Category Archives: the calendar

Easter Monday

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 10.51.30 PM

Easter Sunday feels both impossible and a little too easy.

To claim impossible things hours upon hours across the globe as the meridian moves in single-hour increments.

Bombs. Easter egg hunts. Incense.

We celebrate ridiculous hope one time zone after another;
That’s what we do on Easter Sunday.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our jobs
where we are in trouble for questioning the reasoning,
and caught between our ideas of Easter Sunday and bottom-line Friday.
And we make our choices.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our churches
where we are in trouble for questioning the lessons and the allegiances,
and caught between character and piety and donor-approval.
And we make our choices.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our neighborhoods
where we are pushed to hate and discriminate for the sake of something…
and caught between partisan and party and allegiance.
And we make our choices.

Easter Sunday is as holy
and easy
and gutless as
Christmas Sunday.

Unless we decide that somehow
ultimately
Easter changes everything.
And the Monday after Easter
is going to make us different
in all the ways
we hoped to secretly stay buried in
the tidiness
of our own racist and pious histories.

But Easter Monday means we crash into our
jobs
and our
churches
and our
neighborhoods
uncomfortably different than we left them.

And once we notice where we are,
we ask ourselves,
What about Easter Tuesday…

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

dear 2015

mosthopeful-post-1.2.16

One year ago at this time I was toasting with friends that, if nothing else, are evidence that God is up to unforeseeable and perfect trouble all the time. We were sitting around an evening campfire in the Cederberg, South Africa. We had been speedily doing nothing at all after I had arrived hours earlier after over 24 hours of flight and New Year’s champagne somewhere over the Atlantic.

We were sharing words about what the next year might mean for us, wrapping up both our hopes and our predictions in one tiny word. When it came around to me, I said the word “next” which was immediately met with laughter. Shortly thereafter, when I repeated it, these friends realized I wasn’t passing my turn, but was rather choosing the word “next” as my choice of a defining word for 2015. Next in employment, next in understanding, next in outlook.

I’m never sure if self-fulfilling prophecy is a legitimate reality or simply a filter for reflective thought, but 2015 was no doubt the year of “next.”

I learned more about people, who they say they are, how they really are, and how things work than I ever wanted to know in 2015. I met people and groups and neighborhoods and communities I thought I knew about but learned I was completely ignorant of and disconnected from. I became friends with people I would have never known about but now can’t imagine operating without. I faced my biggest fears and insecurities, and faced the world the next day realizing that people are just as evil and just as good as I had imagined. I realized how hope and reality fight constantly, leaving me in a fragile reality where the battle is not over yet but I’m supposed to operate as if I know the ending.

I enter 2016 with texts of jealousy-inducing pictures from the same friends in the same Cederberg. I’m not sure what my word for 2016 is yet, but I’m grateful for all of the next that 2015 brought. I’m no longer afraid of “the worst” that others are capable of bringing, because they’ve brought it and I’m still standing. I’m no longer ignorant of so much of my own city I desperately need to be in relationship with, and I can’t go back operating as a wealthy white kid who doesn’t know what it’s costing everybody else. I’m no longer wondering if fighting when I might not win   is worth it.

I’ve learned the good fight is always worth it. And I’ve learned that if I’m paying attention, there are always people who’ve been fighting and losing the good fight a long time who have a lot to teach me about being honest and brave. About taking up what Sara Groves calls the things that are “too heavy to carry and impossible to leave.”

So to 2016, I’m not sure what you’re bringing, but I’m sure that I’ll be ready.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lord willing, we won’t keep growing

Our Jackson Home posted a piece I wrote reflecting on this year’s Remember Me Walk for survivor’s of homicide loss. This group is astounding to me, and I’ve copied some of the post below with a link to read it in its entirety. And if you have not yet checked out Our Jackson Home, you should probably get on the ball.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 2.50.23 PM

The crowd was larger this year than any crowd the past seven. The Carl Grant Events Center at Union University was filled with tables surrounded by people of all kinds, ages, colors, and worlds held together by the sad reality that someone they loved has been murdered—some of them fifty years ago and some five months ago. The reality that no one truly understands this grief is echoed in the camaraderie across the room. “Lord-willing,” they say, “we won’t keep growing. We don’t want other people to know what this feels like.”

Grief is breathtaking. All have experienced it, and we know the deep-down grumbling in our guts that must be an echo of the deep-down grumbling in our souls.

A life is lost. A story ends. …

Click here to keep reading on Our Jackson Home

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

thickness of thin space

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 7.42.53 PM

Here I am in an empty church. In it, between the rows of pews, on the tile floor, under the silent cross, I walk along a boundary, a place in between heaven and earth. The Celts called it thin space….The church calendar calls into consciousness the existence of a world uninhabited by efficiency, a world filled with the excessiveness of saints, ashes, smoke, fire; it fills my heart with both dread and hope. It tells of journeys and mysteries, things “seen and unseen,” the world of the almost known. It dreams impossibilities: a sea divided in two, five thousand fed by a loaf and two fishes, a man raised from the dead. 

– Nora Gallagher
Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

It seemed as though every few breaths had to be wrestled quietly to keep exhales from becoming tears. I don’t think tears of any kind of sadness, although some seem wrapped together with a letting go of things that no longer fit but were desperately and perfectly holy when they once did. Others pregnant with promises that are only clear today after all this time of begging for clarity. Others coated in laughter of flying monkeys and brave children.

After being on the road––or in the air––for nearly a month, I returned to the desks and sessions and meetings and paperwork and conference calls of the work week last Monday. With the promise of daylight savings time still a terribly long week away, I traveled back from exhilarating speaking and learning with stellar servants in Seattle and Memphis and the slow and holy days of the beach with lifelong and new friends, to the pounding of alarms in the still-dark mornings of my own still room.

The threat would be, of course, that the magic only happens when things are outside of the routine. Only with toes buried in the sand and waves ruining the back pages of novels do we cross into the thin spaces. Only with lecture halls and presentations and learning credits pending do we feel the rush of the practice and the theory. Only with the frantic boarding runs do we surmise that we are living something exciting.

But then, on a Monday morning as regular as any other, the shower makes us look a little more alive than we feel, the coffee makes us a little friendlier in a few short moments, and the first meeting, the first client, the first conference call reminds us that we love what we do and the people we get to do it with.

And the thin space becomes so thick we can taste it and name it and break it as if it were in itself that holy meal.

So today, a week later, with more travel on the edge of the next few days, I’m giving thanks for a week of clients, a week of paperwork, a week of surprise parties and the lies they require, a week of out of town guests and in town friends over drinks.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar, imagining that table that spreads all the way to family in Nicaragua and all the way to family in Cape Town, and all the way to family who have already moved a little closer to something better on the other side of time, and I was wrestling breaths in order to exhale without bursting into tears. Tears of letting go and holding on. Tears of the promise that I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow I feel alive while I’m doing it and I feel loved getting to do it with such incredible people, and I feel honored doing in on behalf of those so often not welcomed at the table.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar recognizing that the thin space has become so thick at this particular moment in time, that I let it win and with the tears that hit the hands that hold the bread and the wine, I give thanks that he withholds no good thing from us.

Not a thing.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

EASTER | we mistake him for the gardener

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 9.09.56 PM

It’s comforting, really.
When retelling and rehearing the stories
of those before us
misunderstanding death
misunderstanding loss
misunderstanding power and popularity
misunderstanding endings
misunderstanding, seeing a gardener instead of
the dead man we put all our hopes in
the dead man we put all our hurts in
the dead man we put all our
proverbial eggs in the basket of
and then watched it all end.

But the story is still the same today as it was then.
When we think the story is over
When we think we’ve held our breath as long as we can
When we think we waited till the last minute for something
to crash in and save the day….

It’s then that we give up.
It’s then that we give in.
It’s then that we unclench our jaws
and our guts
and our lungs
and our hopes
and surrender to what is coming true
whether we anticipated it or not.

and it’s only then,
like it’s only on Easter morning,
that the impossible becomes true.

All the rules change.
All bets are off.
Life is death.
Humility is power.
Poverty is wealth.
Kingdom comes. Unexpected. Unrehearsed.

And we mistake him for the gardener.
Because we know better than to think people come back to life.
Or do we.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , ,

returning to the rhythm

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.28.32 PM
For the first morning,
since chaos crashed into the scene
and scattered normalcy
even from places I was unaware it existed,
I woke up
and returned to the rhythm
changed, of course,
but returned.

The new normal includes
much of the old normal.
A run.
The news.
Email.
Reading words on a page.
Laundry thrown in the washer.
Dog food crackling into the ceramic bowls.
Even the alarm on the phone
suggests there’s
work and
people and
tasks and
hopes and
fears and
weather and
chores to wake up to.
A return to life.

It’s no surprise that the
life of the church
has been built around the calendar
for hundreds and hundreds of years.
It pulls us,
willing or not,
to return to the rhythm
and let it guide us back to
work and
people and
tasks and
hopes and
fears and
weather and
chores to wake up to.
We are challenged to
return back to life.

Today, for the first morning,
returning to the rhythm,
felt like the first act of worship
I’ve done outside
worship through grieving
in nearly two weeks.

djordan
Pine Tree

the life of the party | remembering Mama 2

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.38.33 PM

The words below are those I had the privilege of sharing at my grandmother’s funeral this morning. To her legacy, and to life in all its fulness.

+++

“Howdy Do?!”

That’s the greeting that immediately comes to mind when I think about our grandmother. That’s how I remember her greeting others with this classy kind of wave that she taught us all to give…even my brother and me…and a gentle knod of the head.

Howdy Do?!
How wond-ah-ful to see ya.
Mah-ve-lus. Mah-ve-lus.”

You may have known her at Joyce Ann, or Joyce Laycook. We know her as our grandmother, or “Mama 2.” And when we think of southern class, charm, beauty, fashion, humor, celebration and the elegance of a woman of the Old South, we think of Mama 2. I suspect you do too. I suspect that’s part of why you’re here.

We heard stories of her as an only child that made her larger than life, and then, as we continued to grow up as her grandchildren, we watched her live largely into those stories. Our friends watched her live largely into those stories. I suspect you watched her live largely into those stories too.

We remember as children her taking us to the Johnsons’ swimming pool throughout the summer, and especially on the 4th of July. She was, of course, busy working the crowd if there was a party, but she always made time to show us off, make us feel special, and let us know how to be classy, charming, fashionable, and truly southern in the process.

She did love the idea of summer and parties and sun. We spent every summer with Dabo, or our granddad Donald Laycook, and Mama 2 at the beach. She insisted, with her huge and trendy sun hats and brand-new sunglasses on, that we all get “summer names,” or names that we would go by for the week only. Sometimes they were names she perhaps wished we had been given, even her daughters–whom she actually named herself–but still. Summer names. Every trip. I don’t remember my summer names as much as the notion that she was pushing us to live into a kind of wholeness of our imagination and sense of life.

Pick a name for the week. Your summer name. Anything.

It isn’t just summer names that remind us of what she taught us, her grandkids, about living into the fullness of life. We grew up seeing pictures of Mama 2 and Dabo traveling the world with friends and family, and that has pushed all four of us, Katie, Suzanne, James and myself, to do the same. In many ways, she and Dabo have made that both desirable as well as possible. As we grew up, we became the other people in those pictures with them as they traveled, enjoying the food and the scenes of other worlds that made our own worlds bigger and richer and more alive.
You have to travel.
And learn.
And see.
You must. If a week at the beach is worth an entirely new summer name, then life itself must be worth living into fully.

One year at the beach, in between her talking to the birds in what we once thought was a magical language (later learning it was only the effect of pieces of bread thrown in the air at the same time as saying “Click Click Click” which would result in a swarm of seagulls off the deck of the condo), we went shopping as we always did if Mama 2 was around. They were selling henna tattoos in the middle of the shopping plaza. After learning the tattoos were removable after several weeks, she decided to get one as a joke. A rose with “Don” written over it was tattooed high enough on her thigh that it would only be seen while at the beach in her swimsuit. She would not be beaten by Dabo, however, who returned one day from shopping with what we thought was a piercing but turned out to be a magnetic nose ring.

She and Dabo were, at their best, the life of the party with us or with anyone else. While she enjoyed travel for the shopping and Dabo enjoyed it for the food and sights (Dabo used to say that when he and Mama 2 died, he would go to hell and she would go to heaven but it would be okay because they would be together in Pigeon Forge), they could always be found laughing and story-telling anywhere, and living into the fullness of the moment and the reality of the place. Summer names, tattoos, piercings and all.

It wasn’t just trips and travel that this insistence of living was valued. Even in the regular day-to-day rhythm, she got into the practice of calling her granddaughters, Katie and Suzanne, whenever “Dance Party” was on. “Dance Party” is known to most of you as “Dancing with the Stars.” She would call them and talk about the dancers’ outfits, dances, and then whatever else was going on with Katie and Suzanne.

She was a big fan of pop culture. I remember the dilemma once when The Bachelor AND The Victoria Secret Fashion Show was on AT THE SAME TIME! “Horrah…” as Mama 2 would say. But don’t worry. She tuned into one on the TV in her bedroom and tuned into the other on the TV in the den. She wouldn’t let the TV networks’ faux pas be her problem. She caught both shows…don’t worry.

I was in Chicago with some of my best and oldest friends these last few days, getting in late just last night as a matter of fact. It was an incredible privilege as we toasted Mama2 with my friends who didn’t need an explanation about who she was. They knew her name and her nickname; they knew her stories and were part of them; they had traveled with her, laughed at her jokes, and learned from her style. They had grown up with her, on the edges of the way we all grew up with her.

At her best, she was the most fashionable, classy, and charming lady around. She would, of course, do a fashion show for us every Sunday after lunch at their house of the newest items she had bought throughout the week (tags and all because many of them would be returned).
At her best, she was the ultimate host, the life of the party. She had songs for at least one phrase per conversation, and would burst into them immediately. On the way to the beach, we would cross the South Carolina state line and she would sing, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina….” As I began traveling to Nicaragua, she started singing, “Oh, Managua, Nicaragua…dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah.” She didn’t know the word, but that was clearly inconsequential. Even at our granddad’s funeral, she insisted, walker and all, that she be seated at the table during the after-funeral meal with “the Merry Makers” because the day had been sad enough and it was time to laugh.

Today is a horribly sad day as these last several days have been. But, in remembering Mama 2, and even while enjoying a long weekend getaway with incredible friends in downtown Chicago, just about every shop and every meal and every laugh made me think of her and give thanks for the legacy that she leaves us. The legacy that she leaves me.

At so many lovely dinners at their house, she would sit on one side of the dining room table and Dabo would sit on the other. Mama 2 would start a joke, but then she would start laughing so hard just remembering how funny she thought the joke was, she usually never got to the punch-line. It it didn’t matter, of course, because we were all laughing with tears in our eyes at her laughing by that time.

So today, even in its sadness, we know that Mama 2, or Joyce Ann, or Joyce…however you knew her…would, at her best, want a party. She would want to be with you, where the Merry Makers were, laughing with you, dancing with you, partying with you, eating a sliver, and another sliver, and then another sliver of cake with you, getting tattoos with you, and living life in all its fullness with you.

So if you intend, as her grandchildren do, to honor her life, go from here to lunch or from here to home, or from here back to work and make it a party.
Make it hilarious.
Make it fashionable.
Make it so fun you start can’t finish the joke for laughing.
Make it old-style southern.
Break into songs and give each other summer names, because, well, why not?!

And know that she wouldn’t have it any other way.

djordan
Pine Tree

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

at once, every age you’ve ever been | part 1

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 8.40.19 AM

“I am still every age that I have been.
Because I was once a child, I am always a child.
Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be.

This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages
the delayed adolescent, the childish adult,
but that they are in me to be drawn on;
to forget is a form of suicide.
Far too many people misunderstand what putting away childish things means,
and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear
like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup.
When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up,
then I don’t ever want to be one.
Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and be fifty-one,
then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”

– Madeleine L’Engle
(Image: Kevin T. Allen is a filmmaker, sound artist and independent radio producer.)

Tagged , , , , , , ,

from the archives: the last of our twenties

I’m reposting this post, from 364 days ago (wait, was there a leap year this year?). This is the last day to reflect from my twenties. Even the last year of the twenties has made this post from one year ago more true, not less. It’s been a good run so far, I’d say. I’ve been surrounded by good folks.

djordan
Pine Tree

VIEW THE ORIGINAL POST FROM AUGUST 12, 2012 HERE.

 THE LAST OF OUR TWENTIES

 

It is not uncommon to think we know exactly who matters and exactly who will shape the course of our future, or join us as it shapes. At the ripe age of 16, there were several folks who would be those people. They filled the shop for a surprise party that I was too dumb to figure out. Those people still remain friends, and fewer remain close. At 18, we headed to Memphis in a limo and made predictions about the future; we were right on with most of them. And now, at 29, we will head again to Memphis for the last birthday of the twenties. All that we did know, and all that we didn’t know, wrapped up like a gift for the opening.

I remember my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kee telling us once in class that we would never talk to the people we were friends with in high school after we graduated. She was right in most things, crazy in many, but wrong about that. Yet knowing how she worked, and how crazy she was, maybe that was a dare, a challenge, a kind of psychological game to make us make it work.

And now, looking at the last of the twenties, it has worked. The picture above was taken laying down Mom and Dad’s foyer rug on mine and Brooke’s 21st birthday. We will hop in a limo later this week to celebrate the 29th.

I suspect I can speak for all of us to say it’s a privilege to celebrate with old friends.

The privilege is likely greater, though, that the circle has grown.

When I was laying down on the carpet back then, I would never have imagined the role those folks would play in my life, but I would have expected it. What I never would have expected, h on owever, is the role that new friends who have entered the circle would play––how they would become crucial pieces in the story of who I am and who I am becoming.

There would have been no way to know.

Even 8 years ago, two years ago, I would not have guessed what people who crash into the circle would bring, how they would change my mind, broaden my understanding, invigorate my imagination, and strengthen my hope in the already-not yet kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

From West Texas to South Africa; from a desert meal in Israel to a client in a trailer in Lexington; from the front porch on Pine Tree to the valleys of Napa; from a group of those wrestling with grief to a classroom of those disciplining hope; from cheese and toast around the kitchen counter to hors’ doeuvres on white tablecloths under candlelight, from a rocking chair in Nicaragua to a hammock on Pleasant Plains; from a limo ride over ten years ago to a limo ride today, I am now more sure than ever:

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
+ Psalm 27:13

djordan
Pine Tree

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

mother’s day proclamation

woman in the kitchen

In the culturally Christian environment of the south where the rules of who women should be and what they should do, mixed as strongly with who they should not be and what they should not do, I am reminded today of the women and mom’s in my own world who have lived into the fulness of themselves for the sake of the world. Those who seek to follow Christ have just as much lived into themselves for the sake of the kingdom come. In areas of health, justice, faith, education, art, academia, research, motherhood, women are pushing what it means into the heart of what it actually does mean.

So on this mother’s day, as reminded by this recent article, here’s to the women who are changing the world as they were made and meant to do, not quietly living into a solemn story someone else told them they had to act in. And to my own mom, thanks for teaching me to ask the questions.

Below is the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” written by Julia Ward Howe in in 1870, pushing women to pacifism and resistance.

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly…
“Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God –

For the article by Diana Butler Bass on the history of Mother’s Day as a day celebrating radical mothers, CLICK HERE.
For an article posted today on women seeking to pray through the violence of tradition, CLICK HERE.
Or for a more light-hearted open letter to Moms by Kid President, CLICK HERE.

djordan
Pine Tree

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,