Overwhelmed with Love

Painting of me by Barbara Bailey Hutchinson
Painting of me by Barbara Bailey Hutchison

I seem to be overwhelmed a lot these days — but this time, it was with love.  We’ve had an art festival at my church this past week — “Art on the Edge.” Over two dozen of us Edgehill UMC folks displayed some of our artwork at the church. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, we had a reception and received musical gifts from some of our professional musicians.

Friday night, Barbara Bailey Hutchison performed. We finished up the evening with an auction of some of the pieces from the show. (Proceeds from the sales were going towards the “The Red Houses” — two houses we are purchasing for ministries with the neighborhood.)

I was sitting there at the auction when a mystery item was brought forth — it was sitting on an easel covered with a green cloth. The auctioneer (Pastor Judi) said that the item was a painting by Barbara Bailey Hutchison and that we would begin the bids without even seeing the item. “$100!” someone called out. And then, “$200!” The auctioneer said, “OK, now we’ll pause the bidding and see what it is. When the cloth was pulled off, I looked at it, blinked, twice, and thought, “Hey, that’s me.” While I was staring at me, my friend Jenni finished off the bidding — “$300!”   “Sold!” cried Pastor-Auctioneer Judi.

I was still sitting there looking at the picture and feeling overwhelmed with love — by Barbara, by friends, by my family, the congregation of EUMC. What an amazing week — celebrating the Giver and the Gifts. (And raising a bit of money for The Red Houses — gifts of ministry for the Edgehill neighborhood.)

Thanks be to God, who gives us gifts. Amen.

You Shall Not Be Overcome

Seattle moon
Seattle moon

Life seems too full right now. Not all bad stuff … just too much of it. Too many opportunities, too many challenges. Sometimes I wonder about how I can handle all that’s getting thrown my my way. God, I ask, are you sure you know what you’re doing?

These are the things God tells me. Just breathe. Stay in the present. Do the next right thing. Trust me. Be grateful.

Julian’s Words

“These words, ‘You shall not be overcome’, were said very loudly and clearly. … God did not say, ‘You shall not be tormented, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be grieved’, but God said, ‘You shall not be overcome.'”

Julian of Norwich
Revelations of Divine Love

Prayer

Thanks, God, for the gift of life. For the opportunities as well as the challenges. For the blessings as well as the tears. For the love as well as the pain. I’m grateful. Amen.

Growing in Adversity

A potato -- growing in adversity

A potato — growing in adversity

It’s not an alien life form. It’s a red potato. I found it on the floor in the pantry behind the recycling bin. Who knows how long it had been laying there in the dark, sending out shoots, looking for life. It’s another image in my series of pictures on growing in adversity — how living things (including people) are able to survive and grow in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

Remembering Tigger

The last picture of Tigger
The last picture of Tigger

We lay Tigger the Scottie to rest this last Wednesday. He died peacefully at the vet, surrounded by strong women who loved him. Two of the women present for his death had been there for his birth and had cared for him when his mother’s milk had dried up. They fed him and his siblings every four hours with a baby bottle for weeks. Tigger was purchased and went to live in his new home, but was returned at about six months when his genetic illness surfaced. He had “wobbly Scottie” and his new owner was thinking of putting him down. He was given a new life with the family who helped him come into the world.

Though he was disabled, he led a full (and sometimes spoiled life). Towards the end of his life he could go up stairs but not down them. We would often find him waiting for us at the top of the stairs, waiting patiently for us to find him. He became increasingly less mobile and unable to eat. The last several weeks, he had been in “hospice care” until he was ready to go on beyond the rainbow where he is free from the bonds of disability and illness.

I’m grateful to God, to the universe, for letting me share Tigger’s life for a time. Teacher, lover, friend … he is missed.

Season of Change

Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room
Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room

Lately I’ve been reflecting that my time at The Upper Room has given me more than a just steady job for more than 20 years. I find myself talking to my web development colleagues about organizing a web page using “The Mind of Christ,” “The Heart of Christ,” and “The Hands of Christ.” Or I’ll discover that I’m trying to figure out the right web application for teaching Lectio Divina. “Weird!” I think to myself. “I sound like Stephen Bryant [the boss of The Upper Room]” It’s not a bad thing … but when did that start?

Even more than the breadth of knowledge about spiritual things, my spiritual self has been formed by working here. I don’t know why it surprises me that my relationship with God has been influenced by this place and these people. In my time working here, I’ve been mentored and nurtured by some of the most knowledgeable, creative, and humble spiritual leaders in the Protestant world.

I’m grateful for these gifts … and extremely sad that we are going through another round of layoffs of our staff. Since the beginning of the year, we have lost 14 staff people, whose jobs have been terminated because of the sinking economy. We are in a time of great change, great grief. We cherish your prayers … and we need God’s love, presence, and healing.

Grandpa’s Peonies

Grandpa's Peony
Grandpa's Peony

Grandpa’s peonies started blooming yesterday. My Grandpa Wilson was a gardener. His entire back yard in Norman, OK was dedicated to a garden that he started harvesting in February (potatoes) and finished harvesting in late fall (turnips). He rotated crops, planting and harvesting three vegetables per season in the same rows. His compost pile, at times, was so tall that he had to walk up on top of it — about 5 feet in the air — to dump his compost bucket.

Grandpa was born in the early 1900s in Kennelworth South Africa. His parents nearly starved during the siege of Kimberly in the Second Boer War. The story is that they were starving, but Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma had planted a garden and knew there was food to be had. Great-Grandpa took a sack and snuck through the enemy lines one night to get to their garden. Though overgrown over with weeds, the plot was full of vegetables. Great-Grandpa filled up his sack and brought the food back through the siege lines.

Grandpa Tom didn’t have a lot of use for flowers (“You can’t eat them”), but there were a peonies planted in the back yard. After his funeral, I dug up a clump, put them in a grocery sack, and brought them back home to Tennessee. Early in the spring, they bloom, bringing alive memories of my Grandpa Tom. I’m blessed.

Life’s Sweet Delight — Making Maple Syrup

Had a special birthday celebration a few weeks ago when I got to spend the day in the north woods helping to make maple syrup with the good people from Maple Leaf Orchard, Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Mark and Sue Christopher guided us through the process and, at the end of the day, fed us and sent us off with some of the syrup we helped make. What a bonus.

Forgiven

Bluebird box
Bluebird box

Last week I emptied a chickadee nest out of the bluebird box. And I’ve been feeling terrible about it ever since. Every spring, the cavity-nesting birds stake out potential homes and build nests in them. When I found the chickadee nest in the bluebird house, I did what a bluebird house landlord is supposed to do — empty the box so that a bluebird can build there. But who am I to say who should live there?  I’ve been debating this in my mind every since I dumped out that beautiful nest of grass, fur, and moss.

But today I looked in the box — and there’s a chickadee nest there again. Thank goodness … I feel as though I’ve been forgiven. Grace abounds.

Visit the website of the North American Bluebird Society.

Special Care

Tigger the Scottie
Tigger the Scottie

I have the privilege to live with a Scottish Terrier named Tigger. He’s 11 years old and just about the sweetest pup I’ve known. He’s precious — in that way that all companions are precious. I’ve been fortunate to live with him since 2000.

Tigger has one of the genetic disorders that Scotties sometime develop. It’s Canine Cerebellar Degeneration, commonly known as wobbly dog syndrome. The disease manifests itself in his inability to go down steps and his tendency to fall over. When he runs, his back end careens out of control like some cartoon.

The past couple of weeks, he’s be going through some tests — trying to figure out if he has some sort of cancer. I felt sad that this little creature may be nearing the end of his life. I often wonder why dogs and cats have shorter lifespans than humans. Perhaps it’s so we can be companioned by several of these wonderful animals throughout our lives.

While Tigger was at the vet’s yesterday, they took some blood samples to send to a research study at North Carolina State University’s veterinary teaching hospital. It felt great that he could contribute something to the effort to identify the gene mutation that causes his disease. Not that he could enrich the world any more than he has enriched my life …

I’m grateful for Tigger; for his presence in my life and for the many gifts he has given. Thanks, God, for Tigger.