit of thanksgiving and praise. There is no “reason” needed to praise God. There is no justification when I don’t want to. And even when the floods threaten to swamp me, there is no way I can stop praising… for it is in my praising that I find hope, and peace, and promise… and rest.

Recently I was introduced to this song… and it expressed what many of us dream of doing… living out our lives and reflecting the praise and worship of the Divine.

I’ll hear it at a funeral soon, which will be wonderful and bittersweet. Especially these words:

When I come to my journey’s end,
May those left behind be reminded,
This has been my cry, my song, my prayer:
Lord, make my life an alleluia.

And even then… when I am grieving, I will still say “Alleluia!”

 

oOo

Make my life an alleluia,
A song of praise to You each day.
To proclaim Your grace and glory,
Fill my heart with your praise, I pray.
When I stand at the mountaintop,
Or the valley of despair,
This will be my cry, my song, my prayer:
Lord, make my life an alleluia.

Make my life an alleluia,
A gift of love to you, my King.
I will join with all creation
In the song that the heavens sing!
The earth will turn, and the planets spin,
As the seasons ebb and flow;
Still, Your grace surrounds me as I go,
Lord, make my life an alleluia.

Make my life an alleluia,
This off’ring of myself I give
I will share Your grace and mercy
For as long as I shall live.
When I come to my journey’s end,
May those left behind be reminded,
This has been my cry, my song, my prayer:
Lord, make my life an alleluia.

Ruth Elaine Schram

 

Feed My Sheep: Restoring my Soul

This week I’m at Princeton Theological Seminary as an Engle Preaching Institute Fellow.  Part of my experience is sharing this learning experience with my Roundtable Group of other women clergy, aka the RevGals. Our group’s name expresses what we have come to understand is essential to our longevity in ministry: Feed My Sheep: Spiritual Care for Women Who Bring the Word.

When I think of serving God by serving others, I realize how badly I need the tender care of God’s Love. I need the shepherding, guiding Hand of God. That Hand is not exclusively referred to in masculine identity/gender. “God as She” is a growing part of my experience and my theology.

Maybe that’s why I love this rendering of the 23rd Psalm…

Psalm 23, Bobby McFerrin

I’m listening and absorbing the reality of how proclamation of the Word of God is a restorative act for the listener, but most of all, for the Preacher.

LoveisLoveis

 I cannot preach what I do not know, personally, instinctively, intuitively, emotionally, viscerally, and spiritually about God.

 

 

 

You might not think about it that way… but I cannot preach what I do not know, personally, instinctively, intuitively, emotionally, viscerally, and spiritually about God. To preach what is on my heart, borne out of my own personal journey of joy and pain. To give myself permission to lament, to cry, to question, to speak truth instead of accepting that “sad things” are too hard (in other words, not always just shutting my mouth… but speaking up!)

There are times I am called to preach, and other times to be silent. Sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes, I open my mouth to change feet.

But in a time of sorrow, the kind that sinks deep into my heart and my bones, that takes away my appetite and wrecks my sleep? Mostly, I just want companionship.

I might want company.
I do not want words.
I might want to vent.
I don’t want platitudes.
I want to be heard.
I don’t want to hear a counterpoint of conversation to my anger.

I might just want…
SILENCE.

YES. Even I, the extrovert, the energized, the ESFJ, the Entrepreneur and Energizer, needs time to allow the Shepherd to restore my soul…

 

I Will Hold Your Story

In my work as a chaplain, I am privileged to listen and reflect with those who are brought into my circle of care. I am not the only one who listens to these patients. Nurses. Social workers. Physicians. Nursing assistants. Even the food service and environmental service staff! We all are part of the patient’s journey towards wellness. We provide services, relieve pain and pressure, and make sure the patient’s and family’s needs are heard and met.

Sometimes in hospice work, however, we do not have tasks we can do. We provide the gift of Presence. Of listening. Of hearing and holding stories. It is a privilege and a blessing.

 

Patient
© 2011 Medill DC, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When the Time Comes

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will listen to the words you do not say.
I will honor the memories that spring to mind,
suddenly, wildly, impetuously,
as if they must be remembered.
They must be said aloud or be forgotten forever.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will laugh with you
(even though it hurts to laugh)
until the tears rolls down our cheeks,
and we gasp for breath,
As if you will never laugh again.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will hold mementos and souvenirs.
I will cherish photos with you.
I will look at faces from your youth,
faded on paper, but not in your heart.
I will help you speak their names.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will honor your faith.
I will celebrate the loves of your life.
I will clean my cheeks with my tears.
I will lift a glass in memory of your life.
I will remember…
And then some day,
Someone will hold my story, too.

When the time comes…

Rev. Deb Vaughn, 6.8.2016