The Day After Christmas

The struggle is real.

I came downstairs this morning to begin a Christmas tradition with my family… Making the “monkey bread” that’s a special holiday treat. There was no time to bake it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. When I did have a little down time, we ordered pizza or ate leftovers. Or I just put my feet up and had some eggnog with brandy.

I’m incredibly blessed to have ministry opportunities in two venues: my work as a Hospice Chaplain, and my position as Assistant Minister at a progressive Baptist church. But today, I am going to enjoy my family,  open some presents, ignore my phone, and share in the cooking of a good meal. I might clean up enough of the counter to have a place to sit down and eat. Or not.

But most likely, I’m going to rest. And count the blessings I see… because they are everywhere. Once I have a few moments to breathe, I’ll get some other blog posts up…

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Joyous Kwanzaa!

And peace be yours…

I don’t speak for you

I don’t speak for you.

There. I said it.

I also don’t speak for people who look like me, dress like me, work with me, worship with me, or live near me. And, most importantly, I most definitely do not speak for someone who is nothing like me!

I am just… me. A wife and mom. A hospice chaplain. A progressive Baptist. A pastor. An LGBTQ+ally (and yes — I asked and was told that I am. If that matters.)

I look like women who voted for Trump in large numbers, and that pisses me off. (White, middle class, Christian.) I supported Hillary and contributed to her campaign. I tried to influence the hearts and minds of people around me to vote for her. And apparently, I was not very good at it.

Election night, I had tears in my eyes and felt frustrated. I had no words for those closest to me who were also devastated. I heard their fears. I was distressed with them. I am deeply worried about them because of the rhetoric and abuse we all heard from Trump during the campaign. They are vulnerable because of who they are.

Here’s what I have learned in the last few days…  (Sorry it’s in bullet points. I don’t have time to create fantastic, in-depth prose.)

  • By accident of birth, education and economic status, I could fade into the Great Beyond of white suburbia. But my Calling, my conscience and my faith do not allow that.
  • Those who know me already, know that when I wear a safety pin* or a rainbow bracelet, that I am visibly trying to signal what I believe and will do. And that I want them to be treated fairly, kindly, respectfully as I want to be treated.
  • Those who don’t know me personally might think I’m posturing.
  • The dying patients I serve, as well as their families, need my focus and care. Many of them are marginalized by their race, religion or gender identity.
  • My coworkers who care for the dying with me every day are sad, stressed and discouraged.
  • My family, friends, and parishioners have real fears, hurts and anxieties because of this election season.
  • I don’t have enough money, time or energy to respond to every need around me. That means I have to pick and choose, and I try to do that wisely.
  • I am praying — fiercely — for the projected new President.** (As of this date, the Electoral College has not met.)

 

I am trying to make a difference where I am. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. In my context. Wherever God takes me.

I will do this imperfectly. Incompletely. Ignorantly. But I will keep trying.

I will  continue speak up against hate speech whenever I witness it.

I will keep learning. Growing. Praying. Reading. Listening. Serving. I’ll wear a safety pin and a rainbow bracelet. And sometimes, a cross. And I’ll try to do a better job of being an example of Christ in the world.

soli deo gloria

 

*It used to be that when someone wore a cross, they were expected to act “Christianly”. But today, the cross has been co-opted by political entities within American politics. It seems that a safety pin might better express my effort to be a welcoming, affirming and listening presence, without the trappings of a particular religious group.

**[edited to add] This does not mean he has my approval or my trust. (Bless his heart.) It means I am fulfilling a Scriptural admonishment to pray for those in authority.

What shall I tell my daughters?

Oh Lord…

How did we arrive in this unholy mess? The latest kerfuffle with the presidential election makes me want to throw things. Or vomit. Or maybe throw vomit. How did things get so thoroughly mucked up? Is this really the result of an uninvested, uneducated electorate, who were distracted by the rhetoric of obstructionist Legislatures, both national and local? (…as some pundits would suggest)

img_2179What shall I tell my daughters? They are voting in their first presidential election. The big issues like our national debt and student loans matter to them. (Hello. To me, too!) So does affordable healthcare. Getting a job. A clean environment. Global warming. A safer world. Marrying the person they love.

How shall I explain what their parents’ generation has done…and not done? They know as well as I do that it is a complex world we live in, far more complex than when I snoozed my way through “Principles of Democracy” (aka “civics”) in high school. It’s more than sound bites. It’s more than tabloid-driven news (God, help us!) It’s more than he-said-she-said.

This much I do know… I believe these young women, these wonderful daughters of ours are, inherently and personally, people of value and promise. They and their friends have much to give to our nation and our world. They have drive and dreams. They are articulate and compassionate.

They are watching and waiting with me, Lord.

I know You guide the hearts and actions of the nations.
I know You are able to steer even the most stubborn autocrat.
I know that whoever is elected will be flawed human being… just like me.
May Your peace reign.
May we hear Your direction.
May we know Your heart.
May we have Your mind.
And may those of us who are tasked with spiritual leadership
guard our tongues and increase our prayers…

Amen.

The QUIET


Tuesday we took The Johnnie back to campus. It was a busy summer, full of travels and memories, family dinners and challenges. Now it’s time for studies to take over her calendar.  She’s ready. I’m delighted for her!!

But it’s the QUIET. So very quiet.

The last week or so there were errands and to-do lists. Evenings and the last few weekends flew by. Church events. Day trips. Driving lessons. Shopping. Gourmet meals in my kitchen (not by me!) All have vanished from my calendar. 


The silence is punctuated by two cats who are confused as to their best human sitter’s disappearance. We are attempting to be acceptable cat servants, but the bar is set pretty high. 


The seasons are on the razor’s edge between summer and fall. It’s a reminder of how short life is, and how precious life and loves really are. 

If you’ve got ’em, hug ’em! Hold them close! 
 

The Genealogy of a Recipe

 

My family has a collection of recipes that come from various friends and family members. They are part of our celebrations and meals, parties and surprises. Some of them I can share (and I do, over at my cooking blog, Holy Spoons. That’s where you’ll find some of my grandmothers’ recipes.) But other recipes are truly family secrets and they aren’t mine to share.

That’s the case with these cookies, affectionately called “Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.” I had to think a bit to remember who she was, who in the family knew her, and when I first tasted her cookies. (And, I might add, just about anything that came out of her oven could be classified as “good”!)

Tonight I baked these confections. As they cooled on the baking rack, we sampled them. (The broken ones, of course.) They were DELICIOUS!!

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Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies

 

I had to consult with my sister and my mom to get some specific instructions, as the notes on my faded and stained recipe card didn’t have a few key instructions. But after texting back and forth a few times, there was clarity and success. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing success!!

Tomorrow I will share these gems with church family and friends. They were well worth the work, and honor the memory of the generous baker who shared the recipe with our family in the first place.

I reflected on how much of what we know and do is handed down by word-of-mouth. Family traditions, holidays, celebrations all seem to come through the generations, each previous generation depending on the next to listen, take note, and (perhaps) improve on the work of the past. In the church it is no different, of course. Every time I read 2 Timothy, I reflect on how the faith of the grandmother and mother were accepted and lived out in the son/grandson.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. (2 Timothy, NLT)

But the faith of Lois and Eunice would not have become Timothy’s had they not shared it! I suspect his first theological education began as he watched them care for others in their church, perhaps providing meals for a widow or for orphans. They patiently answered his questions and challenged him to make their faith his own. Paul reminded Timothy of this.

Cooking and baking is like that, too. You have to watch, try, and try again. You adapt what works in a modern kitchen. You get the benefit of years of baking and cooking. I’m reminded of my mom taking the recipe for corned beef (which called for a side of beef in a barrel!) and reducing the portions to make it with a 5 pound roast. I worked with the family’s treasured white bread recipe to make a tasty loaf in the bread machine.

Like many recipes, I’ve added notes in the margin now. What size pan I used, how long it took to bake, and any other reminders so that the next batch comes out of the oven with a little less guesswork. These “tried and true” recipes and tips are what bring the personal, special touch to our tables.

Not every recipe is a keeper! The “Grange” cookbook that was my grandmother’s was a hellish collection of jello salad molds, pickled beef tongue and spam recipes. I remember many of these dishes with a shudder…

So it is with the traditions and expectations of the Church of previous generations. We observe their “lessons for success” – and try to duplicate those practices which infuse life and love into our churches. Perhaps, just perhaps, we are discovering that there are customs that we can let go of… for another generation to grow their own expressions of love for Christ and reaching the world with God’s Love. We can keep the traditions that work… like Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.

thoughtfully… and gratefully yours…

Deb

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.

New Journeys

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New Journeys

Here’s to new journeys
and new challenges,
new paths to travel
and new delights.
Here’s to new knowledge
and new conversations,
new friendships
and new memories.

For all who are starting off on new adventures,
my prayers go with you.

God knows;
you do not travel alone.