Wednesday, August 31, 2005

To grow or not to grow

I have been doing some study in the area of personal growth in Christ and came across these resources: From The Cloud of Knowing, 1375: "For God beholds with his merciful eyes not what you are, not what you have been--but what you would be." I John 2:2 "Dear friends, now we are children of God. And what we will be has not yet been made known."

Sounds like there is room for growth among people who once thought they had everything right--a besetting problem in my fellowship. If you have everything right there is not need to grow, right? No need to learn more, right? No need to pray for further spiritual formation, right? No need to read spiritual books, and prayers of the saints, right?

The two quotations make room for growth in God and that is good news for people like me who hunger and thirst for growth. Please pray for me as I try to persuade my class on Sunday to hunger and thirst too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

House of prayer

In regard to the Baptist folks mentioned in a previous blog, I have been wondering what kind of prayer I could pray for them? That they see the error of their ways?
(not likely when their overseeing body has not seen its mistakes) That God bring a visitation from a God-filled body in Topeka who can counsel them? (Not likely, I think Topeka is ashamed of them) Is there a church there which can show them the way of love? (Do we do that?) That the Southern Baptist group will remove the preacher? (He seems to be catalyst). I am just praying that the harm they did in Tennessee will be soon forgotten.

Wouldn't it be nice if "my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Isaiah 56:7

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Tempest Is Raging

"Master, the tempest is raging'--we don't sing the song much any more, but we cry out for the "peace, be still" phrase. I am praying this morning for the folks in the eye of Katrina and for those who will help them. Especially praying that the Superdome doesn't collapse. What a terror-filled day and night for them.

Having lived far away from water most of my life, I really can't imagine its ferocity when coupled with wind. One of the family stories in Sam's family is about a hurricane--one of the worst, can't remember which one. It seems that one of the family was in the hospital in Houston, M. D., I think (Sam's cousin). The family in Groesbeck got a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, so they decided against all common sense to drive into Houston, into the hurricane, to be with him. Their description of that drive always raised my hair as I listened. Give me land, lots of land between me and the water!

Father, please bless those of your children who are in harm's way today.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

They have no shame.

Things just get worse and worse for those who are in the tribe of "Christians."
First Pat Roberson with his outlandish pronouncement. Then this:

Two local men who died in the conflict in Iraq were buried yesterday. Attending their funerals and loudly protesting was a group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The church preaches that casualities in Iraq are God's way of punishing America for being dominated by homosexuals.Holding signs that said things like "God hates America" and "God blew up the troops", the group was virtually silenced by hundreds of townspeople blowing horns and shouting them down. The granddaughter of the church preacher said, "They are fighting for a fag country....
what's heroic in that?" Whether agreeing with their political agenda or not, any thinking person can surely see that funerals are not places to protest--in the faces of grieving mothers and fathers. They have no sense or shame. And they certainly have no concept of the love spoken of by Christ.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Nashville pluses

One of the pluses about living in Nashville is getting to hear Donald Miller and Phil Keagy in one week! I was not familiar at all with Phil Keagy, but now I know that he is one of the most accomplished guitarists in Nashville. He has been compared to Jimi Hendrix. He is not country western or classical, but has his own unique songs, some secular, some spiritual. To think that someone missing a finger on his left hand could play like he does is amazing. He was converted by his sister after all the indulgences of the 60's, and while he was playing in a rock band. He is now this gentle spirit full of love for Jesus. He played us a song he had written in honor of his sister. So sweet. I think his next project needs to be a book about his life.

Thanks Phil for a wonderful evening.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The desert ammas

At Sacred Heart Monastery in the arts and crafts room are banners honoring the desert ammas. It always amazes me how little I know about women on whose shoulders I stand. These were spiritual women who went out into the desert to begin monasteries in the 4th and 5th centuries in order to be counter-cultural and serve God. They are known for their wisdom, visions and writings. Many were mystics.
Some of their names were Monica, Hildegard, Clair, and Mechtild.

A mystic who came along later I do know something about is Teresa of Avila. She founded 17 monasteries for women, got in trouble both with the church and the political machine of the era, wrote a fantistic treatise on prayer called Interior Castle. One of my favorite stories about her occurred when she was criticized for the voluptious way she devoured meals. She replied, "When praying, pray! When eating partridge, eat partridge!"

I wonder, are there any mystics today? I think we are in sore need of them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sacred Heart Monastery

After spending a weekend with the sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullinan, Ala., I have a few comments:

It is hard not to envy their surroundings and pace of life. What a place to live every day! Not only are their gardens and lake beautiful, but the chapel is gorgeous too. When we ever learn that beauty brings us closer to God?

The Benedictine sisters there are pledged to a life of service through their vows.
Are we not too? Oh, you say, but we have to live life too--so do they. Some of them go out into the town to teach school, practice law, nurse and other vocations.
Of course others are cloistered to serve the Sacred Heart community and those people who visit there. How serious are we about our vows? Do we listen to God's call or strangely go deaf at his voice in our ears?

Does the voice of God speak to them differently because they are nuns? Or do I just choose to respond differently? And to get to the nitty-gritty, do I have an ear for my calling?

Of course the sisters give up so much for their vows of service and cloister--they don't have the freedom I have, the grandchildren I have, the money I have, the opportunities in the community I have. But the promise of being cared for all your life sounds pretty good to me. The monastery has a retirement home attached where they can go at the end of life. Those in the infirmary (also at the monastery) are cared for as in any good hospital and are visited every day by colleagues. They don't have to worry about current fashions (not that I am!). All meals are furnished.Daily prayers are required and growth is highly recommended. They have a library, wide porches for sitting and rocking, and a guaranteed support group.

Our group was welcomed warmly and genuinely. We got some services planned, got to know each other better and ate Blue Bell together. Who can ask for anything more out of a weekend?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Donald Miller

Donald Miller was a delight. Who would have thought that such profound statements could come out of the mouth of a chunky boyish postmodern?

Beginning with the idea that Christians have been sold a bill of goods by the free-market product-oriented world and ending with a very powerful illustration from Romeo and Juliet that Christ's blood has put us in him to stay, the evening flew by.

I especially enjoyed his comments on our propensity to seek answers with books, speeches, etc. which contain numbered steps--5 steps to love, 7 steps to salvation, 8 tips on raising children and our constant asking of "how" questions instead of "why"

His major point and one that demands exclamation points was that Christian spirituality is a relationship--a being and not a doing. He said that Christian spirituality is more in the realm of poetry than science--it can't be proven and quantified; it is a mystery. Salvation rests on a relationship rather than a list of ideas.

Amen, and amen!!!!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's That Time Again

I got my first Christmas catalog yesterday. I love Christmas, but not in August. Bah! Humbug!


I'll be off the next three days. I am going with a group from Otter to the Sacred Heart Monastery in Ohio. We will be planning emergent services for Wednesday nights next fall. I am really looking forward to it. My experience at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery in Pecos, N. M. was a delight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Blue

Blue Like Jazz is full of little nuggets like:

"Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror."

"The magical proposition of the gospel, once free from the clasps of fairy tale, is very adult to me, vry gritty like something from Hemingway or Steinbeck....
Christian spirituality was not a children's story. It wasn't neat or cute. It was mystical and odd and clean....There was wonder in it and enchantment."

"There is something quite beautiful about the Grand Canyon at night. There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free- form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.)"

"The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me....There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction."

"And may the master pour on the love so IT fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you." I. Thess. 3:12 The Message

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Blue like jazz

I finally finished reading Blue like Jazz by Donald Miller. The book was so hard to get into, I almost gave up. The first part of the book read like adolescent pap which needed a lot of editing, but he pulled it out in the last few chapters with statements like these:

"Too much of our time is spend trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder."

"There are things you cannot understand, and you must learn to live with this. Not only must you learn to live with this, you must learn to enjoy it."

"Wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don't think there is any better worship than wonder."

His chapter on Community is worth the price of the book. And his contrast of the time he lived with a hippie community in the mountains and the Christian community he was sometime a part of was funny, sad, poignant, and eye-opening.

I am looking forward to hearing him next Monday evening. Wish you all could come.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A touch of Abilene

The north wind brought me a touch of Abilene this weekend. Jerri and Roland Orr came to a family wedding here, and I got to spend some time with them. It is often hard to realize how much a part of your life people have become until you leave them.

Roland is an elder at Highland, Jerri is retired from the Abilene School District. They have been friends since I placed membership at Highland 14 years ago. They are members of my small group there, plus being just good friends to pal around with. My "group" of friends in Abilene were somewhat younger than I, all married and all linked in some way with AISD. They allowed this widow to tag along with them on trips, events, meetings, etc. I miss that. Often widows get overlooked socially because they don't have an escort and the numbers don't come out right. My friends didn't let this matter. Because they were younger, they challenged me to do things I might otherwise think I am too old to do. I miss that. There was always a place at church to sit beside them--I even persuaded some of them to move closer to the front. I miss that. They consistently thought about me when things came up and always invited me to go. I miss that. I was always included in dinners, luncheons, holdiay celebrations. I miss that.

Thanks to them and my group for many wonderful memories and for good friendships this side of heaven. Sooo glad to see Ro and Jerri and to know that miles do not negate long-time friendships.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Time stands still

There are days when time marches on and days when time stands still. The Aida situation at ACU is such a time. I was so elated when the school decided to do the wonderful musicial because of its call to diversity--and now in an ironic turn of events, the play has been cancelled because of folks who have not crawled out of their color-centric lair long enough to see that ACU has moved on in the last 40 years.

To say that the theater dept. at ACU would even consider "black-face" is ludicrous. The musical for Homecoming is the big event for the department in that thousands of alumni attend as well as hundreds from local communities--it is always an opportunity to present ACU's finest face. I concur with Mike Cope--there is not a prejudiced bone in Adam Hester's body--he personifies Christ in his life and inculcates Him into the students in his department. I am sorry this has happened--it casts a shadow on him and the dept. which is certainly one of the most outstanding in the nation.

Read Mike Cope's blog for more detail.

I am praying for Adam and Donna his wife; I know they must be grieving as am I.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I got spend time with my friend Martha yesterday--it was so sweet. She is a one-of-a-kind completely open wonderfully Christian woman. She and her husband Keith (also sweet) labor at 10th and Broad in Wichita Falls, Texas. Martha's parents live here and go to Otter Creek. I can't really explain the bond that Martha and I have, but I do know it is very special. She can cheer me up like no other person and is very aggressive about looking after and caring for me. Keith and Martha lost a child to miscarriage recently and I had to tear up as Martha talked about her children: l here on earth (2 years old) 1 in heaven and 1 in her womb to be born this winter.

Thank You God for friends like Martha who truly know you and shed your light where ever they go.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


It shocked me when I heard that Peter Jennings did not finish high school nor go to college--this icon of news journalism. It struck me that we cannot fathom the potential of the human soul.

Marion Wright Edelman, one of my heroes, and president of the Children's Defense Fund has written a book that all teachers, parents and those who work with children should have. Guide My Feet, Prayers and Meditations on Loving and Working for Children inspires me everytime I pick it up. Here's one quotation for today:
"In every child who is born under no matter what circumstances and no matter what parents, the potential of the human race is born again, and in him/her too , once more, and each of us, our terrific responsibility toward human life: toward the utmost idea of goodness, the horror of terrorism, and of God." James Agee

Monday, August 08, 2005

The things we teach in school

Taking off on Craig Fisher's post about school beginning and the value of teachers, I am posting the sermon, um, lecture I always gave to my students on the last day of children's literature class. Most of the students in the class were headed toward teaching.

We teach math so students can function in the real world and creative thinking so they can function in a world to come with things not yet thought of.

We teach four-year-olds who have never seen an indoor bathroom how to hit, how to flush, and to put the lid down.

We teach the 16-year-old girl, who is pregnant and unmarried, the skills she will need to survive as a single parent, and we provide day care for her child when it is born so she can stay in school and succeed.

We provide counseling and non-judgemental guidance for the students who have AIDS.

We bring kids together in teams, whether they be debate teams, football teams or ag judging teams, and we teach them the art of give and take and loyalty and cooperation which will ultimately be used in marriages, in court rooms and in churches.

We know that every child who comes to us is at risk whether he or she is 4 or 18. We teach them that school is a safe place where they can come from 8-4 every day: Where adults are warm and caring, where laughter is pure and clean, where videos and dvds are not rated X and books and magazines do not have obscene pictures. School is often the best place some kids have.

We teach autistic David the pleasure of communicating in sentences over four words long.

We teach music with its mystical power to enrich the lives of children who know more about video games than Beethoven and more about super heroes than Mozart.

The things we teach in school include practical things like the alphabet, the multiplication tables and grammar, but also include things like : keep your fingers out of your food; one match will destroy a forest; and just say no to strangers and drugs. We teach safety like the third grade teacher who took her class to Safety City last year, who lost control of her own little car, ran over a telephone pole and had to miss several days of school.

We teach creative writing so students can learn that their own words count,and that this is an avenue of exploration and imagination which is theirs at the drop of a pen anywhere, any time, any place. With this gift, thay can always say this is my story, my life, my truth.

We provide gifted and talented classes and laureate classes for students like middle-schooler Jason who has spent much of his school life living in a car on the streets of Abilene. He knows his life can change because he is being taught the skills to make it happen.

We teachers on all levels teach truth, understanding and knowledge in a thousand ways everyday in planned and unplanned lessons and conversations, in the way we talk, and the way we treat students and the way we persuade them to interact with each other.

We have put snags in the rivers of children passing by and over the years have redirected their lives.

We celebrate small victories and marvel at changes--we cry when we see children
who come to school in shorts on 20 degree weather days, when a boy comes back to school the next day after his brother dies from a drug overdose, when children come to us with bruises and cuts, when a 6th grade boy leaves the campus in handcuffs because has threatened the life of his teacher.

We teach social studies so we can come to know ourselves and to know each other and to value the worth of every human being.

We teach the lives of great men who confronted povery and won like Abraham Lincoln and Colin Powell.

We teach the lives of great women like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks who courageously fought the unjust society in which they lived.

We teach physical education and the enjoyment of the human body to children who spend more hours in front of a TV set than they do playing outside.

We teach with joy and optimism everyday so that our children will learn joy and optimism in this often fatalistic world. Teachers are often the only sentries we have against hopelessness.

We teach with energy and enthusiasm and enormous respect for the learner, the science, the literature, and the math that we love so much.

We tell and read stories to students who are falling apart because we believe with Barry Lopez that one should never underestimate the power of a story of repair a spirit.

We teach very carefully the essential elements, cooperative learning, shared reading, and whole language. We get kids ready for TEKS and a thousand other tests.

We dig trenches, climb mountains, and in between we try to help our students know that we are all human, tha it is ok to cry, and ok to dream and that each of us has a special gift and a special place in this world to serve.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Their dreams fell through

From a poem by one of the homeless men (Thomas) at Room at the Inn:

Homeless people are just like me and you
The only difference is that
their dreams fell through.

I have reread Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. In it Nouwen recounts his experience with Rembrandt's painting depicting this story of homelessness. At the time he first saw the painting, Nouwen was suffering from a persistent feeling that he needed to do something else than teach theology at Harvard. He was, in a sense, looking for a home. Ultimately, he joined the L'Arch Daybreak community as a pastor to the retarded and handicapped.

In the book, he says that one of the great mysteries of our faith is that God chose us and will not let us go. From all eternity we are hidden in the shadow of his hands and engraved on his palm (Isaiah 49).Before any human being touches us, God forms and textures us and knits us together in our mother's womb. Psalm 139. He loves us with a "first" love, an unconditional, unlimited love.

And because of this love, God is "looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home." Nouwen concludes the chapter by writing, "(God's)
love is the love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate." Even when "all our dreams have fallen through," and we stand before him destitute and empty.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Searching for home

Father Strobel who created Room at the Inn for the homeless in Nashville spoke at Otter on Wed. night. It was excellent--One of his assistants gave the best synopsis of the Odyssey I have ever heard. And the homeless men who accompanied them were inspirations. On any given night there are over 10,000 homeless people on the streets of Nashville.

I am reading Lynn Anderson's Longing For a Homeland; Discover the place you belong.
It is quite an insight into Lynn and his family and very encouraging to all of us who long for home.

Thinking along these lines, what does the word "Home" mean to you? As a fledgling
teacher, it was my duty to direct the one-act play for competition. We did Robert Frost's The Death of the Hired Hand. A famous line from the poem/play is "Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

I guess my longing would be for the house in Potosi before Sam got sick, when Brandon was in his early years in college and bringing kids out to the country, and we were all involved in church, school, friends and each other. Although, of course, my ultimate longing is the home with God spoken of in Psalm 27:4-5 "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


We are so relieved about Sheryl. Thankful it was a speedy, efficient procedure. Please pray for that kidney to function. She doesn't need an operation right now that will put her down.

Brandon refers in his blog to Maddie, Annie and the song Tomorrow. She sang it for me last night. What a joy. I love the lyrics to that song and the hope it offers. In fact, I love hope. I feel that we have sort of lost our way as a nation because we have lost hope in that American Dream that those of us over 50 grew up with. We hear too much doom and gloom and not enough "here's what tomorrow will bring." We are beset by cobwebs and sorrow and think there is nothing to look forward to. Maddie, Ella and Sam are my tomorrow, and I pray they never lose faith in the promises of hope educationally, politically and spirituall.

Monday, August 01, 2005


David Rubio spoke at Otter yesterday. He had just taken the youth group to a theme park in Ohio, stopping for a while at the Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church where six reform-minded ministers including Barton W. Stone "killed" the Springfield Presbytery with the document "The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" in 1804. The document willed that the body "die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the body of Christ at large." The resulting body began calling themselves Christian. Later in the 1800's they united with a like-minded evangelical body led by Alexander Campbell. This uniting fed the roots of what is now known as the Church of Christ.

David spoke about his excitement in learning the history of our movement in a church history class, and then being able to fulfil his dream of seeing Cane Ridge where it all began.I was an adult when I first began to hear about the Stone-Campbell Movement and its significance to my church. Unfortunately there are thousands of believers now who know nothing about it. In fact, those who grew up believing that our church dated back to A. D. 33 who are not comforable with this history.

I am so thankful to Bill Humble, Doug Foster, Richard Hughes, Jerry Rushford, Leonard Allen and others who are lecturing, writing books, and informing our little
group about its history.

Maybe we need to incorporate it into some Sunday School Classes and special presentations so that light may begin to dawn and the next generation can truly see our movement "sink into the body of Christ at large." Someone once said that if you don't know your history, you are like a leaf who doesn't know it is part of a tree.