Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Morning in the Backyard...

the air around me alive with
     the sounds of birds and
     the rustling of leaves in the breeze and
     the far-away whooshing of a passing jet and
     the lack of human voices.

I sit in the enlivened silence
letting the sun's rays feed
     my grateful skin
enjoying the soothing gentleness
     of the occasional breath of breeziness
while my left shoulder is massaged by
     a tender caress from the voices of
     a pair of mourning doves.

A different kind of Sabbath
a different type of prayer and praise
     from a heart overflowing with
     gratitude for life
                        and light
                   for sound
                        and silence
                   for simply being.
                              Thanks be to God.
                              This is Holy Ground.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers- and No Hair...

I spent Thursday with my sister and brother-in-law at the medical center
where she is being treated for the return of her cancer. As usual, I had
pad and pen with me; as usual, the images which surrounded me found
their way into words.

Sitting in the waiting room at the gynecological oncology center,
surrounded by women in various stages of cancer treatment, I
feel like a voyeur, healthy woman that I am. In the corner sits an
Asian woman- Japanese, perhaps- whose head is covered by a
yellow scarf to conceal her baldness, a result of her chemotherapy.
At the other end of the room, her equally-bald "sister" celebrates
her hairlessness with a bright turquoise knitted cap, while the woman
to her left is wearing a tasteful blond wig, only made obvious by her
total lack of eyebrows.

On my far left, two women are engaged in loud, animated
conversation, perhaps to conceal the nervousness of the one waiting
to be called into the infusion room? And nearby, still another woman-
dark-haired and youthful-looking- talks quietly with a man- her
husband, perhaps- as she waits to be called in to see the doctor.
Since she is the only woman (besides me) sporting her own hair-
a lovely ponytail- I wonder if she is here to get the results of tests,
which would account for her somewhat anxious demeanor, for the
way she is clinging to the man's hand.

The infusion room is crowded...nine women of varying sizes, shapes,
ages, with one thing in common: a diagnosis of gynecological cancer.
No, actually, they have other things in common: each one is hooked
up to an IV pole on which hangs the bags filled with various chemo-
therapeutic agents. Each one sits in a blue recliner. And each one
hopes and prays that the drugs she is receiving will wipe out the
cancer cells which have invaded her body, making room for the
return of health and wholeness.

But there the similarities cease, as time passes differently for each of
them. The young woman in the corner spends the afternoon on her
laptop, while the African-American woman across the way mostly
sleeps. At the other end of the room, a cheerful woman is in
conversation with her husband and her daughter, while the woman
at the end of this row eats strawberries and works crossword puzzles.
Actually, there is a continual flow of women, as some finish quickly,
receiving only one drug, while other spend many hours sitting...
waiting...aware of the flow of these poisonous but often life-
prolonging agents into their already-compromised bodies.

Courageous- that is the word which comes to mind. Courageous- as
they smile, exchange greetings, wish one another well. Courageous-
as each one faces days, weeks, of side effects like nausea, fatigue,
baldness, neuropathy, forgetfulness (also know as "chemo brain"),
changes in taste, elimination, sleep, with a short, blessed respite of
perhaps a week, only to have it all repeat again after the next round. Courageous- as they don hats and scarves and wigs to protect their
sensitive, balding scalps from the summer sun. Courageous- as they
go from day to day, living life as fully as possible and hoping against
hope that this will all be worth it.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Lost...lost in the incredible complexity
    of life's endless maze
    of life's whirling, swirling dream.
Rooted- yet often up-rooted,
    my in-most depths laid bare
    for all to see...
when I would rather hide away
                              disappear into the thicket's camouflage
                              blend into the waiting, breathing world,
                              just one among the many hurting souls.
But no-
    I wear my heart upon my sleeve
              my wounds upon my brow
              my eyes dimmed with tears
              my body bent though still unbroken
    I struggle to make sense
                                of what seems senseless
                   to find answers to questions
                                both unexplainable and mysterious
                   to find joy even in the midst
                                of the inevitable heartache
                                of simply living
                                              day after day.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Always Sisters...

For my sister, Kathy...
In those young days, those long-ago,
long-since-past days, the gap of years
loomed large, a nearly-nine-year chasm
we could barely leap across and separating
us in ways both ordinary and mysterious.

And now we are no longer young.
In your still-youthful face I see reflections
of both Mom and Dad, as I do in mine,
though the features have taken on a different mien,
configured in a different shape on each of us.

The intervening years have brought
the sharing of those darker gifts
we would gladly have eschewed-
     the heart-rending, life-twisting loss of first-born sons...
     the body's cruel betrayal as cancer's icy touch seared its way,
          unseen and, at first, unfelt...

But in the shining gifts of sister-love,
of Christmases shared and long conversations on the phone,
of laughter in the midst of pain, of chemo cuts, of precious time
to simply be together, the difference of years has faded
into nothingness, and we are simply two aging women
who share a past, a present, and, prayerfully,
a long and lovely future of sisters forevermore.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Creation's Eighth Day...

I have often wondered how anyone could think that creation was
a one-time activity...that the creative Creator God brought it to
a halt on the sixth day, according to the Genesis stories in the
Hebrew bible. I find that amazingly incongruous, since I see the
evidence of the on-going activity of creation around me all the

This rose to the surface again and again for me a week ago, as-
in the space of eight days- I saw five films, visited three art
museums, saw the amazing "Van Gogh Alive" at Discovery Place
in Charlotte, and was enraptured by the Appalachian musical,
"Brother Wolf" at the Hanesbrand Theater in Winston-Salem. No,
I feel compelled to inform you, this was not a usual week for me,
but my dear friend, Mae, was visiting from Florida and when she
comes, I try my best to fill our time- between conversations
and meals- with activities we both enjoy...activities which are
celebrations of the creative energy which abounds in this area
and which confirms for me, over and over again, the reality that
Creation is an on-going activity in which we humans are invited
to participate by our Creator.

It was while I was in seminary that I first encountered the
phrase, "created co-creator" to describe the human being. I fell
in love with the expression then and it became fully a part of me
as I wrote sermons and wrote poetry and, years later, wrote
several books. And the phrase sprang fully to life last week as
we were uplifted...amazed...awed...confounded...rendered
both speechless and breathless by the beauty of the art and
music which spun its incredible web of mystery and wonder
around us.

First, the films. We began with "Sweet Dreams", a documentary
about a group of Rwandan women who formed a drumming
group as a way of healing and reconciliation from the genocide...
continued with "Belle", the story of a young mulatto woman in
18th century England...moved on to "Fading Gigolo" by the
wonderful John Turturo...then "Railway Man" about a British
soldier in WWII who had been held captive by the Japanese in
Burma...and concluded with "Chef", a delightful culinary tour-
de-force of food and family and relationships. We were amazed
by how often the theme of forgiveness was presented in many
and varied ways...each film so very different from the one before,
each one a delight to the eyes and ears and heart in one way
or another. Some evoked tears...some shouts of laughter...but
each one was truly a celebration of the combined creative efforts
of a whole plethora of people...Creation happening before our
very eyes.

Then there were the galleries: SECCA, where the work of two
very different artists were paired as part of the theme, "The
Tragicomic"...then, the Reynolda House where we reveled in
the exhibition "Written with Water: American Watercolors from
Homer to Close" (both of these galleries are in Winston-Salem)...
and finally, the Weatherspoon Gallery in Greensboro, where
we viewed an amazing exhibit entitled "Inequality and Social
Justice in a Changing World", as well as an exhibition of senior
work of students in the UNCG MFA program. The creativity of the
artists fairly leapt from the walls and I know I will return to see
some of this work again, especially at the Weatherspoon.

And then there was "Van Gogh Alive", the most amazing
presentation of art I have ever seen. No, not seen...experienced,
for it was truly an experience, surrounding the viewer with large
screens and changing images and music and...words of
explanation elude me and I can only say- GO & SEE IT FOR
YOURSELF. Having been privileged to visit the Van Gogh museum
in Amsterdam, I can truly say that this exhibition brought his art
alive in a way that must be seen to be appreciated. What an
incredibly creative adventure! Creation alive and well and on-going
among us.

To add to the thrill of the trip to Charlotte, we visited Spirit Square,
where an exhibition of the work of students from Northwest High
School in Charlotte hung in one of the galleries. The amazing
student work included several pieces done by my 17-year-old
granddaughter, Felicia, whose work makes me awe-struck,
especially since my ability in the artistic realm consists of stick-
figures. I was astounded by the work of these young people, and
rejoiced in the sunburst of creativity which illuminated all of their
One of Felicia's creations

Last- but certainly not least- was "Brother Wolf", the truly
remarkable co-creation of playwright, Preston Lane and composer,
Laurelyn Dossett, filled with imaginative Appalachian story-telling
and haunting music and wonderful acting. I could only sit in awe
as I watched the creative energy being spread out before me...
as I was drawn into and entranced by the unfolding of a tale of
love and vengeance and, yes, forgiveness.

For me, the impulse to create is part of the human spirit, the part
of us which has been created to be a co-creator by a God who
continues to surprise and lead us in unexpected and
glorious and scary dare us to venture into the
unknown in order to give expression to the holy creativity that lies
deep inside of us. Perhaps God rested on the seventh day, but that
same God has been active and working and inspiring us ever since.
Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Almost Summer...

open wide...
Wide open
the windows of my house are
          W     I     D     E        O     P     E     N
to allow the late-spring wind
to sweep through
dislodging hidden spider webs
and dust balls lurking in corners
     and under beds
billowing white curtains
     like the sails of a ship bound
     for place mysterious & strange
everything feeling fresh & clean...
     fully renewed...
          fully alive

Wide open
my arms and heart are
        W     I     D     E       O     P     E     N
to allow the winds of the Spirit
to sweep through
dislodging old hidden agendas
and musty ideas lurking in the corners
     of my mind
hope billowing
      like the sails of a ship drawing me
      to ideas both mysterious & strange
everything inside feeling fresh & clean...
     fully renewed.....
          fully, FULLY alive!