JJ’s Week of “Firsts”

puppy in pink towel
First portrait of JJ, the new Scottie puppy

One week ago today, we picked you up from your birthplace.
We met the humans who brought you into this world.
We met your mom (Shannon), your dad (MacGregor), and your siblings.

Then you took your first ride in the car,
Had had your first portrait made,
Spent your first night away from your family.

It has been a week of firsts …
First going to sleep alone in a crate.
First breakfast.
First thunderstorm.
First trying to pee in the rain.
First visit to The Vet.
First time to meet Arya.

We heard your first bark (at Arya),
Watched your first frenzied play that collapsed into a nap,
Laughed at your first romp with each new toy.

You, with your yips and growls,
Your ferocious energy and warm cuddliness,
Your puppy eyes and ears and feet and nose …
You have frolicked your way solidly into our hearts.
And we are grateful for you.

Bless to me this puppy.
His waking and sleeping,
His eating and playing,
His eyes and ears,
His sharp little teeth.
Bless to me the joy he brings —
Bless to me this puppy.

Jack and the Rainbow Blessing

collage of rainbows

We drove east out of Nashville
On a pilgrimage to pick up JJ.
(“JJ,” “Junior,” “Jack, Jr.”)

As we traveled,
A rainbow hung in the sky above us.
Mile after mile after mile,
We watched it curve through the sky.

What a joyful sign!
From you, dear Jack?

And then, a double rainbow …
And we knew that your spirit was traveling with us.

You …
And all the company of furry, winged saints
Were singing a blessing for the tiny pup
Joining our family.

Bless this new life.
Bless this family.
Bless this home.

Bless the leashes and the bowls.
Bless the beds and bless the toys.
Bless the treats, especially … bless the treats.

Bless this pup,
His eyes and ears and feet and tail.
Bless his friends,
Dog and cat and bird and squirrel.
Bless each step that he will take.
Each car ride, to the park and to the vet.

Bless the love.
Bless the laughter.
Bless the tears.
Bless this pup.
Every day of his life.


Today we pick up JJ, a nine-week-old, black Scottish Terrier. He was born at the White Shadow Ranch near Asheville, NC. Pictures will be coming soon.

Quickly

May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.
-Psalm 144:14

Holy One, the walls have been breached.
Your people are crying,
and we are in exile in our own land.

What is this place where we now live?
Hate marches down city streets at the noon of day.
Abusers walk the halls of justice and power.
Children are stripped from their mothers’ arms and sleep in cages at the border.

Holy One, where are you today?
The evildoers hold the fortresses of power.
The exploiters of the poor grow in their wealth.
Your little ones languish in despair.
Calls of distress go ignored in the streets.

Where is our hope?
Where is our rescuer?
Come quickly, God of Compassion
Come quickly to save us.

This is my conversation with Psalm 144:14 from the Pilgrim Press Book, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle. Image by David Ramos on Unsplash.com.

Counting Time

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days
I count my time in dog walks and cups of coffee.
I watch the plants,
Reaching toward the sun
Offering beauty …
Blooming, fading, dying away.

When life has slowed,
I count my interactions in phone calls and Zoom windows.
I imagine seeing you,
Our arms thrown around each other in love.
How long until that day?

When life has slowed,
And loss builds upon loss.
We grieve in isolation
Far from comforting rituals.
Wakes and potlucks,
Shared tears and handkerchiefs.
The quiet words of a familiar reading, a favorite song.
The gathering of the family from far and near.

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days.
We count the time in sunrises and sunsets,
Breaths in and breaths out.

When life has slowed,
Breathe. Listen. Trust. Love.
We are not alone.

I Remember You, Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom and me

I remember you, Grandpa Tom.
Resilience forged in World Wars and dust bowls.
Kindness shaped by love and generosity.
Faith cultivated in times of struggle and uncertainty.

You grew vegetables in the back yard,
Three rotated crops,
Food harvested from March to November.
That was the way your people survived.

The garden — a statement of faith
In the One who created the seeds, the sun, the rain.
The garden you called your “Fitness Center.”

In these days of pandemic, I remember you.
Your resilience, your kindness, your faith.

I think of you, at the end of my day, when I put on my work clothes
And walk out the door to my “Fitness Center.”
Trimming bushes, sowing seed, spreading mulch.
Hoping that I, too, in this time of challenge
Might be a person of resilience, kindness, and faith.

Days Run Together

IMG_8664Days run together
And soon I don’t know …
Is it Wednesday or Saturday?
We step through this disorienting, timelessness
of social distancing, quarantine, isolation.

I watch the news, increasingly grim,
And realize that we all will know someone
touched by a COVID-19 death.

And this grief overwhelms me,
Knowing that things will never be the same.
There will be suffering.

There is suffering. Right now.

Can we trust that humanity will get through this?
Like we got through the Black Death?
Like we got through the Great Wars?
Like we got through unimaginable disasters?

Tenacious human spirits hang on.
We adapt, we hope, we move, always, towards healing.

#pandemic

Prayer Practices for This Time of Crisis

During the past few days, I realized that my normal prayer practices were not working very well. When I went into meditation or silence, my brain filled up with anxiety. I’ve realized that I need a different set of practices in this time of crisis. Here are some practices that seem to be working for me. (And I’d like to know — what practices are working for you these days? -Please let me know!)

  • Bring in Spring. Fresh flowers from the yard brought inside.
  • Share the light. I keep a candle burning when I’m awake.
  • Meditate with others. My Headspace meditation app invites me to meditate with others beginning every 1/2 hour.
  • Daily prayer. Upper room colleagues are leading morning prayer each day at 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). We are using Facebook Live. Like our Upper Room Facebook page and tune in to pray with us.
  • Pray for others. I’m spending a little bit of time each day praying for others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.

How to Pray for Others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.

Blessings and love to each of you.
Beth

A Blessing for Those Who Wait

image of candle

For those who wait
In despair,
In grief,
In sorrow.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In anxiety,
In isolation,
In loneliness.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In tender hope,
In tear-streaked sadness,
In fearful anticipation.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

Bless, Loving Healer,
All those who wait.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

Originally written 9/2018. Updated for us waiting and watching the unfolding of the pandemic. Find more of my blessings in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Don’t Worry. Instead, Pray.

I was already a world-class worrier
long before the current crises we face …
before the Coronavirus …
before the tornados hit my middle Tennessee neighbors.

I remember the nights in my childhood,
when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid.
I remember my mom helping me cut out
a scripture passage from my Sunday School lesson.
We taped it to the dresser mirror in my bedroom.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

Mom and I would read the scripture when she tucked me in.
I could read it in the night if I was afraid.
I repeated the passage until the words became a part of me,
until the words began to pray themselves in the silence of the darkness.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

These days, I light candles.
The light of them shines
into the darkness of this world,
into the darkness of my worries.
The light says, “Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank God for the answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. God’s peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:6-7, The Living Bible