Composition

Hush now –
do you hear it?
There’s a melody beneath the ink.
There’s a song in your pen.

Lay out the words
but it’s only half done.
The music needs uncovering.

It dwells under your touch.
It sinks into your skin,
closer than your heart.

It’s humming up behind you.

Hush now. Be still.
Be patient.
Let it flow and
do not wait to see the notes
and fail to hear the sweetness
of chords dripping with abundant “Yes!”
to your words.

They strike your ear hard
pounding out a beat so ancient
so new
so joyful to be free of that voiceless place
where unspoken thoughts
go to die.

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Dear Senator

 

July 14, 2017

Dear Senator,

Last year, I gave birth to my first child. In the same year, the maternal mortality rate in TN was 26 deaths per 100,000 births. My own husband told me, “That doesn’t seem too high.” But when you consider that TN has one of the highest rates in the nation, a nation whose maternal mortality rate is higher than any other developed nation, it suddenly seems absurd. I didn’t know when I got pregnant or went into labor how dangerous it still is just to have a baby in the United States. I assumed, like we all do, that pregnancy related deaths were rare. If you’ve been reading the news lately, especially here in Nashville, you might have noticed maternal deaths are not as rare as we thought. I am hoping to have more children, but when I think about the fact that I am 3 to 6 times more likely to die here than I would be in comparable western countries, I can’t help but pause and seriously consider the risks to being a child-bearing woman in the US.

With my employer provided insurance, I had the advantage of being able to receive adequate pre-natal and post-partum care without having to choose between that or putting food on the table or buying clothes for my rapidly growing daughter. If I had a concern or question during pregnancy or those early infant months, I didn’t have to wait in fear for my life or my child’s life because I couldn’t afford to go see the OB or pediatrician. I just went, and had peace of mind. So even though I still paid hundreds in medical bills after my daughter’s birth, even with insurance, here I am now, relatively financially stable. Having a baby didn’t tank us financially. However, my normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery costs of nearly $10,000 would not have been affordable without insurance.

How sad it is for so many other mothers that such a joyful celebration of life can also be the cause of financial collapse. That is why I’m speaking out today. For thousands of child-bearing women in TN alone to lose their coverage because of the Senate’s healthcare legislation is unconscionable. These are not numbers to be sacrificed on the altar of a balanced budget. These are children of God who at this point in time in this great country cannot afford their healthcare costs without insurance. As a United Methodist pastor and Nashville faith leader, I have a duty to my congregation, my community, and my city, to condemn any action that would cause women just like me to be overrun by medical debt when they are already risking their very lives just to birth a child.

When I hear people argue that those who want insurance should find jobs that provide it, I think of my many hard-working family members that do not have employer provided insurance plans. My husband, father, father-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, and sister all rely on spouses or the marketplace for their plans. They are all hard-working individuals in fields they love and feel called to. I also think about the many individuals I see walk through my church needing assistance with basic necessities like gas and groceries, beloved children of God with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic back pain, and other illnesses who rely on Medicaid to be able to get the help they need. These are not lazy people. In my experience, they often work 2 to 3 jobs, just to pay rent and keep the lights on.

Regardless of one’s employment or economic status, the United Methodist Social Principles state that healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege for those who can afford it, no matter if they’re in the career of their dreams, or in a job just to make the rent payment this month, or even sacrificing a job all together because they can’t afford childcare. It is a responsibility for all of us to ensure that our neighbors, the ones we have been charged by our Lord Jesus Christ to love as ourselves, have access to adequate and affordable healthcare. Period. No qualifiers.

Ezekiel 34 deals harshly with those leaders who do not care for their poor: “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.” Senator, do not be a harsh ruler, but shepherd your flock with great care and concern for their health and wellness. I pray to the Lord that it will be so.

Sincerely,

Rev. Shelby Lucas Slowey

 

My Labyrinth Walk

Tonight I walked a labyrinth.

I first learned about labyrinths in seminary, and have wanted to walk one for years, and yet somehow I never have.

Tonight our pastor explained that some people like to view the labyrinth journey as one towards self-awareness, towards an inner understanding and union with God within. The journey towards the center can be viewed as a walk of petition, seeking guidance and accompaniment from God. The journey outward can be a walk of praise and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s presence in your life.

So I started in, full of expectation and hope for the spiritual awareness that was surely to arise deep within me…. and nothing happened. Step by step I trod, waiting expectantly for the awareness of the Spirit, for some divine revelation, for some knowledge of what I was going to get out of this experience. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I felt crowded. My personal space was invaded by quite a few women like me who also wanted to walk the labyrinth, meaning that through the twists and turns we were often turning sideways to avoid collisions, breathing in each other’s perfume, staring at each other’s bare feet.

Sometimes I don’t like people very much, which is quite ironic for a pastor. I’m an introvert. I often view spiritual activities as solitary activities. I wanted very much to find peaceful union and contemplation with God on my own on my labyrinth journey, and yet here were all these other people, walking and breathing and thinking and existing around me. It was very distracting.

So I started praying. God, help me discover what you want me to find. I focused on repeating the prayer a few times. A few steps later, a clear answer resonated within me. Seek me. Seek me. Seek me. With each step, I felt thus instructed.

So I started seeking. And suddenly, the Spirit was there. I could feel God in the soles of my feet as I strode across the canvas of the transportable labyrinth. I could sense God in the pleasant smell of the oil diffuser placed delicately out of the way. I could feel God in the gentle rhythm of my bones with each step I took. My body became aware of God’s presence, but my mind was still rejecting the bodies of the women around me.

Seek me. Seek me. Seek me.

I kept walking.

I don’t know how it happened, but by the time I was about to enter the center of the labyrinth, a realization hit me with heart-sinking shame: the bodies around me were not distractions from God. The bodies around me were God. God incarnate, the imago dei, all around me. It was as if Jesus himself suddenly appeared to me on my way to Emmaus, and I was shocked to learn he had been there all the while. And I had vainly and selfishly tried to push him away.

My sisters and I gathered in the center, forming a wordless circle, breathing in union, existing with God together.

And on the journey out, as I began walking, I felt a clear resonating mantra: The ground of your being is found on the journey.

I didn’t even know I was seeking the ground of my being. But I felt such immense relief in knowing where to find it.

You see, I’ve been feeling rootless lately. I’ve been in discernment regarding my call to ministry, and I’ve had trouble seeing a clear picture of the future. I’ve been reaching and yearning for a certainty, an end point, something I can look at and cling to and say, “This is my purpose in the world.” So God’s response on that labyrinthine journey was to tell me to look around at God’s glory in the present moment, to let tomorrow take care of itself, and to remember I do not walk alone.

May it ever be so.

Amen.

 

Change

The aged tea tastes the same
today as yesterday – with a squeeze
of honey. But the tulips
now, those are more wilted.

More open, yes, but drooping,
the fresh clear water of last
week gone murky. Slimy.

I am older, happier, sadder, fatter
than this time last year. And
the day broke cold and rainy
this morning. But
the tea tastes the same.

I’ve Got The Joy… Somewhere by Steve Parris

Check out the Hipster Ginger’s guest blogger today. Steve writes about searching for joy and it certainly brought some joy into my own mundane day today.

THE HIPSTER GINGER

THIS IS NOT A DRILL MY DAD WROTE A BLOG POST.

This might be my favorite thing that has ever happened. Guys. My dad is seriously incredible and I am so incredibly honored/blessed/lucky to have him as my dad, mentor, and constant source of love and support. I am so excited to share his wisdom with you.

A few notes to keep in mind when talking to or reading Steve Parris. First, “Jiminy Cricket” is his way of swearing around small children, which is hilarious to me because using a character that tells you to let your conscious be your guide as a substitute for a bad word seems counter intuitive but it is actually brilliant. Second, he wrote the word asshole, I did not! Third, my dad is, well, like me in that he’s a bit verbose. But please please please read the whole thing. This guy is incredible…

View original post 1,609 more words

Meeting the Pioneer Woman

I came across The Pioneer Woman while I was in college. A few of my sorority sisters were obsessed with her, and I quickly learned why. “An accidental country girl,” the famous blogger was charming, humorously self-deprecating, humble, and honest in her writing, recipes, and photography. When she got her own Food Network show in 2011, I quickly became a regular watcher. She once spoke to my soul while making a pie crust on the show; it came out less than perfect and she said, “It’s not ugly. It’s just rustic. That’s what I always say if something’s not perfect. Now it’s rustic!” Oh Ree, this rustic girl sure needed to hear that!

I bought her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime a few years ago. I admit rather shamefully I’ve never really used it. It sits in a place of privilege on my piano because it’s just so pretty.

0331171843

Last week, her new children’s book, Little Ree, came out. Of course I wanted a copy for my daughter. I was at Parnassus Books with Scarlett a few weeks ago for Saturday story time, and I learned The Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond, would be coming for a book signing! I was so thrilled because as anyone who watches Ree on Food Network or reads any of her stuff will know, she seems like the best friend you don’t have yet. She is my imaginary best friend. I just knew she would meet me and quickly invite me and Scarlett to the ranch to come and play with the cows, chow down on some cowboy grub, and then bring a potluck dish to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, fantasies aside, the evening of the book signing came, and my little heart just pitter-pattered all day. When Scarlett and I arrived a full hour early, the place wasn’t yet overly crowded. But as women and children began trickling in, all hoping for a photo with the star, it soon became somewhat suffocating. But your favorite introvert toughed it out. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have dreams meet reality for a split second just because of an anxiety-inducing crowd. Be proud of me.

When I finally got to the front of the line, and the beautiful divine creature stood before me, I suddenly became so nervous. She’s so much taller than I thought she’d be! And we’re wearing almost the same shirt! And Scarlett is pitching a fit! And oh my gosh, where’s my camera, is it ready? I was fan-girling so hard. And here are the results.

 

Have you ever seen such a cheesy grin? I want so share our 15 seconds of conversation so it will be forever printed in my memory.

Me: Hi Ree! (desperately trying to contain squeals.)
PW: Hello, let’s get a picture real quick.
Parnassus staffer: Um, Ree, over here.
PW: Oh, sorry, I was busy looking at the baby!
Me: She has that effect. This is Scarlett.
PW: Oh, beautiful, like Gone with the Wind?
Me: Smiling and nodding like a moron.
PW: So is that why you named her that? From the movie?
Me: Oh. No, I don’t really know. I was so drugged up when she came out, my husband just said, “She looks like a Scarlett,” and I said, “Okay.”
PW: Oh my! Well that could have gone in a totally different direction!
Me: (as I’m getting shuffled off the platform out of the way for the next folks) Uh-huh, haha, garble blah blah words.

I was shaking for a good 10 minutes after this encounter. It was glorious.

And that’s the story of how Ree and I met. The story of how we go on to become best friends is yet to come.

Solus

But when we are able to recognize the poles between which we move and develop a sensitivity for this inner field of tension, then we no longer have to feel lost and can begin to discern the direction in which we want to move.” – Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

i am alone
and yet

connected to the thread

i am mine
and yet

all creation bears my name

and yours is upon my heart

I stand in the crowd
harried shoppers, solitaries
searching among racks
half priced post-Christmas sales –

Where is
the satisfaction of
the deep craving of
a lonely heart?

– and I consider restlessness – an ache
to attach to
a tether of goods to
consume and fill
the empty void of need.

Dread of eternal isolation, the hum
mmmmmmming louder each moment.
Retreat retreat retreating from loneliness,
companionship quiets the ever impending

-for a time-

Being with myself, I
convert to a new way:
alone in the crowd. My
restful inner necessity has nothing to say
in this moment.
Loneliness becomes solitude
The quiet inner center need not
say a thing
but rejoices
in the unity
of the crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal

An urge awakens my bladder from peaceful winter slumber. I roll onto my side, hoping a change in position will lessen the pressure enough to fall back asleep without having to slip out of my warm cocoon of blankets. A few heartbeats later it is clear there will be no more comfort until I’m relieved.

Stumbling to the bathroom in the night preceding the longest night of the year, I consider the surrounding lack of darkness. The lights from the cell phone chargers, perpetually plugged in; the cable box and router, blinking somberly at me from the dresser; the dull yellow street lamp light pouring in through our thin curtains. The light follows me to the toilet where the sweet relief smells of dehydration.

Eyes closed, elbows on knees, I imagine the day ahead. I’ve requested four hours off in the morning for spiritual renewal. Oh how I need renewal. The rush of being a pastor preparing for Christmas Eve has warranted the need for stillness and contemplation.

I imagine the ritual of hot coffee, flavored with peppermint. I try to place my journal in my mind’s eye to limit fruitless searching when the daylight comes. I imagine myself in prayerful posture, immersed in scripture, journaling my every insight in a positively pious picture of perfect devotion. But even my daydreaming is quickly dashed by images of changing diapers, scolding overly affectionate dogs, wiping up flung oatmeal from every surface imaginable, and generally keeping the baby from killing herself.

Crawling back into my nest my internal clock alerts me that I won’t be there long. There’s no need to glance at the blue of my cell phone, faithfully charging on my nightstand, to tell me the time. I can feel the stirrings of my baby in my bones from across the house. I can sense her slight bodily rousing, the small rustlings of 10 month old slumber coming to a close. I know without a doubt the time is 4:30.

I’ve just closed my eyes against the inevitable and snuggled up to the warm back of my partner when I begin to hear them, the murmurs of my daughter slowly becoming aware of her alone-ness. She is not afraid. She is simply speaking to the darkness of her nursery as if it’s a friend. The mumbles filter through the monitor at my side, a comfort and a sleep deterrent. The long night is over.

I sigh away my warmth and dreams and rise to the chilly house, blue with the early dawn. I enter her nursery and am greeted with a toothy grin as my toddler (toddler?) stands in her crib, ready to greet the day. My arms instinctively wrap around her as I pull her close, breathing her in. She smells of sweet sleep and her own deep natural musk that I can’t describe but could identify anywhere.

We begin our morning ritual of rocking and talking as she points to everything and nothing, saying “Da. Dat. Da,” over and over, revealing her kingdom to me with the abandon of perfect trust. While my body continues to ache for rest, my spirit is renewed.

And I realize motherhood is my daily devotion.

Thanksgiving Prayer for Standing Rock

God of the oppressed, God of the opposed, God of the losing side,

To the God who chooses the side of the lonely, the God who takes up the hopeless cause,

To the God who reveals yourself in the face of the neighbor,

To you we pray.

When your people say no to profit and yes to people, you are there. (We are your people, not your profit)

When your people say no to oil and yes to clean water, you are there. (We were born in water, not oil)

When your people say no to empire and yes to community, you are there. (We are neighbors, not subjects)

When your people dance and pray for transformation while rubber bullets rain down upon their skin, you are there. When arrests are made and people removed, and more begin to show up, like the multiplying fish and loaves, like the properly invested talents, like the pruned vine, you are there.When the dogs come snarling and biting, when the buffalo come stampeding, when the wind rises and the sun sets, you are there. When it is freezing and your people shiver in the face of the water cannon and stand firm, you are there.

When it seems hopeless you are there.

God, on this Thanksgiving Day, as millions gather around tables and symbolically proclaim unity and mutual respect with those unlike us, we pray you would make those symbolic gestures reality. When we celebrate the false historical narrative of Euro-Native relations around our Thanksgiving tables, remind us of the genocide perpetrated against Native peoples and connect that with what is happening in Standing Rock. Call us to action, to send prayers and aid, to call representatives and join the movement in voice and solidarity.

We ask that you would continue to strengthen those protecting their life’s water. Send your Spirit to dwell on Standing Rock. Transform the hearts of those more interested in profit than in human life and dignity. Only you can.

With gratitude and thanksgiving we pray to you now God, and we celebrate your miracles and blessings. We are thankful that you remain steadfast in your love of your people.

Amen.

Sabbath Morning

Verse 1

The morning comes on strings of light
slowly pulling ‘cross the night.
The brightening for which you’ve longed,
the music of a new day dawned.

Too long you’ve wept for broken dreams.
Nothing now is as it seems.
Aching spirit thirsts for streams
of grace to quench, cleanse, and redeem.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Verse 2

Shake the dust of sleep away.
Stand barefoot at the windowpane.
Watch the sun and sky embrace.
Allow your heart to greet the day.

Thrust upon the altar dressed
to carry all your life’s distress,
each heavy burden you possess.
Now enter into Sabbath rest.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Verse 3

You’re not alone now, look around.
Tired eyes here too abound.
Drink them in as they do you.
Fill up on love like morning dew.

The music urges you to sway,
your aching body made to play.
Thrust out the pain deeply inlaid.
And shake the lonely lies away.

Chorus

‘Cuz I’m a mess and so are you.
Come lay it down and be made new.
Nothing else you have to do.
Undending love was made for you.

Bridge

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.

Conclusion

Your heart is full now but you know
that emptying’s just how it goes.
Like breath that gives us love and life,
healing all our wounds and strife.

Unending love
unending love
unending love
was made for you.