The Gift

My heartfelt thanks to Cassidy and the staff at Krogers who very unexpectedly gifted this cake to the Sunny Day Club at Brentwood United Methodist Church. There was no gift in mind when I ordered this cake in lieu of favors for a bridal shower I had for the young woman in this photo! Katie’s mother had attended the Sunny Day ministry over a long period of time some years ago, when memory loss at a young age confirmed a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. When I asked her father who we might provide a donation to honor his deceased wife Cindy, as a surprise for Katie, he immediately mentioned this ministry.

So I took this engagement photo of Katie and Sam,  ordered the cake for pick up yesterday (Aug. 29) and looked forward to seeing the usual good work done in the Kroger bakery. Cassidy called me from Kroger the day before pick up to confirm the details of the order and made a suggestion which proved to be an excellent choice! I arrived to pick up the cake to deliver to the Sunny Day meeting yesterday….and was greeted by this dear young woman, tears in the corners of her eyes, handing me a cake she declared would be their gift! She said the story that surrounded the order touched them….she realized she was very close in age to Katie and wanted to honor her as well as her mother. They wanted to honor the people who would enjoy lots of chocolate and icing—-the members of the Sunny Day Club who are also memory impaired! The leaders and many  volunteers who serve out a weekly commitment to share their lives with these lovely people also enjoyed some cake…I am told it was a good day!

You can imagine my tears as well as the amazement (and some tears!)  by the receivers! Heavens, this young woman changed the story to one of absolute joy.

I left the church thinking that’s what God does. He changes our story.

(Written with permission from the family)

A Glimmer


The world would
were it not
for the light…
a tiny glimmer
that shines in
my soul
fed by gospel
and letters.

It wavers.

The great apostle
speaks with clarity
names the
and offers
for the journey.

This light
needs fuel
in numbers
of one
yet numbers
of many.

It needs
boots on the
willing to
go the distance
miles uncounted.

It needs
not words
crafted to
spin a

the fuel
of reconciliation
that comes
from love
with love.

It needs
to silence



My Herd

I like cows. When I was a young girl, we lived on a farm and had dairy cows. They had names and were very much a part of our family. I never mastered milking, even with the expert instruction of my Dad.

Then when I married John (42 years ago!) I inherited his brother James and his family. For many years they lived on a large piece of property in Alabama that included space for cows. They also had names. They became our friends, too, though they lived too far to visit often. But James would call them, one by one, by name, and we would hear an immediate reply! I loved hearing those heartfelt, vigorous “moos”!

So, it is a joy, living here in town, to drive down Old Smyrna Road which connects our home to Brentwood. There are several farms that have cows, often grazing fairly near the road. My favorites live at the farm just as you make the curve at the dead end, going toward Wilson Pike. They rotate pastures so are not close many drives……but I am guessing they love the little creek that leads to the stacked stone, especially on our hot summer days!

There seems to be a collection of drivers of the same mind….I think we are groupies! Once last year I was coming home, made the turn and came upon an amazing sight…….more cows than I had ever seen at that spot….at least 50, no kidding! Cars were pulled off the road, drivers were out, close to the rock fence, excitedly chatting with one another….and the cows! Lots of pictures! I quickly joined them and recognized a sense of community unlike my usual experience. These creatures were a common denominator for people who had never met and yet conversed like old friends. I remember thinking how important that concept is in our lives that extend past cow pastures!

I have been disappointed lately they haven’t been in a near pasture… was delighted yesterday to see several a little far off for a good photo….but close enough to call and try to lure them to the creek….very close! Well, you wouldn’t have wanted to hear my attempts… standing down in a shallow culvert….leaning into the stones…arms raised, gesturing my welcome…my Dad would have laughed!….two or three did get to their feet… looked pretty perturbed at the interruption to a nap! They turned toward the racket I was making, some lumbered a bit closer….but mostly stood together, looking straight at me….but no further forward movement!

Herd mentality. Go figure.


I often cut through Manley Road on my way back from Franklin, Tennessee….have noticed this sign several times but never stopped. So took this path purposely today to learn from those who made this happen….to celebrate their vision for those who are not sighted. I was there alone…..and tried my very hardest to place myself there using touch and smell and hearing rather than my vision. I did not taste though have seen edible blooming plants on dinner tables! It changed my experience in the loveliest of ways, added to my vision…..but did not diminish my consideration of the same journey for those unsighted. It was a breezy day so it was easy to hear branches connect, to hear tall ornamental grasses sway, hear birds in trees still leafed…to appreciate the architecture of plants and blooms in their end cycles, pods and berries brushing strong bushes. To see asters waiting for their time. And to see two flags blowing in the breeze….the Tennessee State flag and the American flag. To consider how the unsighted might know their touch, so far up. It made me realize that might be my job, our job… interpret all they mean in the ways we treat one another, provide for one another, share our lives. Trying to imagine this life’s journey in someone else’s skin stayed with me as I drove away.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Clarissa Estes

cross_and_flame_color_thumb_100“With the cross and flame we say that, as United Methodists, we believe God saves us through Jesus Christ and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the world. That is what the symbol proclaims, and we are obliged to hold one another accountable for living this truly in our lives.” (, Cross and Flame Declare Who We Are)

These words reflect the meaning of our United Methodist symbol, the cross and flame. They are remarkable and, I imagine, can be interpreted any way comfortable to the reader or believer or congregant. Though I am well acquainted with the symbol and have always loved the actual feeling it allows me, I have never considered what words  of description would make it come alive, what words would hold me personally accountable. When I add my baptismal vows as well as membership vows, I can see I am, and have been, woefully inadequate in my responses.

The last few days of news have added to so many local, national and international events of despair, one feels obliged to retreat. What a luxury that would be. Am doubting that would rise to meet the accountability required in this statement above.

For me, it started with the obvious…the reports of domestic terrorism under the guise of a response to the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. I remember those first reports identifying those who organized and would attend the rally as white nationalists and Neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists and protestors. Those who rallied as counter protesters were often described as “liberals.”

I have never liked the words liberal or conservative, frankly. They are such relative terms and never seem to fully or accurately articulate those they are often describing, regardless of subject. But, this time the word grabbed my very soul! What could possibly be construed as liberal about a  group of people who are trying to shine a light on hate, in all its forms,  its actions, its results? Really? Why wouldn’t that just be called “human”? And, from my personal view, why wouldn’t that be called “Christian”?

I can’t possibly add anything to the fine writing already out there about these events in Virginia. My skills are far too limited!  I very much respect what I have read (not so much seen) and appreciate the resources available to have some appreciation for what has happened and is happening. I can’t possibly understand, of course. The article reported in the New York Times by the students at the University of Virginia has been the best I have read, simply because they wrote from first hand experience in the event, they wrote with their hearts and they drew a picture so visual, I could barely finish. I tried to imagine the impact for their young lives. I have posted that article on my timeline on Facebook.

As is always the case with horrific events, which seem to grow in numbers by the day, I try to consider my own complicity. No, I was not there. No, I did not beat anyone, spew vitriol in their faces with words that should never be uttered, etc. But, how can I change my life, my actions, my prayers, my way of thinking to become all I say I am? All God wants me to be?  Am I living out a gospel that is clear and compelling? What do I/we do in our personal lives that becomes a part of the underlying issues we see played out day to day…even in Virginia? The kind of thinking that supports those behaviors did not happen overnight or in a vacuum.  Do we realize our lack of personal engagement becomes substructure and encourages desensitization because we are a part of a critical mass? Who do I/we know as the friend Jesus describes who looks differently, thinks differently, worships differently, has fewer resources or more, who has no voice that is heard, who needs more than a casserole or a check but needs me/us? To stay. Not drop off. Stay. How can we possibly entertain a world of peace, or even peace in our own community, when we do not know each other? These are, of course, not original thoughts but I reiterate them with fervor and passion that they be considered in serious ways that result in change. They require intellectual capital that is used for action.

Do we ask and demand leadership in our local pulpits that names and claims the issues, decries their results and offers specific agents for change in the way we do things? And, no, this is not political! This is gospel 101! It is clear our status quo is not resulting in any kind of best practice, much less providing God’s love through discipleship and engagement, personal relationships with all, not just a few. Do we continue “programs” but forget they are “ministries”? Are they open ended or do they have a goal that looks good on paper but doesn’t translate to new relationships, ongoing relationships? Does leadership challenge us and offer specific ways we might address the current events too often declared political when, in fact, they are Biblical? That cross also symbolizes death, Christ’s death on the cross, as well as love.  Are we dying?  Or are we loving? Do we have courageous leaders who will give us the tools to be courageous in the name of Christ? The Holy Spirit provides the way forward. Are we acting on that way?

Do we continue to enjoy visiting lovely classrooms in our city and county schools in areas of affluence, outfitted with the finest and supported (as they should be) by those with resources but vote against school lunches for our Title I schools? Does that make me/us complicit? I have never been without healthcare in my life, but I know and see and feel the pains of those who don’t. Not because they are lazy, the statistical prevailing reason most white Christians apply to the poor. (statistics from “What is wrong with white Christians?”, Religion News Service) but because they are the working poor that now includes many in the dwindling middle class? Is our language full of judgment for a world we don’t know by experience but feel comfortable to deny exists? Would that make me/us complicit? What can I do to change that? How can I/we help provide interim measures borne out of compassion? How do we specifically help Jesus’ friends become empowered and reach their God given potential in health and wellness, education, etc.? How do we value one another as equals? Real equals? Do we let them know Jesus loves them, the same way he loves us? Even that equality is not embraced by those who have never known love.

Do we accept our prayers need to include those who perpetrated the violence, those who participated and acted out of hatred? Where have we failed as a people, as a society, to produce people who obviously feel so oppressed and disenfranchised? I am not defending their actions in any way,  I am looking for resolutions for all to be people of Christ.

So, I refuse to be classified as a conservative or as a liberal. Have never identified with either. I want to be classified as a Christian who is human, who is trying hard to love, and failing as we all do, the way Christ modeled and mandated,  who doesn’t want to devalue people with entitlement that continues oppression but also knows the reality is we have to develop relationships and friendships that call for sharing (and identifying) our reciprocal gifts to make those verses in Corinthians true. We are all a part of the body of Christ. We all have a part to play for Christ to use us to transform the world. Where have I heard that before?!

So, I may not live in Charlottesville and can easily say evil was done by others. Not me. But I can’t say I am doing all I can to change the rhetoric, both in word and deed to see the world become a loving, peaceful place. Pie in the sky? Probably. Complex? Absolutely! Can I do my part? Not sure.

Self evaluation is often denied when it becomes uncomfortable.


“With the cross and flame we say that, as United Methodists, we believe God saves us through Jesus Christ and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the world. That is what the symbol proclaims, and we are obliged to hold one another accountable for living this truly in our lives.” (, Cross and Flame Declare Who We Are)