Friday, June 24, 2016


On Wednesday night, Glenn met me after work and we tried out a new restaurant for dinner. We love “ethnic” food (isn’t all food “ethnic?”) and I’d spotted a Lebanese restaurant not too far from the site of my last scheduled appointment for the day.  (Scouting out new restaurants has been one of the joys of moving to a new place- we’re always looking for new ideas so, do tell.  We eat almost anything.)  We had a great dinner.  He had the lamb kebob and pilaf, I had a hummus plate with falafel.  The restaurant was crowded- even at 8:30 on a weeknight- which is always a good sign.  We left happy and full.

We drove home in two cars. (egregious carbon footprint.) When I got home and stepped out of the car, I was transported. The front yard was aglow with fireflies.  The on-again, off-again, momentary glow of the bugs lit up the space under the big tree in the front yard and all the way down the sloping lawn to the street.  Fireflies.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands of them?  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many all at once.  On last Saturday night we’d seen a fireworks show after the York Revolution game that was loud and bright-  this was every bit as exciting in a soft, pastoral, early-summer way.

I say that I was transported because, suddenly, I was ten again. Back at the house at the lake. (see my blog entry,  "Fried Bologna," June 3, 2016).  Besides catching night crawlers for fishing, the second-favorite hunter-gatherer activity that we kids enjoyed was catching fireflies.  We’d rummage around the pantry for an old mayonnaise jar, stab holes into the top of the jar using a rusty ice pick (a thoroughly dangerous activity for a ten-year-old) and then run, barefooted, in the wet grass trying to draw a firefly or two into the space between the open jar and lid… and then… snap! Capture the fly.

The point of this, of course, was to have the fireflies as a companions later on, perched on the wicker tables next to our beds, serving as living nightlights.

I am reminded of Peter.  The disciple Peter who, at the Transfiguration event ( Mt. 17:1, Mk. 9:2, Lk. 9: 28) in which Jesus astounded his inner circle friends by appearing aglow in a transcendent moment… and appeared in this mountain-top moment with Old Testament greats Elijah and Moses… What did Peter do? He pleaded to our Lord to give him time to build “booths” (sheds) in which Jesus, Moses and Elijah could sit-  in a sad and all-too-human effort to preserve the moment-  to hang onto transcendence- to capture it and preserve it and... to hoard it.  Luckily, Peter was rebuffed and his plan was discarded. Peter just never got it.  And neither did we:

The fireflies died over night. Every time.

In spite of the ice-pick holes, in spite of the bits of grass and sticks that we stuffed in the jar to simulate the “home environment,” when morning dawned, the bugs lay lifeless on the floor of the jar.  The momentary pleasure of the bugs just wasn’t enough-  our human-ness drove us to try to capture and preserve the gentle, glowing gift…. and,  it just wasn’t to be.

When I pray with a group (sometimes, several times a day, depending on how many meetings I have,)  I always pray for our awareness of God’s presence among us.  It is a not-so-small theological point that I like to underscore when I can:  God’s unfailing and abiding presence with us.  Too often, our prayers bid God’s presence (“Come among us, Lord God, Kumbayah”) when, really, the task is ours to “open our eyes to your work (and presence) in the world about us.” (BCP p. 372, paraphrased)

Looking for God and  acknowledging God’s presence in our midst, however, is not the same thing as trying to hold on to it- to capture it.    Our lucky moments in which we get a sharp, more distinct awareness of God (visions, clear direction, unmistakeable signs) are exciting and unusual and filled with grace.  Our call is to receive those moments, to learn from them, and to be grateful. Not to bottle them up for later.

The fireflies blinked and blinked in my yard for a long time that night.  After we’d watched a little tv and checked some email, set up the coffee  pot for the morning and called in the cat, it was time for bed.  I stuck my head  outside the front door for a few moments before heading up the stairs. 

I left the mayo jar and the ice pick in the pantry.


P.S. Did you know that the firefly (photuris pennsylvanica) is the “State Insect?” (David Rutledge and Anne Yellot did, and let me know, on Facebook.)  I was not aware that States
 ( and Commonwealths) choose State Insects.  Only two states have picked the firefly (Tennesee also claims a species of firefly for itself.)  29 of the 45 States claiming an insect have chosen butterflies, 17 have chosen honeybees and 7 have latched onto the ladybug.  Who knew?  Here’s the Wikipedia article on our firefly:

 Photuris is a genus of fireflies (beetles of the family Lampyridae). These are the femme fatale lightning bugs of North America. This common name refers to a behavior of the adult females of these predatory beetles: they engage in aggressive mimicry, imitating the light signals of other firefly species' females to attract, kill, and eat the males. Their flashing bioluminescent signals seem to have evolved independently and eventually adapted to those of their prey, mainly unrelated Lampyrinae, such as Photinus (rover fireflies) or Pyractomena.[1]
The Pennsylvania lightning bug (P. pennsylvanica) is the state insect of Pennsylvania.
Species include:
   Photuris caerulucens – Barber
   Photuris cinctipennis – Barber, 1951
   Photuris congener – LeConte, 1852
   Photuris divisa– LeConte, 1852
   Photuris fairchildi– Barber
   Photuris frontalis – LeConte, 1852
   Photuris lucicrescens – Barber, 1951
   Photuris pensylvanica – De Geer, 1774
   Photuris tremulans – Barber, 1951
   Photuris versicolor – Fabricius, 1798
There are at least 64 recognized species,[2] all restricted to temperate North America.[3] They mainly occur from the east coast to Texas.[4]

Sunday, June 19, 2016

3-Day Immersion Excursion: Southern Style DAYS TWO AND THREE

What a weekend!

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon from our back porch as I listen to the drone of the lawn mower;  Glenn is celebrating Father’s Day by doing battle with the overgrown nature trail and weeds in the back lot.  We moved into our house in early November (2015)  and inherited an immaculately manicured nature trail in the back yard complete with berry bushes, lots of wild life, (room for a chicken coop!) and an elevated “putting green” that serves, really, as a septic field.  We’ve been poor stewards of this part of the property and are now learning, first hand (or at least Glenn is) about the amount of time and energy needed to maintain it.  As he learns about the contour of our back lot, I’m going to reflect on the contour of our last two days in the Southern Convocation.

I started out on Saturday morning in the custody of The Rev. Doug Smith of All Saints’, Hanover. Doug took me to the new home of a newly received Syrian refugee family that his church is sponsoring and assisting in Hanover.  There are not words.  This young family (the parents are in their late 20s) have 4 young boys and arrived in this country just last week.  They know very little English and, exercising a great deal of faith, have put themselves in the hands of our government and, more specifically, into the hands of the good people of Catholic Charities (Harrisburg) and All Saints’, Hanover.  The house where they are staying, temporarily, is clean and bright and furnished with donations from the congregation.   As we arrived, the 4 boys were sitting in a sea of picture books on the living room floor, pouring over the pages and watching, at the same time, the movie Shrek on tv.  Mom and Dad were in the kitchen receiving volunteers - two of them fluent in Arabic- who helped to translate our good wishes.  The Koran was displayed in a place of prominence in the dining room and we were reminded that it is now the season of Ramadan which calls for fasting from sun-up to sun-down.  I was overcome by how gentle and trusting and calm these young parents appeared to be considering all that they have seen and been through in their journey to America.  A volunteer told me that one of the top wish list items are toys for the boys  and... bicycles.  Next on the list are finding jobs for the parents, enrolling the children in school and language lessons and beginning the slow process of enculturation.  I was grateful for all that the church in Hanover was doing and for leading in this way in which we care called to care for the stranger.

a welcoming sign on the living room mantelpiece

back door of the house where the new Hanover family is living.

Next, Doug took me to a “quintessential Hanover event:” the Codorus Summer Blast.  Codorus is a State Park in Hanover that is built around (and includes) a big man made lake.  The Summer Blast is a town fair that includes water sports, retail booths, displays of all sorts, games for the kids and every type of “fair food” that you could ever want.  We steered clear of the fried-this-and-that area and, meeting some parishioners, made our way around some of the displays.  My favorite activity was the dog jumping contest where the dog owner throws a floating dog toy off of a dock and the dog’s jump is measured.  It’s kind of like the long-jump for dogs. In the water.  This is a new “sport” to me.  Is this a Central PA thing?

Doug sent me on my way ( but not before I’d picked up a bag of BBQ beef jerky for a Father’s Day gift) and I was transferred to the care of The Rev. Canon David Robson, Rector of St. Andrew, York.  David and I had a quick driving tour of some of his favorite sites in downtown York including the cemetery where there is a moving tribute to our fallen troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and then we headed over to the OEM Bunker.  The OEM Bunker is the municipal Office of Emergency Management-  the place where our civil servants manage any type of disaster that befalls us-  storms, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, etc.  Bill James, the director of the center showed us around and described the various protocols for the different types of disasters.  I was fascinated by the vast control room  and was happy to see it not in use. (It’s a strange thing to see such a beautifully equipped space that one hopes never to put to use.)  Also on the site is the 911 center which we observed through a window as the 20 or so employees fielded the numerous phone calls coming in, even as we were watching.  I was surprised by the relative youth of the phone attendants, the number of people at work and the very calm atmosphere.  Bill explained the extensive training that the staff must complete in order to earn their seat at a desk.  Upon leaving, I felt quite confident that if I ever had to use the 911 function on my phone, that I would be well cared for.
Bill James (l) and The Rev. Canon David Robson (r)

The "nerve center” (my words)

We zipped over to St. Andrew just in time to... do a wedding!  Mr. and Mrs. Harry Snell, IV were married at St Andrew at 3 PM with The Rev. Robson and yours truly officiating.  It was a joy to enter into this happy pastoral occasion.
Lori and Harry Snell 

From wedding clothes... to ... shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap.  Next stop on the tour was the York Revolution game where... I got to throw out the first pitch.  What an honor!  I was a nervous wreck.  Glenn had made me practice earlier in the week on our town’s high school diamond.. but who knew what would happen when the pressure was on?  Well, it was fine.  Episcopalians of Central PA, you can all exhale.  I did not embarrass you.   We enjoyed a great game (though our boys lost), a great stadium supper (dogs! burgers! corn!) and even a fireworks show at the end.

play ball!

a York sunset
I crawled into bed just as it was threatening to become Sunday.

This morning I made my way back to York for two wonderful services at St. John the Baptist.  The Rev. Canon David Lovelace was our host and I got to meet both the 8 and the 10 o’clock congregations, preside over both services, confirm five folks and enjoy ones of Central PA’s best coffee hour receptions ever!  St. John’s has been in the middle of a major building renovation for months now that has changed the shape of their parish hall, education and office building and chapel and has added a labyrinth to the courtyard.  The renovation is outstanding and the ability of the vestry and leadership in negotiating all of the various curve balls that are part and parcel in any construction project has been unparalleled.  My advice to any parish considering a major renovation:  call St. John the Baptist, York and invite their guidance.
the chancel of St. John the Baptist, York

St. John the Baptist (on the rood screen)

It was a full day.  We finished with a vestry conversation which affirmed for me the faithfulness of the people of our diocese on a local level ... and  the need for our diocesan leadership to work towards a greater awareness of each other and diocesan unity.  We are the Body of Christ-  both in our congregations and also as a diocese.  One of my goals is to enhance our understanding of that larger body.  A “body building” program, you might say.

Time for the Sunday afternoon pilgrimage to Wegman’s where I hope to find a special Father’s Day steak to toss on the grill.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

3-Day Immersion Excursion: Southern Style- DAY ONE

I’ve had a few recent trips on Sunday morning to the southern part of our diocese- serving at the altars of Transfiguration in Blue Ridge Summit and Calvary, Beartown in the past month-  but the whole point of the 3-Day Immersion Excursion is to go a little deeper.. and to explore the neighborhoods and the culture of the places in which our Episcopal churches are set.

What I’ve loved about these “3-Days” is that each one is so different from the next.  That tells me that the “project” is working- and I am learning so much about this place where God has called us to serve.  This is the fourth of seven “3-Days” that I will do (Susquehanna, Northern Tier and West Branch are under my belt; Harrisburg, Lancaster and Altoona are yet to come!) and so I set out yesterday with no small among of excitement and anticipation about learning about our Southern Convocation.

We started in Waynesboro at the parish of St. Mary’s.  The Rev. Linda Watkins is in her 10th year of ministry there and she and a group of parishioners were there to greet me and take me on a walking tour of this small town.  Waynesboro has 11.000 people in it and... wait for it... 72 churches.  Yes, 72 churches.

We started with a quick tour of St. Mary’s itself.  Two items in particular caught my eye:  the work of a Sunday School student  who worked painstakingly to build a model of a church... and one of the stained glass windows (Supper at Emmaus) that has a sweet little stained glass rosette inserted into it brought back from a cathedral in France. (?)  

Here’s a picture of St. Mary’s.. and our walking tour group:

Our walking tour took us past several of the 72 (!!) churches and down Main Street.  I learned about the hey day of industry in the area and how the landscape had changed as businesses came and went.  We saw the street where the homeless shelter is located and the building where a new shelter for homeless women is opening, and some of the civic touchstones:  police station and post office.  One of our walking partners pointed out signs of a changing demographic in town-  a Mexican restaurant and grocery and a Healing arts Center.   

Waynesboro is home to two, yes, two, Candy Stores; one of them is owned by Episcopalians.  We visited in Depuis Leo and marveled at the selection of chocolates.  We learned about the history of the original owner, Depuis, and her unflagging generosity to the townspeople.  From the stories that were told to me, I had to wonder how she ever made any money-   it sounds as though Depuis offered free confections to anyone who came into her shop.  I loved the old fashioned feel of the store and marveled at the long oak candy case. And, of course, I could not leave without a few treats for the road..

We supped at the local community soup kitchen- called “The Lunch Place”- that is housed at Christ United Methodist Church.  Over a wonderful lunch of chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, salad and rhubarb pie, I learned that this  feeding program serves between 60-80 people every day.  The spirit was high as we enjoyed our meal and talked with some of the other guests.  The Chief Organizer of this culinary enterprise, Pat, posed for a picture with Mother Linda.  Pat acknowledged that she is an Episcopalian at heart, but an ecclesiastical wanderer...(I loved how she said that she learns more about our faith and Our Lord by visiting several churches to hear the Word. She is interested in her life-long formation as a disciple.)

We also visited  the Ceramic Arts Studio in town where we found Elizabeth Shoemaker, one of St. Mary’s parishioners.  Elizabeth has discovered pottery as a recent avocation and showed us around this amazing studio where people of all skill levels can come to learn about ceramic arts and build their skill. 

After lunch I bid my St. Mary’s friends adieu and Mother Linda, Lee Layman (Church of the Transfiguration and Calvary) and I made a quick stop at Ft. Ritchie Community Center.

I forgot my camera (and my melting chocolates!) in the car at this stop, but we learned how this former army base has been re-figured into a Community Center that has state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a computer lab and serves as a home to a thriving day camp for kids in the summer.

In the afternoon, we turned back the clock to the 1800s as we spent time on the battlefield at Gettysburg.  I’d been to this hallowed ground once- last summer- and was overcome, then, by the solemnity and sacredness of the land.  It is almost as though the land speaks to you as you look out over the fields and imagine the tragedy of that fateful 3 day battle.  Our tour guide was The Rev. Doug Smith who serves as Rector of All Saints, Hanover most of the time- and tour guide at Gettysburg- in the balance.  Doug’s knowledge of and passion for Gettysburg is unparalleled and it was an honor to have him accompany me and my husband Glenn on this tour.  We made all of the usual stops- Little Round Top, the site of Pickett’s charge, Seminary Ridge, the “Angle"- and I was amazed as we drove by monument after monument, how Doug rattled off the regiment or battalion or the name of the person whom the monument memorialized without even looking... this stuff is in his bones.
It was an afternoon filled with stories and no small amount of sadness as we recounted the wages of war and reflected on the moral gain won at such great cost.

Our tour with Doug could have lasted all weekend-  but we another exciting appointment awaiting! 

 The Rev. Herbert Sprouse, Rector of the Prince of Peace Memorial Chapel at Gettysburg (Episcopal) had arranged for us to have a special “back stage” tour of the Cyclorama at the Gettysburg Visitors Center.  The Cyclorama is a giant circular painting of the Gettysburg battlefield at the time of Pickett’s Charge.  It is one of 4 identical paintings created to commemorate this event and, in an art form of the mid to late 1800s- made its way around the country, “touring” in several cities.  The version of the painting that has been restored and installed in Gettysburg is the one originally installed on Tremont St. in Boston.  The cyclorama was researched and painted by a French artist, Paul Philippoteaux in 1883.  It took Philippoteaux more than a year to paint the 42 X 377 ft. canvas in all of its authentic detail.  The docent and scholar who led our private tour gave us insight into the challenges of creating, maintaining and caring for this piece of art-  we learned about some of the paintings idiosyncrasies and the horrors of restoration and conservation (at one point, a private owner had cut the painting into strips to hang in his department store...)

A cylcorama is more than just a giant painting-  it is, really, an “art experience.”  A cyclorama installation includes a canopied viewing platform, the painting and a large diorama that serves to fill in the visual gap between the viewing platform and the painting.  The items in the diorama (mid ground) extend the painting from 2D canvas to a 3D experience and, in the right light, you feel as though you are actually on the battlefield, itself, surrounded 360 degrees by the painting and the "cyclorama experience.”

This private tour included the opportunity to walk down from the viewing platform to the actual canvas and also to step into the middle ground of the diorama to see how the 3-D effect of the art experience is achieved.  Really cool.

Our day ended with a late dinner at the Dobbin House.  Pictures eluded me as I was too busy enjoying the company of the parishioners from Prince of Peace and our tour guide Doug.. and eating a delicious plate of Maryland crab cakes.

What a day!

I crawled into bed around 11:30 grateful- so grateful for the witness of our people in this part of the diocese, for the richness of the history in this region, for the lessons learned from events like Gettysburg and with prayers for wisdom, that all those lives lost should not have been in vain.

Check back for more as Day 2 of our 3 Day Southern Style continues.  There’s lots more in store!

Friday, June 17, 2016

3-Day Immersion Excursion: Southern Style

Dear Friends,

I’m on the road again for a 3-Day.

This time, it’s to the Southern Convocation which includes our churches in Beartown, Blue Ridge Summit, Waynesboro, York (2) Gettysburg and Hanover.

There’s a full schedule which will include some time enjoying the out-of-doors and  learning about local social service institutions and their partnerships with the Episcopal Church.  There will be some time spent enjoying the landmarks at Gettysburg, a ball game on Saturday and even a wedding to celebrate!  On Sunday, we’ll conclude with a visitation to St. John the Baptist, York and witness the power of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.

Packing list:  Shorts and Hiking boots.  Cope and Mitre.  Crozier.  Baseball hat, glove and ball. Prayer Book.  Bird Book. 

Stay tuned for updates during the weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2016


The usual blog entry has been suspended this week to allow for travel to two important family events:  a high school graduation in CT and a high school graduation in ME.  My nephew and niece will both graduate and continue their march into adulthood.

It seems like yesterday that my sister called me at 3 AM on a dark November morning to tell me that her daughter had been born.  Immediately, my daughter, my other niece and I jumped in the car and drove to Maine to greet this tiny package of new life, wrapped in a pink blanket with a shock of dark hair sticking out of the top.  Uh, that was 18 years ago.  And it seemed like it was just last week when we sat around the fire pit at my brother’s house and watched my three nephews tumbling in the grass like puppies and, a little bit later,  looked on as they learned, one by one, how to drive the old purple pick up truck on the rocky back acerage, dodging the saplings on the Christmas Tree farm.

Time, like an ever rolling stream...

but, this time, it does not bear all of our dreams away, but makes room for new ones:  college, new cities to live in , new roommates, and new adventures.

My niece and nephew are each receiving a compass from me as a graduation gift.  I want them to know that no matter where they are, they know that there are people not too far away, who love them to the end and that it is only a matter of negotiating a few turns and hills to find their way home to a soft bed, a warm meal and a dose of encouragement.

Spend some time this week telling someone whom you love how you feel about them.

Friday, June 3, 2016

fried bologna

This is long.  Get a big cup of coffee.


I have been reflecting a lot, lately, on the times and events of my childhood and coming of age.  It may be that I’ve been reading and re-visiting some “coming of age” stories (Catcher In the Rye, On the Road, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, to name a few) or that I have been spending some glorious afternoons hiking in the woods, which always brings me back to my childhood summers.  Whether my dalliances with the memories of my childhood have been ignited by literature or sensory experience is not important; it is the content of the memories and, even more, what the experiences of my past have rendered- and how they shape my “now” and my “tomorrow”-  that is key.

In my work in the next year, I hope to shift my focus from the “Year of Listening,” to “Our Year of Discovery. “  Those of you who have heard me speak of my initial “Three Year Plan” for my episcopacy, know that Year One has been designed to ground me in Listening and learning all that our diocese can share and that I can absorb, Year Two is focused on Discovery of ourselves as Disciples of Jesus in the 21st century, and Year Three will be spent charting, collectively, Our Way Forward.  It has been important for me to not only lay out this initial plan, but to be disciplined about taking the time to honor this diocese and her history, stories and people, in this first year.  This has been a year of great growth and learning for me, and I suspect (and hope) that my experience of the beautiful people and place of Central Pennsylvania will only deepen in years to come.

But back to today… and our near future.

I am preparing to shift our focus, when summer turns to fall, to Discovery.  This does not mean that I will stop listening (!) but that the focus will zero in on how we understand ourselves as disciples.  I want us to learn about how Jesus calls us, today to “follow” and how our modern lives reflect our engagement with the teachings and Way of Jesus.  I want to continue to listen to lots and lots of stories-  about your lives and how they make sense in your formation as disciples of Jesus- and to watch and listen as you share them with others. We call this “building your spiritual library” of stories. And I can’t wait to begin.

In the next year, I will be sharing more stories of my own life with you all in this blog.  While a certain amount of self-disclosure is healthy and good for relationship building, I have a bigger agenda:  I want to discover with all of you, some new insights in to my own story as a Christian, to offer a model of storytelling and invite you to your own reflection and sharing.  Oh, sure, I’ll still blog about awesome adventures around our diocese, “hot topics” in Congregational Life and the odd idea that wakes me up at 3 AM, but I hope to focus on the craft of spiritual storytelling for a portion of our “time” together.  I hope you will be inspired to share some stories of your own.

To wit, here’s a story:

Fried Bologna

There’s a trick to getting just the right amount of crispiness on the edge of a fried bologna… to coax it, with just the right amount of heat into curling up into a cup shape… and then, to deftly slide an orange square of American cheese into the center of the cup and let it melt, creating the filling for a 1950s-style sandwich that looks more like a science experiment than a meal.  The trick is using just the right pan (cast iron), just the right amount of heat (medium high) and just the right kind of fat (butter) to turn the pale, flabby round of luncheon meat into a crispy, hot-doggish treat, topped with gooey cheese.  Add two slices of soft white bread and a squirt of ketchup, and it’s a lunch fit for a ten-year-old.

OK.  It’s just a sandwich. But we all know that food, and the sensory experience that it provides, can create deep and important impressions on us that we carry for a lifetime and, the memories, themselves, transform into something much bigger (ie:  “ …when he had given thanks to you, he broke it (the bread) and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you…’”)

Fortunately, in the past forty-seven years, my taste and food sensibilities have grown some and, these days, I tend more towards a “flexitarian” diet that focuses on eating more plants than animals and fewer factory-created foods than in my early years.  I still love a good Pop-Tart or Oreo, and the smell of that crisping bologna brings me right back to the skinned-knee days of my childhood, because there is always more to the sensory experience than smell, taste or nutrition (?!), alone.

Fried Bologna spells independence, freedom, and delight to me.

Fried Bologna transports me to the summers of my youth spent canoeing, swimming, fishing for bass, playing in the woods, catching night crawlers on our wet lawn with the aid of a flickering candle stub, and listening to Rubber Soul (1965) and the White Album (1968), memorizing every lyric, and every guitar riff.

We were very lucky to spend our summers in a house in the northwestern hills of Connecticut, a part of the state that is dotted with lakes, farms and cornfields (It’s a little bit like a miniature Central PA).  The countryside is lush and green.  Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, Indian Paintbrush and Cornflowers stick their heads out into the roads, spilling over in a kaleidoscope of color, planned only by the Great Creator.  Hot summer days smell like honeysuckle; the mornings, like the deep earth; and the nights like citronella candles and calamine lotion.  This is the place where we abandoned our shoes in June… and went looking for them at Labor Day. Where we went all summer without a proper bath and took turns at helping our mom with chores- hanging the wash on the line, hand-washing the dinner dishes, and sweeping the porch.   We learned to filet fish, right capsized canoes, tie knots, swing an axe, and identify poison ivy.   We captured snakes, turtles, frogs and salamanders.  One time, we even collected a pair of newborn chipmunks- but that’s another story for another time.
Back to the bologna.

There was a not-so-subtle “class system” in our family that was divided by age.  My older brother and my older twin-sisters were the “big kids.” (Another, bigger brother, was  also an occasional figure in our summer lives, living with us at the lake  between his college years.)  And then, there were the “little kids:” my younger brother, my baby sister, and… me.  I was in the middle, really, between the big and the little kids, but I usually ended up in the grouping, decided by my mother, with the younger set.

We all got to roam, freely, during the day (except for my little sister.)  We were “free-range” children- because that was just the way it was done in those days.  We learned most of our lessons the hard way, and some of them (how to remove a fish hook from one’s ankle) with the help of an adult.   We had breakfast in the big country kitchen around a table covered with oilcloth, and dinner at an eight-foot army surplus picnic table on the back porch.

But the bologna.  The bologna.  It created a dividing line for us.  There were those who were allowed to make their own lunch, (the big kids) and those who were helped by our mother (the little kids).  The big kids made fried bologna.  And the little ones got cold bologna… or … peanut butter & jelly.

The day that I stepped up to the stove and my big brother taught me the magic of fried bologna was something.  I had arrived.

Truth be told, it’s not that hard.  Use the right pan, the right heat, and just aim the cheese for the center.  Have the bread ready to go, and the ketchup close at hand and it will be clear that your own coming of age is as simple as that:  delivered in a sandwich.  There was a whole world beyond that kitchen-lesson of making fried bologna:  late nights at the boathouse, waterskiing, hitchhiking to the General Store for penny candy and magazines, rolling cigarettes from dried mint, and midnight swims to the Big Raft. 

Who knew it would all begin with a sandwich?

Each of us has moments in our lives that serve as hinges between one developmental phase or another, and icons of those moments that mark significant transitions.  The transition from childhood to teenager is one example, marked for me by a sandwich.  And there are others:  first cars, first kisses, moving away from home, finding meaningful work, the shifting roles that we take on as lovers, spouses, parents and, sometimes in our later years, as caregivers to our own parents.  In all of these roles and phases, we are loved by God, delighted in by our Creator, and, if we listen and pay attention, we’ll see that we are guided by the Holy Spirit.  While our lives change, our souls deepen and our experiences add up, the one constant is God’s unrelenting and unyielding love for us.  I wonder if we spend enough time noticing that-  the ostinato line of God’s love - that carries us through our lives?

What have been the hinge moments in your lives?
Is there a fried bologna story in your spiritual library?
Care to share it?