Nashville in Exile

Nashville Downtown Flood Panorama by Kelsey Wynns
Nashville Downtown Flood Panorama by Kelsey Wynns


By the rivers of Babylon —
there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs,

and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

– Psalm 137:1-4 (NRSV)

Image used with permission of Kelsey Wynns. © Kelsey Wynns.

We All See the Same Moon

We all see the same moon
We all see the same moon

The homeless men I cooked for last night …

The people in Haiti …

A small child full of wonder …

Jesus, Abraham, Mohammad, Buddha …

My dad, suffering from Alzheimer’s …

We all walk the the same earth, breathe the same air,

Drink the same water, feel the same hunger.

When others mourn, we all suffer.

We all see the same moon.

God, give us hearts of compassion. Amen.

Support Haiti

United Methodist Committee on Relief

The Pie Post

Dutch Apple Pie
Dutch Apple Pie

I’m not much of a cook, but I love helping with the baking during the holidays. We had a pie-baking extravaganza on the day before Christmas Eve. The iPod was on “Christmas shuffle” and we spent the day making four pies. The recipe was “Jenni’s Mom’s Dutch Apple Pie.” I am the apple peeler and cutter and the one who cleans. (Oh, and the one who eats pie.)

Thank God for pies and those who bake them. 🙂

Life after Advent/Christmas/Epiphany

Ordinary mushroom for Ordinary TimeI’ve been so social, so extroverted(!!!) since the beginning of Advent that today felt a little odd. On this day after Epiphany, I felt sort of like — “Where’d everybody go?”

I asked my Facebook friends about life after Advent and here’s some of their collective wisdom:

Bob: Yes, most certainly!!! I think it is something about discipleship.

Micah: Yeah, it’s called Mardi Gras!!!

Pam: I on the other hand think its about sleeping… until the Annunciation wakes you up.

Debbie: Absolutely, there is life after everything!

Ann: Good question.

Lynda: There are wonderful ordinary days which are relaxing and can be spirit filled. I remember our student preacher, Rachel, say in a sermon that God can come in the ordinary days of January as much as in December when we are overwhelmed with it all. Was comforting to me to hear this since I love the quietness of Jan. and Feb.

What about you? Tell me about your life after Advent.

The (Great Horned) Owl Reality Show

The Owl -- or Big Foot
The Owl -- or Big Foot

During the week I was on vacation in Colorado I kept hearing a strange bird during the night. I thought it was a confused blue jay. (You know how sometimes birds get confused and do strange things?) It was loud — screechy and annoying — especially at 3:30 a.m. outside my window. After hearing the bird for several nights I marched outside after dark, armed with a flashlight, and determined to let the bird know that it was time to sleep. Turned out it wasn’t a jay. It was an owl — a really BIG owl. (Here’s a link to some information on — and much better pictures of —  the Great Horned Owl.)

So, in the place of TV and the internet (neither of which we had access to), we watched The Owl Reality Show for the next few nights. Just as the sun went down, we headed outside with flashlights, cameras, and the tripod. One the second night, we got lucky and watched the owl for 15 minutes or so as it ate its breakfast. It was perched on the top of a tree recently trimmed by the electrical crews.

After a couple of nights enduring noisy humans with flashlights and cameras, the owl moved to a quieter spot. But it was really fun while it lasted. Thanks be to God, creator of heaven and earth — and the Great Horned Owl.

Naming Lake Joyce

Lake Joyce
Lake Joyce

This Spring marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of Penuel Ridge Retreat Center’s 25th anniversary. This special place is on 135 acres in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Backed up against a wildlife preserve, it’s a beautiful place. Two ridges frame the back edges of the center, and in the center is a beautiful lake. For 25 years, we’ve called it “the lake.” But at the first event celebrating the anniversary, the lake was named Lake Joyce. Joyce and Don Beisswenger were the founders of the retreat center. They had the vision, purchased the land, and called together a group of us who could help discern its direction. Joyce passed away several years ago. She lives on in our hearts and now in this beautiful lake, a companion to those who seek rest and solace through retreat.

Prayer of Blessing upon “Lake Joyce”

Gracious God, we come in remembrance of your child and servant Joyce Beisswenger. We recognize her love for you and all of your creation. We celebrate her devotion to life’s spiritual journey and her kindness to those who walk it. As a witness to the legacy of her love for Penuel Ridge and its purposes, we joyfully bestow upon this body of water the name “Lake Joyce.” To you be all honor and glory. Amen.

JoAnn’s Spring Wildflower Tour

One morning in the early spring, my phone rang. My friend, JoAnn Miller, asked, “Do you have your camera today? The wildflowers are in bloom.” That afternoon, she drove me on a special tour of the wildflowers along highways of middle Tennessee. JoAnn took us through parks and clear into the next county to find the wildflowers.

As we drove through the rain that day, she said to me, “Now, around the next curve, you’ll see a whole hillside of Dutchman’s Breeches.” Or “Up here on the right is a bright red flower called Fire Pink.”  Or “Later in the spring, the Bluebells will cover the sides of this river bank.”

I was amazed at her knowledge of these tiny, delicate gifts from the creator. We drove over 50 miles, and JoAnn knew which roadside to watch for the Trout Lily and which hillside to see the Shooting Star just coming into their peak. She showed me a glimpse into her world, where her open eyes and years of patient watching have led to a gifted knowledge of springtime beauty.

How many worlds do we miss because we don’t take the time to pause, look, and learn about the immense creation around us? Praise God for the lowly wildflower and for those, like JoAnn, who really see them.

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.

Yearning for Spring

Bradford pear blossom
Bradford pear blossom

It’s been cold and wet here in Nashville. For a long time. Seems like the whole earth has been holding its collective breath waiting for spring to burst forth. We’ve been in slow motion … watching, waiting, barely daring to breath … hoping for the trees to open up their blooms and announce the end of winter. This week, spring is finally here.

I went out early this morning to shoot some pictures of the ornamental pear tree across the street. Nashville is full of these trees. They are almost the first tree to bloom in the spring and nearly the last tree to turn red in the fall. I don’t think I’d ever noticed until this morning the variety of colors in their blooms. Their white outlines dot the dormant, gray hills of the entire city. Once the pear trees are in full bloom, the redbud trees are soon to follow and spring is well underway.

Today, the day was clear and the sun was warm. I could almost hear the sighs of satisfaction from all of creation. Whew. Spring and her flowery beauty have finally arrived.