Making a new trail

When I came to College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC as Associate Minister in 1986, they saw me as something of a groundbreaker. They’d never had an ordained woman on staff before. In fact, no Baptist church in Greensboro had done such a thing. One elderly member has since confessed to me that while she didn’t vote against me, she wondered why they were calling a woman “when there were so many fine male ministers out there.”

Since that time there has been a long line of outstanding women ministering through that position. (In case you’re wondering, they’ve had the same pastor for twenty years.) The pastor is always quite gracious to me in giving me credit for starting things off. “These are the fruits of your ministry,” he says.

Maybe. But maybe not so much.

I wasn’t there long before I started hearing stories about Lounelle Selle, a non-ordained but no less legendary “education director” who’d ministered some years before me. People remembered Tex, as she was called, fondly and with great respect. I always felt like she’d made my job just a little bit easier. I may have opened a door, but Tex was the one who unlocked it.

I was delighted to see the following story about her in our paper this morning. (click here)

We all stand on someone’s shoulders. Sometimes we know it. Often we don’t. Today, let us remember, give thanks for and celebrate the people who fought for a trail that the pioneers could follow.

Special note:
I am scheduling my program, “Apple juice, butter cookies and other ways to save a life” in churches for the fall schedule. Contact me (peggy@peggyhaymes.com) if you’re interested in finding out more.

A prayer for prayer

God,
I don’t pray enough.
But I suppose
you already know that.

I know I should
have a routine.
I know I should
clear out a space in the morning
or create a time in the evening.

I know I should
be more disciplined
more focused
more earnest in my seeking
more regular in my gratitude
more focused in my asking.

I know I should have a prayer list or maybe a prayer journal
or at the very least
a time and a day
for settling into prayer.

God,
I want to do all of those things.
I need to do all of those things.
I know that it’s important
to do all of those things.

And God,
I am trying.
Honest I am.
But for now
surrounded by shoulds,
this is all I can manage.
A quick word
here and there…

Remembering
to turn off the radio
so we can talk as I drive.
A chat as I walk my dog.
Sitting on the patio in a soft summer evening.

Mostly, God, I want that
what I know I should do
not to get in the way
of what I can do.

At least for today.

We can work on tomorrow together.

from heart prayers 2 by Peggy Haymes

Where everybody knows your name

Not actually us.

The other night I spent a wonderful evening sharing dinner with a group of friends. I don’t even know how long we’ve known each other. Years ago we started as a group for women clergy in town. As we discussed what the group might be, we considered being a book group or a sermon preparation group.. and then we decided that we mainly wanted just to talk with each other.

And so we did. Every month we gathered at someone’s house – or later, my office. We had tea and coffee and talked about our work. And our lives. We met together for years until finally people started moving away… Texas. New Mexico. Winston-Salem. (okay, which one of those does not fit with the other?) Occasionally now one of our southwestern sisters comes through town and we get together.

The other night as the day grew short and our time together grew long, I watched this group. I appreciated the ease with which we are together with each other. We shared from our hearts, the good, bad and indifferent places. People offered encouragement and support. People offered new possibilities. We experienced community.

I’ve thought about that night a lot this week. So many of the people whom I see are hungry for that kind of community. “Cheers” was based on a place “where everybody knows your name” and I think there is within us a longing for those kinds of places. Places where they know our name. Where they know our heart.

But such community doesn’t just walk up to our door. It doesn’t happen without investment. And that’s where a lot of us flounder.

We create time for everything else in our schedules except each other. Or with the first sign of a disagreement, we’re done. We walk away. We never risk allowing ourselves to take the risk of deepening relationships. We forget how important friendships can be.

Community is messy. Community is demanding. Community is risky. But when it happens, it is priceless.

This week, pick up the phone, open up your e-mail, log onto Facebook… and reach out to someone. Someone from whom you’ve drifted away. Someone with whom you’d like to have a closer friendship.

It can’t start without opening the door.

 

Strength and Honor

A colleague asked what  I was doing over the Memorial Day weekend,and  I replied, “Remembering Andrew.” It wasn’t the cookout/pool/barbecue answer she expected but what could I say?

I always think of him as a laughing boy. I remember his giggles as he played with the family dog, a white fluff-ball named Nicky, in honor of his having been a Christmas present. When his parents had other families over for dinner or a cookout, I remember the way Andrew was kind to the younger children, including them in his play, being the perfect host. I remember New Year’s eve of his senior year of high school. His parents had a few folks over to celebrate and wound up calling Andrew for instructions on how to operate their new surround sound. “Dad,” Andrew said, “I’m not going to be around here forever to help you with this. You’ve got to learn to do it on your own.”

What he meant, of course, was that he would all too soon be leaving for basic training. He’d joined the Marines. Like a lot of boys his age, he had no idea of what he wanted to do with his life. Unlike many of them, he didn’t want to waste time and money in college while he tried to find out. He both wanted and needed to refine himself and find himself against the hardest challenge imaginable. He became a Marine.

His first time back to church after basic all the girls (and a few of the older women) swooned over him in his dress blues. The first time back in church after his first tour he shared a brief and deeply thoughtful reflection on his experience and we gave him a standing ovation born both of pride and relief. He’d had a belly full of taking life. When he got back for good he was thinking of becoming an EMT or firefighter.

The last time I saw Andrew he was standing in his kitchen. He showed me a huge Marine tattoo covering one shoulder. He generally rolled his eyes at what he called, “the oo-rah stuff,”  but he told me he’d gotten the tattoo so that in years to come, he could prove that he was a Marine.

Everyone knows that now. Every one will know that forever. His name is inscribed on a monument at Camp Lejeune. Andrew was killed by an IED in Iraq on October 20, 2005.

He is forever 21.

As a child I used to look through my parents’ high school yearbooks and was always struck by the list of names on a page, known collectively as the boys who didn’t come home. Andrew’s story is unique and yet it is also a story shared by hundreds of thousands of families who will forever have a hole in their midst… and by a world cheated of so many gifts that young men and women could have offered.

Remember this day in whatever way you will but if you can, spare a moment to say  a prayer for those who have fallen and those who remain.

 

(Not quite) Ready for My Closeup

So two mornings a week I’m helping with a training program sponsored by our local YMCA and run by Fleet Feet sports. I’ve helped with this program before, helping people move from being inactive to completing a 5K race, and I love it.

This time is a little different. One difference is that we’re meeting in the morning. Another difference is that one day a week, the TV cameras are there. Morning show personalities from our local TV station are participating in a weight loss challenge, and one of the things that they’re doing is participating in our program.

On the day of our initial information meeting, I came dressed in my running clothes. Before the meeting I’d been across the street, doing speed work on the track. I was sweaty. My hair, dirty before the run, now had the benefit of being frizzy and sweat soaked as well.

After the presentation ended a couple of us were talking together about how much we did not want to be on TV. The words were no more out of our mouths before a microphone (and camera) was in my face. “Would you share your story?” the reporter asked.

I took comfort in the hope that they would not use it. But after a day or two I started getting messages on my Facebook wall: “Saw you on TV!”

Sheesh…

My first thought was to be embarrassed. I knew I looked a fright (and it wasn’t even Halloween yet!) But then I kept thinking…

When a football player is interviewed after a game, the last thing on his mind is how his hair looks. I’ve never known of a player who ducked an interview because he hadn’t washed his hair yet. It doesn’t matter. It’s not the point.

We who are women are often focused on the wrong things. We focus on all that is wrong with our bodies instead of all that is right. How we look is always the trump card that carries more weight (no pun intended) than everything else. A few years ago I could not move my left leg, and now I run. And I was worried about my hair?

I realized that I just needed to get over it. When I run or work out, my hair does get messed up. And it doesn’t matter. The point isn’t how good I look. The point is profound gratitude that I can move, that I can run. My body is doing what it’s supposed to do.

If I’m booked for a TV interview, I’ll do the hair and make-up routine. But if you catch me on the run, you’re going to catch me as I am. And that’s perfectly fine by me.