Vulture

V is for Vulture.

We’re getting to the end of this alphabet challenge and I’m starting to feel punchy. I thought about posting my picture taken at Laity Lodge of a turkey vulture and then accompanying it with vulture jokes.

But when I started looking up vulture jokes, they all sounded so familiar. It’s not that we sit around telling vulture jokes here, so I wondered if I had already written about them. Sure enough, yes, I had, in “Vultures (and a box full of Buechner).” If you’re interested in vulture jokes, you’ll have to go there.

I had forgotten that post because, at the time I wrote it, I was in a fog of grief regarding my brother’s death. There are a lot of things I don’t remember from that period.

But Frederick Buechner now occupies a significant chunk of shelf space and I like that.

The other day Andrew Peterson, my original inspiration for a vulture post this go-round, posted a picture of a t-shirt that said “Beek-ner“. The photo was captioned, “A gift from the Buechner Institute at King University. Educating non-Buechner fans one t-shirt at a time.”

Although, really, vultures have nothing to do with Andrew Peterson or Frederick Buechner.

I’m sure you’re scratching your head over this nonsense.

Welcome to my world — a jumble of thoughts and weird associations that I am forever picking through to try to make sense of things.

So back to vultures. And Laity Lodge.

I went on a hike there. We looked over a bluff. The view was spectacular.

IMG_6129And a turkey vulture seemed suspended over the canyon.

Like on a wild stringless mobile hanging over the world, moving on unseen currents, without ever seeming to have to use its broad extended wings.

Andrew Peterson’s song “Nothing to Say” is about a time when he is struck speechless by the beauty of Arizona.  He sings,

I see the eagles swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh, Lord, I never felt so small

Maybe he was watching turkey vultures.  They really are quite spectacular.

I see the vultures swim the canyon sea…

They just don’t sound as spectacular. In a song.

But they can be beautiful.

Concert

Before the concert

Before the concert

C is for concert.

Music weaves its way through the fabric of the days at Laity Lodge.

The sessions begin and end with song, usually old hymns for which the hymnbook may only be half-necessary.

Like the time we sang, “Shall We Gather at the River.”  I don’t really know all the verses to that one — just the chorus — so  I used the hymnal.  I got really confused, however, when the melody we sang didn’t match the music in front of me. It’s the plight of a music-reader to notice such things.

My favorite part of a concert is when the performer forgets their lyrics.  At that moment, something shifts from a performance to a sharing of imperfections, from an act on a stage to a friend who is willing to open up and reveal some deeper truth about themselves.

At the concert on the last night at Laity Lodge, the musicians sang their songs, forgot a few lyrics, and then gave us the privilege of hearing some new material.

“You mind if I share a new song?”

No, no, we didn’t mind at all when both Andrew Peterson and Andy Gullahorn asked that question. It was a pleasure to be their guinea pigs.

AP singing a new song

AP singing a new song

At times, the vulnerability made me want to look away.

How hard it must be to expose fears and struggles — from a stage. A few lines from one new AP song —

I tried to be brave and I hid in the dark.
I sat in that cave and I prayed for a spark
To burn up all the pain that remained in my heart,
But the rain kept falling down.

AP also sang a song dedicated to his wife asking if they would survive and I ached inside for them. At that moment, I wished my husband were beside me so I could slide my hand into his warmer, larger hand, and feel the squeeze of reassurance.

Beauty lives in the hard places — and we need to be reminded of that.

We do survive.

And even those who don’t can experience new life in other ways.

Easter is especially a time to be mindful of that.

Out of our greatest grief comes our greatest joy.

Thanks for the concert and the reminders.

 

 

Ash Wednesday

It was an ominous way to begin Lent.

An early morning phone call let me know that my oldest brother, Stewart, had passed away from a heart attack.

And I stood in the kitchen, and I stared at the wall
And I prayed for some wisdom, so I could make a little sense of it all.
And I thought about the seasons, and how quickly they pass
Now there’s little to do but hope that the good ones will last…

Andrew Peterson, “Three Days Before Autumn”

I stood in the kitchen this morning, but I didn’t stare at the wall. I left the lights off and stood at the window, waiting for the sunrise.

Some sunrises are so spectacular with bursts of color lighting my horizon. I could have written, then, about how God spoke to me in the richness of the dawn, in the vast of array of pinks and golds and purples and oranges.

But He gave me an unassuming dawn, black to deep blue to gray. Gray. Non-descript.

I felt dull, like the sunrise.

My eyes filled with tears and I can’t even tell you why.

Stewart called me for my birthday, but I wasn’t home. He said he would call back, but he never did.

I had thought about it. I should call him, I thought, but I never picked up the phone.

And it’s easy enough to say, “He’s better off,
Chalk it up to the luck of the draw,
Life is tough, it was his time to go,
That’s all.”
Well, I don’t know about that…

Andrew Peterson, “Three Days Before Autumn”

Life is so short.  Just yesterday, I had been looking at Isaiah 40 —

The grass withers,
the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.

I had thought about the Tenebrae services a woman at Laity Lodge had described to me, with candles being extinguished one by one until the church was in total darkness. I had been thinking about the breath of the Lord, withering the grass, blowing out the candles, one by one.

Our world is dark and sad.

I suppose that’s an appropriate place to start Lent, in the darkness and sadness of a broken world. Surely the people are grass. Surely Stewart is grass. Surely I am grass.

The grass withers,
the flower fades,
but the word of our Lord will stand forever.

I suppose that’s an appropriate place to start Lent, too.

Beyond this grassy withered world, there is eternity. And it is filled with hope.

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