Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why ARE There So Many Songs About Rainbows?

Well all I can say is she took my breath away...again. The wedding was over, the sacred words were said...she was surprised when "Grow Old Along With Me" was sung...and she and her new man turned to walk down an isle toward the rest of their lives...

And then...she and her man walked through the door for the party. He danced with her to the words, "You swept me away." I watched. It was nice...and then...

It was my time to dance that father/daughter dance. I wondered what song she would pick. Then the banjo started strumming...and there was dear Kermit singing, "Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows." I'm tingling right now as I write this. I used to sing it to her when she was a "girl." She knew that..and she remembered.

She looked up into my moist eyes and she said, "I had all kinds of trouble finding this song. I had to have Kermit sing it, not somebody else. I had to buy the whole CD just to get it..but I wanted it to be our song."

I held her and made my own rainbow with sunshine and the water of memories. That girl could make me cry in many ways but this was special.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows? It is because we need those illusions and visions. We need them to be painted over our sour headlines. We need them to touch the "lovers and dreamers " in all of us. We need them because life is sometime just to "real."

O my goodness what a moment it was. In the colors of that moment there were years of memories. As I swayed to that simple, child-like melody I was somewhere over the rainbow. There are not many moments like that one. There's not supposed to be.

I looked into those eyes as the music ended and I realized how much she really is "my child." O I know, she's somebody else's now...but you know how that goes. There will always be rainbows.
Bless you,
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Wedding Toast

I thought I would share the toast that I composed to offer tonight to Abigail and Brent. Abigail is our first born who will wed Brent later today. I share this with you as a way to remember for those of us who said vows long ago:

May your joy be found in the discovery of what makes the other happy.

May your happiness be found in the reality that happiness is not something that is found in the pursuit of it but is discovered as you share from your heart.

May your love be something that you never take for granted and if you do may your foolishness be discovered early.

May your togetherness have enough spaces to honor each other but enough closeness to realize that what you make in your relationship is a living, breathing thing.

May your marriage be one of constant learning and growing for that which is not growing is in the process of decay.

And may you always remember that God loves you more than you will ever love each other and that same God will not do the work of love for you but stands always near to give you the grace to learn the kind of love that God has for you.
God bless you.

jody jsyemour@davidsonumc.org

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Little Girls and Wedding Dresses

With the echo of "carry me" still hanging in the air she will walk down the isle in a few days in a wedding dress. Abigail liked to be "carried" as a child. There were those days when the carrying consisted of being lofted onto daddy's shoulders so she could see the world from on high.

Soon I will carry her down the isle, let go of her arm, take a small revolving step and change roles from dad to the one offering she and her "knight" the opportunity to join as one. What happened to the long dance recitals, the days of sneaking out her bedroom window, and the struggle to pass math (3 times) so she could finally get out of college?

All that will be part of her. The new "man in her life" will find that out if he does not already know. Those of us who have spoken sacred words in front of some guy holding a book know what the two whom I will stand before soon do not really know: no one knows what they are doing when they get married.

As Scott Peck once wrote, "if we call it falling in love....what happens when we get up?" Well...in this case it's called "marriage." It's lab work. It's hard. It's supposed to be. Everybody is hard to live with and there are not violins in the background to smooth things over because as the song says, "life is more than two hours long."

So, I'll walk her down the isle and remember how I used to carry her. She does not know what she is really doing but neither did I. Heck, I did not know how to be a parent either when that came along even though the old gentlemen who saw me staring through the hospital nursery window at the new creation that first day said to me, "Don't worry son they come with directions." Did you ever find any directions? I didn't.

Like with marriage, I learned as I went and usually learned the hard way and sometimes the painful, slow way. I've told her and she seemed to listen that there would be speed bumps and that when what I call "saddle sores" develop from the wear of marriage that it is wisdom that seeks some help outside the marriage. She seemed to "take it in."

So for now I'll "carry her" one last time down a path where we will make some new beginnings. She will be on my arm and not on my shoulders this time. It seems like such a short time ago that those small reaching arms asked me to be her support to see the world from on high.

I'll whisper a prayer to one who does see it all from "on high." Help her pay attention, Father. Give her courage to learn when the time comes. Show her what you do best: teach her how to forgive. Grant them a good measure of the best thing you ever give any of us: a love that continues to grow and expands by giving.

Bless you
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Mine

"It's mine," is the cry of the child who does not want to share. I know. I am an "only child" who did not get the computer chip implanted in my "wiring" that tells my hardware to share. I have to download sharing. It does not come naturally for only children.

That is, in fact, why we have two children. Betsy announced a few years after we had our first child that "one was enough for her." I abruptly responded, "O no we will not do that. You had a brother. You don't know what it's like being an 'only.' It is not the real world."

So we had two. Betsy reminded me when that second child got into the adolescent girl spiral in a rather large way that this second child fit into my only child "It's mine" category. She pointed to that second child and said, "She's yours."

It seems of late that we are an "only child culture." Everybody is claiming and even screaming that "it's mine." We seem afraid of loosing our rights to have a gun, make sure our hospital insurance is untouched, or choose who we will have as neighbors both literally and culturally. The latest culprit who seems to get the role as parent is none other than the government. We seem to want certain things from our "parent" like protection and roads and the "pursuit of happiness." But there are certain things that make us scream, "it's mine."

Those of us who dare claim the title, "Christian" need to take a look back at our family heritage. Our foundations are built on a Hebrew understanding of life that did not have, "it's mine" in the glossary. Community was the building block of culture. In fact community was so important that the community had to even be careful about those who came their way who were not part of the community.

These "strangers" were called "sojourners" by the God who made the rules. The reason that the community was required to be careful of and do justice to the sojourners was that this God said that everyone was a sojourner. God seemed to realize that one of the first things people do when they get a bit settled is that they start the only child thing and claim that most everything is "mine."

So God reminded the people that the land was not really "theirs" but was on loan. The land was God's garden shared with sojourners who were passing through. All the "stuff" that the people ended up obtaining and holding so tight to as "mine" was in reality in the category of "gift." Sharing at first was the norm because community was always more important than individual rights. Individual rights stemmed from a secure community but was never meant to become the norm.

Later those first people who claimed that Jesus was the human face of this same God started not a religion or a movement but they started a "community." Records (the book of Acts if you are interested) show that this community was a place where people brought together their resources and shared them with the "apostles" so as to make sure that all people had enough.

Well...we've come a long way. To listen to some who still wear the Christian sweatshirt you would think that individual salvation and right thinking and believing are the top ingredients of the Christian way of life. Community gets lost amidst that old and always dangerous idea that "it's mine."

I've bumped into St. Francis again recently. His prayer is a good antidote for the recent revival of the "it's mine" way of life:
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury,pardon;where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hope;where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy.O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;to be understood as to understand;to be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive;it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Bless you,
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Friday, September 18, 2009

Green Scales Fell Like Rain

Puff the Magic Dragon came out of his cave briefly to bow his head once more. Those who got a glimpse of him were considered by many to be either delusional or told that they "never grew up." Skeptics included those who could not find Narnia nor could they catch a glimpse of Aslan or hear his "fearless roar."

Puff had not "roared" in years ever since he took to his cave at the loss of the innocence of "little Jackie Paper." Puff is a very sensitive dragon and of late there has not been much reason for him to risk coming out from his place of refuge. Puff never liked the grown-up world. There is much not to like.

The past few days his head "was bent in sorrow" for word came to him about the death of his friend and "keeper" Mary Travers. Along with her friends Peter and Paul, Mary would occasionally bring Puff to life, at least for a while. When they sang his song and children of all ages started singing along Puff could hear it. The words somehow seeped into the darkness of his cave. Many times he almost thought of coming out of his hiding and making another go of it, but each time the sounds of larger voices screaming of terror, fear, and insecurity made him slip deeper into his cave.

But because of his deep love for the sweet voice of "his" Mary there was a Puff sighting and to honor his friend he came forth from his shelter and bowed. A few green scales, those left from other days, fell like sacred rain. And then somehow, from down deep in his old soul, there came forth a roar. It was a roar that seemed reminiscent of days of Camelot. It was a roar that remembered how some of the children who used to love Puff also brought his friend Tinkerbell back to life one day. It was a roar that said innocence still lives.

As he roared he looked out to "the sea" and for a brief moment he saw his friend Mary again. This time she was on of those Pirate ships that used to pass by so often. She was no longer weak and drawn from the disease that captured her one day. She was young again and she was singing as she passed by. She waved at Puff. Puff noticed that the flags of the ship were again at full mast and they were "blowing in the wind." Ah, blowing in the wind. Next to his song, Puff liked that one best for Mary and her friends not only sang it they seemed to believe that the answer "was" blowing in the wind. For so many years they proclaimed not only Puff's message of love but a message of steady protest against principalities and powers that seemed so often to win.

Soon Mary passed by and the ship dipped below a horizon that was held in balance by a glorious sunset. Puff bowed again and turned to slip back into his cave....

If you are still reading this stop now and sing his song....sing his song...Let's bring him out of his cave. Stay with us Puff. If Mary has to leave, stay with us....

Puff the Magic dragon "lives" by the sea...

Bless you,
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

To Set Coordinates

"Do you know where you're going to, do you know what life is really showing you, where are you going to, do you know?" So goes the haunting words of the song that Diana Ross sang years ago. So, do you know?

I've been told that one of the first things a pilot does before ascending into the clouds is to "set the coordinates." These coordinates determine where the plane is headed. If you set the wrong coordinates but you follow them you will end up "someplace else" even though you stayed the course.

I see this in religion. Often people ask me why they cannot communicate with someone else about faith. As I listen I realize that the two people talking are in fact traveling "beside" each other but that their coordinates were set to different directions. They are talking "religion" but they are not going to end up at the same place. No, I'm not talking the "heaven or hell" thing. I mean that the more they talk the more they are going to drift apart because their coordinates are set.

If you want an example do the old "creationism vs. evolution" thing. If you take the first two chapters of Genesis as science you set your coordinates that way. If you understand these chapters as a description of "why" God created the cosmos rather than a description of "how" then you set your coordinates thus.

We have a lot of people screaming at each other of late about such things as health care and immigration who have different coordinates. So we have people screaming across the great divide.

How I wish that we could at least acknowledge the different coordinates rather than yelling about how wrong the direction is. So much for that.

How about a caterpillar update. I blogged about caterpillars the other day in the abstract...you know a story about caterpillars... but we have a whole host of real Monarch caterpillars literally devouring the parsley in our front yard. I've never seen anything like it. They have eaten "to the ground" three parsley plants. This could sound very destructive but the truth is that Betsy intentionally put the plants there because she knew two things: Monarch caterpillars like parsley and Betsy likes Monarchs.

She set her coordinates a few months ago when she planted the parsley. See and you wondered how I would work that in...I'm a preacher....I can work anything in...
What are your coordinates? You can bet those caterpillars know where they are going. I can't wait till they "get there." .....butterflies...butterflies....
Bless you,
Jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mad as Hell

"Mad as Hell," is an interesting expression is it not? I preached about anger yesterday and told the amusing story of my father whose memory is not as good as it used to be who said to me when I told him last week what I was preaching about, "Didn't you preach about anger a few months ago?" I was surprised he remembered but I smiled and said, "Yes I did Dad but you know I've got a lot of angry people over there and I preached a while back about forgiveness too but I reckon I'll have to do that one again also."

We are angry people. Joe Wilson's recent outburst in the "well" of the Congress, Serena Williams threatening words to the lineswoman at the U.S Open Tennis match, and the volatile words screamed out at Town Hall meetings show that our "anger thermostat" is set rather high. So if you want the whole "shooting match"..the whole set of cards...the entire enchilada: you can pull up my sermon tomorrow on our church web site(9/13/09)...but here are a few highlights if you want the Reader's Digest version on Anger:

Anger is a natural emotional response to a real or perceived threat. It is natural to be angry and probably unavoidable. What is avoidable is our response to anger. Those responses are learned and can be challenged by our self-reflection...if we choose to be self-reflective. Anger is a secondary emotion and is usually "attached" to feelings of frustration at not getting what we want or need. The anger begins "in us."

The movement of anger goes like this: irritation then anger then rage. The secret is to catch this "movement" at the irritation stage. The four features of anger are blame, hurt, seeing the "other" as unattractive, and becoming judge and jury. These features resemble child-like actions because they are "learned" in childhood.

It is okay to be angry and some anger is very justified. In our society we need those old words that say, "Be angry but do not sin." Sin usually involves hurt. Research shows that anger management begins with taking some deep breaths before we "act" and remembering what it is we are "not getting." To hurt someone "back" of course just escalates the anger cycle. Anger experts tell us to try to "re-frame" what is happening. If we are disappointed in someone is the truth that we have unrealistic expectations of that person?

Since the anger thermostat in our culture seems to be set so high these days it is time to examine why we are "so" angry and why so many people are expressing anger in "high volume" ways. It all begins with "us." It always does.
Namaste (the divine in me greets the divine in you)
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Friday, September 11, 2009

Know What a Boomupper Is?

Now that it is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock I've decided what my generation has become. We are "boomuppers." A boomupper is a "yuppie" that became a "boomer." When I was a yuppie I was building family and career. The "upwardly mobile" part seemed understandable but then like in the children's book, "Hope for the Flowers," one can discover what the "top of the heap" really is.

In this wonderful children's fable, "Stripe" and "Yellow," two different caterpillars launch off to discover who they are and what life is about. Yellow decides to go "inside" and risk transformation while Stripe goes off to find the top. He crawls up the hill made up of other caterpillars and strives to "make it to the top."

When he is almost there another caterpillar passes him going down and Stripe hears the tired caterpillar whisper, "There is no top. It's only being on top of another caterpillar." Stripe starts to doubt not only his destination but his journey. He then finds himself at the bottom of the "heap" looking up at a strange yellow creature with beautiful, almost transparent wings who seems to be waving at him but this creature from "beyond" can no longer communicate with this feet (and many feet) in the clay stripped creature. Yellow has become a butterfly. She gave new definitiion to upwardly mobile.

Yellow has been transformed. She risked going another way to find the way "up." Okay enough for children's fairy tales. What about us? I suppose each of us has some "Stripe" and "Yellow" tendencies do we not. Where are you now....tired....at the top...at the bottom of the heap..somewhere on the journey trying to decide if you need some risky transformation?

Well, I'm a Boomupper. I've done the upwardly mobile thing...the children are out of the house (most of the time) the career has been "built." I suppose I've managed to get to near the "top" of my field. The top...hummm....I know a little of what old Stripe discovered. Don't get me wrong, I'm blessed indeed....but you know what this Boomupper has discovered...it's the journey...it's the journey that needs the attention...not the top...40 years ago Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang what Joni Mitchell wrote for and about Woodstock:

Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, "Tell me where you are going"
This he told me,
Said, "I'm going down to Yasgur's farm,
Gonna join a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free
We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get back to the garden"

..."Well then, can I walk beside you?"

Ah, we are stardust, we are... We and the caterpillars. And this boomupper is more mindful of that than ever. The old story says it clearly: Right after God finished making the caterpillars God picked up some left over stardust and breathed into it...played with it a little....stepped back...looked at it and said, "Well, that's pretty good. I think I'll call it human." God then turned toward the caterpillars and said, "What do you think about these creatures?" But they had crawled away looking for some transformation. God then turned to the new creatures and said, "Transformation....sounds like a good idea for you...Never get so far 'up' that you forget to look down and remember the lesson from the caterpillars."

God turned and sure enough one of the new creatures was munching on an apple...

Bless you...
jody (a sometimes transforming Boomupper) jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Love Like the Movies

Ready for a big word: "logorrhea." Jacques Ellul made it up. It means, "words are vastly used but emptied of meaning. One cultural observer said the epitome of logorrhea is advertising that breads a "cultural tide of dishonesty." Political speeches suffer from a lot of logorrhea.

Where am I going with this? Well, it's blog do I really have to going anywhere? Maybe I'm doing some logorrhea right now.

Anyway I thought about this yesterday as I finished my run while listening to the Avett brothers sing, "Love Like in the Movies." Our oldest daughter introduced me to the music of the Avett brothers. I changed Scott Avett's diaper once. See, I have a claim to fame. His parents were our buddies and I got left with Scott one day for some reason. I was used to changing diapers on girls...we had two. But I had never changed a diaper on a boy.

If you are a parent you know where I'm going with this. I got sprayed by dear little Scott. With girls you do not have to worry about that. Somebody send this to Scott and let's see if they can write a song about this!!

Back to logorrheah. Bet you thought I'd never get there. Here are some of the words from the before mentioned song:

So you want to be in love like the movies
But in the movies they're not in love at all
And with a twinkle in their eyes
They're just saying their lines
So we can't be in love like the movies

Now in the movies they make it look so perfect
And in the background they're always playing the right song
And in the ending there's always a resolution
But real life is more than two hours long....

Why, indeed, I changed the diaper of a future philosopher. We use words like "love" and "God" so much that sometimes they loose their meaning. The "real" of the word gets lost in the constant use like we're in some kind of movie that gets played over and over.

I love that line, "real life is more than two hours long." Real is where resolutions take time and sacrifice without the needed music in the background. Real is sticking with it when things are not pretty and the lighting isn't right. Real is taking a deep breath and knowing that the "real" God can't be captured in a word or a scene.

Real is watching the caterpillars that covered the parsley plant that Betsy planted "just for them" eat their way to life. Love is not like in the movies and there is a lot of imperfection in real love because we are not acting out a script. This is real life. There is no dress rehearsal or screen play. Words can only carry so much meaning. Tis in the living of it that makes us human "beings" and not actors. May you have a less logorrhea day. May we be mindful of our words...and may we be good listeners to those around us. This is no movie.
Bless you
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Monday, September 7, 2009

John Wesley Had a Blog!!

Yes, I've been missing in action the past few days. Have you missed me? I've been hanging around a bunch of "large church pastors" at a Conference. No, I'm not talking about over-weight clergy. This was a gathering of clergy from the "top 100 United Methodist Churches in America." So, how did I end up serving one of those? Just goes to show you that God has both a sense of humor and a way of dispensing amazing grace.

Maybe I'll say more about what I learned at the Conference but for now I'm still spinning with one of those, "a funny thing happened on the way home from the Conference" kind of things. Betsy and I stayed at an old Hotel in Savannah. Our good buddy and travel agent Connie picked it out for us. Who was I to know that it was built over the site where good old John Wesley's parsonage was when he was on his brief...and I mean brief...stint to the young colony of Georgia from 1732-1733.

As I opened the trunk of the car there across the street stood John with his hand pointing in my direction. Well, it was a statue of John. Like old Simon Peter said when confronted with the accusation that he was tipping the bottle too much that Pentecost Day, it was not yet time for "Happy Hour," so this was not John in the flesh but he was standing there in all his glory.

John Wesley was an utter failure in Georgia. He came over from England to be a missionary to the local Indians but that did not work because he did not speak their language and even if he could have it would not have worked because he discovered that he also could not speak the language of the folks in Savannah.

John was a prude. O don't get me wrong, he was a good prude but he could not relate to the local "natives" or the local imports. Remember everybody was an import back then except the real natives.

The young ultra-religious Wesley ended up refusing Communion to a young woman to whom he was attracted but who did not respond with much affection to John. When she came forward to receive the elements he told her she had not filled out the proper forms. (loose translation of what actually happened..but it happened...I'm not making this up).

Her name was Sophie Hopkey. Are you impressed yet? I wrote a paper on this in seminary. Wesley ended up leaving Savannah rather hurriedly. It seems that Sophie's daddy was a man of influence and he was not a happy camper when he found out that Rev. Wesley had refused his dear daughter the rites of the church.

This is when John Wesley started his blog...Well...He did put it in his "journal"(the old way of blogging) that he felt a failure. John's journal later became very famous. Scholars are still going over this old way of blogging for clues into the founder of Methodism's thoughts. Anyway, all this is to say I feel even better about blogging knowing that John thought it was a way of sharing who he was and what he felt.

I stood below his outstretched hand the other day and thought of how far "we" have come. I laid down that night near the spot he must have placed his weary head and wondered how he felt as he "left Savannah." O John, did you have any idea what you started? You left feeling like you had wasted your time. I left the place of your "failure" having come from a conference of very alive United Methodist churches. And now John, it's on "my blog."

You went back to England still carrying the heavy weight of your "failure" in Savannah. Then one night you "stumbled" into a meeting on Aldersgate street where you simply wrote in your "old" blog that, "You felt your heart strangely warmed." The rest is history....our history.
Bless you,
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org