Monthly Archives: September 2015

Out of Place

There’s a single juice glass in my cupboard. I bought it with three others a decade ago, when larger glasses were too big for my four year old son’s grasp. It’s four and a half inches tall, with a seven-sided lower half and a circular top edge. There’s a fancy cursive “L” on the bottom. It’s sturdy, well balanced, and hard to knock over.

This leftover juice glass has no place among the glasses in current use. My son is well past needing miniature glasses, and it’s too breakable to use at the bathroom sink. It’s not worth any money and I have no important memories associated with it. Yet, it’s still here, out of place and alone.

Out of its original place and filled with modest chive flowers, it is a perfect centerpiece on the dinner table – too short to block anyone’s view or conversation, too narrow to be a hindrance when passing dishes, too solid to be knocked over by a careless hand. With a handful of daisies, it fits on the narrow shelves in my living room, and doesn’t tip when the cats pass by with flicking tails. It casts a rainbow when the sun hits it just right.

Out of place isn’t something I like be. It’s uncomfortable to be a loner among a group of like-minded and socially related people; it’s disconcerting when talents, appearance, and meaningful purpose are no longer useful or particularly appealing to the larger group. But being out of place, no longer in like company, may be the only way to grow past my past self. To every thing there is a season, and seasons change. Holding onto one particular season in my life, insisting that I am limited to one particular use or identity, won’t keep me from being out of place. What it will block is a future beyond it, where I hold beauty and find my place at the table and on the shelf. Sturdy and casting rainbows is a wonderful new reality, unseen when out of place but surely on the other side.Photo on 9-30-15 at 3.07 PM


Tuesday found me in the library’s learning garden with sixteen Tabor Academy learners and their three advisors. It was Tabor’s Fall service day and they’d come to get the beds ready for cold weather – weeding, transplanting a few perennials, picking peppers and herbs, gathering seeds for next year. This was the third time a group from Tabor had come to help, but the first time for these students. They replaced last year’s twice visiting group whose members had all graduated into the world beyond Tabor and this project.
The sixteen new students learned about the garden and reconfigured some of its beds; they tried hot peppers, nasturtium flowers, and pumpkin blossoms. They tasted the herbs – sage, oregano, basil, chives, and mint. When the work was done, they made and enjoyed herbed dipping oils. Somewhere in the process, they went from being students on a service site to gardeners, claiming the space and the work for themselves.

wflpumpkinblossomWhen they got back on the bus with a wave and a “see you in the Spring,” I returned the wave and the “see you then” and sent them off with my thanks. Just as I had the year before with many others. As the bus drove away, I sent a silent blessing and heartfelt thanks to those I doubt I’ll ever see again, but whose hands and hearts added so much to the learning garden. And I remembered a holy and wondrous truth: anybody’s work can be done by another, but nobody can ever be replaced.

For more on this series, see “Place” above…

Not My Place

Yesterday morning found me at the Peaslee Funeral Home. With my family, I greeted people as they came to honor my father’s life and death. His cousins I hadn’t seen since the 1980’s; my Aunt Marilyn’s neighbors, friends, and coworkers; people my parents met when they moved to Daffodil Hill; coworkers and friends of my siblings, all entering their lives after I moved too far away to know more than their names. We found ourselves in the same place, saying God-be-with-you to my father together. After prayers and tears, taps and flag folding, we met up again on the patio of the Governor’s Inn. Here we shared food, drink, and stories. Sitting at white tables on a warm September afternoon, we heard stories and told our own.

My cousin Marna sat with me. I hadn’t had time to talk with her in decades, really – just quick catch-ups at various weddings and memorial services over the past few decades. For the first time since we were children, we had a true conversation. We talked about my father, and how he and her father took us swimming and boating on warm summer days. She told me stories about our grandmother and grandfather, both long since gone. I heard about her children and she talked with mine. She met my husband for the very first time. I saw all the delicate family webs that have connected us reveal themselves in her stories and her laughter, her humor and her compassion. In our meeting, we spun new threads; my children and husband were woven into her life’s story, and her children resurfaced in mine. With a hug, we left to resume our places in the daily routines that shape our lives.

Marna’s place in my father’s life story is not my place, and my place is not hers. What she shares with me, and what I share with her are glimpses of a much larger pattern that was my father’s life. It stretched far beyond what I have seen or will ever see. The same holds true for every one of us gathered together in grief and loss – so many stories, such a brilliant and intricate life. How sacred is any life, and how hidden from any one person’s place. How many people are connected to me through my father’s life? How many blessings have come from these unseen and never-to-be-seen people? Living and dead, distant and nearby, there is an infinitely complex and gracious web that binds me to them. It’s not my place to know it completely; it’s just my place to be grateful.

Hard Place


It’s well after midnight, and I’m in my parents’ living room. My mother is asleep in her bed; my father sits on the sofa, legs propped on a chair, blanket keeping him warm. He’s waiting for the white pill he just took to take away the pain, and for the red one to keep nausea at bay. In the last few days, he’s been letting go of the routines and activities that have given shape to his life these many years. He doesn’t talk much and doesn’t always follow the conversation. He eats a toast, perhaps an egg or sandwich for lunch, a juice box and a forkful of food for dinner. He pats his dog, sitting on the back porch; he enjoys the flowers and the birds and the sun on his skin. He isn’t busy and has left nothing unfinished. His time is his own, and there isn’t much left of it.

He drifts in and out of sleep as I type. He doesn’t try to stay awake or asleep. He goes where his spirit and body take him. It’s a hard place, this in-between time. Not yet in the next life, but on its threshold; not really in the life he has known, but standing beneath its arch.

It’s a hard place for everyone who loves him – me, my siblings, his sister, and my mother/his wife. He has loved us all so well and for so long, and we have loved him. Our love isn’t tied to this hard place. It comes and goes with us, embracing us and connecting us. Nothing in life has lessened it, and nothing in death will either. How could it? Love is nothing more or less than God’s greatest gift and our greatest blessing. I am so thankful for this – this abiding love that surrounded our past, dwells in this hard present, and will shine into our infinite future.

(Early this morning, my father passed from life into death, at home in the company of his family. With the help of hospice nurses and aides, he passed without pain.)

In Place

underleavesMy daily routine happens in particular locations and times of day/week/month/year (Everyone’s does; is there anyone whose routine just happens in random places and times? It wouldn’t be a routine without placement, just a collection of happenings strung together through time and space.), interwoven in the fabric of my life. They are the warp and woof that create the mutable and unfinished tapestry that is my very existence. They matter to me, these times and locations – these places I live in.

Today, my prayers were offered from my old blue sofa, looking out on the birds, plants, and chairs in my back yard. Brick steps heard my Jesus prayer, the Weber grill witnessed the prayer list. A couple days ago, it was the flip-out sofa just inches and a screen away from the lavender-bloomed butterfly bush. End of August, these same prayers visited my in-laws’ patio, with its bird bath and rose-chomping mule deer. The time of day stayed the same, the locations didn’t – maybe not a huge difference, but it changed the flavor of the words in my mouth and on my heart. How could it not when I could see, feel, hear, and smell a different part of God’s great world? Even a change of room and window makes a difference in who I am as I pray.

Prayer is a living dialogue as much as an ongoing soliloquy. Alone or in the company of others, prayer is never done in isolation. We are surrounded by all those who ever prayed the words we pray, who ever prayed where we pray; we stand and kneel with pray-ers through all time and in all places. All the spontaneous words ever said, felt, and thought; all the indescribable moments when the words couldn’t be found. It is in this place that I pray and you pray. It is in this place that God embraces us, sometimes seen and felt, sometimes unseen and elusive. If I really embraced the holiness of my places of prayer, I doubt would ever get off my knees. If you did the same, I doubt you would, either.

(For more on place, clickPlace above…)

Darkness, deepening and dazzling

May the darkness of night deepen and dazzle

Not exactly what I think of when I think of the darkness of night. Over the years, it’s been cursing the darkness as a fearful child or as an adult seeing darkness as only the absence of light (an annoyance as I think of all I didn’t get done today). What a different thought to go off to sleep with: that tonight I may be deepened and dazzled. Cotter’s poetic imaging creates for me a new response to the night. He takes the oft used verse from the psalmist, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24), and makes it into a night made by God. Let us be deepened and dazzled in it. Now I can praise God for the night as well as the day. That’s pretty great! The light of the world still shines through the darkness, deepening and dazzling.

This blessing lacks only one word: Amen.

Offered by Bill Albritton, teacher of the gospel.

Friend and Lover, bless us and keep us; Light of the world, shine on our faces; Transfigured Yeshua, lift us to glory. May the darkness of night deepen and dazzle.
Prayer at Night’s Approaching,

Jim Cotter (Morehouse Publishing, 1998)

Lift us to glory

Transfigured Yeshua, lift us to glory…

(Offered by Bill Albritton, pray-er and child of God)

A few weeks back the Church celebrated the Transfiguration. In the last writing, we pondered the Light of the world. I often think of Peter’s reaction to the event up on that high mountain (most scholars assume Mount Hermon here which reaches  a height of some 9,000 feet—rarefied air for a rarefied event). He so reminds me of me, always feeling that he has to do something or say something even though he has no concept of the appropriateness of his words or actions. Peter wants to memorialize the moment but Jesus must move on. No time to dilly dally—the cross awaits. The Voice in the cloud tells Peter, James and John in that mountain top experience to “listen to him!”— “Peter (me), stop talking about things you know nothing of and listen to Jesus.” If we do this we will catch a glimpse of glory, indeed. Tonight may I take a moment to listen to Transfigured Yeshua, experience the attendant glory of that moment, and fall asleep in his arms, blessed and kept.

Friend and Lover, bless us and keep us; Light of the world, shine on our faces; Transfigured Yeshua, lift us to glory. May the darkness of night deepen and dazzle.

Prayer at Night’s Approaching, Jim Cotter (Morehouse Publishing, 1998)