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Content with a Piece of Peace

JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE) 

Sometimes we must be content with a small piece of peace. When citywide peace is difficult to obtain, when neighborhood peace is a challenge, and when worldwide peace is evasive, then contentment with a small piece of peace suffices.

On a sunlit day with a clear blue sky, the day before Thanksgiving, I found that small piece of peace in the confines of Havenwoods State Forest Reserve. Approaching the tall pines, on a pathway, I stood still in the silence and serenity to admire the peace, the solitude, multiple tree and bush species, the natural grasses, and again, the clear blue sky and sun giving light and shadow to the landscape.  I proceeded to a sanctuary of pines where I stood, silent and still, on a carpet of pine needles absorbing again a small piece of peace. Perhaps touching the peace that the Apostle Paul mentions, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  Being the idealist that I am, I naively asked myself and God, why can’t the world at large, in all its vastness, experience a larger piece of peace?

My thoughts shifted to a walk I had taken a few weeks earlier at Mequon Nature Preserve. Admiring another beautiful day, I took a detour off the beaten trail into the forest.  My eyes were drawn to the sight of a large blue-gray stone on which I sat to take a moment of meditation. Gazing and musing at the ground covered with colorful autumn leaves, there was a strange-shaped green bug that looked like a mini armored military tank.  The bug climbed onto my walking stick, and I began to have a conversation with this creature. For a few moments, an aura of peace surrounded me and my foreign insect friend.

The conversation went something like this. “You know Mr. or Ms. Bug, you better be glad we are on your turf, in your environment.  When we are done communing and conversing, I will let you back down and go on my merry way.  However, if you should show up on my porch, I’m not sure if you would become my enemy or remain my friend.” Just like that, the piece of peace we shared had the potential to become conflict, depending on my decision.  Why can’t we exist together in peace on the same turf, in the same environment that is all of creation? As Rodney King emphatically asked, “why can’t we all just get along?

Alas, as we enter the season of Advent, a season of waiting for the Prince of Peace, not the prince of a piece of peace but of the fullness of eternal peace. Now, my mind wonders as I wander to the sweet, sweet Creche’ and the poem I wrote a year ago, that ends with the same sentiment…the same longing…the same advent wait for… Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

In The Creche’ (By Joseph Jackson) 
In the creche’, a stable where the Christ Child lays. 
In a manger, no cradle, no crib the babe stays.
In swaddling clothes, from head to toe, Son of God.
Something out of the ordinary, quite odd, a miracle.
Emanuel!  God with us!
In the creche’, the nativity, lays our divinity.
The Spirit infleshed dwells among us.

Joseph wonders, Mary ponders, cattle lowing, the baby awakes.
Infant lowly, infant holy, eyes wide open, stares into the future.
No crying he makes.
I stare, I gaze, I meditate, I contemplate.
I ponder, I wonder.  What path will the Christ Child take.
Holy child so meek and mild, what’s at stake?  Tell me!
In the creche’, the Christ Child, the God Man, Deity,
Eternal One, Infinite Son.

In the creche’, from cradle to cross,
we suffer no loss.
From God’s only Son, salvation is won.
Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM) 

Call of Souls (By Heather Lee) 
Blue cold clouds
on winter’s solstice red sky
mystical swirling crystals in light
give way to frozen night
and drafts though old windows by lighted tree
and me…
my warmed heart bearing cold breath on my throat
in some sort of contented, Christmas longing
called, maybe, bittersweet
thanksgiving meets lack, a deep breath
or simply wonder, the shaking of a head
or grief, there I said it, grief…
for friends and dreams long gone
and more on the way there
for grandmother’s spoon in the bowl
and dad’s strong arms holding firewood
for a manger without splinters and straw
and a star without a cross-filled light
for a red solstice sky without blue frozen night
and drafts through lonely lighted windows
for lovers, and love, all kinds
and the ancient gathering call of souls
at Christmastime. 

I am called to begin with an advent poem to complement Joe ending with one. Do you see that word, contented?  Do you hear the same ideas, the same feelings, the same musings that wander through Joe’s contented piece of peace reflection. Is it the same as some sort of contented, Christmas longing?  

 When Joe and I got together yesterday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I welcomed him to the fully decked halls of Christmas at my house. I really can’t explain it. I am one to at least wait for the first Sunday of Advent to ring in the season, but, for some reason, or maybe many, I needed to get the light coming into the darkness as soon as possible this year. My kids were even on board, ahead of me, offering to come by to help decorate the tree. I suspect we are all searching a little bit harder this year for a piece of peace. How about you?  

Joe and I sat down by my tree admiring the snow that had fallen over the weekend, which added that magical winter blanket to the landscape outside my window, and he read his reflections to me. I marveled at the little piece of peace that these moments of sharing stories provide. For that, I am grateful and motivated to share mine with him and you. 

Perhaps you know the line in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I think Joe mentioned Paul too) that reads: for we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. (v 9-10).  And perhaps you have heard of Saint Benedict, whose rule of life invites us to what he calls constant conversion, little by little, growing in a deeper understanding and participation in the peace of God.  It seems to me that both Paul and Benedict are writing of the pieces of peace, the in-breaking of hope and sweet oneness, that maybe I would sometimes call grace. 

Oh, and speaking of Saints, I think I’m going to have to start calling Joe Saint Francis as he seems to have started conversing and communing with bugs. Confession, I had a sweet conversation with a coyote that was hanging around in my front yard last week.  But humor and confessions aside, that story of the bug invited me to wonder about the very nature of conflict and violence when we find a creature that is “other” than us. Why is it that some people squash bugs when they show up in their houses or on their doorsteps (especially ones that look like military tanks)? How is it that if we encounter something in the woods or a foreign land, we may spend time in admiration, conversation, love, and awe, but when it shows up in our ordered and controlled lives, we are often afraid, threatened, and sometimes quick to decide that it does not belong? My goodness, what if I replace the word “bug” with another human being that doesn’t look like me, or talk like me, or live in my neighborhood or country, or believe the same things as I do. I think I’m right where Joe found himself asking about why on earth can’t we all get along. Alas—the shaking of a head 

I have one more story that seems to want to be shared about a piece of peace. At the Thanksgiving table just last week, someone in our family had posed a sort of silly conversation prompt to the group. “If you could bring anyone, alive or already gone, to Thanksgiving, who would you bring?” With a table full of young adults and teenagers, I sure didn’t expect to hear a name I would recognize. There was just a moment of pondering for all, it was just a breath of unexpected quiet, and out of the mouth of my 19-year-old son came, “you can’t say Grandma Mabel, because you know we are all thinking it.”  His great-grandmother, my grandmother (I was thinking it), my mom’s mother (she was thinking it). Whoosh…there it is—grandma’s spoon in the bowl-thanksgiving meets lack—grief, there I said it, grief. And in our shared missing her, in our shared grief, there was a smile of joy and a piece of peace. 

SUGAR (THE SWEET ONENESS OF GOD) 

Where is the sweet, sweet oneness today. The poetry—The Creche’ and The Ancient call of souls—these poems that join the coffee reflection to the cream reflection. Fun fact: Joe wrote The Creche’ on 12/21/22, and Heather wrote The Ancient call of souls on 12/21/13. Two winter solstice poems, written on the darkest and longest day in different years, find their way to you and to us here, together, in 2023. Poetry—written in the past– is some sweetness today.  Perhaps you have a poem you could share with us?  

 What else? A friendly bug on a stick. The beauty of nature. The Apostle Paul. A world we love at war. Special moments where we have a chance to sit with each other and sense the presence of peace—a peace that holds the grief of our and maybe all of history in a present moment— where its seeming darkness touches a light, an everlasting light, an everlasting peace that is filled with wonder and joy and hope and fullness. Like is written in Isaiah… 

 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

 Share a piece of peace with us today. 

Heather and Joe 

My Septembers

 

Coffee with Cream and Sugar
An Invitation into the Sweet Oneness of God
#3-My Septembers

JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE)

Precious memories, oh how they linger!

Back to school, new clothes, books, and backpacks. Reading, writing, and arithmetic.

I find myself this particular September day musing and reminiscing about my summer in Lexington, Kentucky many years gone by.

Grandmother, granddaddy, great granny, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Chickens, church, the children on the hill, known as Georgetown Street. People hanging out in the park, Douglas Park, a popular place for the majority Black folks on the West End of town.

Grandmother’s flowers (mostly petunias) and her firm but fair loving discipline. Her brown porcelain praying hands that I inherited also remind me of her clapping hands in church on Sunday mornings at the Pleasant Green Baptist Church. (Reminds me of that song by Bill Withers called Grandma’s Hands with lyrics that sing…Grandma’s hands…clapped in church on Sunday morning…Grandma’s hands used to hand me piece of candy…Grandma’s hands picked me up each time I fell…if I get to heaven, I’ll look for Grandma’s hands…Hmm-mmh.)

Granddaddy’s yard tools that he stored beneath the house. I dreaded having to fight through the spider webs and creepy bugs to fetch yard and garden ware. Granddad’s cap, bib cocked to the side, when worn to the front. But often, he wore his cap with bib backwards, bottle of Kentucky bourbon in his back pocket, his signature stature and strut. Oh, and his old 1950’s burgundy Buick. It was a tank! The snacks and treats that he brought home at night spoiled me a little, but not to the point of becoming “rotten to the core.”

The fruit wagon– “Fruit Man! Fruit Man! Fruit Man!” was the beckoning call, which awakened the neighborhood in the morning. And in the evening, Mr. Frosty’s ice cream truck entered the neighborhood with alarming bells. Fruit wagon in the morning–ice cream truck in the evening–What a life!

My summer activities became my September memories.

Back to school now! High school, homeroom, lockers, stairwells, classes, football, homecoming, autumn leaves, girlfriends, guys “shootin’ the breeze, bragging, clowning, heckling, teasing.

September transitions. From heat, haze, and humidity to cool, colors, and cozy.

The beauty of the landscape and bounty of the harvest.

I’ll always remember my Septembers.

What about yours?

HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM)

Joe asks, what about yours? As I read through his reflection, what jumps out at me first is the fruit wagon.

My Septembers have always held the heaviness of the harvest. That’s all I can come up with as I’m writing today, which happens to be the last day of September. It’s like each September I hold all the Septembers gone by—gathering them up with every other season that has come before. That image of the fruit wagon has been working on me. Perhaps I could use a wagon to carry the heavy, fruitful harvest of my Septembers.

I don’t have a sense, really, of a fruit wagon coming into my neighborhood in the morning. That sounds cool. I wonder if there were any white kids there (Joe says no). When I was young, my grandfather, who was a carpenter (he had a tool shed too—I think a little less scary but wondrous nonetheless), had a small fruit farm that he and my grandma lived on in Hartland, WI. My sister and I spent a lot of time helping them pick berries in the summer to sell by the pound, quart, or pint to those that sometimes came from miles around to their little farm on Highway K. The last crop of the year—in late September–would be the pumpkins. My sister and I would ride with him out to the field in a kind of wagon that he pulled behind his old red tractor. We would help him gather the pumpkins into the wagon and then ride back up to the driveway where we would sort them into sizes. I don’t really remember the amounts but something like $1-small. $2-medium. $5 (that was a lot)-for the BIG ONES. Grandpa would always tell us that we couldn’t have the biggest one as it would be too much money lost. He just couldn’t afford to give it to us. Maybe there was a truth in it for him, I suppose—he had been formed in the depression era–, but I think he was mostly teasing as it seems we always ended up taking it home…maybe like Joe’s granddaddy’s treats at dusk. Spoiled us…but not to the core…and we had to work for it a bit.

I wrote a song called The Harvest. I like to sing it in September. There is a line in it that reads, “red’s on the maple, soup’s on the table, and there’s tears from the years in my chest.” That line still seems to capture September for me. Seems a bit more melancholy than Joe’s Septembers, although I wonder if my melancholy set it sometime after all those childhood years. I can’t imagine that there isn’t some weight in Joe’s fruit wagon or resting in that bottle of bourbon in grandfather’s back pocket.

SUGAR (THE SWEET ONENESS OF GOD)
Joe and I met this morning for spiritual guidance, September 23, 2023. We were feeling and reflecting on September again and realized that we wrote the words for coffee and cream LAST September and have yet to share them with all of you. The slow sweetness of God allows this to be just fine.

As we considered that September feeling, we invited ourselves into the question that this blog is always posing…where do we notice the sugar—where is that sweet, sweet, spirit of God stirring our stories together and showing us a unified and shared experience of September?

The practice of Lectio Divina is one that arises in response. In Joe’s question, what about yours?–he is teaching a form of Lectio Divina…inviting each of us to simply read the words and listen with the ear of the heart to what arises. I heard “fruit wagon”, and it took me back to my grandfather’s farm and my grandfather’s ways. We then noticed that Joe’s granddaddy’s ways are also right there in Joe’s September. This sharing brought us to a conversation about what the fruit wagon coming into the neighborhood was like, and I learned that it was not a black man bringing the wagon (as I had imagined), but an old white man…maybe one not too different from my grandfather with his pumpkins, which made the intersection of the stories take on a mysterious sweetness for both of us too. Then we wondered about the scary and wonderous tool storage areas…and then we talked about Grandma’s candy. Joe reflected that his grandma didn’t always have a lot of candy to give out so when you got a piece (it was peppermint), this was something special. Maybe like when my grandpa let us have that special pumpkin. Or maybe, we wonder, if it’s a little like God’s grace…grandpa’s pumpkin…grandma’s candy…surprising us a sweet and special gift of oneness. This is how Lectio on life can work…just notice what is calling your attention and follow it, share it with one another, and in this sharing of stories and weaving them together, notice the sweet presence of God and the abundance of the fruit wagon coming into your neighborhood.

We shared a little more deeply about that melancholy question…the way that September conjures up tears and somehow works on us later in life, carrying all the love we have come into and let go of along the way…maybe something like that lyric in the Harvest song that touches the years of tears in our chests.

So, tell us about your Septembers.

 

A Hiding Place

 

JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE)

 “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”

–Psalm 119:114

From my hiding place in the park on this beautiful summer day, I find myself pondering the invitation to share it—to share my hiding place, a place that was always ruminating in my heart. At least three places over the years come to mind. I’m sure there are many more, but these three form somewhat a spiritual strand or lifeline for me.

My first hiding place was my great grandmother’s henhouse in Lexington Kentucky, my birth home.  Granny, the affectionate name we kids called her by, raised chickens in the henhouse, which was hidden by bushes in the large yard that surrounded it.  It was in the henhouse that I hid amongst the egg-laying hens that nested there. Here, I admired the baby chicks that kept warm in a large box on the floor by the cast iron stove.  I loved to hide in this henhouse, thrilled by nature’s processes, the warmth of the space, and the escape from the abundance of chores that Granny demanded.  Of course, the work eventually had to be done.  Perhaps Granny, not really knowing, and her henhouse introduced me to the Benedictine rhythm of prayer, work, study, and leisure. By the day’s end, all these disciplines were in play, which makes me laugh out loud in this moment!

Years much later, after receiving and accepting a call to ministry, as a licensed preacher, not yet ordained, I had a deep desire to become a clinical chaplain.  That meant a series of units of clinical pastoral education, which required months of training, supervision, self-examination, peer evaluation, patient visits, didactic reports, etc. I ended up doing an extended unit, a full-time summer unit, nine months full-time, which led to being hired as staff chaplain.  It was a visit to Durward’s Glen just north of Madison Wisconsin that our unit supervisor took us for a day getaway, perhaps to give the student group an opportunity to “center down.”  Perhaps what my spiritual guide, Heather, would call a “moment of retreat.”  In the chapel at Durward’s Glen, with its glossy wooden pews and lectern, stained glass windows, and a hint of sunshine piercing through, I felt in this hiding place, the Presence.  I would describe it as mystical and divine, and in this instance, a hiding place and moment shared among my peers.

The third in the strand, of hiding place recollections is from my first pastoral assignment at the Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church. After the stress and challenges of pastoring, preaching, counseling, and grieving the deaths of both of my parents, I took eight weeks of sabbatical.  The final week of that experience placed me at The Abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani in Central Kentucky, not all that far from the henhouse of my youth. Here settling into the rhythm of monastic life for a week at the monastery, I found a hiding place that was difficult to leave–difficult to go back to the noise and labor of life in the city. It was like the story of the transfiguration; it was good to be there on the mountain! However, I knew I had to go back down to the valley. (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) There was family and ministry to attend to in the valley.  That being said, the desire to maintain and stay in the experience I had there in the rhythms of prayer, work, study, and leisure, and to share the experience in smaller and periodic ways, always remains and calls to me.  And I follow.

I guess what I am noticing is that I have discovered or been shown the different ways and different places to experience a hiding place in the presence of God. I have moved beyond the desire, at least for now, to open an actual retreat center named The Hiding Place, a place for me and others to rest in God. Today, after some ongoing reflection, I’ve become content with my quiet office space as one of my hiding places–a sacred space away from home, away from church–and also with the many hiding places emerging in my awareness, including a hiding place within my heart, in the sanctuary of my soul.

The line in John Michael Talbot’s song sums it up, lyrics evoked from Psalm 32, you are my hiding place, O Lord.  You gaze into the secrets of my soul.

You are my hiding place, O Lord
You saved me in my distress
You are my hiding place
You save me from distress
You surround my soul
With cries of deliverance.

— Psalm 32:7

 HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM)

 It was not long after Joe felt the longing to more deeply explore the hiding place that he and I began deepening our spiritual friendship and meeting for guidance. He was, as he describes, envisioning a brick-and-mortar retreat space where busy people from our city could stay and experience, engage, and explore the sweetness of God and the contemplative life that Joe and I find to be an essential piece of our work. I too, in my own obedience to God’s call in my life, had identified a desire to create such a space or even multiple spaces in our city where people could drop in for what I call, A Moment of Retreat. I have both a business and a book by this title, which are in in response to a calling I have to offer encouragement, invitation, and accompaniment to individuals who are longing for personal retreat or time alone with God—those who are looking for a hiding place. The writings in the book offer seven chapters—seven places to hide, accompanied by scripture, written reflection, song, earth, prayer, and journaling questions.

As Joe shared his stories, the sacred threads, that have called him historically into hiding places, my heart was stirred to look back—as far as I could—to those sweet callings into the mystical presence of God—callings into hiding. Funny thing is–it wasn’t a henhouse but a barn full of dairy cows and not my Granny, but my Great Uncle Lee, that provided one of the first tastes of the deep mystery and presence, a sweetness, that I will never fully understand but always long to. That sweetness was warm, earthy, fragrant (understatement), alive…and magical. As a young child, on the special days that I would get to visit and stay on the farm, I would rise at dawn to go out to the barn with Uncle Lee to watch the milking, feed the calves, crawl up into the hay mow to watch the barn cats, and help with chores. Each cow was named, there was soft country music playing, and we brought fresh milk in from the milk house for breakfast. Isn’t it amazing that a black boy from Kentucky and a white girl from Wisconsin can bump into the mystical presence and unity of God in barns so far from one another in space and time?

Years later, I attended Valparaiso University for my undergraduate work, a college that required that I select from a laundry-list of courses for a “freshman seminar”. Although I was somewhat blindly following in my father’s footsteps in studying accounting and business, I chose a course called Spiritual and Psychological Perspectives on Personal Growth. Seriously, this makes me giggle, because at age 18, this choice was in response to a longing for a hiding place and a contemplative life that I had no awareness of beyond the spark of courage I mustered to register for it. As part of this course, I was asked to read and reflect on Thomas Merton (perhaps not long before Joe found Merton’s monastery at Gethsemani), and the professor arranged to have us spend a day at a monastery. Honestly, this writing has invited me to go through the archives of papers in boxes in my home to investigate. I remember the quiet; I remember the monks; I remember the small simple room; I remember the vast and beautiful grounds; and I remember doing dishes. At Holy Wisdom Monastery (where Joe and I are both oblates), we call them sacred dishes, and they are part of the Benedictine rhythms of ora et labora, prayer, study, work, and holy leisure that Joe mentions.

And on and on, the rhythms of prayer, study, work, and holy leisure find us in moments, in spaces, in growing awareness of the hiding place in God in all things…to this moment of retreat, this moment of being hidden and held not in a specific place of brick-and-mortar but in the sweet, sweet, sugar of the Spirit.

SUGAR (THE SWEET ONENESS OF GOD)

As we read this aloud to each other, we ask ourselves where do we notice the sugar—where is that sweet, sweet, spirit of God stirring our stories together and showing us a unified and shared notion of a Hiding Place?

First on the list for both of us is nature and all God’s creatures. We bet you have a story too of bumping into the sweet presence of God as a child in a barn or in a forest. Sweet, sweet creation itself, from Kentucky to Wisconsin and beyond, is so often a hiding place and always available to slow us down and be our refuge.

Another sweetener, without a doubt, is Scripture and the sacred writing of others. Do you hear the Psalms and Gospels in the story? Did you hear Saint Benedict in the rhythms of ora et labora and Thomas Merton’s footsteps at Gethsemani? And did you hear Howard Thurman and his call to “center down” –to invite a sabbatical or just a moment of retreat–to step out of the traffic of our daily agendas and the needs of so many crying out for help. For just a moment, to enter the Presence and hide in our center with the sweetness of God before we head back down the mountain or as we say and laugh…back out into the traffic.

As we continue to listen to the call to write together, we both have noticed how the writing process itself seems to be a sweetener, a hiding place, and guide for our journeys. Joe’s history of preaching and journaling and mine with devotional, poetry, and song writing leave us both with stashes of work that this relationship is bringing out of hiding into the light…revealing the way that words live and heal and find a path that we cannot imagine when we write them down the first time. Makes us wonder where this blog will find itself one day.

We are curious to hear how this reflection resonates with you. Show us. Tell us. Where is your hen house? Where is your monastery? Where is your hiding place? It will be sweet.

Coffee with Cream and Sugar

An invitation into the Sweet Oneness of God

HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM)

I like my coffee black.  

My friend Joseph is black—as black as I like my coffee. I like that Joe Jackson even sounds black, doesn’t he? The Reverend Joe Jackson. Joseph Jackson is a black Baptist preacher—although he and I don’t like titles too much. Joe Jackson is Joe Jackson. 

Joe Jackson drinks his coffee with cream.  

His wife is always teasing him that he seems to be the black coffee getting added to all that white cream in this world. I guess she’s talking about people like me.  I’m a quiet, white hippie-girl—a contemplative spiritual guide and all kinds of other titles that I already mentioned Joe and I stay away from. 

It may sound funny, but coffee is a big part of both my relationship with God and Joe’s relationship with God. We both have a discipline and a love of prayer at dawn—a time to meditate, be in silence, be with the word, and be with what Joe Jackson calls, the sweet aroma of God. Can’t pray without coffee, can you–that steaming hot cup that fits in my praying hands–the deep breath that draws the warmth, comfort—that fragrance of my time with God–into my being—that sweet, sweet aroma of time with God?  It is settled then. I can’t pray in the morning without my cup of coffee, black. 

JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE) 

In my coffee, a little cream and sugar are a must.  

I guess it may be a good metaphor for blended relationships–like my relationship with Heather. That coffee with cream and sugar invites me every morning, like Heather says, into “sweet oneness of God,” I, Joseph, am black. Heather, my friend, she is white.  A sweet relationship has and is developing between the two of us—one I know has something to do with our trust in and experience of the oneness of God. 

Mine and Heather’s relationship started when Heather was facilitating a day of reflection at a monastery that we are both connected to as Benedictine oblates.  I had been searching for a spiritual guide, and that day, as I sat still in the light, which were words of a poem she shared, I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit.  My intention was to seek a person of color. I grew up in a black community, a black church, and black schools, but, in me, was always the desire and propensity for diversity, for coffee with cream. The Holy Spirit didn’t want that longing to get lost in the mix.    

So here I sit now—still in the light—with my cup of coffee with cream and sugar—building the relationship of black and white, directee and director, black Baptist preacher and the contemplative spiritual guide (white hippie girl). God seems to be asking us to blend or combine our thoughts, not only for ourselves, but for you. 

SUGAR

Joe and I both like the addition of just a bit of sugar. We laughed and laughed at the metaphor of Coffee with Cream and Sugar, and have been inviting our sweet relationship with God to show us how this metaphor might be of service to this noisy, divided, beautifully messy world we are both living in. 

You know, when you add cream to coffee, it really is something new. You can’t separate the black from the white—it becomes unified. And, when you add some sugar—well, then you just have something special—the sweet oneness of God.  

God as sweetener. That is a nice image. What are those things that sweeten the spiritual relationship between us that makes it something special—something we think may be worth sharing? We have come up with a list, of sweeteners. 

1. We share a love of the contemplative life—of the sweet, sweet, silence of the voice of God. 

2. We have been formed together as Benedictine oblates—brother and sister in the ecumenical community that is the Holy Wisdom Monastery. Oblates are crazy enough or hopeful enough or simply called deeply to believe that we can live a monastic way, grounded in our own personal Benedictine rules of life, in a non-cloistered, active city life. Sweet Jesus, is it possible? 

3. We love Scripture, and it weaves anciently through each of our stories and experiences always bearing new fruit to harvest. 

4. We love the profound beauty, mystery, and revelation of God in all of creation.  

5. We are ministers-male and female, black and white, ordained and laity, in one of the most segregated cities in the US—with a longing to ground justice work in a contemplative center. We love our city. We love our neighborhoods.  

6. We love to hide in sacred spaces to explore in the written, spoken, and sung word. 

Coffee with Cream and Sugar has been calling to us by so many titles—pulling us into spiritual friendship and conversation—asking us for time in contemplative spaces to listen together to the voice of God and wonder how it is that we often have the same song singing in our heads–wonder how our individual ministries, when brought together-Black and White-with the sweetener of the Divine love in our midst—become something special for the world—something that may draw others into exploring those unifying and transforming sugars like the contemplative life, silence, the discipline of a personal rule, Scripture, the earth, poetry, preaching, and song. 

Our hope is that the series of writings in this book, where the sweetness of God joins the coffee and the cream and offers you a taste of being hidden in the sweet oneness of God.  We invite you in as we share our thoughts in prayer, poems, and prose.   

Perhaps you will join us in your own quiet time with a cup of hot coffee, with or without cream, and enjoy the sweet aroma of God.  Center down. Linger with the themes and titles. Even take pen to paper and journal your own thoughts along with ours. 

We offer you a taste of contemplation, conversation, coffee, and cornbread.  

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is indescribably delicious! 

About Heather and Joe (The Bloggers)