Monthly Archives: March 2011

“Friend!”

I went to Meg’s track meet today and ended up helping judge/measure the long and triple jump. That meant that I was down on the old field, not the 100 gillion dollar field that rivals the Dallas Cowboys’. The old field was grass, not Bermuda or Zoysia or anything specifically planted for the purpose of our events. It was just good, freely growing grass. And along the edge of it, was a wild wood.

The day was heavy, the air seemed especially so, with a cool humidity that hung about, cloud-like. But Spring cried out through it, with the crisp, sweet, high and bright smells of life gaining ground. Green perfumed the air. All manner of plants were pushing up powerfully, taking their place for the long haul of summer. Just under the falling stands, grew volunteer beets, probably first planted 50 years ago and wild spring greens. There was a lacy carpet of white flowers astride blood-letting stems and  leaves – blackberries.

The wood about us seemed an old one, long undisturbed saved for a few boys’ wanderings with bb guns. The trees are larger than they are now allowed  to grow in our suburbia. The steepness of the property probably protected it and its trees from the developers. It was my kind of wood.

I wandered ( as I am want to do) the periphery and dreamed of following those signs and sirens of life on in. I really thought about vacating my volunteer post, (I truly volunteered, I was not assigned the duties that I took up) to make my way across the berries, and down the tangle,  to the stand of oaks just beyond the greening vines. I was not dressed for such, I was surrounded by children, not born of the woods like me, and parents who would have frowned. But that did not dissuade me. Only the need of the volunteered parents ( I have been there) did so.  So, I watched the line and the landings and decided that, next time, I would dress to go in and meet up with what has too long been alone.

Sarah practices soccer on that field from time to time. When she does, her Mama will don her best wood-walking boots and take or make a trail or two to know better what called to me, “Friend!”

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I have been doing what I love to do the most.

What I love to do the most is facilitate encounter. God encounter. I love to help people get still and sensitive to what is going on spiritually, in and around them. Last night, MK and I started  imagining the upcoming Worship Experiment that we are facilitating in May for Epoch, my youth group. It’s an annual, intensely purposeful gathering of those who will and want to be with God, together, for about 36 hours. It is always a highlight of my year and one of the most creative and free times that we share.

I must give credit where credit is due.  Our working back story and the theme of it all for this year was Hannah’s brilliant idea. She’s one of our Edge kids: they are all spiritually brilliant.

Anyway, MK and I just ran with it a bit, trying to imagine a setting that would in all manner, even the words we share, communicate the theme. I loved the creative  ideas that MK suggested. I had about a million ideas, some good, some not so much so. I did not even share many of them, because I wear people out that way. But, I really did have so much fun just envisioning with her all the ways we could facilitate encounter and fellowship.

We are still listening, imagining, working on it. I’ll keep you all up to date with that as it begins to gel. Please remember it and us in prayer time to time. Worship Experiment is always pivotal in the life of so many of our kids and leaders.

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Lightning strikes

I have a friend whom lightning seems to strike, naturally and spiritually. When she opens herself and obeys it’s like lightning flowing through her to me, she is just that kind of vessel. I was thinking about the concept of vessel. What it means that God flows through us to others. Wow! But He does, He has in my life as receiver and giver so many times.

We worked with the song, “What does it feel like?” today. I got some great responses of resonance, and even better explanations of those responses. Today, I want to press a few places.

Here are some phrases that stood out to so many of us?

” …God is all around”

“…when Heaven comes down.”

” …the winds of heaven roar.”

Today, we aren’t just going to listen, we are going to sing and feel the words and the sounds of God resonate through us. And we are going to ask God to take us back – to quickly scan the mental movies long logged in our heads and show us what it is like….when He is all around, when heaven comes down, when the winds of heaven roar.

And remember, and share…a little lightning.

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Ah, but don’t you believe them


Standing in line marking time, waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by as he catches the poor ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says “get a job”

chorus
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

They say hey little boy you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said hey old man how can you stand to think that way
Did you really think about it before you made the rules
He said, Son

chorus
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

solo

Well they passed a law in ’64 to give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind when all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar

chorus

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

– Bruce Hornsby, “That’s Just the Way It Is”

These are my kids, Meg and Trent, with their very best friends in the whole world, literally.

They don’t believe “them.”

God, I don’t believe either, help my belief.

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remembering

I finished reading a book yesterday, the day I also restarted it. It’s Blood Done Sign My Name, by Tim Tyson, MK’s cousin. I am dialoging through it with MK and Leigh, my reading/writing comrades. It’s my favorite kind of book: historical, I learned something that I did not know on nearly every page; revelational, Tim again and again brought new insight and understanding to the ways and wiles of man; funny – its tender anecdotal quality is without compare. I loved this book. I pray that one day I can be a part of producing this kind of work.

I’m trying presently to summarize my experience. Well, I feel like someone just corrected the glasses I’ve been watching life through all my years.  I saw and perceived and felt so many of the same things that Tim did as a child. I too, struggled to make sense of my world, the south in the late sixties, and the early seventies. I was young, but I had eyes and ears. And I paid attention, even then.

Mr. Campbell was my school bus driver all the years I went to Barnett Shoals Elementary School. He was tall and thin, older than my Daddy, and he wore a government green or brown pressed uniform everyday. He was the type of man who wore his belt perfectly aligned and whose shoes or boots were freshly shined. When it was cool he wore a cap that sort of matched his shirt. He didn’t talk much; it helped that he towered over even the fifth graders. Our route was particularly long, especially since most of us lived close enough to walk or ride our bikes to school. But for some reason, I never knew why or cared to ask, our route ran all the way out to the very edge of the county where a couple of stray students lived, then wound back around to my house. It was fine with me; I loved the ride.

We left the school and headed due west toward the near corner of Morgan county. We drove a quiet highway that basically paralleled the Oconee River and the few neighborhoods along it. An occasional 100- 150 year old homestead  that somehow lived on brought me smiles and an imagined life under its huge trees. Further out the homes were younger and less inviting, but we didn’t cater to those neighborhoods. At the end of Barnet Shoals Road, just north of its namesake, we let out our first passengers, a brother and a sister who lived in this mobile home, settled down in this little draw right alongside the road. That was the end of our county, Clarke.

We turned around in their driveway. We headed back north through beautiful cropland…no longer seriously planted. About the only farmers left in Clarke County were university professors and their graduate assistants. Then we turned east on Whit Davis Road, the address of my family’s lake and cabin…my other home anytime weather permitted and Nana or Dada, Mama or Daddy would take me. I loved seeing the huge nondescript gate with its wired on “LOCK THE GATE” sign and knowing the secrets beyond that no one else could even fathom. We rolled across some feed cropland and by another glorious old lady with monstrous columns and then turned left at a beautiful highly detailed Georgian Greek Revival that someone was always sinking a small fortune into, trying to restore it to its glory. Then we continued back north and toward civilization on Lexington Road. We traveled down a long hill, over an inviting creek and its breathtaking little valley where rust brown and white cattle collected awaiting their dinner. As we climbed again, houses and neighborhoods, every paint hue and door style forever fixed in my memory, faithfully ticked by. A little farther and we came to my neighborhood, Green Acres. Another hundred yards past my neighborhood, in opposite direction lay Barnett Shoals Road.  Down it a half mile was our genesis. The ride took about 50 blissful minutes.

I can only remember one time that we did not keep our appointed rounds. After turning around at the county line, Mr. Campbell turned on his blinker before Whit Davis Road. I was sitting in my seat of choice, right behind Mr. Campbell. He began to turn down this red road, it needed gravel badly, there were big ruts which he tried to navigate carefully…Most of the kids were oblivious. A few looked around confused and then went back to giggling with a friend. My eyes were wide, my ears strained for some clue. We drew closer and I recognized exactly where we were. I knew from what I saw through the windshield and what I saw on Mr. Campbell’s face. We were at his house. He quickly descended the bus, ducked inside his house for a moment and then jogged back to the bus and cranked the engine. Our eyes met for the briefest of moments. My eleven years hadn’t  prepared me. In that millisecond of eternity my eyes tried to tell him: I respect you, Mr. Campbell. I think that you are decent and good and everything I would want in a Daddy. I trust you and count on you and think no less of you because your house, as tidy as you, is out here, down this not good road, near these not all good folks…We…you and me…we are still the same.

I couldn’t tell him that I knew the place well. My Mama and I used to carry Aida, our maid who took care of me when I was little, home right down from his house to a little ramshackle dwelling…and its occupants. Aida was never in a rush to go home. She always kept finding ironing or something to do for me. Now I could better understand why she preferred our cool in the summer, warm in the winter small house in Green Acres and just eating a bite of dinner with Mama and me and my baby sister.

We finished the route, on time…pulled up to my stop…435 Brookwood Drive, like always. Mr. Campbell nodded goodbye to the gang of kids who exited before me. I followed them down the steps and out into the sunshine. I turned back and looked up to Mr. Campbell, “Have a good day, Mr. Campbell!” I called. “You too, Honey,” he answered. “Yes, sir,” I smiled in relief. We were the same.

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Instruments

Here’s what I have  to go on: the colors of the sunset, the name,”Praise,” and the idea of us all being instruments of God…And a few really cool activities my “Reflections” class designed for these coming after.

I need a curriculum, God. What do you want us to do, to talk about, to learn to be in this time? What is your goal for us?

When I think about these particular students, I have the image of instruments, sitting on shelves. The instruments work, are probably even tuned, and of course, God can play them. But, they sit there nonetheless, not being played in some capacity that God created for them to fulfill. Show me how to get them off the shelf, God, and playing loud and long.

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Answer

You answered my question before it even formed in me. Answered the, “What can I play, what can I say?” with what I hardly dare to share, much less lead us all in. God, I see the place we are to travel, the steeps and the slopes make me feel dizzy, and at the same time, giddy. My feet feel even now, a race of electricity which will run up my legs and toward my  heart.

Why here, why now, God? My mind saw it there and with them. Other places, other faces. And yet, this is the room all alit, this is the space so sacredly draped in golds. This was only to be a holding, a spectating place to watch together another day’s decline. This was only to be a better breath, to last exhale.

My heart is racing on, nearly keeping up with Yours, as You move on beyond what I would know and want. My heart runs on, though my head shakes itself and wavers, looking left and right, across the desks that soon will be filled. And You, You nod on, Yes, Your chin high and then nearly to your breast, over every one. And I am staggered back into a board still stained with last quarter’s computations and final day comments to me. Wide eyed, watching what could not be, Lord?

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