Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beginning Again with Thank You

It's time to start over...again. I use a small blue book for my morning time. The readings in it are based on the Christian Year. So I got to the final page again last week. I like it that the Christian year is different from the calendar-on-the-wall-year. I need that difference.

Anyway, my "morning book" ran out again so it was time to turn to the beginning for the first week of Advent, which is the inaugural season of the Christian year. I've been using this book for twenty years now, so the readings have become like old friends that I reintroduce myself to after a year's absence. As I read them I wonder how I was feeling when I read them last year. As the old wisdom saying goes, "You never put your foot in the same stream twice." Life is always moving even if you do not want it to move.

Advent always comes around Thanksgiving time. So I ponder those pages of my life that I have turned in years past at Thanksgiving. There was that Thanksgiving when our second child interrupted the family gathering by having the audacity to be born at 11:17. She was 10lbs 2oz. I let her know over the years that she was my 10lb turkey.

There was another Thanksgiving a few years later when we left my parent's house after having a wonderful evening. Our oldest daughter Abigail had written a tribute to my mom for an assignment in her High School English class. She wanted me to read it to see how it sounded. I cried as I "listened" to her recount days of childhood when she sat on my mother's lap as mom sang "Fly Little Blue Bird Through My Garden." Abigail also remembered those special "granny breakfasts" that were prepared just for her.

After reading it I said to Betsy, "Wow, mom needs to read this before something happens to her." My mom was not that ill but she did battle various ailments most all the time. Mom read it that Thanksgiving evening and cried. She said through her tears to that first born of ours, "I thought you had forgotten."

Later that night my mother leaned her head over while reading a book in her favorite chair and died. I was broken hearted but....the first thing I said was, "Well, we had a sort of going away party without knowing it." I was thankful for that evening.

Now it is time to start over again...again. I'll pick up my little blue book full of old friends and start the journey. I'm not sure how I'll feel each day as I read familiar words. I'm not even sure that I will make it to the next end, which will proceed the next beginning. These readings and this new year remind me that all we have is "daily." I forget that so often. I worry about tomorrow too much. It is as if I'm skipping the readings for today.

Anyway, I'm thankful for memories. I'll try again this year to be thankful...daily.
Bless you,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do You Wanna Dance?

I'm not much of a dancer so it intrigued me when I found myself bouncing around with speakers in my ears just after one of my morning runs. You know, you've witnessed this have you not? You see some crazed individual with his or her ears stopped up with music and they are bobbing around in their own private world. They are listening in to a beat that stirs their souls and their bodies but you are not privy to the words or the music. They are "lost in wonder, love, and praise" as old Charles Wesley once wrote.

It's a sight to behold to see someone possessed with an unseen spirit. Reminds me of something straight out of the pages of the bible when the words say, "the demon caused him to flail around and dance about." Actually the word "demon" in the bible has a history. Demons in the real old days did not connote "bad." To be possessed by a demon could be good. A demon was simply a spirit beyond self that was powerful enough to possess you.

Well...back to my demon that overwhelmed me just after my run. At first I did not know why old shy-not liking to dance-me found myself jiving around near my driveway not seeming to care who might be watching and wondering. Was it the words, the beat, the music? After an initial pause to see if anyone might be driving by...or driving by and having stopped to look...I listened to the words. Ah...not only was it the beat of the bouncing spirit. I realized that I liked the words. They reminded me of another song...a hymn...but not one of those dreary, dirge-like hymns. This hymn makes you want to dance. In fact this hymn is dance:

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance then wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance said he
And I'll lead you all wherever you may be
I'll lead you all in the dance said he...

So what was this other not so religious song that captured my early morning spirit? Alas it was the Avett Brothers singing, "Dancing Daze." At first it was the upbeat music that made me dance around, but then I realized that the words reminded me of that one who "danced one morning when the sky turned black," even though its hard to dance "with the devil on your back." And then the dancing Lord goes on to say, "They buried my body and they thought I'd gone, but I am the dance and I still go on..."...and then the words I love, "They cut me down and leapt up high, I am the dance that will never never die...I'll live in you if you live in me...I am the Lord of the dance said he."

Okay so I was possessed that morning but here are the words from that mystical demon who is way good before demons turn way bad... The words were probably written about a girl who looked at life in a wonderful way...written by a guy who admired her "possessed" style of dealing with whatever came her "way" by dancing her "way" through good and bad times....Here goes...put on your ear plugs and have at it...

"I've seen the way you look at things
The troubles that this life will bring
If it gets to you then I can tell by the way you sing
You act like it just doesn't mean a thing

I see you dancin all your, dancin all your, dancin all your daze
Maybe you can tell me how it is you got that way
Dancin all your dancin all your dancin all your daze
Come on, come on, there's got to be a way

There's all these things that get me down
The dirty world is full of clowns
They build you up just so they can knock you down
Laugh at you while you're there on the ground
....but you...I see you dancin all your days

...I really like the way it feels
I look at you and it's real...

come on...come on that's got to be the way"

As I finished my possessed dance I thought of all those dear people to whom I try to minister who are really struggling with the bad demons of cancer, or loss of jobs, or mates who disappear, or children who go to far countries. I often wonder how some people get by...and then...I hear the words...."there's all these things that get me down"..."it's hard to dance with the devil on your back"....but then come those other words..."I've seen the way you deal with things...I see you dancing all your daze...come on, come on, show me the WAY"

He once said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life"....ah now I see.....one of those ways is to dance no matter what because there is one who is the Lord of the dance who even danced one Friday when the sky turned black....and who in spite of it all said, "I am the dance that will never never die...I'll live in you if you live in me...I am the Lord of the dance said he"

The way, the truth and the life.....dancing, all your, dancing all your, dancing all your days...come on come on that's got to be the way...

Bless you,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God, Gabriel, and Google

I wonder....if...

"Hey Gabe, google Jody Seymour and see what you get."

"But you're God for heaven's sake. Why do you need to google him?"

"Well, I've been sort of busy lately and I want to catch up. After all I've got other stuff I do besides keep up with those people of mine. Did you see that new galaxy that I started forming from that exploding star? What a show. And I've got it down to a couple of million years...the whole process. Why I might even start me a whole new set of creatures one of these days...but for now do what I said. Google that Seymour guy."

"Let's see. There's not really much here. He's written some stuff...and he's still doing that ministry thing you got him into. That's about it."

"I forgot. You're using that old slow thing of yours. Come over here and let me show you something. This is my personal computer. It's a lot faster than yours and the search engine on it...well...lets just say that when I use the term "google" it is an expression of sorts. The search engine I use makes Google look like an old black and white photo compared to a full length movie in 3-D."

"How come you've never let me use your computer?"

"I'm God and you're not."

"O, I forgot."

"Yea, I'm used to that"

"Well, what can you 'look up' on yours that I can't on mine?"

"I can search the heart. I can examine motives. I can research the 'why' of it all. Ah, Gabe there's far more to those people of mine than meets the eye. Why just come over here and look at my screen and what is reveals when 'I' google Seymour."


Bless you....(and with that Capital One credit card commercial as a reminder..."What's on your screen?"
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Front Porch

A famous person once said, "In my father's house there are many rooms." He was not talking about square footage. The actual word he used for "rooms" is better translated, "dwelling places."

A dwelling place is of course a place where you would enjoy "dwelling." For me that was my grandmother's front porch. On that porch filled with two rows of rocking chairs you could find everybody rocking back and forth, from the town drunk to the governor of the state. Everyone was welcome.

There was always a pot of coffee brewing to satisfy the thirst. That thirst could be for the bitter taste of the dark brew or it just might be for the deep need of the soul. Remember this was a dwelling place. It was no ordinary front porch. What made it special was not its location next to a busy highway. What made it a dwelling place was my grandmother who welcomed anyone who wanted to sit a while and talk. Somehow she left judging people behind in her own journey. Somewhere she decided that everyone deserved a cup of coffee, a rocking chair, and a listening ear.

Word got out that everybody was welcomed at "Hattie's house." The Mississippi delta heat was persistent and the old brown Sears's oscillating fan could only do so much to cool off the tired, weary pilgrims who rocked and drank hot coffee on that front porch. So why would they end up there?

I think it was the reality that everybody's story was valuable on that front porch. Status and even the penalties of the past seemed to be left at the gate that you opened when you walked up the sidewalk to the discover the ever present smell of coffee.

"Come sit a while and tell me your story." That is what people knew they would hear from Hattie. That...and a cup of coffee was all most anybody ever really needs.

Hattie is gone now. She told me when she was 93 that she was worn out and "needed to go home." I squeezed her hand and said, "I know grandma but I hate to lose you." She responded with another tighter squeeze and said, "Boy, I don't want to out-live myself."

When I conduct funerals I most always use those words, "in my father's house are many dwelling places." I use them because they are given to be used, but I mostly use them because of that front porch. I am confident that the dwelling place that I offer to those who sit before me who are grieving surely has a front porch. There are rocking chairs and I bet there's some coffee. There you can find Jesus and grandma rocking back and forth...and well...You can also fiind the types of people telling their stories who will probably surprise most of us since we have a bad habit of not leaving the judgement stuff at the front gate.

Bless you
jody jseymour@davidsonumc.org

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Common Good

The recent debate about health care reform and some words I heard recently about how there needs to be a movement toward the "common good" made me ask, "Just what is the common good?" It seems according to various sociologist that our culture has turned into one of "expressive individualism." The focus for what is valuable and what needs to be done in society is centered around "me and mine."

My right to have a gun, my right to decide about my health insurance, my right to worship where I please, my right to talk on my cell phone while I'm driving, and my right to drive what I damn well please no matter what the gas mileage seems to be part of the air we breathe. I too breathe this air. I like "my rights."

But there is another question: Just what is "community?" Is there something "real" like community? Is community as real as the individual or is community simply what you get when you add up all of our individual "rights?"

I'm beginning to think that the "common good" is something like an old IBM electric typewriter trying to get its message out in a world full of I-Pods and Blackberries. We see the words but we do no pay much attention. It is an old message from a by-gone era.

But with the typewriter sound in the background we experience the highest murder rate by handguns of any developed nation in the world, we keep up our addiction to oil that is in the hands of those who make us have a foreign policy that keeps us fighting all the time, we continue to warm up our air and oceans and claim its our right to do so, and we talk, talk, talk, while we drive, drive, drive...and don't tell us we can't.

Is the common good a museum piece? Why are we so afraid of loosing our individual rights? Is there any room anymore for giving up at least a small amount of something for me so that "you" might have something? Are we standing in fear-filled lines for swine flu vaccine in part because we are "infected" with a far more serious virus known as the "expressive individualism" disease? What would be a vaccine for such a pandemic?

There are some very old words that were given even before the IBM dinosaur. They are words from the ages which speak of community being more important than any one individual in the community. The words do not come from Karl Marx. They come from crusty old prophets who proclaimed that God cared for those who were struggling in the community and the individuals in that community better start caring for them or there would be judgement.

In this community there was a responsibility to care for the orphan, the widow, and especially the stranger. Later on a faith descendant of those prophets showed up on the scene and declared that the way to "salvation" and balance in life and society was to "clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and give grace to the stranger."

After the society of the day got rid of this trouble maker who was messing up individual rights those who decided to follow his way... anyway... formed a "community" where it is written in that old document called the Bible that "when anyone was in need the members of the community brought what they had and laid it at the feet of the apostles so that no one would be 'without.'"

Those who wish to follow this "old way" have a source for understanding the common good...but there are too many people like me who are too busy talking and driving to pay much attention to that "old stuff." I have a sneaking suspicion that the common good would be well served if some individuals paid attention to some of that old stuff.

Bless you,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Rest is Light

Below is a poem I wrote for All Saints Day. I was inspired by the recent discovery of the latest Gama Ray Blast that occurred 13.5 billion years ago but the light from that "star explosion" traveling at the speed of light just arrived on the scene. I thought of this in the context of the phrase that comes from the Commendation that I use at the end of a Memorial service. I offer these words as I commend a person's soul to God: "Let perpetual light shine upon them...and may they be granted everlasting rest." The poem is entitled, "The Rest is Light"

The Rest is Light

Some distant star
its source so
far removed
Yet it is here
the now is
present in our
dark sky

Its radiance created
in the womb of
a distant birthing
But its light is in
the eyes of
our beholding
the moment

For the One who knows
the light also
holds the darkness
Our need is deep for
the shinning hope
that in the dark
there is presence

And so when we let go
of our breath
that is life
We are promised rest
that is deeper
than the darkest
night sky

"Let perpetual light
shine upon them"
echoes in the dark
And the wound-born
words from the
tomb now empty
the rest is light