Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving

Around our family Thanksgiving table—and TA-Da! here is that table and the decorator—the BEST THAT LOVE CAN BUY! Place cards (both sides) in bubble letters and newly learned cursive; pipe-cleaner twisty garlands and hearts of gold and brown; gorgeous fall leaves from our morning walk;  sparkly ribbons and lots of poster paper and pretty markers!

Our Thanksgiving Event Planner and Decorator spent Thanksgiving Eve with us!
Around our family table, we have a Thanksgiving tradition that I think a lot of y’all share one way or another. Our version is that we secretly write down  three things we are thankful for and everybody has to guess who wrote what.  This year our seven-year-old grandson gave thanks for Antarctica—he just LIKES it!  One of mine was “beer”— I have no idea where that came from.  I like beer but it’s not really one of my top three things on earth.  Another thanksgiving for me was “choirs”—I do know where that came from! Thanks to Ray Chenault and Karol Kimmell (and also our little decorator’s choir-mistress, Julie, over at Epiphany)  holy music swirls around in my head all week long—what a gift!

Sometimes the voices in our heads are just very little known folks to anybody else in our lives.  Maurice Reddick’s voice in his head for instance!  Here’s Maurice and his mentor and first boss, Ellsworth Staunton, III.  Mr. Staunton was the Clerk of the Session at an old red brick Presbyterian church in Brooklyn where Maurice began his journey.  Maurice says that over and over, Mr. Staunton would say “You can do this! You are doing a good job!And he showed up when Maurice graduated.

Today tell somebody they are doing a good job. Or they can do it!  Huge gift.
Terry Kinton’s favorite voice in her head is her husband Richard!

Terry Kinton  accompanies our children’s choirs. And Richard.
Terry: ” Even though he is wheel-chair bound, he dreams about walking with Jesus in a garden. He loves the song,  he walks with me and he talks with me.  My husband always has positive view—”let’s look at it this way.”  “Maybe God is trying to show us ….”  He loves to see other people’s needs get filled though he has many, many health challenges of his including constant pain.”

Sometimes the voices in our heads are people from early days—school or early training with us.  Remember this guy?

David Fikes and I  lost touch. But I still hear his voice reading poetry. And give thanks!
You can invite the best voices in your life to walk through the days with you.  And GUESS WHAT?? YOU, I promise, YOU are a better angel voice for somebody else.   Lisa told me about a life-giving conversation she and I had probably twenty-five years ago. She told me that my words had made a difference in her life. And that she was thankful for me. Isn’t that WONDROUS?? Believe me, there are people on this earth who have been given life through YOUR WORDS!

Lisa gave me a gift at Diocesan Convention.

What about practicing thanksgiving every day—not just on the fourth Thursday of November?  And I can’t think of a better place to start than giving thanks for the life-giving voices in our heads.  Here’s a paraphrase of a poem from George Herbert (whose voice I treasure).  Get it in your head and say it when you need some thanksgiving!

Lord, thou has give so much to me,

Give one thing more, a grateful heart,

Not thankful when it pleaseth me

As if thy blessings had spare days,

But such a heart whose pulse shall be thy praise.

Martha +

The Power of WE


One of the most popular things to do at Diocesan Council this weekend was to go to a photo-booth and get our picture taken holding the letters ‘WE’.

Since I have the attention span of a flea unless there is a narrative being told,  Diocesan Councils can’t help but be kind of boring to me. They are after all business meetings, mostly, and yet this weekend in College Park, there was this “dearest freshness deep down things,” as GM Hopkins puts it, because sometimes ‘WE-NESS” WOULD JUST WELL UP AMONGST US!!  Do you know what I mean?

A table full of Saints—Janet Todd, Gretchen Chateau, Tim Black, Me, Dottie Miller, Ken Stewart, Cameron Newton, Scott Porter, Bruce Garner! Bruce performed a miracle when he  WORD-crafted some almost unanimously approved wording for a hotly debated resolution calling our governmental leaders to use language respecting the dignity of all.  WE Saints were really, really proud of Bruce. He brought the whole meeting together and coincidentally got US out in time to go home for Saturday lunch and football for which everyone was grateful.  Yay Bruce!! 

Another reason why the gathering worked for me was that WE did tell some stories.  Here’s one I didn’t tell because I was too busy living it.

Ann Cramer (in purple) has been in two gazillion meetings in Atlanta over the past forty years, usually as IBM’s very well respected community person.. Every time I have EVER seen her, she has been TOTALLY and ENCOURAGINGLY LISTENING to whomever is speaking, including me.  When I saw Ann at at the St. Luke’s table, after such a brutal political season of loud talking and no listening, out of nowhere, I burst into tears.  Still not sure why.

So here is my very short story:  I saw Ann.  I burst into tears and then pulled myself back together and introduced her to Gretchen Chateau.  WE went back to our table. A little while later, Ken Stewart said, “Do you see Ann Cramer over there? Every time I have ever spoken in front of any group, I always look for her smiling face because then my words come out better.”  Coincidence? I think not!  Message!  To me and you:  Friends, may WE go and do likewise. Like Anna, WE really can light up a room JUST BY LISTENING! And WE can make WORDS come out better!)

Gretchen (of the most fabulous bow ties in the universe) and I decided to look around and point out some other people who help words come out better, thus incarnating the WE at the heart of human community. Here’s Gretchen:

"I love words. l think words are holy." 
Gretchen is pointing out Bishop Wright, a life-giving preacher of the Word and  a WE kind of  guy. He always asks US to Love like Jesus.  Gretchen and Bp. Wright talked about US desperately needing to Word like Jesus.” Bishop Wright loved it.

Gretchen again: “I think WE really need to work on how we use words. The reason for that is twofold:

1)WE humans are made in the image of God, so it’s reasonable to think WE are a word from God.”

Gretchen is pointing out the wondrous Archdeacon Carole Maddox who is the Executive Director of Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Jasper.  Carole put the Word on US about what the Good Samaritan did NOT CHECK OUT—income, moral worthiness, insurance, ethnicity, etc.—when the Good Samaritan got in the ditch to provide health care to  a hurting traveler. Carole spoke about her grave concern over already very limited health care in rural areas

And Gretchen says, “2) Word with a capital “W,” i.e., Logos, is how God chose to reveal God’s self, Jesus Christ, the Word of God;”

Chad Vaughn is the rector of St. Bede’s and Gretchen is pointing him out because he gave a great talk about  the power of the Word, the “Logos” and the structure and elegance that permeates language used in holy and life-giving ways.  

Gretchen continues, “If all those things are true, shouldn’t WE treat words with utmost reverence? Words are holy. Let’s use them with that in mind. I’m pretty sure we’ve fallen short of that ideal for the last 20 months or so leading up to Nov. 8 and beyond.

As Bishop Wright says, WE need to #lovelikeJesus, so WE also need to #wordlikeJesus. WE need to do that coming and going, so that WE receive others’ words without biased prescreening, and give OUR words to others remembering Who we’re representing, that is, The Word.”

Good plan, Gretchen. Good Word.  Around this block, may WE live into the power of WE wherever WE  find outselves.

And here are two last WE photos.  Recognize these three ladies?  Today they are doing something special.

Lauri Begley, Kathy Roberts, and Trina Jackson are sitting in George Washington’s pew awaiting Noelle York-Simmon’s installation as the new rector of Christ Church, Alexandria!

Kim Jackson you may have noticed is not in the picture above (nor was she at Council) because she was getting ready to preach at Noelle’s installation. And here she is saying, ““I came up from Atlanta to tell you that God is calling you to sing a new song!”  The Rev. Kimberly Jackson bringing the word this morning!


Aren’t WE blessed?  Yes WE are.  God is good.  All the time. Why don’t WE just live on into that WORD?

Martha +

Gramma Power -Just about NOW, I need it! Do you?

Lisa Bell-Davis is so cool. Gramma would be proud!

I’ve been asking around this block for people to tell me about the strong and life-giving voices in their head.  Lisa Bell-Davis, our communications director, gives us Gramma! And friends, I’m taking Gramma with me every where I go these days! Here’s Lisa:

I learned much from my Gramma, especially not to be afraid of hard work, but probably even more important, to laugh.This is the list of the 10 biggest things my grandmother taught me. I read them at her funeral, and those that knew her nodded yes at every one!

 1. A good ham always makes the best Sunday dinner.

(Gentle Question from Martha: What makes a feast for you?  I’m working on thankfulness for this Thanksgiving. Without gratitude, dearly beloved, it’s all ash. I know this from inside.)

2. Never let international borders stop you from bringing plants and flowers home.

3.  A lot of hard work never killed anyone.

4. If you don’t have a hairnet to wear to bed a pair of clean panties will do. (!?!)

5. The longer you keep moving, the longer you will stay young. (She never told anyone she was older than 39.)

Gramma pretending to “hitch”, probably out in California, visiting my aunt Shirley.   She got around and  she loved a good laugh.

6. If you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, then laugh.  

Gramma would have fit right in with Lucy and Ethel!

7. Caviar may look like raspberry jam, but does not taste like raspberry jam.

Brilliant, Gramma! Friends around this block, what are you trying to cook up??  If it is fullness of life,  then use ingredients that will get you there.

8. Whenever possible, travel.

O Gramma! God bless your spirit.  Help us be daring now.

9. There’s no shame in a woman doing a man’s work, except maybe for the man.

Gramma and Grandpa.  Yep. She always kept shoveling.

10. And my grandmother taught me the Lord’s Prayer, as we were laying on our backs together in her bed, with our legs up in the air, bicycling for exercise.”

Gramma was “way cool,” says Lisa.

Anybody who has taken a gander at our Parish Profile, designed by Gramma’s granddaughter, knows the apple did not fall far from the tree.  Strength is truly a pass-it-on, generation to generation commodity. And around this block, we TRULY know that DNA is only one of the ways that strength and zest for life get passed on to the rising generation.  May God bless the Grammas – male and female, old and young, around our block.  And may we each in our own way be a Gramma, too.

Martha +







The Voices in Our Heads

When you are scared, sad, hopeless, and feel helpless, who are the voices in your head that give you courage and strength?? You need to call on your inner voices!!  Watch this short and fabulous video as Maya Angelou tells us how!

Maya Angelou is in a lot of people’s heads.  Get her in yours!  Also Here is a quick survey of other voices I took on the way to the parking lot one afternoon this week:

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali gave kids a hero to look up to and gives Tony strength.

Tony Lawton (below left)  says Muhammad Ali is in his head.  “Not so much the words but the way he carried himself and set standards for a lot of kids.  And he’s stood up for himself.” Tony also loves Bob Marley’s voice for freedom!

Tony and Clyde have REALLY GREAT  encouraging voices in their heads.

Clyde Lloyd, who is Covenant Community’s night manager,  keeps his favorite quotes on his phone. One of his voices is from his Pastor Walter who says “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better.”  And “Your Past does not define who you are – it prepares you for who you are going to be. 

Clyde also has Maya Angelou’s voice in his head and in his phone.

AND Maya Angelou spends the day with Pat Kiley!  Pat says “I hear her voice and feel her calm and so many good things.”

Google Maya Angelou quotes and get them in your head and heart!

Like “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Today is a good day to listen to the wisdom of the ages and the faith of the mothers and fathers.  Tonight (Wednesday) your clergy will be in the library at 6:30 for anybody who wants to talk about the election or anything else.  The voices we carry in our heads will be there, too!!


Pat’s voice is in my (Martha’s) head.  Mostly in really good ways!  BUT NOTICE THE TEENY TINY HORNS?? SOMETIMES MAYA ANGELOU VOICE IS NOT IN PAT’S HEAD!

I  remember Pat telling one of you when you were dealing with a lot of stress because of family illness,  “We will be here with you”

And let us count on that in Christ, dear Saints.  No matter who voted what, we will be here with each other. Day by day and week by week. And by God’s grace we will be strengthened to be with others, to be voices and hands and hearts that heal and serve God’s world.

Jesus never said it would be easy. But there’s this PROMISE OF PRESENCE,  the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Voice behind all the lifegiving voices we hear. 

Martha +

“For All the Saints . . .

Mary Jo and Clay Bryan and sweet baby James

When I think about All Saints Day I don’t think about the Webster Dictionary definition or even the ecclesiastical definition of ‘saints’, I think about US—all 100 plus years and ten thousands and thousands plus souls and rivers of laughter and tears and sin and repentance and forgiveness and new life of US!  With a name like All Saints, every time we remember or think or speak our name, we know who we are—all saints! Not because we are perfect, but because we are God’s.  And we pass that deep Belonging-to-God Soul Knowledge around and around to each other and also on and on,  generation to generation. Here is Mary Jo Bryan with a saints’ story for the ages:

“My husband Clay was diagnosed with advanced cancer a month after our son James was born.As Clay got sicker and sicker, (parishioner) Susan Myers started sending out email updates so I didn’t have to answer phone calls.  This was before social media and Facebook and Caring Bridge.

James was born on March 8 and Clay died July 23.” 

Social Media was not invented when E-Care began.

Really, one of the hardest things is to figure out how to efficiently and respectfully pass the Word along, even maybe especially  when the Word is very hard and painful but help is needed.

Can some of you remember, Saints? During the crisis and for months afterward, so many of you helped feed Mary Jo when she could not think to eat. She remembers.  “I got so many grand meals.  Someone brought homemade blueberry muffins and for a time, tasting the goodness of those muffins was what was good in the day.” And some of you came to the hospital to care for Baby James while Mary Jo cared for her dying husband.  Pat Kiley remembers carrying James outside to get him out of the sharp medicinal, institutional smells of the hospital.

Everyone did what they could. 

What Mary Jo did next is what Henri Nouwen calls the ministry of the ‘Wounded Healer’.

“My uncle in Chattanooga had a ministry that reached out into parish via email. After Clay died, I talked to Chris Epperson (All Saints’ priest) and Fifi Guest and Sug Patton and Sue Mobley, and I said What can we do like that? We figured out how to use a yahoo group to send our prayer requests – just standing with each other in prayer.  We also talked about asking for meals when there is a new baby or a need.   So we set up cooking days when people come to church and make and freeze meals. An E-care person picks up meals and delivers them to people who need to be nourished.”

The healing, feeding power of E-Care grew out of gratitude for the care given to the founder. This is a great article from Cooking Light. Read it in the corridor outside of Ellis Hall.

E-Care continues to this very day.  Every day Saints pray for one another for that is the best, best, best gift we can give one another.  And when the need arises, the Saints feed one another just like they fed Mary Jo all those years ago.  Though the needs tumble around among us,  the constant is our shared compassion in Christ which is, as T. S. Eliot says, ‘the still point in a turning world’.

No Words Needed.

Below is another picture.  James Bryan was part of the Alaska Pilgrimage this past summer. Here he is with the world opening up before him and the other young pilgrims. Thank you God for our young people and for the hope and courage and love that we share in Christ, and for God’s future that beckons to us all, generation after generation. 


Want to become a part of E-Care?  To subscribe to E-Care, send an e-mail to or visit Fifi Guest is E-Care’s contact person.  You receive prayer requests, and you pray. The ministry is as simple and holy and powerful as that.  

Thank you God for E-Care.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you today. And see you on Sunday for quite the celebration.

Martha +

The Ministry of the Note

O Blairs, thank you! Isn’t the bride beautiful? Isn’t my hair bad?

Ann Woodall and I were on staff together here at All Saints’ for years.  Ann is hilarious and also deeply gracious though we both had our off-gracious days when I would go to her office and lay down on the sofa and say  “Okay, who’s Bad on Your Nerves Today??” ( The answer was usually Harry! Just kidding, Harry!)

Ann taught me lots of things but the biggest was also the littlest. Small, kind actions mean a lot.  They really, really do. Here’s an example that happened to me this fall.  A man took a few minutes and wrote me an e-mail which just touched me so.  I bet Ann would call this “The Ministry of the Note.” Here’s Mark Blair’s Ministry of the Note to me.  

Dear, Martha,
I hope this finds you well and in joyful spirits.  This past Wednesday was our 25th wedding anniversary and we came down to All Saints for the mid day service.  It seemed fitting to come back to All Saints on this occasion and we enjoyed the service very much.  Imagine our surprise when we inquired about what you were doing these days, only to find out that you were back on an interim basis.  In fact, I think we may have passed you leaving the parking lot as we pulled in.  I am not sure if you remember us from back then, but we wanted to reach out to you and say thank you.  These days it seems not many people make it ten years, let along 25. 
Patty and I have two children now and live in the Cumming area and are members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit.
 I’ve attached a picture that we took Wednesday. 
A marriage well and deeply lived. Thank you Blairs even more. 
As you can tell, after 25 years we haven’t changed a bit.  Ok maybe we changed a good bit.  In any case, we thought you would like to know that it’s been a very blessed 25 years, not always easy, but rather a constant work in progress.  If I remember correctly, you coached us on that point in the marriage classes.  We have enjoyed many wonderful occasions, have lots to be thankful for and pushed our way through the tough times too.   Thank you for your guidance ahead of time!  We will try to come back down again soon to see you in person.  Many blessings to you.
Mark & Patty Blair
married 9/21/91
The Ministry of the Note is so powerful.  Will you consider writing a small, kind email or note today?  For of such small, kind actions is the kingdom of heaven created.   And see you at the Woodall Lecture, Thursday Night! Ann will be there, too!!  And I bet none of us will get on each other’s nerves AT ALL. 
Martha +

Pet Blesser Every Day


Around this block, Barbara Blender is a presence— Covenant Community, Adult Formation, Vestry, and a gazillion other ministries.  She is kind and patient.  She gets things done, and she loves goofy-ness. This works out so well for all the Saints – two-footed and four-pawed!

Here’s Barbara:

“Four years ago I left the corporate work I had done most of my life thinking I would enjoy the free time to travel and do volunteer work. But a call from an acquaintance who owns a pet sitting company asking if I could temporarily help out a few hours a week changed all that .It’s 3-1/2 years later and I’ve traded business clothes for jeans and high heels for (of necessity) shoes that can go in the washing machine. What I now do many more than a few hours a week is not a job—it’s a ministry of 4-legged children.

Well, most of them are four legged. Riley  has three because he  was abused and lost his leg. He’s nine months old.


Riley is the sweetest, silliest, full of life puppy ever.   He’d fit right in at All Saints’.

So would Coco who looks like she needs to go to confession. Immediately.

I didn’t do it.


It is such a pleasure to watch their unabashed joy in getting a new toy or seeing something surprising like a big butterfly or getting that beloved treat.”

Tater has a little tennis ball fetish!  It’s all good.


The moment, the moment, the moment, the moment, the moment.  This moment looks like a great one for swimming!

Travis dreams of 2020 Olympics!  He’s a butterfly guy.

“Their joy unquestionably gets passed on to me. Otherwise, I may never have noticed this butterfly or that moment.

Ernie is intensely interested in treats. NOW!

And, like children, of course there is some whining (I want more treats) and some stubbornness (I don’t want to go out in the rain).

Gemma: Seriously?

And yes, there is the dealing with sickness and sometimes even the loss of a pet. Along with the sadness when that happens comes my profound gratitude for having been a small part of an animal’s life.  Here are  Blackie, Chessie, and Freddie who have been my home cats down through the years.  They were my teachers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few years ago, there is no way in the world I could have imagined myself caring for such a diverse group of loving, thinking, feeling, barking, meowing kids at this stage of my life or any stage of my life.  But God is good—God is a surprise!

Henry is going to surprise his parents tonight by sleeping with them – like it or not!

 Thank  you, Barbara, for reminding us that God is such a surprise, and that new adventures await around every corner if we will just open our hearts and see who comes bouncing, bounding, galumphing, purring, sneaking, prissing, strolling in! 

And don’t forget the Pet Blessing in Ellis Hall, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9 AT 9:00.  Bring ’em on!

Martha +