Sunday, July 31, 2011


They boarded the train at 103rd,
two friends,
who found a spot
in the nearly empty car
to sit together,
After a few moments,
one pulled out a book and
began to read -
reading to the other
reading for the other
every word of

31 July 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sunset on Waikiki

These are old ones. I took them when I visited Eric during his time at Hawai'i Pacific University. He lived just a few blocks from the beach. I am not much of a beach person, but it was a glorious evening. I might be able to get used to it.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stones River

Row upon row they stand,
across Stones River,
resting under the trees' shade
in perfect formation:
silent, eternal reminders
of who was lost
and who paid the cost;
of what once was
of what might have been.

Shire on the Hudson
29 July 2011 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baseball in Grand Central

Dark hair curls appear from underneath the Yankees cap
pulled tightly down on his head.
He stares at a point beyond the escalator as
his left hand cradles his gloved right hand.
Tensed, ready,
he sees not the crowd but
watches and waits.
For a long fly ball?
A long departed ghost?
A long lost love?

27 July 2011
Shire on the Hudson

10 Million

Reports from UN agencies on the ground in the Horn of Africa estimate that 10,000,000 people are experiencing a severe food crisis.
That's more people than live in New York City (not including urban area). 
That's more people than live in Wyoming, Washington D.C., Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine combined. 
Here are some ideas of how to respond: 
10 Ways You Can Help
Give to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not what it seems

I am watching The Black Death. I put it on my Netflix list to view on Roku. I did so because it has Sean Bean in it. It has something to do with bubonic plague, the church, witches, monks, knights of some source, and a village where there have been no deaths, no plague. Apparently the theory of the outsiders is that they have been spared because of witchcraft. And Sean Bean and his cohorts are there to test that theory. I will probably hang around to see whether they are right - and what happens either way.

It is no Lord of the Rings  - no  entry in the Sharpe's series - no Troy - all of which featured Sean Bean and led me to choose this one. It certainly is no The Plague - Camus' classic novel that pivots around an outbreak of plague.

It apparently deals with very, very deep questions - so deep that I don't understand them. Every time I think I have a glimmer of what is going on, it wanders of in another direction.

"Nothing here is what it seems," Sean Bean's character says.

Now if only I could figure out what things seem to be, I would know what they aren't.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Samuel Johnson

I remembered Samuel Johnson today and I was revived.

The Samuel Johnson I remembered was not the English author – I did not pick up a copy of Boswell. I met this Samuel Johnson almost fifteen years ago during a hot summer week in Orangeburg, SC. He and I have been accompanying each other in the Communion of Saints ever since.

On Palm Sunday of that year, in a quiet grove of trees about eight miles outside of Orangeburg, the Butler Chapel AME Church burned. Four young men admitted responsibility for the fire, although they maintained that it was accidental. The fire did not totally destroy the church. It did cause enough damage that the church could neither be used nor repaired. After a season of prayer and discussion, the members of Butler Chapel determined to build a new church. 

Volunteers came from across the country to work on the church; their labor coordinated by the Church of the Brethren. That August, a group of us went to Orangeburg from Cleveland; some of my friends from Louisville joined us. We spent a week working in extreme heat. We installed insulation and drywall and windows. We finished drywall. We laid brick. Each day was a little different. Each day had some elements in common – mostly the people of Butler Chapel – the wonderful people who welcomed us and fed us, prayed with us and worked beside us. Among them was Samuel Johnson.

Samuel Johnson was a big man. Once he had been a strong man. A long-time member of Butler Chapel AME Church, Samuel had attended school in the building as a child. Samuel worked throughout his life. Worked well and hard. . . as a farmer . . . for the gas company.

When I met him, a stroke had stolen much of his strength. He walked with a cane.  He walked better when he can use his cane and someone’s shoulder. I remember. A couple of times he used mine.

Although the stroke had taken much of his one arm and leg, it did not take his mind or voice or spirit. Unable to stay away while his church was being rebuilt, he came to the work site as often as he could. He watched. He visited. And from time to time, his eyes filled with tears of frustration as he wished that one more time he could swing a hammer.

Toward the middle of a hot afternoon (they were all hot – I can’t remember which one), I was working alone on insulation. A friend’s voice interrupted me.  “Mark, go to the fellowship hall.”

“I’m busy.” I said.  “I want to get this finished.”

Bob persisted.  “Mark, stop what you are doing.  Go to fellowship hall.  You have to see what is going on.  Take a camera.”

Reluctantly I got up. I found the camera went to the fellowship hall.

There, on a 2” x 10”  board that rested on two overturned five-gallon paint buckets, sat Samuel Johnson.  Around him, on the concrete slab, sat many of the young people of our group.  Softly and slowly, Samuel spoke . . . telling them of his life . . . his family . . . his work . . . telling them of Orangeburg and his beloved church.  As he spun stories and answered questions, tears filled my eyes.  I was helping build a physical church; Samuel was building Christ's body.

Why did I remember this story today? Who knows?

Perhaps it is because I have been thinking about the hurts of God’s people – the terrorism that ripped Norway, the famine that stalks the Horn of Africa, ongoing violence South Kordofan and Malawi, gunfire on our country’s streets, on and on the list goes. It does not seem to end.

In the face of such violations, suffering, and pain, my efforts seem so small and insignificant. But Samuel Johnson reminds me of the importance of perspective.

I can look at life in terms of what I do not have – what I lack – what I cannot do. This is the view of scarcity.

In the case of Samuel Johnson, such a view has little time for an older man whose physical abilities appear to have been limited by a stroke. It would say he no longer has much to offer.

Alternately, I can choose to look at life in terms of what I have – what I can do – what I can share – the gifts I bear. This view is the view of abundance. When viewed in this way, the incredible gifts that Samuel has and shares leap into view. Samuel’s presence is an inspiration; Samuel’s prayers a source of strength; Samuel’s stories create and nurture community.

For me, the assumption of abundance frees me from working about what I cannot do – to focus on doing what I can – whatever that might be.

Remembering Samuel renews my spirit and challenges me to look at the gifts I have and figure out how to use those gifts. That work has begun and will continue and I expect I will bump into Samuel and a whole bunch of other saints as I do.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Late afternoon nap

The aches of the day
into the mattress seep;
upon my body
sleep does silently creep.

23 July 2011
New York, NY


People always seem somewhat amazed and surprised when Tricia and I end up in the same place. It happens.

One place it happens is under the Presbyterian Big Tent. Two years ago we had a picture taken with Valerie Small. This summer, at Big Tent Two, Tony Aja snapped a picture of us while at dinner. No doubt Tricia and I will get together again - at least in two years. Maybe we should hold the Big Tent more often.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A prayer on a day of grief

Famine stalks the Horn of Africa.
A bomb and gunfire rip Norway.
Violence wracks Malawi and Syria.
Rapes are perpetrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Atrocities are suspected in Southern Kordofan.
Human rights are denied in Madagascar, Peru, and Colombia.
Weak and vulnerable people are exploited and abused in the United States.
In places and situations that fail to make the headlines,
people are violated; God's creation is abused.
Yet we continue to trust the good news:
that peace will prevail; that good will overcome evil;
that love is stronger than death; that God will have the final word.
And so we pray:

Gracious God,
the hurts of the world are legion,
the wounds of your beloved children exceed our counting.
Our spirits sag,
our hearts ache,
we grow weary.
Pour your Holy Spirit afresh upon us:
renew us
revive us
sustain us
guide us
for the living of these days and
for the loving of one another
we pray in Jesus' name.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

A poem prayer for our sisters and brothers in the Horn of Africa:

O God,
the ground is parched,
the food is limited and costly,
and your children, our brothers and sisters,
hunger, sicken, and die
in the Horn of Africa.
O God,
strengthen our sisters and brothers who hunger;
comfort our brothers and sisters who grieve;
accompany our sisters and brothers who leave their homes.
O God,
we give thanks for aid workers who
distribute food and water,
create and maintain camps for refugees and displaced persons,
and extend caring hands.
O God,
touch the hearts of people and nations,
fill us with a desire to reach out to the people in the Horn of Africa,
show us effective ways to respond to our brothers and sisters.
O God,
help us structure our living so that
all people in all places
might have enough of the abundance you provide
even in times of drought and hardship.
Inspire us and guide us, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Service Corps, Ghost Ranch

A portion of this year's vacation was spent at Ghost Ranch on the Service Corps. (Note that the description gets the basic gist of things, but "help in food service, housekeeping, library, museums, and, on occasion, some off-Ranch community service" is not really a part of the work any more).

This was the first time I had ever done this. It probably will not be the last.

On the one hand, participation in the Service Corps involved paying (half-price for room and meals plus $50 registration) to do work that I go out of my way to avoid doing at any of the places I call home.

On the other hand, participation in the Service Corps provided an opportunity to meet and work with amazing people and to make a difference at a place that means a great deal to me - a place where I belong - a place that feels like (yet another) home.

Weighing these two factors, the other hand wins.

Hand down. One fine day, I will see you at Ghost Ranch.

Until then, see you along the Trail.

Twist, turns, bends

It came to pass, when the weather was right
and the air traffic patterns were appropriately tight,
that the trail from ATL to LGA did make
a pass o'er CLE and the lake.

Where goes the trail, we may not know:
as it twists, it turns, it bends.
Along the trail we follow though
we see not where it wends.

19 July 2011
DL 485

The child in 29A

The eyes of the child in 29A grew wide as
turbulence buffeted the plane on its approach to ATL-
wind gusts pushed it from side to side and up and down.

The face of the child in 29A turned pale as
the plane finally hit the ground with
a thud,
a thunk,
a thump.

The gasp of the child in 29A could be easily heard as
the plane fishtailed down the runway
before slowing to taxiing speed.

The mouth of the child in 29A smiled, slightly smiled, as
the woman in 29C said,
"I told you we would be OK."

The ears of the child in 29A did not hear as
the woman in 29C turned and said 'cross the aisle:
"That really was pretty rough."
"We're walking away," said 29D.
"Any landing you walk away from is a good landing."
"Amen," added 29E.

The hands of the child in 29A, as
the plane neared the gate,
began to torment his brother.

19 July 2011
DL 1716, DL 485

Sad and mournful

They lose their fight to hold back tears
as they struggle for the words to say goodbye.
An awkward final embrace, then
a flight attendant gently takes the child's hand.

At jetway entry, the child turns.
From under a mop of yellow curls,
red-rimmed eyes look where the father stands.
Brave waves exchanged,
the child continues toward the plane.

The father steps to the window,
presses his hands, leans his forehead.
To support himself?
To try to pass through the glass?
Condensate forms underneath his nose.
He stares at the plane as passengers embark.

The jetway retracts,
the plan backs away.
Until it disappears from view,
the father's fixed gaze follows.
Then, and only then,
he slowly turns,
rubs his eyes,
and leaves the gate.

19 July 2011
Gate C38
Denver International Airport


As it so often does,
the Trail turns toward the east -
into the risen sun.
Behind red rock canyons lie;
canyons made of steel loom ahead.

19 July 2011
Denver International Airport 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nelson Mandela's Birthday!

Today is Nelson Mandela's birthday.

Thanks be to God for his life, witness, and service.

Nelson Mandela International Day

Take Action! Inspire Change (from the UN)

Mandela Turns 93, World Called to Serve (from The Christian Post)

How will you observe the day?

How will you make every day a Mandela Day?

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Unbidden, unasked

a thistle grows in the yard,
a sturdy, prickly weed.
its green and purple hues
a simple mystery:
life to be,
triangle of eternity.

16 July 2011
Ghost Ranch, 2011 

New journal

Blank pages yet to fill,
words to write,
plans to make,
notes to take,
tales to spin,
life to live.

16 July 2011
Ghost Ranch, NM 


Three stages in the life of a thistle - "something prickly and hard to eradicate" to kind of quote Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Not sure what to make of this yet, but it has me thinking.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

View from the casitas

Taken in the area of the casitas at Ghost Ranch where the college staff live. Georgia O'Keefe's mountain in the background.

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two-for-one readings

To learn what life will bring you,
for a fee, a modest fee,
Sister Rose will read your palm
and tell you just what will be.

Now only for this summer,
Rose is offering a steal,
two readings at one low price:
how can you pass on such a deal?

For should you be discouraged
by what your right hand reveals,
your left one may provide you
with a future that appeals.

13 July 2011
Espanola, NM and Ghost Ranch, NM 

Cold coffee

Alone, he sits in the far corner
where he can survey the whole shop.
He sees everything,
yet comprehends nothing;
he focuses not on the people or place.
Lost in thought,
trapped in feeling,
memories batter his spirit
they parade past his mind's eye.
A legion of poor choices and bad decisions
march endlessly from his past and
define his present and
shape his future.
When he can stand to watch no more,
with an effort of will he shakes his head and
returns to the moment.
Fingers gnarled as pinon tree.
wrap around the mug before him.
The coffee has grown cold.

13 July 2011
Ghost Ranch, NM 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Night on the mesa

Lightning pierces the blue-black night
illuminating the cholla;
the moon fights through a cloud,
turning it a pale white;
a soft breeze sweeps across the mesa,
bringing a gentle chill;
the silent night is broken only by the
chirping of crickets and the
thumping of the dryer.

11 July 2011
Ghost Ranch, NM

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You were there

It is a day I remember not that well;
a day of death, a day of loss.
I stumbled along in grief and shock.
Barely knowing then what I said or did;
now less will come to mind.
While memories fail,
raw feelings return and tear my soul.
Yet of that fear-filled painful day,
one thing I gratefully recall:
you were there,
you were there through it all.

9 July 2011
Greeley, CO, Estes Park, CO 

Driving east to Greeley

Engaged in its eternal effort to wear away the stones in its bed,
the Big Thompson thunders beside the road
as I drive east to Greeley,
there to remember, to celebrate, to give thanks for the life of a friend.
Memories - of things done, things left undone - wash over my mind.
Death after death - of those loved, those unmet  - flood my heart.
The road winds round a rocky outcrop;
the sun's brilliant rays stab my eyes,
bringing tears.

9 July 2011
US 34, Greeley, CO, Estes Park, CO 

Friday, July 8, 2011


For uncounted ages they have kept
a silent vigil over the valley:
steadfast, firm,
silent observers of
days gone by,
events long forgotten,
moments well-remembered.

For unknown ages they may stand
a stoic presence in the valley:
constant, unmoving,
voiceless witnesses to
occurrences unforseen,
futures unknown,
happenings unimagined.

8 July 2011
Estes Park, CO
The image was taken at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park 

An early start - at least in my world

I am not a morning person. On Koenig Standard Time, the hours for sleeping run from approximately 2:00 or 3:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Clearly this poses a challenge with the way days are currently structured. I do try to follow that schedule on weekends and vacations.

Today was an exception. I did stay up until 1:00 AM or so, but I also managed to awaken early. This was my day to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park. I decided to get an early start. I succeed. Even with spending time for breakfast and having to return to the hotel to pick up my National Parks Passport, I made it into the park by 8:30 AM (which probably isn't all that impressive for others).

For a couple of hours, the park was reasonable empty. I drove the Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center, stopping often for pictures and to do a bit of hiking. By the time I made my way back - around 10:30 or 11:00 AM - traffic had picked up considerably. But still it was an enjoyable day - short of wildlife - but an amazing diversity of eco-systems - incredible views. Not sure my photos do the park justice - not sure they show up here - but I took a bunch.

Walked the streets of Estes Park again in the late afternoon. Picked up Leavings by Wendell Berry. Very impressive. I had read some of the poems before, but there are some awesome ones.

Found Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on TV.  They were young. Clips from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II are being shown. It looks good. Will have to figure out how to see it before the Trail takes me back to Manhattan. Patience not being one of my strong suits.

Tomorrow back to Greeley for the memorial service for Steve Brown.

See you along the Trail.

"Not in front of the Klingons"

I heard one of my all time favorite questions again tonight and a cute line that I had forgotten.

The day began with dealing with some emails. Then a visit to the Centennial Village in Greeley, Colorado. An interesting place. The signage could be better. Or they could have folks stationed throughout the village to do interpretation. Of course, we could have gone on the tour, but we did not have a whole lot of time as we had picked up some additional responsibilities for the day. Still, even taking the village at our own, somewhat rapid pace, there was much to learn. And there were many great, great flowers.

Lunch followed. I was looking for something light like a turkey sub. We came across Cheba Sub Hut. Most excellent. A quirky environment; a manic person at the counter, and good food. I could get hooked.

A drive to the Denver airport followed. Tricia went to a retreat. I went to Estes Park. I did a bit of walking around - it was a cool, rainy evening so I neither walked as much as I had planned nor did I take as many pictures as I planned although there were a number taken for the pine cone collection. But I saw some of the city - amazing how much I remembered given that I had only been here once and that some ten years ago. I picked up a copy of Live Rhymin' by Paul Simon.

After wandering around Estes Park for a while, I returned to the Rocky Mountain Park Inn where I had received a good deal on Hotwire.

Channel surfing, I came across Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country playing on the SyFy Channel. It has some interesting moments. Shakespeare contributes the title and gets quoted fairly frequently.

It was followed by Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It definitely is not one of my favorite movies in the franchise. But it does have one of my favorite questions of all time. The plot involves a search for God led by Spock's half-brother. He takes over the Enterprise and away they go. Adventures follow. There are some intriguing reflections on the pain we carry. I need to ponder that further. After additional adventures, they arrive at the planet where God supposedly lives. They encounter a being who claims divinity. However, Kirk and Spock and McCoy are surprised to learn that this being is overly interested in the Enterprise. The being suggests that the starship will be useful as he (at least he appears as a he) seeks to escape from the planet. Finally Kirk can take no more and poses the eternal question: "Why does God need a starship?" I will tell no more to avoid spoiling the film. But I love that question.

Of course the line, "Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons." isn't bad either.

Tomorrow: Rocky Mountain National Park.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Evening, Estes Park

The aroma of coffee comforts me
as a slow drizzle falls;
clouds creep down the mountains,
a chill steals into the air.
I grasp my mug tighter,
warmth seeping into my fingers.
The rain increases.

TV, laundry, burgers, small critters

I am not a big television fan. I watch very little. But Men of a Certain Age  is on at the moment. It is a reminder that I could watch Andre Braugher read the phone book. I don't get it all - it's a bit hard joining a series at the last episode of the season and having a sense of the back stories and how things have come to where they are. But Braugher's performance caught and held my attention.

Homicide: Life on the Street is the one series I have watched from beginning to end - using Netflix to help me do that. And I did that primarily for Braugher although the whole cast was amazing.

Today was another slow moving day. When we finally got moving, we drove to Greeley. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Good Time Burgers - they also served custard - which probably helped absorb the grease from the burgers. They were OK, by no means were they the best burgers I have ever eaten (of course they did not claim to be).

Fort Vasquez was the next stop. It was a trading post - furs, beaver and buffalo, were the featured item. The traps looked particularly brutal. Then made it to Greeley. Drove around the town a bit and then checked in to the Days Inn - where Tricia did the laundry. We went to dinner with Sue Brown and a bunch of her friends from the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks.

Tomorrow night - Estes Park. The last time I was in Estes Park was 10 years ago when the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program held a seminar there and I led a workshop. I drove to seminar and around the town and the YMCA of the Rockies. I am embarrassed to say that, in the process, I struck a number of small animals. I will try to be more careful this time - maybe even much more careful to paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow.

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fossils and a Peak

Started the day late - largely because I did too much work - and I remain way behind. But eventually I stopped, and vacation began.

We started with a journey to Florissant, CO and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This involved a drive over Ute Pass. We ate at the Swiss Chalet in Woodland Park - an interesting town - definitely worth checking out further should the Trail ever wend this way again.

Florrisant Fossil Beds was an interesting mix of pine forest (pictures added to the pine cone collection photo album), fossils large (petrified wood) and small (insects), and frontier history (the Adeline Hornbek homestead). The petrified wood is from redwood trees - 35 million years or so ago, volcanic eruptions (they must have been huge as the volcano in question was some distance away) buried the valley - it was apparently quite lush and feature major redwoods. The eruptions buried a significant part of the redwoods - the tops died and decayed over the years - the stumps petrified. The volcanic activity also created a lake in the valley; the bottom of the lake became the resting place for insects and plants which became fossilized. Adeline Hornbek, a single mother of four, claimed land under the Homestead Act. She pushed the boundaries on traditional gender roles and became a prosperous rancher and a community leader.

From pondering fossils, petrified wood, and homesteading, we returned to Manitou Springs and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway for a journey above the timberline. We observed changing environs as the train climbed some 6,000 feet. Two elk, viewed from a distance, highlighted the trip - first time I have ever seen elk in the wild. Several deer were viewed as were numerous marmets.

Tomorrow is a little unplanned - it involves travel to Greeley, CO where we will have dinner with Sue Brown. We will see what else the day brings.

See you along the Trail.


This is the 115th post for 2011. With this post, the number of posts for 2011 (to date) equals the number of posts for 2010. That's the whole point of this post.

For good measure, it includes a picture from Pikes Peak. It'll do.

See you along the Trail.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Colorado Springs - 4 July 2011

Vacation day 1.

Well technically not. Since it was July 4, it actually counted as a holiday.

The holiday was spent in Colorado Springs and included:

Sleeping in! Always a good thing whether on vacation or on holidays or on any days.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: many giraffes, lots of pine cones, naked mole rats, wallaby petting, the Mountaineer Sky Ride - just a bit scary, the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun and more. The entrance fee included a quarter to give to support efforts to protect an animal. There were six possibilities - I picked the African Penguin.

Garden of the Gods: lots of red rock, some hiking, many pictures.

A good day - sore feet, sore knees, sore back - we will see what works tomorrow when the vacation actually begins.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, July 4, 2011


On that cusp between sleep and waking
I hang suspended and wonder
what is real
what is remembered
what is dream


In all the chaos of disengaging from Big Tent Two, I forgot that today is not a vacation day - it is a holiday. I have to revise my entire plan for approaching the day.

While I do that, let me say:
  •  Happy Birthday to my sister, to Vince, and all those who share this day!
  • Thanks to all those who have served and sacrificed in so many different ways to help my country do justice, seek peace, and be the best in can be.
  • Thanks to all who serve today - in whatever ways.
  • Thanks to all who love my country enough to remember its misdeeds and sins - and to help us make restitution and reparation so we can move into the future.
See you along the Trail.

What passes for vacation

The Trail led to Denver today - after some last meetings in Indianapolis.

We arrived about 8:30 Denver time tonight - in time to see a beautiful sliver moon hanging in an sky turning from blue to darkness while the clouds over the Rockies glowed red in the sunset. By the time we made it to the rental car lot, the moment had passed so it will remain a memory rather than an image preserved in pixels.

What passes for vacation in my life begins tomorrow. We drove from Denver to Colorado Springs. The next few days will see wandering in this area; then the Trail turns north - to see Sue, whose husband Steve just died. A couple days at Rocky Mountain National Park follow. The memorial service for Steve takes place on Saturday. Then we head south to Ghost Ranch, then back to Denver and to Manhattan.

General plans are in place. The specifics will be chosen each day - or maybe the day before - and at least some of them will be reported here in words and images.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saints of the Public Life

During today's workshop on living our faith in the public life, participants were invited to name the saints who have gone before us - those who have witnessed in public life in a variety of names. After we had the page filled with names, facilitator Ryan reminded us that behind all those we named were many people whose lives they had touched - people who had also faithfully witnessed in the public life.

In the conversation that followed, Sam and Claire observed that the people we named were well known. They also observed that there are  many, many, many other Saints of the Public Life: people who each day work in the public life for peace and justice faithfully, carefully, passionately, and constantly. They do so known only to a few - those who work with them, those who love them.

Tonight, I was reminded of one such saint - I remember and give thanks for Steve Brown.

We knew it was coming.
We had been warned - a number of times.
Yet still, the news, the final news, coming tonight, carried surprising force.
We met over thirty years ago.
Tricia, Sue, and I were students.
Steve a trailing spouse.
We played tennis. We laughed.
Steve was a patient, gentle, creative man.
"What Makes a Heretic Tick?" - one of his original compositions - stole the show at a Feast of Fools celebration.
He also had a deep commitment to peace and justice, a commitment he lived in many, many ways on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to ending war to just immigration to access to health care - on the list could go. .
Steve, and Sue, put themselves into the struggle for full inclusion of GLBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For a number of years, Steve has faced illness.
Sometimes he seemed to gain - there were periods of remission.
But the struggle continued.
From time to time, the reports came - the illness was getting worse.
When his presbytery voted on the most recent initiative to include our GLBTQ sisters and brothers fully in the church, Steve made the effort to be there - his commitment to justice transcending his illness.
He voted, again, for inclusion. His presbytery did the same.

Tricia and I leave for Colorado tomorrow.
Our plans included a visit to see Steve and Sue.
A few days ago, we heard that the end was drawing near. We began to reconsider those plans - to perhaps go to Greeley sooner than we had intended.
Late last night (OK - early this morning - I don't sleep much) - we heard more news: the end might come before our arrival.
We called Sue a couple hours ago - so we would know how to finalize our plans - and we heard the news - Steve died this morning.
I give thanks for Steve's life and witness; I give thanks that his pain has ended; but the world seems a little bit less bright and my heart aches for Sue - we will figure out how to see her as she walks this shadowed valley.

See you along the Trail.

Of large tents

I have been offline a lately since I have been under the Presbyterian Church's Big Tent in Indianapolis A pretty good time was had. Lots of good folk seen. Tomorrow brings vacation - travel to Colorado - then to Ghost Ranch.