Category Archives: Uncategorized

What You Can Learn From A Good Crook

We all negotiate at our own level. Some do it in the halls of power; for me the venue is the hall of the Church Vestry. The Vestry is a brick building built in the 1830s as a school and winter worship space. It’s a warm, homey place where our congregation and the wider community still gather for any number of activities. This month, the second floor was in heavy, messy use as the staging area for our Journey to Bethlehem, a town-wide, outdoor Christmas pageant.

Negotiations occur when something of value is at stake and the coveted object in this case was temporary custody of a shepherd’s crook. In our pageant, the plum role—if you’re a kid who likes animals– is to be a shepherd. My neighbor Kin walks her sheep down the hill and if you’re a shepherd, you get to spend the afternoon with Luna, Odie, WoolieWoolie, Cheerio, and Rosie. The other perk of being a shepherd is that you get access to the firepit in the shepherd’s encampment on the Meetinghouse lawn, a welcome bit of comfort on a cold December afternoon in New Hampshire.

What you may not get is one of “the good crooks.” There are three, maybe four of these special crooks and we always have more shepherds than that. I don’t know when they were made, but somewhere in the foggy recesses of Hancock pageant history, someone gave some steel tubing an exaggerated bend and made not exactly authentic, but really fine crooks for our young shepherds.

img_7503You can see from this photo (Charlie warming up with a bowl soup in the Vestry, but not letting his crook out of sight) that it would have been better if we had remembered to get new hockey tape and re-wrap the crooks, but that was a detail that got away from us this year. The tape grew more and more ragged as our after-school rehearsals went on, with new claim tags being affixed and removed and re-affixed as the shepherds vied for possession. My job was to mediate some of those negotiations. First choice of the faux animal skins from the costume box appeased one and another was persuaded with the logic that you couldn’t hold a crook AND be in charge of the animal crackers that the kids get to feed the sheep.

A shepherd’s crook has two ends. A curved end to pull the sheep back from danger and a straight end to prod them along in the right direction. As the year winds down and we begin to think about what 2017 holds in store, I’m going to keep that crook in mind. Chances are I’ll need a little protection, a little pulling back from some of my stupider ideas; but also a push, a little prodding to get on with one or two of the better ones. Stop and go. Good living requires both. Fortunately we don’t have to figure it out alone. There’s always that big shepherd and a full cast of assistant ones ready to help.




Welcoming the Dark and Celebrating Christmas Despite the Ruins

They got it right the second time. When they rolled it onto logs and moved our Meetinghouse back in 1851, some thirty-odd years after it had been built, they sited it perfectly. No matter what time of day, the light in this space is gorgeous. Inviting as glows on the Vestry side in the morning and equally enchanting as it takes leave over Norway Pond at the end of the day.

img_1999Of course, our forbearers didn’t move the Meetinghouse to enhance our aesthetic pleasure. They were practical men trying to correct their own poor planning. They wanted to bring the buildings along Main Street into alignment and make Hancock look like a proper town. I doubt the prophet Isaiah was their inspiration, but here in the New Hampshire wilderness, they were making straight the highway (Isaiah 40.3).

Still, it soothes the spirit to sit in this spare, minimally adorned space as darkness falls on these shortening days. Today the sun will set at 4:14 pm. Too early, we all complain. This year, I am trying to be pro-active about welcoming the dark. I’m finding it helps to queue up the Mary Chapin Carpenter song Come Darkness, Come Light. It’s a little trick I’m playing on myself. If I’m the one who invokes the darkness and invites it to come, then maybe my sense of hospitality will kick in. This winter I am trying not to recoil from the darkness, but to treat it as a guest to be welcomed.

I get a little help with this on Mondays during Advent. Last year, a group of us began to gather in the Meetinghouse as darkness fell and we doing it again this year. We like pausing together for a few minutes—setting aside our double-sided to-do lists, shutting off our phones, and reflecting on a topic that is somehow related to this season of hopeful expectation. I offer a little talk, play a piece of music, and sometimes do a little show-and-tell. This past Monday, I brought along a poster of Albrecht Altdorfer’s nativity, painted in the 1500’s. It’s an unusual rendering–one that shows Mary, Joseph, and Jesus hunkering down in the ruins of an old house. The canvas gives much more space to the architecture than to the Holy Family. It depicts a building in ruins–all rubble and falling brick, vegetation taking over what’s left of the roof, timbers and beams ripe for salvage.

albrecht_altdorfer_-_nativityI brought the Altdorfer nativity because it is referred to several times in a little book I’ve been reading–The Christmas Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Those of us in our 50s and 60s who grew up in mainline Protestant churches were reared on Bonhoeffer-fortified sermons. I don’t think he is cited as frequently anymore and there were several at our gathering this week who hadn’t heard of him or couldn’t quite place the 20th century theologian/pastor/Nazi-resister. I hope that’s not a sign that he is starting to fade out of popular consciousness. His witness is too important to lose. I’m always encouraged when I run into places where his memory seems alive and well—the NH coffee bar that bears his name or a rendition of the morning prayer he wrote while in Tegel prison, featuring the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Molly Parden.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for nearly two years before he was hanged by the Nazis in 1943, just months before the end of World War II. Advent was an especially poignant time for him when he was in prison; but even in his cell, he put up an Advent krantz (wreath), hummed the season’s hymns, and got through that lonely time by imaging how his friends and family were observing Advent back home. In a letter to his parents he wrote:

Although I am not at all clear about whether, or how, letters get to you, I want to write on this afternoon of Advent Sunday: Remember the Altdorfer Christmas scene, in which the Holy Family is depicted with the manger amidst the ruins of a broken down house—how could he, four hundred years ago, against all traditions of his time, show the scene like that? It is really contemporary. We can, and should also, celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us…I think of you as you now sit together with the children and with all of the Advent decorations—as in earlier years you did with us. We must do all this, even more intensively because we do not know how much longer we have.

Bonhoeffer reminds us that courage is embedded in the smallest of acts—acts like keeping Advent and celebrating Christmas despite whatever may be in ruins in our own lives and times.

A Second Look at Nostalgia

I live in a rural town where maple syrup production is a livelihood for some and a serious hobby for others. A highlight of town meeting every March is when one of our local producers stands up and reports on the sugar content of the current year’s run. But this is only November, and we have a long New Hampshire winter to see ourselves through before the sap begins to run again.

This time of year, it’s a different kind of sap that flows. The sap of nostalgia. Thanksgiving is the season opener and we will be sticky into it from now until Christmas. I don’t know how it went for your family yesterday, but ours was a Thanksgiving laced with nostalgia. Maybe eimg_7369ven more so than usual. We seemed, by instinct, to take extra pains with it this year. Perhaps it was the balm that made it possible for a politically divided family to gather in gratitude and peace. We shared a table with cousins we haven’t spent Thanksgiving with in many years. My sister found the red felt turkey head and pinned it to a pineapple, resurrecting a church fair-inspired centerpiece from our childhood. My mother came bearing her grandchildren’s favorite childhood sweets. She no longer drives, but has figured out how to order half-dipped mints and fruit slices on-line. She could probably find them in other venues, but we are charmed that she continues to get them from the seaside candy shop where she and her sisters purchased their own childhood treats in the 1930s.

But nostalgia does not always leverage the good and the sweet. The word itself was first coined in the 17th century to describe the debilitating homesickness of young Swiss mercenaries. Nostalgia can be tricky and take us to dangerous places. Sometimes it can paralyze us. In a recent blog post, one of my UCC colleagues described nostalgia as a response to “the narrative of decline.” Congregations and clergy alike can fall prey to a nostalgic and enervating sadness in the face of reminders of the more numerically robust days in our churches’ past.

But I’m not ready to give up on nostalgia altogether. Research coming out of the University of Southampton in the UK is illuminating. Although nostalgia is often triggered in times of sadness or loneliness, it can generate narratives of redemption. Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues are demonstrating that although regarded throughout centuries as a psychological ailment, nostalgia is now emerging as a fundamental human strength…It generates positive affect, elevates self-esteem, fosters social connectedness, and alleviates existential threat.

In difficult seasons in my own life, a dose of nostalgia has helped me find my footing again. During the ordeal of my stem cell transplant, I came into a cache of my father’s old Kodachrome slides. As I struggled to regain the strength to do even the most basic tasks of daily living, slides_013  I was surprised by how much encouragement I drew from the photographs my father had taken of me doing those tasks for the first time. I would look at a picture of that little girl drying dishes and tell myself to be that girl again, the one in scuffed saddle shoes so fiercely determined to do the job well. Nostalgia helped me recover a sense of the person I had been in a time when every accomplishment brought joy, even the simplest of victories, like learning to use a dishtowel. My father’s old slides and the wave of nostalgia they triggered helped me to rediscover that “I can do it myself” toddler within, a person I very much needed to connect with in order to recover.

Maybe it’s a good thing that we give the end of every calendar year over to a season of nostalgia. As Christmas arrives, the most memory-laden of our holidays, it is inevitable that some sadness will collect. There are people and things we miss and that we will always miss. But there is also strength and resilience in those memories.  My hope is that this seasonal flow of nostalgia will help us connect once again with our sweetest and strongest selves.

A Coffee Shop Surprise

brewbakersYesterday afternoon I was in a coffee shop in Keene, NH, doing a little reading before I met a friend for dinner. Coffee shops have always been good to me. Thirty-five years ago, my spot was The Pewter Pot in Harvard Square. The post-bicentennial-faux-Americana décor was awful, but the muffins were hot and the 50 cent coffee came with unlimited refills. I’m not sure I would have passed my comprehensive exams at Divinity School if it weren’t for the hours I logged at that circa pre-Starbucks coffee shop. I won’t say that Karl Barth and I fell in love there, but we did come to an understanding.

Yesterday’s stint at a coffee shop (one with a much cooler vibe) was also good to me. There, I checked my email and found a message from Krista Tippett’s senior producer Lily Percy. She apologized that Krista had not used my name on air, but indicated that Krista had quoted a post on this blog in an  “On Being” interview with Isabel Wilkerson. The email came out of the blue, but I took it as a word of encouragement, and yes, also as a nudge.

Some things you just have to take as a sign. I am taking yesterday’s email surprise as a sign that it’s time to revisit this blog. As many of you know, I had to let it go fallow when I got sick. It’s hard to believe, but two years ago, I was critically ill. Physically, I didn’t have the strength to hold a book for more than a few minutes and there was even a scary stretch when I couldn’t read. I don’t mean that I couldn’t read War and Peace or The New York Times. I mean I couldn’t read at all. My blood wasn’t carrying enough oxygen to my brain. Letters and words were all a jumble. One day I brushed my teeth with diaper rash cream, having studied the tube for several minutes, and determined that the letters  D-E-S-I-T-I-N spelled Colgate.

That was a low point. Needless to say, just surviving and getting from one oncology appointment to the next supplanted blogging and everything else on my To Do list. But then I got a little better. It became apparent that the drugs were working, that my blood chemistries were moving in the right direction, and that a stem cell transplant was going to be possible. As a way of staying in touch during that long spring and summer of treatment and isolation, I started to blog on a Caringbridge site. It was pretty much just medical updates, but I was writing my way back to life. One or two posts seemed to hit the mark and the last one I wrote on the gifts offered by stillness drew some notice.

“Cancer blogging” is a pretty specific genre and for me it came with an expiration date. When I started to feel better, I stopped wanting to write about being sick. I looked forward to blogging again at this site on a broader range of topics. But a year went by. During that time, I wrote sermons (and untold numbers of emails trying to straighten out the billing and insurance problems that still persist), but I didn’t start blogging again. I thought about it. I made notes. I played with a couple of ideas for a brand new blog and even made a pathetically lame “vision board.” But I didn’t write. I just couldn’t.

Up until now. So thank you, Krista and Lily. God knows how you found that old post of mine on this dormant and all-but-defunct blog, but the fact that you did seems like a sign. These last two years have been extraordinary, but now I’m ready to reclaim the ordinary. Faith in the Ordinary will be back soon.

Centrum Silver and Peace

CandlelightIn a commercial for Centrum Silver vitamins, Martin Sheen tells us that our eyes are amazing, that they can see a candle 10 miles away, or the length of 146 football fields. When the commercial was released, lively on-line debate ensued. The math doesn’t work, some challenged. If a football field is 100 yards long, it would take more than 146 of them to make up ten miles. But don’t forget the endzones, others responded. You can’t play football without endzones to cross into. With endzones added in, 146 football fields equals .995 miles. Close enough.

While it’s nice to see people using their math skills (says the mother of a teacher who is passionate about getting her fifth graders to think in math), the far more interesting part of this commercial is the idea that our eyes can detect candlelight from 10 miles away. I assume under perfect conditions. With no ambient light or atmospheric disturbances.

I doubt they were able to see candlelight across the border between Gaza and Israel this week. While the distance is short, candles can’t compete with bombs. It’s been a rough week in that part of the world, the worst escalation of violence in many years. And if the reports coming out are true, a staggering percentage of those who have died have been children.

Their deaths prompted two mothers (one a Muslim, the other a Jew) to write a prayer and propose a new ritual this week. With these words, Ibtisam Mahameed and Tamar Elad-Appelbaum invited their neighbors to light an extra candle for peace:

Let us Light Candles for Peace  Two mothers, one plea:  Now, more than ever, during these days of so much crying, on the day that is sacred to both our religions, Friday, Sabbath Eve, Let us light a candle in every home – for peace: A candle to illuminate our future, face to face, A candle across borders, beyond fear. From our family homes and houses of worship, Let us light each other up, Let these candles be a lighthouse to our spirit, Until we all arrive at the sanctuary of peace.

portland-lighthouse-fullProvincial New Englander that I am, when I think of lighthouses, the Gaza Strip is not what comes to mind. Lighthouses mean the coast of Maine. Summer vacation. A location not far from the saltwater taffy/lobster roll neurocenter in my brain. But two mothers in a troubled part of the world have reminded me to look at them differently:

Let these candles be a lighthouse to our spirit
Until we arrive at the sanctuary of peace.

Sweet and Sour

I have been playing games with children for decades. I’ve played games with children in Soweto under apartheid, games with children in Belfast during The Troubles, games with children in privileged suburbs, games with children in homeless shelters. At some point , you figure you’ve pretty much covered the repertoire.

VBS 2013 Frankie and Kids at the BandstandBut last week the kids in Hancock taught me a new game called Sweet and Sour. It is one of those absolutely simple, near perfect forms of entertainment.  The kids grouped themselves by the bandstand and waved at passing cars. Some offered exuberant, jumping-up-and-down waves; others chaste little twists of the wrist, beauty pageant style. But every wave was accompanied by an ear-to-ear grin. The object of the game? To get people passing by to wave back. If people waved, the kids would shout “Sweet.”  Those who ignored the joyful ruckus were tagged as “Sour.”

There were many sweet things about last week. We held Vacation Bible School at the Church, always one of my favorite weeks of the year. We acted out The Good Samaritan story with Oscar-worthy skill. We talked about what it means to be a neighbor. We danced. We strung beads. We picked through an old stamp collection for the best dog and skiing stamps. We folded paper boats (the extent of my paltry skills in origami). We decided that if we had to live somewhere else, we would pick Zimbabwe because it is such a fun word to say.We rebuilt a model volcano that melted in the heat. We politely tried spring rolls and guacamole, but agreed that  ice cream is better. We talked more about what it means to be a neighbor.

It was a sweet week for me and I think for the two dozen children who came to VBS. But it turned out to be a sour week for American children in general. A week reminding us that our children are not safe when fear and actions justified by fear become the highest law.

After VBS, as I was sorting out the beach towels and water bottles and hoodies left behind in the Vestry, I wished with all my heart that another family could have been handed back a hoody stained with ice cream instead of blood.  I wished that life could have been sweet and long for Trayvon Martin. I wished that our country had not succumbed again to the sour sins of racism and fear.

Today our President reminded us that “the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.” In New Hampshire, the third whitest state in the U.S. with a white population of 96% (and a state that borders numbers one and two–Maine at 96.9%, Vermont at 96.7%), we have to work harder to make those connections. We may not have black friends or colleagues.We may not understand why the events of the past week stir up such deep and painful memories.

If you haven’t read it, try and find a book called The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It is, hands down, the best work of non-fiction I have ever read. It tells the story of how the Jim Crow laws and their accompanying attitudes shaped the lives of three black Americans who came north during the 20th century. When I was reading it, I kept saying over and over again, “I had no idea. I just had no idea.”

We may be clueless and awkward around the subject of race, but we know what the Gospel demands. That we keep working at being a better neighbors. Until sweet trumps sour, once and for all.

When A Boy You Knew In High School Is In Charge of the AARP

I think the magic age is fifty. That’s when the AARP sends you your first dummy membership card and an invitation to join. AARPIf you happen to have teenagers living under your roof at the time, this can become the source of unlimited family fun. Let the derision games begin. Your teenage son, for instance, may take to calling his father “Gramps” or he may helpfully and loudly remind you in a checkout line that you should  “whip out your granny card” and see if there’s a discount.  In a calm voice, wise with experience and years, you tell him that since grannys do not need expensive size 13 basketball shoes, he can put the pair he’s holding back on the shelf. Score: Aged Mother 1, Callow Youth 0.

At the AARP card’s first dawning, so impossibly early, it’s easy to make a little crossover move in your head and convince yourself that there must have been a computer glitch. A bit of erroneous code that attached itself to your name in a batch of marketing data. You may even chuckle, as you toss the mailing into the recycle bin.

But denial has a limited run. My age came home to me not long ago when I discovered (via Facebook, how else?) that a boy I knew in high school is now head of the AARP in my home state.  I haven’t seen him in 4o years, but we were once members of a high school debate team, coached by an extraordinary teacher named Freeman Frank. Yes, the debate team was nerdy (according to the nerd/geek scale my favorite librarian touts). But I remain grateful to our now deceased coach who was both a brilliant speaker and a remarkable teacher of oratory. He called himself one of the last Abolitionists, (because he believed the work of ending racism had barely begun) and he spoke with an Abolitionist’s passion. More Sundays mornings than not, I think of him when I stand up to preach. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the boy I knew in high school also thinks of him when he stands up to speak on behalf of older Americans.

Once you get over the shock of having arrived there, older age is not a bad place to be. All in all, our faith tradition deals with aging rather generously. Older people in the Bible get to travel  (Moses), laugh (Sarah) and bless (Simeon). Standing in the Christian tradition, but speaking to even wider audience, Joan Chittister writes thoughtfully about aging in her book The Gift of Years–a book everyone ought to read when the first AARP card arrives and continue to reread over the decades to follow. My copy is underlined to a fare-thee-well,  making it hard to pull a single quote, but here’s a sampling of Chittister’s wisdom:

Old age is the time to be dangerous. Dangerously fun loving, dangerously honest. Dangerously alive…This is the time to do every single thing we can possibly do with all the life we can bring to it. This is the time to live with an edge, with strength, with abandon. There is nothing for which to save our energy. Now it is simply time to spend time well.

Dump Divine, All Dumps Excelling

Toy Shop at the Dump I have a clever friend who for several years had her grandchildren convinced that the recycling center at her town dump was the local toy store. Every time they came to see her she would take them to the “toy store” and let them choose big ugly plastic things, pots for percussion, and special jars for catching fireflies. My friend would wink at the attendant and tell him to put their “purchases” on her account. It worked until her grandchildren gained in wisdom (i.e. became Lego-savvy) and caught on to the fact that Star Wars Lego sets never seemed to be in stock at Nana’s toy store.

In the small town New England where I live, we love our dump. Officially, it is The Recycling Center and Transfer Station and a few refer to it as The Hancock Mall, but mainly it is just The Dump. Our beloved Dump. It is a gathering place, a place of business (in that purposefully casual, sidelong way we, as New Englanders, prefer), a place where even curmudgeons get to strut their neighborliness.

007It is also a place where we share. At our dump, we have been sharing so well that some changes are in the works. Improvements that will help with the congestion and make it safer for patrons of the ever popular Swap Shop. Technically speaking, the Swap Shop is more of a Give and Take Shop. You don’t have to swap—you can inspect the goods and take home an item without bringing one in that day. Which makes ours a theologically correct dump–a time to sow and a time to reap, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3).

In true Swap Shop spirit, here are a few things you may want to inspect and possibly take home. Good stuff that has come my way and now begs to be shared:

  • A friend who is a Franciscan brother recently introduced me to  One beautiful photograph a day posted with a simple question for spiritual/personal reflection.
  • One of my summer neighbors (who coincidentally I saw at the dump this week) appears in this excellent video of MLK Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 50th anniversary of that speech later this summer (August 28).  Don’t miss some of the other good things on the Salt Project website.                                                                                                          
  • And finally, it’s free. It’s on-line. It’s Harvard. And no one cares about your SAT scores. Registration is now open for a  course this fall on The Letters of Apostle Paul. Seriously, all you need is curiosity and an internet connection. Part of the EdX initiative bringing free courses from great universities to the people. Foodies, for instance, might want to investigate  Science and Cooking. Education evolving!

Advent in Summer

Except for a week or two at church camp, I did not go to sleepover camp as a child. During what would have been my prime camping years, it wasn’t yet part of my family culture. Later on, my family worked its way and its means around to the notion and I’m glad my younger brother and sister got to breathe in balsam and forge friendships lakeside in New Hampshire. Camp remains a foundational experience for them. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t feel deprived. As an oldest child, I had a different (and equally rich) set of experiences.

Still, I would have told you at the time that my favorite movie was one set at summer camp–The Parent Trap (with Hayley not Lindsay). And I listened with intense fascination to the stories a neighborhood friend told when she got home from her month away at camp. I especially liked to hear about “Christmas In July”—a week when cabin mates became Secret Santas and the dining hall twinkled with Christmas lights.

I still think about Christmas in July. Sometimes I wish we could do Advent in July. I might be better at the spiritual discipline invoked by Advent during the summer than I am in December. Advent is the season of waiting and I don’t wait well in December. Give me a present early and I’m likely to sneak a peek. I over identify with Mary and want her to hurry up and get past labor and delivery so she can hold that sweet little baby in her arms. Liturgically speaking, I am not one of those ministers with strict Advent sensibilities. Don’t tell the Advent police, but in Hancock we cheat. We sing Christmas carols well before Christmas Eve. One simple reason—lots of our folks travel to be with family on and after Christmas and not to sing carols before they go means not to sing them at all with the people who are part of our family of faith.

But I don’t want to lose out on the spiritual discipline of waiting. I’m just more attuned to waiting in the summer. Maybe the lengthy days help. Everything stretches out and elongates in the summer. Conversations. Visits. Projects. My patience with a God who is only partially revealed.

 This summer my waiting is focused on a certain plant in my garden. Orphaned at a church plant sale last year, it was an ugly, papery, bulbous thing tagged with a set of finicky instructions. I coaxed a little greenery out of it last year, but nothing more. I waited. I put it in a heavy pot and lugged it around all winter, keeping it away from cold drafts and curious dogs. I waited some more.

AgapanthusBut the plant seems to be blossoming this summer And yesterday I got to see one in full bloom in a garden in Cambridge. A prophetic Agapanthus. And what do you know? It looks like my plant will be wearing blue. Mary’s color. One of the colors of Advent.

We are all waiting for something. To be waiting is to be alive. Or as Joan Chittister  puts it: “Waiting is an education. It tells us who we really are and how we really go about the great adventure of life.”

Happy Advent.

Praying Like Bonnie

SunIf I ever get sick, I hope Bonnie will pray for me. She is in prayer as she is in life–blunt and a touch bossy. There’s a smackdown quality to Bonnie’s spiritual life. She is not afraid to let the Almighty know what He or She ought to be doing. Bonnie prays the same way she directs traffic, a skill described by Sy Montgomery in The Good, Good Pig. (Note to friends in other parts of the country who may not have read Sy’s book—do. You’ll love it. And to preaching friends, great stuff in there on the surprising ways we become neighbors. End of plug.)

I don’t know Bonnie’s whole story. My years in ministry began just as de-institutionalization from state facilities started to ramp up, so I can probably guess. It’s enough to say that Bonnie once lived somewhere else, and now she lives among us. Which is our gain on many levels.

Bonnie is our lead-off batter on Sundays. After the sermon and heading into the pastoral prayer, when I ask if there are any concerns or celebrations before us as a congregation, Bonnie is the first to speak. Her prayer requests are mostly about things you can see—broken arms, car accidents, incidents involving flashing lights and ambulances. Sometimes she struggles to find the right word. On those days, she’ll pull at my sleeve before church.

“We’re gonna pray for my nayba who’s havin a hahd time breathin, whatda ya call that?”

“Emphysema? Asthma?” I’ll suggest.

“That’s it, that last one. We’re gonna pray ‘bout that thingy,” she’ll say with a royal wave of her hand, dismissing me to get on with my job.

One of the things on my “To Do” list is to order another batch of cards with Bonnie’s artwork on them. Even when the note I write is short and dashed off too quickly, I don’t worry so much about it when it goes out on one of those cards. Because if I can send someone a little bit of Bonnie, there’s more in that than any words I may scribble. I may be Bonnie’s pastor, but she is the my teacher, one who keeps teaching me how to pray.

P.S. Just added an album to FCC Hancock’s Facebook page where you can see six of Bonnie’s paintings.