Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Poem Night Sounds

Night Sounds

There was the sound that

seemed to them

like angels singing

but imaginations run deep

with shepherds

who spend long

nights waiting

for dawn

But this night dawn came

early, for the sounds

were accompanied by

dancing lights that seemed

like fire that

wanted to burn away

the fear that

filled them

“Do not be afraid,” the night sounds


and then spoke

of great joy that would

fill all the silences

that had been

waiting to be filled

including those

of lowly shepherds

And so they made their

own night sounds with

words that said

they would go down into

the sleepy town

that was so silent

but seemed to be

waiting on them

to come

And now the child waits

for you to listen

to the night sounds

because he wants to speak

into your fear

and say to you

that angels’ voices

spoke truth….

“Unto you is born a savior”

Jody Seymour

Christmas 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Can Anyone Love Hate so Much? What God Might Have Said to the Hijackers.

How Can Anyone Love Hate so Much?

On this anniversary of 9-11 I still wonder how those who flew the planes into our buildings and our souls could love hate so much. When I see the haunting faces of those young men who piloted the planes I ponder where exactly was the crossroad where they stepped into the land of shadows; a place where they could only see reflections of an enemy that needed to be attacked simply because we were “the other.”

The way they lived among us and calculated their task in such a way as to inflict maximum pain in the most visible way possible reveals the depth of their love of hate for us. “What did we do to you that you wanted to hurt us so much,” I want to ask the faces on the TV screen? But there will be no answer because they took the questions with them along with the innocent lives of so many to the ashes that they longed to create.

“You will be martyrs for Allah as you fight this Jihad,” is what they were told and they believed it. Somehow they were going to be rewarded in Paradise for their hate.

As the famous Dr. Phil expression so goes, “How did that work out for you?” If Paradise is what I think it is and not what they imagined it to be there was quite a surprise waiting for these martyrs.

I can hear it now as they faced the God they longed to meet:

God: What in the hell were you thinking. Yes you heard me right. This was Hell

you created. Don’t go calling what you did anything to do with Heaven.

You see all those people coming from around the corner over there?

Those are the lives you took. Many of them are still wiping the sleep from

their eyes assuming that this must have been a bad dream. I’ll be spending

some time with them in a moment but for now sit down and listen.

Whoever told you that I was the one you did this for got lost a long time

ago. No religion owns me or has the right to use my name to justify their

cause. In a book they now call the Bible, some of the stories sound like I

like that kind of stuff but those folks got it wrong too. O I know they call

it the Word of God but it needs to be interpreted and studied for what it

is rather than trying to make it what it is not. If you listen between the

the lines of that book, I clearly say that no one or no religion has a

monopoly on me. You people just can’t get over trying to do that.

Now about your religion; Yes, I know you have your sacred book but

you have done the same thing with it that many Christians and Jews

do with their sacred text. You have made it conform to your narrow

view of life and of me. Now you know I am bigger than any word,

any book, or any religion.

What you think you did for me you actually did for you. Your religion led

you to hate my children and the hellish part of it is that you did it

in the my name. By the way I do not have a name. All your names

for me are more a reflection of you than of me. In all of your sacred

books you kept wanting to name me and I resisted all of your efforts.

The only reason I allowed you to use names for me is that you kept

wanting to claim me. I realize now that I should have not given you

even that privilege because you have misused it.

You have a lot to learn about me but there’s time now for you to

learn. For now, I want you to come over here and meet the people

whose lives you took. You did not know their stories but I did.

Now it is time for you to learn their stories. You got lost in your

own story and thought it was the only one. And when you claimed

me as the narrator of your story you were so very wrong.

So now it is no longer 9-11. It is 9-12 forever. I wish I could send

you back to tell others of your mistake. When will my people ever


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dirt and Dough

Dirt and Dough

His hands were in the dirt and hers were in the dough. Earl was a gravedigger and his wife May baked cakes for the upper crust of the delta Mississippi culture. They lived next door to my grandma and were like family.

Earl weighed all of 110 pounds soaking wet but May made up for it. She must have been kin to the Pillsbury doughboy or it could be that she loved her own product a little too much. She sort of wobbled when she walked but she sure could make a fine cake.

She made her living selling beautiful cake creations and Earl made a living in the dying business. As a young eager child I often watched May prepare her cakes. Her kitchen counters were often covered with dozens of pans filled with sweet recipes known only to her.

I also once was able to witness Earl do his handiwork. Just like May ended up most mornings covered with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar and dough so Earl came home most days covered in shades of Mississippi mud. He began his work with a backhoe but the fine tuning had to be done by hand. It was messy work but someone had to do it.

I always thought they made an interesting pair; thin and chunky, sweet and bitter, dirt and dough. One of their professions was necessary, the other was elective; but both were good at what they did.

Earl got a good laugh out of the reality that when I traveled down south my first summer of high school I told him that my summer job was digging graves and cutting grass for the Department of Cemeteries in my home town. I was now part of a strange brotherhood.

I often tell people some interesting stories that come from my four years of digging graves. We gravediggers have a certain code so I can’t tell you everything. Suffice it to say that I love sharing some of my cemetery stories which end with, “Yes, you might say that when it comes to the ministry I worked my way from the ground up.”

One perk that came from my days between the tombstones was that after a few days our orders were to either toss the flowers that surrounded a freshly covered grave or pile them on top of the site so that we could mow around it. After all, life must go on after death.

I would often glean some of the flowers that still had life in them and surprise my girlfriend at her cheerleading practice by presenting her with a bouquet of roses or even lilies. The other girls were impressed not only by my amazing tan but by the chivalry of the flower delivery. It must have worked because that cheerleader is now my dear wife.

May made many people happy with her cakes and Earl provided a necessary service for those whose cake eating days had come to a close. In my work now I love being present for the sweet times; baptizing babies, marrying starry eyed lovers, creating engaging worship experiences, and once in a while knowing that I nailed a good sermon. It is like being dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

And of course there are those end times that are not so sweet; doing the funeral of a stillborn infant, holding the hand of the person who just got the bad diagnosis, listening as someone shares the death of a dream or a relationship, and standing beside someone who just knows that God is dead.

Life is too short not to eat cake so eat cake. And yes there is a grave at the end of every life story but the grave is not the end; trust me I know.

I don’t work for the Cemetery Department anymore but the agency I work for now assures me that beyond the dirt there is the dough. The likes of May are preparing divine desserts. I’m sure of it.

So in the words of Jesus loosely translated: “Smell the wildflowers, pay attention to the birds of the air, notice children, offer grace every chance you get and don’t worry so much about the grave because May and I are preparing a place for you so save room for dessert. Earl’s work was honorable but his efforts were not the last word. Life is full of dirt and dough but in the end it will all be ok…trust me.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What if Jesus Had a Blog

If Jesus Had a Blog


            If Jesus had a blog I wonder what he would have written?  Maybe something like:


            I can’t believe it.  I made this wine the other day for a party after they ran out and still some people complained that there was not enough Merlot.  Then the Chardonnay crowd asked what year was the vintage? Speaking of fruit, I wanted to remind them of that story about that first couple who picked some fruit that they were supposed to leave on the tree. Those folks at the party needed to be made aware that even though Adam and Ever were not picking grapes it was then that the wrong questions started to be asked, but I decided just to let them enjoy the party.

            Then the other day I had to break up a fight between James and John.  They both wanted to be “number one.”  I tried to tell them that being number one on my team might mean being the water boy instead of the quarterback but they only looked at me like I had two heads.

            I guess the thing that surprises me most about people is how no one seems to be paying attention to life.  In the midst of some theological debate the other day between Peter and Thomas I put my hand up and told them to hush up.  Then I made the whole lot sit down right where they were standing.

            It happened to be in the middle of a field and I’m sure they wondered why I told them to sit.  I then asked them where it was that they were sitting.  Thomas said, “Well it’s a field Lord.”  “Yes but what’s in the field?”

            Finally Matthew said, “Uh flowers?”  I then picked one of the wild flowers and held it in front of Peter.  He always wants to be the leader so I thought I would give him a chance.

            “Peter, what is this?”  He looked at me as if he felt sorry for me and responded, “It’s a flower Lord.”  “Well ponder this flower for a while and you’ll start understanding that life is more than the worry all of you have about who is first and what we are going to eat tomorrow.”

            No one said anything for a while, which was good.  I need to teach this bunch how to be silent and listen.  There is going to come a time when they will need that skill.

            I had an interesting conversation the other day with a woman at a well.  I needed to be away by myself and besides I was thirsty.  This woman was there when I arrived and she started to hurry off knowing that she was not supposed to be seen alone with a man especially in the middle of the day.

            I stopped her and asked her if she could lower the bucket and get me a drink since she was getting ready to fill her water jug.  “I’m not supposed to even be talking to you.  Number one, I am a woman and you are a man; and number two I can see that you are a Jew and you obviously know I am a Samaritan.”

            “What if I told you I don’t care about number one or number two?  I care about you and besides I’m thirsty.  By the way what if I told you that I could give you the kind of water that would quench your thirst forever?”

            “The well’s not that deep sir.”

            “Maybe you ought to go ask your husband about all this.”

            “Well I don’t really have a husband at the moment.”

            “I see…then these guys you are hanging around, who are they.”

            “How did you know that?”

            “I know things.”

            “Are you some kind of prophet?”

            “You could say that.”

            “A lot of us have been looking for a really great prophet to come along and finally set thing right.”

            “What if I told you that I’m your guy?  How about a drink of that water; yours and mine…”

            It was an interesting conversation and unlike my dear thick headed disciples I think she understood what was going on.  I’m pretty sure her life will never be the same.

            Well this blogging thing is interesting.  I might keep it up but then things are getting rather hectic so hopefully some other folks will write down some of what I’m doing and what I’m trying to say.

            That’s all for now and if you’re reading this remember, “Blessed are those who have eyes to see and who really take the time to see.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reverend Will B. Done Finally Meets God

Reverend Will B Done Finally Meets God

I still remember the day I attended a seminar entitled, “The Scandal of the Gospel” led by Doug Marlette, the creator of the cartoon “Kudzu,” and Will Campbell who was known as a renegade preacher who made a name for himself championing the cause of civil rights. This was in a day when to do so was greatly unpopular in the South. I looked forward to seeing what these two “characters” were going to do with how the gospel was scandalous.

As I walked into the building where the seminar was to be held there before me was none other than Reverend Will B. Done. Wait a minute. How could a cartoon character be waking there in front of me? It was a few moments later when Doug Marlette introduce Will Campbell that I realized that the cartoon character was based on the real life “character” of Will Campbell.

Will, being the kind of “character” he was, dressed the part that day. He dawned a wide brimmed black hat and bow tie just like the one Will B. Done wore in the cartoon strip. As he leaned over the podium, his opening words were something like, “I just want you to know that I’m damned tired of being associated with some cartoon.”

Obviously just the opposite was true. The cartoon character Will B. Done was a figure who was always wondering what God was up to. Reverend Done had a ministry to “the fabulously rich and famous,” or at least he aspired to have one. The real Will Campbell had a ministry to the down and out, the bigot, and those who were not about to set foot in any church.

Will himself got to where he did not want to set foot in a church either because he figured from experience that the church of his day had lost its way. He desired to spend time with drunks, folks in the KKK, and as one reporter put it “bourbon drinking down home country boys” like him.

As I picked up the newspaper that would tell me of Will’s death, I noticed a dead dragon fly on the outdoor table that was on my deck. Its transparent wings were frozen and its flying days were over. It was then that I picked up the newspaper to discover the news of Will’s death.

Reverend Will B. Done would have considered the dead dragon fly a sign from God. After all, the real Will wrote a book entitled, “Brother to a Dragon Fly.” As I read the article I too considered the now departed dragon fly a sign.

Will Campbell was a rugged rebel. He was uncomfortable with comfortable religion. I think he understood and loved the real Jesus; not the Jesus that has been made up by the church. The real Jesus was also uncomfortable with the religion of his day; a religion that kept building walls to keep people out rather than doors and bridges to invite people in.

Will knew that authentic religion was not about creeds but about God reaching down to the places where people expressed great need. He marched with black folk in those early Civil Rights protests alongside Martin Luther King Jr, but he also later marched through the prison gates to visit the man who pulled the trigger that killed King.

Will B. Done may have been a caricature of religion but Will Campbell was the kind of man that shed light on how religion itself can become a caricature of the real thing. So now both Will B. Done and Will Campbell get to meet God face to face. What a day.

Since the creator of Will B. Done was tragically killed in an accident I suppose that there will now be another seminar of sorts. Doug can draw eternal glimpses of what can be since he was so good at making us laugh at what is. And Will…well…heaven is going to be a livelier place with Will B. Done there.

We need Will Campbell’s rugged version of the faith. I think we need Will’s Jesus who spent time with those on the edge of religion. I think we need Doug’s reminder that we sometimes need to laugh at how silly some of religion can be. Yep, they’re having quite a seminar in heaven.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shall We Take the Darkness In?

Shall We Take the Darkness In?

(a response to the tragedy in Boston)

The darkness cuts into

our souls

like some switchblade

stuck into our gut

in the back alley

of doubt

Its hiddenness covers us

like a moldy blanket

cast over our heads-

the smell of it is

rank with crowded

grief and hate

We bleed and we gasp

for again

the darkness seems so

vast and deep and

we remember not

the light

And that is the victory

that must not be-

for light and life

are above and below

the lie that

is the darkness

We must tie off the wound

with torn rags

of love and compassion

and cast flowers over

the decay of the

wrong that wants to win

The darkness only wins if

we take it in-

Its desire is to have

our souls, but our

souls belong

to the light

The darkness cannot stand the flowers

that grow in the

ruin that becomes

the soil of new beginnings-


it cannot believe that

our scars are the

signs of our healing

The darkness cannot win

unless we take it in

Goodness is stronger

than evil

Jody Seymour

April 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Need for an Old Outfit

The Need for an Old Outfit


            Besides unbelievable heartbreak what should our response be to things like children being shot in their school rooms and bombs killing innocent bystanders at a road race?  One response could be a kind of “road rage” whereby we become even angrier than we often are. 

            We could build higher walls around ourselves, buy bigger and more powerful guns, and put on fear forged armor to protect ourselves from what is obviously a world full of threats.  Or we could try on that musty old coat that is in the attic wrapped up in what seems like a giant sandwich bag.

            The old coat is something someone used to wear but we deem it out of style.  To wear it now would indicate that we are living in the past or that we are simply not “with it.”  In an old book that many also judge to be out of date because the way forward it offers has to do with compassion and peace in the face of fear and violence; the “coat” is actually referred to as armor.

            I told you it is an old book.  The armor is molded with peace, faith, and truth.  It is even called the armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)  But it is now in the attic because it is considered old and outdated.

            The armor was first offered by someone who probably only possessed one outfit and who often had no place to lay his head.  His way of life is often held in high regard but much like an old piece of art it may be honored but to see it you have to go to a museum…or an attic.

            I suggest we go to the attic, clean off the dust, and put on the old suit.  It will keep us from adding to the cycle of violence and we might even find a new security in wearing an old garment.

            Or is any of this Jesus' stuff really relevant anymore?  Do we really believe in the gospel of peace?  Maybe Jesus did not understand the need for the second amendment or the appropriate response to terrorism.

            All I can say is that we keep trying new outfits and look where it is getting us.  I suggest we dust off the old suit and try it on.  It may even come back into style but then upon reflection I am not sure it was ever in style.

            Jesus one time even said wearing the old outfit was something like carrying a cross.  No wonder it is usually found in the attic.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

So How Many Does it Take to Carry a Cross?

So after the Good Friday service we had to move the 15 foot wooden cross from the sanctuary to the Fellowship Hall.  The man who made the cross created it such that it comes apart for storage and "handling."  Did you ever think about how you handle a cross?

Anyway we used it for the Friday evening service so that all who wished could come to the foot of the cross and kneel.  To look up at a 15 foot cross with black cloth hanging over the nails where hands would have been causes one to pause.  I read what is called "the Reproaches," which are a set of accusations from God and Jesus about "why in the heck did you do this to me?" 

We tend to think of Jesus "having to die" but we make all this too religious, too quick.  I believe Jesus had a choice or it was not love that died on the cross but obligation.  As a child I used to think, "Why couldn't Jesus have lived for our sins rather than die for our sins?"  He tried you know.

He offered a way of life that could have changed everything.  O sure it was and is a very radical way of life that accepts everybody no matter what stripe they are or religion they are or what sexual orientation they have on their sweatshirt, or if they are legal or illegal.  But folks did and do have trouble with this kind of acceptance.  We put limits on our love and then frame those limits with religious sounding rhetoric.

Jesus talked about living by the sword and dying by it.  His first legislation offered on gun control got him shot...well it got him beat up and nailed to a cross.  I'm not sure how tall his cross was.  It was probably not 15 feet.  They did not waste that much wood back then on the likes of crazy kings.

Jesus offered a kind of peace that the world cannot give and does not seem to want.  We think it is weak and foolish.  O we do not say that especially in church but we act it out in our lives and in our legislation.  We want to make sure that we have our rights to arms, our rights to citizenship, our rights to our own health care,  and our rights to make sure we are secure.

Jesus never talked about individual rights.  He broke open every one's closed concept of community.  His own disciples did not like how open the party was.  They had their own invitation list.  They spent a good deal of time trying to figure out Mohammad Ali's famous question, "Who is the greatest?"

Jesus offered a way of life that turns over most all of our established tables.  They got rid of him by using that smaller cross. We get rid of him by burying him with religious terms or ignoring his way and substituting religion about Jesus for the religion of Jesus.

So it took five of us to carry that 15 foot cross.  It was quite a scene.  We could barely get it through the church doors because we did not want to go the  trouble of taking it apart so we moved it as if it was not marked, "Assembly Required."  We slowly lifted it up and stood it in a place where they tell me that certain artistic angels will come in the night and hang hundreds of butterflies on it.  No more black cloth.  It's time for butterflies.

So this Easter know that his cross is heavy.  It takes work.  He hangs up there today to vividly remind us that living his way costs him and if we try it, it will cost us.  "Pick up your cross and follow me," he once said.  We wrote hymns about that but if we try it the world will change.  People will still think to live like Jesus asked us to live will be unreal and foolish.  Well read the story.  I do not know about you but I've sold him out and betrayed him by cashing in my 30 pieces of silver for a comfortable, nice, safe, religious life.

Forgive me Jesus.  Help me to take a chance on your way.  Your cross got my attention.