Hub Cap Salad

Hub cap salad, also known as jello mold salad, was a centerpiece at the annual church picnic.  Those round green shaky jello salads with shreds of carrots on the inside and mini marshmallows on the top.  Do you cut it like a cake or spoon it like a pudding?  Mom had a piece of Tupperware, specifically made to carry deviled eggs, which was proudly mustered out for this annual congregation event.  Massive pounds of hotdogs and burgers were waiting for the grill.  No one had heard of kale or thought salmon was a cook-out food group.

To work off the great food there was the marathon softball game when everyone had a chance to play, especially the dads who didn’t walk upright for weeks after the picnic.  Even if you didn’t play, you cheered everyone on.  It didn’t matter how you had voted a week ago about getting the new hymnal.  Everyone cheered, especially when they saw the pastor could swing a bat almost as well as he could preach.  God loves each of us the same, but does not bless everyone with the same softball skills.

We worshipped together every Sunday and attended a variety of monthly meetings.  But it was this once a year expression of community that was the subject of stories all year long.  “Do you remember Sal’s home plate slide?  Wasn’t Marian’s potato salad better than ever?  It was so great to see so many of the new members having a good time.  When is the picnic next year?”

Sunday worship brought us into community with God.  Monthly meetings, not so much.  A reading of the minutes and Roberts Rules gymnastics just didn’t do it.  Remembering our time as a community enjoying one another was fun to talk about.  Valuing each other as children of God was far more important than a pressing issue that wasn’t all that pressing.

In the post church picnic glow we greeted each other on Sundays differently somehow.  We had been together in our humanity sharing softball scrapes and treasured family recipes.  God was in our midst in a real way.  When there was the unavoidable difference of opinion from time to time, the picnic was a reminder of our humanity and community.  It was our common faith, not the hub cap salad that brought us together.  The love of God and our common mission kept us together.

The church picnic was one big passing of the peace in the community that lasted all year.  Church picnics, or whatever those times as a congregation may be called these days, can still be all that.  Pass the peace (and hold the hub cap salad).


Movie Nights Aren’t Really About Movies

fullsizerenderMovie Night has become a tradition of children’s programming at Plymouth. On the second
Friday of every month anywhere from 5 to 25 children are dropped off in the gym. The tricycles
come out of the closet. Goldfish crackers are upgraded to pizza and then there’s a movie-
Moana, Frozen, Zootopia to name a few of the favorite blockbusters.

It’s rare to find a movie that every child hasn’t seen. It’s hard to find a movie appropriate for a
three year old who engages her seven year old sister. That’s when I remind myself that it’s really
not about the movie. It’s about so much more.

One Friday there were only five of us.  Reverend Brett stopped by and tried on silly hats
and a clip on tie. He had dinner plans, we had ordered too much pizza and so went from floor to
floor delivering slices to staff members. Most of us had never been to the fourth floor teen room.
Exhausted from our mission, we lay down under the skylight, pretended we were camping and
talked about our dreams. We never got to the movie.

The Friday we showed Frozen, the gym was packed. Every chair was taken. Some kids arrived
in costume. We started the movie almost immediately- the anticipation was so great. Within 15
minutes, kids started to ask if they could play with their friends. They promised to play quiet
basketball, silent soccer….the movie stayed on but no one noticed when it was over.

This past Friday it was so unusually hot in the gym that we decided to show the movie in air
conditioned Storr’s Library. The cool air and comfy couch were not enough though. Most of us spent the evening playing
cars on the wooden floor of the hot hallway. We’d found a box of seven matchbox cars and
there were nine of us. “My car” quickly became “our cars.”

While building a road out of cardboard pieces I studied each child’s face, the soft features, the
sweet expressions not yet scarred by the harsh reality of life. I wondered, as I often do, who
they will be in ten, twenty years and I hoped that when they remember their childhood, they will
remember growing up as part of a church family, as loved and cherished as God wants every
child to be.



People I Don’t Need to Listen to

The New York Times has too many pages.  I download more podcasts than I can play.  I cannot read half of what my friends post on Facebook—particularly one recipe-happy friend.   I cannot hear, read, or notice a significant portion of what is calling for my attention.

People who claim to know such things say that listeners can follow 1.2 conversations at a time.  I can completely follow one conversation and one fifth of another.   I can catch half of two conversations and one fifth of the third.  I can follow three fifths of two conversations.  But I cannot hear it all.

Some news shows feature three conversations going at the same time.  The assumption seems to be that we will listen to whoever shouts the loudest.  I cannot hear over the cacophony, so I have concluded that I need to listen less.

I need to ignore some conversations.  I do not need to hear people who do not listen themselves, who do not empathize, or whose voices are full of hatred.

I should be leery of people who are paid to offer opinions.  People who use their judgments to get wealthier are not the first people I need to hear.

I can stop reading editorials that only repeat what I already think.  I can give a rest to flipping through channels to find someone saying what I want to hear.

I should not listen to people whose job is to defend bad ideas.  I can turn off commentators who tell prejudiced people that they are not prejudiced.

I do not need to hear people who come to conclusions too easily.  Listening to those who do not care is not the best use of my time.

I do not need to hear white people explaining what it is like to be black.  I should listen to the victims of prejudice.

I do not need to hear those who critique Islam without having read the Koran.  I should listen to committed Muslims.

I do not need to hear mean-spirited people with no evidence who enjoy saying that immigrants are the reason their cousin cannot find a job.  I should listen to hard-working immigrants and the children of immigrants.

I do not need to hear wealthy people pontificate on health care.  I should listen to the sick, the elderly, and doctors in underserved areas.

I do not need to hear someone in a two thousand dollar suit telling poor people how to manage their finances.  I should listen to the ones who struggle to put food on the table.

I do not need to hear those who do not care about children escaping from Syria, bigoted people who do not have gay friends, or rich men on their third marriage who want to tell a poor woman what to do about her pregnancy.  I should listen more to refugees, committed gay couples, and those with a uterus.

I need to hear people who do not sound like me.  I need to listen to those who do not have a Twitter account.  If the person I am listening to does not really love, then I am giving myself permission not to listen.  I cannot hear everyone, so I need to listen more to those who are not often heard.

I have been thinking about listening as we prepare for Sunday’s annual meeting.   As always, we need to listen carefully to one another.  We need to listen most carefully to the words that come from loving hearts.



Happy Mother’s Day to My Mom, Ginger Rogers

brett-and-momMy mother should be a dancer, but she rolls her eyes when I tell her that.  All of her fundamentalist Christian life, dancing has been as off-limits as rock and roll, Heineken, and liberal Christians, but she could be a ballerina.

My mom has the athleticism of a ballet dancer.  Her brief, but glorious, hoops career is legendary in Northeast Mississippi.  Grandma would not let my mother play basketball for the purple and gold of Itawamba High School because the team’s short pants were two feet too short.  One famous night in 1948, several Lady Indians fouled out in the third quarter of a tight game with their bitter rivals — the Houston Hilltoppers — so the coach went into the stands to beg Clarice Graham to play.  Mom slipped into a borrowed pair of boogie shoes and, in a dress that hit just below the ankles, scored several key baskets, dancing the Indians to a celebrated victory.

My mom has the precision of a ballroom dancer.  Dancers have an extraordinary sense of where their feet, legs, and arms should be at every second. Ginger could not spin with Fred if he showed up one second late.  My mother has a supernatural sense of where everyone should be and has never been less than ten minutes early to anything.  If punctuality was the key to dancing, my entire family would be touring with Alvin Ailey.

My mom has the spirit of a jitterbugger.  The best dancers are passionate. When mom giggles, which she frequently does, she begins to shake, her voice goes to a pitch audible only to dogs, her face turns a beautiful shade of red and her dark blue eyes start dancing.  Her rhythmic exuberance would make Beyonce jealous.

I often irritate my mother by trying to get her to dance with me.  I point out that King David danced, the psalmists tell us to praise God with dance, and Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time to dance, but she will not waltz, tango, or foxtrot with her son.

Angela Monet writes, “Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Though she will not admit it, mom hears the music and knows she should be dancing.

Some can only remember the jigs their now-departed mothers danced.  Some mothers are too far away to two-step with their sons.  Only a fortunate few can put their arms around their mothers and dance.

On Mother’s Day, be thankful for every playful step your mother ever took. Any excuse is good enough to trip the light fantastic with our moms, even if it is only in our imaginations.