Monthly Archives: October 2009

I have been spending lots of time with our new puppy, Cocoa. He is growing very fast, and requires considerable attention and direction. Of course, I just like to play and snuggle with him.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that he wags his tail, not the other way around.Late October 2009 002

Emmet Fox says that when we let externals control us it is like letting the tail wag the dog. I have known that phenomenon in my life–times when what other people think about me is more important than what I think of myself, times when I have lost my focus in order to feed an addiction, times when I lost contact with God because something (or someone) else became more important to me than God.

Today, let me directed from the inside out, from my inner self that God has blessed with goodness and purpose and love and joy.

Help me remember how Cocoa does it, wagging his own cute little tail.

I like tradition. I also appreciate people tweaking tradition.

Jessee Vasold

Jessee Vasold

For example, there is Jessee Vasold,  who was elected Class of 2001 Homecoming Queen at the College of William & Mary. She identifies as gender-queer (an identity that is outside the traditional man-woman gender binary).

And Nikole Churchill, the first non-African American Homecoming Queen at Hampton University (an historically Black school).

There was controversy in both cases, although at W&M the fuss was more off-campus than on. At Hampton, folks had more trouble.

It is understandable. Black women are still struggling against racism, so some did not see Nikole’s crowning as another step in liberation. However, electing Jessee is a strong statement against restrictive gender roles.

Nikole Churchill

Nikole Churchill and Court

The choice of homecoming queen does not rank with voting for President. Yet, these elections reflect some continuity with the election of Barack Obama last year. We can let go of labels and caricatures. And simultaneously we can honor difference by celebrating it.

That may seem a paradox. Yet, until we are able to acknowledge and celebrate difference we will not be able end the power our fear of difference has to distort our common life.

Vive la différence!

I am still learning about growing things in Virginia. For this northern-born boy, the seasons here do not always make sense. On the whole, the changes please me (most of all, the lack of snow!).

Late October 2009 001Recently, I noted that the lone iris in our gardens was budding. Then, it bloomed. Now it is actually past its prime, although still beautiful.

It was beautiful in May (or was it April?) and now it graces us again.

I have never seen an iris blooming in October before. What a gift!

Is this not just like God? Surpising us with joy when we least expect it?

Life is filled with unexpected surprises. Some are pleasant, others less so. But always, the gifts of God remind us that life is good–because God is good. All the time.

On a cold, rainy morning, I remember my mother’s cinammon rolls. Warm, fresh out of the oven, slathered in butter–a sign of God’s presence, and an assurance that all is well.

Fleischmanns-Active-Dry-Yeast_A6441538As a kid, I was fascinated by the little packet of Active Dry Yeast that she used to make these delectables.

Doesn’t Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to yeast that a woman mixed in with three measures of flour “until it was all leavened?” (see Luke 13:20) Am I supposed to be using this yeast to leaven the world?

What if each one of us took a packet of spiritual yeast and spread it around us, so that the world would become lighter, less violent, more compassionate. You can’t buy this yeast at the store, but you can receive it in prayer.  Especially in prayers of thanksgiving.

Would that the world could be like my mother’s cinammon rolls–warm, yeasty, filling, comforting, and sweetly, gently decadent in a holy sort of way (so that you truly believe in the active presence of God).

Go. Get yourself some yeast. Or better yet, become the yeast yourself. Watch things get better.

Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard

Both houses of Congress have passed the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd  Act– popularly known as the Hate Crimes Bill. President Obama will sign the measure shortly.

Some people, in and out of the LGBT community, object to this sort of law, considering it an infringement on free specch. They have a case, but it has never persuaded me. I agree with those who oppose banning speech that is hateful.

But we can decide as a society that violent crimes–such as murder and assault–based on hatred toward a particular group ,violate our common values and threaten the security of all. Murderers deserve punishment no matter their motivation, but we can, for our common good, add penalties that make it clear that hate that leads to murder is doubly unacceptable to a decent and ordered society.

James Byrd, Jr.

James Byrd, Jr.

It reminds me of an old story about a man who went to church. His neighbor asked him later what the preacher said. The man said, “He talked about sin.”  His friend said, “What did he say about sin?”  The man said, “He’s ag’in it.”

We’re ag’in hate.

My friend Clinton Gibbs is walking in the National Kidney Foundation walk in Richmond on November 8.

Clinton GibbsClinton is no ordinary kidney walker. He has been given up for gone several times in the six years I have known him–not by me or others so much as by himself. He gets infections again and again and thus has had trouble getting on the list for a new kidney. He gets dialysis three times each week (it can really wipe you out). He has an artificial leg.

Today, Clinton is choosing life. He went on the camping trip with our church youth earlier this month, and the next weekend he drove to Washington, D.C. and marched with hundreds of thousands of others for equality.

Due to a schedule conflict, I can’t walk with him, but I will be there in spirit. I hope to cheer him on at the finish line. Jonathan and I am have already become financial supporters.

You can support him, too. Visit his personal Kidney Walk page at

Virginias?px=1512930&pg=personal&fr_id=2090&et=vzGU522eqkt_Di5qvNT90Q..&s_tafId=19992

Every contribution, and every step, counts.

Guggenheim Museum50 years ago today the Guggenheim Museum opened to the public in New York City.

The shape that many thought wierd in 1959 has become iconic now–a symbol of artistic excellence, and occasionally daring. It may not be the best of Frank Lloyd Wright–I leave that judgment to others more qualified–but it surely is his best known design.

I like to think that this is the way God might design an art museum, except that God would be a little wilder. The Guggenheim is a swirl of sorts, but God’s patterns–in my life, at least– usually seem to have some meandering, too. The swirls don’t go evenly.

I often know I am on the right path when things don’t go too smoothly. I mostly have given up having “my ducks in a row.”

Problems, mistakes, even crises, are occasions for grace, and growth, and trusting God. How would I grow in spiritual health and strength if everything went smoothly?