Carrie Newcomer is a poet and an amazing musician. It’s a chicken and egg thing for me, about which is first or which she is “more of.” In her song Two Toasts, Carrie speaks to the power, the passion, the possible of the words we use with one another:
To the words and how they live between us
And to us and how we live between the words
In these days when there is brokenness; when there is despair; when there is just downright, outright meanness between us, we need the possibility for, the reality of hope. It just might save us. All.
And where does this hope come from? Is it possible to manufacture it, so we can bottle it and never lose it? Sorry to say, that is not what hope is about.
Hope is about seeing beyond what this is. Whatever the “this” is that is weighing us down or wearing us out. Hope is believing that “this” is not all there is in me or you or in us. Hope is seeing the best, seeing the beauty, seeing the breadth and depth of God’s amazing call of YES. It doesn’t depend on us to happen. But it does depend on us to look for it and to keep looking when the darkness comes and the wrong seems to have her way everywhere we look.
This past week the Supreme Court passed a ruling that impacts me. It impacts my family. It makes possible things that were literally not true a week ago. This decision that we all can marry is scary for some folks. For some it shakes an institution. But for me it brings light to the hope that has held so many of us for so very, very long.
On November 1, 2001 Linda and I shared in a commitment service with our friends and some of our family. Fresh out of seminary, we wanted the language to be exactly true to who we were. And we turned to what was familiar; we turned to what we’d always known. And those words, those institutional words couldn’t/wouldn’t fit us. We were locked out and were not allowed in. And so we found language that spoke to us, changing what had been before into what would work for now.
This past Wednesday, the Supreme Court invited us to open our hearts and minds to sharing in that language again. As if for the first time.
Carrie’s lyrics speak to us now learning, trusting, believing in our living in between these words. There is faith there. There is love there. There is hope there.
It really does happen.
I’m preaching on the Psalms today. Psalm 42 to be more specific. This psalm is often recognized by its opening words: “As the deer longs for streams of water…” It’s a beautiful song about our place in the greater world. It uses so many images of life greater than ourselves throughout. The words “deep calls to deep” has held my heart all this past week as I've looked toward preaching.
Deep calls to deep speaks to the core of who I am and how I am in world. It speaks to the place in me that matters most, my centerpiece. And here in these words the psalmist was perhaps referring to the place where each human is awake and in touch with and is deeply connected to the power of the Creator. Verse 7 begins: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls…” Perhaps referring to the beginning place of the River Jordan, a waterfall that produces energy that surges and roars through the air beginning its journey to home.
With all the (literal) noise that fills our days, it’s the exception more than the rule that we have the chance to listen for that calling that the psalmist is referring to. This remarkable life-giving communication that acknowledges power greater than our own, life greater than the ordinariness of our days. Deep calls to deep summons us to the heart of who we are called to be.
There is strength here. There is width and breadth here. There is place and calling of purpose here.
For me for this morning, I am stretching to connect my soul to One who created the waterfalls and the river that runs on downstream from it, the great leviathan that lives below and even ventures above, to the One who calls us ~ each one by name. It will be my breath prayer today (“deep” “calls to deep”) and a song for my heart.
Even when I make mistakes and wish, wish, wish I could take them back…deep calls to deep. Even when my tremors surprise even me or I have no idea where I parked the car…deep calls to deep. Even when the once-a-year Super moon is out there, but impossible to see (Oakhurst is experiencing a cloud cover) even then I know it is there…deep calls to deep. Even when I’m lost and not sure how to set my compass…deep calls to deep.
For today all I need is four words to set my path, to right my daily journey. Four words that remind me of a great and living truth. Four words that are truly core words, grounding words. Deep calls to deep. And for today that’s more than enough.
(thanks to Susie Gentry for this amazing picture of a whale, taken on her Alaskan trip with Gamma)
….always carried a pocket calendar. He carried it in the breast pocket of his suit coat. Every January he would change it out. The first three months were always filled. I honestly don’t remember what (if anything) he ever put on the following months.
January was always my mother’s sizes. Dress. Blouse. Skirts. Shoes. Hats. Just in case he was walking by a store and saw something he liked ~ that he thought had her name on it. Or if (yet again) Christmas snuck up on him and it was 4 pm on Christmas Eve.
February was 100 of his favorite songs in his favorite keys. No music. Just the titles and the keys. Mockingbird Sang in Barkley’s Square. Misty. Seventeen. Somewhere Over the Rainbow. If he was ever walking by a piano, he could just sit down and play for hours.
March was 100 of his favorite jokes. Just the punch lines. This way if he was ever walking around downtown with a twist ice cream cone from Burger King and somebody said, “Clark have you heard any good jokes lately?” My dad could pull out joke #37 and off he’d go.
My sisters and I are his living legacy. There could be nothing better. And although I can see parts of my parents in each of them, I leave that telling to Claud and Bets.
For me, I know my Dad lives in me when I’m driving home from work and know I need to get this and that and those done, because the Red Sox are playing on ESPN at 7. Or when I use a baseball analogy to explain something that is true with my life. Or when I’m listening to George Shearing on Pandora and know most all of the songs. Or when I can’t help it…somebody gives me a straight line and I have to say the next part…
Clark Whaley Brogan was an incredible human. He loved his God, family and his community. He loved the Red Sox. He loved laughter. He loved playing jazz on the piano until 2 in the morning ~ most every night. He took a 15 minute nap everyday after lunch. He could remember names with the best of them ~ walking into a room with a 100 people soon became an adventure of taking roll, shaking hands and saying hello to just about each one. He couldn’t cook worth a lick, so he was content with everything he made for himself being served in a bowl (soup, cereal or ice cream). He loved jogging ~ would jog 2-5 miles a day depending on how much time he had. He loved playing golf or throwing a ball in the front yard or shooting hoops on our driveway basketball court. He loved the dogs we owned that he would walk every night after the news was over (“Mr. Chips just took me for 2 miles”). He loved Marine Corps. He loved playing piano at church ~ especially with Mrs. V. He loved my mother, truly. And he loved my sisters and me.
I miss how we would talk and walk. I miss driving to FLA or CT and everybody else being asleep in the car, and the two of us memorizing the Presidents. I miss going to baseball games together. I miss his laugh. I miss listening to him play the piano ~ in a way only he could play. I miss watching him talk to people.
He’s in me and for that I am so very thankful.
Of all the phrases that I’m learning these days, “time suck” feels like one of the truest descriptors that’s come along for a long time. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Sure, it feels a little bit “judging.” Only because it is true.
Perhaps this phrase was invented for all the apps that suddenly fill our ITunes account (another one that my grandmother would have a bit of trouble translating). It steals our attention and sucks dry our time.
Humans are continually creating phrases that culturally speak to who we are these days and who we may evolve into. It matters that we pay attention to the words and phrases for these days of our lives.
When I think of all the things to be written on my headstone or in my obit, I’m thinking: “She had a gift when it came to time sucking.” “No kidding, that Lesley had game when it came to time sucking.” “Time sucking had nothing on her.” Any or all of those things woven into reflective words about my life makes my spirit weary just thinking about.
It’s impossible to really capture time, especially when trying to describe it. Or what it means to me. Time can be chronological (wristwatch-time) and immeasurable (catching up with an old friend and sharing belly-laughs). There are moments that seem to stand still with everything sharp and clear and a feeling of being totally, completely alive. And there are moments that drag on where the second-hand seems out of gas and unable to move forward. Both are true. How so, I don’t always know. But for both of those extremes and for all the time in-between, I want to be as awake and aware as I can.
When I think about being caught up in a time suck, I feel like I’m gong down the rapids without a paddle. It’s as though there is a force pulling me along and I am at its mercy. And the truth is ~ it’s not that at all. The truth is, most all times, when I’m engaged in a “time suck,” I’ve turned the key and put things in motion.
We’re given this one, precious life. We’re given this one, precious day. This one, precious hour. This one, precious moment. To be creative or generous or amazed or kind or thankful. Although we have no power over time, we control the verbs. As Mary Oliver says, “What will you do with this one precious life?” It’s about time, it’s about us.
For some this may be a daunting task and a great ask, but here goes: what companion will you choose of your Summer of 2013? Hope it’s not seen as a pressure, but instead as an invitation.
Without asking, I can guess my partner, Linda’s. It will involve building something, restoring something, painting something (I just hope it’s NOT “inviting something” ~ we have enough barnyard animals for this farm). My image for Linda is a hammer and nail (and just a few other necessities). Last weekend (even with half of it handicapped by a completely closed black eye), Linda and Gamma covered our kitchen island with a tin counter top (although at some point she referred to zinc – you say “tomato…”).
What about you? What will you choose? A pottery wheel? A sketch book? A library card? A plot of ground and some seeds? A kayak?
What will be your summer, this summer?
These old shoes have taken me from here to there and back again. Walking around the neighborhood, walking to Saturday breakfasts, walking with the dogs, with family and with friends and with the Braves. Walking. It is so often my best times for prayer…for recollecting…for letting go and holding on. Dusk is the best. But dawn is pretty darn good.
From the age of 7 through 17 I spent at least two weeks each summer at Na-Wa-Kwa. At this Girl Scout camp in central Indiana, I learned to play the guitar. I heard the beauty of a cappella voices while on long walks through the woods. I learned to swim and canoe there. I learned to build a fire and pitch a tent. (I never really got the lanyard thing down. Sorry Mom). I learned about being outside. A lot. And walking everywhere. I learned to love summer with all my heart there.
So I’ll put on these old sneakers every chance I get and walk around as often as I can. It clears my head and lifts my heart. It sets me free and brings me home. Each time.
Blessings to you and this Summer of 2013. May God’s grace be with you and your summer companioning.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.