Life Adds Up!


Gisa and Susan luncheon 208

So, here I am again, trying to bring a little more organization to my work space! Keith, my favorite computer guru, is coming this morning to investigate some issues that need addressing.

To that end, I thought I would make some effort towards cleaning up my email folders. The world has changed dramatically since many of those additions and they are simply outdated—both in content and application!

Thinking it just a mundane task, I have been proved very wrong! Oh, my goodness, what a gift has been given me today, early in the morning!

Thinking I would just speed read, discern what should stay, what should go, I came across a folder devoted to my friend, Kaye. She was our pastor for many years. She remains my pastor. Among her gifts, which are many, she was our shepherd through the death of our long time pastor, Howard Olds. It was not an easy task. Her contributions have been endless and continue.

Kaye and I had the honor of being part of a Covenant group for many years. We met every week. There were six members, as is the norm for a Covenant group. Small. Our intent each week was not planned around an agenda, book, or study. It was predicated on holding a cross in hand and sharing our lives as they relate to compassion, devotion, worship and social justice. We were to hold each other accountable in ways that would move us forward, challenge one another…..but, most importantly, encourage us to grow in God’s grace and use that growth in a hurting world. It became an important part of who we are now.

Those hours included our shared grief during the illness and death of Kaye’s beloved daughter, Leslie. There are simply no words that can adequately honor those times together. They continue to this day as we remember Leslie and fully realize her witness to our own lives. She lived her young life fully and her legacy is honored by the many ways we use what she taught, what she modeled, who she was.

So, I reread Kaye’s writings now, having lived through and enjoyed all those hours together. Her words take on new meanings, new challenges, they become cumulative rather than individual entries.

Her folder had many, many emails, documents, sermons, prayers, laments and joys. Reading each one carefully from the very first forward taught me something I thought I knew….should know! Each lovely, individual writing adds up to our lives together. It draws a picture of the person writing. It affirms that life does include many joys and many sorrows but they become part of a landscape that is supported by love, by community, by silence, by prayer.

They are not all easy to read, of course. They are honest in the vulnerability Kaye shares…. the replies the same. They reflect the very human condition but fully acknowledge God’s power, his love and our need for his grace. They are an example of unintended influence, just day to day living.

What I see the most and feel the most from all these words… is strength. Strength gifted by God and accepted to do the hard work, strength that brings comfort, strength that dances at joys, strength that mandates our call to be all we can be, all the time. Even when we don’t think we can. Even when it is really hard. Even when it doesn’t intersect with the prevailing culture.

I have always thought Kaye a woman, a person, a pastor, of courage. I just read (and am still reading) what that looks like.

A reminder is often necessary to affirm the cliché and overused words that living really does happen moment to moment. Those moments in fact do become our lives with ripples we might never know, most likely won’t know. They become who we are. I just read them.

You guessed it! Kaye’s folder will make the cut!




Cleaning (using that term loosely!) my desk today, I ran across an email response to my friend Caren, written at her provocation on how I might think I am privileged. That’s become a hot button issue these days but has not enjoyed the introspection it deserves in mainline society.

I remember this question well—-I had never been asked before that I could recall. Caren was in divinity school then, hence her prompt. But, div school or not, she is a person who asks the hard questions always! Nothing skims the surface with her—-she has just always been a troublemaker for God! I love her for that! I wrote a poem about her. Will post it soon!

At any rate, here are my answers. I am surprised to see they would not change much even now!


I am privileged because:

I am a beloved child of God.

I have clean drinking water.

I have enough food.

I am healthy.

I am warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I do not have to move because I can’t pay my rent.

I get to sleep in a bed.

I have an education.

I have access to medical care through insurance.

I live in a country where I can freely worship at any place of my choice. I pray the same for my non Christian friends.

I have been consistently loved by family and friends.

I have been mentored by role models, all along my life’s journey, who have shared their love of Christ with me through their actions.

I have discretionary emotional energy.

I belong to a denomination that celebrates the role of women in the pulpit.

I have hope.

I have a voice for advocacy that can be heard if I will use it.

I have learned love is a verb.

I am open to learning.

I know who my neighbors are, regardless of address.








Who Are Our Neighbors?

“Be Still, My Soul”
(originally by Jean Sibelius)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

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My friend and long time mentor Blair Meeks wrote a book of prayers and liturgies for death and dying called Standing in the Circle of Grief. It was written as a resource mostly for clergy but includes all who offer comfort in time of need. This book has somehow become one I read often. It stands upright in a row of few other books on my computer desk, in fact. I have taken it with me across many miles to read Blair’s beautiful prayers to my father at the time of his dying in 2009 and my mother in 2015. I have gifted a copy to a hospice chaplain in Colorado who lived out Blair’s prayers but appreciated her writings.

Somehow along the way the name of her book strikes me in settings not specific to death but applicable all the same. We all experience grief in the losses that cross our lives.

So, when another lovely mentor and friend, Rev. Neelley Hicks let me know of the death of Angie Martinez I felt a special loss. With her message I felt an invitation to join in the circle of grief for Angie. Blair’s words, once again, came to life for me. Neelley’s words put me squarely in that circle.

I have known Angie and known about Angie for several years. Spending time at Sixty-First Avenue UMC over many years has gifted me many friends from varying walks of life who have taught me what it means to be the face of Christ in a hurting world. By that I mean they are the face of Christ, they are the teacher, they are the faithful, in spite of having little our modern society would judge valid. I think their most important lesson may well be the value they have for each other and others. They love to share their stories and that sharing puts us in very real contact with the neighbors Jesus talked about. We have a common address. We praise God together and we share communion, not only at the table but in our lives and prayers. We share stories.

Angie and her mother Joan started attending this church several years ago. At the time Angie had an addiction to alcohol she was willing to address. She did so by riding a bus every day to Meharry Medical Center for treatment. She had few resources but she used them wisely.

She brought honor and personal attention to her job cleaning houses and used those hours to make friends, to demonstrate a work ethic and pride in what she did and what she had to offer. She especially cared for God’s creation focusing on care for animals both in her living quarters and the surrounding neighborhood. To that end, I include some photos of our cat who also came from a Humane Shelter. I think Angie would have liked knowing that!

When she and her mother started attending this church  they were recipients of much needed food from the church pantry. As healing from alcohol came, they became the givers in this congregation, whether that be in hours spent helping at the church or calling Greg, another member and friend, every evening at 7 PM to check on him… or hugs and smiles. They were servants. They were friends. They contributed and did indeed become the face of Christ.

Angie’s mother died in 2016 which was a huge blow and a great loss. But she continued working and serving. She died suddenly this past week. Her loss to her friends and congregational members is palpable. They were, indeed, all her friends.

So thinking of Blair’s book reminded me again of the importance in living out the title, and really standing in that circle of grief. I was honored to attend the beautiful service for Angie at the church. I was grateful to hear the words of people who loved her and whom she loved. Neelley and Brenda, Nita and Paul, Greg,  families she worked for, her landlady—-all spoke from hearts of sorrow but joy for her victory. Her brother Tony spoke with clarity and love in spite of his tears. Lives were enriched by knowing Angie.

Two members of a lovely family spoke from their pew about their love for Angie, who had worked for them a long time. Their heartfelt request was that her story be told and shared. The ever present hope she lived, in spite of difficult circumstances provides hope for all of us.

When I first sat down in the pew, I happened to sit by Wanda, a lady I had met but did not know well. Angie had lived in her home for 17 years. I mention her at the end of this writing simply because her words said it all. She shared how long she had know Angie and her mother both. She said, “you know, after they came to this church, their lives changed. They became different people.”

The gospel call in real time.

Praise be to God.


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14:27a

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Radnor Lake is a fine preacher.


Creation Lessons

Early morning sun
born in the quiet
that allows only
the sound
of songbirds
and leaves
barely moved by
a faint breeze.

Flowers already
arching toward
the light and warmth
taller tomorrow
having embraced
the feast of today.

I feel God’s hand
in the metaphor
leading, teaching
the power of spoken
gratefully lost
to his presence.

There is a lesson
in the solitude.
There always is.
Simple but complex
far reaching yet

We need to
a little each day
become new
in his love
fully present to
the change
he offers.

No need to grow
hoping for
instant success
or any success
no finish line
or winning goal
rather a slow journey
walked together.

Joy and sorrow
hope and love
become our stories
promise the changes
of life lived
not planned.

Our book
no final chapter
no ending
rather a legacy
in people…
people with names
their growth
co-mingled with ours
still adding
day by day
to the abundance
creation teaches.



We often see the sudden death of someone beloved…..or a serious, unexpected illness that no longer allows conversation….and hear of the attendant missed opportunities to express love or gratitude or even simple concern.
But then we go about our usual business of living, somehow rationalizing, using our societal norms of a visit, or flowers, maybe even a card, assuring ourselves we have done “the right thing.”
We are allowed these norms, even encouraged to embrace them, by a culture that reflects our inability to recognize the real loss. We have a lot of company in that loss.
The loss of the day to day encounters, visits, actual phone conversations, when there is no emergent call to arms…when being fully present is the reciprocal gift
to a child or parent or friend.
Grace whispers in the moment….in the unprescribed….in the hum drum of nothing special but everything special.
The proper dress, proper manners, embellished words, care and concern that rise when choices are gone soften the day, until a quiet voice at night calls us to who we could have been.
Every new day affords the possibility of change. We can elect to reflect the face of Christ by leaving behind our busyness that robs precious time from authentic living.

Jackie Shields

From Frederick Buechner:

Thus, when you wake up in the morning,

called by God to be a self again, if you want

to know who you are, watch your feet. Because

where your feet take you, that is who you are.


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I am attending a class tonight at Brentwood United Methodist Church in Nashville called “Seeing the Face of God.” It is part of a series that addresses the historical role of the church in ending racism.  The speaker and facilitator will be Dr. Rip Patton, a gentleman who was one of the Freedom Riders in the 1960’s. The photos above depict him as a young man riding the bus to Jackson, Ms., as well as leading a class on non violence in recent years at the Nashville Public Library. He knew Dr. King, Fred Shuttlesworth, John Lewis and C. T. Vivian and recalls the full range of stories that defined the Civil Rights Movement.  Our debt to this man, along with all those he knew and labored beside, is immeasurable.

He was featured in a documentary by PBS in 2011 called Freedom Riders, based on a book by the same name.

It brought to mind words from one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes:


I’ve been scarred and battered.

My hopes the wind done scattered.

Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.

Looks like between ’em

They done tried to make me

Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–

But I don’t care!

          I’m still here!  


IMG_6771We so often hear the statistics around young people and their diminishing church affiliations. These three young women defy those numbers because they go to church every day! Their 24/7 lives embrace the gospel in their choices, how they live and how they serve! Church is not only a Sunday event for them. We celebrate Anna, Erika (my boss!) and Ellie and send a huge thank you for their leadership this past year. They are all college graduates who elected to work with Project Transformation as fellows at Aldersgate UMC, Matthews Memorial UMC and Antioch UMC…..facilitating well structured and planned after school programs, connecting children to needed resources in literacy, homework and, most importantly perhaps, relationships that value who they are, regardless of their address!  It has been an honor for many of us to learn from them, cheer them on and affirm their skills! Their most important work was non quantifiable, not only with the children, but with the children’s families, volunteers and one another.

As I hear our current news cycle and consider the ways we might live into the gospel words in ways that include, instead of exclude, that reflect love instead of hate, that value all and not just a few, I think of these young women. They example the solution we “adults” might follow. They will lead and be motivators of transformation!

Can I get an Amen?!

A poem from 2016….

Project Transformation

God whispers
through new voices.
Young and
courageous and sure
full of wonder.
Very real
open hearts
open minds
open doors.

Children are respected
Children are honored
Children are loved

Books march
words connect
smiles and laughter
a neighborhood map
becomes wider
and taller
and inclusive.
Urban streets
become visions
of hope
and change.

Children learn
Children teach
Children love

Family fun
changes perspective
molds difference
into community
smiles the same
regardless of border
joy apparent
in the faces of dancing
beaming families
and proud new friends.

Families learn
Families teach
Families love

Fellows and interns
Matthew’s verses
trust God’s call
plant seeds
of future growth
certain change.
Upturned faces
of children
full of questions
big questions!…
who trust their answers.
Old neighborhoods

Leaders learn
Leaders teach
Leaders love

Volunteer tutors
with days
of well planned
that opens
to God given
building community
welcoming the stranger
from forgotten streets
forgotten lands.
No walls
open windows
that allow
Christ’s light to shine.

God teaches.
God loves.
God transforms.
To honor the vision
and work of
Project Transformation.