Praying with the Generations

I go to a Baptist church, and while we are more liturgical than the average Baptist church, we’re still pretty Baptist. We don’t, for example, say the Lord’s Prayer every week.

But sometimes we do, and we did on Sunday.

I like reciting prayers and creeds and Scripture passages, for the same reason I like to sing old songs.

I like to feel the weight of generations past hovering around us. I like to think about the great cloud of witnesses joining along, reminding us of our place in a long line of faithful folks struggling to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. I like to breath the it-is-well-with-my-souls, the Jesus-Christ-his-only-son-our-Lords, the give-us-this-day-our-daily-breads deeply, absorbing those patterns of speech and the poetry of my tradition so far down into my subconscious that, as happened with my grandmother who suffered from Alzheimers, those words will remain even if other pieces of my life fall away.

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Link with Love

Recently I was reading a friend’s blog and saw what looked like a guitar pick that said “Link with Love” in the sidebar of the site. It’s probably not a guitar pick (you be the judge), but that’s what it looked like to me.


I  must have been wasting time that day because from her blog I ended up on another blog that also had the same guitar pick logo in the sidebar, this time in a different color.

What was that thing? I wondered.

So of course I clicked on it.

I discovered LINKwithlove, a really neat nonprofit.

You should go check out their website on your own, but since I know most of you won’t, here’s the gist of their cause in their own words:

LINKwithlove is the idea that we, the internet, can teach and learn respect when dealing with intellectual property* online. It is our dream that art, music, photography, words, design, ideas, etc – be shared in a way that is ethical, respectful, educated and kind.

As I’ve made clear before, I’m a big respecter of copyrights, so I was thrilled to know that this organization exists. They’re facilitating community in a way I hadn’t ever really envisioned, in a world quick to swipe information from the internet and not credit sources. What’s more, they’re doing it in an aesthetically beautiful manner. As a writer and artist and heck, fellow human being, I resonate with the project.

And so I promptly added their badge to my own side bar.

Because I do “link with love”–and I hope you do, too.


PS LINKwithlove also has neato free downloadable calendars for your computer’s “wallpaper.”

Real People Doing the Real Thing: Stacey

When I looked around for “real people doing the real thing” in my community, the first person I knew I had to take a peek at more closely was my friend Stacey. Stacey is an ordained minister, licensed pastoral counselor, and certified chaplain. But it’s her tireless work as program director of the Scott County Hospitality House that inspires me most. So I asked her about it. 

Take a peek and be inspired yourself.

Let's start with your story. What prompted you to start 
Hospitality House?

In 2010 I was working as the Family Resource Coordinator at a local elementary school when I became aware that we had homeless children in our school sleeping in their car. Then I began praying about it, and reflecting on the fact that children cannot possibly get a good start in school, or focus on academic work when they don’t know where they will sleep at night.  During this time, homeless children and their parents had to go to shelters in nearby cities or other surrounding counties which meant uprooting them from their schools, thus further traumatizing them.

So, after much prayer it became clear to me that this was a moral imperative and that I had to do something to help our local families remain in our own county while assisting them to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. God had always given me a heart for the poor and a sense of solidarity with their struggles, so as I researched more about their needs, it became clear that I had to do something. Thus the creation of Hospitality House.

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Community: Where Everybody Knows Your Great-Grandfather’s Name

I just got off the phone with my mom, who’s happily putting a puzzle together while the furnace repairman works in the next room.

When the repairman arrived this morning, she noticed that it wasn’t the guy who normally comes to work on the furnace, so she went outside, greeted him, and introduced herself.

“Oh, I know who you are,” he said. It turns out that he was from Carsonville, the local cluster of homes small enough to not really be a town though it has its own little “hotel” (i.e., bar) and, I think, an ambulance.

He continued, “I know Gram and Pap Cutman.”

Now, by “Pap,” he meant my mom’s grandfather, not my grandfather, who was also a Pap Cutman. They’ve both, however, been deceased for decades.

But what makes the story even better is that not only did he know Pap Cutman, but this repairman’s grandmother used to date my mom’s grandfather.

I kid you not.

When my mom told me this on the phone, she concluded her story by proclaiming, “Now that’s community!”

Yes, Momma. I think you’re right.

Grocery Stores: The Antitheses of Community?

I found myself at Fall-Mart on Saturday morning, standing in line at the cash register because only three lanes were open. That there would be a line on a Saturday morning I should have expected, and I shouldn’t have been so grumpy about it. I called J and left him a voicemail to say in my best frustrated voice, “Now I understand why Broger advertises We get you in and out in a hurry. Remind me of this next time I say I’m going to Fall-Mart. GRRR.” Then I hung up.

You see, when I go to the grocery store, I prefer self-checkout. And Broger lets you do self-checkout for full carts of groceries. They have a special line just for people like me! Additionally, I try to go the store at off times, especially avoiding Wednesdays, senior citizen discount day. I don’t like waiting my turn to squeeze my cart down the aisle. I know this makes me sound bratty, but it’s true.

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Shady Gas Stations, Incarceration Facilities, & Shame on Me

Here is something you probably don’t know about me: I’m a little snobbish when it comes to gas station restrooms. If we pull up to a gas station, and it looks shady, I hold it. And I can hold it a long time, trust me.

Last week, we drove to South Carolina for my cousin’s wedding, and there were quite a few stretches of road between here and there without restroom facilities, gas station, rest area, or otherwise. So when J felt the need to warn me as he got off an exit– “There really haven’t been many options, so this will have to do”–I knew there was a chance I wasn’t going to like the bathroom that lay ahead.

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Conferences, Prayer Meetings, and Receiving Blessings

Just before nine o’clock on Saturday morning, I was beckoned to join a circle of chairs in the lobby of a church building that used to house a Wal-Mart. I wasn’t just beckoned, actually, I was hollered at as I walked through the door, “Elizabeth, we’ve got a seat for you right over here!”

Man, I thought. People know my name around here.

So I sat down.

Oh, I didn’t mention it was a prayer circle, did I? It caught me a little off guard because I wasn’t going to the church for a prayer meeting. I was going to the church on Saturday for the third day of a conference. Yes, a conference. A conference for–wait for it–storytellers. (Now who thinks I fall into that category? Anybody?)  It was only the third day of a conference and I was getting called out by name. Goodness.

So there I found myself, at the conference-turned-prayer-meeting.

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Fortune Cookie Affirmation

Just after I enlisted the readers of Texas Schmexas in the now-famous Good Morning Challenge (in case you missed it, I mentioned it here, here, and here), I received some encouragement from an unlikely place.

A fortune cookie.

(Clicking takes you to Flickr.)

I’m serious.

A friend e-mailed me to share that she’d had Chinese food for dinner and inside her cookie was the following “fortune”:

Smile often at others, and see what happens.

I’ll take it.


(Thanks for sharing, friend.)

Guest Post Wednesday: “This is where community happens”

For the first official guest blog post here at Texas Schmexas, I’m turning to my friend who roasts the beautiful coffee (mentioned here) and makes other crafty things I covet. Rebecca lives in a small town in (very) rural western New York that gets a lot of snow. (I just checked the weather forecast and it was negative one degree and snowing up there.) I’ve known Rebecca for about ten years, and in addition to being both talented and beautiful, she’s an impressive mother of two, graduate student, wife, community-builder, cook, and Pinochle player. You can visit Rebecca’s blog, The Rowley Four, for more stories like the one below, which she offered to share with you.

Over the past 2.5 years of living in Houghton, we’ve learned that there are many blessings of living in this small, relatively tight-knit community.  There are quirks (i.e., never being able to make an anonymous visit to the grocery store, everyone having an opinion on your new house color, neighbors who take photos of workmen at your house, etc.) but there are certainly benefits.

One of the huge perks that we’ve been able to maximize on is our local babysitting co-op.There’s a huge number of families with young kids around, so a babysitting co-op is an amazing solution to our full lives lived on a small budget.  Basically, we use a token system as currency for babysitting each others’ kids.  You either earn or spend:

One kid = 2 tokens/hour

Two kids = 3 tokens/hour

Three kids = 4 tokens/hour

And the way I see it, there are four main benefits to doing things this way:

1. We don’t have to shell out massive amounts of cash for a babysitter when we want to go on a date, which around here can really add up once you add in the two hours round-trip that it takes to get anywhere!

2. Our kids are getting watched by other parents.  I don’t want to offend any young sitters out there, cause that’s not my intent, but there’s just something comforting about knowing that your babysitters have successfully kept small children alive for a number of years.

3. Your kids love having someone else’s kids at your house.  And they love going to their friends’ houses. Playmates!  New toys!  And for you, what’s a couple more kids when your house already has the chaos of your own darlings?

4. This is where community happens.  When you share homes, share kids, participate in each others’ lives, facilitate romance and reconnecting, and leave money out of it.  We know people better, our kids know their friends better.

This can work anywhere.  Just get some friends with kids together, and make it happen!

Stay tuned for more guest posts about community here on Wednesdays at Texas Schmexas. I have a backlog at the moment but would love to add yours to the queue. There are no requirements–any musings about community as you’ve experienced it will do!

Ears to Hear

This is a postscript to Tuesday’s post, a confession of sorts. While it is definitely true that more people are talking to me about community than ever before, upon further reflection, I feel the need to admit that some of it has to do with my own tendency to “hear” community in every conversation.

Take our recent week in Pennsylvania:

When I’m sitting at a family gathering, and a distant relative mentions in passing her friendship with the founder of The Boston Beer Company (they make Sam Adams beers), or that she gets a lamb every year from someone who used to be the president of Bucknell but who, in retirement, raises sheep, well, my brain zeroes in on community. I start thinking about the way people are connected, the odd ways we end up in communities.

Or when we spend a few minutes visiting with my mom’s neighbors, and as the conversation progresses, nearly every person mentioned is identified by his siblings, or by her parents, where he lives, what her maiden name was, who he remarried, where they go to church. While I always figure I either know somebody or I don’t, these people identify you by your connections–your connections to people, or to your childhood home, or to your high school extra-curricular activities. This only happens when generations stay put. This only happens in community.

Or when I sit with J’s grandparents after dinner and hear about the old trolley cars that used to go right through their little town, connecting Pittsburgh with the cities of the north, and how Grandma’s dad used to purchase ice cream that would always melt by the time he’d make it home, since he couldn’t help but stop and chat with folks on the way. Lots of memories are lost these days, but the remembered moments come shining through sometimes in stunning clarity. And that evening those moments tended to be about community.

Or when we sit at the local greasy spoon eating breakfast with J’s parents, and I find out about some of the town’s stranger inhabitants, like the man who picks up trash–whenever, wherever, whatever–stopping his car dangerously in the middle of the road to pick it up, crawling under the bleachers after football games to clean up after the rowdy crowds, gathering up the newspaper left for cow bedding at my in-laws’ house when it gets blown off the trailer. He’s a caretaker of community, and the community knows it.

Maybe these stories wouldn’t mean very much if I didn’t have community on the brain.

Or maybe they would. I don’t really know.

Truth is, sometimes it takes a lot of patience to sit and listen instead of taking the reins in a conversation and talking and talking. But I’m working on it. That’s what’s called having ears to hear.