Monday, April 30, 2012

"...not a way but a place"

There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way but a place.
(Wendell Berry, "1997: VII" from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997)
For those of us who still wander in time and space, the idea of home is inseparable from the experience of a journey, or, for some, a pilgrimage toward something sacred.  Concepts of place and journey, movement and stability shift and slip.  Wendell Berry imagines our ultimate hope in terms of our journey ending: the transformation of a time-bound journey into an eternal home.  But "There is a day"--a Sabbath--in which we can find ourselves at home even as we wander, quest, or climb. 

This Sunday, I traveled out of town with my friends Wyatt and Katie.  Wyatt was preaching at the country church where he works as youth minister, and after worship, we three spent the afternoon losing ourselves at a nearby state park. 

Mother Neff State Park, Texas
We found a path and followed it, walking and resting and enjoying the brilliant Texas wildflowers.  It was a very Sunday sort of walk: no hurry, no schedule, no destination beyond a return to where we began.  We were talking and taking pictures the whole way, at home in our good company as much as if we had been settled in our houses. 

Mother Neff State Park, Texas
No matter how far we walk, we will never, in this world, find a place that satisfies our desire for home in any settled or lasting way.  Instead, we find our tastes of that satisfaction in the moments when eternity slips into time: in returning seasons, consecrated hours, traditions, habits, and Sabbaths. 

"There is a day...."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to win at yard sales

In one of my first blog entries, I wrote about how many of my household goods have been loving gifts and hand-me-downs from friends (you can read that entry here).  Almost all the rest of my wares and tools--from clothes to furniture to kitchen things--come from yard sales.

I learned to yard sale (yard shop?) from my mother and aunt.  Nearly every Friday and Saturday in the summer, my mother and I would venture across town seeking treasures.  We have all kinds of stories hung and folded away in our homes: the stained glass dome light in my parents' house, the little roll-top desk in my bedroom, all our luggage, my turntable, garden tools, innumerable books and skirts and mugs.

Even amid the hectic life of a grad student, I have often made time for yard sales.  Rising from yard sales makes me get out of bed much earlier than I would otherwise, and the delight of finding good, lasting things for such little money blunts the temptation to buy new things later in the week.

Here, then, is my brief guide to finding treasures and having fun at yard sales:


Throughout the year, keep a "watch-for" list for yourself and your friends.  Whenever you think, "I would really love to find an immersion blender, or a bicycle, or a little black dress," write it down. Yard sales often have such an array of goods that it can be helpful to know what you want to notice. If you are looking for furniture, write down any relevant  measurements and keep them with your yard-sale money.

Plan your expedition carefully.  Some yard sales are posted on Craigslist, but the best place to find listings is the classified section of a Saturday-morning newspaper.  Usually they are grouped by neighborhood, which makes planning a route easier. 

Take plenty of small bills and change.  During the summer, I usually keep a pouch of cash dedicated just to yard sales.  My mother uses the cash-back bonus from her credit card for her summer yard-sale money.  If you are in the market for something that might be more than $10 or $20, you might want to take a check book with you, as well. 

Take something to drink and a snack. Since the best yard sales are early in the morning, I like to take a travel mug of tea and some cereal to munch.   If you have a shopping companion who is takes longer than you at sales, consider bringing a book so you can wait gracefully, if need be. 

If possible, go with friends.  I've had many successful yard-sale expeditions solo, but it is easier and more fun to go together. Practically, having one person navigate to listed addresses and to watch for signs posted is really helpful.  Socially, spending a morning wandering from sale to sale can be really good quality time, rather like a road trip in miniature. Plus, even if you don't find any material goods, you have spent time in good company.

Type of Yard Sales
The best types of yard sales are those which offer goods from lots of people at once.  Sales held at churches and schools tend to be the best for both selection and price.  Multifamily and neighborhood sales are also good, especially if an entire subdivision, for example, agrees to hold yard sales on the same day. 

I have also noticed that different neighborhoods have very different kinds of yard sales. If you know your city well, you can learn to predict with some accuracy how good the sales will be.  Generally, the best sales happen in older neighborhood.  You want to go to yard sales held by people who bought high-quality goods twenty-five years ago, and who are now primarily interested in cleaning out their house.  If they want to get rid of things, prices will be lower. Historical districts were always the best neighborhoods in my hometown.  New subdivisions tend to have the worst yard sales.  The items for sale, like the houses, tend to be generic and overpriced. 

Shopping itself is the fun part.  After you have been to a few sales in your town, decide upon some general price guidelines for items you might buy. For example, here are some of my general limits

Clothing: 50¢ to $3 (something has to be *really* nice to get $3)
Books: 25¢ to $1
Furniture: $5 - $20, depending on quality, although we did once pay $50 for a bed
Miscellany (kitchen utensils, crafts supplies, stationery): 25¢  to $1

If you are shopping with friends, it is fun to have some running contests during the day, such as "Strangest Item for Sale."  You can enjoying seeking and showing these sorts of things without having to buy them.


I am much more shy about bargaining than my mother and aunt, but I will sometimes offer a different price than what is listed.  I usually only do this, however, if I am buying several things, and can offer a certain price for the whole bag or bundle. These offers are usually accepted.

If you want to bring the price down on a particular item, it is sometimes worthwhile to go back to the sale in the early afternoon, when most sales are shutting down.  People are often willing to take a lower price if their other option is not selling it all. 

Showing Ritual 

This is essential. After the yard sales, go home and show someone, anyone, what you found. My mother and I will do this together, even if we have shopped together the entire day. Sometimes I have done it via Skype with friends.  It is a chance to give thanks for what you found and to rejoice with the success of your friends. 

And with that, allow me to show you some of my recent yard-sale discoveries.
The suitcase, not the cat
Little black dress

Shoes, rain gauge, owl wrapping paper

Foldable sun hat, comfy shirt, and shorts all came from yard sales.

Vintage sewing notions, groovy stationery

Basket, tea tin, and fancy soap

This is my first apartment. The rocking chair and its blanket, the corner shelf, many of the books, all the glass bottles, the dove stained-glass above my head, and much more came from yard sales.

The desk, the blue pillow, the glass bottles, and all the embroidery hoops.
Do you go to yard sales? If so, what is the most exciting or interesting thing you ever found?

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Letter to all those who might have been my friends

Dear Brave, Beautiful, Mysterious People,

Over the next two months, I have many joyful, heart-breaking good-byes to share with friends I know and love and deeply.  But I owe you a word, too.  As I prepare to leave this wonderful, broken city and all its wonderful, broken people, I can't stop thinking about those of you who might have been my friends.

I say "might have been" without acrimony; I only mean that by chance or choice, we never knew one another well.  Perhaps we took a class together, sitting across the room and smiling at one another when our eyes met. We admired each other's comments, but we were never in class together again.

Maybe we have gone to church together.  We spent a long night laughing together at the women's retreat three years ago, and we still greet one another from across the sanctuary.  I've kept your children in the nursery, loving the games and graces you have taught them.

In other days, in other circumstances, we might have been friends. Had we been undergrads together, had we lived within walking distance, had we made more time, had we kept that coffee date, we might have been friends.

And yet, despite my tone of might-have-been, regret is not my theme.  I have not lacked friends, and I could not have invested so deeply and well in many more people.  Nor did you lack company; I took joy in the circle of love and society that seemed to gather around you.  It isn't regret that prompts this letter, but gratitude.  We may have only touched the margins of one another's lives, but there was grace in that touch, as when strangers hold hands for prayer before a meal.

In my small way, I have loved you.  You have carried the "lantern out of doors" that Gerard Manley Hopkins describes.  Sitting at a window, the speaker of his poem watches lights move through the darkness:

Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

These lanterns, he sees, are carried by people God has made beautiful.  The speaker cannot call them by name, but he sees how they challenge the darkness and tedium of the despairing world:

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite. 

And then, just as quickly as their light appeared through the darkness, they are gone.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

I share this hope: that you are not lost to me.  Our friendship, small and slight as it was here, has been hidden in Christ, the "first, fást, last friénd" of us both.  Thank you for letting your lantern flash through the windows of my busy days.  When the light fell upon me, I blessed it. 

Ever yours,

Lantern, "Aquaria Vattenmuseum", Stockholm, by m.prinkle

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hidden graces

Directions: Gather good friends into your car on a clear spring morning.  Find a copy of the Saturday-morning classifieds, and lose your way while trying to locate an "amazing 13-family yard sale!" Pull into a small parking lot at the corner of Maple Avenue and North 15th Street.  Look up.  Laugh together ("Oh, Waco, oh little churches, oh north side of town....").  Decide the sign is probably right.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Like Noah's Weary Dove

An Address for All/ Like Noah's Weary Dove

Like Noah's weary dove
That soared the earth around,
But not a resting place above
The cheerless waters found,

Oh, cease, my wandering soul,
On restless wing to roam;
All the wide world, to either pole,
Has not for thee a home.

Behold the ark of God,
Behold the open door;
Hasten to gain that dear abode,
And rove, my soul, no more.

There safe thou shalt abide,
There sweet shall be thy rest,
And every longing satisfied,
With full salvation blessed.

And, when the waves of ire
Again the earth shall fill,
The ark shall ride the sea of fire
Then rest on Zion's hill. 

                 (William Augustus Muhlenberg)

I discovered this nineteenth-century hymn during my first months in  Texas.  I would listen to it as I walked my mile to church each Sunday, wandering somewhere between homelessness and hope.  Some years later, the words became doubly precious to me as I struggled through a season of brutal anxiety and depression.  During that darkness, Psalm 84, with its image of a sparrow finding a home on God's altars, became my psalm of hope--I memorized it, reciting the words when panic threatened to overwhelm me. This song, so similar in its picture of God providing a home for the smallest of things in the holiest of places, speaks the same message of hope. Now, with so many external joys and triumphs and plans on my mind, this song reminds me that this earth and this life can only ever be the hope and beginning of my true home. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

"It pleased the Lord to touch a small feather..."

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." In The Sabbath, Abraham Heschel writes that during our six days of labor we strive to control space--exploring, crafting, and controlling the material world.  On the Sabbath, however, we attend to time, learning to recognize time as eternity in disguise.

Perhaps that is why we commanded to remember the Sabbath, rather than to build a monument to it. After two decades of practice, I am fairly good at relinquishing work and worry on Sundays. Recently, however, I have felt convicted to learn how to remember the Sabbath in more intentional ways.  Too many Sundays I have let "rest" mean sleeping far too late, rushing to church, then coming home to glut myself on seven hours of Netflix. 

This spring has been better than those greedy Sundays, in part because my friends and I have had more conversations about Sabbath-keeping than usual, and so I have been more intentional with my days.

In future, I may articulate some of my principles for keeping the Sabbath holy, but for now, I will describe the Sabbath I kept yesterday.  It was quiet and bright and good.  As always, you are welcome to join me in this rest.

I began the day with the "Prayer to Welcome to Sabbath" from Common Prayer:

Lord of Creation,
create in us a new rhythm of life
composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,
of days that deliver rather than destroy,
of time that tickles rather than tackles.
Lord of Liberation,
by the rhythm of your truth, set us free
from the bondage and baggage that break us,
from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,
from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.
Lord of Resurrection,
may we be raised into the rhythm of your new life,
dead to deceitful calendars,
dead to fleeting friend requests,
dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.
To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”
To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, “Cease!”
To our suffocating selves, Lord, grant release.
Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes,
we rest in you, our lifeline.
By your ever-restful grace,
allow us to enter your Sabbath rest
as your Sabbath rest enters into us.
In the name of our Creator,
our Liberator,
our Resurrection and Life,
we pray.
 Then I went to church, where our youth led worship with such grace and wisdom. After church, Kt came over and we sat, talking about future lives (Virginia, Alabama, rural churches, backyard chickens).  She was knitting, I was writing an icon. After she left, I took up my own knitting project and watched the last two episodes of Doctor Who: Series 6.  
I love spending Sunday afternoons knitting and sewing with Kt and friends.

By this time the daylight was fading, and the house was still (Grant and Jenn were away).  Had there been enough daylight, I would have taken a walk, but lacking that, I decided to watch a recent German film on a woman who captured my imagination and affection when I was fifteen.  Vision is based on the life of Hildegarde of Bingen, a twelfth-century composer, abbess, naturalist, and mystic.  The film is beautiful, featuring many of Hildegarde's haunting musical compositions.

"It pleased the Lord to touch a small feather  - it flew aloft in wonder. And a strong wind did carry it, so that it did not sink." 
These were the final words of the film, and they have stayed in my mind all day today.  I hope that all my Sabbath pursuits, from the holy (church-going, praying) to the merely happy (Doctor Who), are shaping me into such a feather. The Sabbath should make my soul so light that it can fly on whatever good winds God sends. 

Do you have any Sabbath-keeping practices that help you remember the day and keep it holy?

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Open Letter to the Academic Job Market

Ms. Bright Eyes
House Beautiful

Professor Bottom-Line
#3 Tenure Street
Vanity Fair

Dear Professor Bottom-Line:

I hope this letter reaches you without any difficulty, since the recent upheaval in Vanity Fair has forced your to relocate your offices.  You must miss that pretty ivory tower on Much-Ado Boulevard, but surely your new basement suite has cheaper rent.  Everyone understands this has been a difficult year for your department: rumor has it you'll be holding an Adjunct Sale soon to liquidate the surplus inventory. 

I am writing to provide my official notice that I am off the market.  You can imagine how strange it was for me--a nice girl from a nice graduate school, suddenly up on the auction-block in front of your customers. It was crowded up there--you do crowd us rather terribly--and I waited, smoothing and rearranging my CV rather frantically.  Everyone kept pushing and shouting, hoping to catch the eyes of the housekeepers and butlers who had come from Elite Manor, Research House, and all the rest.  I didn't want to go home with any of them, but so many of the others buyers looked grim--service there would certainly mean a houseful of mewling infants, dirty dishes always piled in the sink, and little rest for the weary. 

Forgive me if I have bored you with this story; I understand there is no column for it in your account-book.  I share all this only because I do not have the customary receipt of sale to provide for your records. The reason is rather strange.  As I waited, an old friend saw me at the market and invited me to take a cup of tea.  We went to one of those funny little shops on the edge of town--started, they say, by some admirers of those foreigners who caused so much trouble a few years ago.  There I met the stewards and children of a house perched on the edge of the Bay of Hope.  We stayed for hours, laughing and telling stories, and by the end of the night they had asked me to come and join their household.  I believe that long ago, Professor, you wrote your dissertation on "Commodification and Personhood," so perhaps you can understand (or at least, analyze) how free I felt.  I was not purchased, but invited.  I'm not sure how you will enter that into your records, but being a clever man, you will no doubt think of something.  

I am leaving Vanity Fair as soon as possible, so all future correspondence should be forwarded to the address above.  Please note also that my name has recently changed; you will find my old file under the name "Much-Afraid."

Sincerely yours,

A free woman

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hidden graces

Directions: Wander out the front door. Turn right at Morrow, and walk a few blocks, past the modest houses and overgrown alley-ways.  Go past the house with the rosemary bush, and the the new oleanders.  Let the street slope down beneath your feet, and then stop, just across from the vacant lot, where the trees are tangled and dark. Step up to the guard rail hidden by branches. Look.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why can't we be friends?

Lack of attention to friendship is an enormous gap in most evangelical discipleship.  I could build a very tall soapbox on this subject, but I have neither the time nor authority to offer a general sort of rant. Rather, I want to consider a question that becomes particularly troublesome for many young adults: the question of friendships between men and women.

I know that much of my joy and contentment as a single adult come from the fact that I have friends who are both men and women. I cannot assume that my experiences speak to general (much less biblical) truths.  However, I also know that these friendships can be complicated, and that some Christian leaders openly admonish Christians to avoid close friendships with members of the opposite sex. 

 I don't mean to minimize the real concerns many Christians have about these friendships, but I am convinced that in Christ, it is possible for men and women, whether married or unmarried, to be friends.  I also know that like most human endeavors after holiness, these friendships need a lot of grace to keep from going wrong. Today, I'm interested in naming that grace. To begin the conversation, here are a few of the principles I've derived from observing successful, even holy, male/female friendships:

* Like many strong friendships, they begin not with admiration of one another, but with some common interest or participation in a common work. Conversations and time together tend to strengthen these shared commitments.

* They are usually part of a larger friendship network consisting of both men and women, such as Sunday School classes or lifegroups.

* If one or both of the friends are married, spouses are integrated and welcomed into the friendship. 

Do you believe men and women can sustain strong friendships? How does the Bible guide us on this subject? How have you sustained opposite-gender friendships as an adult? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'll carry on

According to my new plan, Tuesdays are now a day for me to share a song from a playlist on "home" I've been building for years. Today's offering is "I'll Carry On" from Rich Mullins's album A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band.  I have known this song since I was a child (my parents really liked Mullins's music), but it became particularly important to me when I left college to begin my PhD adventure.  This stanza, in particular, often ran through my head during my first year in Texas:

I kissed the earth on my daddy's grave
Said goodbye to my brave young companions
But when they hoist that sail I know my heart will break
As bright and as fine as the morning
I don't know where this road will take me
But they say there's a place there for a man
And I'm only afraid that my dreams may betray me
And I'll never get home again 

 Complete lyrics can be found here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sabbath Home

Out of the days through which we fight and from whose ugliness we ache, we look to the Sabbath as our homeland, as our source and destination" (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath. 1951. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005. 29-30).
The idea of home, like all our most precious and fundamental ideas, is supposed to be sacred--that is it should consecrate and illuminate our identities, relationships, and work.  However, sacred is hard, and without care, reflections on sacred ideas can become saccharine and unreal.  I have kept this blog for more than a year now, and I have enjoyed discovering along the way how my sense of home both resembles and differs from those of my readers.

Today--and for most Mondays to follow--I want to begin exploring a practice that is fundamental to my understanding of home--remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.

Like many aspects of my childhood home, resting on Sundays might have looked like a rule-based practice from the outside.  Growing up, I did not do homework or go to movies on Sunday. We did not go shopping or spend money in other ways. My mother would do only minimal cooking (usually something in the Crock Pot for lunch, and leftovers for supper). And of course, we would go to church.  However, the actual experience of observing Sunday as our Sabbath was one of extraordinary freedom. I would watch my parents, who normally worked from sunrise to sunset in their ministry to college students, sink into hours of quiet sleep. No one answered the phone, or put away laundry, or cut the grass.  We might walk or read, but never run nor study.

Because of these practices, I went to college with the expectation that I would rest on Sundays -- no homework, no Wal-Mart runs, no committee meetings.  It was here, however, that I first realized how strange it was that I kept a Sabbath at all. I knew, of course, that none of my friends from high school observed a Sabbath, but most of them were not Christians, so I hardly expected it of them. At Carson-Newman, however, I was surrounded by young men and women who knew the songs from the Baptist hymnal, prayed before meals, and went on mission trips. Yet they did not rest on Sundays. When we talked--rarely--about resting on Sunday, my friends would say, "That's fine for you, Bethany. You can always get your work done by Saturday night."  For the most part, I accepted this explanation. I was diligent six days a week, and Sundays were my reward for being hardworking and clever.

When I began graduate school, however, I was forced to reexamine my self-congratulating conception of Sabbath-rest. Suddenly, I no longer felt capable of working hard enough to "earn" Sundays off.  Suddenly, the idea of Sabbath changed from receiving a reward for my labor, to an act of faith.  Choosing not to work on Sundays during graduate school has been one of the most difficult choices I have made as a Christian.

I was thinking about all this last Thursday, when I attended a panel on "Keeping Sabbath in the Academy" hosted by the Baylor University Graduate School.  After the panelists shared their views on why Sabbath-keeping is an important--indeed, a non-negotiable practice of Christian life--the familiar questions began. "How do you prevent Sabbath-keeping from becoming legalistic?" "To what extent are we as Christians supposed to follow Jewish ideas about the Sabbath?" "How do you keep Sabbath when churches schedule meetings and activities all day?" For me, however, the most poignant question came from a grad student from the school of music.  "Everyone in our program expects us to practice every day," she said. "How are we supposed to keep a Sabbath if it harms the quality of our work?"  One of the panelists said--rightly, I think--that the student may find herself a better pianist if she learns to enjoy a weekly Sabbath.  However, I know from experience that the benefits of keeping a Sabbath might not be so directly correlated with her professional work.  I piped up and described my own struggle with that choice: how I realized, during my first year, that keeping a weekly Sabbath might be an obstacle to becoming a top scholar, and that I chose rest anyway. It is not a choice I made lightly, or without anxiety, but while I can find lots of admonitions to holiness in the Bible, I find few verses commanding me to strive after success in the world's sense--including success in the world's academy.  Yesterday, as I returned to Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath--a moving and beautiful account of Jewish ideas about the Sabbath--I found a passage that speaks directly to this anxiety:

"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work (Exodus 20:8).  Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days? Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is this: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done. Another interpretation: Rest even from the thought of labor. (32).
Keeping Sabbath is a way of telling God that we remember our own finitude, and that we put our hope in his infinite and effective work on our behalf.

I mourn the fact that so few Christians have a vibrant, joyful conception of Sabbath-keeping. I cannot claim complete knowledge of how and why we should observe the Sabbath. In the weeks to come I will examine some of my own practices, and I may discover that they are unworthy or insufficient for a holy day.

I do know, however, that I greet each Sunday as one greets the arrival of a beloved friend. My heart lifts up when I think, "Sunday is coming." I want to share that joy with you.  

How do you "remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?" Do you think it is important for Christians to observe Sunday as a day of rest, and if so, how should we do this communally and individually? What are some of the challenges to setting aside a day of rest? What questions about Sabbath-keeping would you like for me to explore in future posts?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Plan

For the next few months, at least, I am hoping to post here with more regularity and consistency. To that end, I am experimenting with a new plan for the kinds of posts I will put up each week.  Here's the plan:
I can do anything once I have made a list (or ten).

Monday: Sabbath Reflections
    Ever since I started this blog, I've wanted to write about how habits of Sabbath-keeping ground my understanding of home, work, church, and relationships.  Those reflections are too big for single post, so I am committing to begin each week with a short reflection on the Sabbath.

Tuesday: Songs for Pilgrims
    My longest iTunes playlist is called (rather unimaginatively) "Songs about Home." On Tuesdays, I will share a song from this list.

Wednesday: Life Together
    These posts will deal with questions about how relationships of all kind--including those shaped and formed by the church--"establish the solitary in a home" (Psalm 68.6)

Thursday: Hidden Graces (name subject to change)
    Thursdays will be a day for pictures -- one of the hidden moments of grace that make a place or moment feel like home.
Friday: Letters from Home  
     These posts will be letters I write--some of them will be real letters I have composed and sent, while others will be letters that--for one reason or another--I can never actually send. 
Saturday: Homemaking
    On Saturday I will write about some of the concrete habits and practices of homemaking--everything from DIY projects and farmers' markets to "Living More with Less" posts

This is, of course, a tentative plan, but I hope that the structure will serve me well. As I plan posts and refine this structure, I must ask, What kind of posts would interest you? What sorts of themes, questions, and topics would you like to read?

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Let him easter in us"

My Lenten fast clarified and ordered many of my thoughts about home.  I'm thankful, because none of my other fasts worked. I tried to fast from sleep after 5 AM, so I could spend more time in prayer and preparation for the day, but I began failing that fast almost immediately.  I really wanted to fast from electric lights after sunset, but I was discouraged by the massive reorganization of my days that would have required. I couldn't even summon the willpower to observe some of my small fasts from years past (e.g. no colored ink, no bright clothing, no earrings) that have remind me that when Easter arrives, we remember that another world--a brighter, better, more real world--is possible.

My blogging fast, however, was a joy, and I was delighted by all the friends and strangers who shared their words here.  I've spent this week considering how I want to proceed with my blog now that Easter is here--I want to sustain, as much as possible, the steady habit of posting words and pictures each day.  I'll have more on that soon, but in the meantime, I want to share some pictures from Easter Sunday.

I invited friends from church and school to come for Easter dinner, and a score of merry men and women arrived with all sorts of wonderful foods: fruits, breads, casseroles, salads, drinks strong and sweet.  We ate and laughed, hunted eggs, enjoyed dessert on blankets in the back yard.

I spent the afternoon in a whirl of hostessing-happiness: sure that everyone had plenty to eat, a good place to sit, and people to talk to.  At the same time, I kept asking myself, "Is this holy? Is this a testament to the Resurrection?" The answer, coming without hesitation, was "Yes!" But I'm still not entirely sure why.  Pagans are as good as Christians at having feasts, and other than singing the doxology to bless our meal, we didn't say very much about Jesus. 

And yet it was a day set apart. A meal consecrated. A day I bought luxurious foods (brisket, pineapple) to celebrate the kingdom that is coming because Christ has conquered death. A day where grown men and women throw confetti and blow bubbles in the same spirit in which they sing "Praise God from whom all blessings flow; / Praise him all creatures here below!"

It was a day of good news. It was the kind of day that makes an evangelist of me. I wanted to stand like Lady Wisdom at the front door, calling to all the lonely, dreary people, "Come in! Join us! Christ is risen and we have casseroles and love one another!"
It was a day that makes me pray each day, "Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east..."

 How did you celebrate Easter this year?

*(Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The Wreck of the Deutschland")

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Where we wait

If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. (Job 14.14)

(Good Friday and Holy Saturday: the final days of Lent)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In and out

(A guest post by George MacDonald on this thirty-seventh day of Lent)

"...home, as you may or may not know, is the only place where you can go out and in. There are places you can go into, and places you can go out of; but the one place, if you do but find it, where you may go out and in both, is home." 

Lilith (1895), Chapter 3

George is the author of numerous fantasies, fairy tales, novels, sermons, and essays. He died in 1905.  Learn more about him at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hands do the talking

 (A guest post by Eric on this thirty-fifth day of Lent)

Lacking a picture representing how the work I did on my Grandfather's farm etched an image of home for me, I stumbled upon a picture I took of my Oma and Opa's hands.  This picture helped me realize the importance hands have on a home.  Hands might be the part of the body that physically accomplishes the most that make a house a home:  building a garden to provide fresh food to the family; repairing or putting things together for display; writing a letter, sending an email; calling friends and family; providing the warmth of physical touch when the day has required so much of you; and doing the dishes, which my hands find themselves doing so much at my home or at a friend's.  When I don't know or can't put in words the emotions I have, my hands do the talking, finding a place to perform those feelings in action.  I think they are the intimate workhorses of the body or the first responders to need.  Is there an image of hands that remind you of home?

Hands pictured (clockwise): Sam Rodgers, Jackie Bonvin, Eric McAnly, Caleb Fristoe

Hands pictured: Opa, Oma

Monday, April 2, 2012

Where we shout, Hosanna!

Calvary Baptist Church celebrates Palm Sunday in the park. April 1, 2012

(Day 34 of Lent)