Amy

Amy Gregory

Amy Gregory

One thing is for sure about Amy — she knows how to rejoice.

Easter with Amy is a joyful celebration complete with silly string, confetti, streamers, caterpillars-turning-to-butterflies, and the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s like glitter.

Anyone who has ever worked with glitter knows how impossible it is to clean. The tiniest bit used in a craft project will show up for the next week on the table, on hands, on clothes, on faces — everywhere!

But Amy — my heart was broken to learn that Pastor Amy is moving on to a new church.

When Bud and I made the decision five years ago to move from the non-denominational church we had been attending to the United Methodist church in town, we sat down with the pastor at our current church to let him know what we were thinking and doing.

“You know,” he said, “Methodist pastors only stay in a place about 7 years. They move them around.”

Pshaw, I thought.

That was not what I was thinking last night.

I can remember the first time I saw Amy. It was at Helen’s Baccalaureate service. Amy was put in an awkward position and handled it with such grace.

Get to know her, God whispered in my heart.

Um, God, maybe you didn’t notice — she’s a woman. A woman pastor? I responded.

Sometimes it’s funny the things God doesn’t notice.

Still He niggled at me — about Amy.

It was probably close to two years later that we started attending the church she was pastoring.

Can I be honest here? Amy and I probably don’t see every issue the same way.

But Amy is like glitter. She got on my hands and in my heart.

I see little sparkles in the darnedest places where Amy has left her mark.

I see many issues differently. I understand them differently.

I am more compassionate because I’ve known Amy.

My pshaw has turned to aww… to sadness. Sadness for a church that will feel her absence. Sadness for me because I like things to always stay the same, and I don’t like change, and I don’t want Amy to ever leave ever ever ever — even though we’re staying in Cooperstown most of these days and don’t even go to the church in Greene. I just want Amy to stay where I knew her forever.

But glitter.

It spreads. It sparkles. Spreads and sparkles, spreads and sparkles — showing up everywhere.

I guess it’s important for Amy to move on. Throw a little glitter around somewhere else.

I, in turn, will not try to get the glitter in my heart cleaned up.

I’ll proudly display it like a Grandma Moses snow scene — sparkling and joyful.

For Amy.

Show Me Something Cool

I was clicking through all my pictures and almost clicked past it.

Another blurry picture, I thought.

I’m an expert at the blurry snapshot. In the days of film cameras, that talent was especially frustrating. I’d get back a whole roll of nothing but blur — and have to pay for it.

These are the kind of pictures I often take. I think this was supposed to be the reflection of the moon in a puddle. It was sandwiched in with a whole bunch of other moon pictures.  I remember that evening walk, seeing the moon’s reflection in a roadside puddle, taking the picture, knowing that I didn’t have enough light.

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Karl is playing tennis somewhere in this photo. In the days of film cameras, I would have thought that I somehow double-exposed, but I don’t think I can do that with my phone. I don’t know how it happened.dsc04086

At least in this blurry shot, there’s a sense of what the picture was all about. We were setting up the family photo at Christmas, arranging people on the stairs, and I snapped this. I love to catch my children laughing, and they were laughing at something here.  Something blurry.img_0988

This is the one I almost clicked past, but I paused and looked at it. It was a little ironic, because that’s what I did the day I saw it.img_1129

I remembered the day I had taken a walk in town. I parked in front of the library and before I started out, I prayed a little prayer Andrew Peterson had talked about once at Hutchmoot — Lord, show me something cool.

Because I walk the same route over and over, even though it’s Cooperstown and beautiful, I start missing the beauty and wonder of it.

Lord, show me something cool — and half a block later, there was this decapitated, one-legged Lego man, half on the curb, half in the street.

I stepped over it, barely noticing, and took about three more steps. Did I just miss something cool?

I walked back, took the not-blurry picture, and continued my walk, turning that little dead Lego man over and over in my mind. Should I have scooped him up and thrown him away? Should I have scooped him up and found a head for him? Should I have left him there for the street cleaner or another passerby, maybe even a child?

I did leave him there — but he didn’t leave me.

He reminded me of the hurting world we live in — a world of poverty, not just of material goods, but of the soul.

Where we fail to think of the other person.

Where we hoard all the things with which we should be generous.

Where we forget whence we came.

Lord, show me something cool.

Cool things come in unexpected shapes and sizes and places. A broken toy in the gutter can become a whole sermon.

Blatherings about Birches and Flexibility

I drove into town this morning for a Bible study but the church was locked up. I felt a little irritated. No one had let me know that it was cancelled. Or postponed. Or whatever happened. Although I had only attended once before, I felt like someone should have told me.

Hmph.

I expected them to be flexible with me in my sporadic attendance, and yet I was not being flexible with them.

In my heart, I mean. This was all taking place at a heart level. I wasn’t really that upset. I was being stretched.

Bud and I used to get a little irritated at the Christian-ese expression of “being stretched.” When someone was undergoing a trial, the “Christian” response included glib statements like, “I guess the Lord is stretching you” or “me” or “him” or “her” or whoever.

I guess I’m growing up. And growing more flexible.

But there’s still so much more room for improvement. Will I ever reach a day when I’m not irritated by a small inconvenience?


My father planted white birch trees along the north border of his lawn.

Over the years, some have grown quite tall. One bends quite low these days, showing the resiliency and flexibility that is its nature. My father comments on it every time he looks out the window.

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Robert Frost says the birch is “the only native tree that dares to lean” — and lean it does. Its pliancy and resiliency are remarkable.


I’ve been going for long walks lately, and I feel the tightness in my legs. Yesterday I told myself that I need to start stretching again. As a coach, I’m aware of the different types of fitness: muscle strength, muscle endurance, cardio endurance, and flexibility. Flexibility takes the longest to gain, but it also is the slowest to lose.

In our muscles. In our lives.


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My friend, Alyssa, wrote about aspens, their frailty, their humility, the way their leaves tremble in community. I remember the day I first read that post. I wept because my brother’s death was still fresh and painful, and I knew she was telling me of a community weeping with me.

This morning I looked at the birch and knew that it had lessons for me, too.

To bend and not to break.

To keep working to develop that flexibility that will stay with me for a long time. The more I exercise it, the more flexible I will become.

I found myself grateful for a missed Bible study.

 

Threshold

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Embattled as we are, we sound retreat
Sometimes we need a respite from the storm
To step away is not to cry defeat

Embattled as we are, we sound retreat
To solitude, to quiet oh-so-sweet
To limestone that the sun has warmed

Embattled as we are, we sound retreat
Sometimes we need a respite from the storm


Threshold at Laity Lodge in Texas is one of my favorite places in the whole world.

I’ve been there to watch the sun rise, and I’ve been there to watch the sun set — and I’ve been there at all hours in between.

It is peaceful and strong and restful and restorative. Who knew that a piece of art could do all that?

I probably have hundreds of photographs of Threshold — from close-ups of insects climbing on the limestone to all-encompassing shots taken from a distance as I walked around it to shots taken with her walls.

In Threshold, I recognize Psalm 48. I have numbered her towers – one – and  considered well her ramparts. It’s not Zion, but it points me in that direction.

Looking out from Threshold

Looking out from Threshold

looking up from inside Threshold

looking up from inside Threshold

One of my favorite people soaking in Threshold's goodness

One of my favorite people soaking in Threshold’s goodness

Cigarette Smoke

Among my “don’t likes” —
(cough, cough) this scent (so sorry)
— smoke de cigarette


This summer I hope to go on my very first every mission trip.

With a team from my church and beyond, I’ll be working alongside a family to help build a house for them. A Muslim family.

On the interest sheet, it says I need the ability to:

  • Carry heavy blocks (check)
  • Walk up hill (check)
  • Abstain from alcohol for the time in Bosnia (check)
  • Tolerate cigarette smoke (cough, cough – check)

I’m not a fan of cigarette smoke. There was a time in my life when it didn’t bother me, but sometimes now I feel almost hyper-sensitive to it.

It’s not just that it hangs in the room like low-lying cloud. It’s not just that it stings my eyes and makes me cough. But it sticks to my clothing and my hair. It lingers.

When my brother passed away, I had to stop at one of his friend’s apartments to get a key — and a cloud of smoke escaped when they opened the door to let me in. Once inside, in the smoke-filled the room, I felt my eyes burning. We talked in their tiny living room and I had to fight the urge to cough.

But I reminded myself that these were people who Stewart loved and that loved Stewart. Because of that, I could tolerate — I would tolerate — the cigarette smoke. Love makes so many things possible.

IMG_5087[1]When I think about my trip, I find myself almost looking forward to that lingering smell, too. Afterwards, when I get back home, will I pull something from my bag that smells of cigarette smoke, put it to my nose, and smile because of some memory it evokes?

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Love works all kinds of miracles.

Truth — An Allegory

Beleaguered Truth walked slowly into the public square.

Tired hands held the pole which was seated in the cup of the worn strap around her neck. No longer was her flag high and proud. Her arms, so very weary, could not keep the staff close to her breast and so it dipped.

TRUTH — the tattered flag proclaimed.

And Truth herself walked slowly in amongst the crowd.

Few stepped back to make way.

Some stopped and pointed and jeered.

Still she walked.

Eyes down.

So weary.

Her knuckles were dry and cracked, weatherbeaten.

Her robe, once white, was now dingy, like January’s snow in March.

She walked into the square, heading for the center, to stand where all could see.

Someone stuck out a foot — to be funny, to be mean, to earn a few guffaws and high-fives.

Somebody stuck out their foot, and Truth stumbled.

The sound of the pole clattering on the stones silenced the crowd, but only momentarily.

A cry erupted — “Replace Her! Replace Her!”

Her flag was ripped from the pole and a new one tied on.

Together the crowd lifted it high.

I couldn’t read what it said.

I was too busy trying to make my way to Truth who was being trampled by the mob.


Isaiah 59:14 “…for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.”