Category Archives: Art

Includes all art forms: music, poetry, fine art, etc.

Real Men and Waking Up Early

As I sit here basking in the glow of my 13 inch computer in an otherwise dark room this morning, I’m reminded about one of what I consider to be one of the great tenets of manhood; that is, waking up early.

As a child and then a teenager, I was always amazed each morning at how early my dad woke up. No matter how early I got up each day, without fail, he would already be awake and laying on the couch wearing his Nike hoodie, reading the paper.

The funny thing is… the man is not an early to bed kind of guy. This is a man who regularly stayed up late to watch Letterman in its entirety. The even more amazing thing to me, that I’ve only learned in the past few years, is that he never uses an alarm clock.

I never understood that facet of my dad’s life until recently. You see, for most of my life I’ve told myself a story that wasn’t true. And while I’ve definitely told myself many stories that aren’t true, the story I’m talking about right now is the that I was not a morning person.

For most of my life, I’ve been a snoozer. When I was a kid, my parents had to institute a 10 a.m. reverse bedtime during the summers and weekends to prevent me from sleeping all day. And boy did I ever balk at that one. In college, if I didn’t have early morning classes, I could (and often did) sleep until 10:40 or so no matter how late I stayed up.

That was my sleeping in pattern for most of my life.

A few months ago, that all changed. A guy who’s blog I read, posted about the idea that each of us has several internal stories (plural) which may or may not be true that we tell ourselves which make up our STORY (singular).

I’ve always been a firm believer that our lives are stories, and his post got me thinking about my life and the stories I’ve told myself that maybe weren’t true.

The timing of that post couldn’t have been better. Just a few days earlier, I’d heard a man speak at a luncheon who’s own story really resonated with me. A very successful business man and person of faith, the speaker spoke on the importance of being a man of discipline. A man of discipline himself, he spoke about how men of discipline wake up early: A) because it’s difficult; and, B) because life is short and sleeping through too much of it really is a waste.

The combination of the post about the stories we tell ourselves that aren’t always true and the idea that men of discipline wake up early couldn’t have intersected more perfectly in my life. I left the luncheon thinking to myself, “Self… I want to be a man of discipline even if that means waking up early.”

And so that night, I set my alarm to go off the next day at 5:00 a.m. When it went off, I got up. I read a few chapters of a book I was reading at the time, I prayed, I sat in silence, and I ran a mile. Despite the fact that I was exhausted by 2 p.m. that afternoon, it was a great experience.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I read the aforementioned blog post that I was really able to articulate what I’d already been feeling about my own story as a morning person. Since that time (it was last November) I’ve been re-telling myself that story almost every day when my alarm goes off and I stumble out of bed at 5, 5:30, or (on bad days) 6:00 a.m.

As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Waking up early has been a great help in my attempts to stop and look around every once in a while.

Some mornings I go for a run. Some mornings I take a walk. Some mornings I read. Some mornings I write. Some mornings I reflect on who I am or what I’m accomplishing. Some mornings I think about my marriage. Some mornings I talk to God. Some mornings I just listen for his voice. And some mornings, (rarely but still occasionally) I waste almost 2 hours perusing the Facebooks, or the Twitterz, or my Google Reader RSS subscriptions.

I’m hesitant to say that waking up early has changed my life, but honestly, I can say I’ve seen a marked improvement in my quality of life since last November when I started waking up early.

As a man, I think there’s something deep in my core that calls me toward self-improvement and challenge. Waking up early, though really a small thing, has been a challenge that I’ve taken on successfully. Not only have I had more time to myself each morning for personal and spiritual reflection and development, but each day I get out of my bed before the sun comes up, I reinforce the idea that I have control over and can change the stories I tell myself.

The little victory I’ve had over my sleep story has started to make me question other questionably “true” stories that I’ve been telling myself for too long. It’s amazing how one little victory combined with a few more early morning hours of introspection each day can make all the difference in helping us become the men we want to be.

For me, realizing I could wake up early was not only a victory over a very real physiological and mental myth in my life, but it was also one of many early steps in my realization that I still had a long journey toward becoming a real man… a journey I’m still learning from and enjoying almost every day before most people are even awake.

Sometimes a real man does things that are difficult simply because of the discipline it takes to do so. I want to be a real man. I want to be a man of discipline. For me, a big part of that means I wake up early.

What about you?

Silent Sunday: 10/31/10

Hm, what to do for fun on 10/24/10? "Muddin'!" Okie girls making the most of it in Sparks, OK - photo provided by Micah Owens.
When the ewes put on their bright red fall berries, it looks like Christmas came early. Photo by Red Dirt Kelly, taken at Ruth Roberts' on 10/23/10.
A mommy in central Oklahoma didn't have this on her shopping list! Children seem to be able to sleep anywhere, huh? - photo by a friend of the RDC.
"Yo," I am a Toyota. Photo by Ann White.
Fall visits Oklahoma. Photo by Ann White.
Good morning! - Photo by Ann White.
Q: What's one of the best smells in Oklahoma during the fall? A: Driving behind a hay truck with your windows open. Mmmm. - Mobile phone photo by Red Dirt kelly.

And if THAT Doesn’t Work for a Halloween Costume, Try This…

by Joey Rodman

Having trouble deciding what to be for Halloween?



Expected to wear something to work or a party? Here are my very best ideas for last minute super cheap costumes:

For Men ~

Cereal Killer:  Wear your every day wardrobe, carry around a box of cereal that’s been maimed.  Add fake blood.

Arthur Dent: Wear your bathrobe (wear sweats underneath!) and carry around a tea-cup.  Look confused…

Ghost Hunter: Wear sweats and a hoodie, carry around an old remote control, wave it around while talking about *EMF fields.

For Women~

Your Mother: Embrace it.  Say all the things she says. Wear the dorky clothes she wears; borrow an outfit from her if you can.  Just be sure not to make the parody too close or she’ll never forgive you.

80’s Girl: You know you want to…good thing they still make Aqua-Net.  Embarrass everyone around you, it’ll be great! Bonus points for attempting a “Cyndi Lauper.”

Cat, mouse, dog, or other animal: Cut out said animal’s ears from construction paper and tape it to a headband. Wear whatever you want and pin a tail to your butt.  Growl, snarl, hiss, etc. at anyone who says you’re not wearing a “real costume.”  The sell is all in the threat of rabies; be sure to look a little mad.

~Joey Rodman

*Electromagnetic Fields

Silent Sunday: 10/17/10


Click photo to visit the Edmond Sun website.
Oklahoma Christian University Students experience "Out of This World" chapel service, enjoying almost a 30 minute feed from the space station. Click photo to visit the Edmond Sun website.



6-0 OSU Cowboys now "Bowl eligible." Nice photo from the Daily Oklahoman. Click photo to read post-game report.



The mystery message. Red Dirt Kelly was walking across campus on 10-12-10 and spied this lone piece of paper randomly taped to a glass door. Upon closer inspection, she noted that there was a message, and some sort of insignia. The note read: "Forever blindly ill (sic) always wait thoughts (written in "of") you keep me up late." What did it mean? Who was it from? To whom was it directed? What did the bronze/gold metallic "M" symbol mean? ... Was it YOU?"



Sometimes Red Dirt Kelly sees things that give her ideas. This image gave her the idea that the Red Dirt Chronicles needed a company truck.




In November, 2009, Matt Mahan, his children and his brother-in-law were out digging for flint chips in the Dewey County area when his brother-in-law called them over to a bluff area he was working on. He had found "a dead guy," that ended up being a 200+ year-old skeleton. The medical examiner told them that based upon the femur size, the man could have been 6'6" or taller, and was probably not Native American. Have you ever just been digging around in the dirt and discovered a skeleton? It's almost Halloween, so we're publishing this photo now. We need to follow-up to see if a final report was filed by that M.E., and what the conclusions were.



OU killed Iowa State. That's the whole story. Click the photo to get the perspective of an Iowa State blogger.


Gracie Burris, 5, gathers small pumpkins in the "Hide-a-Pumpkin" pit in Muskogee, OK. Photo by Wendy Burton of the Muskogee Phoenix.



Silent Sundays: 10/10/10


Seeing an opportunity to influence change, "Sassy" posted photos of delapidated properties and eyesore lots on the Sayre, OK city newspaper website. I wonder if "Sassy" will get some municipal clean-up action in his/her town now? Click photo to visit website and see a few other shots of areas needing attention.



Grief, loss...and community: In a powerful demonstration of support and faith, friends and family of Leslie Joy Evans pray outside her hospital. Leslie was a friend of local college grads and many in the Norman/OKC metro area. She and her premature twin babies died during a difficult pregnancy challenge. You can visit the memorial site and blog her family created by clicking this photo. May peace and comfort find her husband and extended family.



Rylee Roberts, a contributing photographer for the RDC, dines at Ludivine Restaurant in Mid-Town OKC on 10/9/10. The establishment opened this week after much planning and preparation, and features a rotating menu of available foods most all from local growers and producers. A "full color" review of the new restaurant coming later this week. Click photo to visit their website.



Conked out. Mid-semester is always rough and this one is no exception. A student takes a study break and naps in the Edmon Low Library on the OSU campus in Stillwater, 10/6/10.



Pink boots. The nation "thinks pink" this month, as Breast Cancer Awareness Week takes place. RDC Homestead and Garden author, Julie Allgyer, made sure those around her were thinking pink as well. Click photo for more information about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.



Sometimes Red Dirt Kelly turns into driveways with "Estate Sale" signs posted by the road. She usually doesn't buy anything, but she frequently takes photos of cool old treasures. Here's a Maytag Washer that was for sale, listed at $200. "But (they'd) take $50 for it..."




I wonder if Suzy Welch is reading her book today? If I were her, I'd do SOMETHING to commemorate the volume. This edition was the only random thing I could find named for today's date...a perfect "10."


Okies in Ecuador: “It’s a Wrap.”

You might have noticed that when visiting the RDC Travel page, there is a photo at the bottom referencing a series called “Okies in Ecuador.”  This blog created for the NewsOK Travel section was written and produced by my brother, Quentin Bomgardner, and illustrated with photos by he and my two daughters, Rachel and Rylee Roberts.

The format of the NewsOK site isn’t conducive to easy navigation.  Therefore, “Q” created a web page where you can now begin on Day 1, travel with them through the end of their journey on Day 14, plus review a few extra photograph collections and sound file entries covering their experiences.

As a mother of the girls who traveled, I enjoyed reviewing all this work because I’ll never get that kind of detail in the living room at night…and the girls are pretty decent about sharing stories.  As a sister, I was excited for the girls to take their first big excursion away from home with their uncle.  And as a reader, I felt like I got a very good view of a place I’ve never visited.  An excellent view.  Now I might want to go myself!

Thanks Quentin, Rachel and Rylee…loved the journey, and love that I can revisit through this series any time I wish. 

Red Dirt Kelly

Click the banana photo to visit an indexed page where you can start their journey from the beginning.

Bananas grow UP - Ecuador, 2010. Photo by Rylee Roberts.

Silent Sundays: 10/3/2010

"Chickasaw Renaissance" by Phillip Carroll Morgan. Introduction by Bill Anoatubby, Chickasaw Nation Governor. This book was one of three titles revealed at the Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival held Oct. 2nd. Click photo for more information.
Saturday morning, October 2nd: Alice Woodrome took this photo of a mother wolf spider with hundreds of new babies on her back. Alice is a gardner in NW OKC. The wolf spider resides there with her other flowers.

This OSU Cowboy fan didn't give her arm for a win, she used her leg! Caught up in the hoopla of the crazy OSU v A&M Thursday night contest, this good natured fan took her prosthetic leg off and waved it around, cheering all the while. You gotta love the football fans in Oklahoma! - Photo by Jani Hays.
The weather broke in Oklahoma, and Wednesday morning, Sept. 29th I drove by pasture land after pasture land, all with farm ponds and fog rising from the surface. Beautiful! - Photo by Red Dirt Kelly
That same night, we were treated to another Big Sky show. Hey, Fall, welcome to Oklahoma! - Photo by Red Dirt Kelly
You didn't think we were gonna finish Silent Sunday without a Red River Rivalry shot, did you? Click photo to visit CrimsonAndCream blog for OU/Texas slideshow...

My life in the mob.

by Joey Rodman

I’ve always wanted to be part of a flash mob.  “Always” meaning since the first time I saw a video of one on the internet.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the phrase “flash mob” could sound more than a little intimidating.  And in fact, they can be. Here is a video of the mob that first caught my attention (CLICK PHOTO TO VIEW VIDEO):


I saw the video two years ago.  And subsequently, for two years (which apparently translates into “always” in my brain) I have wanted to be part of a flash mob.

I had no idea how to go about becoming part of one.   I’ve never really sought out the opportunity.  “Did anyone do something like that here in Oklahoma?” I wondered.  Of course not.  My self-talk always hit a brick wall and I’d move on to other more tangible thoughts.

On Wednesday morning of last week I opened the browser on my computer completely unsuspecting…and then it happened.  Someone had invited me to be in a flash mob. I clicked the link to the Facebook event not really knowing what to expect.  Very few details were on the page.  The invitation provided the day and time, and that was all.

Did I want to RSVP? Yes.  Could I?  Should I?  These questions were harder to answer.  I didn’t know where to begin. I began to go through “the checklist;” it’s a little bit like momma autopilot – you can’t really even think about committing to anything without going through the checklist first.

Calendar? Clear.
Babysitter? Confirmed.
Would I get arrested? Probably not.
If I get arrested, will the other moms stop talking to me? Maybe.

Well, close enough. I clicked the little button and now I was “attending” as far as Facebook was concerned. I was the seventh person to RSVP and once I did, more details showed up. They wanted 150 people. I couldn’t decide if this was good or not.   That’s a LOT of people and a little more than intimidating.  I calmed myself by thinking “Well, I’m only number seven.  Maybe they won’t get enough to participate.” But by the end of the day they had nearly one hundred people signed up.  The flash mob was going to happen.

On Saturday morning I found out where I was going but still didn’t know what I was doing. For someone who is a planner down to the bone, this was getting uncomfortable. I recruited my husband to go with me. Surely he would keep me out of trouble, although the thought entered my mind that if we get arrested together nobody will be around to bail me out. I start to wonder if Kelly would be a good person to call from jail.   Maybe I could blame this whole ordeal on the blog.

“I wanted to write you a good story…for The Red Dirt Chronicles,” I would start, and wait to gauge the tension of the pause after my soft start-up.

Maybe blaming this on her wasn’t the best approach. I decided that she would definitely be the one to call from jail, however, and I began making what little plans I could.

Saturday night I got the info on “the where, when, and what.”  We were going to be at the State Fair…all 150 or so of us, and we were going to fall asleep. I felt like a secret agent. Under my shirt I had the “reveal” shirt they had distributed to us.   Our instructions were to fall asleep for 5 minutes, wake up, then take off our top shirts revealing that we were all in the same group.  Sounded simple.

I got to the fair, grabbed my special t-shirt and jostled around in the porta-potty trying to put it on – taking great precautions not to allow MY shirt OR my purse touch ANYTHING. This is way easier said than done.  You’ve been in a porta-potty, right?

Once I exited the stinky, stinky porta-potty, we walked around for a while when it hit me:  Falling asleep…how to you stay asleep for 5 minutes on the midway?! What was I going to do? Five minutes started to sound like a long time…but maybe it was worth it.  Maybe.

I got to the pre-appointed place and sat on the curb talking to my husband.  I looked around trying to figure out who else was going to do it. I knew that once I was asleep I couldn’t watch anything, and since everyone had their own shirt on over their “secret” shirt…everyone looked normal.

I was part of a group, but not part of a group.

I noticed a few people I had seen while I was receiving my shirt from the coordinator.  I covertly nodded in their direction…and they nodded back. I was beginning to feel more at ease; at least I wasn’t the only one doing it. Then I started feeling something else.  The alarm on my cell phone was buzzing -it was time to sleep.

I leaned over onto my husband’s shoulders and we slept. I dared not peek, but I could hear the reactions of those around me.

“What is going on here?”

“Is she dead?”

“Oh, there’s a HUNDRED OF THEM!”

“Don’t eat the fried twinkies!!!”…

and, “I wonder what would happen if I tazed one.”

Trying not to react I began focusing on my leg, waiting for it to buzz.  Waiting.   Waiting.  A kid walked up to me – I could feel a human being beside us, but I didn’t look.  A kid voice said, “Mom, I think she’s sleeping.” And then the second step happened; my alarm went off again. It was time to wake up. I sat up, rubbed my eyes and revealed my blue shirt.  I looked around.  There were a LOT of blue shirts.  I felt like part of something important…and silly.  Mostly silly.

Suddenly I was an instant celebrity.  Okay, maybe not so much.   Lots of people came up to me (read 3 or 4) and asked what happened.   One woman said she began to panic until she realized a lot of people were sleeping and then she was just confused.

The cops showed up, the cameras came out, and the people around us laughed a little. That was the end.   All this over 5 minutes of confusion and a few funny comments. The whole process was fun, and then it was over.

For now.

If you want to be in a flash mob, email me. I know about one next month.  We won’t, however, be sleeping this time.

Silent Sundays: 9/26/10 – Images pulled from The Oklahoman, 9/25/1910, 100 years ago


"Packing Town" (Stockyards) to open October 1, 1910 - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW, PARTIAL ARTICLE ONLY

Demonstrations at the State Fair - "...Corsetry is a fine art"

Note: There were approximately 5-10 "tonics" for various ailments on sale through the newspaper. All "proven" and "not imitations like the others."

OSU v Tulsa Football Game Day Slide Show

Photos of OSU fans taken during Oklahoma State University football game day have been compiled into a RDC slide show for your enjoyment.  We even have one shot of a University of Tulsa couple dressed in their game day gear.   We hope to have a University of Oklahoma football game day presentation before the end of the season as well.  This past Saturday was, indeed, a good day in Stillwater.

Our “Relationships” entry will be released around noon today.  Enjoy!


Silent Sundays: 9/19/10

Innocent three year-old gives those behind him in the stands a chuckle before the OSU-Tulsa game begins Saturday night -Photo by Kelly Roberts, Red Dirt Chronicles.
Young OU fan shows the world his sibling position, his favorite football team and his patriotism all on one sign. (Photo retrieved from the Daily Oklahoman website - click photo to visit entire photo gallery).
One half mile from her driveway on 9-15-10, Red Dirt Kelly noticed the sunset in her rearview mirror coming home from work. Pulling over to the side of the road, she stopped and thanked the Big Sky for the 7:30 p.m. gift. - Photo by K. Roberts, Red Dirt Chronicles
Make sure and catch the State Fair before it closes. The remainder of the Silent Sunday photos were shot by Rylee Roberts in September, 2009 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.
Photo by Rylee Roberts
Photo by Rylee Roberts
Photo by Rylee Roberts
9/18/10: Longhorn steers take a leisurely stroll along Independence Saturday during the annual Cherokee Strip Celebration parade in downtown Enid. (Staff Photo by BONNIE VCULEK) Click photo to visit the Enid news site.

Silent Sundays: Photos of the Week, 9/12/10

A tiny snapshot of the good done in Oklahoma for Oklahomans every day. Flatlander Car Club members, Roger Koehns and John Pugh, present a couple in need, Tia Hegwood and Alex Holguin, with a check for $500. The couple struggles with medical expenses due to Tia's diabetes. (Courtesy photo - provided to the Guymon Daily Herald.) Click photo to visit the newspaper for the article and link to the Car Club website.
Muslim men and boys pack the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa during services Friday marking the end of Ramadan. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World Read more from this Tulsa World article by clicking photo.
Oklahoma photographer Carl Zoch's self-documentary compilation of a recent trip he and his friends took to the mountains. Great shots & music. Click picture for the "Carl Was Here" slideshow.

Mrs. Tulsa America, Sasha Townsend and her partner Ryan McDaniel won "A Time to Dance", a local Dancing-With-The-Stars-style competition, to benefit the Hospitality House of Tulsa. Inserts on the photo are a shot of them rehearsing, and of their trophy. Click photo to visit the Hospitality House's website. Reprinted w/permission from Mrs. Townsend. Congratulations, Sasha!
Young girl led by her father on a miniature horse in the Sept. 4, 2010 Wilson Fall Festival Parade. Click picture to visit "The Ardmoreite" festival photos.
Oliver and Ina Stonecipher will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in Stratford, OK on Sept. 19th. They were married in 1940 on the Pontatoc County line by Reverend Vard Wood. Click the picture to read the news announcement and see a photo of them on the day they were married in 1940 - linking you to the Ada Evening News.

Silent Sundays: Photos of the Week, 9/5/10

Two young boys play with toy farm equipment on the livestock barn floor, State Fair Week, 2009. The Oklahoma State Fair opens this year on Thursday, Sept. 16th. Click picture to view the 2009 State Fair photo gallery.
Ft. Cobb State Park - by Manual Focus Custom Photography
Double rainbow, captured by Carl Zoch - Oklahoma City, Sept. 2, 2010

Newlyweds gazing upon an Oklahoma sunset - by Carl Zoch. Click picture to travel to his gallery.
Oklahoma State University Students at the football season opener, Sept. 4, 2010. Click picture to travel to Daily Oklahoman game slideshow.
University of Oklahoma season football game opener - Broyles' end-zone dive, Spet. 4, 2010. Click picture to visit Daily Oklahoman photo slideshow.

RDC Photo of the Week

Next week we’ll begin our “Silent Sundays (see Weekly Schedule page).”  To help begin the feel for next week, here’s the first of our RDC Photos of the Week.

If you feel you have a photo that highlights the Red Dirt culture of middle America, showcases the State of Oklahoma in some way or puts a face to who we are, please submit your entries to:

If you see your submission show up the following week, then that means you win!  What do you win? The smiles of our readers when they pull up the screen on Silent Sundays.  We are convinced there is no better reward.

Shouting out to the NY Times “20 Somethings” article this past week, our back-to-school season, our penchant for travel and the geographical region of Norman, OK – here is our first Photo of the Week.  Enjoy!

20-somethings Peggy White and Rachel Roberts enjoy a moment under a 1950s "Turbinator Hair Drier" during summer 2010 vacation in New York City. Peggy is a free-lance artist and Rachel is a Photography major at the University of Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: He’s Home

Yesterday, I couldn’t wait to get home.  But as eager as I was to see my own home on a Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to an evening away from home on Saturday night…with someone who really knows how to appreciate coming home.

I met Bryan Hayes about five years ago.  I had just started teaching at the school where he worked as PE coach.  He did not appear to fit into the coach role.  He had long hair and looked like he really hadn’t done a push up in awhile.

As a couple of school years came and went, however, I learned more and more about my friend.  He could play the guitar and willingly brought it along with his mellow voice and beautiful wife to many late night functions.

He didn’t just play the guitar.  He had a BAND:  Bryan Hayes and the Retrievers… not so odd of a name when you know that Bryan is an animal advocate.  He has a home full of rescued Labs of all shapes and sizes.

One day Bryan came to school without the rest of his hair.  I thought that maybe he had gotten into trouble somehow, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  Bryan had joined the Army National Guard.  This spring while most of us were living somewhat normal lives, Bryan was in Iraq.  This son, husband, uncle, friend, singer, and teacher was busy making sure we had a safe place to call home.

Tonight Bryan and his band stood on a stage and humbly entertained friends and family.  Wait. No.  He entertained family. Bryan Hayes, our brother, is home.

(Click the picture to watch Bryan and the Retrievers play “Lonesome Soldier.”)

Bryan and the Retrievers playing "Lonesome Soldier"

Day 33: God Created my DNA and He Reminded Me of the Code in St. Mary’s Cathedral

As a young girl, my parents prepared my brother and I to seek an expansion of perspective beyond that which our own community had to offer.  Comprised within this family plan were experiences of art, travel and educational enrichment.  The mode of delivery usually meant we were loaded into the farm truck and driven to some event in Oklahoma City…despite any resistance on our part.

These “field trips” might have included a classical concert or perhaps a lecture from an archeologist who had discovered pitch clad shards of gopher wood on a limited time-window excursion in Turkey.  Sometimes, the evenings were capped off with an ice cream cone at Kaiser’s in the heart of downtown.  At the time, I’m sure the ice cream was my favorite part.  I do recall, however, feeling the hair on my arms lift as I touched the Lucite bound tiny pieces of what I thought might be Noah’s Ark.

My K-12 formal educational journey was also important in how I began to view the world.  I learned of fairness and the magic of discovery from the effective teachers, and of injustice and constriction from those less able.  The good must have outweighed the challenging, however, because every cell in my body seeks new understandings to this day.  It’s in my DNA, and God reminded me of this by giving me a gift on Day 33 that I’ll never forget.

This past Sunday I attended The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Expectations had already been set on my part simply knowing that C.S. Lewis had preached his “Weight of Glory” sermon in that very hall.  John Wesley spoke there on many occasions, and before the College system sprang up in Oxford, the church served as the location for the educational exercises such as group lectures or exams.  This was at a time in the 13th century when scholars actually lived with the professors to receive their education.  This church is central to how the entire educational context was set throughout Oxfordshire.

Eucharist began at 10:30 and I came in the door at 10:32.  I was handed a Hymn book and a guide to the service, was shown an available seat and sent on my way.  Being an evangelical, I’ve learned to watch the other attendees and the pastor carefully when participating in a service such as that offered at St. Mary’s.  There is standing, sitting, standing…and sitting.  And standing.  There is also a participatory portion that the audience reads by following the service guide.  All these machinations are unfamiliar to me, but easy to follow.  I’m glad, because it left much of my mental energy available to absorb everything else. Comments continued after the photograph…

I’ll not provide the entire sermon, nor all my thoughts during the service.  Indeed, some were too personal, too humbling, too set on the holiness of our Lord.  However I will share a bit of that for which I am grateful:

1.  I’m grateful for the chance to have heard the message delivered by the Reverend Canon Brian Mountford, Vicar of the University Church.  From the moment he began to speak, my rapt attention zeroed in on his outline and it was one of the best sermons I’ve heard in my life.  Scripture, poetry, philosophy, education, human suffering and regard – all these concepts and perhaps more were laid before those attending and asked to be considered on behalf of our Creator.

2.  I’m grateful for a greeting time wherein the only task was to reach out to those around us and utter this simple phrase, “Peace to you,” or respond, “And to you as well.”  This made me cry – the simplistic form of a gentle greeting and a gentle return. Wonderful.

3.  I’m grateful for a communion service where each person was reminded with one phrase, “The body of Christ,” that which they were taking as they were handed a piece of bread.  And I’m grateful to have been given the chance to drink from a community cup real wine, the edge of which was wiped with a cloth and given the person next in line.  I’ve never shared a cup with others, and it is a compelling experience.

4.  I’m grateful to have had the chance to sing all verses of the selected Hymns, generally written in Old English verse, accompanied by an organ whose song filled the highest corners of the cathedral.  I know the notes lifted up our voices and sent them to the Heavens.

5.  And, I’m grateful for the reminding affirmations for all who participated, each time we read along during the service. An example: “We are the body of Christ.  In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.  Let us then pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life.”  Another: “Great is the Mystery of Faith – Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.  Blessing and honor and glory and power be yours for ever and ever. Amen.”

With every affirmation stated by the audience, my faith was affirmed and deemed a righteous pursuit.

I don’t know if I’ll get to attend a service at St. Mary’s again.  However, for me, it was as if my spirituality had attended an inspirational conference – – a conferring or communion with God.  A renewal was given to me and for that I am grateful as well.

I’ll leave you with a poem that was read during the sermon.  The discussion was about how one person might say a leaf is green due to the chlorophyll, another because the evolutionary sea life was purple – so green was refracted, and another – a poet – might say “because it means renewal.”

Peace to you.


The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin