Friday, October 31, 2014

In the shadow of the Shard

I didn’t know, did you, that
Shakespeare’s brother
(his name was Edmund) is
buried somewhere on the grounds
of Southwark Cathedral
not far from the Globe
where Julius and Romeo
both had bad days with knives.
No one’s sure where Edmund
actually is, a short curtain call
from the rail station and the Shard,
the newest skyline drama
playing the London landscape.
But Edmund is there, asleep,
perhaps dreaming of the light
breaking through the windows
above, the windows around,
occasionally falling near
the sculpture of his brother.

Photograph: Southwark Cathedral on the south bank of the Thames, with the Shard in the background. Edmund was buried there in 1607 when the church was known as St. Saviour’s. There has been a church on this spot since the 600s. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Her Name is Char

The office building I work in is shaped like a slight altered “H” – two wings connected by a central corridor, three stories tall. It’s a campus-like setting, and three adjacent buildings are constructed exactly like it.

Every morning, a cleaning crew arrives at the buildings, a “crew” of one for each building. They work steadily throughout the day at three tasks.

They empty trash cans in every office and the common rooms, like small kitchens, copier areas and conference rooms.

They vacuum the floors.

And they clean the bathrooms – toilets, urinals, sinks, and floors. They empty the paper trash in the bathrooms, too.

The next day they return, and the cleaning starts over again. Every day is like every other day.

Turnover is high. Often the crews change weekly. It’s not a dangerous job, but it is repetitive, and boring, and it doesn’t exactly have the status of exalted work. The people are paid better than minimum wage, but not much better.

For about a year, we have had the same person cleaning our building. It’s highly unusual for a member of the cleaning crew to have that length of service.

Her name is Char.

She’s short and a little on the hefty side. She doesn’t so much walk as sway side-to-side going forward.

She has learned the name of every person in the building. That’s more than 300 people. In the same time period she’s been working our building, our department, which has previously occupied about 60 percent of one floor in one wing, grew dramatically. It pushed the other 40 percent into other buildings, moved one team to yet another building, and moved about 15 of us to an office suite area in the first floor of the building.

In numbers of people, the department grew from about 40 to 120.

Char learned the names of every new person who became part of the team. Every one. She knows every one of 120 people in our department by name. Not even the head of the department did that. And she knows the names of the other 180 people in the building, too.

And she talks.

She stops by my office for the trash, and always asks how I’m doing. (She calls me “Mr. Glynn.”) She’s asked about things on my desk (“Is that a chess piece, Mr. Glynn?” “Yes, it a replica of a Lewes chessman, found on a British island and made about 1200 A.D.” “I love to play chess.”) (“You’ve read all those books?” “Yes, I read a lot for the job.” “Oh, man, that’s a lot of books.”)

So one day curiosity gets the better of me, and I ask Char if she enjoys her job.

“Well,” she says, “I do most days. It’s not hard. There’s just a lot of it. But it’s like any job, I suppose, it has its highs and its lows. But I really like the people, I mean the people I work for. They treat us well. And I like the people here. Everyone is always nice.”

She pauses a moment, and then lowers her voice as she continues.

“My job is a gift, Mr. Glynn,” she says. “It is a gift from the Lord. It is a gift every day from the Lord.”

Her name is Char, and she just preached a sermon to me in 23 words.

I feel like I’ve been to church.

The High Calling has a community linkup this week, and the theme is “designed for work.” Take a look at the story there, and the links already added. If you have a story to share, please visit The High Calling and consider writing it, posting it, and adding your link. The linkup continues until Saturday night.

Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Repentance is Not Remorse

Last week, in our discussion about The Cure: What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, by John Lynch, Bruce McNichol and Bill Thrall, we considered the issue of what happens when Christians hurt each other (and why), and the experiences of too many people when the hurt comes not from an individual but from a church.

Aside from the hurt, the problem worsens when we become preoccupied with it, dwell on it, and work it over and over again in our minds. That’s when the sin done to us becomes our sin.

Every one of us has examples of being hurt. And while I can only speak for myself, I suspect every one of us has examples of turning the sin into our sin.

But we can choose a different path, say the authors of The Cure, and it starts with weariness, when we become so weary of dwelling on the hurt that we do the only thing we can do.

We turn to God.

We repent.

And perhaps for the first time ever, I understood what repentance actually is.

“Repentance isn’t doing something about my sin,” the authors write. “”It is admitting I can’t do anything about my sin. It is trusting only God can cleanse me, and only He can convince me that I’m truly cleansed.

“God never tells me to get over something and just get past it. Instead, He asks me to trust Him with every circumstance.”

Even the circumstances when we’re hurt.

Especially the circumstances when we’re hurt.

Repentance isn’t remorse or regret. It is an active word, a turning over all of the hurt, the sin, the problems, all of the baggage from our lives, including our recent lives, and admitting we can’t do anything about it.

So that hurt from the busybodies’ gossip at church?

That time when the church nearly wrecked itself trying to become the next Willowcreek?

When the choir was unceremoniously dismissed and replaced with a rock band?

That time when a pastor failed, or was failed by the church?

Or when the elders made a dumb decision and ran over anyone in their path who raised an objection?

Or when you found out you wouldn’t be seeing a live pastor during worship but only someone on a video screen?

Or when the hymnals disappeared from the church pews, replaced by repetitious choruses on a projector screen?

Or when the Sunday School classes were reorganized into demographic interest groups?

You can name more. I can, too.

I can name so many that I’ve come to the point of weariness.

The point of repentance.

It’s time to trust that God knows what He’s doing, and he doesn’t need my valuable input to do it.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing The Cure. Today concludes our thoughts on Chapter 5, Two Healings. To see more posts on this chapter, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Poems the Soldiers Read in World War I

We know what the most famous poem to come out of World War I was, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. But what poems did the soldiers themselves read?

The answer is both surprising and not surprising. If you know British military history, the answer is not surprising. But the answer is surprising for the sheer volume of poetry that was created in and about the war. At one point, the Times of London was receiving 100 poems a day for possible publication. It seemed that everyone was writing poetry – officers and soldiers in the field, families back home, government officials, retired military people, doctors and nurses, and even well established authors like Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling.

Today we associate the poetry of World War I with a relatively small number of poets, some 10 to 15, who fought and wrote poems. Many of them, like Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Isaac Rosenberg, died in the conflict. Others, like Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, survived and eventually died of old age.

And while many of these poets were publishing while they were still alive, and being read in the trenches, there was one volume of poetry that was the most popular. It was A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph of View from the Shropshire Hills via Virtual Shropshire.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shall We Gather at the Table?

From the beginning, the tiny group of Christian believers in Jerusalem gathered together on a regular basis. Not long after the ascension of Christ, Acts 2:42 says that believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the “breaking of bread,” and to prayer. These are all communal activities, although prayer is also individual.

What this signifies, though, is that the original model of the church was people coming together and sharing among themselves. They might have shared teaching, meals, conversation prayer – but they shared it. Christianity was communal. Believers met in homes; they were not exactly welcome in synagogues or other places where Jews congregated in their religious life, although they did go to the temple for a time.

In Christian churches today, all of these activities are recognizable, including the “breaking of bread.” The food may be more plentiful and elaborate than what the early church experienced, but the idea is the same.

The difference is that we live in a (Western) culture today where food has become something of a social and political act, much like the environment was for an earlier generation (mine). There is a desire for simpler, more natural and slower (rather than fast) food. Processed and imported food is suspect; we want natural and local. Many of us also want people to know what we doing in our desire for simpler and more natural food, part of the conspicuous virtue that has replaced the conspicuous consumption of the 1950s and 1960s.

This wasn’t the point when the early church met and broke bread. Food was not an end in itself but a means to an end – the being together, even with your children running about. Christopher Smith, John Pattison and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, in Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, ask us to imagine a common life “centered around (a) eating together at the table and (b) the slow, Eucharistic conversation that convivial feasting encourages.”

My own experience with churches eating together is something different. They have more been times associated with an event or purpose – a missions meeting, a congregational meeting, a newcomers luncheon. There is food and conversation, to be sure, but it’s often hurried and surface so we can get to the point of the group meeting. Off-building meals with Sunday School classes has been different, approaching something like what the Slow Church authors suggest.

What if the being together – the sitting, the eating and the talking – was the point? What might happen as a result?

I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.

For the past several Mondays, I’ve been discussing Slow Church. This chapter, “Dinner Table Conversation as a Way of Being Church,” is the last chapter in the book. A short conclusion remains, and next Monday I’ll finish my own discussion with some overall thoughts about the book.

Illustration by Piotr Seidlecki via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Beneath my feet

I walk the aisles
of England’s cathedrals
and churches
the Abbey
St. Paul’s
St. Martin’s
to consider the people
lying under the stones
beneath my feet
treading carefully
from respect
knowing my own grave
will not be so noticed
or remarked upon
or trod upon
knowing the words
on my stone will erode
weather and fade
as much as those
beneath my feet.

Photograph: Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury England, October 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Remembering for Ruth: True Confessions

We’ve reached the conclusion in Sheila LaGrand’s Remembering for Ruth serial novel. And now it’s time for true confessions.

The story so far: Paul and Margot Goodharte live in Calfornia, and are caring for Paul's mother, who suffers from Alzherimer's disease. Paul is a pastor; his black sheep brother Matthew shows up and seems to have had something of a black-sheep shedding experience. He becomes interested in next-door neighbor Sue, and the family has a coincidental meeting with Matthew's estranged daughter Amelia. The dog of former neighbors of the Goodhartes is left to them to care for, and Ruth becomes attached to him, naming him Zorro. The dog turns out to be a specially trained schutzhund, and obeys numerous commands -- in German. Amelia is invited to spend some time with the family, and when she arrives, she runs into immediate conflict with Matthew.

Then the family discovers Ruth is missing. The police are called in; the news media arrive; and Mrs. Delsey, the church busybody, organizes young people at the church for to help in the search and provide refreshments (in case you ever wondered, churches can’t do anything with food). A reporter talks to Mrs. Delsey, who lets her disapproval of the pastor’s wife slip into something of an accusation as to why Ruth is missing.

In “True Confessions,” the final installment of the novel, the police arrive to question Margot. Zorro the dog, despite the best efforts of the humans in the story, seems to know where Ruth is. Without giving too much of the story away, let’s just say it ends well.

The serial novel originated in the 17th century, when books were expensive; publishing in installments could help create a wider audience by bringing the cost down. It reached its height of popularity in the 19th century; large novels were often written in installments (what Charles Dickens often referred to as “numbers”) and published monthly. The 19th century witnessed an explosion in literacy; Dickens (for one) rode that wave and became famous as a result.  So did Alexandre Dumas with The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. In the United States, the first novel to be serialized was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1851, serialized in an abolitionist publication. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.  

The rise of broadcasting in the 20th century led to a decline in serialized fiction; stories were serialized on radio and later on television (ever wonder where the term “TV series” came from?). But radio largely abandoned serialized stories after the 1950s, leaving the concept to television. In 1984, Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities was serialized in Rolling Stone before being published in book-length form, but it was something of an outlier – until the internet. Web sites, online publications and eventually ebooks (of which Remembering for Ruth is one) have revived the serial form of published fiction.

So Sheila LaGrand’s Remembering for Ruth finds itself in good historical company. The print version of the entire book is scheduled to be published this fall.

Photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, October 24, 2014

James Wilson’s “The Dark Clue”

It is 1850s Victorian Britain. The great British painter J.M.W. Turner has been dead since 1851, and a rather unscrupulous writer is researching a biography of him. Turner’s friends and supporters are alarmed, so they commission a biography as well. Artist Walter Hartright is convinced by his sister Marian Halcombe to undertake the assignment, and she will assist him in his research.

As Walter and Marian undertake their project, they soon learn that nothing about Turner is what it seems. The artist appears to have been a bundle of contradictions. As the brother and sister are pulled deeper into the story of Turner’s life, they begin to sense dark forces at work. What starts out as a biographical project becomes a descent into darkness – and possible madness.

Published in 2002, The Dark Clue is author James Wilson’s recreation of the Victorian suspense novel. In fact, the characters of Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe are borrowed directly from what may be the classic Victorian suspense novel – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Wilson goes beyond a simple recreation of the times of the Victorian 1850s, however. He transports the reader and almost seductively places you there, so that you experience, see, and even smell what is happening in the story, as it envelops and happens around you.

Turner (1775-1851) was an artist who transformed landscape painting. He made his name when he was quite young, exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Art on a regular basis for the rest of his life. But he wasn’t without controversy – one can see the rather large collection of his paintings at the Tate Britain (he bequeathed them to the nation at his death) and see the forerunner of Impressionism and even abstract art. As he grew older, Turner became increasingly absorbed with painting light; while his paintings seem familiar to us in the 21st century, many of them seemed odd and puzzling to his own contemporaries.

He painted light – but his own life contained elements of darkness. And it those elements, along with the darkness of Victorian Britain, that Wilson mines in The Dark Clue. He structures the novel in three parts. The first is Walter’s perspective; the second is Marian’s; and the third is a combination of both. The Turner biography leads both characters, and especially Walter, to the brink of madness, as they journey deeper and deeper into his life – and art.

Turner as a young man, self-portrait (1799)
Wilson takes the story where a writer like Wilkie Collins might have wanted to take it but could not, given the sensibilities of the day. And it is at the point that the story becomes too dark, the main characters too personally entangled, for this to be only an impressive, perhaps even brilliant, recreation of the suspense novels of the period. It’s at that point the story becomes disappointing; it does not need the titillation that it includes. The author could have restrained himself, and his characters, but he does not. And at that point the story becomes something else, something less Victorian and more contemporary. To have remained true to Victorian sentiment he would have had to only suggest and perhaps hide.

That may have been the point; Wilson may have been attempting to do with The Dark Clue what Turner did with his paintings. Had he stopped short, he might have achieved it.

The Tate Britain currently has an exhibition of Turner paintings, Late Turner: Painting Set Free. The exhibition runs to Jan. 25, and we were fortunate enough to see it during a recent trip to London.

Painting: The Blue Rigi, Sunrise, watercolor by J.M.W.Turner, 1842, The Tate Britain.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We move into a place

We move into a place
we do not know
to learn what it is
and who lives here

who thinks, talks, believes
in unfamiliar ways
in unknown ways
often misunderstood

we abide
we abide in the heart
  the only heart that knows
  the only heart who knows

what is is
what it is to be
not one of us
but one of us

a stranger and alien
so consumed by love
the he accepts

I look at my hands
  and consider nails
I feel my thirst
  and consider gall
I touch my side
  and consider piercing
I see my life
  and consider death

and so I abide
I abide

Image by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Does it always have to be this painful?

This week at The High Calling, Mark Roberts has had a series of daily reflections that speak directly to what has been creating considerable turmoil for a considerable period of time for many churches – the worship wars. He started the week by asking a fundamental question: Who is the audience for worship? On Tuesday, he talked about avoiding the temptation of audience worship, and today he continues that discussion.

Before we older church members get too smug, “audience worship” isn’t only about worship services that seem more like rock concerts (usually aimed at being more relevant to a younger “demographic”).  It’s also about getting caught up in thinking that worship is about whether or not the pastor had a good sermon today, the quality of the playing of the organ and the singing of the choir, and why was the order of service slightly different this week, since the congregation sang three hymns instead of the usual four.

Yes, the worship wars have two sides. And both can be wrong, especially when they forget that worship isn’t about being culturally relevant or how good the pastor’s sermon was.

Reading Mark’s reflections happened at the same time I was reading chapter five of The Cure: What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, by John Lynch, Bruce McNichol and Bill Thrall. The chapter actually has two titles – “Two Healings” and “Two Solutions.” It addresses a very real issue – when Christians hurt Christians, and how Christians can sometimes make a cottage industry of their hurt by other Christians.

I know; I’ve been there. My expectations of Christians have always been higher than for non-Christians. I forget that Christians are sinners, too; Christians fail and Christians screw up. And I am a Christian, too.

The Cure has what is almost a cookbook recipe for what happens (which tells me this happens a lot). You get hurt, and it causes pain. You become preoccupied with the event. You become a “prosecuting attorney, consistently building your case.” You become obsessed with the record getting set straight. You become unable to love well and neglect the needs of others. And the steps go on as your anger builds, alienating others and finally questioning God’s motives.

The authors are directly addressing what happens when a Christian is hurt by another Christian. But reading those reflections by Mark Roberts, I understand that it isn’t just a problem between individuals; the local church itself can be the offending party.

The cause may be the worship wars. It may be part of someone’s idea to be more culturally relevant and become more attractive to younger people, “because we’re aging and losing our future.” It may be that a handful of people (usually including the pastor and a few elders) decide the church needs a “new model for growth” and communicate that vision badly (or, in some cases, with stealth, because they know they will meet opposition). Or someone decides that the church has much to learn from the management and marketing of corporate America.

We attended a church that we loved for 15 years; the last five were difficult and the last two were agony. All of these things were happening. It didn’t end well, for us, other members of the church, and the church as a whole.

We found a new church, and experienced the pain of breaking relationships from our old church (leaving a church in these circumstances always has a cost). But we worked our way into an adult Sunday School class, and began to meet people. I joined the ushering team and then was elected to the deacon board. Six months into my three-year term, I attended a Saturday training seminar. About two hours into it, I realized the same thing was happening all over again. There was a “new vision.” There were outside consultants. Not everyone in leadership or the church staff knew this was happening.

We didn’t leave this time, but I can say that no one at our church today would say it ended well. It was corporate vision, “demographic relevance,” worship wars and bad communication all over again. And it was painful all over again. The cost to the church has been huge. But what happened has been recognized; there has been confession to the church. We’re still not out of the woods. And we may never be out of the woods.

I’ve heard similar stories from friends and people all over the United States (and some in Canada, too), so many that it suggests that this is all too common and that something larger is in play.

The church – the North American church evangelical church – is being split apart and refined. Sometimes it worship wars; other times it social and cultural issues. This “sundering apart” can be seen not only in individual church problems but in popular Christian books, blogs, conferences – everything we associate with the church at large. And it’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in that cycle of pain and personal turmoil the authors of The Cure are describing.

There’s a better way. We’ll talk about it in the second part of this chapter discussion next week.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading and discussing The Cure. To see other’s posts on this chapter, please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Illustration by Junior Libby via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Most Famous Poem of World War I

Perhaps more than any other conflict, World War I is the most closely associated with poetry. Poets enlisted and wrote from the fields and trenches; poets helped bury their comrades and wrote about it; poets died; and poets survived to write the poetry of the war. And poets and their poetry helped shape especially the British perspective on the war and war in general for a generation.

It was also, perhaps, how war was changing. The American Civil War had signaled the end of the old style of war; World War I turned war into an industrial enterprise, with its advanced weaponry, airplanes, and even chemical gases. World War I also changed what people understood war to be – no longer battles between armies and navies but total war, pitting nation against nation, including the civilian population.

This was a time, too, when newspapers and general interest magazines routinely published poetry, and the public engaged in reading and reciting poetry far more than what we know today. Poetry spoke of the war and to the war in ways that even the best written and most devastating news accounts could not.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hospitality in a Foreign Land

I’ve been reading Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by Christopher Smith, John Pattison and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, and highlighting it here for the past several Mondays. The book is important, with an important story to tell.

Little did I expect to experience directly the message of the chapter entitled “Hospitality.”

We left for a two-week vacation in London on Sept. 28. Travel was uneventful, movement through British Customs at Heathrow uneventful, and soon we found our jetlagged selves at the same hotel we had stayed at last year, 51 Buckingham Gate.

Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s also reasonably expensive, and located two block from Buckingham Palace, three blocks from Westminster Abbey and Parliament, a block from a tube station, close to buses and, rather surprisingly, in a quiet courtyard off the street. In fact, when you’re in the courtyard, it’s so quiet that it’s difficult to imagine you’re located in the very center of London; it’s that quiet. Our room was on the seventh floor, and I could look out the window and see the top of the gold-plated memorial to Queen Victoria that sits in front of Buckingham Palace.

Our first two days went as planned – recover from jet lag, see a few things, start easing into a new schedule and time zone. On Tuesday I took an early morning walk across St. James Park to St. James Square and Piccadilly, and watched the swans and pelicans in the park lake.

On Wednesday morning, I was in the shower, and leaned to wash my foot. I felt my lower left back muscle pull. It had happened before; I know what it means. Take some ibuprofen, and take it easy. I took ibuprofen, and stuck to the original schedule. We had limited our activities for that day because we were meeting friends for dinner. On Thursday, we took a long walk on the South Bank, from London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral to Westminister Bridge, with a few stops along the way. On Friday we hopped a train to Salisbury to see the town and cathedral.

Back in London, I went to bed late Friday night. About 2 a.m. Saturday morning, I woke up, any movement causing severe pain in my back. My wife helped me get out of bed (it took several minutes to maneuver this). I finally did what I knew was the most comfortable thing to do – lie flat on my back on the floor, in the living room area next to the coffee table. Any movement created a back spasm that froze the left side of my back in knock-your-breath-away pain.

On Saturday morning, I was able to get myself up and stagger to the bathroom. I immediately went back to the living room, and my wife had moved her Pilates mat next to desk and phone. I got myself down on the mat, curled in a fetal position on my right side, while she called the hotel concierge.

Severe back pain is no fun. Severe back pain in a foreign country is frightening.

I remember snatches of the conversation. The hotel doctor on call was not available. Another doctor, from the National Health Service, was coming, promised with four to six hours. The alternative was an ambulance to a hospital, and the wait there could be as long.

Boots on Victoria Street
The NHS doctor arrived about 11:45 a.m. “You back muscle feels like a brick,” he said, “and any movement creates a back spasm.” He explained what he would do – a pain shot, followed by three prescriptions – one for acute pain, one for longer-term pain, and one like Valium to control the spasms (and keep me calm). He was caring and knowledgeable. He did write the prescriptions on one form – and one was a controlled substance, needing a different form.

My wife, after getting the first two prescriptions filled at a nearby Boots pharmacy, got herself on a bus and headed for Soho, to get the form from the National Health Service office near Soho Square. (She can now tell you about Soho; it’s never been on our list of “must-see” tourist attractions.) (If you don’t know about Soho, Google it.) She encountered a problem: the center couldn’t write the prescription.

NHS on Soho Square
Arriving back at the hotel, and not having the most important prescription, she turned to the hotel staff. Kristina was the receptionist on duty. She calmed my wife down, told her to go upstairs to tend to me, called the hotel doctor (who was at his daughter’s birthday party), had the doctor talk directly to my wife, and arranged to have a bellman pick up an over-the-counter medicine prescribed by the doctor. A few minutes later, I was taking the equivalent of Tylenol in Alka-Selzter form – with codeine (they can sell this over-the-counter in Britain).

The hotel staff delivered dinner for my wife, maneuvering around the fetal-like husband on the floor. My wife was able to get a cheese-and-tomato sandwich for me (and I couldn’t eat much more than that).  By midnight, I was finally able to stand and walk around the hotel room.

Bus 24 on Charing Cross Road
I still slept on the floor – the hardness stabilized my back. I slept for 11 hours straight. I stayed in the room on Sunday, taking my medicine, with the hotel housekeeping staff working around me.

The entire hotel staff knew what had happened. We were tended to and taken care of. I actually left the hotel on Monday morning for a short walk, and Sergio the concierge (who had not been on weekend duty) immediately asked me how I was feeling, and that he was glad to see I was up and about. For the next two days, I received the same question from the entire staff, include the dining and housekeeping staff.

“Hospitality connects us to a place,” the authors of Slow Church write, “because while hospitality can happen pretty much anywhere, it has to happen somewhere. Hospitality requires proximity, and by definition, proximity requires nearness in space, time or relationship – all of which assume certain limits.”

Hospitality happened to me at 51 Buckingham Gate, some 5,000 miles from home. And yes, it connects me to a place, and the people at the place.

We knew where we will stay the next time we go to London.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A sea of poppies

A sea of poppies
an ocean
where red is not
but there
the placement
is part of the story
   of course
   the course
because so much is
about placement
about place
   the form is as
   important as
   the content
the form becomes
the content
the how matters
as much as
the what

instead of green grass
the old moat
surrounding antiquity
instead the experience
of more modern antiquity

 a red poppy for each
   color of blood
   color of death
   color of life

Photograph: On our recent trip to London, the first place we visited was the Tower of London to see “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the art installation of red ceramic poppies to commemorate the British and colonial military fatalities of World War I. By Nov. 11, Armistice Day, there will be 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat.