A Feast for Crows

The black plastic creature half-sat on the yard but allowed its weighty bottom to take up residence on the asphalt.
It waited.
It waited alone for its predestined journey that that place we use for all of that we call useless.
But it did not wait alone.
A murder of crows pecked and ripped at it skin seeking nourishment from somewhere within.
The creature’s innards were inspected – then accepted, ingested or rejected yet again.

A feast for crows.

Not mine...really...but a great picture.

Perhaps. But so much plastic, so many barriers stood in the way of true feasting. It was nourishment, yes. But mere survival.

Day by day, by day, by day, I too picked through the leavings of the disciplines I dared to name spiritual.
I hungered. I hungered for the Creator of “All-That-Might-Be” feeding me through Word, music, prayer and yet hidden and protected beneath barriers of anxiety, filaments of failure and membranes of loss from days long past.
I ate to exist from this creature I called “daily disciplines”.
I ingested to exist but I would never take flight on these protected rations.

I knew there was a feast in there, somewhere, but like the murder with wings, famine prevailed.

Who kept those crows from their feast?
I confess it was me.
I was the one who fashioned the slouching, enticing, lying plastic creature.

Who kept me feeding on crumbs from the Table when somewhere near I inhaled and knew a Feast had been set?
I confess it was me.
I created the picker and ripper of Spirit.
I tied myself to my worries and plastered scars of loss on myself that were tougher, deeper, less wielding than even the thickest of plastic bags.

I think now the crows would desire hope.
They would hope for the power to name their nemesis and in so naming vanquish its power over them to keep them from the feast.
I think, if they could, the crows would hope.

For my part – I am thankful. Thankful hope is a gift given to me.

I thank the one who refused a drink – refused a drink as death swallowed him whole. And yet was the one who kept me alive through crumbs thrust from the Table over which he presides.

I have hope.
I can name my nemesis even/especially when it is me.
I can open the vessel of feeding by shedding the ties and the scars.
I have hope because one who once was bleeding was always, always feeding.

Let the feast begin again.
Music? Wine? Color? Scripture?
Or just this confession of words.
Holy manna for me – a feast for crows.

An Ode to Friedman

A Whirlwind

A dig through the past for some kin,

Unearthed stories – some slathered with sin.

Rose colored glasses now gone;

System ties travel on.

Where I am could be right where they’ve been.


Thanks to Edwin Friedman and my many teachers and coaches from The Center for Family Process – especially Coach Mickie – for allowing me to take an incredible systems journey.



My Pensieve

The first time J. K. Rowling introduced me to the magical object known as a Pensieve, I was hooked!  I have often said that if there were anything from Potter’s world that I could have in this one, it would be a Pensieve.

Well, I found one.  And I didn’t even have to get ripped off on Ebay.  (I am fairly certain I found this one “hiding” in the journal section of Amazon.com.)

It doesn’t look like much.  I admit that.  Most of you are saying to yourself, “Okay, it’s a pretty book and quite possibly a pretty journal but that is about all.”

I also admit that it is a far, far cry from the magical device that Professor Dumbledore kept stored in his office.  It’s not even close to that but yet I have desired for quite some time a device like Dumbledore’s – something to store my memories in so that I could look at them from different perspectives.  Some place where I could lay to rest painful things, store away wonderful things, and even piece together puzzling things so that sometime later I could take a look at them again and maybe, just maybe, see something different.

Not so long ago, I began taking a continuing education class on “Healing the Brain”.  It is one that is offered by the Center for Family Process in Bethesda, MD.  I took it out of curiosity – the main presenter had written several papers that I found fascinating and I took it out of convenience – the course is offered as a “teleconference” over a ten month period.  But mainly, I took it because something deep inside me needed it.

I have kept a journal of one kind or another for years.  Sometimes I am good at writing in them and sometimes I am not.  I guess you can see where I get my less than regular posting schedule for this blog.  It comes pretty naturally to me.

However, since I began taking this course, something incredible has happened.

I wanted to show an actual page from my journal – which I now refer to as my Pensieve. (But I couldn’t trust myself to blur and mar the image enough that it wouldn’t be readable at some point.)  But now, my Pensieve and I are now very best friends.  I may go days without posting on this blog, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t dip into my skull with one of my many colored pens and pull out some memory of the day or the long almost forgotten past and place it in my Pensieve.  I then spend three or four days going over the same memory from different angles to give me a better feel as to what really happened.

And that has been really freeing for me.  I am lighter these days.  I am less frazzled these days.  I am better rested these days.  I am still a bit forgetful, but maybe even that will heal in time.  I am very thankful that God finally found a way to show me a Pensieve!

Just for fun I will share one of the entries that I have placed in the Pensieve.  This entry came after recalling a particular event four times.  It is my summary of what came from that time:

I will write this in red, just for me:

A daytime nightmare woke me from my slumber
I was not asleep really – I found no proper rest
I was wide awake to the anxious forces around me
I was wide awake to my own pain
And yet it was a nightmare in the daytime
That jarred me
That shook my anger and rage awake
that took me to a dark night of the soul
that let me loose my own anxiety
and I found
I found

See you on the road home!  (You’ll know me…I’ll be the one with a pretty journal in my hand.)

Another Random Fact

I really am taking this “random fact” thing seriously.  I am not following any discernible order in writing about the facts and I certainly am not on any schedule to get them done.  I guess they are random indeed.

Pam and I had been married for about a year when we decided that we wanted to try and have a child of our own.  We were parents to Leslie, my daughter from my first marriage, but we still felt like a larger family was something we wanted.

Making that decision began a couple of years of disappointment for us.  We watched while other couples in my class at Duke Divinity School went through pregnancies and we hoped for our own.  But we were not getting pregnant.  At some point in time we decided that we needed to make up our mind about either adopting or seeking fertility treatments.  So, we scheduled a little weekend get-away so that we could really focus and talk about what we thought would be best for us.

We arrived in this little North Carolina town that we had decided to visit around dinner time and found an interesting local pizza place to eat.  It was the first time either of us saw a menu that offered spinach and pineapple as a topping selection and on a whim to see what it was like, we ordered one.  I can still taste that pizza. Yet, like so many other “firsts” in life, the taste has never been recreated.  We’ve had excellent “specialty pizzas”, especially at “Pies and Pints” here in West Virginia, but I don’t think I have ever had as good a slice of pineapple and spinach pizza anywhere.

There was one problem though.  Despite it being so good, Pam developed a terrible case of indigestion and hardly slept that night.  In the morning, she still wasn’t feeling much better but we went on with our visit and took time to have our discussion.

Sometime in the afternoon of that second day, we had pretty much made up our minds to start the process of adoption.  For us, it just seemed like the right thing to do, especially since we both saw ourselves as “adopted” members of Jesus’ family in the church.  We also just could not justify spending the money on fertility treatments that may or may not work.  So we enjoyed the rest of our weekend and went home “at peace” with our decision.

On Monday, instead of feeling better, Pam was so ill she thought that she needed to go see her doctor.  I had to head off to classes at Duke but she was sure she could make it across town to the docs office and then to work.

I was a little surprised and worried when I got back from class that afternoon to find her car in the driveway and began thinking that she must have really gotten sick.  I was even more befuddled when after I walked in the house and over towards where she was sitting on our couch.  She got up, walked over to me and handed me this little plastic stick before I had a chance to set my books down from class.

I knew immediately what she had given me and one look down told me that she was pregnant.

I said, “Is this a joke?”

“Nope,” she said, “the doctor wouldn’t treat me for anything until they did a pregnancy test and you see for yourself that it’s positive!”

Now…it is at this point in the story that I have to simply say that my response came more from surprise, shock and disbelief especially after the weekend decision we had made.  My books hit the floor and my mouth opened more in reflex than anything else.  I won’t tell you exactly what word came out of my mouth but I will say that it was a word with which I was quite familiar.  My grandmother used that used like some people use sighing. These days, well, we jokingly refer to the word as “Nana’s Word” in our house.  The word has a bit of family history, to say the least, and chances are I have done everything I can to pass on the tradition – even without knowing it.

There you have it…Random Fact Number 6!

There’s No Place Like…

A Whirlwind

And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven.
2 Kings 2:11 The Message

The past seven days have been something of a whirlwind for me.  I haven’t really had much time to take a breath and seriously think about it but I know that in the midst of this latest busy trek on the path to home, I have experienced the very presence of God.

I knew that presence as I sat next to a colleague who just six months ago gave me some of the greatest words of support and encouragement that I have ever received.  I still carry that note with me and it will always bring me joy!

I knew that presence as I sat at lunch with a colleague who has prayed for me and my family during a time of transition…One who calls me “Scottie” and gets away with it…Who insists on hugs every time we meet and I don’t mind a bit.

I knew that presence as I sat in continuing education sessions with a colleague who has supported me in a Covenant Group for several years with prayer, encouragement and accountability.  He is one who knows my sense of humor and appreciates it always.

I knew that presence when I ate dinner with a colleague who helped my daughter through a very special time in her life and we shared with each other about our “other” homes.  I know that I will be praying for him and his girls even as he prays for me and mine.

I knew that presence as I worshiped with clergy from all over the West Virginia Annual Conference at Cedar Lakes and felt their affirmation as I stepped into a new role and a new place I will call one of my homes.

I knew that presence as I met with my Clergy Covenant Group at the best place in West Virginia to enjoy crab cakes – Crabby Patti’s in Ripley – and we shared our joys, our worries, our hopes, our struggles and our dreams in the midst of much change in our Conference “home.”  I know I am praying for them, but probably not as much as they are praying for me. And yet I know they still love me.

I knew that presence as I ate dinner with my Mom and Dad, and Mom’s Aunt and Uncle and then visited with them even more that evening and the next morning.  I heard stories I had not heard before and heard others that triggered memories long ago set aside as we shared about family.  I felt connected to generation after generation of my family and I felt the presence of God.

I knew that presence as I shared a lunch with a friend who I not only still trust with my health care but is one that anyone can trust.  It was great to spend time with one of God’s healers who is still humble enough to live into their humanity.

I felt that presence as I was reunited with my family after a few days away – laughter, stories and great donuts made for good times!  “Friday Night Lights” with the Princeton Tigers and their wonderful band and a fifth quarter at the church that went on till Saturday.  (A soft bed made for a good night’s sleep as well.)

I felt that presence in the moments – that came quite often – when I thanked God for the great staff members who were caring for everything at First Princeton UMC.

I felt that presence as I worshiped with my newest church family and felt their grace, prayers and support after a long week.

I felt that presence as I watched the churches of the Princeton Parish (UMC) unite with community members of Princeton to serve those around us by cleaning up two local parks and a fountain area downtown.

Ah…the whirlwind…I felt it.  And even though I know these recollections don’t come close to naming every moment I felt it, I know that it is carrying me closer and closer to home.

photo credit: *nacnud* via photopin cc