Wearing a legacy

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Lace created by my grandmother, Claudia Bishop Harsh.

This morning I put on my robe and reached for a purple stole. I have two… but I chose this one.

I pieced this stole last year from odds and ends and purchased purple swatches. Considering I had never created a stole before, it was a work of much guesswork and happy accidents.

As I wrote last year, I was a bit uncertain how to finish this stole. The embroidered findings of a cross or bread and cup would not show clearly on the piecework. And it needed something, oh… a little more personal! 

And then… as I rummaged and searched for the right finishing touches, I found the family heirloom lace and knew… a commercially created cross would not work. Carefully, I trimmed and sewed pieces of this lace on my stole. I would wear the handwork of my foremothers around my neck.

On Easter Sunday, I will wear more of my family’s heirloom lace on my white robe. As I pray and sing and offer Communion, I will again wear the legacy of my family’s faith. This lace trim, created by my great-aunt Maurine, was painstakingly sewn on late into the night on Holy Saturday last year.

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In the basting stages last year: hand-tatted lace created by my Great-aunt Maurine Bishop.

Not everyone gets to wear their family’s love on their sleeve. I know that as I celebrate on Easter Sunday, I bring my family with me. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins bring a sense of “grounding” to my faith. I wear a labor of love!

I serve from a place of privilege, for I know I am encouraged and prayed for, welcomed and loved. I worship in safety. I can express my beliefs without fear of persecution.

I wear a legacy… one that I hope to never forget.

Thanks be to God!

The love of thousands

Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires… Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still,” they say. “Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

L-R: crocheted lace by Claudia Bishop Harsh, tatted lace by Maurine Bishop, crocheted lace by Katherine Hengst Harsh

I came across the lace looking for something else. My grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother created them as trimmings for pillowcases and collars, tablecloths and handkerchiefs.

I have held these pieces of lace many times, turning over in my hands, running them between my fingers, looking at the fine crocheting and tatting. Usually I gently fold them back up and put them in a small box labeled “Logan.” (Logan, Ohio is where many of my relatives lived.) But then I realized… I could use this trim on the Lenten stole I was trying to finish!

I remembered going to church where my grandparents worshipped in Logan. If I close my eyes to remember, the sights and smells come flooding back…  The creaky sound of the carpeted floors in the sanctuary. The stained glass and dark, polished (very hard!) pews. The robes and the music… this would be a fitting use of their lovely handiwork!

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After worship at Twinbrook Baptist, Rockville, MD

When I wore my new stole at church on Sunday, I felt wrapped in the love of my family. It was a very simple stole, made of a patchwork of various purple prints, and trimmed with this crocheted lace. But I knew… my family was there in spirit, hugging my neck, represented as I prayed, and offered the Bread and Cup.

The stole was a reminder of the faith of my family through the generations to the present. They have encouraged and celebrated many milestones in my work and ministry. I am so very grateful.

Be still… watch and listen… You are the result of the love of thousands… 

I was, indeed, surrounded by their love.

Thanks be to God.

Of Toilets and Taxes

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This is how I feel about housecleaning… and taxes.

I knew my job list for today when I went to bed last night. I wasn’t excited then, and I wasn’t as the day went on. It was a simple list:

  1. Clean the house (most of it) in preparation for a bunch of Johnnies coming for a few nights next weekend
  2. Do an estimate of the taxes and start that blasted FAFSA

I’ll admit it. My attitude sucks when it comes to doing these tasks. I reflected on why that might be. It’s not just that they are time-consuming and never seem to be finished (though that is a large part of it.) And I also recalled last November, when I tried to focus daily on 30 days of Thanksgiving, and had remarked on my tendency to whine.

So, I tried to turn it around… Why is it a good thing that I have to clean my house? 

  1. I have a place to live
  2. I have the energy to clean
  3. I have indoor plumbing (!)
  4. I have cats who leave tokens of their love everywhere (cat hair; not headless mice!)
  5. I have clothes to wear and food to eat

IMG_0731Now then. What’s so good about taxes? And FAFSA? This was a little harder.

  1. I have an income
  2. I have a high enough income that I have to pay taxes
  3. I have a child who is a good student and doing well in college
  4. After 9 years, I almost understand FAFSA

At the end of the day, the floors got a once-over, the kitchen had an initial cleaning, and the bathrooms are not as disgusting. I will never be an accountant or run a housecleaning business. But I am grateful for the many, many good things that these two chores represent.

Blessed be.

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed.)

I Thess. 5:16-18 The Voice

Remember you are Dust…

One day can be a lot like another… But today, at the end of the day, I changed one role for the other.

I stepped out of my chaplain role and donned my pastor’s robe and stole, and assisted in leading the Ash Wednesday service with my pastor and friend, Jill. We shared soup and rolls, and Scripture from the Psalms. It was an evening of prayers, of miscues, of wrong notes and hard topics. It was a night with the subtext, “Welcome to a service where we are all going to remember that we are mortal.”

Ash Wednesday is that time of solemn reflection, of admitting that this life we worry about every day is so… Temporary. It is a day of pastoral irony that we, who are supposed to inspire, encourage and remind others of the joys of the eternal, have the most visible stain of mortality on our hands. My thumb and forefinger had black in every crease, every wrinkle, every hangnail.

 

Remember…

It was especially poignant for me in that today is the anniversary of my dad’s death in  February 10, 2000.

Today as I read Scripture and left a cross on the forehead of my patients and their families, I remembered him, and my mom, and my sibs. I remembered the waiting, the wondering, the sad relief. It isn’t something I think about every day. But I did today…

Remember you are formed from the dust of the earth…

And to the dust, you will return.

Ash Wednesday is just the beginning of the journey through Lent. It is a wandering and reflecting time. There is time for introspection and repentance, but life does not stay in the morose and mortal. For these next 40 days, we are taking an intentional journey towards the Cross and an empty Tomb. Death does not stay defeated!

But for tonight… We reflect. We consider. We remember….

Blessed be the Name.

Holy Week: Walking Towards the Resurrection

It’s Holy Week. One of the busiest times of year for pastors (and chaplains), and one where I so desperately need some strength and rejuvenation!

IMG_7819I was reminded by a Wise Woman to be intentional in my Holy Week activities, busy as I am. I was exhorted to keep the space around my heart and my mind refreshed and clear.

So this afternoon, with laundry piled high (isn’t it always?) and chores to do, I took her advice.

I sat in the chilly spring air, and stared at blue sky, and puffy clouds, and noticed the maple buds swelling.

I watched the chickadees and cardinals go to the feeders, flitting back and forth to the trees and bushes. I listened to a woodpecker drumming on the dead apple tree branch. And I heard the sound of branches creaking in the light breeze.

I breathed deeply. Chores can wait. Books will gather dust. Essays and charting and blog posts even will get done… or not.

IMG_7813What I really needed to do was be IN Creation. To jettison the expectations I put on myself, and to remember… to pray… to reflect on this Lenten journey, soon to be ending with the celebration on Easter morning.

I sat on a bench in the sun, drinking it all in. I walked the labyrinth in the back yard and realized it needed attention. It was time to clean away the deadfall of branches and rake away the leaves. To stop and look around me and see the change coming and relish it. To see the traces of winter, the places where the ground is still hard and cold, and also the places where the grass has begun to grow.

I sense the stirring. I know that the songs of the Resurrection are coming. But first, I wait and walk and wait some more.

IMG_7817I noted this old fencerow on our property. It is part of an old orchard road where, generations ago, the apple trees were planted and the fence strung up to prevent livestock from getting in the orchard. It reminded me that the echoes of generations past gave me life and purpose and fire to keep going, keep growing.

This is the work of the Spirit in my life. She leads, suggests but never presses. She points out the fenceposts and reminds me of the paths of the faithful. She highlights obstacles and suggests a way around it. She breathes life into my tired, cold, wintering-over heart.

And I realize, with a kind of dull and slow awakening, that even in the days where I felt it was pointless, and basically “phoned it in” at work and home, God was working. Through me. In me. In spite of me. From the pile of dead branches to the leaves that blew in across the fence, God has been and always will be at work, behind the scenes, underground, in the coldest, driest, hottest or iciest days.

Joan Chittiister wrote:
“Everywhere I looked, hope existed – but only as some kind of green shoot in the midst of struggle. It was a theological concept, not a spiritual practice. Hope, I began to realize, was not a state of life. It was at best a gift of life.”

IMG_7802Wherever I go, in my next steps and moments, I walk with a little more confidence and faith in the God who walks with me.

In the struggle, there is peace. And there is surely growth.

Walking towards the Resurrection this week – may you experience the encouraging words of the Spirit.

TBTG

Photo-a-day: Forgive

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The fence line at the Antietam Battlefield

This last week has been a whirlwind. Patients, families, meetings, charting, phone calls, and driving over 750 miles. And that’s just for starters.

The reason I logged all those miles was to attend a committee review of my application to be recognized as a Board-Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains. I’ll spare you the details, (you can go to the link and read all about it), but it has taken me almost five years since I graduated from seminary to achieve this recognition.

Professional chaplains engage in an intensive learning process. It is the process of learning how to use your “self” as a resource; being aware of your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and potential triggers takes time. Lots of time. It requires prayer, reflection, writing, talking, and applying what you discern. It’s long hours for crap pay (no lie… for one of my placements I earned minimum wage!) It’s trying to understand someone from a radically different background. And always, always ALWAYS listening to the Spirit of the Living God.

So when I came to today’s Photo-a-Day prompt, FORGIVE, I was immediately drawn to search for a photo of Antietam. The bloodiest battle on America’s soil where over 23,000 were killed in a day. In some parts of the United States, the shadows cast by The Civil War are decidedly UNcivil. I was reminded of that fact as I drove around North Carolina. And later today, as I drove up I-95 and saw the huge Confederate flag in full view of I-95. (Read more here.)

It’s true: in some places, the South has not forgiven the North. Funny how that applies to many other issues in the US today…

But it is also a part of my chaplain’s journey, as I have learned to view people who reject my ministry with compassion instead of getting angry. Yes. I’ve been rejected. And many times, I don’t know whether it’s because I am the wrong race, gender, denomination or something else I don’t know! (I’m wearing pants? My head isn’t covered?)

I’ve had to leave a lot of baggage behind. It’s too much emotional and psychological effort to carry all of that extra enmity. I am learning that life is too short, and the world has much to celebrate and cherish.

Family, friends, beauty, joy, hope… all are worth the extra time and energy that I can give them.

A quote I read recently brought it home:

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The Apostle Paul had some good advice about forgiveness too:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)

A reminder. A prayer. A life-long goal.

Blessed be.

Photo-a-Day: Still

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Walking through the garden that afternoon, the air was heavy and humid. Not a leaf was moving. I was struck by the vines above me, clinging to a cool stone wall.

Still.

It’s the moment where I realize that I can stop moving, doing, responding… and just BE.

It’s a chaplain skill. Waiting for the time and place and moment… for the wind of the Spirit to blow freely through me.

Still.