Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chautauqua and Chicago

How do you return to sacred places tainted by sadness?
I've stood hundreds of times at the spot pictured above ~ but not in the last five years.  I scattered some ashes into the lake a bit to the right (south?) some winters ago, but that was the last time. We've tried to wander through Chautauqua twice since then, and found ourselves making a speedy departure both times.  "I just think of the three of us running all over the place every summer," said my surviving son after our first aborted attempt.  "It's too hard."
This year, I find myself re-posting Chautauqua links on FB (where I found this photo), and longing to be there.  I've listened to an entire week's worth of worship tapes from last summer; I wanted to hear Barbara Brown Taylor's sermon series, but that meant listening to the music and readings and prayers and announcements as well.  It was like being there: I could feel the breeze through the Ampitheatre and hear the pileated woodpecker in the trees behind our seats; I could remember the summers I listened to sermons as I pushed a stroller along the back, and the summers we all sang "Holy, Holy, Holy," always the Sunday opening hymn, with our arms around each other; and I could recall myself telling the kids, "Someday you'll be back here with your own children, and you'll be grateful for this Sunday summer tradition."
Well, no, not as it turns out.
The other place which seems impossible to me is Chicago, where Josh went to college and began what looked to be such a promising grown-up life.  I was headed there last fall, but the plans fell through.  My daughter has promised to accompany me this year.  I had imagined myself visiting grandchildren in Chicago someday, and looked forward to family vacations on Lake Michigan.
Well, no, not as it turns out.
These are places I have loved so very much.  The spirituality of place is deeply ingrained in me ~ but I cannot figure our how to return to these most beloved of places and survive intact in any kind of way.  On the other hand, I don't want to forgo forever the experience of these streets and paths and plazas and lakes, so haunted by memory and yet still so filled with exuberant joy.
It took me four years to return to our family's favorite Italian restaurant, which is only a short walk from our home.  But in doing so I have walled off a portion of my heart. 
Is there a way to go back without erecting barriers in a criss-cross pattern throughout my entire interior being?


Saturday, June 29, 2013

31 Days with Ignatius

It's another Iggy month!
Loyola Press is once again hosting 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. The online feature includes a calendar of great Ignatian articles, videos, and prayers for you to be inspired by throughout the month of July. It all leads up to the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola on July 31.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Yesterday I witnessed medical care both progressive and arrogant, in the person of one surgeon.
And then I witnessed a ninety-year-old mother in a wheelchair at the bedside of her sixty-three year old son, speaking to him gently as he shook off the anesthesia and absorbed the news that the procedure he had so feared was behind him.


Monday, June 24, 2013

How Do You Pray? (Friday Five on Monday)

Jan shared the following Friday Five last week.  I didn't have the time then even to think about it, but the questions address one of my favorite topics, so I thought I'd work through them this morning:

Jan says, "At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled "Turning to the Mystics" at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being."

So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:

1. How do you pray?

Most often I use the website Pray As You Go, which provides a daily 12-15 minutes of music, scripture, and questions to ponder.  Some days I sit with a journal and spend an hour on it, some days I listen as I get dressed, some days I listen as I walk. 
Other than that I tend to vary what I do.  Some days the Daily Office readings at this site, some days the lectionary or other Scripture passages, some days some sort of devotional book, my favorite being Celtic Benediction.  Some days silence for long periods of time. I tend to use my walks for intercessory prayer. 
Sometimes my prayer is all about journaling; sometimes, coloring; sometimes, photography; sometimes, listening to music. 
I try to pray the daily examen, which I have been moving to mornings, since I tend to fall asleep in the middle if I leave it till nighttime!

2. How has your idea of prayer changed over time? 

I was introduced to imaginative prayer, to repetitive reflection, to prayer as listening, and to "everything as prayer" when I made the Spiritual Exercises.  I suppose that I had been praying reflectively, mulling things over in the context of scripture, music, and sermons, for a long time before I stumbled upon the Exercises, but without any sort of framework. 
The biggest change over the past decade is that prayer is now a constant for me.  Something that at one time I struggled to incorporate into my life in some form or other, even for just a few minutes, now pervades my days. 

3. Do you ever sit in silent prayer? How does it go?

Often, and it varies. I am challenged by distractions the same as everyone else is. 

4. Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?

I have difficulties, but these days most of them have to do with exercising forbearance in the face of the language others often use to pray.  Pleasures these days have mostly to do with listening to others describe their own lives of prayer. So often one would never guess at the profound interior lives of and spirit-led transformations occurring in people who look just like the rest of us, ordinary people going about ordinary lives of family, friends, and work. And so often they exert far more impact on me and my own journey with God than I could ever expect to foster in them.
5. What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?
I have been graced with extraordinary teachers in the life of prayer; it would be impossible to and ferret out one strand of best advice.   I suppose that there are probably two succinct phrases that I try to remember: "We are all always beginners" and "Listen."
Bonus: Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.
These days I am listening to two sets of CDs in the car that each, in its own way, is affecting my life of prayer.  One is a new series on the daily examen, the practice reviewing your day in the light of your movements toward and away from God.   I've read lots of material on the examen (reading is always so much easier than practicing!), but this particular series by Howard Gray, S.J., my spiritual director through the Exercises, is filled with riches in insight and eloquence. 
The other is Barbara Brown Taylor's sermon series on water, preached at Chautauqua last summer.  Each summer week of the Chautauqua season is devoted to a theme around which morning lectures, daily worship, afternoon speakers, and other special programming spins. BBT did a magnificent job last year of drawing drink from, as she says, "the big book of creation and the little book of scripture."


Thursday, June 20, 2013


Ten years, ten months, ten days . . . what would you do if that's what was left to you?
It's an old question, I know.  I'm feeling the urgency of it these days.
Looking ahead: I'll be sixty in a few weeks.  I figure that gives me ten years of energy at the level to which I've become accustomed.  Not anything approaching the energy I possessed five years ago, but still.  Enough.  Ten years in which to pastor a church and/or accomplish some other things which matter to me.  Ten years before I will perhaps want to make completely different choices about how to spend my days than I do now.
(And yes, I'm presuming health, which is nothing more than a fragile hope.  I have a routine colonoscopy scheduled in a couple of weeks.  Once one of those routine tests alters your life for year or more, as a mammogram did for me, you no longer view them with quite the equanimity you once did.  But let's pretend.)
Looking back, the last two months have been fuller than I would have liked (and probably account for how sick I've been the last few days).  The usual church stuff plus some difficult conflicts.  Three funerals, a new member, two people having and still facing major surgeries.  (And while I've never had a pastor come to visit me in the hospital, excepting after the birth of my boys nearly twenty-nine years ago, when my people go, I usually do as well.)  Extensive preparations for two major events, one of which I was unable to attend, due to one of the aforesaid funerals.  Three days of advocacy in Washington.  And some unbloggable stuff, some kind of difficult and some filled with promise -- or not.
I really am not at all sure how to approach these next ten years.  I feel very . . . scattered.  It's in the nature of parish ministry that one does many things, different things, sequentially and also often simultaneously.    I'm not sure that I want to live that way.  I look at some of the intensity with which others in my boat approach writing, or suicide prevention work, or bereavement work, and I think: Yes, I should be a more single-minded and focused person. 
Then I live with that sort of focus for a bit, and I miss the rest.  I loved being in Washington.  I loved the return to my driven lawyer self.  I loved the sense of community.  I loved being with 200 people who could talk about gruesome details of death by suicide without flinching.  (I guess that sounds weird.  But so often I have to sensor my reality . . . ). And yet, while I was there, I was planning worship for the next two Sundays in my head, I was texting with a parishioner with respect to one of those surgeries,  I was the grateful recipient of thanks for some liturgy I had prepared, and I was starting to plan a rather unusual retreat for myself for next winter -- a retreat I might actually need to make right now.  I seem to migrate toward the varied in spite of myself.
There is an actual thought forming itself as I write.  Hard to believe, I know.
More later.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where Life and Death Take You

Just about 15 years ago, when Josh was a 13-year-old seventh grader, he and I spent two days in Washington, D.C.,  photographing monuments.  One of his Montessori school's seventh grade assignments was a Peace Project, and he decided to create his by melding his burgeoning love of black and white photography with architecture.  We reveled together in two days of sunshine and achy feet as we tromped all over the Mall and took the train out to the Iwo Jima Memorial.
I snapped this shot on the steps of the Supreme Court. (Sorry about the flash; what you see is a photo of a photo.)  As my new friend Emily and I walked passed the courthouse on Thursday, I was, of course, reminded of that joyous time all those years ago.
It's bewildering, this life.  Were Josh not my son, I would not have spent those Saturday hours in an Institute of Art darkroom, both of us absorbed in our own projects.   Were Josh not my son, I might not yet have seen the Vietnam or Korean War Memorial.  Were Josh not my son, I would not have celebrated a Christmas in France, or delighted in so many delightful days exploring the city of Chicago. 
Were Josh not my son, my feet would not have blisters from a day trudging the halls of Congress, seeking to influence mental health legislation.
They say that one gains knowledge and wisdom.  I suppose that one does.  It's all yours, if you want it.  (Which you do not; of that, I can assure you.)  I would prefer a couple of cameras, and a boy, and an afternoon of changing light.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Be The Change - Part III

Some moments from our day on Capitol Hill:

Russell Senate Building
All six of us Ohioans met with legislative aides to our two United States senators, and then we broke into pairs and met with five or six aides to our representatives.  In one case, the Representative himself joined his aide for a meeting with us.
 This one was fun!
Some of the aides are outstanding.  Health care clinicians in the case of both Senators, and one other knowledgeable, interested, and articulate aide - background unknown - to a representative.  All the aides were attentive and open to hearing from us, although one young man was clearly unsettled by the word "suicide."  I figure that it was a public service on our part to force him to listen to it, over and over again.
We told our personal stories, those also over and over again, and pushed our legislative agenda, over and over again.  Most of us had prepared one page vignettes (mine is a few blog posts back) to leave with the legislators.  It's a difficult moment, to push that picture and bio across a table and think, "It should be a wedding picture, or a photo with a new baby, or a picture taken ten years from now and marking a professional achievement -- all things which will never happen."
With United States Representative David Joyce of Ohio
I was paired with a dynamite young woman named Emily, about to graduate from college and begin graduate school in the same master's program in social work which my daughter completed a year ago, plus a certificate program in nonprofit management.  Emily's life trajectory was changed when her uncle died two years ago.  She makes a compelling case for the Mental Health First Aid Act when she describes his last hour on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, his only companion a young police officer who had no crisis training and did not even think to call for back-up.
As we talked to our legislators and to each other over the course of the nine-hour day, Emily and I found ourselves repeatedly expressing our astonishment at finding ourselves where we were.  From lives devoid of knowledge about or interest in suicide, to months of immobilizing shock and pain, to new priorities, to the halls of Congress.  Who could have imagined?  But there it is, as the quote that probably isn't Gandhi's at all says,
Be the change you want to see in the world.

Be The Change - Part II

"All you have to do to effect change is get 535 people to do the same thing at the same time."

So said the lobbying expert who offered us tips and inspiration for speaking to our congresspeople.  We would be on the Hill the next day to get 535 legislators to do the same thing: to listen and read our stories and to support the many legislative proposals now before or en route to Congress which affect mental health.

On Wednesday afternoon we gathered to introduce ourselves (quickly), learn about lobbying, and learn about legislation.

Ourselves: The most recent loss was three months ago.  The most distant: Over twenty years.  Lost to suicide: sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, uncles, aunts.  All kinds of people there, all kinds of ages and occupations and sorrows and hopes.  (One other pastor, an Episcopalian priest.)  I was in awe of the mother who lost her son three months ago.  I remember the three months marker, because that was when I went back to seminary.  I remember the fog, the searing pain, and my bewilderment at the utter ludicrousness of what I was trying to do.  I remember my daughter saying, "Mom, you have got to get out of bed."  I remember the couple of friends who became my armor, accompanying me everywhere, trying to make sure that I wouldn't fall down and die.  How did that woman get on a plane and fly to Washington?  How did I get in a car and drive to Pittsburgh?
There are a lot of really strong and brave people out there who could have been dining with their families and watching television on Wednesday night, but chose otherwise. Some of them are truly heroic.

The legislation: Full funding for the National Violent Death Reporting System, currently only accessible to 18 states.  The System would further comprehensive and accurate reporting of violent deaths, data essential to research and policy development. 
(It was to prove extremely fun the next day to calmly tell a member of the House Appropriations Committee that I wanted him to vote for $25 million dollars for this System.)
The Mental Health First Aid Act, which would funnel funds to states for mental health training for first responders.  As was pointed out to us, some decades ago, people thought it would be impossible or difficult to help those suffering from heart attacks -- and now CPR training is common across the country.  Wouldn't it be something if basic mental health first aid was as accessible?
And other legislation related to mental health and safety issues for schools, Indian reservations, and young people, and legislation designed to promote the development of medications.
After dinner we gathered in our state groups to figure out and practice how we were going to present ourselves and our issues.  We were well prepared and, I gotta tell you, Ohio was the last to leave the conference room!


The quote comes from a Native American artist whose work we were to see at the American Indian Museum on Friday.  It seems appropriate to the entire enterprise in which we were engaged.

Be The Change - Part I

Two hundred people.  Some of them staff from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, most of us volunteers from 48 states -- and yes, including both Alaska and Hawaii.  We gathered in Washington, D.C. for three days of conversation, bonding, learning, and visits to Capitol Hill -- to all 535 legislative offices!  Those are the stats.  The experience was something else.

For me, this leg of the journey began a couple of months ago, when I received an invitation to attend the Annual Advocacy Forum.  I've only been a volunteer Field Advocate for AFSP for about a year and one-half, but I've fired off a number of emails to state and federal legislators, and I've been to Columbus to testify on behalf of state suicide prevention legislation.  A start. So I decided to go to Washington.

Next came a request that I set up the appointments with legislative offices (mostly with staff aides) for our state.  A thankless task if ever there was one.  It was a contribution I thought I could make, given my fairly easy schedule this past month (I didn't know about the upcoming parish funerals, of course, or the heart surgeries), but, oh! 

The phone calls and emails, the repeats, the lack of responses that required as many as five emails, the confirmations suddenly un-confirmed, all to get six of us into eighteen offices in five buildings over a six-hour period.  Some of our legislative aides were easily accessible and responsive, some not so much.  Only one of the eighteen simply refused a meeting, even with an aide -- her office agreed to an appointment, and then when I sent out my last round of confirmation emails, re-neged and said she only meets with constituents.  (She's a United States representative; believe me, if she ever runs for the Senate or for a statewide office, I'll do what I can not to become her "official" constituent!)
How many times did I groan to myself, "You know, you could be doing something else right now!"?
I held my breath Monday, spending hours at the hospital as a church member's fifty-year-old son had heart surgery while another member, ninety years old, headed to Columbus with his wife and daughter for tests for his own upcoming heart surgery.  I presided over a meeting Monday night with a disappointing attendance of two, at which a most disconcerting conversation developed.
And then, finally, more or less organized, I was off in a jet plane with two new friends and a bag full of schedules and hopes.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Suicide Prevention Advocacy

I'm off to D.C. tomorrow for the annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's advocacy event -- per FB post:
"Tomorrow more than 200 AFSP volunteer-Field Advocates from across the country will be heading to Washington D.C. for our annual Advocacy Forum. On Thursday, they will be going to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress to urge more support for suicide prevention and mental health care."
I feel as if I should have something profound to say in advance of this trip.  But I have only a few observations to offer:
We're staying and working in the same hotel in which our young family stayed on two trips to Washington when the kids were small.  Not so easy.
I called the local county-seat-city newspaper for Small Church Village and environs yesterday to suggest a story. Pastor-Goes-to-Congress sort of thing.  No response.  I think the topic is too scary. I don't have a  lot of patience for that kind of apprehension, you know?  I'm going to write my own article for the community-produced newspaper in my home town, which is an edgier kind of place, and send it to county-seat paper.  We'll see.
Last month I went to a suicide prevention workshop for clergy and mental health professionals.  As far as I know, I was the only suicide survivor in the room of about one hundred people.  The tenor was quite different from what I've experienced in the presence of survivors.  I'm realizing that we've become pretty fierce people.  We are way beyond "let's help people and do good."
I'm not taking my computer, so look for me on FB and Twitter.  Being fierce.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


This morning, as I prepare to preach on Galatians and Paul's three-year sojourn into Arabia, the sojourn marking the period between call and action, I find myself considering those who have mentored me in ministry.  That would be almost everyone, of course, but a few in my pre-seminary years stand out:

The non-mentor mentor, the associate pastor who, back when I was in my mid-thirties and beginning to ponder a call to ministry, was (with one long walk excepted) too busy and flustered to find time to listen and perhaps offer some pre-kindergarten suggestions for discernment. Reminder to self: If another person even hints at the intimations of a call in her life: make. the. time.

Her opposite on the spectrum, the associate pastor of my home church, whose primary gift may well be the nurturance of gifts in others.  She was the first person to invite me into the pulpit, and she spent hours and hours with me over the years planning our adult education program, technically because I chaired the committee but, in reality, because she wanted to share with me her wealth of church leadership knowledge.

The most ironic of mentors where I was concerned, the Jesuit priest in his seventies who spent two years helping me discern and plot my official embarkation on my call, and then more years after that helping me to stick with it after Josh died.  Hours and hours and hours of listening, with the occasional penetrating question tossed my way, and then email after email, helping me to envision a way through the thicket of grief which defined the last two years of seminary for me.
There have been others, of course, in seminary and beyond, but today I'm thinking about those early desert-of-Arabia years, those Be still and listen yourself years. 
What about you?  Who has listened to you, and who has helped you learn to listen to God?

Saturday, June 8, 2013


The ostensible subject matter of this particular Mary Oliver poem is crickets, but I think it applies to my house finches as well:

Let us hope

It will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.


Why I Wake Early (2004)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


As of early this evening, one of my house finches is making a break for it, and it looks like there's a crack in the other egg at the top as well.
It's a bit chilly, so I promised myself one picture, and one only, until it warms up late tomorrow morning.  This is requiring every ounce of self-discipline I have. 
I'm leaving Church Town tomorrow afternoon for a few days at home, so I hope they all decide that tomorrow's a good day for hatching! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Suicide Prevention Advocacy

Next week I'm off to Washington, D.C. for the Annual Advocacy Summit of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  We'll be meeting people from all over the country, learning a lot, and spending Thursday on Capitol Hill meeting with our senators and representatives.  (I agreed to co-ordinate the scheduling of that effort.  We have eighteen of  'em, in five different buildings, and six of us from all over the state. Remind me not to do that again.)
We were asked to supply "vignettes" for the packets we'll be delivering to the Hill.  Here's mine:

The photo was taken on the morning he graduated from college.  Honors at the University of Chicago.  A beautiful girlfriend and a great circle of friends.  A job and a new apartment lined up.  Nothing could have prepared us for the fact that one and one-half years later he would be gone.
Our son, Josh Williams, was a patient and loving brother to his twin brother and their younger sister.  He had always been ready for adventure – all-day kindergarten;  summer camp in North Carolina, 600 miles from home; his full junior year of high school spent in France; a college road trip to Idaho and back over a holiday week-end.  He enjoyed photography and played soccer; he canoed in Canada with his grandfather and visited Montreal with his French brother and lots of Europe with his twin brother.  His loved his whole extended family and looked forward to creating one of his own.
We saw no signs.  In retrospect they were there, and we were to learn, when it was too late, that he had probably been suffering from a serious and desperate depression for at least the last couple of years of his life.  Unrecognized, unacknowledged, untreated.  Depression is a vicious, deadly illness, and yet is so easily concealed by those determined to do so, by those who do not realize that their lives are in jeopardy. 
I never planned to become a suicide prevention advocate.  How could you prevent something you had no idea was headed your way?  But as the years have passed, I have learned that much might have been done to alert us and our son to the danger he was in, to address his illness, and perhaps to save him to become the husband, father, and multi-gifted contributor to the world whom we had imagined he was becoming.  To continue his life as our beloved and treasured son.
The turning point for me came when I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years after Josh died.  I quickly saw that, whenever I mentioned my diagnosis, other women would step forward with support, encouragement, advice, and every possible kind of help – whereas, if I mention that my son died of suicide, I can clear  room in a matter of seconds.  The topic of suicide, I saw, occupied the position that breast cancer had when I was a girl: stigmatized, unmentioned, poorly researched or understood, little publicized. 
THIS.MUST.STOP.   We cannot continue to allow individuals to suffer such despair that death seems preferable to life.  We cannot continue to allow the lives of families and friends to be altered beyond recognition by unnecessary deaths by suicide.  We must find ways to identify and care for those whose lives are threatened by mental illness and other forms of anguish.  We must fund the research and the treatment and the education programs that will end this terrible scourge.   We must bring this subject out of the darkness and into the light, and end the suffering that leads to suicide and the suffering caused by suicide.

Spiritual Consolation

This morning, I am supposed to be packing and then en route to a lovely retreat center three hours away for three days of Presbyterian reflection and planning.  I spent a lot of time preparing two liturgies for today, and was all set to lead the opening worship service and this evening's compline ~ and was so looking forward to this time of getting to know and working with my colleagues.
Instead, I will be writing a sermon for the funeral service that I'll be conducting tomorrow for a lifelong church member.  He and his wife, who died just a year ago, were the only ones in their family still members of our church.  His adult children had not, therefore, seen the bulletin announcements the last two weeks indicating that I would be away for three days, and made their scheduling plans before involving me.
It's a privilege to preside over tomorrow's Service of Witness to the Resurrection for someone with whom I've spent a great deal of time as he has struggled with his health and the loss of his wife of fifty-eight years.  But it occurs to me that, under the circumstances, I, too, need to hear a portion of what I wrote for today's noon service for the Presbytery retreat, the opening of a day dedicated to exploring The Way of Consolation.


The essence of spiritual consolation is the sense of an inner  movement toward God.  We all experience fluctuations in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we feel that we are moving toward God; sometimes, away.  Sometimes we feel that God is moving toward us; sometimes, that God is pulling away.  At times our relationship with God is one of peaceful confidence that God is present to us and active in our lives -- whether things are going well or not.  At other times we are confounded by turbulence and a sense of distance from God -- again, whether things are going well or not. 
These movements, or changes in  feelings and experiences, are not indications of success or failure on our part.  They simply are.  What helps, however, is to learn to recognize them.  Our capacity to see clearly, to make choices, to determine whether to follow new paths or to re-commit ourselves to the old -- to discern -- is grounded in our capacity to appreciate when and where God is at work in our lives, guiding and leading us toward God.
Sometimes we experience spiritual consolation as a overwhelming sense of God's presence that seems to come out of nowhere.  An awareness of God's gift of love, a feeling of strength and confidence that God is present and active, may come as pure gift.  Perhaps you wake up to a particularly beautiful sunrise and are flooded with feelings of gratitude for God's goodness and care for all creation.  Or perhaps you look up from your desk in the middle of composing a difficult letter in response to a troubling conflict and are nevertheless overwhelmed by the sure knowledge that God is present and offering love and reassurance to you in the midst of struggle.  The external situation is not the determining factor in an experience of spiritual consolation.  The determining factor is the awareness of God and your own connection with God.
More often, we experience spiritual consolation, a movement toward God, as the result of some form of activity that is clearly leading us toward God.  If we are engaged in prayer, or in study or preparation for preaching or teaching; if we are conversing with someone in a pastoral encounter; if we are working on a mission project or even an administrative task; if we are doing, or planning, or preparing for the work to which we are called, we often experience a corresponding sense of spiritual consolation.  That sense of being drawn toward God, of our deepest core self being in accord with God's desires for our lives, of satisfaction in our calling, might come in the feeling of deep affirmation in the context of a sermon that's going really well.  Or it might be the only thing getting you through a meeting that's going really badly.  Again, the external situation is not the decisive standard.  What matters is that sense of movement toward God -- which most often reveals itself when we are alert to who we are as someone being uniquely shaped and molded by God and what we are doing in response to God's individual and loving call to us.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


"And here again is a foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole."
~ Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

A week ago, having insistently been made aware of what I thought was a house sparrow zipping away from the porch each time the screen door slammed, I finally investigated the gutters for the nest which had to be there.

It had been carefully constructed in a hanging basket of geraniums. 

Last night, my google image research convinced me that the birds are house finches ~ the eggs are too blue and too lightly speckled to pass muster as those of house sparrows.  Male house finches are splashed with red, so if the father shows up ~ and I presume he will if all six eggs hatch, as there will be plenty of work to occupy both parents ~ I will have a definitive identification.

My grandmother maintained a small museum of birds' nests, which she used to present to school groups and classes whenever she was invited to share her store of avian knowledge.  For several summers, a pair of wrens nested in her clothespin bag.
I have become my grandmother!  Not a bad fate.