Thursday, August 18, 2016


Our Starbucks writing group wrote this morning on the topics of gratitude and food, which one member dubbed “fooditude.” I know am guilty of failing to be grateful for many of my day-to-day blessings, including having more than enough to eat. There are hungry people around the world who would be grateful for the leftovers from our home cooked meals or one of our infrequent meals out. Serving sizes at restaurants have become gigantic. More than once when my husband and I have eaten out, I have saved half of my meal to take home. The next day, we have shared the left overs for lunch—three servings from one restaurant meal!

I remember reading Ser y Comer, migajas en torno a la identidad (To be and to Eat, leftovers on the potter’s wheel of identity), by Eliseo Perez Alvarez, a Latin American pastor, theologian and philosopher. I remember especially a quote from a woman who said Americans make an event out of each meal as they sit down to eat, while those with less food simply eat something standing up when they are hungry and then get back to work. One of the benefits of mission travel to other countries is the opportunity to see our own culture from a different perspective.

I remember the people who served us at the Luyano Church in La Habana on our second mission trip to Cuba. We paid for the food they prepared for us, and, as a result, we ate much better than our hosts normally did. Our last night in La Habana, we went to a fancy restaurant. As is the case here, the portions were huge, and of course I could not take the leftovers home with me. I did not want to throw away food, something drilled into me by parents who grew up hungry in the Great Depression. I did my best, but could not eat even half of my entrée. Defeated, I asked Louis, our driver, if he would like to take the leftovers home. He eagerly agreed and said his wife would enjoy them. I felt guilty because I had not thought to set aside part of the dish before eating.

In our fast food culture, many of us have lost the sense of the goodness of food lovingly prepared from natural ingredients and often fail to slow down enough to enjoy food while we eat. One of my favorite parts of our stays at Santa Luz in Nicaragua on our mission trips there has been the food, which was simple, but delicious. CoCo, the head cook, went out of her way to pamper us with treats like pancakes because she knew we enjoyed them. In her tiny kitchen she prepared a feast for us each evening from simple ingredients: rice and beans for traditional Gallo Pinto, fresh vegetables like those we buy here only from a Farmers Market or pick from our gardens, and fresh fruit. Sweets were a rare treat, though there was a Birthday cake for CoCo’s on one of our trips.

I think perhaps we most appreciate things that are scarce. I am aware that there are far too many people in our own country who do not have enough to eat. Too many live in the food deserts in our big cities where it’s a long walk or bus ride, if that is even available, to the nearest grocery store. Instead there are mainly convenience stores with no fresh fruit or vegetables. I’m reminded that life is not fair, but I am also keenly aware that in the wealthiest country in the world, we have enough to go around if we made the eradication of hunger a goal and shared from our abundance. Too often we operate from a position of scarcity in our culture, even those of us who claim to worship a God of glorious, unlimited abundance.

Grace and Peace,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Another Life Transition

Today is the last day my husband will see patients at the clinic where he has practiced medicine for almost 35 years. When I woke up this morning, I remembered when we began medical school and law school together, about three months after we married. Somehow during that hectic time in our lives, I never envisioned this day, 45 years of living later. We have had lots of life transitions in that time, the birth of children, the empty nest, and the birth of grandchildren, as well as the death of our parents and other family members and our own health issues.

Still, this transition seems to merit special examination.  It will be a major change in both of our lives. A good one, I think, but one I know will take loving compromise to navigate. I am feeling now something like the realization that comes when the end of a lovely vacation is approaching, and I strive to enjoy each remaining day, milking all it has to offer. I have no idea how many years the two of us have left. That is in God’s good hands, and I’m content to leave the answer there. What I do know is that my life no longer stretches endlessly before me. A recent illness has been a timely reminder of that.

So now, in whatever time I have left in this life’s journey, I want to savor each day for what it has to offer. I want to gather together such legacy as I have to leave my kids and my grandkids and to clean out the detritus of a long and busy lifetime so the important things are not lost among those that don’t matter. My prayer is that I can focus on the clearing out and then relax and enjoy the time left. I know that God will be with us in this latest transition as God has been in the past.

Grace and Peace,


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Basketball Joy

My heart has been heavy since the recent death of my brother. Perhaps that is why I have especially treasured times of joy and laughter these past few weeks. Riley, one of our grandsons, recently decided to play basketball, a different organized sport in our family, though I have great memories of my sons playing basketball for hours on our driveway while they were growing up. My husband and I went to watch one of Riley’s basketball games. We sat against the wall along the edge of the basketball court as the two teams of 8 year-olds played. The noise was deafening, especially since there was another game on the adjacent court. When the whistle and buzzer sounded there, the players on our side of the divider froze. It was hard to tell where the sound came from. The players had a great time racing up and down the court and trying to hit the basket. Some of them already showed talent. No one cared much about the score. The rules are modified for the young players, so I found myself confused on occasion as I tried to remember the few rules of basketball I learned years ago as a member of the pep squad at my high school. Despite the deafening din of pounding feet and bouncing balls and the noise of the whistles and buzzers, it was great fun.

A week after our grandson’s basketball game, my husband and I sat on the edge of the basketball court at Baylor University to watch a different kind of basketball. He had surprised me with tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters, and not just any tickets, but courtside seats. He hoped they would draw me out onto the floor and into their crazy antics. I fell in love with the Harlem Globetrotters as a little girl, but had never seen them in person. Ticking this item off my bucket list took a long time, but it was worth the wait. I don’t remember when I last laughed that hard. For a time, I forgot my sadness as I laughed along with the rest of the crowd at the silliness on the court, from a ball filled with helium that floated into the rafters, to one of the players grabbing a child from the sidelines to use as a shield to protect himself from a bigger player, to my favorite part: an instant replay acted out in slow motion, using a beach ball instead of a basketball, narrated by the Big Easy, the tallest player on the court. I hated to see the game end.

As we headed home, I contemplated the joy of our time at the game, and how much lighter my heart felt. I thought what fun we could have taking our grandkids to a Harlem Globetrotters game, but then thought perhaps Riley should learn the rules a bit better first, since the Globetrotters broke every rule of basketball I knew, and some I didn’t, from one coach stalking into the middle of the court with his own rulebook to deride the referee, to the player who pulled himself up to stand on one of the goals so a teammate could throw him the ball, which he promptly dropped in the basket. A different kind of joy than watching 8 year-olds learn basketball, a joy punctuated with laughter, made all the more poignant because of the sadness of the last few weeks. I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at my church. The most recent lesson was on prayer. One of the theologians in the study talked about joyful play as a kind of prayer. I like that image. To be truly joyful is to be in God’s presence, which is the purpose of prayer after all. There’s something holy about pure, unbounded, joy. God designed us for love and for joy. When we are filled with joy, we are near to the heart of God.

Grace and Peace,


Thursday, January 21, 2016

My brother, Michael

I’ve been thinking a lot about my little brother, Michael, who died December 30th last year.  I don’t think I’ve quite absorbed the fact that he is gone yet. I think of him at odd times, like on Sunday evenings, when we would often call to talk with him. And then I remember that I can’t do that anymore. Or as he said after our dad died, that would be LONG distance. I found myself standing recently near the entrance of HEB, our local grocery store, tears welling as I looked at the Valentine’s Day gifts displayed near the floral section. Michael’s birthday was February 13th, so I usually sent him a birthday and Valentine’s Day gift at the same time. It seems to be the little things catch me off guard and trigger the memories and the sadness.

But that’s just the background that prompted this blog post. I want to tell you why I admired my little brother. Michael was born with brain damage. His speech was mostly unintelligible, even to close friends and family, though as my husband, John, said in his eulogy at Michael’s funeral, Michael was a master of non-verbal communication. Michael looked different, and he battled heart and mental health problems. As John said in his eulogy, Michael survived enough health problems for four or five people. Yet he soldiered on throughout his 55 years, overcoming obstacles that would have overwhelmed lesser folk. His courage and endurance were amazing.

Michael was fiercely loyal to family and friends, and to his favorite sports teams, which included those from Texas and Washington, where his sisters live. I miss his rib-cracking hugs and his booming laugh, which became less frequent as his health deteriorated. Michael navigated his difficult life with grace and dignity. He was one of my heroes. Remember my brother, Michael, the next time you are tempted to dismiss someone battling a disability. They most likely have a lot to teach you about faith and love and endurance in the face of this life’s unbending challenges.

Grace and Peace,


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sacred Space

I spent a recent Saturday included in the Latino family, when I attended a workshop in Spanish on Latino worship. I’m still insecure about my Spanish language ability; so just showing up for the conference was both exhilarating and terrifying. There were about 50 people at the conference, and I was one of only four Anglos in attendance. As the first speaker talked about what it is like to live in our culture as a Latino, never free to be himself, always seen as an outsider, and considered inferior by too many people, I heard the murmurs of agreement from the other attendees and felt the visceral sadness in the auditorium where we were meeting.

            I struggled at first to keep up with the rapid-fire Spanish, but as I continued to listen, I found myself caught up in the lecture as this speaker talked about how Latinos draw strength from their community, especially during worship. He spoke of Latino worship as a place where worshippers arrive battered and bruised from the stresses and challenges of their daily lives and leave revived by their time in worship with their community. In the sacred space of worship, they can experience both joy and sadness in a place where they are free to be themselves and to laugh and to cry. In that sacred space, they are reminded that God continues to work out God’s purposes in our world.

            At the time of the conference, I had been working on a sermon on the beginning of Chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel, which has been described as the Little Apocalypse, in contrast to the book of Revelation. I learned that apocalyptic literature was a familiar genre at the time Mark wrote his Gospel, so the wars and famines and earthquakes listed would have been recognized as standard symbols. Apocalyptic literature appeared especially in times of violence and calamity, such as the time period when Mark’s Gospel was written. This type of literature offered hope to those who lived in difficult circumstances with its reminder that no matter how dire those circumstances, God was still at work in their world. I realized that for Latinos in our culture the repeated revelation in worship of God’s cosmic work in the midst of their difficult life circumstances serves the same purpose as apocalyptic literature served for the first recipients of Mark’s Gospel.

            I think it is hard for those of us who live privileged lives in this world to relate to the power of true apocalyptic literature, as opposed to imitations of our time, such as the Left Behind series, even though some of us are no strangers to violence and calamity, as evidenced by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. As I think back to the time I spent in the sacred space of a gathering of the Latino family in worship, I remember that in my own faith community, and especially in our worship, I too for a time inhabit sacred space each week as I am reminded  that God is still at work in the midst of this world’s chaos and violence; that I have a part to play in that work; and that ultimately, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”[1]

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Miracle of the Cakes and the Volunteers

I watched a miracle unfold last week at the local American Legion Hall. Our church’s finance chair, Pat, had volunteered our church for an opportunity to raise funds for our youth group’s next mission trip. All we had to do was serve a hot dinner to 300 people. No kitchen is available at the American Legion Hall for those serving the dinners, so all the food had to be transported in, ready to serve, and we needed a small army of volunteers to do the serving while the food was hot. We also needed 300 servings of a variety of desserts. Pat set out to recruit volunteers to cook and to serve and to make desserts. Even with all of her efforts, however, the volunteers seemed limited. We were worried if we would have enough, and the dinner was fast approaching. The church secretary sent out a final plea for volunteers a couple of days before the dinner.

I hurried to the American Legion Hall the evening of the dinner with the two chocolate cakes I’d baked. The last I’d talked with Pat, she was still not sure if she had enough desserts for 300 or enough volunteers to serve that many dinners quickly enough. I arrived a bit later than I’d expected and told the doorkeeper that I was one of the volunteers. He pointed me toward the far corner of the American Legion Hall. When I reached the service area, I was astounded to find row upon row of cakes and cookies and pies already cut up and ready to serve as well as several dozen volunteers lined up. We had a team meeting, and our pastor offered up a prayer in the back room while we waited for the pledge of allegiance and the dinner prayer, our signal to serve dinner.

Tears filled my eyes as I looked around at the extravagant buffet of desserts and all of the volunteers who had shown up at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. Several said they’d come after the last plea from the church secretary out of fear that no one would show up to help. One young mother, whose husband is currently deployed, had left her job in Temple and driven home to Ft. Hood to pick up her kids from daycare before turning around and driving back to Temple so they could have the experience of helping the church serve others. I’m not sure why I keep having to learn the lesson that my church family is amazing at responding, and that God always provides the resources we need when we step out to serve others. Last week I was reminded once again that I could trust God and trust my church family.

Grace and Peace,