Holy Envy – reflections on the book

Holy Envy

Barbara Brown Taylor refers to herself as a writer, speaker, and spiritual contrarian. She’s also an ordained Episcopalian priest whose daily vocation is professor of Religious Studies at Piedmont College in North Carolina.

In Holy Envy, Taylor’s fourteenth book, we are treated to another memoir of a sliver of Taylor’s life. The question she answers for herself in this one:

How does one teach mostly Christian conservative undergraduate students a required “Religious 101” curriculum? Taylor writes about her life in the classroom – and in synagogues, temples, and sanctuaries. As she conducts classroom lectures and organizes field trips to other religious sites, she brings the action alive with student questions, commentary, and experiences.

What is it that Christianity and other religions have in common? How is our worldview restricted, and how can we expand that view to better understand and experience other religions? As Taylor reminds us: It’s “safer to read about religion in a textbook, but being present in the services, ceremonies, and holy places is how we really risk” vulnerability to understand those who do not hold the same faith as we do.

At the Hindu temple, Taylor shares thoughts about similarities in reincarnation and resurrection. That is, that each has a similar pattern; there is no new life without destruction or death. Students observe a prayer ritual, challenging their core beliefs about Jesus as the only way to know God.

At the Buddhist darmha-hall, students are exposed to bright orange robes and bowing motions that show respect to the monk teacher. When the monk begins the lesson, one student reveals, “This is just about life.” Back in the classroom, the students are challenged to experience singing bowls, which Buddhists believe speak to different energy levels in our bodies (known as chakras). Is this music of the Buddhists, the singing bowls and chants, similar to hymns sung in our worship services? Taylor challenges the students to find such similarities.

And that’s when she finds the words to describe the admiration of many of the practices encountered in the studies and trips of other religions: Holy Envy.

“Buddhist meditation is not the same as Christian centering prayer, but my envy of the discipline required by the former increases my desire to put more effort into the latter. A Muslim goes to Mecca for different reasons than I go to Bethlehem or Canterbury, but my envy of the Hajj causes me to wonder why I make my pilgrimages alone.”

Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindi. Do all have spiritual or other practices which prompt our Holy Envy? How do we grow spiritually, ourselves, as we learn more about those other religions? Perhaps the author states it best herself, when speaking of embracing religious diversity:

“This is how far my holy envy has brought me: from fearing that Jesus will be mad at me for smelling other people’s roses to trusting that Jesus is the Way to embrace all ways.”

Perhaps there’s something to this “Holy Envy.” What might you find, if you, too, join in the conversation?

Flunking Sainthood, by Jana Reiss

flunking sainthood

“Flunking Sainthood”


I first read Jana Reiss on social media. She has a wicked sense of humor, as I learned when she undertook the task to tweet the Bible. Yes, tweet the Bible. Over a three-year period, Riess summarized the Bible into 140 characters a day. For example, her #Twible for Luke 2?

#Twible Lk 2: “Ma’am, we have no rooms available, but there’s a rustic barn out back that is, um, quite charming. The hay is free today.”

So it was that I began Flunking Sainthood, expecting a humorous attempt at …. something. Turns out, Riess had committed to a book on spiritual practices, and determined that her best research would come from self-imposed spiritual practices.

She begins with a thesis: We can’t really hear what God is saying unless we do what God is saying. That points to spiritual practices, and Riess vows to select twelve practices, continuing each for a month, to grow closer to God (the old-fashioned way, like the martyrs, but she adamantly cross martyrdom off the list of options).

First is fasting. Next, cooking as a spiritual practice. In both, she cannot complete the month. One gets the feeling – given the title of the book – that this failure will be a recurring theme.

Another attempt at lectio divina has her curious how one stays awake during the process, but she perseveres and learns to enjoy the silence. Abstaining from shopping, or practicing simplicity, is another monthly practice that doesn’t last.

Riess begins the summer months committed to contemplative prayer, returning often to her quieting phrase, “Peace. Be Still.” In this practice, she learns a critical component to any spiritual formation activity: make it your own. If contemplative prayer isn’t working, tweak the practice. Riess does this by reciting a prayer during the day, often: “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We Methodists might change the words a bit (“Jesus Christ, son of God, pour out your grace on me.”) But in making the prayer her own, a short prayer can be prayed often during the day, and becomes a practice of its own: humility, confession, forgiveness, all at the same time.

There are lessons in observing a Sabbath, embracing gratitude, and practicing hospitality as St. Benedict encouraged. Eating as a vegetarian for a month becomes a tribute to St. Francis, who valued all of creation. Praying the hours could be a worthy spiritual practice, once we get past the absolute order of the clock’s mandate. Flex-time prayer becomes a more soothing practice. And finally, at year end, the practice of generosity is an appropriate end to the year, as she focuses on the spiritual practice of giving.

Of all the chapters, the epilogue is my favorite, so you must read to the end. Turns out, one of the best ways to be in relationship with God? Be in relationship with others. Don’t overlook the opportunities to love your neighbor, or your family. And perhaps, after a year of flunking sainthood, we might all realize that being a saint is not at all what God asks of us, anyway.


The Muppet Movie is 40.

Steve pointed out this NPR read to me this morning. We both smiled, as he forwarded it to me and to Shannon (we were sure it would make her smile, too).


I didn’t have time to read it right away, but thoughts came to mind about writing a blog about it. Something in the line of my “Listening for God on Broadway” or “Listening for God in the Movies” themes.

And to be honest, didn’t you start humming “Rainbow Connection,” hearing banjos and Kermit’s nasally voice?

rainbow connection

When I eventually read the article, I thought it was brilliant. Click HERE if you want to read (or listen) to it.  So many memories came flooding back, and yes, I continued to smile. I even joined Steve in some laughter.

I think that’s part of the point of the movie. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep living. As the first line of Rainbow Connection asks: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”


Why are we waiting for “the other side?” Why do we find it so hard to really live, each and every day?  We talk about that a lot in theology. The Kingdom of God is a “here and not yet” discussion to me. Yes, there is the promise of eternal life, and the promise of something so much better than where we are now.

But that doesn’t mean we are just sitting around, waiting for that day or time or season. My faith in God – in that promise – helps me to live a better life, here and now, because I have faith that the promise has been, is, and will always be fulfilled. And part of that is not just living for myself, but living for others, helping in whatever way lifts them out of their struggles. Living, to me, means knowing joy and pain, and knowing that God is in the midst of each, and of everything in between those two extremes.

It’s because of my faith that I can respond to God’s call to act now, with confidence and without fear. As we hear Kermit sing:

“Have you been fast asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls
The young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that i’m supposed to be

Someday, we’ll find it,

The Rainbow Connection

The lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

That, my friends, is God calling your name. And God is calling, asking that you be all you are supposed to be, as children of Light. As you celebrate The Muppet Movie turning 40, remember the important lesson found in the last lines of the movie:

lifes like a movie

Don’t be afraid to live your life,  to hear and respond to God calling you to do something new.  Someday, you’ll find it: The Rainbow Connection.


Note: Images may be subject to copyright. The Muppet Movie and Kermit the Frog are trademarks of The Muppets Studio, LLC, owned by The Disney Company. Music and lyrics to The Rainbow Connection were  written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher,


Micah 3:5-8

Micah 3 8

Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
    who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
    when they have something to eat,
but declare war against those
    who put nothing into their mouths.
Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
    and darkness to you, without revelation.
The sun shall go down upon the prophets,
    and the day shall be black over them;
the seers shall be disgraced,
    and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
    for there is no answer from God.
But as for me, I am filled with power,
    with the spirit of the Lord,
    and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
    and to Israel his sin.



On Wednesday morning I poured my first cup of coffee and sat down to read my morning devotion. Our dog, Gromit, laid down with his usual ‘huff,’ knowing that his morning meal would wait a bit longer.

Truth be told, I was feeling a bit anxious about the day – a big day in the liturgical year: Ash Wednesday. It’s a day of repentance, when Christians worldwide come face-to-face with mortality, the first day of Lent. I was prepared to address that anxiety in my journal writing that morning, and in my readings, one word resonated.


See, on that morning, I was confronted and comforted by God that I would be called that day to proclaim to others that, even in the midst of their own humanity, as messy as it can be, we are each “Enough” for God. God knows every hair on our head, and has written our name in the palm of his hand – even in the messiness, we are enough.

And as my pen flowed, I could hear God calling, with instruction for the day:

Trust me enough.

I am enough.

Enough for all you ever need to be at peace in this world.

Having heard God’s call for the day, I set down my pen, closed my journal and my bible, fed the dog, and prepared for the day ahead. I was prepared to proclaim the Word, in whatever ways I was presented on that day.

Then a different word came, this time through news reports.

Once again, a shooting at a school, this time in Florida. In a little over 5 minutes, 17 persons killed and many more injured.  Emotion in my neighborhood was already on edge. Just the day before, we had memorialized Officer David Sherrard, a victim of a shooting the week before.

I was raw, and I was angry. I’m still angry. And again, in a new way this time, I hear the word:


I am confident that many of us heard that word shouted in our heads and piercing in our hearts: ENOUGH! Enough of the violence and hate and divisiveness. Enough of the fighting and the guns and the arrogance and self-trumpeting leadership that that pulls God’s people apart, and refuses to see the real problems of those who are hurting in our world.


But no, the news cycle wasn’t finished, and information pops up so very quickly these days.

And I say that because yesterday, the leader of a white supremacist group in Florida made claims that the shooter was a member of their group. Taking responsibility for the tragedy, even in the midst of mourning, and trying hard to divide an already raw community and country.

Whether that claim of the shooter’s participation is correct or not is contested now – Florida officers are stating that there is no known activity or connection between this shooter and the hateful and bigoted group. Yet, because of the shooting, the group felt emboldened and empowered “enough” to push their claims of superiority and purity, instigating even more division into this tragedy.

But I cry a different: Enough!

Enough of the bitterness, and divisiveness, and creating your own set of facts.

Because, my friends, just as we are enough to God, we are also enough to make a difference.

That’s why the cry of “Enough” needs to come from our very gut and yelled out from every square inch of our cities:  Enough!

Friends, I pray today that Micah be an example to us. Micah not only shared the words of the Lord when he cried out that those who cry “peace,” who sit in comfortable surroundings, who are willing to look the other way and not address the true needs of our community – Micah knew to call those leaders and people out in their shame.

But hear what Micah shares for those of us who cry, “Enough!”:

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.”

Brothers and Sisters, on this day, know that together, we are enough. Our voices, as we gather them together to demand justice for all of God’s creation – we are enough.

As we condemn the violence in the world, that we are enough.

As we encourage each other and others to make their voices heard, we are enough.

As we walk together to put an end to the hate and bitterness that divides our nations, races, and creeds, we are enough.

We are enough, because together, and like Micah, we carry power; we carry the spirit of the Lord, with justice and with might.

We are enough.

Our work IS enough to bring the change that is needed. The reconciliation among the races that is needed. The call for reasonable gun control that is needed. The call to end the words of hate that is needed. The call to the people that God needs.

Our work is enough to respond to the call of God to spread His power, glory, and justice throughout the land.

May you know that it is so; and may your actions today and this next week declare that together, we are enough.

Social Graces in a Such a Time as This

This morning, NY Times’ columnist David Brooks shared “The Golden Age of Bailing.”  He ponders whether we have become immune to last-minute cancellations, or “bailing.” He’s got a point – and I’m sure many of us agree. Who among us hasn’t used a last minute excuse to cancel a meeting, or a social gathering, or even a phone call?


Do simple courtesies matter anymore? Ask any bride-to-be, tracking down rsvp’s is a nightmare. It’s common to send texts rather than to talk on the phone. I recently mailed a birthday card to a friend, rather than settle for a standard Facebook post…you would have thought I had purchased her a new car, she was so surprised!

Maybe I’m a little more aware of social graces right now, simply because I’ve been watching “Downton Abbey,” The PBS drama which aired in seasons 2011-2016. The show centers around the Grantham family, an aristocratic lineage in England in the early to mid 20th century. Being in the aristocracy, or working in their household, brings certain responsibilities; the show’s writers brought wonderful storylines that challenge much of the expected protocol among the family members and their estate.


Caution to readers: I’ve only just finished Season 3, so no spoilers, please. If you’ve not yet watched the series, consider this fair warning that you will be hooked quickly.

Now – back to the question: On a scale of “Downton Abbey” for exceedingly proper (though not condoning the protocol), and “Downton Rude” is expected these days?  More importantly, does it matter?

Here’s my answer: I don’t know what’s ‘proper,’ but I do know that manners have everything to do with consideration of the other person. And that makes it all the harder to admit my own fault – that by not acknowledging an invitation, or a gift, or a phone call, for example, I’m not exactly at my most loving! Even when I love the other person dearly.

Isn’t that what love is? Consideration of others, and not of self?

We just completed Vacation Bible School at Christ UMC. The program this year carried a theme of “Fruit of the Spirit.” In one short week, the children learned what we often forget: that in consideration of others, we can call on the Spirit to provide love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).


Would that we all embrace the lessons learned by these children! We live in a difficult world, and some claim that public discourse is as bad as its ever been. I don’t expect one returned rsvp to make all the difference, but we have to start somewhere.

A thank you note. Checking in on one who is sick. Holding your tongue when you really want to scream. Attending that meeting, even when you are tired (check out Luke 9:10-11 – even Jesus wanted to retreat privately but met with others when he may have been tired). Don’t bail, even if it’s socially acceptable to do so – someone may need you.

Embracing the fruit of the Spirit – I am convinced that renewing our focus on others will contribute to a positive change for our world.

Who’s with me?

Review: “More: God Has Everything Waiting for You.”

I had just finished reading the book, “Move,” on which the premise of this book was based. ‘Move’ is a data driven book that analyzes the results of over 1,000 church responses to faith practices and individual closeness to Christ. It is most helpful to church staff (to implement). Hawkins helped analyze the results of the survey.

I was expecting the same from “More.” I was wrong.


More is the personal account of Hawkins’ embrace of the “Move” survey results. That means that this book is almost autobiographical in nature, and he does use a lot of personal witness to underline his points.

The writing is narrative, the summaries for practices are good. And, I suspect that Hawkins’ target audience are those who are ‘stuck’ in their faith. What next? Why isn’t this all working? Should I just give up?

Hawkins provides a credible argument (and backs it up) that our life with God is at its best when we agree to die ourselves for God, and when when we incorporate God into every aspect of our lives. How does one do that? How to we die, and still live (even better than before)? That’s for Hawkins to answer in his book; he gives practical advice for Christians who might be struggling to give up control.

Everyone will not enjoy this book; as I mentioned before, those who are ‘stuck’ in their faith might benefit from Hawkins’ suggestions most. But I’ll also point out that, as Christians, we are not called to only move our own faith, but also to make disciples of others. As a result, if you, personally are not stuck, consider reading from the perspective of one who is. With that in mind, you might learn how to help others get ‘unstuck’ in their search for more meaning in their relationship with God.

Is Home Where the Heart is?

Recently, I have been thinking on this familiar phrase:


More specifically, I’ve been thinking about from the perspective of those who are homeless. That’s probably because in the last month, I’ve had a renewed focus on those without stable housing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In her book, Helping America’s Homeless, Martha Burt helps us understand the various interpretations of the term ‘homeless.’ These interpretations focus  on the term as an experience. For example, at times, we refer to the homeless who are transient by choice – those without a defined place. We might refer to those as ‘gypsies,’ or ‘nomads.’  These individuals set up a home for a period of time, only to move on at a later date. Consider circus performers as an example, or those in the construction industry, or in the military, moving from place to place – but not usually without a structured house or apartment.

Likewise, some connect the term ‘home’ with family. When used in this context, ‘homeless’ points to the cultural norm that we are only ‘home’ when we are with our immediate family. The ‘homeless’ in this category likely have resources to put a roof over their heads, but they lack the feel-good nature of ‘home,’ because they live away from their immediate family.

I’m not talking about either of those types of ‘homeless.’ I’m referring to those who experience asset poverty to such a degree that adequate housing is only a dream. What is it to say “Home is where the heart is” to those who struggle on a daily basis for food and safety?

The last week of January is an important date for those who help this population. Each year, municipalities across the United States perform a ‘homeless count’ to estimate the number of homeless persons in an area. Gathered data counts not just the number, but also provides vital information about the population: How long have you been homeless? What services can we provide to you? Are there mental health issues, or were there instances of domestic abuse?

The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, in conjunction with the Collin County Homeless Coalition, sponsored the 2017 Metro Dallas/Collin County Homeless Count. Teams of individuals gathered at City Hall, starting at about 8pm, and were assigned two things: a geographic area, and a police escort. After a short instructional session, teams set out, surveys in hand, to follow their police escort to the most likely areas within the assigned geographic area where the homeless might be found.

This year, the weather was calm – in January, 2016, the temperature dropped to record lows, making it difficult to find and count people. Yet, given those conditions, it was even more important to find them.

My team, from Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, was made up of three persons, plus the police officer. Our first contact was over the phone with a woman who was staying with a friend for an undetermined amount of time. She had lost her job a few months ago, and had lost access to housing as her meager savings ran out.


Our second contact was with a man carrying several plastic bags filled with various staples and clothing; he was walking between a 7-11 and Quick Trip (well lit areas). When the officer asked if he would answer some questions, the man was embarrassed and offended. “Does this look like the jacket of someone who is homeless?” he asked. “I’m just looking for the bus stop.” We respected his position, and we left him a gift bag filled with health related items, food, and a small blanket. Our police escort suspected, as did we, that this man was one who hopped from bus to bus during the night, just to get some rest. So – we counted him, and took our best guess at as many questions that we could answer.

Our final contact was with a man living in his car, who had parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot to sleep. Here, we learned of a smartphone app that helps people who, among others, live in their cars and are looking for big box parking lots that are rarely patrolled by police. Rather than answer our questions, the man asked to be left alone.  And again, we understood that position. Even so, we left another bag for him, in hopes that it provided some nourishment and comfort to him.


On the map which sketched out our geographic area, there was a red dot. These dots indicated areas in which persons had been identified in the past. Beside this dot was written “little wooden structure.” We knew the area – there was a bridge that crossed a small creek, and we suspected that there may be some make-shift shelter there. But when we got to the area, despite our determined focus to find the structure, we were not able to locate one. Given the area, and the amount of rain that fell in the DFW area in 2016, our best guess is that any make-shift shelter would have been swept away in the rains.

We gathered what little information we could, and returned it by the midnight deadline to the City offices. From there, CCHC and MDHA compile the information and submit to national organizations, where grants and other resources are distributed based on community need.

You might ask what I learned as I joined many other teams counting and interviewing those without adequate shelter. The teams found individuals and families on the streets, in hotels, under overpasses, in cars, and huddled in remote corners of industrial complexes. I learned how creative one can be when there isn’t adequate housing for the night. I learned and appreciated the need to affirm that lack of housing does not eliminate a person’s dignity; but often, the homeless are shamed or made to feel like much less than a beautiful child of God.

I have learned that homeless are everywhere in our communities, but that community attempts to ignore or deny those facts don’t help solve the issues.

This is the first of a three part blog on homelessness. The next blog post will share information from a  documentary film focused on the problem of homeless youth in America. And the final post will discuss results of the DFW Homeless count, and what we can do to help with the problem.

In the meantime, I’ll ask you to ponder this question with me:

What does ‘Home is where the heart is’ mean to one who has no home?

The Call

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know that I seek wisdom from a number of sources.  I wrote a blog on that awhile back, titled “What’s Black and White and Red All Over?”  Since I’ve joined the staff at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, I’ve learned that I had better be aware of recent columns in the New York Times written by David Brooks.  Our senior pastor reads just about everything Brooks writes, including the books, and it’s good to be prepared for the discussion.


We take turns sharing devotionals in our Wednesday morning staff meetings, and I was called on to share in the last month or so.  Coincidentally, Brooks had just published a column the day before, which I read, about distinguishing between vocation and a career.  Brooks wrote in the context of Leadership in America, the current election, and the choices we have when we cast our vote.  You can read the article here;  please stick with me, though, because I’m not talking politics (not today, anyway).

As I read this column, I reflected on how the same concepts apply to each of us, as we strive to find joy in the work that we do.  Let’s break down some of what Brooks shared, in this new context (pushing Brooks’ context of politics to the side for another day):

A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to.

 Maybe this resonated with me because of an interview I had participated in recently.  As you might know, I am seeking ordination in the United Methodist Church, and on that day, I spent one hour answering questions in front of my district’s Board of Ordained Ministry – questions about my theology, doctrine, sacraments, etc.  The first question we are asked is, “Tell us about your call.”  We proceed to share how God called us to ordained ministry, and how we embrace that call.

The same holds true for everyone – because we are all called to a vocation and to ministry, just in different ways.  Some are called to be teachers, or first responders, or a full time parent.   Some are called to build houses, or buildings, or household appliances.  When you find the joy of that call in your life, it is undeniable.  This is what Brooks means – a vocation brings joy to your life; a career brings a job…  And a call is so, so much more than a job.


A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur.

You know you have found your calling when you feel joy, even when there are challenges.  Trust me, even in ministry, there are times when I struggle to keep my head above water.  But when I am a part of something – a program, a conversation, a bible study – where someone is so obviously transformed, even for a moment….that’s a sense of overwhelming joy.  Kind of like the scene from “The Incredibles”:


The careerist mentality frequently makes [us] timid, driven more by fear of failure than by any positive ideal.  This timidity results in fear which plays out as self preservation, or the ambition of self over others.

Brooks also quotes the poet David Whyte:  “Work, like marriage, is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself….losing all sense of our own voice, our own contributions and conversation.”

When we find that vocation or calling, and more importantly, when we respond to it – we find ourselves helping others and striving to lift up (yes, to love) others in need.  Even better – we find when we help others find joy, our own joy is increased.  When we love each other as Christ loves us, our fear and anxiety decrease, and we truly live into our calling – a calling so big, and so vast, that we find ourselves using our imagination – our voices – our hearts – to life others up to a better life.

Here’s the challenge: don’t be afraid to listen for the call, and to respond to it.  As we read in 1 John 4:18:


Don’t stop seeking your true vocation, your call, for it will bring you unlimited joy, and with that, you will bring unlimited joy to others.



Longhorns, Fighting Irish, and an Unexpected Friendship

September 21, 1996.  That’s how far back I have to go to tell this story.  And it seems appropriate that I tell it this week, as the University of Texas Longhorns take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Austin for each team’s opening game of the 2016 season this weekend.  Once again – since Grandma gave me the gift of gab – make yourself comfortable.

Steve and I met in the Longhorn Band at UT.  He says we met in 1985, at the Fiesta Parade in San Antonio (LHB traditionally kicks off the parade as the first band); I know better, and actually have proof.  We met in the fall of 1984 at a meeting of the LHB Decadence newsletter staff.  This was the newsletter that was written by students and distributed to LHB members to read as we traveled to away games.  I still have that particular newsletter; I’m surprised Steve hasn’t burned the evidence by now.

cathy steve LHB

But I digress.

I tell that short version of the story to share why Steve and I, once we graduated, bought season tickets to the Longhorn football games every year for 23 years.  Being in the stadium was just in our blood, and that blood bled a very boiling burnt orange.  Our first seats were well past the end zone, in the sun; eventually, we moved to an area that was under the overhang on the west side, shaded, and filled with characters that we named “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady.”  Each game was not complete unless these individuals were in their proper seats; only then did we feel at home.

In 1996, we only had one child (Jack came along in 2000), so we were able to invite friends to the game.  We had four tickets, and they were stacked two and two (rather than four in a row).  This helped us out in that we could easily talk with our guests and explain traditions to them (cue “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady”).


At this particular game, we had invited a coworker of mine, Scott Riddles, and his friend John.  Each football season, Scott and John, longtime buddies, had a guy’s weekend, when they selected a high-profile football game to attend.  This year it was #6 UT v #8 ND, in Austin.  The stadium was still known as Texas Memorial Stadium, but had recently undergone improvements, and on this particular day, the seats were filled to capacity.  Who could doubt it?  This was a big game – Texas, coming in with 2 wins on the season, as did Notre Dame.  The two teams met the year before in South Bend, where ND trounced the Longhorns with a score of 55-27. [Quick pause to say that Steve remembers it well, since he was a stones throw from SB at the time, and I made him feel bad about even thinking of attending without me.]  Needless to say, the excitement on this night was in the air – and the expectation of payback? We could almost taste it.

The game was great.  Many of the fans in our area stood, rang their cowbells, chanted “Texas” and “Fight,” when appropriate.  Me?  I joined right in, with one addition.  Scott and John were sitting on the lower two seats, which meant that Steve and I were on the upper two.  This allowed me to stomp my foot loudly on the seat as we cheered and yelled; even better, neither Scott nor John cared that I did.  I’m telling you, it was one of those electric environments that only sports venues can provide, and everyone was on their feet, cheering and yelling.

Well, except this one guy.  And boy, did he let me know it.

At the start of the second half, the game was very close – 14-17, in favor of ND.  (Hey, the internet is good for some stuff like historical box scores).  So, as all good Longhorn fans do, we got back on our feet and started yelling and pounding the seats.  That is until, in one moment of silence after a play, we all heard a voice, coming from a few seats to our right:


Just in case you are wondering, he clearly meant me.

I looked to my right, and saw an older man, maybe in his 70’s, Texas Longhorn cap on his head, glaring at me with what can only be termed a “Get off my lawn!” scowl.  My response was somewhat unexpected:  completely embarrassed, I turned my head toward the field, and sat down on my seat, silent.  (It happens).  His words seemed to hang in the air.  Scott, feeling my shock, tried to lighten the mood.  He turned around from his seat, and casually reminded me, “Well, you could always tell him that technically you are banging on your own seat.  And he should try sitting in front of you!”

But not much helped my mood.  In fact, his outburst made the yelling from others worse.  As you can imagine, the nearby fans more than made up for my missing voice the next two quarters.  But, despite a significantly valiant effort, our Horns lost the game, 27-24, in the last-minute of the game.  We left the stadium – me, significantly humbled and dejected, other fans more boisterous but equally downcast.  And I certainly didn’t make eye contact with the man who yelled at me.

The season continued, and I remained energetic, but quiet.  I just didn’t want to get so worked up that I was scolded again.  So, there I sat, timidly (don’t laugh), through each of the next two home games.

Then came the last game of the season – the big rivalry with Texas A&M.  Nothing compares to a rivalry, and at the time, the Horns had two:  The TX/OU game in October in Dallas, and the home/home series against Texas A&M.  Always – and I mean always – a great game, when anything can happen.  On the field, and off.

As Steve and I made our way to our seats, someone reached out and grabbed my arm.  It was him, and I stared, wide-eyed, wondering what I had done now.  “Little Lady, I want to make sure we talk before the end of the game. I have something for you.”  I looked him in the eye, a little confused, but answered, “OK.”  Then  I made my way to our seats.  He reminded me again at halftime as we passed to go to the concession stand.  Steve and I were both curious by this time.

We cheered the entire game (me, still a bit reserved so as not to offend).  And our cheering paid off – in what can only be described as a solid thumping, the Horns beat the Aggies 51-15, earning the right to meet Nebraska in the first ever Big 12 Championship game the following week.  (The Horns also won that one, something that can never be taken away).

After the game, Steve and I made our way to his seat, and sat down beside him.  What happened next was, at best, unexpected.  He looked at me and said something like this:

“Young lady, a few games ago, I did and said something that was completely out of character for me, and I want to say I am sorry.  It is clear that you are a wonderful fan, and you shouldn’t have to quiet your enthusiasm.”  (or something like that)

Then he reached into his pocket and brought out a card, with his name on it, and handed it to me, with a hug:

L. DeWitt Hale, attorney

(home address)

And such became a wonderful friendship.  I learned that day that DeWitt is a former Representative from the Texas House, serving in various capacities for almost 42 years.  His heart, like mine, led him to fight for better education and equal rights for all.  You can read more about him HERE.  Over the years, we became pen pals; we sometimes traded gifts; he grew to love the kids, and showed it by sharing some of his prized coin collection with them.  When the Longhorns went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in history (2005), we shared pictures with him; and when the Longhorns won the National Championship in 2006, we had something new to celebrate!

Mr. Hale lost his beloved wife, Carol, in 2008, and eventually, it became difficult for DeWitt to attend the games himself.  Our family, too, found that attending all of the games was, at best, difficult, and our time in Austin diminished.  When we did attend, I would make sure to talk with DeWitt’s daughter and grandchildren, who were the light of his eyes.  When Texas was invited to the National Championship again after the 2009 season, we had hopes that all of us could travel to the game together.  However, those dreams became impractical for lots of reasons.  Steve and I dropped our season tickets during the 2015 season, finally admitting giving in to the inevitable….we will likely not be season ticket holders again.

DeWitt is still around; no doubt having in-depth and meaningful discussions with his children and grandchildren.  It’s funny, I haven’t seen him in years, but he remains in my heart every time we sing “The Eyes of Texas.”  I miss that man.  I miss the experience of talking with him.  He is a wealth of knowledge and widsom.  And he made me a better person.


In my last blog post, I wrote about listening to understand, and not to reply (Stephen Covey).  That thought applies here as well.  Both DeWitt and I have had a chance to listen to each other, after what many would call a rocky start.  And by listening, we opened up a whole new route to friendship.  We accomplished this not by yelling, but by listening and loving.

Somewhere in your life, a situation requires listening, rather than yelling.  Find a way to address it.  Apologize.  Forgive each other.  And always, always, let love be your final word.





Ado Annie was Right: “All ‘Er Nuthin'” Doesn’t Work.

Rogers & Hammerstein opened their first collaborative Broadway musical, “Oklahoma!” in March, 1943.  Based on a 1931 play (Green Grow the Lilacs), the show incorporated lively musical numbers, lyrics, and ensemble dances to capture the imaginations of the audience members; the stage version also earned many awards for both the original and revival productions. A movie version was released in 1955, starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae.

Oklahoma 12

Set in the early 1900’s in the Oklahoma territory, two love stories unfold among the feuding groups of farmers and cowboys.  Laurie and Curly (Jones and MacRae) are the classic and primary couple.  The other couple – Ado Annie and Will Parker – are the ones I’d like to talk about today.  Will Parker makes himself out to be a new fangled cowboy, set for the bright lights/big Kansas City.  Ado Annie, his ‘gal’ and not one to wait around, stays home, and her flirtatious tendencies drive Will crazy.  Back and forth they go, Will going where he pleases, and Annie never saying no to a visit from a cute beau (that’s one of her famous songs: “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”).

ado annie

Now, I happen to know a thing or two about this musical.  When I was in the 5th grade, my family moved to Culpeper, Virginia, and the choir, led by Debra Greeley (who later became my church choir director at Culpeper United Methodist Church), performed the musical.  I even remember Lisa Nygaard (Lyons), as Ado Annie, singing the famous lines.  [Lisa has since released three CD’s of original music in the Celtic tradition….take a listen!]

For some reason this week, one of the songs – All Er Nuthin’ – got stuck in my head.  The gist of the song is that Will expects Ado Annie to be and act in a certain way.  “If you can’t give me all, give me nuthin; and nuthin’s what you’ll get from me!”  Ado Annie responds, appropriately, I think, by pointing out that “All Er Nuthin'” doesn’t work well in a relationship.  “With you it’s all er nuthin; all for you and nuthin for me…..”  Annie and Will had to learn to work together to make the relationship work.  And they did.

Maybe the reason the song came to mind is because of the “all er nuthin” approach I hear from many people in disagreements these days.  The late 17th century French moralist Joseph Joubert is credited with this quote: “The aim of a(n argument or) discussion should not be victory, but progress.”  In all of this public discourse taking place on social media and in the news, are we even trying to reach agreement anymore?  I realize the word ‘progress’ brings shivers to the spines of some, but seriously – should we be living in an “all er nuthin” world?  How to we even start to address this?

Here’s how I sort it out:

I try to listen.

 I try to listen not to reply, but to understand. (Covey)

I try to listen as the first duty of love. (Tillich)

I don’t want to be short on ears and long on mouth. (John Wayne)

And I want to listen to the one who is mentioned when God’s voice comes through the cloud, saying,”This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (MT 17:5b)

With Christ, life was not an ‘all er nuthin’ approach to be right, and to advance a cause immediately.   In story after story, we read of how Christ entered situations with a heart toward listening, a servant’s heart that time and again teaches us to listen to the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and the sick.  Christ shows us how to be patient, to listen to understand a need, and to reply with love.

In the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us this:

27 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I say that to do good, we must listen; if we don’t, we might fall prey to the ‘all er nuthin’ mentality.  Yet even when we don’t listen – even when we shoot off our arrogant mouths, assuming that we have all of the facts, assuming we personally know what is best in every situation – even then, God loves us.  Even then, when we realize our mistake, God waits willingly for us to find our way back to him.

That’s how it is with grace – always ‘all’ and never ‘nuthin’.

Now that, my friends, makes for a great story.

In all things, Love.