hope and history


The last forty-eight hours have been full of almost every emotion I can name. Though I’ve been here by myself, I’ve spent much of the day talking to Ginger in Birmingham, keeping up with what is going on there. Rachel goes in for her surgery early tomorrow morning. Ginger comes back home Saturday evening to be here on Sunday and will go back to Birmingham for the week on Monday night. One of the calls from Ginger was to process how Irondale is changing — even dying, thanks to the Super Wal-Mart going up in Trussville. Not long afterwards, she called to tell me of the conversation she had with the mother of one of her childhood friends. Ginger was walking through the neighborhood and the woman was sitting on her front porch journaling. They had a good visit and then Ginger walked up to the Irondale Cafe for a glass of sweet tea before she went back to her folk’s house.

Any trip to Birmingham is time travel in some sense for her. Every rock and tree, every small house, every smiling face is the top layer of an onion of memory that peels back to reveal a past that is not so far away. Here in New England, we have history all around us, but it is preserved and guarded, even revered. The South has never forgotten that the biggest part of the word history is story, which means the past is not preserved but participated in, not guarded but mined, not revered but relished. It’s a place to find comfort rather than pedigree.

As I have listened to Ginger and prayed for Rachel, I’ve also looked for words for tonight, since mine are lacking. I found them in Pierce Pettis, a son of the South, who has spoken to me deeply at different times over the years. As Friday dawns, here is a song for us all.

I’ve Got a Hope

Man is born to trouble
All the days of his life

As the sparks fly upward

From bonfires at night
They fill up the heavens

With pin points of light

And I’ve got a hope
that is not in this world

Time, it is turning

Like a plow in the field

It roots up the earth

And what’s hidden is revealed

Sewing the future

While the past, it is sealed

I’ve got a hope

That is not in this world

Half of the battle

Is only with myself

While the other half

Is something I can’t help

Lest I should stumble
I try not to forget

That every hair is numbered

Every footstep, every breath

And this life that I’m living

It will not end in death

I’ve got a hope
that is not in this world

I’ve got a hope that is not in this world

I will post something tomorrow night about the surgery.



  1. Blessings on all of you. My Mom had open heart surgery this week, too. Today wasn’t a great day, but by God’s grace, we’re hoping for better ones to come. Same for Rachel.

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