Hanky club

Having had a change in my status as a local pastor of a small Methodist church, I’ve had to find a new place to worship. Learning to sit in a pew and worshipping at a new church has been a challenge. I’ve visited churches of many varieties. The churches with high liturgical practices such as Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian, and some Lutherans have set predictable patterns and rituals. I may be confused, but the faithful, know when to stand, when to sit, when to bow, and when to kneel. If the church has kneelers, it give the less faithful or visitor a chance to prepare to kneel. It’s not hard for such worshipers to visit another parish. My family is ecumenical, and I recently visited an orthodox church with our youngest daughter. I discovered they stand most of the time. The devout seemed to know a special cue and they’d drop to the floor and just as quickly stood. By the time I considered kneeling they were up again. It was quite an interesting experience. At one point, t

Old Cousin Mary

A church is a family. That sounds so nice! And it’s true! I’ve been in many branches of the family of God over my life. Some have been essential and formed me into who I am. Others were sort of blips on the screen that were basically neutral. And then, like most anyone who has ever ventured into church, I’ve been hurt by those who I thought should love me. While tragic, it’s because all churches are made up of broken individuals and are products of their own pain. I have started participating in a new family. My experience with larger churches has not been good. Usually, the larger churches have awesome worship and lots of good ministries and programs. They usually have dynamic teaching and preaching. I go to a church like that! It’s amazing. I love it. I also love that there are families with small church, new babies being born, teenagers and young adults in love with Jesus and growing in their faith. Another thing I love is that there are a lot of strong men. The honeymoon is ov


And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest…Luke 2:13-14a It was October of 2021. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. I was in Florida, walking on the beach. I could hear the waves break and the birds were everywhere. I don’t know what it is about the birds at the beach – they are beautiful and also annoying. They are aggressive and yet graceful. I was really enjoying the solitude of a walk alone on the beach – the beach is my most happiest place. I used to work in the mental health field and at times would do guided relaxation. While I have some discomfort with this idea, it was required of the job. It starts out with go to the place (in your mind) that you feel most relaxed and peaceful. Immediately I go to the beach. There have been times of anxiety in the dentist chair that I also use this technique and go to the beach in my mind. My phone rang disturbing my peace. It was my eldest son. He


 May Days It was a beautiful spring day.   It was already warm as spring comes early in Central Missouri.   It was graduation day at the University of Missouri.   I stood at the hospital window and watched the proud graduates stream out of the Hearnes Center.   A happy future awaited them.   I went to high school with some of them.   I was too far away and there were too many to look at faces. It was 1975.   The hippies were finding Jesus.   The war was winding down and would end.   Patty Hearst was in the news.   And I had just given birth to my third child.   She was in trouble.   I had seen her rushed from delivery by forceps to the pediatricians.   I asked, what did I have?   The doctor in his haste had failed to look to see her gender.   He went and looked and announced it was a girl.   He looked at me and said Joyce, don’t get too excited, I don’t know if she’ll make it. As I stood at that window watching the happy students and their families, I cried.   I cried for my da

Sweet and Sour Sauce

The last few days have been like sweet and sour sauce.   I’m not a fan of sweet and sour Chicken or similar dishes.   I’m more of a sweet hot person.   I love pepper jelly and make my own.   Nothing brings a smile to my taste buds like some hot pepper jelly on a gluten free sesame cracker with some lactose free cream cheese.   I don’t indulge in this culinary delight as often as I’d like because frankly, once I start, I keep eating. But sweet and sour is a better description of my experiences over the last few days.   Rarely do I get to see more than one or two of my children at a time.   Over the last few days, five of my children were gathered in one place.   It was so sweet to be able to see them, give them hugs, and share a meal with them.   This always delights me and brings the sweetest of memories. Like the cherry on the top, I got to see my youngest grandchild, a little princess named Phaenyx (Phoenix) ElsieDawn.   I held her just briefly, but it was enough to satisfy my ur


Have you ever looked at a Kaleidoscope? When I was a kid, I loved those cardboard tubes with the hole on one side. Magnificent colors and design flooded my eyes as I peered into that hole. A twist to the right changed the visual display and a turn to the left yet another. Perhaps because I was a child before the internet – long before the internet – such a simple object could bring such delight.  Today, I am looking in a kaleidoscope of dark colors and painful memories. Each little piece of brilliant colors and changes of light has turned into torturous memories of previous pain. Each piece familiar and each piece dim. Someone else is turning the wheel. It is spinning out of control.  Death of a grandchild, I revisit that pain. Each layer of pain is now compounded by the most recent loss. I grieve not just this precious young man, but his brother, and his little cousin who was the first to go. Then I think of a beautiful great granddaughter whose life was snuffed out. Too


Hide and Go Seek, a child’s game.   Hide while I count.   Skip count by fives til you get to 200. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty…ninety-five, 100!   Repeat Five, ten, fifteen, twenty…ninety-five, 200!   Ready or not, here I come.   But no one comes.   You have followed the rules.   You have hidden yourself.   You have tried to make yourself invisible and hide your pain.   Hide your disfunction.   Hide your sadness.   Hide your essence.   You have no place in this world.   Always unwanted.   Always marginalized.   Be good.   Be quiet.   Child seen but never heard.   Always hiding.   You learned it well. You always thought someone would come.   Someone would come and listen to your pain.   Someone would come to affirm that you are ok.   In fact, you are amazing.   There is no one like you.   Yet, you wait, hidden long after the counting is done.   No one comes. Mother May I?   Another game.   Mother, may I take three giant steps.   Yes, you may take three giant steps.   One, Two, T