don’t text and walk


I had just finished a hospital visit and was texting a joke to my colleague as I walked through the parking lot. I looked up every so often, between finger taps, and stayed on the edge of the lot.
A car slowed down and the driver, a man, said something out the window.
I stopped texting. “I’m sorry — what was that?” I ducked my head to peer into his car. There was a woman in the passenger seat. Both were smiling.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m worried about you texting. You can’t tell what’s going on around you.”
“I know,” I said, “and I know it’s bad, and I do it anyway.”
“I know. And you never know if someone’s gonna sneak up behind you and steal your pocketbook.”
“It’s true.”
Both he and his passenger seemed kind, and embarrassed.
“Thank you for looking out for me.”
“I care about you,” said the man.
“Thank you.” We exchanged have-a-good-days, and then I said something I rarely say, even though I’m a pastor: “God bless you.”
I sat in my truck to finish the text, zipped the phone into my purse and drove off.


a poem by Ted Kooser

Winter Morning Walks

He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.

I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?

december 29

     Windy and cold.

All night, in gusty winds,
the house has cupped its hands around
the steady candle of our marriage,
the two of us braided together in sleep,
and burning, yes, but slowly,
giving off just enough light so that one of us,
awakening frightened in darkness,
can see.

Someday, I wrote. Someday.

where everyone belongs

Now you know why, in lieu of wedding gifts, we asked people to donate to Reality,

and in lieu of album money, all proceeds go to Reality.



Living in North Street neighborhood for two years taught me that the kingdom of God isn’t about “inclusion,” as though some are “in” and some are “out” until those “in” deign to “include” them. No. It’s about plain belonging. We all belong to God, and to each other.

your song


          The first tone tap tap taps like water on a windowsill, only it doesn’t sound like a gray day’s rain — it sounds like a sun-warmed raindrop, sweet and clear. The note gently tap tap taps on the heart.

          My friend sent me the song in a care package to Namibia, where I lived as a teacher. At night I listened to Kate Walsh sing, as close to inside my ears as I could get. She sang my longing as I lay under the mosquito net. I yearned for everything, out there in the desert — family, language, food, technology, romance — and she lullabied me.

          I listened to Kate on repeat. I took her with me out to the spigot as I filled the blue bucket to wash clothes. I stood in the dust and tried to make sense of her words:

So I’ll make whirlpools,
and watch him sparkle

I didn’t know what she meant, but watching the water made me think I did. At the outdoor tap, the water was warmest, the closest thing to warm water. A subtle piano cascaded notes down, in a swirl, but the water gushed out hard. Sunlight sprang up from the bottom.

          Kate’s voice was simple, sometimes nervous. Sometimes she sounded old, like a granny, sometimes young and shy. Her voice shrank, as if to say, notice me, don’t notice me. Like a fisherman she cast her lines out, and nearly forgotten words bobbed at the end:

I’m stuck on a boy, who
fills me with joy, I
knew I was wrong to
jump straight on into
this picture so pretty

It was a confession trailing off.

and we’ll make
love, make

         I lugged the dusty-bottomed bucket back inside. Was she right? Would it be magic?

my mother, she read to me


Bricks slick with rain, outside a tiny library.

My mother read to me, too.

Mom doesn’t want you to waste money on flowers and doesn’t want the hairdresser to give her any volume. She doesn’t wear pants so snug they’ll show her figure, doesn’t mind eating leftovers to spare the rest of us, doesn’t drive a Prius for ecology, just economy.

But when she read to me she read with enthusiasm. Not with impressions, like Dad, but at least with interest. Can a person be both practical and have a flair for the dramatic? Can she be no-nonsense and at least a little whimsical? I don’t remember the titles of any of the books from my childhood (other than Let’s Talk About Whining), but I know she read to me, with flair, and I know such a thing is to be canonized.


Swandell Wedding-93

In the span of 13 days, I made promises I’m supposed to keep forever. I vowed that I would preach the Holy Scriptures, recommend fasting or abstinence (both by word and by example), and earnestly strive to be made perfect in love.

I vowed that I would “instruct the children in every place,” visit from house to house, never be unemployed, never be triflingly employed, never trifle away time.

I vowed that I would live together in holy marriage with one particular man. I vowed to love him, comfort him, honor him, keep him. I vowed that I would forsake all others and be faithful to him as long as we both shall live.

I was 30 years old and it was a lot of vowing. Got ordained and got married. Got pregnant — no, but if I had, my lifelong tethering would have been complete. Got back from the honeymoon. I wanted to write down all the vows and hang them on my wall, so I would remember.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

Psalm 50:14 (BCP)