Monday, September 29, 2008


Some mornings, I open the back door and peer out to see how many flowers have faded, then walk outdoors to snap off the dead heads of marigolds, mums, and geraniums. This morning, I surprised a box turtle, probably an Eastern box turtle with yellow markings, just the color of the marigolds she had crawled beneath. She kept her head up but stiffened her close-fitting armor and froze in a stance so unmoving that we were able to photograph her. She has been named “Mum,” and as I write she has disappeared into the nearby woods, just as I began to think about making her a pet. All that remains of her appearance is a small indention in the mulch around the yellow mums.

Box turtles are reputed to adapt easily to captivity and even crave raw hamburger, along with fruits and berries (there go my wild blueberries again!). Some people feed them scraps from the table, and with proper nutrition (?) they can live to be a ripe old age – 30 and 40 years, with heartier ones reaching 100 years. Box turtles can become obese, unable to close their shells tightly; therefore, they’re vulnerable to predators. I don’t know how old Mum is, but she appeared to be in her teens from the looks of her flashy armor sprinkled with unorthodox yellow E’s turned backwards.

Turtles have always fascinated me, and I collect replicas of them. Several turtles appear in my writings – one giant-sized alligator turtle appears in THE KAJUN KWEEN and becomes the catch of the heroine Petite Marie Melancon, deftly drawn by folk artist Paul Schexnayder who illustrated this children’s book. Petite’s Uncle Ti’ Joe tells about 300 lb. snapping turtles found on Last Island, off the coast of Louisiana, that were so large they had to be kept in water pens similar to hog pens.

Much mythology has been passed on about the turtle, and in the Far East, the turtle was regarded as magical, a creature that united heaven and earth. The shell represented heaven; its flat bottom, earth. Early Christians didn’t like turtles and regarded them as carriers of evil during wars – and why were the early Christians doing battle? Greeks thought turtles were symbols of hell. However, Indians revere turtles and regard them as symbols of longevity and immortality. In the Hindu religion, turtles represent temporary residences for souls that are traveling through many lives on the road to Nirvana. Turtles, worldwide, are symbolized as spiritual creatures and are said to remind us that the path to heaven is through Mother Earth who will protect and take care of us.

Another turtle reference appears in this poem about my oldest daughter in THE BOOK OF UNCOMMON POETRY, one of my chapbooks:


Any kind of a pet will do.
We found a turtle raffling in tall grass,

coin-sized like a dime store relic,
just daring her to take him in.

She has an infant sister
but five years passed before she had,

and so any kind of pet will do
to guard the inner differences.

She sleeps now, close to his green back,
asks me to baby sit

the small something left behind,
not to shriek the way I do at her,

turtles, absolutely, any pet will do.

For graver reasons she believes
he got lost from the race,

just to prove that needing
reigns more important than running;

to the swift, a chase,
getting winded to pull in your head,

to the slow…
becoming the cared for.


There they were this morning, emerging from a transitional area between forest and thicket–brazen, cud-chewing, white-tailed deer headed for my lawn where they soon began munching leaves and grass while eying the bed of dying flowers. There they went when I tapped on the glass, each one using four hooves which hit the ground all at once as they bounded away from the sound of fingers rapping against the glass.

I’ve written three poems about the handsome deer that often graze on my lawn and confess that when I leave Sewanee next month, I’ll miss those great soft eyes that stare at me before they turn to graze on the yellowing grass, totally unconcerned about my words of banishment. When my daughter, Stephanie, visited me this summer, she was outraged because I shooed these creatures out of the yard. A cat lover, Stephanie thinks all animals should be petted, abetted, and befriended. While she was here, I’d search for her before breakfast and would find her and her husband on the front porch watching the deer and making “come here” noises to the critters.

I’d like to believe that my daughter’s enthusiastic response to the deer can be traced to my reading aloud to her THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE by C. S. Lewis when she was a pre-schooler and became enchanted with one of the amusing characters in this novel, the fawn with deer legs. Certainly, Lewis was deeply fond of deer and had rooms next to Deer Park at Magdalene College, Oxford.

Although the deer appear as charming other-world creatures in Lewis’s fantasy novels, and Stephanie listened well when I read to her from THE NARNIA CHRONICLES, I think that her love of animals actually burgeoned when we acquired a beloved cat in Iran, Roya, the Persian Princess. Roya migrated back to America with us, then ran off with an alley cat, just like Mehitabel in ARCHY AND MEHITABEL. She had been kept behind locked doors in Iran , and we would have veiled her had we thought it would keep her from pining for the skinny toms who scratched at her window as she looked out at the desert world. After settling in America, Roya took moonlight walks all night, and a stringy gray tom next door wailed a Romeo aria to her each morning. Stephanie was disconsolate when Roya ran off with this gray tom, and after she married, she made up for this loss by acquiring eight cats. That is, she took care of eight felines until yesterday morning when she called to say that she had “put down” (as animal lovers say) one of the eight very fat cats, her 14 yr. old De-De, and now she has only seven. I tried to subdue her by telling her about sighting several deer, but she wasn’t buying consolation – no Bambi stories for her yesterday!

Since Stephanie’s visit, I’ve stopped yelling at the deer. Now, I just tap the window glass. I’ve also decided against purchasing “Deer Out,” a repellent that can be applied to flowers and edible fruit (like the prized wild blueberries growing in the front yard that the deer gobbled up). Actually, I shuddered after reading an article in “The Messenger” about the deer culling that occurs at Sewanee every year when trained marksmen use bow and arrow to decimate the deer population.

As I said, now, when deer appear, I just rap the window, stare into their large, beseeching eyes, and ask them to go away. Sometimes they stop and stare back at me, but most of the time they leap away –to hide behind the hemlock tree in another part of the yard!! Here’s one of the snippets I wrote about deer for my chapbook, JUST PASSING THROUGH, last summer:


She looked at me quizzically
when I spoke to her,

yelling from the open window,
and, unabashed, she lifted her mule ears

to hear my admonition
that she shouldn’t eat our plants,

that she had no shame,
creature so cavalier,

returning to the crime scene of her first repast.

I go out on the porch,
tell her to leave,

she stares me down,
I am the intruder,

she is the graceful deer, habitat known,
what do you know? she seems to ask.

It’s true, she senses that I’m lost,
led into anonymity,

that I’m a ‘come here’ searching for place
where I can graze with confidence…

savor newfound plants.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


While waiting for Fr. Tom Ward to open a session on Centering Prayer this week, I was re-introduced to one of our group that meets at Sewanee Conference Center on Tuesday evenings. Joanne Atwood, Executive Director of The PEN Foundation in Winchester, Tennessee, began chatting with me about her work with this organization. Joanne has retired to Monteagle, Tennessee, just six miles up the road from Sewanee, with her husband, a former football coach at the University of Florida. Joanne became very animated when she explained the focus of PEN Foundation, which provides a tutoring and mentoring program to children in Franklin County. The tutoring aspect of PEN has been in place nine years, and during the past year 400 children in Franklin County received tutoring assistance. Joanne said that many of these school children are tutored by college students attending the University of the South here at Sewanee, and a large percentage of the children in the program have needed help developing their reading skills.

As we discussed books and reading, both of us became “lathered up” about children who missed out on the joy of reading. Joanne touts PEN as the answer to this problem. In addition to the actual tutoring, the mentoring aspect of the program provides models for children to emulate “so that they can become successful, productive, fulfilled citizens,” Joanne says. “When adults become interested in children and walk the walk with them, it really makes a difference in their lives.”

Following the Centering Prayer session, I read an article about Joanne in “The Herald Chronicle” (Winchester newspaper) in which she says, “My Dad was a great outdoorsman. When I was six or seven years of age, he told me that we should always leave the woods better than we found them (an old Girl Scout precept also!). Franklin County Schools are our woods, and it is the duty of all of us to leave them better than we found them.”

The conversation brought to mind my mother’s belief in and love of books and the teaching of reading skills…I know her “tutoring and mentoring” had a deep and lasting impact on my family. Here is an excerpt about Mother from the introduction to my book, THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, now out of print:

“A few years ago, in the silence of too much winter, my mother passed away…A friend and I were once discussing our mothers, and I asked her if she remembered the scene in PETER PAN in which Tinker Bell is dying and Peter asks for those in the world who believe in fairies to clap their hands. ‘Well,’ I told my friend, ‘my mother would have been the first to clap her hands.’ She was fantasy itself; she saw sprites dancing in open fires, drew pictures of gnomes painting the woodlands and created pastels of quaint cliff dwellings where other-world spirits lived.

“My mother loved words and books. When I was three years old, she would seat me, cross-legged in the middle of a small kitchen, and open for me giant editions of MOTHER GOOSE, A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSE, and MARIGOLD GARDEN, laughing at friends who often dropped in to proclaim that I was backward because I did not talk and only sat quietly, absorbing the book characters she knew I would remember for a lifetime. She read aloud the entire series of UNCLE WIGGLY IN THE CABBAGE PATCH, THE LITTLE COLONEL, RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY, GREEK LEGENDS, BLACK BEAUTY and GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES, even after all of the children in our family had learned to read.

“Every month for years, Mother would take one of the three children in our family to Claitor’s Bookstore in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to choose two books for our nightly reading session. She was the first family member to open the books, touching the pictures with credulous delight. My mother began to fly in the heavens long before Mary Poppins opened her first umbrella to make her wonderful flights! For her, I wrote my first story at age six. I remember only that the tale concerned a small child who opened a door in a tree and found herself in a fantasy world similar to Alice’s Wonderland…

“When Mother was a teen-ager, she exemplified the phrase which actually accompanied my graduation picture in the high school annual: ‘Large, divine, and comfortable words.’ She loved the syllables and accents of words and would roll them out at inappropriate times as she did following a Baptist Church service when she filed out the door and shook the minister’s hand. ‘Dr. Gayer, that was really an EXCRUCIATING sermon,’ she remarked, thinking that she had expressed a highly complimentary description of his delivery. ‘Well, yes, Miss Greenlaw,’ he answered, ‘come to think of it, it probably was.’

“Back in the mid-1960’s, I wrote a poem about my father, published in AMERICAN WEAVE, a literary journal, and my mother showed the tiniest bit of jealousy that I hadn’t published something about and for her. I told her then that I would write a poem about her. I never did. But this book is for her (THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL: PROFILES OF MEMORABLE LOUISIANA WOMEN). Somehow, I think she’ll be able to read it, even without her glasses…”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


“If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard…” That arresting quotation from Proverbs was the take home message of yesterday’s homily delivered by The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz at St. Mary’s of Sewanee. Susanna, a tall woman who frequently wears her auburn red hair in a long braid down her back and goes up to Communion barefoot, has an impressive list of academic degrees behind her name – five to be exact – but she delivers The Word in an open, non-abrasive style, often ending with a “hmmm” that sets up a responsive musing in her hearers.

Her “hmmm” yesterday unleashed a powerful memory of an experience I had with the poor of Mexico. When I went down to Oaxaca City, Mexico, almost ten years ago, two friends accompanied me, one of whom had never been out of the U.S. The first evening out as we were eating at a sidewalk café on the Zocalo, Janet, new to “international experiences,” saw a group of very young children walking the streets, working to support their families by shining shoes or selling jewelry and chewing gum, and she became so upset she wanted to leave Mexico.

Many of these children, we later learned, had fled political violence in western Oaxaca. Days passed before Janet became accustomed to the sight of street children and befriended several who sold her a passel of jewelry. The children ranged from 6 – 12 years of age and most of them flashed large brown eyes that looked imploringly at you as you examined their necklaces and bracelets. I’d say that anyone who resisted the “cries of the poor” children should suffer the consequences of not being heard themselves, should they become impoverished during their lifetime. The children weren’t beggars as I had seen in southern Iran; they were just among the “early employed,” cheerful and engaged in the art of selling.

A center called Centro de Esperanza Infantil (Oaxaca Street Children) has been established for these waifs , which houses a dining room, a library, computers, and a kindergarten. Had we known the need for volunteers (who are readily accepted, even today), we would have helped with meals or English classes, glad to answer “the cry of the poor.” The best we could do was to leave Oaxaca City bound for home, our necks laden with numerous brightly-colored homemade necklaces sold by the street children.

A poem I wrote, published in AFTERNOONS IN OAXACA is about one of the young “jewelry dealers”:


Candi Lopez, child necklace dealer,
brought in an armload of new strands today,

including Jesus on a black string.

“Nada, nada, I have a cross,” I said,
fingering the finely wrought gold Celtic one,

as she pulled me into the hotel lobby,
held Jesus on a black string up to the white light

streaming through the open door to the zocalo,
one brown eye closed, the other focused

on a tiny glass peephole in the crucifix.

“Mira, mira,” she said, twirling around,
knowing she had caught me again.

Inside the peephole,
a paper image of Christo Rey,

who takest away, who takest away
all the sins in the world, and, too,

my pesos at the rate of 20 a day,
via Candi Lopez,

international necklace dealer.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Last Sunday, as I sat thinking about all the disasters occurring in the natural realm and the financial world, I wrote a blog mentioning that I struggled to “be in the moment” and had capitulated to centering prayer to learn how to connect with the power that energizes and fills our lives with peace. This morning, I enjoyed some wonderful moments of being, talking with, and getting to know better, a Sewanee author of SOUL MOMENTS, Isabel Anders. Isabel believes we “strengthen our usefulness…in prayer, an ongoing dialogue with the Creator who nurtures and enlightens us as seeking human beings” (SOUL MOMENTS published by Cowley, 2006.) She brought over several of her books and allowed me to select one as a gift from her, and I had difficulty choosing one title among SOUL MOMENTS, AWAITING THE CHILD: AN ADVENT JOURNAL, and THE FACES OF FRIENDSHIP, to name a few of her inspirational books. This talented writer has the endorsement of the renowned children’s author, poet, and inspirational writer Madeleine L’Engle (now deceased) who was Isabel’s mentor and personal friend.

We chatted several hours, exchanging books, ideas about book marketing (hopeless?!), politics (hopeless?!), and theology, finding deep similarities in thought and experience. A dark-haired woman with intense black eyes, Isabel resembles in looks and ideas a Portuguese woman of the same name I befriended when I lived in Ahwaz, Iran. The Portuguese friend was always saying, “we must make the best of the moment,” and once handed me a paintbrush to begin re-inventing the desert environment after I complained of cultural shock when I first arrived in Khuzestan Province. We created “soul moments” by painting a dining room wall the hue of blue ocean water so that I could feel that water was near and transcend the arid environment of southern Iran.

Isabel Anders has a wry sense of humor, and I was delighted with her comments about editors when I showed her some of my “better” rejection letters. “The editors always tell me how much they enjoy and appreciate my excellent writing,” I said, “and then reject the manuscript.” “Yes,” Isabel replied, “I have some of those letters myself. I think we should write for editors?!” Of course, she has been published by Cowley, as well as other well-known publishers of inspirational books and is also managing editor of SYNTHESIS, a national publisher of sermon guides for clergy.

The essence of SOUL MOMENTS is that the sacred is present in everyday moments. Isabel writes in the introduction to this book: “Some moments – times when heaven touches earth – are here and now, in the thick of things, sometimes occurring as we are most aware of our human limitations and confusion. They encircle us, and, for their moment, name us: loved, beloved, cherished, chosen. The experience passes, but the soul bears its indelible mark…”

Isabel’s experience of sacred moments and her writing about those moments remind me of Evelyn Underhill, the 20th century Anglican mystic who had so much to say about practical mysticism and how we can all become mystics, can find the sacred in the ordinary. In reading Isabel’s book, I find many references to Underhill, and, there again, we experience similarity in our reading. Evelyn Underhill thought that we could experience the sacred as we were “rubbing up the silver, polishing the glass… even though you know the Master will not be looking around the pantry next week-end. If your life is really part of the apparatus of the Spirit, that is the sort of life it must be…” (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, David McKay Co., Inc., New impression, 1962).

This morning of serendipity was certainly a succession of soul moments, and I’m grateful to the Community of the Sisters of St. Mary for “sending” Isabel along to me, via Sunday morning services and biscuits and coffee offered at hospitality time after the services. She’s a delight! You can find Isabel’s books at Her books are spiritual treasures for members of any denomination/religious persuasion.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


When people here at Sewanee speak of “The Mountain,” they use the name alternately with the Cumberland Plateau – a geographical fact that confused me when I first arrived here. The Cumberland Plateau, a tableland that is “lifted up” like a mountain is conjoined with plains country and river canyons. Surface rock up here is sandstone, “The Mountain” rising up almost 2,000 feet above the Valley. At one time, passage “down The Mountain,” as the natives say, was through the Cumberland Gap or along the Tennessee River near Chattanooga.

In my readings about Tennessee, I discovered that the Cumberland Plateau has rich veins of coal and the mountains still show places where strip mines scarred the earth. The Plateau is now a place of deep canyons, sandstone bluffs, caves, and waterfalls, and is covered with oak forests, interspersed with hickory, maple, gum, and tulip poplar trees.

Many of my friends spend time hiking on The Mountain or Plateau and tout such sites as Fiery Gizzard Trail, Walls of Jericho, Dry Hole Trail, Bridal Veils Trail, Shakerag Hollow Trail, and other exotic (?)-sounding names, but I’ve declined to make serious hikes and confine my explorations to car tours through agricultural country where hay, Irish potatoes, and fruit trees abound, as mentioned in my blogs about the Mennonite landscape.

I’m told that the Cherokee Indians once owned most of The Plateau but gave up their claim to it in 1819. In 1838, the remainder of the Cherokees were forcibly rounded up and sent to Oklahoma, most of them moving by foot on the Trail of Tears, 4,000 of them perishing along the way. Many of the arts and crafts I saw in August at the annual Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Fair showed the influence of Indian artisans and added to the color of one of the most eclectic shows of handicrafts I’ve seen anywhere.

This morning on The Mountain, September 17, temperatures dipped to 57 degrees at 5 a.m. At 6:45, I shivered when I got out of the car to attend Morning Prayer at St. Mary’s Convent of Sewanee – the bluff is particularly chilly when Fall cold sets in as winds hover there year-round. However, I’ve discovered that I can withstand the chill better than last year at this time. Perhaps I’m finally getting acclimated to The Mountain.

Yellow leaves of tulip poplar trees have begun to fall and skitter across the drive, announcing the end of Summer. Last October, I wrote this snippet for JUST PASSING THROUGH, a book of poetry published by Border Press:


The trees are promised gold, red, brown,
yet only the dogwood acts as though

change is welcome,

accepts the leaf turning, departing green,
shaking out hues of flaming flowers,

embracing the grace of diffraction.

Monday, September 15, 2008


In these times of rabid politics, I sit in the chapel at St. Mary’s Sewanee and hear sermons about our disaffections and apathy about stopping wars in the world. What is new under the sun? I think, all the while praying for peace. In one of my recent books, GRANDMA’S GOOD WAR, I talk about the feelings of patriotism and community solidarity that prevailed during WWII. But, then, I was a child, far removed from the killing fields in Europe and Japan. Now, at this stage of my life, I can’t really relate to the purpose of WWII – I was told that we, in this country, were being vigilant against those who might invade our country. So what is new under the sun?

Strong winds stirred the trees beside the chapel yesterday, and the entire day was infused with a kind of overcast gray, much like the weather preceding a Louisiana hurricane. Over biscuits and coffee, people who had attended the services talked about being afraid of what might happen if a Republican wins the election, some threatening to move to Canada or New Zealand…some said their children had told them they will leave the country if the Republicans presently running for top offices are elected. They fear a military draft and a knee jerk entry into another World War. I listened and shuddered, for the first time thinking that perhaps they were right. Militarism, fundamentalism, exclusivity, prejudice, greed for oil – all of these negatives are part of a rabid politics, and the ideas swirled in my head so that it was difficult for me to just “be in the moment,” as my recent readings tell me to do. I recalled a snippet poem I wrote last summer when I had some prescience of the future:


Not burned to death
or frozen to death,

but warred to death,
the planet excelling in amazing hate,

a desperation to own too many corners
saying too little about love,

Lewis’s explication of agape
falling on ears listening

to a different drummer:
the rumble of cannon.

Rain began to fall heavily outside, and I retreated to my room to practice Centering Prayer taught in a workshop I attended Saturday here at Sewanee. The retreat to my room calmed me. Perhaps you might like to read Thomas Keating’s’ book, OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART. The method of prayer suggested in this book is not a way of pleading with God to bring peace or a means of ignoring the problems of the world. It’s a way of being with the Being that makes us aware that God can do anything. As Keating says: “All true prayer is based on the conviction of the presence of the Spirit in us and of his unfailing and continued inspiration.” And perhaps the prayer is a way of becoming grounded so that we have the disposition and energy to help bring about peace in the world.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


In the introduction to my first blog, I wrote that sometimes I’d feature sermons I had given in “A Word’s Worth.” I’ve refrained from publishing them because I think that sermons are better delivered than read, but felt compelled to repeat one today that I gave seven years ago following Sept. 11:

“In the Gospel according to Peanuts, I came across a strip in which Lucy, accompanied by Linus, is pointing to an outline of a heart imprinted on a fence. She says, ‘This, Linus, is a picture of the human heart.’ And in the next frame, she explains to vulnerable Linus, ‘One side is filled with hate and the other side is filled with love. These are the two forces constantly at war with each other.’ Linus looks away from Lucy who is, of course, staring intently at him, and says: ‘I think I know what you mean. I can feel them fighting now.’

Most of us are probably experiencing that same kind of battle going on within, for how else could we feel in the faces of the killing fields in NYC and Washington, D.C. that flashed endlessly on our television screens during this anguished week? I don’t think that any of us can truly say that anger didn’t well up in us as an initial reaction when we watched the towers collapse, people fleeing in the streets, and the flames and smoke of the Pentagon fire.

A day later, most of us, like Linus, felt great torrents of love for the New York City and Washington, D.C. fire fighters, policemen, the everyday people in two great cities who almost immediately began to search the rubble for those trapped within. At the same time, we entertained a lively hostility toward the unknown perpetrators who dared to invade our home of freedom that hadn’t been violated since WWII and the siege of Pearl Harbor. I think that we struggle each morning with this dichotomy Linus pointed out as residents of our hearts -- love and hate. But we do go on. We go on mostly because we’re a faithful people. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a part of many prayer services, have stood in the sun waving a flag in the City Hall square, donated to the Episcopal Relief Fund, and wept through the service at the National Cathedral service televised last week.

The words that resonated with me during that service were those presented by our President: ‘adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of our nation as well.’ And what we’re introduced to, whether we like it or not, is that we Americans who are Christians are models -- for the immediate world around us –and for those in the world who are farthest from us. We’re observed with great scrutiny under circumstances of acute distress and horror, to see how we’ll react. And what those who look at us are seeing is that with grace and the Spirit working in our hearts, evil and death are broken down and destroyed each morning. There are so many stories of generosity and goodness being lived out that some scribe should surely write them down so that other generations can read them and be inspired.

The grace that God gives us works like salt, one writer has said. It preserves every grain of goodness it can find and heightens its flavor. We have that salt because we have something called the theology of hope. And although we groan inwardly, we wait and work in hope. This wonderful theology of hope stands against twisted steel, broken concrete, conflagrations, and the madness of terrorism. The theology of hope is the Christian movement toward a promised future – the inheritance of the eternal kingdom.

Through our faith, our theology of hope, and God’s grace, you and I are always being given Christ’s transforming gift – something called the gift of love. During this time, I believe we should recall our Anglican heritage and theology, remembering our three-legged stool that Richard Hooker divined for us – Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. In the best of our tradition, we should be praying daily for faith, peace, unity, and charity. We should pray for this even in a hostile environment. We should be reading what Scripture tells us about hatred and violence, and we should be using our good Anglican reason to discern the message from our individual and collective consciences.

In Stephen Holmgren’s ETHICS AFTER EASTER, he tells us that we Anglicans don’t have a rule book, a compendium of moral teachings, other than Holy Scripture, that will answer every question or tell us the right thing to do in every situation. But we can still have faithful confidence. In the tradition of Anglican thought, we have two convictions that are always in dialogue: those who believe that violence is never justified…and those who believe that violence might serve justice and the pursuit of peace on particular occasions and according to well-defined principles. The author of ETHICS AFTER EASTER relates that perhaps if those two convictions would dialogue, they’d be able to see more points of convergence and create greater consensus among Christian community. We have the gift of God’s creation, the divinely-inspired Scriptures, and a long tradition of theological reflection to help us. And it is possible, Holmgren reminds us for the ‘God-enabled, Christ-indwelled, and Spirit-led community to grow further and further into the fullness of the Risen Lord and his Truth.’

Anger is a human and normal emotion and we have it, sometimes, I think, to arouse us from deadly lethargy. Psychologists remind us we have anger to protect ourselves, and, yet, we’re called as Christians, to move through that anger and arrive at that transforming love I mentioned. We’re to stay focused on loving God, each other, our country, our world. As a verse in Proverbs reminds us: ‘Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.’ Here today, in this small parish church, let us remember the words of the great theologian Teilhard de Chardin who wrote in a haiku: ‘At the heart of matter/a world heart/the heart of a God.’”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


September 9 marked the Episcopal feast day for Sister Constance and Her Companions, a day celebrated by the Anglican Sisters of St. Mary, Sewanee. It’s an important celebration for the Sisters of St. Mary as Sister Constance belonged to the order of St. Mary in Memphis, Tennessee. Sister Constance and her companions – three Anglican nuns and two priests, as well as Roman Catholic clergy and a group of prostitutes who wanted to help out– died during the worst yellow fever epidemic of the 19th century in Memphis. When this epidemic struck, Sister Constance and her companions stayed behind to nurse the sick and dying and ultimately succumbed to yellow fever. They’re known as “the martyrs of Memphis,” and, yesterday morning, the altar hangings, stole, and the Rev. Dr. Suzanna Metz’s chasuble blazed with deep red fabric. However, the Anglican nuns of St. Mary, Sewanee, were dressed in their customary blue jumpers and white blouses and presented what I call “a cloud of blue angels.”

After the celebratory mass, the sisters were accidentally called to follow in the footsteps of their mentor, Sister Constance, when a visiting Associate fell on the concrete steps leading past the rose garden and injured his head. Blankets, pillows, towels, water, and a dusty mat from the carport were whisked to the scene of the fall by three of the Sisters while two of them who are RNs attended the Associate. It was an upsetting occasion, but I did gain a firsthand glimpse of the team spirit of the members of this Community of St. Mary before the ambulance arrived. “If I become ill, anywhere, I’d like to have that cloud of blue angel healers and protectors attending me,” I told Sister Lucy, Mother Superior of the St. Mary Convent, who stood beside me. Sister Lucy just nodded. She’s a legend herself and known on the Cumberland Plateau and in the Valley as an outstanding teacher, priest, cattle raiser, gardener, retreat leader, and advocate of the poor. Sister Lucy now has sight problems but she can still preach a profound homily, sans notes, and always provides a lot of take-home inspiration.

‘Seems as though some unseen force called upon the Sisters of St. Mary to observe the occasion of the feast day of Sister Constance to carry out the concluding phrase of the prayer for this feast day: “…Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need…”

The events of yesterday morning reminded me of one of my poems in JUST PASSING THROUGH, published last year, here at Sewanee:


This “trifle” called mercy,
a moan in the heart,
fills the region with wry pain
again and again;
diners feed humbly,
eating unleavened morsels,
gaining grand energy
to save the world
with this “trifle” called mercy,
the same diners
at the busy table,
asking for sacrifice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The threat of another hurricane entering the Gulf of Mexico and the devastation it has caused in Haiti and Cuba sends me out to the red-tiled front porch for prayer and pondering. It’s a small porch, a square of red tiles atop concrete, held up by wrought iron supports, and it overlooks ¾’s of an acre of woods here at Sewanee. I sit on the porch, taking in the cool morning temperatures of 66 degrees, watching birds practice their “beingness” and thinking, again, about the sentence from Scripture: “and he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a dead calm.” From the vantage point of this high and dry porch, hurricanes are memories to me right now, but I’ve experienced their realness many times. Anyway, porch sitting is not something I do well, but I use it as a center of meditation and prayer arrows.

Porches once evoked a kind of relaxation that southerners valued, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries when, at first dark and following supper, families got together to talk. In my childhood, porches ran the width of the house and were a civil place where neighbors often came to sit in tall rockers or wicker chairs on a warm night. They offered a place where there was no mention of “what’s the next thing?” They were just mini retreats where you sat, suspended in a non-judgmental, fraternal atmosphere, listening to locusts or katydids and watching lightning bugs blink in the quiet darkness.

In Franklinton, Louisiana, my Grandmother Greenlaw’s front gallery ran the width of her Victorian frame house and traveled around one side that was later screened. It held a swing with green scaling paint, four tall rockers painted lime green, and several stands of Boston fern. The white balustrade that also ran the width of the porch was topped with a railing that caused no end of trouble because grandchildren loved to test their balance by walking on the long rail. My sister Sidney Suzanne and I were no match for daredevil brother Paul who ambled across it without stuttering and often jumped to the floor of the porch, taunting us to walk across…fast. I managed to make one trip across the rail without wobbling, but, alas, Sidney Suzanne, on her first attempt, tiptoed, tottered, and fell to the ground, landing with a loud thunk. I peered down at her unmoving, unspeaking body (the wind was knocked out of her), then ran screaming for my grandparents. Thereafter, Grandmother’s gallery was restricted to strictly sitting, much to our relief, and brother Paul had to seek out tall trees to climb and fall from and chemistry labs to blow up (both of which he did with such aplomb that his school principal dubbed him “incorrigible”).

Grandmother Nell made good use of her gallery, posting herself in the scaling swing with her back to 10th Avenue which ran in front of a tall oak beyond the front porch. She angled herself just so she could glance sidelong at every car that passed and critique what the drivers/passengers looked like that day. Since meticulous personal appearance was one of her qualifications for “good character,” she often grumbled about the appearance of business men who drove into her vision – the ones who had removed their ties and rolled up their shirtsleeves on the way home from work, not to mention the slovenly women who drove by wearing scarves tied around their heads in crude topknots because they hadn’t taken out bobbie pins and coiffed their hair that morning. She was also positioned to observe the goings/comings of her neighbors, the Moores, whom she called “common” (the worst examples of “character” in her lexicon), complaining about their cage of Catahoula hounds that bayed when the noon whistle blew and the loud Gospel music the old man tuned in at every meal. One Fall, when I married the son of those common folk, she didn’t come out on the front porch for a week, and the old swing sat unmoving, like her hardshell Baptist morals, not yielding to the gentle October breeze until she recovered her pride and went back to porch sitting.

Grandmother Nell and Grandmother Marquart enjoyed another form of porches common to the South called sleeping porches, and here is a sardonic commentary about those gems that appeared in my book of rhyming verse entitled GRANDMA’S GOOD WAR:


Among all arrangements of sleeping, one memory overarches,/
tall Victorian houses with small sleeping porches,/
half-screen, half wood tacked on front or back,/
adjoining larger bedroom for female insomniac,/
the wife who couldn’t be bothered with spouse’s raucous snoring,/
or who, perhaps, thought his bedroom antics rather boring,/
so he was banished into this place unaesthetic and unpleasing/
on winter nights, even in the South, temps approaching freezing,/
a porch boasting iron bedstead piled high with bright quilt,/
heavy bedclothes covering some matriarchal guilt/
at forcing husband to this simulated outdoors,’/
to keep her safe from his nighttime amours./
Two porches graced my Grandfather Vern’s clapboard house,/
and one my Grandfather Paul renamed “the Victorian outhouse,”/
birthplace of erotic dreams that drifted into my room/
which opened onto the porch, shrouding it with gloom./
In old age Grandmother Nell joined him, leaving bedroom to me/
when visiting, I never slept the night, knowing that he/
yet endured a winter bitterly cold/
in a freeze-out turn-of-century old. /
Remembering, I fear he died from a case of “no intimacy” /
on a sleeping porch that fostered Victorian celibacy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Yesterday evening, we discovered a bona fide Mexican restaurant tucked away in the Tennessee hills in Tracy City, population 1698. The restaurant is a small place, and at 6 p.m. the parking lot was filled with workers’ trucks and cars bearing Sewanee stickers. Inside, the usual brightly-colored yellow and blue booths lined the walls of several rooms. Outside, people sat at tables under bright umbrellas on a patio behind a latticed fence, drinking Dos Equis and enjoying the halcyon weather of September in middle Tennessee. The menu was astonishingly varied, with entrée combinations of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, chili rellenos to warm the palates of Cajuns seeking dishes comparable to seasoned French Louisiana fare.

The waiter, who may have been 16 years old, spoke broken English and was attentive to the point of downright cozy; at the end of the meal, he squeezed into the booth alongside me, put his arm around me, and asked if I liked the enchilada/chili rellenos combination I had ordered. I asked him the name of his home town in Mexico, thinking perhaps I had toured there, but I couldn’t understand his description of the place. His smile reminded me of the friendly waiters we encountered in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

We left the small restaurant at dusk, talking excitedly about former Mexican adventures. I’ve vacationed in Mexico three times, my most memorable trip being the one made to Oaxaca City during the late 90’s. Three of us flew to Mexico City on a jet and then on a smaller plane southward to Oaxaca City where we spent three weeks of total relaxation. The euphoric experience is often described by one of the threesome as OAXACA! OAXACA!, an exclamation of delight she makes when she recalls the trip. We want to return for a repeat vacation, but are afraid that the second trip won’t evoke the “other world,” dreamlike feelings we experienced on the first visit.

Oaxaca City is located in southern Oaxaca, a place that offers a slow pace of living in a dry, rocky setting. It’s famous for great handicrafts, especially the wooden carvings of strange, fantastical animals called alebrijes which were developed from toys Oaxacans had been carving for their children for several centuries. My friends bought me an alebrijes monster to remind me that such a creature could gobble up my creative spirit if I spoke negatively about the results – my writing. I still have the monster hidden in a handwoven basket from Oaxaca City.

We stayed in an old hotel on the zocalo (square), at night opening the windows to fresh mountain air and letting in the sounds of marimba bands that played until dawn. In first class restaurants, we sampled dishes made with mole (chili-based chocolate sauce) and scoffed at grasshoppers listed on the menu, ate cochito horneado (baked pork) and consumed platter-sized, American-style pancakes in the restaurant adjoining our hotel. We also sampled a small jolt of mescal made from the maguey plant and, sometimes, agave, and took a little bottle home to New Iberia where it still sits on a shelf, awaiting a serious drinker, I suppose. At the Camino Real, we enjoyed a three-hour performance of the Guelaguetza dancers in what used to be a convent chapel! When we got tired of relaxing, we made a trip out to the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Alban, climbing stone terraces to look at ceremonial plazas and ancient tombs.

I bought a child’s tablet with wide lines and wrote the poems that are contained in a book of mine entitled AFTERNOONS IN OAXACA, two of which appear below:


The sound of monkeys squeaking
is only the last shiny touch on black shoes
forcing the patent gloss of a best foot forward.
We thought birds were conversing
across treetops in the early morning air,
it had the preternatural sound
of the Zapotec’s fantastical creatures,
voices shimmering on the air,
floating above the clacking
shop doors being drawn upward,
pleasing, like stepping out of old skin.


Every night is Saturday night in Oaxaca square,
hot keys on the marimba,
rumba in the street,
voices murmuring on the wind;
and we leave their celebrations,
the orange and yellow blossoms on sandstone,
but the sun will not age before we return,
lonely for the bruised stone,
wind blowing the curtain gently
through casement windows,
seeking the birds of myth,
the gold and black butterflies,
blue and yellow tapestry of memory,
our spirits’ refreshment again,
and Quetzalcoatl
anointing his new companions.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Leaves have been falling for a week here in Tennessee – mostly bright yellow poplar leaves that litter both porches of my home and remind me that Fall approaches. I’ve always been enamored of trees and often think of the tall cheerful pines of my childhood and also the lordly oaks in Teche country, Louisiana. One of my novels ends with the words, “if trees could talk, the stories they’d tell, but, as Confucius says, ‘silence is a true thing and never betrays.’”

This morning, I look at the poplars and oaks in my front yard and remember a book of mine published in 1984, THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, PROFILES OF MEMORABLE LOUISIANA WOMEN. Among the profiles in that book was one about a real tree hugger, the imminent botanist who lived at Briarwood, Louisiana, Caroline Dormon. During 1983, I spent many weeks in her domain, researching her life and enjoying treks on a 120-acre tract of piney woods called Briarwood in north LA near Saline. “Miss Carrie,” as she was called, was a 20th century Thoreau who lived simply in a small log cabin on this 120-acre tract.

In 1921, Miss Carrie claimed the distinction of being the first woman to be hired by the Louisiana Forestry Service. She deeply loved longleaf pine trees, and in the early 1900’s she lobbied for the preservation of a tract of mature longleaf pines in the Kisatchie Hill area. The area contained outcroppings of Grand Gulf sandstone that created stony bluffs not unlike those here at Sewanee. Small waterfalls and streams flowed on this domain, and Miss Carrie eloquently described the place: “Because of its heavy forests, on the oldest maps it is designated the Kisatchie Wold, a name as musical as the wind in the pines…the great pines come right to the water’s edge on these lovely clear creeks, with only an occasional magnolia and dainty wild azalea and ferns… There the idea was born – this unspoiled beauty must be preserved for future generations to enjoy…” For over a decade, Miss Carrie urged congressmen, senators, judges, and the U.S. Forest Service to purchase and preserve the pinelands of north Louisiana. On June 10, 1930, the National Forest Reservation Committee purchased 75,589 acres in three districts called Kisatchie, Catahoula, and Vernon. Caroline Dormon selected the name “Kisatchie” for this national forest, and it was officially designated that name by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The Kisatchie National Forest now includes almost 600,000 acres of “green gold’ in seven LA parishes, and that acreage can be regarded as the end result of Miss Carrie’s efforts.

Miss Carrie authored WILDFLOWERS OF LOUISIANA and FLOWERS NATIVE TO THE DEEP SOUTH, rendering her own watercolors and line drawings and using live plants as models. She also loved birds and wrote another book entitled BIRD TALK in 1969, often climbing out on limbs to survey bird nests for her research. She kept a display of bird nests on the back porch of her cabin, and in the apocrypha concerning the lovable naturalist is the tale that birds plucked hair from her bright red braids to build their nests. She wore a large hat with nuts around the brim from which birds fed. Miss Carrie wrote about her beloved trees in FOREST TREES OF LOUISIANA, and for half a century she grew native and exotic plants, corresponding with botanists around the world. Briarwood now contains the most complete array of native southern U.S. plants in their natural setting in the nation. Her plant kingdom was recognized by the American Horticultural Society as a sanctuary for the flora of the South. Briarwood remains an expansive natural lab sustained by the Caroline Dormon Foundation. Miss Carrie died in 1971 at the age of 83. Her last days were spent lying abed beneath a bright handmade quilt in a sparsely furnished bedroom containing only a bed and a bureau. In that setting, she gazed out the window at her beloved trees, plants, and birds until the light faded.

Those who want to read a more complete biography can search for a copy of THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, published in 1984, and, very likely, this book is in your public library. Miss Carrie’s good friend, Louisiana author Lyle Saxon, once wrote an epitaph for her: “In Memorium,/ Caroline Dormon./ They will build monuments where you have trod/for sometimes you’re Audubon… and sometimes you’re God.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Yesterday, my daughter called and said she had been digging a trench in her yard in New Iberia because the rains following the Mighty Gustav had caused some flash flooding. She sounded calm, not resigned, and glad to be doing something to diminish the overflow in her domain.

This morning I have before me an arresting photograph of the Mississippi River flood of 1927, a picture of the Moreauville Crevasse taken during this flood which appears in LOUISIANA; AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY by C. E. Richard. In the photograph, raging waters cover half of a Louisiana style hip-roofed house, and the picture evoked some nervousness in me.

In 1927, rain had fallen since August of the year before, and a succession of storms swelled the Mississippi and all its tributaries to the point of finally breaking the levees. Prior to the disaster, residents in New Orleans, like those today, had anticipated the river inundating the city. According to C. E. Richard in LOUISIANA; AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY, in 1927, New Orleans was a commercially important city of the United States with double the economic wealth of other cities in the region. When stories of possible flooding surfaced, people began withdrawing their money from banks in New Orleans, and a group of New Orleans businessmen realized that the panic could ruin the city’s economy without the levee even overflowing. So they bought 80,000 pounds of dynamite and after several days of blasting, opened a crevasse in the levee 13 miles downriver from New Orleans. The surge inundated Plaquemine and St. Bernard parishes. Then another levee north of Baton Rouge gave way, as did other levees along the Mississippi upriver from New Orleans. Of course, the floodwaters didn’t inundate New Orleans, but the two neighboring parishes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines were destroyed. As a result of the disaster, within a year, a $300 million flood control plan for the Mississippi was instituted.

This wasn’t a pleasant story to read. It seems the businessmen who had ordered the dynamiting knew beforehand, through river control engineers, that the likelihood of a levee break in New Orleans wasn’t a threat; that levees breaking upriver would spare the city. The businessmen had sacrificed the two neighboring parishes to create confidence in New Orleans residents and investors that the city wouldn’t be inundated. Today, the Atchafalaya Basin, near New Iberia, provides a floodway that helps protect Baton Rouge and New Orleans from flooding. Through a system of flood plains, levees, and control mechanisms, the Basin carries the overflow from the Red River and Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, this story is a long way from a backyard overflow; however, it’s an indication of where my thoughts lie this morning in the aftermath of Gustav. From my chapbook SOARING, published by Border Press, a “flooding verse” from the poem “Greenville:”


You can’t sit in the Delta
without smelling the sweat,

feeling their sweetness,
always taking care of white folk,

guiding them to places
to buy their books, sample the cuisine,

knowing just where to direct them,
just how to protect these white folk

who boasted they protected their blacks;

in 1927, promised them a flood camp…
and let them drown, while building a levee,

in the muddy stool of the Mississippi.

On a lighter note, an e-mail from friend Judge Anne Simon informs me that only last night, the Simons feasted on a court bouillon to die for, concocted with Rick Patout’s super fish stock and William Kyle’s fresh redfish fillets. Her son Jeff added that along with the caveats about downed power lines, people in New Iberia should be warned about overeating! Makes me want to head home to Louisiana, flood or no…

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


While watching television reports about Hurricane Gustav yesterday, I sent up many prayer arrows about the storm. I also searched in The Gospel of Matthew for the story about Christ stilling the storm and found the passage (Matthew 8:26): “And he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a dead calm.” That passage became a mantra I said to myself throughout the day. In late afternoon, my daughter in New Iberia called to say that the eye of Gustav had passed through, she was alive and well, and my home there was intact.

According to a book entitled THE GOSPELS TODAY by Stephan Need, the passage in Matthew I used as a mantra wasn’t about Christ showing off by breaking the laws of nature – it was the story of a work of mighty power, about Christ bringing order out of chaos and nurturing discipleship in those who believe. I’ve been a Louisiana resident most of my life and confess that a hurricane will make a believer of anyone! Several years ago, when Hurricane Lily threatened New Iberia and forecasters predicted it would come ashore in Louisiana as a Category 5 hurricane, many prayers went up throughout the State. Through some mysterious stilling of the waters, the storm arrived at the Louisiana coastline as an almost cordial wind. “There wouldn’t have been enough body bags to carry out those killed had Lily maintained strength,” the former mayor of New Iberia declared at that time. Many believe that the clacking of Rosary beads (south Louisiana is predominantly Roman Catholic) kept the gusts and water from inundating Cajun Country.

On a lighter note, some Louisiana hurricanes have spawned strange things; e.g., a weird sea creature that appeared in 1856. This creature was reported to be a monster that showed up at the mouth of the Lafourche River following the famous hurricane at Last Island (about which I wrote in a former blog). The creature, then labeled a devil fish, was 14 ft. long from nose to tail, the tail was 6 ft. long, and width of the back measured 20 ft. The thickness from top of back to belly measured 7 ft., and the wide mouth was 3 ft., 6 in., with horns on its head 3 ft. long. The monster had its mouth wide open, scooping up fish, and was shot in the head by Mr. Martial Oregon. It sank to the bottom of the river, but Oregon brought it up and towed it to shore. However, another storm arose, and Oregon fled to safety, leaving the carcass behind. It is said that the liver of the monster was the size of a rice cask, and its skin resembled the hide of an elephant. The account didn’t reveal what happened to the carcass!

According to two ULL professors, the creature had been transported by a hurricane to the Lafourche River, and they surmised it was a giant devil ray; however, it could have been a West Indian manatee (sea cow). Unfortunately, no one has ever determined the true identity of what is known as Louisiana’s first sea monster. As I said, hurricanes cause strange things to emerge, and this is one sighting that has baffled Louisiana marine biologists and historians.

Sea monsters aside, on this day following the onslaught of Hurricane Gustav, we rejoice with the author of Psalm 89:9: “Thou dost rule the raging of the sea; and when its waves rise, thou stillest them.”

Monday, September 1, 2008


I don’t know whether the anxiety and concern about a hurricane hitting my home town of New Iberia, LA is greater as I observe the storm from this safe distance of TN or I would be more distraught from actually being at home, waiting it out with beloved family members and other New Iberians. I have been through many hurricanes, the worst being Andrew, the eye of which hovered over New Iberia forever, it seems, and then Katrina when refugees fled the storm from New Orleans and other parishes to several shelters in New Iberia. For six weeks following both Katrina and Rita, volunteers and I worked at Solomon House Outreach Center, where I was Executive Director, culling, folding and distributing clothing and food, diapers, water, bed linens, to those who had escaped the storm. It was an unforgettable experience showing the bravery and endurance of the refugees who streamed into Solomon House during those six weeks.

Now, my home parish faces the possibility of taking another “hit” from a major hurricane, and I’ve asked the Sisters of St. Mary’s, Sewanee, to send up miraculous prayers for the safety of the town and all those who remained there, including my daughter and her husband, and dozens of friends who decided to stay on their properties. I have been awake since daybreak listening to the reports, sending up prayer arrows and meditating on past natural disasters. Here at Sewanee, we’re experiencing gentle breezes and enjoying 72 degree temperatures. Light floods my study where I am writing this. It’s difficult to conceive that blustery winds and heavy rain are haunting Teche country, yet I concede that bad weather is almost a way of life. Hurricanes must be a way of life, judging from my own writings, for big winds have appeared in at least three of the children’s books I’ve written – two published ones: THE KAJUN KWEEN, and FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE, and the most descriptive hurricane appears in MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM, a children’s sequel to MARTIN’S QUEST, yet unpublished. A few moments ago I unearthed a poem from RESURRECTION OF THE WORD which was derived from a sermon I preached during the aftermath of Katrina (also unpublished):


We told refugees from the storm:
“He will transform the bonds

of your humiliation
to the body of his glory.”

We said this so easily
to those who had been on rooftops

watching water rise,
sleeping under Interstate bridges,

wading in polluted waters,
starving, only the clothes on their backs,

having more needs
than we had hands to help them:

a woman who had 100 shoes in her closet
and could not rid her mind

of those handsome leather pieces
floating in polluted water –

the bonds of her humiliation –
and we gave her shoes;

the man from Buras
who waded in toxic water

fleeing to us with swollen feet,
reeking of alcohol, trying to self medicate

the bonds of his humiliation,
and we bathed his feet with peroxide;

pants, shirts, socks, food, water, diapers,
we gave all this away

through the transparency of Christ’s hands
until we were swept up

into the humiliation of disaster.

Yet, these poor and dispossessed believed
the God of the Old Testament,

the God of the New Testament,
would speak on behalf

of those whose condition
deprived them of power

to change their lives,
the awful body of the humiliated

on our doorstep, to whom we said
“And he will transform

the body of your humiliation,”
these victims of inundation

driven not by realism
but by vision of redeemed future,

the miracle of faith
that God would help them survive.

We clothed a young evacuee from New Orleans
and he returned in his used outfit,

parachute pants, a striped polo shirt,
mimed a fashion model for us,

called his outfit
“the new Solomon House line,”

sashayed through the outreach center,
consoling us with his wonderful humor,

in the midst of his agony
revealed God’s humor.

By their humiliation they told us
Christ said not to worry,

that he would give us peace, light
and we just had to reflect it back,

to those who surrounded us,
be ignited with the glory of the God

who had chosen us to be a light
for the flooded world,

here and now.
And so, with them, we were transformed,

“conformed to the body of his glory.”