The victims and families of the Charleston shootings have been heavy on my mind this week, as I’m sure they have on yours. I’ve thought a thousand times of this beautiful prayer written by Jill Duffield and offered to Presbyterian churches–many of whom prayed it together in worship last Sunday, as we did at Providence. I thank her for her comforting words and for graciously allowing me to share it with you here.
Prayer for Sunday Worship in the Wake of the Charleston Massacre
Almighty God, our gathering together for worship and prayer is, this day, both an offering of praise and a show of courage. We come to this sanctuary mindful that even sacred spaces are not necessarily safe spaces. We bow our heads remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ whose last earthly act was prayer. We give thanks for the lives of your faithful servants:
Ethel Lee Lance
Depayne Middleton Doctor
Comfort their families and friends and strengthen them in the difficult days that are ahead. We pray, too, because Christ commands us to, for Dylan Roof and his family. Bring peace, transform hearts, show us again your resurrection power in places we cannot imagine it can come.
You tell us, Lord God, that perfect love casts out fear and the families of the victims of Mother Church and the people of Charleston have shown us what loving fearlessness looks like. Forgiveness has been extended, hands have been held, hymns have been sung, prayers have been lifted, unity has been demonstrated. The Goliath of hate and racism has not and will not win.
People of faith and prayer, slain after extending Christ’s welcome in God’s house, have left a legacy that cannot be gunned down. Their lives of love and grace have begat love and grace. The gifts of the Spirit that you gave them – gifts of love, joy, peace, gentleness and goodness – appeared defeated on Wednesday night, but on Thursday when people came together and sang, “We Shall Overcome,” and on Friday when words of forgiveness were spoken and a vigil packed a coliseum, and on Saturday when crowds gathered in solidarity to say that symbols have consequences, and today as we and countless others pray for peace and commit to being peacemakers, we recognize the gifts you gave those nine are unstoppable, exponential, inevitable and victorious.
God of justice and compassion, you sent your Son for the sake of the world you love. He was murdered, his last words a prayer for forgiveness. Three days later he rose from the dead, his first words ones of reassurance, telling us not to be afraid because even death had been defeated.
Today we remember and proclaim: Violence and hate do not have the last word. The love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, always has the last word. The Spirit’s crop of goodness and love and joy and peace and gentleness will not stop growing. Now is the time for us – people of faith, brothers and sisters of every race and background – to recognize these unshakable truths and in the midst of the storm, trust the power of the One in the boat with us.
We yield ourselves to you, Triune God, knowing you bring redemption, reconciliation and resurrection. Make us your witnesses. May your perfect love in us and shown through us, cast out fear and help transform the world.
There is a tiny bit of remarkable news to share: I believe at least one of the miracle bluebird eggs has hatched!
Early yesterday evening I spotted the Papa at the birdhouse door, an unusual occurrence as it is the Mama who spends countless hours in the sweltering sauna of that nest, sitting on those eggs. Sure enough he had in his beak a tiny little spider–just the right size for a newborn baby.
So there’s at least one hatchling, maybe more!
I don’t know how she’s done it, it’s been so hot. SO HOT.
I fashioned some sun shields and an umbrella, but even so–it must be sweltering in that box. And unlike what you see on the airport report above, we’ve had exactly NO rain here in Lexington (15 mies away) in the past two weeks.
She is my shero, that bluebird, a dedicated Mama who has done all she can to bring her little eggs to life. How I hope they survive!
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I have not been able to wrap my head around the horrific shootings last week in Charleston. I feel the need to write of it here, to have something to offer you that brings perspective or clarity or some teeny, tiny speck of comfort. But whatever that might be, it surely hasn’t come.
Like you, my friend, I feel soul-crushing loss for the victims and their families. The horror they faced after extending open arms of love is more than I can take. I can’t go there, can’t hold the thought long enough for it to settle, can’t let myself feel–deep down and real–the terror such evil can manifest.
And still it is a reality I must face.
I am a South Carolinian, you see. The young shooter is from my hometown. And every time I read the heartfelt sentiment #prayforcharleston what occurs to me is I wish it were #prayforsouthcarolina. For we are all in this together, we South Carolinians, citizens who must not rest until the lawmakers we elected hear our cry to take down that flag–and actually vote to do it.
Yes, over the decades there have been a thousand points of view in the arguments about that flag and its proper place in our country’s unchangeable history. But one thing is sure. At 9:00 pm on June 17, 2015, South Carolina’s confederate flag came to represent a hatred we can neither tolerate nor perpetuate.
We are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.
This I do know. We are in this together: the strong, forgiving families who’ve already shown us the way; the holy AME church and its faithful worshipers; the beautiful, historic city of Charleston; all of us who call South Carolina home and who know its genuine, generous heart.
Hatred cannot win. Let’s choose love.
Get it down.
*It’s Our Goliath I owe this title to Dr. Mike Bragan, minister at Providence Presbyterian Church, who today delivered a sermon I will never forget. Thank you, Dr. Mike.
The heat has been unmerciful this week in the midlands of South Carolina–no rain, 100+ degrees, and according to the long-range forecast, it doesn’t look to let up any time soon.
But heavens it’s the humidity that wears you out. It’s so thick out there you can hardly breathe–and I mean that quite literally.
It’s felt more oppressive to me than ever before for two reasons.
One We had the shock of walking right into it when we exited the Columbia airport, home from a glorious week in humidity-free Colorado. (I shall tell you more about that later.) I don’t think it often, but I have to say there was more than a moment or two in which my husband and I wiped our sweaty brows considering And why do we live here????
Two I came home to find my little Mama has a nest with three beautiful eggs in the bird box we moved away from the brick snake pillar under the house.
Problem is–it’s right out there, getting baked by the afternoon sun. Right away I fashioned some extra shade to help lower the temp.
She was doing her best to brave the elements.
How I love her.
(May I just mention this as a side note: I CANNOT GET AWAY FROM THE SNAKES.)
I fretted all night about the heat and mama and the eggs. So today I tried something new.
I hope it helps.
We were sitting out on our big screen porch not doing much of anything, mostly just looking out at the yard, talking over the sweaty work we’d done there during the weekend. We’d spent some time in my much-neglected patio herb/flower garden pulling weeds and transplanting the orphan zinnias–now in the third or fourth year since the first planting, they had scattered their own seeds hither and yon and so brought a rather haphazard appearance to my (originally) well-planned garden. In fact, several danced way beyond the borders, their unbridled enthusiasm contagious if unkempt. I knew I needed to tidy up a bit. (It was getting out of hand.) Still it seems to me a flower that hell-bent on growing deserves every chance at success. Thus, the transplanting.
Anyway, I was sitting back in my white wicker armchair with a chilly Blue Moon when out of nowhere it started to rain. Just a sprinkle, at first, the kind of pitter patter that had us looking at each other saying Where did that come from? And then it came harder, more intense. The sky to the east was dark, a large bank of clouds spreading tree line to lake. To the west, though, was sun, pouring over and into our little portion of the earth like it was the very last chance it’d have to shine.
I’ll bet there’s a rainbow somewhere I said to Tim, loving this time, relishing the ordinary-ness of these moments, grateful there was not a big problem to be discussed or solved or managed. Just us, looking out over this yard, together.
Then just like that a rainbow appeared! Majestic and magical, arching over Bickley’s Pond.
Look at that! I said. And we did, counting the colors in the spectrum.
Then a bright yellow canoe paddled out from behind the trees at the bend in the cove, taking remarkable to extraordinary.
You couldn’t have planned that I said, and Tim agreed, and we sat there, looking at the pond, thinking how gorgeous it is to be alive, to live here on this pond, to be a witness to everyday miracles.
I will not write about the bluebirds in my next post. I’ll share something with a little more depth, more substance. Less obsession.
Until then, though, we won’t even consider this a real post. It’s just a bonus weekend update. Because there’s news surrounding the bluebirds’ consideration of the new nest box, and I just have to share.
He’s been around a lot. Flying in. Flying out. Gazing with interest from the pretty scrollwork bench not four feet away.
She–not so much. One or two visits, none convincing in the least.
Still he remains optimistic, even spreading a little straw in the bottom of the box, just to see how it feels.
There has been a lot of investigation. Some discussion.
And a whole lot of excitement on the part of Big Daddy.
I love him.
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I thought I was done with the bluebird posts, had finished pouring my constant worries on you, my friend. But a couple of things have happened that complete the story, finish the circle, wrap up the loose ends, if you will.
(I won’t judge if you click away. This bluebird business has gone on for quite a while now.)
I took a walk down the steps the day after the killing, the one in which I looked into the box to find four of the babies missing, one still there but dead. I can’t for the life of me explain the timing of my going down to the nest box right then other than The Man Upstairs felt I was owed a complete explanation of the previous day’s sad events, my hypothesis proven. Or perhaps He knew I would go right over, insert my fingers and pull down the big wood door. And that would have been a Big Mistake. Because when I got to the window and looked toward the brick column, this is what I saw.
I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe it. That snake was in there right then, the evil-doer, his mouth no doubt full and his tale protruding. (Talk about a tell-tale sign.) Then I downloaded the photo to see it was, in fact, his head sticking out. Good lord.
Kind and concerned bluebird experts later explained to me that rat snakes (Is that a rat snake? I would really like confirmation!) are excellent climbers that make light work of a brick column in pursuit of baby birds. So it’s a good idea to take other–extraordinary–protective measures.
My sweet husband and I rushed to the bird store to investigate options. We decided on a metal pole, snake baffle AND we eagerly made notes about instructions for applying grease to the pole, if necessary. We also bought a brand spanking new bluebird house with cross ventilation AND a very swell peak-a-boo window to allow better photos of a nest in progress. Yea!
We He got it installed in a pretty spot in our yard and then we removed the old nest from the old house. It was a sad and difficult thing to do, but in the interest of science, I carried on.
It was a majestic double-decker, as we suspected, a new nest built right on top of the old one after its first five little eggs weren’t viable. The photo doesn’t do this next point justice but I believe it to be the most remarkable part of the entire story. Before building the second nest, the parents covered the first eggs with feathers.
I think that’s lovely.
So now we wait. Chances are highly unlikely my bluebird pair will nest for the third time this late in the season, and to tell you the truth, I’d be happy just to see the female. I haven’t spotted her at all since the massacre and hope hope hope she is still out there, healthy.
And so, once again, we wait!
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It would be light before long.
So as I’ve been doing since reading Maria Fabrizio’s fabulous Cultivating Creativity, I pulled my body from beneath the covers, splashed water on my face and headed to the Keeping Room for a little before-work writing. I fed the dog and made coffee, then I made an impromptu decision to walk down to the studio for a quick minute to say good morning to the bluebirds. They’ve been so kind to me with this brood, indulging me while I take endless photos as they feed and feed and feed the five nestlings.
(Did you know there were five? Did I show you the photo with that surprise?)
I’d checked on them one more time last night just before dark. They were sleeping peacefully, their little tummies filled with a grand assortment of creepie-crawlies from our yard.
Might as well take my camera I thought this morning and grabbed the one with the big lens.
I stood for a few minutes looking out the window. The sun was up now, so the light was good for a photo. I’d surely not need to wait more than five or ten minutes for one of the parents to show up with breakfast. I could spare that writing time. They wouldn’t be babies for long, after all.
Ten minutes passed.
I don’t know what’s keeping them I thought. Maybe they don’t feed first thing in the morning? But surely they do. I’ll count to a hundred, and one will show by then and I can get back upstairs to my writing.
Okay, I’ll count to two hundred.
Okay, three–but then I have to go up.
About that time Papa flew to the brick column just across from me, and delighted, I snapped this photo.
He flew over to the nest box, looked in the hole, looked away, then flew toward our yard’s outer trees, the spider still in his beak.
That’s curious I thought. The Mama must be in the box with the babies. I’ll wait just a bit and she’ll fly out.
Five more minutes pass.
I don’t hear the babies, I realize. So I open the window closest to the nest box and wait.
Not a peep.
It took all I had to walk over to the box, climb up on the chair and shine my iPhone flashlight into the opening. I could see bare nest, so I immediately knew something was wrong. I unhooked the latch, pulled down the door and saw that four of the babies were missing and one was still there, dead.
The nest was undisturbed.
I have spent this day thinking of those birds: the miracle of them emerging from those tiny blue eggs; the desperate hunger cries from their big gaping beaks; the devotion of the parents, who nonstop cared for the babies and also watched out for each other.
I think of the predator: the snake (most likely) that was simply doing what snakes do in seeking out this meal; my insistence last summer that we kill the giant one we found lying on the mallard nest eating the eggs (and my worry that snake karma would get me back); the horror and magnitude of the circle of life.
I grieve for them all and worry greatly about the Mama bluebird. I haven’t seen her and can only hope she is somewhere safe.
At a client event this morning, a local pastor offered a prayer that included a passage from Psalm 118.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Rejoice and be glad, I thought.
Some days this is tougher than others.
Note: I posted a precious, happy video of the babies yesterday before discovering the situation downstairs. After that I didn’t have the heart to put the link on Facebook or Twitter, so if you’d like to see it but didn’t, click here. It’s a nice memorial, I think.)
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Just watch this!
bickley’s pond bluebird babies // may 2015