16 November 2012

PSL: Prayer as a Second Language

On Thursday I was honored to teach the final class of the year for the Ladies Bible Class at my church. During this fall semester, my dear friend Andrea has been leading the class in a study entitled "Praying to God in God's Own Words." She explored The Lord's Prayer and several other New Testament prayers. Early last summer she asked me if I would be willing to teach the concluding lesson on praying the Psalms.

As it has every Thursday, the class began with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer followed by the old Sunday School standard "Whisper a prayer... to keep your heart in tune."

For the lesson I presented, I am deeply indebted to a wonderful book examining Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians:
Eugene H. Peterson: Practice Resurrection. A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

"Why are people so ready to appoint a representative to do their praying for them? Why is there so much more talk about prayer than actual praying? Why are so many more doubts expressed and questions raised about this form of language than any other?

…observe the way language is used when we are not on our knees…. Listen… the primary use of language is impersonal… to name things, describe actions, provide information, command specific behaviors, tell the truth, tell lies, curse, bless. Language is incredibly and endlessly versatile. But in our heavily technologized and consumerized world, most of the words said and heard in most ordinary days have little or no relational or personal depth to them. They deal with a world of things and activities, machines and ideas....

Language objectifies both the world before us and the people around us…. "

The poet William Wordsworth in his 1806 poem  laments:
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
For this, for everything, we are out of tune..."

Wordsworth's use of the phrase "out of tune" as did the little song with which we began the class suggests that the reason one should "whisper a prayer" is to "keep your heart in tune." 
One of the illustrations I often use when teaching the Psalms is a pair of tuning forks, each tuned to the same note but an octave apart. When one fork is struck and begins to vibrate and the second is brought near to the first, the second will also begin to vibrate. They are "in tune" and they resonate together. So it is when one reads a Psalm and finds in the words an echo, a perfect expression, of one's own joy or pain.

Indeed, in the world around us, in our everyday encounters, most of our language is used... “getting and spending.” Too often, we bring this use of language into our prayers.

Quoting Peterson again:
"But language at its core and its best reveals. Using words, I can speak myself into relationship with another."
{I inserted examples of how our speaking had created relationships with people in the class.}

Prayer works in the same way. When we learn the language of prayer, it can speak us into a relationship with God.

"...prayer is personal language or it is nothing. God is personal, emphatically personal… When we use impersonal language in this most personal of all relations, the language doesn’t work… when we listen in Scripture and in silence to what the personal God has to say to us in our unique person hood, anticipating information or answers and not hearing anything remotely like that, we don’t know what to make of it. We may walk away saying or thinking, “God doesn’t speak to me… He never listens to me.”

The practice of prayer, if it is going to amount to anything more than wish lists and complaints, requires a recovery of personal, relational, revelational language in both our listening and our speaking."

We are blessed to have Caleb McDaniel teaching the Open Door Class and I greatly appreciate the historical perspective he brings to our class and to my study. Currently we are looking at the creeds of Christendom, beginning with some creeds or creed-like sections of the New Testament and then looking at other very early creeds, The Apostles' Creed, The Nicene Creed in its several revisions, and several others in coming weeks. Last Sunday, he noted that looking at changes from creed to creed gives us glimpses of what was happening in the culture of that time but that looking at those things which are “continuous and consistent” throughout the centuries can help us see what is really the core of  Christian belief.

When the church and its members begin to learn prayer as a second language what is "continuous and consistent" is the use of the Psalms. For example, lectionaries and the Daily Office include daily Psalms. Almost all published editions of the New Testament (such as those distributed by the Gideons) include the Psalms. Almost all books of daily devotions will reference the Psalms. Some Christians (not I!) may dismiss the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament as fulfilled and irrelevant to the practice of Christianity but, through the millennia, the "classic text book for recovering the personal language of prayer is the Psalms. A thorough immersion in the Psalms is the primary way that Christians acquire fluency in the personal, intimate, honest, earthy, language of prayer and take our place in the great company of our praying ancestors."
Those praying ancestors are part of  that “great cloud of witnesses" about which Caleb preached form the pulpit last Sunday and when we pray the same words of scripture which they prayed we are with them and they are with us.

Quoting Peterson:
"For while prayer is always personal, it is never individual. At prayer we are part of a great congregation whether we see them or not. Praying the Psalms gets us used to being in a praying congregation… We are never less alone than when we pray, even when there is no one else in the room. We are praying for others who don’t know we are praying for them. Others are praying for us although we don’t know it…. When we pray we are not self-enclosed. Praying the Psalms keeps us in a school of prayer that maintains wakefulness and an open ear, alertness and an articulate tongue, both to the word of God and to the voices of praise and pain of God’s people."
We see that in the New Testament prayers that Andrea has led us through this Fall. Today I want to recall the lesson she taught a couple of weeks ago on the Apostle Paul’s great prayer from his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:16 – 19; 3:14 – 21
I make mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[a] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power .

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[a] 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Note that Paul’s prayer begins with God's great work of salvation, the riches of his glory, which leads to exultant act of worship. Peterson reminds us that "…prayers of intercession flow out of the plenitude of God. The plenitude of God, not the penury of the human condition…"

Too often in our prayers we bring the language of our need, of human poverty, into our prayers, failing to see the "riches of his glory" which are abundantly more that our need. The Psalms encourage lament, the full recognition of human need and pain but they also encourage thanksgiving and trust, the "steadfast love of the Lord" which never ceases.

In chapter four of Ephesians Paul quotes the 68th Psalm. Peterson argues that the 68th Psalm offers "a structure that gives literary and theological shape to what he writes: first a thorough meditative immersion in the action and word of God (chapters 1-3), which then takes form in a worship-generated life of believing obedience (chapters 4-6)."

The first 23 verses of the Psalm present a documentary of God in saving action. At midpoint the Psalm shifts to a comprehensive act of worship in the sanctuary. Peterson:

"All that God is and does—riding the clouds, transforming the wilderness, commanding the prophetic proclamation of good news, taking charge once and for all by ascending the “high mount”—is brought together in a worshiping procession of singers and musicians into the sanctuary, bringing gifts, acclaiming blessings.

Sanctuary is a set-apart places consecrated for worship, paying reverent attention to who God reveals himself to be and how he reveals himself in our history…. Psalm 68 worship is a listening attentiveness to God in word and action, which develops into glad participation in that word and action.”

Sanctuary is what we create for ourselves, as individuals and as a community, when we pray.

Look more closely at Paul's quotation in Ephesians 4 of the 68th Psalm:
Ephesians 4: 7-8 reads:
"7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”

Psalm 68:18 reads:
"You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there."

Note that Paul changes the quote from the triumphant King who receives gifts to the Messiah who gives gifts. It is not because Saul, the rabbinic student of the great Gamaliel, does not know the scripture. Paul, the Apostle, changes it because Jesus does indeed change everything. Such a simple fact which I never noticed until I began to prepare this lessons: Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed of God gives us gifts from "the riches of God's glory" and that changes, or perhaps it is better to say fulfills, the scripture in a way that is surprising.

So here in the 68th Psalm, as in so many others, we find a model not only for the language of prayer but also for the day-to-day practice of Christian life.

The class then moved from my talking about prayer to the practice of prayer. When one learns a second  language, one must go to the language lab; one must begin to speak the language.

Deep breath and exhale to prepare for prayer.
The class then sang a few songs and read selections from the Psalm. We attempted to read it not as text to be studied but as prayer—personal, relational, communal prayer. We each read aloud but made no attempt to read in unison. We wanted to pray as individuals but to be aware of the "murmur" of the "cloud of witnesses" around us.
I suggested that we pray the 68th Psalm as intercession for the persecuted church.

Song #794 Unto Thee, O Lord

Song 55: I will bless Thee, O Lord

Psalm 68:1-10
68 Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
2 As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3 But let the righteous be glad;
Let them rejoice before God;
Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.
4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him.
5 A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
6 God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
7 O God, when You went out before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness, Selah
8 The earth shook;
The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9 You, O God, sent a plentiful rain,
Whereby You confirmed Your inheritance,
When it was weary.
10 Your congregation dwelt in it;
You, O God, provided from Your goodness for the poor.

Psalm 68:17-2
17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand,
Even thousands of thousands;
The Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place.
18 You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the LORD God might dwell there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! Selah
20 Our God is the God of salvation;
And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.

Song 193: Crown Him with many Crowns

Psalm 68:24-26
24 They have seen Your procession, O God,
The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.
25 The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after;
Among them were the maidens playing timbrels.
26 Bless God in the congregations,
The Lord, from the fountain of Israel.

Psalm 68:32-35
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth;
Oh, sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33 To Him who rides on the heaven of heavens, which were of old!
Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice.
34 Ascribe strength to God;
His excellence is over Israel,
And His strength is in the clouds.
35 O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places.
The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people.
Blessed be God!

Song 108: The Lord is in His Holy Temple

We kept a time of silence and concluded with a song:
"I love you, Lord,
And I lift up my voice,
To worship you… Oh, my soul, rejoice!
Take joy, my king, in what you hear:
May it be a sweet, sweet sound
In your ear."

Serendipity: Although we were reading/praying individually, the phrasing of the psalm seemed to move us increasingly toward unity. We found that we were reading in unison; we could in fact not read in unison. I had not anticipated this lesson on one of the functions of prayer. We pray to create unity. Praying the Psalms is not only the great school of prayer but a source of our unity with God, with our best selves, with one another, and with Christians in all places and in all times.

The hymns were from Songs of Faith and Praise.
The scripture readings were from NKJV.

30 October 2012

Pumpkin Soup...

I love the holiday season and for me it really does start with Halloween. I'm not fond of the overdone and expensive decorations--a pumpkin or two is sufficient--and I'm not much for the store-bought or rented costume. I like the old-fashioned Halloween of my childhood--a carnival at the country school we attended with simple games, a not-so-scary spook house, good food, and more candy than was good for us.
Our costumes were often made almost spur of the moment with whatever we had on hand. A farm family never has much money to waste on trifles. My mother always dressed as a gypsy and was a wonderful fortune teller. A burlap sack, braids made from laddered stockings, a headband with a feather, a corn cob doll for a prop--an Indian princess. Daddy's oversized padded cover-alls pulled up over the head with the neck stuffed with something, a pair of gloves and boots--a headless monster who needs a companion guide because the only view is through the button or zipper placket. A witch was usually easy. So was a pirate. A classic ghost was hard because even our old sheets were useful and we couldn't cut holes for eyes. But an old shower curtain or piece of fabric with a shower cap and a rubber mask... Grandma had found the mask in her yard the day after Halloween one year  and gave it to us... it appeared year after year. As far as I can remember that was the only "store bought" mask we had. We made masks out of cardboard and fabric scraps and bric-a-brac. We were limited only by our imaginations and what our crafty mother could help us make out of what we had. A big box could turn into almost anything--a TV set, a robot, a lamp table. A bunch of purple balloons to make a bunch of grapes. Raiding Mother's closet and dressing up in big hats and platform heels. Cross dressing was popular. The best Halloween trick was just the simple joke of a costume good enough to fool everyone into thinking that my brother was my sister.

One of the things I love about my church is that it offers one of those old-fashioned experiences to the children of our neighborhood. We started this year's festivities with a Pumpkin Festival last week. The kids got to decorate the pumpkins that will grace our fellowship hall and courtyard for the big party on Wednesday.
I made pumpkin soup and by popular demand the recipe follows:

K's Pumpkin Soup

In a large pot, whisk together and heat:
  • 1 quart of homemade chicken stock (recipe below)
  • 1 can Libby's pumpkin
  • Add 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, black pepper, sweet paprika.
  • 1/2 teaspoon each chili powder and black pepper.
Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low, simmer for 15 minutes.
  • 1 can (12 oz.) Carnation evaporated milk, simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring.
{At this point I ate a cup of soup for lunch--it was wonderful!--and put the rest in the fridge.}

A couple of hours before serving time, I put the soup in my slow cooker and added
  • 2 quarts Imagine organic butternut soup  
Heat on high until hot, then turn down to warm and serve.
Served in cups with a bowl of roasted  and salted Austinut's pumpkin kernels to add if the diner desires.
Note: I often use the butternut squash soup as a base or an extender for my autumn soups. When I was making this soup for Southwest Central Church's Pumpkin Festival, I intended to serve it in cups as a warm beverage. Had I been serving it at home in bowls to be eaten with spoons. I would have started by sauteing a medium onion, finely chopped,  and a couple of cloves of garlic, minced,  in canola oil rather than using the dried spices. I might have prepared some spaghetti squash to mix with it.  I would have diced some wonderful apples (golden ginger or honey crisp) to put a little crunch in the bowls and garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt with a bit of parsley and maybe some bacon bits. 

This pumpkin soup gathered compliments because of the homemade stock which I had in my freezer. It was the liquid left after I had poached chicken for chicken salad. Here is how I did it:
Poached Chicken for chicken salad and chicken stock 

  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 1 small carrot, halved
  • 1 stalk celery, halved
  • 3 pounds chicken breasts halves, on the bone and fat trimmed
  • 2 cans reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (half a bottle) of white wine

Put the parsley, thyme, onion, carrot, celery, and chicken breasts in a pot. Cover with the broth, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat to very low and cover. Poach the chicken for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, cool the chicken in the liquid for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and reserve the liquid. Bone and skin the chicken and cut the meat into 1 inch cubes. Discard the bones and skin.  Yield: cubed chicken or 4 to 6 servings
Use the chicken to make chicken salad.

Strain the broth and store, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days or freeze for later use. Remove any fat from the surface of the broth before using or freezing. 

And, just because it's in the same file, here is my chicken salad recipe:
Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups diced poached chicken, recipe follows
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced or 1/4 cup sweet onion cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
In a mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, celery, scallions and herbs. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Add to the chicken and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook's Note: Serve on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomatoes, in half an avocado or in a chicken club sandwich made with artisan's bread, crispy smoked bacon, vine-ripened tomatoes and lettuce.

For me, chicken salad with vine-ripened tomatoes is summer. I made many batches this year. Now I've got that wonderful frozen stock to use in my autumn soups. Happy holidays!

18 September 2012

Maybe... Soon

I confess that not only have I been too busy, too depressed, too disinterested to attend to my blog but I have been too busy, too depressed, too disinterested to read anyone else's except for those who have shared a link to facebook. Ah, facebook. I think all the incessant political rants from both sides are not helping that depression thing at all.

This weekend I began to miss you. I decided perhaps I really don't want to be a hermit and live in isolation.
In the last day or two I've decided that facebook is nice but I miss the longer posts and meanderings of friends. I miss you.

I've been gone from blogger so long that I forgot my password and had to recover my account. I have been reading but perhaps not thinking too deeply or interacting with the text enough to have anything worthwhile to say.
And I can tell that it is going to take some time to catch up. Today I'll start reading and some day... maybe... soon... I'll find the energy to comment on your posts and write one of my own.

13 March 2012

Distinguished Hope

Last Friday night DMP and I attended the Celebration of Champions, part of the Earth's Angels Conference 2012 celebrating 10 years of Encouragement, Mentoring, Leadership for Today's Teen Girl and Young Adult Women.   Link to the sponsoring church:  Internal Hope Fellowship. An important part of the program are college scholarships awarded to conference attendees and one of my favorite parts of the evening was the young women who came back to report their successes and express their gratitude.  In recent years the conference has become increasingly reflective of Houston's racial and ethnic diversity.  Five years ago the conference leadership recognized that many of the young women attending the conference "didn't know what a mature Christian woman looked like."  Every year since they have honored 2-4 women; this year I was one of the honorees.

It's been a challenging couple of months for me. To quote Dorothy Day: "Too much praise makes you feel you must be doing something terribly wrong."  It's always easy for me to see how far short I fall and Lent--well timed to come just when I realize the complete failure of my New Years' resolutions--always brings "missing the mark" even more clearly to mind.  I've been sick off and on since Christmas and have endured some pretty big disappointments and had begun to dread the evening.  The big night arrived with a huge blinding rain storm and this little West Texas girl is still a bit afraid of such blinding rain that goes on and on.

David and I had invited a table of ten friends and young women to attend but fates conspired and we were a small group. Despite my concerns the evening turned out to be very happy and fulfilling.  And the food was hot and delish for which the Hilton NASA Clear Lake deserves props since the rain delayed the start by well over half an hour.
Jo, Taylor, Ashley, Elana, me, and David looking great in a suit.
Jo and I both changed our wardrobe plans because it turned cold.
Our lovely young guests were probably chilly in their pretty Spring dresses.
Steve Sandifer took the pic and also drove the church van through that scary storm.
Hilton NASA Clear Lake would has beautiful views when it's clear.
David and I were moved to a special table as the festivities got underway.  The greatest honor of the evening was getting to share a table and a stage with Mrs. Mayme Canada Brown, born in 1920, graduated from Prairie View A&M in 1946, and began teaching school the year I was born--a truly remarkable woman.  There was a "seven degrees of separation" moment--except that it was more like five degrees.  Mrs. Canada-Brown's daughter Meredith had just spoken to her college roommate whose mother had died.  Willie Mae "Bill" Cummings Hale is another remarkable woman whom I just barely remember.  She would have celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1 and is my grandfather's cousin.  So, through Meredith, we are back in touch with the children of Grandaddy's Uncle Sid and Aunt Susie.  I'm looking forward to reading Bill's Biography being written by her daughter Janna.

Receiving the lovely statue from Earth's Angels' founder Kathy Burrell
with Pastor George E. Burrell, Sr.
Finally the big moment and because some of you asked the rest of this post is my short "teaching" as written, not as delivered with a few notes:
{I believe I began with a word of thanks and a comment that I had never thought my life was particularly remarkable.}

 It is wonderful encouragement to be here with you tonight.  I love seeing all the faces of you glorious, young women who have come this weekend for a noble purpose: to discover who “we are and what God calls us to do with our lives.” It may not have been easy for you to make time for this conference but it will be worth it.

“In a culture where the media shapes our values, goals, and dreams, it is important to escape the constant bombardment of ads and images” and to remember that all of us, that each of us, “is made for more.” We are “made in the image of God.”  {At this point I inserted some praise for the lovely dance presentations by V-star's ensemble and by Camisha Dixon.  I always enjoy dance when it is well done and these young women danced well without one hint of lewdness.  Delightful!}

I’m 63 years old. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for over half a century. {At this point I inserted a few sentences about fellow honoree Mayme Canada Brown.  One of my passions is racial healing and I wanted to offer the words of my heart in deep esteem and respect for the life and pioneering work of this woman who is 30 years my elder.}  I’ve learned one thing: From beginning to end, life is a journey. Each of us lives one day at a time, one step at a time. Each step along the way can move us closer to God and to the abundant, joyful life Christ wants for all of us.” It’s not easy but it is worth it.

{I think I omitted the following sentence.}  This journey “inward, upward, and outward... involves serious soul-searching and risk-taking, honest reflection and courageous action.”

It’s easy to say “just follow Jesus” but it’s not so easy to do when the road is long and hard. Some of you already know that. Doubt, fear, disappointment, pain, despair have more than once caused me to get lost. It’s hard to follow Jesus when I can’t see him.
{There was a lot of energy in the audience.  I've never spoken with a chorus of "Come on now" before.  I love the rhythmic cadence and audience involvement that one often finds in the black church.} 

The good news is: I didn’t have to make my life’s journey alone. I’ve walked the way with the people of God. When I couldn't see Jesus, I followed my grandparents and my aunts and my Sunday School teachers. When I didnn’t know which way to go, I walked beside the older, wiser women at my church. When I stumble my Christian friends help me get back on my feet and take the next step in the right direction. And somehow, even though it is hard, like every thing else it gets easier with practice.

Perhaps most important: Because I wanted to be a godly woman, I waited for and I married a godly man and we make each other stronger and better.  {And much to my surprise I got just a bit gushy about my husband.  I am proud of him.}

No one makes life’s journey alone. The first Psalm tells us that God “watches over the way of the righteous..."  God watches over the lives of His people.  Holy God, watch over us as we seek to walk the way of the righteous, to “live like Christ and... to find God’s image restored in our lives.” Amen.

Thank you, Kathy Burrell and Earth’s Angels for this night of celebration, for these beautiful keepsakes, and most of all for the opportunity to have taken a step on life’s journey with each of you.

Most of the phrases in quotation marks are from my Lenten reading:
by Paul Wesley Chilcote 
which I'm reading in the Kindle edition.

28 January 2012

Lifetime Acheivement Award

Who hasn't had the dream?  A walk down the red carpet... an expectant crowd...  the presentation of the award... the acceptance speech.  "The Academy Award for Best..."  "and the Emmy goes to..."  "Here she is:  Miss America..."  "The Pulitzer Prize..."  "The Nobel Prize for Literature..."
"I learned the truth a seventeen..." and, while I do not feel that my life has been without accomplishment, I never thought of it as award-winning.  I was overwhelmed to the point of stammering when just before Christmas I was asked if I would permit Earth's Angels to honor me as one of four  "Distinguished Hope Honorees--Titus Women.  These are women whose lives have touched women by teaching and modeling the Word of God, and they are God's precious gems.  The community in which we live is a better place because of their tireless efforts to build up, beautify, support, and encourage others.  Their work is unto the Lord, but it has not gone unrecognized on earth." 
So there will be a "Dinner of Champions" in March to open "Earth Angel's Conference 2012 Celebrating 10 years of Encouragement, Mentoring, and Leadership for Today's Teen Girl and Young Adult Women."  And I will be given a lifetime achievement award of sorts.  It's humbling and more than a bit awkward.  There is an official bio:
K Cummings Pipes was born in Floyd County Texas in January 1949. She, her brother, and her sister grew up working on the family farm. The large extended family attended South Plains Baptist Church where K came to faith in Jesus and was baptized in 1958 shortly after her ninth birthday. The after school meetings of the Girls Auxiliary of the Women’s Missionary Union were one of many places where the church’s older women taught the young women, setting a wonderful example of Christian service. Following a series of community tragedies, K, at the age of 14 years, had sole responsibility for a Vacation Bible School class. Her service as a Bible teacher continued, almost without interruption, for more than forty years.  K moved to Houston in 1967 to attend Rice University, majoring in English Literature. As a country girl in the big city, she enjoyed the opportunity and diversity of Houston and attended many churches of different denominations, seeking to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of all the people of God. Sunday evenings usually found her at Central Church of Christ sitting beside David Pipes. They taught and worked side-by-side in Central’s mission to the underprivileged children of Houston’s Third Ward for four years and came to know each other well. After their graduations in 1971, David and K married. Their marriage was not blessed with children but all children became theirs as they taught and ministered to a generation, following them from kindergarten through college. David was ordained an elder of the congregation in 2000 and shepherds the flock with K at his side.  K enjoyed a professional career as a medical reference librarian, retiring in 1985. Until health concerns and the demands of caring for her aged parents limited her availability, she spent 20-30 hours a week using her gifts of Bible teaching, tutoring, librarianship, writing and editing at Southwest Central Church of Christ. She continues to pursue her interests in the wisdom literature of Hebrew scripture and the Psalms as a tool to constant prayer. She also collects and studies the work and life of a late Victorian Christian writer at www.evelynwhitakerlibrary.org.
While every word is true, that bio seems almost too shiny and slick.  It leaves out so much.  Most of it not at all the sort of thing one expects of a "Titus woman."  Doubt... Depression... Cynicism...  Fears...  Selfishness... Temper...  Stubborness... an all-too-often out-of-control tongue  ad.inf.  {Sigh!}

And my 5 minute acceptance speech is supposed to be a "teaching" for the attendees.  It's really all about them.  It has made me aware of the debt I owe to all the women who taught and mentored me.  It would take more than 5 minutes or the words that may be put into a blog post to name them and thank them.

One of the duties of an honoree is to help spread the good news about the conference so that young women (aged 11 to to 30 years) can be taught and mentored.  My dearly beloved is sponsoring those women of our church who wish to attend and our minister Steve Sargent is recruiting.  Earth Angel's Conference 2012 information and registration.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear.  The Lord is the strength of my life, of what shall I be afraid...  I hope to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord.  Be of good courage and God will strengthen your soul.  Wait, I say, on the Lord."

"The significance of little things..." Dorothy Day

SEASONS met this morning to finish our discussion of Dorothy Day: Selected Writings. By Little and By Little.  Edited and with an introduction by Robert Ellsberg.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1992.

My copy of this book is heavily highlighted and I've read it multiple times.  When we selected this book for SEASONS we were looking for a lodestone to help us endure this election year. I skimmed my highlights this week  and found 18 sections that I tabbed for discussion.  It is a book that has been important to my spiritual formation. Among many other things Dorothy Day taught me to care deeply for the poor.

Dorothy Day wrote to give reason for a marriage of convictions that was a scandal and a stumbling block to many: radical politics and traditional, conservative theology. Yet it was not what Dorothy Day wrote that was extraordinary, nor even what she believed, but the fact that there was absolutely no distinction between what she believed, what she wrote, and the manner in which she lived.” p. xv Ellsberg’s introduction.

We drew our discussion from "Small Things" (p. 74) from Day after Day, excerpts from her personal reflections and her editorials for The Catholic Worker
"Today we are not content with little achievements, with small beginnings.... 
Do what comes to hand.  Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might.  After all, God is with us.  It shows too much conceit to trust to ourselves, to be discouraged at what we ourselves can accomplish.  It is lacking in faith in God to be discouraged.  After all, we are going to proceed with His help.  We offer Him what we are going to do.  If He wishes it to prosper, it will.  We must depend solely on Him.  Work as though everything depended on ourselves, and pray as though everything depended on God, as St. Ignatius says...
I suppose it is a grace not to be able to have time to take or derive satisfaction in the work we are doing.  In what time I have my impulse is to self-criticism and examination of conscience, and I am constantly humbled at my own imperfections and my halting progress.... I do know how small and I am and how little I can do and I beg You, Lord, to help me, for I cannot help myself."
(p. 274)  "The significance of our smallest acts!  The significance of the little things we leave undone! The protests we do not make, the stands we do not take, we who are living in the world!"
(p. 96-97) "In Christ's human life, there were always a few who made up for the neglect of the crowd.... We can do it too, exactly as they did.  We are not born too late.  We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in every one we come in contact with....  For a total Christian, the goad of duty is not needed--always prodding one to perform this or that good deed.  It is not a duty to help Christ, it is a privilege."

The Duty of Delight: the Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg is available in a Kindle edition.
I also recommend a movie Entertaining Angels (1996) which I recently watched on Netflix.
There are several wonderful interviews posted on YouTube:
Christopher Closeup part 1 of 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNMHud0fFUg

SEASONS [Sisters Enjoying A Season Of Nurturing Sisters] is  a group of women who meet monthly to read and discuss theology and to support one another.  We usually meet at Southwest Central Church of Christ.