Monday, December 19, 2011

Remembrances: the footstools

Stacked in the corner,
remembrances of you.
Green, orange, black,
of childhood tumblings
and vague happiness;
its exactness, I cannot recall.

A wide open pond; the biggest I'd known,
yet small enough for our two pairs of eyes
fishing poles
later, fried shrimp
the taste, remembered on my tongue.

Stacked in the corner,
remembrances of you;
worn places, from years of movement.
Lean back, prop your feet,
feel the brandy go down.
Though I did not see; yet, I know.

So little did you allow,
yet these feet-proppers became
chairs for the wee ones
until one day, I'm sure,
we became outgrown and
recognized your raised voice, come down hard.

Stacked in the corner
of our home now -
what most do they remind me of?
Family and fireplaces and
dogs running 'round
and the corner of old,
where eventually they retired.

Another chance, I will give them
to be used and loved
as before they became old news.
Stacked in the corner,
remembrances of you,
and a chance to begin again.

{Written October 22, 2011}

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

a Family to fall into

"If we didn't have Family to fall into, we would have just fallen into... nothing."

What's happening, amidst student Christmas parties and dinner invitations and homemade pumpkin muffins, is that Family is being made. We knew in our heads that we were Family when we began a journey of living together, but now we know because we're actually living it.

Meals are cooked, promises are broken, desperate phone calls made, jobs lost (jobs gained!), cries heard, prayers desperately prayed. We bend, we stretch. We come, we go. In weakness, we are made strong.

Sitting in the car on a too-cold evening, we agreed: where would we fall if not into the arms of Family? If we, the Body of Christ, aren't near enough to stretch our arms and catch each other, then we're not near enough.

photo credit: breezy torres

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two worlds lived in
by day, by dark
the pace of the racehorse
the calls of the streets

And in these two worlds
I cannot leave the other
the memory of running
the memory of rest
the memory of running away

Sunday, November 27, 2011

words on the page: book reviews

For the next several posts, with other topics scattered here and there, I'm going take a stab at reviewing the books I'm reading. It never fails that I want to get some of this stuff down, think it through, yet that rarely happens with the housemates. Our reading preferences go in exactly 4 different directions most days.

And what am I currently reading? Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America.

Bill Bryson is one of my all-time favorite authors, a travel-writer who is unique in many ways, but one that always shines through is that he was born and raised in Iowa, fled to England, then came back, in this book, to stumble upon as many small towns in America as possible.

At first glance (through chapter 12): though he is transparent about his stereotypes about the South, it doesn't quite make up for the face that he obviously doesn't spend enough time here to know us. But then again, he didn't set out to become friends with the towns he visited; he never sets out to make friends. It's part of why he's so darn funny.

Despite these stereotypes, he's already got me laughing out loud at inappropriate times, in classic Bryson style - always a good sign.

Stay tuned for more on this book!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the curse of comparison

She is thinner. He is more handsome. Their children are better behaved. That church has cooler music. He is a better teacher. She sings more beautifully.

Comparison abounds in us. We seek to outdo - or, at best, match-up - with those around us. Every cell phone company promises unlimited this and unlimited that. Every big box store promises the lowest prices. And our own desire for greatness and affirmation press us to compare ourselves, endlessly, to those around us.

While it isn't wrong to want our broken parts to be more like the good in others - the good that races after Jesus - the bulk of comparison just really stinks.

My comparison? Community. This is going to sound silly to some, but... I compare our community here at the Malcomb House with others who, in my mind, are living it bigger and better. They have bigger potlucks, and know the kids on their block better, and grow better gardens, and "do community" better.

But somewhere in this thinking the line can become blurred, where comparison strives to become competition (a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage. and threatens the very meaning of community. What prize could we be competing for? We run in the same direction, for the same prize, set before us in Jesus, more than enough for all of us.

This is no prize to be won by only one, the best. This is the prize we can only win by going along with others, by winning it together.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pates Family Singers: October 29!

Back in June we loaded up the hospitality van (light blue '97 Honda Odyssey) with our music gear and drove only a few blocks to Waynoka Cove, where our friends are sharing life, growing vegetables, and now, hosting music festivals.

It was, without a doubt, the most fun I've had sharing music. It was undoubtedly the coolest night of the summer (a mere 89 degrees, I'm sure), with homemade baked goods and tiki torches and people of all shapes, size and color. I was reminded that though the Kingdom is not yet fully come, it is still also already here and still being built.

And now, on October 29, The Pates Family Singers will play with some other great Memphis musicians at the Fall Music Festival at Waynoka Cove. {Click here for details} We're super-pumped to celebrate community and music and goodness with these good folks!

We hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

{music & lyrics} for Nana

Today's been a day for writing and remembering. Here's some of the outflow of that. This is a raw, just written, still-needs-work recording, as are all of my {music & lyric} posts!

The lyrics are below the video...

(I'm sorry I don't have better recording capabilities. The timing of the vocals and video is off.)

You were a breath of fresh air
in a world where no one tells the truth
and we watched you take the high road
time and time again

You were the faithful one
in a world where faithlessness rules
and we watched you take the hard road
time and time again

I see the picture of you
there in that wedding dress
and it's my face I see all wrapped up in yours
So I'll gladly carry all the good you've given me
as you've moved along
as you've moved along

You were a patient teacher
showing us what we didn't know we needed
Now we'll walk in the ways
that you've been walking all along

We'd walk in and you're at the kitchen table
waiting to help us work it out
and you listened, how you listened,
to our youthful carrying on

And we listen as you tell us
a story we'd heard time and time before
But how could we have known
oh, soon we would know,
you were giving us so much more

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

taking care

"I don't make coffee," Pop, my 78-year old grandpa, declared today. "Your dad's been making the coffee." So, two-heaping scoops later, the coffee's brewing, and we're standing around the kitchen on round 3 of the same story, something about how Joan (my grandmother, Nana) used to buy plate lunches for some of her friends at the Senior Center.

Meanwhile, while she's laying in a hospital bed, unaware and unable to feel, while I think of the words to tell him that she's not doing so well, because taking care of him also involves telling him the truth in a way that he is able to receive it.

On Monday eve, with work-tired minds and Starbucks in hand, we rolled down the Interstate, leaving Memphis behind. I think now that the most difficult thing was not the knowing that she would be connected to tubes and machines, or even that I might not make it home to see her alive. Maybe the most difficult thing was that I may have missed the last of who I know her to be, the Nana who slipped me $20 on my last visit, who receives my letters in joy, who showed us meaning in the washing of dishes and the hanging of clothes on the line.

And though the end of breath and heartbeat has not yet come, what life is left has changed - for all of us. Already we're taking care of one another in ways we did not need to only a week ago.

A drive to the hospital, so mom can allow tears and thoughts to come.

Reminding each other of the Grace given us through her, all of these years.

Holding Nana's hand, though she cannot feel it.

And of course, brewing the coffee.

My season here to help take care of this family I love will be short - shorter than I wish it could be. But when I leave them, and when I leave anyone in the future, I'll say these words, "Take care!" and I'll remember what this means. That we not only take care of ourselves, which is what I usually think of when I send someone off with this, but that we take care of the ones whose life and breath are tangled up in ours.

And in taking care of each other, we, too, take care of ourselves.

Today, take care.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sabbatical poetry: on perceptions

Others have named you -
some hope-filled, some presumptuous.
But what do you call yourself?

From the corner of Malcomb
we've watched you live on for almost
4 years - from too far away,
from up here.

Has it taken too long for me
to open eyes, admit the not-knowing,
emerge from myself?
Admit I don't know you,
and I never will this way.

Others have named you -
hopeful future, yet a desert.
But what do you call yourself?

Is there any future besides statistics,
any hope beyond the corner store?
Will the gunshots ring out

Will the color of skin determine
our words, your ability
to ignore me completely?
Will the pattern of history
dictate your tomorrow?
Will you name yourself before others can?

Others have named you -
and I am the other.
Can I let you name yourself?

Friday, September 23, 2011

beginnings: a Nashville sabbatical

The basil grows tall at the end of the sidewalk.
The front porch is bathed in the sunlight of early eve. The fresh air of North 2nd Street floods in through the screened door.

Novella Carpenter's urban Oakland farm and Frederick Buechner's notes on telling the truth are spread on the floor in front of me, alongside journals for Scripture reflection and scribbled lyrics.

Though I've never started a sabbatical before - intentional space for hearing, seeing, knowing - this doesn't seem quite too bad of a way to do it. I hope to offer to you some outpouring from this time, if I do in fact get filled up to the point of being able to pour out to you.

But more than anything else, I'm here for this - to be present.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

growing up in wisdom

"...the foolishness of God is wiser
than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God
is stronger than man's strength.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were influential;
not many were of noble birth.
But God chose the foolish things of the world
to shame the wise.
He chose the weak things of the world
to shame the strong."
{1 Corinthians 1: 25, 26b-27}

When do people start naming someone as "wise"? And how do you get wisdom? Do you pray harder and longer? Just ask for it once? Does it happen overnight?

As I've read through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians many times this year, I can't get away from wisdom. It is clear that we need to be seeking that which is wholly other than man's wisdom, so much so that this human wisdom isn't even comparable to the foolishness of God! How much more, then, shall the wisdom of God outweigh human wisdom?

God is giving me wisdom - day by day, trial by trial, question by question. In reading this morning, I believed it, felt it, understood it a bit more. Where did it come from? When did this wisdom start growing in me?

Our friends, our Family, are surrounded by difficult circumstances, people touched by real life, who often lack the insulation of privacy and great wealth and power (the kind of power that gets you out of tough spot for the right payment in return). And in these circumstances, helplessness is easy to feel - all too easy. In fact, helplessness is what I always begin with.

And in this helplessness, only the Giver of Life, the One who has food and drink that will forever satisfy, can speak into our brokenness, our helplessness. We collapse on the floor to cry out to God. We lie awake in the middle of night, interceding. We sit in dimly lit living rooms, helping our sister hold on.

And it is in those circumstances, God's wisdom is growing in us. We can't help but become wiser when we enter into the Real World of walking with God's children - both those who know his Name and those who have yet to follow the Way of Jesus.

May you also be given the grace to enter into the the lives of those around you, carried only by the Love and Wisdom of God.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

stories at bottoms of stairs

Every day bears new stories, new faces, and difficult decisions. There are children whose school uniforms are two sizes too small; grandmothers raising grandbabies; cabinets stripped of food; and houses smothering their occupants after a cut-off notice went… unnoticed.

Though every day bears new stories, somehow they start sounding the same. Our hands get weary, our ears turn deaf, and our hearts turn to something like stone. Which stories are true? How do we help without hurting? What is the right response – and when is ‘no response’ the right response?

I have lived, alongside many others, with these tensions for many years now. I’ve dropped my head to my desk, cried as I write down phone messages, and stormed down those stairs to a persistent visitor who rarely tells me the truth.

And I cannot say I’ve got good answers. Oh, I’ve got some answers… to a very few number of questions. And most of those answers came after the telling of the story, after the writing of the check, after the wiping of the tears. Some would even say those answers came too late.


She’s around my age – mid-20s – with three children. She’s relentless, chases after things, tries until she can say she’s tried with everything she’s got. And this time, all she needed was $50 to keep her air conditioner running in the 110 heat index of Memphis. I like this girl; she’s kind and seems honest. She might even remind of myself – bright eyes, high hopes, more optimistic than is sometimes good for us.

Maybe that’s why, with one hour to go until cut-off time, we hugged, made small talk, and I handed her a check, for a measly $50.

I wanted to sit down and talk; I needed to know more about her story. There are other things we need to address. What about next month? What about school? Is your brother ever going to contribute to the household income? But those questions have to wait. Transportation and children and “temp” agencies hold a firm grip on her schedule. And so I will wait, too.


Life can start feeling a little worthless, a little like all these things don’t matter - $50 and hugs and prayers and follow-up phone calls ending in, “I still don’t have a job.” The dead ends and disconnected phone numbers can wrench the compassion right from your stone heart.

But I cannot quit; I cannot forget my own dead ends, my own fruitless pursuits, dark decisions, and faith-killing sin. I cannot forget, and so I’ll keep walking down those stairs.

Monday, August 29, 2011

a thought on family

In the middle of Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird", sharing her two cents about writing groups and how good they can be, she told of a group of 4 writers who got together.

They've gone from being four tense, slightly conceited,
lonely people who wanted to write
to one of those weird little families we fashion
out of whoever's around us.
They're very tender with one another.
They all look a lot less slick and cool than they did
when they were in my class,
because helping each other has made their hearts bigger.
(p. 159, emphasis mine)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

poem: contemplative girl seeks autumn

cinnamon sprinkle, anticipation of the autumn
blueberries baked, almost feel the cool breezes
feeding a stereotype, contemplative coffee-sipper
stare out the window
to round up my thoughts

it must mean more to feel the fingers on the page
to keep the printing press oiled
some resemblance of human
this you say as you rush, blenders and mixers
is this your art or your work?

watch their exchange, the naming of names
more than a game - this is home, this is space

soy and agave and dark and light roasts
swishing and washing and pouring
"extra-special order", we call it with grace
though extra, we need you to pay

these sounds and routines and rushing around
give rhythm to a mind that's been scattered 'round
your chaos is my put-togetherness
your ignoring, my attention paid

a day to gather, and dream of the months
when scarves will wrap 'round
eyes will shut tight
against winds and cold; I anticipate.

your banters and love and schedules
will continue on, uninterrupted
and I will come seeking and finding
familiarity in your names and home;
maybe, to me, you'll say, "welcome home".

Friday, August 19, 2011

Andrew Peterson: why we listen

And I love to watch you listen to the music
because you sing to me a music of your own
as I cast out all these lines
so afraid that I will find I am alone, all alone
(Andrew Peterson, 'Many Roads')

Some listen for good guitar riffs, others pick out great lines, lyrics that are poetry. Some need perfect vocals, while others feel at home when he forgets the lines to his own songs.

Even from the back of the room - a room without much character, color, warmth - we were there, we were on our way to Alaska, just weeks away from cancer's sweep of death, fishing poles tied up in the back with our beloved in the front seat, by our side until the end of the road. We knew the beauty and sometimes-perceived-defeat of marriage, dancing in fields of land mines; we imagined the despair of Hosea's calling after his unfaithful wife.

Was it just the good storytelling? Could anyone have told the same stories, taken us on the same journey? Or was it the humanness of our Brother who did, indeed, forget the lines to his own song, only to catch the lyrics in his inner ear monitor (thanks to his road manager) just in time to keep us on our toes, but still please our ears.

Did we come for perfection? Or did we come to be included in the story, to be given glimpses of life lived, put to a melody?

Before we ended this sweet night, we filled up the room:

After the last tear falls...
there is love; love, love, love...

We'll see how the tears that have fallen
were caught in the palms
of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
and we'll look back on these tears as old tales.
(AP, "After the last tear falls")

Thursday, August 18, 2011

housemates: attempts at the ordered life

Dinner ready at 6:30? Eh, let's shoot for 8 instead. Meeting at 8:30? We'll get around to it by 9 or so. Let's talk about order: chore lists minus the legalism; a hospitable dinner table; lessons in composting and recycling {creation care, we do seek}; Bonhoeffer's words on "life together".

We've arrived at a place with 5 people, spread between 3 bedrooms, with all shades of personality, organization (or lack thereof - I speak of myself here), and preferred flavor of juice. The house isn't settled, but our souls are on our way. Our patterns and rhythms aren't completely learned, but we already know who likes to shower in mornings, middays, or evenings. Our moods will shift, but so will our ability to extend grace - hopefully, for the better.

This is our attempt at the ordered life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

juice only, please! // Day 1

Celery, cucumber, spinach, green apple, lemon... or, you can just call it today's lunch. In juice form. I'm serious.

Apparently, this fad is going around right now, this juice-fasting business. Well, we signed right on up, and here we are, drinking our dinner.

How am I feeling? Slightly depressed, mad, hungry, blah, blah, blah. So, why am I doing this? That's a good question, one I couldn't answer to a friend at the coffee pot today (coffee which I had to smell and not partake in). But I do know the reason: to get rid of some crap in my body. To be disciplined for once. To quit the out-of-control love I have for stuffing my face (I said it out loud!)

And this is Day 1.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reading: "Bird by Bird" [Anne Lamott]

From the introduction:

That thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual
act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering
that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine,
what you really needed was the tea ceremony.
The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
(Anne Lamott, "Bird byBird", emphasis mine)

If you spend any significant amount of time with me, you know that I love to write - my journal goes with me everywhere - and I'm giving myself more and more space to do it these days. Songwriting discipline, more frequent blogging, etc. But spend too much time writing, and I can easily convince myself it's stupid and meaningless.

Thank goodness for this introduction!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Memphis is not Vermont

...and never am I more aware of this than when it is 106 degrees Fahrenheit with a 121 heat index. And so, I will post some pictures to remind me of dear Vermont. [I still love you, Memphis.]

[baby Niyah and Auntie Abbye]

[statue of Jesus, welcoming people to this chapel built in the, seemingly, middle of nowhere. A popular stop for cyclists, as it is in the middle of a often-used trail.]

[Island Pond, VT]

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

our living room has a couch now: on selflessness

When you reach a certain point in marriage and still don't have children, you begin to hear more and more conversations about how children teach you how selfish you are, how they expose so many of your dark places. And I believe this is true (trust me, I knew my friends before they had children! Heh!)

But since we don't have children, this begs the question: are we doomed for endless days of selfishness until we have children? Are we not fully loving and fulfilling the potential God has for us? Why does marriage exist - solely for procreation and "learning how to be unselfish 101"?

We've thought about this; we talked about it. And now, here's a picture of a couch.

Right at 48 hours ago, we didn't have a couch in our living room. In fact, we haven't had a couch in this room since dear Ty-pod moved out. But now, as new friends are here to stay (for now, at least), we've got a couch! And this couch means something important to me.

It means that we're challenged to share our space, to make room for someone else's furniture (and conversations and food preferences and shower schedule and needs). But one of the perks is that we get to enjoy this awesome couch and their good cooking skills and their knack for making us laugh, like, all the time.

We, in our own context, are learning what it means to be a little less selfish. We don't have children, but we do have Family.

[and now, a picture of a baby who ate too much cake]

Sunday, July 31, 2011

bearing fruit//lessons in remaining

You've felt it - surely you have. Three and a half years have passed, words have been said, changes have been made, still other needed changes will never be made (or so it seems), many have moved on, and even fewer have remained.

Remain in me; I will remain in you. (from John, chapter 15)

How can we hang on? How can we keep going? How did You do it?

But today, with an armful of greens and oranges and "hill country reds", I saw what three and a half years can mean - three and a half years of digging and hoping and preparing and turning over and watching new life spring up only for the disappointment of fruitlessness to be the end result.

Remain in me; I will remain in you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

poem: though the streets may beckon...

remember yesterday

it's not so far away
streets and smells and the looks they gave
easy money
with pain you paid
and your children left to another

remember yesterday
shouting matches
fight for life
this life is hard; it's true
but a chance, you've been given
could it be the last?
we cannot know

remember yesterday
but live for today
give grace, speak truth, seek Jesus
because many yesterdays ago
Someone dreamed you up
gave flesh, and bone, and life
this Someone, Creator, has gone to great lengths
for you, for me, for us
give grace, speak truth, seek Jesus

[written on July 13, 2011 // you've come this far...]

[[suggested soundtrack: "Painting Pictures of Egypt" by Sara Groves]]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

it's a full house

These are the faces of the folks living at 554 Malcomb Street...

And these are a mere few reasons why it's so dang good...

>> late-evening living room prayer
>> homemade peach crisp
>> lots o' laughter
>> mock chicken patties that taste so much better than you think
>> surprise guests on air mattresses... who speak fluent Mandarin
>> someone to help hang towels out on the clothesline
>> porch concerts
>> red bell peppers, fresh from the garden
>> end-of-day talks that help us all sleep better
>> workin' it out

Not every day is easy, but many days are better than you expected they might be...

Monday, July 4, 2011

an appropriate patriotism: [Independence Day]

As we are here, watching sparkles of light over New York City, I confessed to my family, "I need to learn how to have an appropriate kind of patriotism."

"What do you mean?" my mom asked.

"I mean that I need a patriotism that is thankful for and loves my country, but not with the hatred for other nationalities that seems to come with most folks' patriotism [read: most Southern Mississippi patriotism]."

Because I would be dishonest if I didn't say that I am thankful for where I live; there are many things about the United States of America - job opportunities, absence of war and bombs, freedoms that truly are freedoms - that I am thankful for. And I can and will still acknowledge the injustices and imperfections that are present here in the USA. It is no secret to any of us that no matter our nationalities, we live in countries with flawed citizens, led by flawed [and often desperately inadequate] leadership, with flawed laws.

So today, I pray for an appropriate patriotism, never rising above my neighbors all over the world, and never, ever above my allegiance to the Kingdom of God [on earth, as it is in heaven].

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

a piece of string

What can a piece of string do?
What can a piece of string do when tied to a piece of wood for a handle? It can start a less-than-perfect lawnmower to cut a less-than-perfect yard by two fellas who are trying hard to make honest money by doing honest work.

And when that one string breaks, leaving one strip of grass uncut, you learn how frustrating a piece of string can be; that same piece of string that held the whole thing together can turn its back on you and make the whole thing fall apart.

Then it finds grace in the amount of $40 that says, "All is well; God honors hard work," and sends them on their way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

a list: the top 5 things I've learned...

... while traveling across the ocean to China.

1 | Privacy is a luxury. We know, practically, that in many places in the world people live in much smaller spaces with much larger families, generally (minus the "much larger families" in China). But this time, I actually learned something from this. I like to be alone, and I like to be alone in spaces with quiet and air conditioning and a flickering candle to remind me that the Holy Spirit is indeed present in this space. But all those things cannot become my necessity - Christ is my necessity.

When you sit next to a pastor in a restaurant who's been in prison for 3 years - you come away changed. In that cell, there was likely no candle to remind him... there was just the very Truth that the Spirit was abiding there with him there.

2 | Choosing to follow Jesus is an "all in". I'm reminded of the parables Jesus told that go something like this: Who constructs a building without first laying the foundation, counting the cost? Who goes to battle without knowing how many soldier he has and what he's up against? Will we really follow? To my brothers and sisters in China, it was an "all in". Not that they claim to have arrived or to have attained perfection... yet they are all in.

3 | Traffic in the US is not chaotic. I'm not sure I'll ever complain again, not after having my arm grabbed by my Chinese brother exclaiming, "Wait!" - only to rescue me from a speeding cab driver.

4 | In my experience, the Chinese people are very gracious. In almost every setting, our Chinese hosts - from hotel clerks, to fellow believers, to servers in restaurants - were gracious and patient with our total lack of language skills. In fact, they often disappeared to find someone who could speak English to us. What a contrast from the US! Imagine our disappointment when our return flight, with US-based attendants, was filled with rude interactions between our Chinese passengers (some with limited English) and the impatient and ungracious attendants. Very sad.

5 | Jesus is real. I could add many, many words, but most simply, I can tell you is that my faith was propped up in ways I couldn't have imagined during my time in China. Jesus is real!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

success: in whose eyes?

Success: (2.) the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. (

There are multiple definitions of success, and I'm sure we could come up with ones similar, but this one names a particular version of success that is easy to see in American culture: "making it". But it isn't uncommon for me to tilt my head, squint my eyes, give a "hmmmmm" and wonder, "I'm not sure about this 'success' thing."

In particular, I'm not sure about success and how we measure in the Church; Jesus is to where our eyes tilt upwards. What do you think was counted as success in the Kingdom he was bringing? How did his life measure as successful?

LinkAnd what about the Church? It isn't uncommon to see us measuring success in just these terms - wealth (is our "giving" good enough this year?), position (who has the most titles - Dr., Reverend, etc.; what is our position in the community?), honors (I live in a city where there is a "best place of worship" vote in a local publication).

The following article is a beautiful story of a life - a father - whose son, among many others, has been deeply shaped by a man who, in fact, turned down numerous opportunities to make himself more successful, but often took the "lower road" (which ended up being what many of us as followers of Jesus recognize as a truer success).

Click here to read this story, posted on

Sunday, June 12, 2011

{music & lyrics} East Asia: Runner's Song

To be taken care of, loved, shown the ropes, translated for, and saved when you are risking your life across 4 lanes of traffic - this is not to be taken lately, no sir. In fact, when this happens, you do what any thankful person does: you write a tribute song.

{ps - the timing on the audio and video is, er, less-than-good. So you might want to just listen.}

Friday, June 10, 2011

East Asia: a dimly lit soccer field

First things first - some of us almost didn't arrive. All but 3 members of our team tumbled out of their taxis and risked their lives cross the every-man-for-himself street, to soon thereafter be greeted by mostly-shy college students.

But where is that other car? Our dear Runner attentively waited for them, while we made our way to the soccer field, where we awkwardly gathered in a circle, forgetting for a moment how to make a circle, and introduce ourselves, the Americans.

Once into smaller groups, with the purpose of practicing English by asking questions of each other, I'd drawn a few aspiring musicians to my group, awed to be sitting by a "professional musician" (which is a. not me and b. extremely kind and flattering of them). "Can you play the first song you ever wrote?" Hemming and hawing ensued, followed by a few phone calls, a mad dash to a dorm room, and next thing we all know, a guitar's magically appeared, with a little circle of music happening on this now-dark soccer field.

"Every day, every day, I want to be more like you;
but every time, every time, my plans fall through."

Well-received. And in the meantime, I'm shaking off the time-travel I just did to my sophomore year of high school, when that song was written.

a student who really loved practicing English

But I'd rather sing about story. So, I asked if I could be allowed to play just one more, a song about songs. "This one," I told them, "is about all the stories I've written songs about, ones from long ago, ones about people I may not even talk to much anymore. But they aren't useless; those stories aren't irrelevant. They've made me who I am."

I remember every name and every face
and every road trip that we ever made.
And I count every single one as my blessing
'cause I know my life never went unlived.

No, they don't break me, they don't break me anymore...
they just make me... who I am.

["Who I Am," by AWP]

What I didn't tell them was that some of those songs, especially some of the most painful, were often very difficult to sing at one time in my life. But I wrote them anyway, sang them anyway. They were meant to be shared and offer something to the listener, maybe someone who understood how it felt to be in that story (or maybe someone who only understood after having heard the song, and needed those very words to bring them to understanding).

And I watched in the circle as those words imparted some understanding. In some hearts, memories were stirred, stories of their own. I saw it; I know it was there.

We owe them - all of them - the sharing of stories. And one day, they won't break us anymore.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Music: a Porch Concert

What's this all about? Our friends over at Waynoka Cove have a beautiful community gathered around them (and beyond their own walls and street), and we're getting together to celebrate this! They've been building a workspace for artists, neighbors, building projects, etc. - all the specific uses are still being considered. And many people have given gracious gifts to the building of this workspace.

Though it isn't quite complete, we're celebrating all that Jesus is springing up in the hearts of his people, growing gardens, building workshops, and living together and loving each other. Come join us! (and bring a snack and your lawn chair/blanket!)

you're invited to
A Porch Concert with
Abbye & Jeff Pates
with friends Matthew & Katie Clark

in celebration of community
and new creative space at Waynoka Cove

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
@ 7pm, 3116 Waynoka Dr., Memphis, 38111
(this event is free of charge, but we will take up a donation for completing the shop)