Doors of Sewanee.

The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, is found on Monteagle Mountain, in Tennessee. It is glorious. It is beautiful. It is a regular university with regular classes, and it also is a university that trains Episcopal priests to be Episcopal priests. Walking on the campus makes me think that I’ve been transplanted to England, three hundred years ago.

There is a lot to this campus, and it is fun to prowl around it. There are many fun nooks and crannies, and most of the buildings are open for the casual wanderer. I’ve taken many pictures there over the years, but here what I’m going to share with you are some examples of doors from Sewanee.

I don’t think they know how to make normal sized doors here. This was found on the second floor of a building that has rooftop access. It is outside of a classroom. Perhaps it fits the fire code’s requirement to have two ways out of a room. Perhaps it is a joke. I’m not very wide anymore, and I think that even I would have to turn sideways to use this door.
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This is a tiny bathroom. It is just big enough for one, barely. I think the door looks a bit like the TARDIS.

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Here’s a classic door from Sewanee. Lots of stone and wood and iron fittings.

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Here’s a detail shot of it.
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This was on the door for the “Center for Religion and Environment.” In order to find this office you have to find the bell tower. And then you have to go up about five flights of steps. Maybe more. Only fit people can come up here. The room for the bell is just opposite this door. It was lovely to listen to the hiss and wheeze of the pneumatic valves that work the mechanism. It was a little overwhelming to listen to the bell ring that closely, however.

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Here’s a tiny door underneath a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is the observatory. I have a fascination with tiny doors. I don’t know if I love tiny doors because of Alice in Wonderland, or the other way around.

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And last, but not least, are some doors for professor’s offices. Perhaps the doors are adjusted to the height of the professor, in the same way that Frank Lloyd Wright adjusted the homes and the furniture he designed for the size of the client? Or perhaps they got a discount on mis-matched doors?

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This is outside another office. The door is normal sized, but I really like the tiny clipboards so people can leave him notes.
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Sure, I didn’t take any pictures of the usual doors you’d expect to see there. Anybody can take those pictures. I wanted to share with you some doors that the usual person wouldn’t see.

I leave you with these words from Jesus in Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

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Thanksgiving rose

Here is a Thanksgiving rose for you. Why, you may say, is this a Thanksgiving rose? This picture represents so much I have to be thankful for, and I almost overlooked it.

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The rose came from a bouquet of flowers I bought half a week ago to beautify my home. Sometimes you need to buy yourself flowers. My husband understands that I like flowers; he just doesn’t understand which flowers I like. Rather than feel like he should read my mind, I buy my own bouquets. I think that is very healthy. You have to show love to yourself first. I’m thankful for self-care.

There were two roses in the bouquet. One was drooping by the second day. His neck had gotten crimped somehow and he couldn’t stand up correctly. Rather than let him droop and wither sooner than the other flowers, I decided to save him. I’m thankful for being thrifty. I’m thankful for being able to adapt to new situations.

The rose is in a glass bottle that I realized a week earlier would be good for a bud vase. Instead of putting it in the recycle bin, I decided to save it. I’m thankful for the gift of being able to see alternate purposes for things.

The rose has been on that windowsill for a few days, but I’d never seen it in that light. Today, just now, I was fortunate to notice it, with just the right shadows and color. It was pretty before, but today it is beautiful. If it had been with the other flowers in the bouquet it would not have gotten this attention. So sometimes adversity is good for us. I’m thankful for new ways of thinking. I’m thankful that I saw this beauty this day.

And then there’s all the stuff in the picture that isn’t the rose. I’m thankful for a house to live in. I’m thankful for a yard to play in that keeps me a little insulated from my neighbors. I’m thankful for a central air unit that works well on this cold day. I’m thankful for good windows. I’m thankful for the cheery sunshine. And I’m thankful for a husband to share it all with.

I had none of these things a dozen years ago. It has been so long that I’ve had these blessings that I’ve almost started to take them for granted. I’m trying to remember that every day is a blessing, and every day is a gift. When we start taking blessings for granted is when we start to forget how blessed we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, no matter where you are.

Tipping is not a city in China.

I don’t get the purpose of tips. I think that servers should get paid a fair wage and tips should not be mandatory.

I was at a buffet recently and the server was telling a couple that the federal minimum wage for servers has not gone up in over ten years. She said it is $2.13 an hour. This is unreasonable. But, she knew this when she took the job.

Why do we, the customer, have to make up the salary of the worker with a tip? We don’t really tip for good service. We are expected to tip, period. If we don’t tip, the person makes less than minimum wage. So tip isn’t a gratuity. It really isn’t a bonus. It is to make up a shortage. We don’t tip to say “good job.”

What is the point of tipping someone for just doing their job? We don’t tip police officers or gas station employees or teachers.

What is the point of giving a tip to servers who work at a buffet? We get our own food. They take away the plates and get more drinks. Sometimes. Even when they don’t, we are still expected to tip. The price of the buffet may be low, but when you add in the tip it goes up. The tip may not officially be mandatory, but it sure is expected.

When I was in England I asked my cousin what was the expected tip amount. She was surprised. Tips aren’t expected. They are for exceptional service.

I’ve heard that the expected tip now starts at 20%. When I was growing up, that was the high end for really great service. So we are expected to pay more, but we aren’t getting more. The server still takes the order, brings the food, and refills the drinks. Sometimes. I just don’t get how we are supposed to pay extra for baseline service. Nothing has changed from when the tip base was 10%.

I say pay servers a fair wage, and make tips open for all customer service workers, not just restaurant workers. Make tips as a reward for exceptional service. Let’s not encourage mediocrity, or businesses underpaying their workers.

Friends – to be, or not to be

What constitutes a friend? When is someone just an acquaintance? Can you really say that someone is your “BFF” if you’ve only known them for a year? When is it time to admit that they just are not that into you?

I have very few friends from high school. In fact, I have very few friends I’ve known for more than ten years. I’m a little exacting about what makes up a friend. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be present. And they do have to be kind and considerate.

About five years after I graduated high school a person I knew showed up at my workplace, asking if we were still friends. I would think that she already knew the answer by that point, but we were young and nobody had told us what the rules were about how to have a friend or how to know when a friendship is over.

We’d not talked in years. I was surprised she even knew where I worked. We’d just drifted apart, because we had nothing to hold us together. Leaving the artificial environment of high school does that. Life does that.

The fact that she just showed up where I work rather than calling me first and asking to talk to me was a clue that things were over. Regular friends are considerate of your time.

She wasn’t a regular friend. I was assigned to her when we were in fourth grade. A teacher came up to me and asked me to be her friend because she was a loner. Her life was a bit sad. Her father has died, but before that he had been abusive. Her mom was doing the best she could raising her alone, but they were poor. The already bad start was just compounded. The teacher was trying to help her out by pairing her with someone she thought would be sensitive and kind.

I don’t think the teacher thought about what this would do to me.

It taught me that friendship is about sacrificing your own needs for others. It taught me that friendship is about taking care of others. It taught me that my own needs don’t matter. It taught me that I had to be there for the friend, but the friend didn’t have to be there for me.

I read recently “I’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.” The person was writing about friendship and about quality over quantity. When I first read it I didn’t get it. They both add up to 100. Surely it is the same.

But it isn’t the same at all.

Time is precious and life is short. I’d rather have a few real friends than a bunch of acquaintances.

I had a gathering for my birthday recently at a local vegetarian restaurant. I invited about a dozen people. Most were able to come. It was a very good evening. Nobody was needy. Nobody had to be entertained. Everybody there was the kind of person who is comfortable being in her or his own skin, and it showed. Everybody there was the kind of person who knew how to get along well with others, especially ones that they didn’t know.

And I felt better. I’m glad that I’m making healthy choices for myself. I’m glad that the food that I’m putting in me and the people I’m putting in my life are healthy ones.

It has been a long time to get to this point.

Edge – Moses, David, and me.

I always feel that I’m just on the edge of knowing what I’m doing. That if I take another class or read another book I’ll know what I am doing.

I feel like life is a pop quiz. That every day, as soon as I just barely learn something, it gets tested. I don’t feel like I know it well enough to do it yet, but God apparently thinks otherwise.

Look at Moses. He wasn’t an expert. God said “Hey, I need you” and Moses said “You have got to be kidding. Me? Talk to Pharaoh? I stutter. Lead everybody out of Egypt? Me? Who would follow me?”

And yet he did. No training. No expertise.

God likes using amateurs. Look at David. He was just a boy. He was too small to wear the armor that was given to him when he went up against Goliath. The whole Israelite army hadn’t been able to get past this giant. One boy, armed with the strength of God and a rock, did the job.

Why a rock? Why not a sword’? David used a rock because that is what he knew. He wasn’t a warrior. He was a shepherd. He used a slingshot to chase off the wolves that were terrorizing his sheep. This time, Goliath was the wolf. One hit, and he was down.

God uses us like that. The small stuff becomes the important stuff. The underdog wins.

I feel like everything is my teacher. I feel like I’m being fed my lines. I feel like as soon as I learn something, it was what I need to know right then. No waiting. It is a little overwhelming. It doesn’t give me any time to polish my skills.

But maybe that is the point. David didn’t use a sword, he used a stone. He used what he knew. But notice this, he didn’t even bring the stones with him. He went to a nearby stream and found them.

God provides what we need for the task at hand at the time we need it.

It isn’t on us to do the work. It is up to us to show up and let God do the work through us.

Tree pose without doing tree pose.

I know a lady who dislikes going to the grocery store. I understand. I feel the same way. It isn’t all the food. It is all the people and color and noise and choice. It is all too much and it is overwhelming.

She does yoga, so I suggested this – do tree pose, without doing tree pose.

There is a certain deliberate calmness you have to adopt to do tree pose. You have to pull all of your energy into yourself. When you are there, you can balance. You can breathe better. You can stand strong, even though it is only on one foot. You aren’t holding on to anything, yet you don’t need to.

You are strong. You are centered. You are whole.

Do that. But without doing tree pose. The pose is just a reminder. The point of the pose has little to do with the physical balance you gain and the strength you develop in your ankles.

That’s nice too. Not getting hurt from twisting your ankles anymore is a nice side benefit of yoga. But it is only part of it.

The real part is what happens inside. The real part is what happens deep down. The real part is the balance and the centeredness and the calm that you are able to call on when life is too much and too crazy and too full and too much.

The real part is that you don’t even need to stand on one foot to get there once you’ve done it enough.

Victim beads

The last time I went to my spiritual director, we talked a lot about the people who have harmed me in my past. This wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about. I’d rather just jump right ahead into forgiving them. She wants me to pick open that wound and study it for a bit. She wants me to dig down to what I’m feeling. Then dig down below that.

Anger, sure. But beneath anger is sadness, and grief. It is a sense of loss, of not-having, of never-will. It is a sense of something that I think should be mine, isn’t.

This is a foreign feeling, and even more foreign that an expert is telling me to stay with this feeling. Surely I should “turn the other cheek,” right? Surely I should “forgive and forget,” right?

But she says to stick with it. Every month I come back and I’m ready to forgive and she thinks I’m not ready yet.

So, par the course for me I made a bracelet to help me remember. I put a bead to remind me of each person who has harmed me. I did this fairly fast, so there are some I’m forgetting, I’m sure, but fast work means that I don’t overanalyze it.

prayer victim

I’ve also been writing about how I was harmed by my parents, and also my brother. Writing about it is hard. I don’t want to dig up these old bones. She had me look at that feeling – why do I not want to talk about it? In part it is because I feel like I am betraying them. I feel like I’m being disloyal to them. We aren’t supposed to speak ill of the dead. Nothing is stronger than blood, right?

I say that they meant well, that they didn’t know any better, that they themselves were raised badly. She says those are covers. That there is something I’m not looking at. That I need to focus on how I was harmed. I need to focus on that I was harmed.

There is certainly a bit of shame that comes in the mix when using the word “victim.” Am I to blame for what happened to me? Is it my fault? Could I have stood up for myself? Was I too passive? By not speaking up for myself, I allowed it to happen. They couldn’t have known they were harming me unless I said something. To not speak up is to give acceptance.

I hate going to the spiritual director’s. Every month, about a week before, I start to dread it. I don’t want to talk about what she wants to talk about because it is going to be hard. I want to make a list and tell her what we are going to talk about and use up all the time so that I don’t have anything hard to talk about.

But then that wastes the whole point of going. It is like going to a personal trainer at the gym and saying all I want to do is jumping jacks for an hour. I’m not going to work on anything meaningful that way. I’ll have wasted my time and my money. She’s like a personal trainer for my soul. We dig down to uncover broken pieces and blockages.

I read once that the goal in life isn’t to learn how to love. It is to remove all the barriers we have put up against love. I think the person quoted Rumi. I’m sure he said it better.

But look, here I go, walking away from the topic again. I’m a wiggly one, always trying to get away from what bothers me. I guess that is normal human nature. We often try to anesthetize ourselves or run away.

Let’s try again.

It is important to acknowledge loss. It is important to admit that it happened. To heal it, you have to know it is there. And that means a lot of digging.

So while I’m constructing the victim bracelet, I’m realizing that these are all people who have sinned against me. And then I think – what about all the people I have sinned against?

Am I justifying? Am I putting the blame back on me? Am I letting them off the hook? Am I avoiding the problem? Sounds like it.

So I’m staying with this. I’m not through it. I certainly want to be. I want this to be over and done and healed and let’s go on to the next thing and make it a happy one, please.

And I’m running away again.

I’ve heard that grief takes a long time. I’ve heard that you grieve for half the amount of time that you’ve known the person. This is grief. This is going to take a long time. It has grown down deep. And just like digging out privet in the back yard, this is going to take a lot of work and some special tools to get all of it out. Leave just a little bit of privet root and it will come back next year. Cut it down at the top and it will get even stronger and root down further. The only way to get it out is to dig it up, all of it. And the only way to do that is to work on it patiently and thoroughly.