Ordinary Time

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I don’t know much about liturgy and all the festivals and feasts that some of the church denominations observe throughout the year. But I have been sitting in a pew long enough to know that there are some special times in the church year, like Advent and Epiphany and Lent and Pentecost.

I like the rhythm of seasonal celebrations. They provide a framework for certain kinds of devotional reading and reflecting. December is for entering into the Nativity, March or April for remembering the cross and the empty grave. But what about now? Is there any high and holy day we’re missing in July?

Since we are equidistance from both Easter and Christmas, I assumed there would be a special observance smack dab in between the big ones. Instead, I was intrigued to find that the part of the liturgical calendar we are currently in is called “Ordinary Time”.

Ordinary Time.

It turns out that this season is the longest, which seems fitting.

So many of our days are routine, unremarkable, commonplace.

Could Ordinary Days be the best days of all?

No gifts to buy, no decorations to create, no traditions to uphold.

No cut-out cookies, no chocolate bunnies, no hustle and bustle.

Instead,

a day to wake up and walk in the early morning air,

a day to make some sandwiches and wash some dishes,

a day to pull some weeds and arrange some flowers,

a day to love some people and serve some brothers and sisters,

a day to laugh or cry or wait or move,

a day to lift my eyes and and listen for trumpet sound —

that’s an ordinary day in Ordinary Time that becomes extraordinary.

Happy Ordinary Time, my friends!

Celebrate this extraordinary day!

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Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Romans 12:1, The Message

Incubation

I have learned a valuable lesson.

Here it is:

It takes me three weeks to learn valuable lessons.

I read a bad book on writing. A person probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to a badly written book on writing. There was one redeeming sentence, though, and I took it to heart.

“If you want to be a writer

you need to write one thousand words,

every day,

Monday through Friday,

for the rest of your life.”

Three weeks ago I set out to obey this commandment. I wrote whatever came into my early morning fog-brain. I whined. I complained. I rambled. I typed out numbers and dates to add to my word count. (Two thousand and sixteen — that’s four words.) I stopped at exactly 1000 words every morning for two weeks. I wanted to quit when I read back the blather and twaddle that I found on those pages. Terrible stuff. But I kept going.

After the third week, two things happened.

First, I came to my senses and realized I could make my own rules and set my own goals. I don’t have to follow someone else’s idea of what is required to become a writer. Especially someone who wrote a bad book on writing.  I tweaked the word count and assigned a topic. Monday through Friday, for the rest of my life.

Second, I had a divine moment of clarity. All that drivel I had been spewing for three weeks finally cleared the way for deeper understanding, renewed purpose, and clearer vision. Once the gunk was gone, creativity had a chance to flow.

It was a hard climb, but worth the trouble. Slightly out of breath, I feel like I’m on the edge of a huge scenic overlook and am just now getting a view of a sweeping panorama that I didn’t know was coming. (Cue the soundtrack.) I have been slogging up an incline with nothing in my sights, just plodding along in the underbrush, unaware of how far the climb will be. Then, one day, there is space and sky and vista. (Crescendo violins.)

Incubation time is more necessary than I realized.

Three weeks.

I need to let an idea sit for three weeks and see what hatches.

I need to stick with a discipline for twenty one days to see what develops.

That’s a valuable lesson.

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The Silver Drawer

“It is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.” Zechariah 10:1

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The sound of a thunderstorm makes some people nervous, but I’ve always loved the rumble in the heavens. When I was little, we would sit on the front porch and watch the summer storm clouds roll in over the cornfields. I must have picked up on my mother’s calmness, because I never felt the urge to dive under my bed and plug my ears. Instead, we counted the seconds between thunder claps and lightning bolts as we kept an eye out for the men coming in from the field.

Occasionally, if the skies turned an eerie yellow and the air hung heavy, we would scamper down to the basement to wait out the windstorm. A call always went out as we hurried down the stairs, “Don’t forget the silver drawer.”

The silver drawer was pulled out of the hutch and carefully carried down the steps to safety. Those knives and forks were the real deal, not stainless steel every-day utensils. This was silver silverware — the kind that needed to be polished before every holiday meal. The kind that was washed and dried by hand so it wouldn’t tarnish. The kind that was rolled up in felt pouches and placed into a special wooden chest. The kind you would take to the cellar if there happened to be a tornado warning.

I didn’t understand the value of that treasured box at the time. I grew up thinking that every family kept their drawer full of silverware close by during times of trouble.

Thunder still congers up feelings of family and safety and the fun of unexpected time together in the basement on a muggy summer evening. Today that silverware is in my house, in the same hutch, in the same chest, in the same felt pouches. And, naturally, I will haul that drawer downstairs if the winds blow hard enough.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.”   Psalm 29:3

10 Things I Learned in June

 

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1. If I hadn’t picked out the name “Nonnie”, I’m pretty sure my grandma-name would be “Peaches”. I had my daughter ask Hud Bud, “What is one word you think of when you think of Nonnie?” His answer was, “Peaches”. He does love to eat my frozen peaches.

2. My Facebook post, “The peach truck is in town today” got more comments than cute pics of grands. I felt a little like Winthrop Paroo singing, “The Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street…” I bought 50 pounds of Georgia sunshine. Soon I’ll be up to my elbows in sticky juice. I’ve got to do it — Hud Bud is counting on me. (See #1) (I’ll try not to mention peaches in all 10 Things.)

3. I spent June in the book of Psalms. Psalm 65 was especially meaningful and full of lovely phrases in the Common English version. “To You even silence is praise.” “We are filled full.” “You calm the noise of the nations.” “You make the gateways of morning and evening sing for joy.” And my favorite: “Thy paths drop fatness.” It’s delightful to read the same thing in different versions and see what pops. The KJV won the prize with “Thy paths drop fatness.” Goodness gracious.

4. PB has been adding a funny phrase at the end his thinking-out-loud idea sessions. Sometimes it sounds like a sincere request, other times it seems more like a double-dare to counter his ingenuity. It’s a strong wallop of an ending, intending to scare me off from throwing a wet towel on the idea, I suppose. “What do you think of that?” he says. Except it sounds more like “Whuduya think of THAT?”

5. I have decided what will be engraved on PB’s gravestone. (See #4.)

6. Someone has a list with my name on the top. I met a friend for lunch and soon after we sat down in a quaint booth, she pulled out her Notes app on her phone. She had a “Dinah” list — all the things she’s been wanting to ask me or pick my brain about. Having my very own list on her phone was a compliment of the highest order.

7. Binge watching a TV series is fun, once in a great while. PB and I watched the entire first season of “Poldark” in three nights. The PBS series is set in Cornwall, England in the late 1700s. PB was hooked after episode one. I was hooked after the opening panoramic scene of ocean waves crashing against the cliffs. My ancestors came from Cornwall and I kept looking for my great-great-great-grandparents Matthew and Mary Biddick from Trewince Farm at St. Issey Parish to show up on screen.

8. Gathering people on the back porch is an old-fashioned thing to do, and should be brought back. We had 22 people on our porch one night this month, eating cookies and drinking lemonade and telling stories. It reminded me of the Acts 2 church that met in each other’s homes, shared simple food with gladness and praised God together.

9. Quote of the month: “So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.”  From a keynote graduation speech given by Neil Gaiman.

10. I am sad when June comes to a close. June is so full of summer while there is still lots of summer to come. Once July hits, there is a quiet panic in the background of my mind, whispering, “The rest of summer will fly by and you can’t stop it.” And I begin to get edgy about what I need to prepare for fall. I am deliberately putting off the panic until August. Let’s enjoy July.

Men From My Past

Oh. You probably thought I was going to share about my 4th grade crush or my sophomore prom date.  Sorry.  PB is the only man in my heart, but there are lots of fascinating men in my past.

Today I’d like to introduce John Dudley Powell.

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Isn’t he a handsome feller?

It’s his birthday today. He’s 158 years old.

John Powell was my great-grandmother’s brother. He was born on June 24, 1858 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. When J.D. was 28 years old, he took his new bride, Lola, to homestead in Montana. His parents and four brothers also went west, leaving my great-grandmother behind in Wisconsin with her husband, two little girls and newborn son.

John and Lola spent five years in Jefferson City, Montana, and then went to the town of Pony, where their only child, Hollis, was born. Soon after, they settled in Livingston, Montana, where John went into business with Amos Shaw. Together they formed the Shaw & Powell Camping Company in 1898.

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They were among the first to take wagon-loads of tourists through Yellowstone National Park. As business grew, they built permanent overnight camps with luxury accommodations.

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This article was from a Shaw & Powell satisfied customer:

“It is in the Shaw & Powell Yellowstone camps that the whole-hearted good spirit of a holiday recreation is found. No tourist can hope to make such a trip without at once becoming a member of the Shaw & Powell family of grown-up children out for a Sunday School picnic that lasts every inch of the 146 miles through the wonderland. . . . Seven permanent camps are operated by the company through the park. In these camps the main buildings, such as dining rooms, kitchen and general reception hall, are of log construction, sanitary and fly-proof. The sleeping quarters are of semi-tent construction with board floors and walls, wooden panel doors and furnished with beds that equal the comforts of most any home.
     The cuisine of the Shaw & Powell method is a point which no tourist will overlook. The company owns and operates its own truck gardens, which furnish each camp with a supply of fresh vegetables as needed. Fresh milk and cream are obtained daily from private dairies and all meals, prepared by the most efficient of women cooks, are served by young women of refinement. Maids are employed at every camp to attend women travelers who are unescorted.
    The Shaw & Powell company provides a variety of park tours averaging four, five and six days within the park. The cost is not in excess of $35, which it should be borne in mind, includes all meals, sleeping accommodations and the trip from point to point in large, clean coaches.” 

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They even had their own dishes with the exclusive Shaw & Powell logo.

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If you ever see one of these at a garage sale or thrift store, please buy it and send it to me. One evening, when the cook took sick, John and Lola cooked supper for the campers. He might have touched this very bowl.

My great uncle John D. was in the right place at the right time and cashed in on the tourist business. In his letters to his sister back in Wisconsin, he expressed great love for “The Park”.

People who were among the first to see Yellowstone also spoke in awe of its beauty.

“Our camps are located on some of God’s most beautiful garden spots. One of the bright and lasting memories of our trip will be our camp fires. The pine logs are piled high and set on fire and everybody gathers around it as one large family. There is no formality here. Singing, stories and visiting are the pastime of the evening with pop corn and candy mixed in. It is often a great pleasure to just sit quiet and watch the fire and think what a great privilege it is for us to be permitted to be here.”

Happy birthday, J.D. Thanks for your adventurous spirit.

It is, indeed, a great privilege for us to be here.

 

Wednesday Words: The Closer

I am reading “The Closer” to PB. It is the story of Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankee pitcher who is MLB’s all time saves and ERA leader. For those not familiar with baseball lingo, that means he is the greatest relief pitcher of all time. If you’re still in the dark, Rivera was the guy who came out to the mound in the ninth inning to get the last three outs in a close game. His role was to finish off the game and keep the lead, hence the name, “The Closer”.

This book has given PB and I some things to think about:

1. Rivera was poor kid from Panama, who played baseball on the beach with a glove made out of an old milk carton. His humble start in life kept him appreciative every step of the way.

2. I don’t hate the Yankees anymore. Although the book tells about their many World Series victories, he talks as much about the many play-off games they lost. The insider look at the clubhouse and the dynamics between the players revealed that most of them were very close friends and not money-hungry narcissists. I said most.

3. When Mariano signed with the Yankees, he didn’t speak any English and didn’t realize his signature meant he would be getting on a plane and flying to America. He was terrified of flying and always held his Bible on his lap when in the air.

4. All throughout the book, he gave God the glory for everything that took place. His faith was strong, but not flashy.

5. When asked to give some advise to a young pitcher who was struggling with his mental approach to closing, he said,

“The job is hard enough without overcomplicating it. You don’t want a lot of noise playing in your head. You don’t want doubts. You just have to think about making every single pitch the best pitch it can be. Don’t worry about getting beat. It is going to happen. It happens to everybody, but the best thing you can do for yourself is have a short memory. You can’t take what happened yesterday out to the mound today.”

PB and I think that’s good advise for life.

Lord, help me not overcomplicate things. Drown out the noise that plays in this world that fills me with doubts. Help me to just do the best I possibly can with what You’ve given me. Some days I’ll feel like a loser. That happens to everybody. Give me the grace to let it go and move on so I don’t take yesterday’s failures out to the mound today. Amen.

 

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