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2.27.20 Beyond Superstition

I googled “likelihood of getting two double egg yolks in a row.”

I’ve never gotten a double yolked egg in my life that I recall. Suddenly, there was one in the pan this morning. I went to crack the second egg, and whoa! Two double egg yolks in a row.  It looked creepy. Upon research, getting a double egg yolk likelihood is 1/1000 eggs. I entered the morning feeling like I had reached some strange Yahtzee. Superstition also has it that double egg yolks can portend good luck. Double good luck?Double Egg Yolks

It’s funny how even just the suggestion that luck coming keeps one on heightened alert, eyes wide open for good things unfolding. Today was a day for slowing, for moving with intention into Lent– even as the whipping winds encircled Columbia and Little Patuxent Parkway. Twice I felt like I could have been blown over while standing at the corner.

A man parked his car and came and talked to me: “The other day I saw a woman out here talking to you, so I thought I’d come out here, too, to see what you are up to.”

He seemed a little let down when I talked about sharing joy. It seems that he and many have really wanted there to be some next and larger thing I am pointing to. Perhaps they want me to reveal some source of luck and hope.  It seems to me that folks are uncertain of what they will hear and finding out allows them to move on with confidence that they are not missing out on something more.

In addition to the wind, the sun was blinding. With increasingly longer days, it has been higher in the sky at 3:30 p.m. The glare was so bright that I couldn’t see into the majority of windows that were driving east. I just kept waving, catching glimpses here and there of a hand outstretched. People could see me, but I couldn’t see them. This was a good reminder of the effort to share good thoughts that flow to each car, to each truck and bus and van–whether or not they wave, whether or not they see or care to see .

The brightness reminded me of the intensity of four yolks staring at me this morning.

Couldn’t we all use signs of double blessing? And when we alight on them, why not wave them toward the unknown needs of those passing the corner as well as the wild uncertainty of the wider world…


20.02.27 Balloon Pastor Windy Glare
20.02.27 Balloon Pastor Windy Glare Double Blessings


2.26.20 Lent Begins

It was a wet one yesterday for Fat Tuesday.  I was in my galoshes all day thinking of the corner and the folks of Columbia. I’ve not been going out to wave when conditions are slick as commuters navitgate the busy intersection.

I did enjoy an appropriately Lousiana themed muffaletta sandwich with my son after his haircut. He was delighted to get a purple balloon for himself and one for his sister. One lollipop for himself, and one to take to his sister. 20.02.27 Balloon Pastor Jay PurpleHaircut Balloons

My Mardi Gras mood was tempered when I learned that a friend is having to help someone navigate the reality of ICE detention. One partner has been detained and the other one being ordered to come back next time with ticket to a country of origin. My friend helped the partner share the news with the couples’ kids. Devastating.

I had attended a Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice meeting on Sunday evening and learned more about the ICE facility being run in Howard County as the County maintains a contract with ICE. So much heartbreaking separation of people from their families.

It isn’t hard to fall into despair.

I wore a balloon to the Ash Wednesday noon service today that has since grounded. I talked about the witness of joy that springs forth in renewal. Even as we recall our mortality, we regain a sense of urgency about what it is we do with our hearts, minds, body here and now.

I look to hold up signs of joy and renewal as a form of Lenten fasting. Fasting from cyncism. Taking action and standing with those who did not get to enjoy Tuesday feasting, those who will not be with their loved ones for the wilderness days to come. May there yet be hope in the darkness, joy on the corner, love and sanctuary for all.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame…”   (Isaiah 58: 9b-11)


For more on the local ICE Contract and actions, see Jews United for Justice here.

A Baltimore Sun Article on the contract here.




2.24.20 Hot and Cold

Warm. chilly. hot. Another one of those in-between days when a puffy winter overcoat is needed one moment and excessive the next as the sun reappears.

A neighbor stopped by during waving.

She: So, what are you doing here? Me: Looking to share a bit of joy.

She: (with emphasis) And…?

I told her I was the pastor at the church up the way.  She knows it and several church folks. I shared more about how the the time on the corner has unfolded.

She expressed concerns about my safety by traffic. I pointed to my little place on the corner, elevated on the mound. And I felt a swell of gratitude that she would care enough about me to want to make sure that I am okay.

And I give thanks for continuing to meet neighbors as they look out for our community. For days that are a mix of chill and warmth. Reminders of caution and care in the midst of standing in place.

20.02.24 Balloon Pastor blue post



2.19.20 Pop!

Bounding down the hill. Low-hanging limbs. A sudden “pop!”…

20.02.19 Balloon Pastor Popped

And I looked down to see my yellow balloon limp! A bit carefless on my walk down as the piney trees pricked it.

Thankfully, the sun was bright, serving as the bright round orb for the afternoon. Perhaps today instead of the balloon accompanying me, I was the sun’s companion and she had me tethered with a sense of joy and enjoyed me bobbing about.

Plenty of folks recognized and received the waves even without my bouncy friend. It became a point of laughter with some of the regulars. I could point and smile and shrug. And we would chuckle together. That’s life. We know the language of changed expectations. Pretty amazing to make it thus far without such calamity.

One neighbor, “K” stopped good-naturedly on her walk. “It’s nice to meet you. I had heard about your before and now I get to see you!”

At home, I was delighted to come across the below image among my child’s papers at supper time. I’d like to think that math can bring her joy!

However you might be feeling, perhaps more popped than lifted today, may you encounter the buoyed support of counter energy if you are ready to receive it. May friends surprise you in high places. May little sketches of hope dance across your dining room table.

20.02.19 Balloon Pastor Phoebe Paper Person



2.18.20 Up Close

How do you wave in the midst of an extended corner conversation?20.02.18 Balloon Pastor green

Someone who is well-known to many from my church and lives in the neighborhood stopped by. We re-met. We had a wonderful conversation about the roots of Columbia, Jim Rouse, and the neighborhood. At first I was slightly ancy, only because I knew that I wasn’t waving. But, I was so enjoying talking to the neighbor. It has of course felt natural to stop waving when anyone actively wants to speak with me. And this is important. I want to see and know my neighbors. What better way then when they come and are up for an up close conversation?

I think we must have talked for 12-15 minutes. I got to hear about her love of the town and the love she has for her local faith community and leader. We agreed that there is just something about building and living into community that is important grounding for a spiritual life and way of being.

When I stop for conversation I’m not leaving my post. I am meeting someone in the crucial moment of the now. I aim to give them my full attention. It is simply a continuation of the attention I’ve been streaming out to the hundreds passing. I zero in on the one before me and all who pass may see two neighbors meeting with joy on our common street. This is waving, too. Connecting face-to-face.

And although we didn’t make eye contact, I saw Middle Finger Man again. Again, he chose not to flip me off. Schwoo.

Earlier in the day I was at a long clergy session. We heard from Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown of Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. She reminded us that everywhere is holy ground and that we “preach” everywhere–not just in some pulpit. How we select the eggs in the market, how we behave in the parking lot, how we itneract on the street corner–every element communicates something about who we are in the world and how we use our voices.

Now, if my children and I could just tap into more joy when we negotiate each morning about the cereal!:)

20.02.18 Balloon pastor path




2.14.20 Valentine’s

I couldn’t resist the chance to be out there on Valentine’s Day. A little later than usual. Unfortunately,  I didn’t have my regular mittens and hat. So my fingers were nearly frozen by the end. Cold hands, warm heart.

At one point as I waved someone yelled from lanes away at the stop light: “Who are you?” I yelled back, “Just trying to spread a little joy.” Should I have yelled back: “I’m Claire!” or “I am Balloon Pastor!” ? it feels like one of those existential questions…Who am I? 

The best Valentine highlight: seeing my husband in the car across Little Patuxent as he left the house to pick up the kids. Enthusiastic waves to the one who supports me in this venture and makes the corner possible. And love to the kids who turned our table into a heart and sparkle explosion as they ripped open all the joy-filled messages from their friends.

I know Valentine’s isn’t awesome for all. It hasn’t always been something to look forward to on this end. Thoughts with those navigating unpleasant relational waters in this season. Or perhaps this is a season of grief or uncertainty. Hoping there was and is some joy awaiting you at some point on the path soon.


Communal Heart Space for All:

Sacred Garden Party, February 15, 5-9 p.m.

Tickets $25 at the door to benefit The Sacred Garden

Kittamaqundi Community Church | 5410 Leaf Treader Way | Columbia, MD

2.12.20 Blue Heron


“It’s only the beginning.” I got this sense today that these months are the foundation for a broader expedition. The practice of waving is the extended start to years of spirituality at the sidewalk and in unexpected spaces. What does it mean to  be “public” with joy as I receive the daily stories of others?

A pack of four women runners paused at the light. One had an awesome tutu. It was a gift to wish them well on their jaunt around Wilde Lake. They described running as “therapy.” It sounded like running carves out similar spaces in them as things like yoga and waving do for me. “How wonderful that you get to run together!” They beamed.

A pizza delivery man slowed to wonder aloud what I was doing. He received the joy wholeheartedly. And then there were the regulars whose waves coaxed broad smiles out of me.

And the ultimate gift today–a blue heron flying almost directly overhead. It stretched its wide arms in full flight. I’m aware that just the east, over between Route 29 and the housing that flanks Vantage Point is a natural estuary with tall trees. This section is visible from one of our church’s friend’s porches. In those very high trees you will see the big nests of these magnificent birds.

Thank you, Heron, for the invitation to look upward from our holy ground. Thank you for nesting so near. Thank you for the mysterious sanctuary nestled beyond the condominiums. Keep building high perches from which to broadcast your story for the next generation. And I think, even as I remain planted on my perch: “How wonderful that we get to soar together!” in this little sliver of Maryland.

20.02.12 Balloon Pastor orange
The Blue Heron’s sky after she had flown by











2.11.20 Soul Space

Hi, Friends,

We’ve gotten off to a particularly sloggy start to this week yesterday with not much end in sight until Friday. And there were bad weather days Wednesday-Friday last week. I am continuing to take time for reflection and to dive into the many tasks of the moment. Hopefully you are safe out there as you navigate the slick conditions. All the grayness emphasizes the need for centering in joy.

I was not patient with my children this morning. As I left the driveway, I wondered about the space that the corner offers my spirit and I felt its absence.

Now, I am not saying that waving on the corner magically makes me a better mother. However, tying my hopes to a balloon and showing up into the world sure helps me to have confidence in things beyond the usual bubble. I can attest that a calling, if a somewhat uncertain one at times, has brought broader perspective to the sibling quarrels and blunder breakfasts we regularly encounter at my house. And this calling to the corner brings broader pastoral perspective to the partisan and painful reporting. It helps to bring perspective to things I value and the means I will take to seek to make a difference.

May shelter be yours, where you need it today and for the steady drizzles promised ahead. May joy be yours as you seek to make a difference on your corner, in the lives of your co-workers, your family, your community, your country.

Parents especially–may patience be yours as you clean up one more spill, arbitrate one more argument, and leave the driveway again to face the wet world as you pray safe passage for your children.


20.02.11 Balloon Pastor wet Joy




2.7.20 Wisdom Rains

“Wisdom is like the rain. Its source is limitless, but it comes down according to the season.” — Rumi

I’m writing to you in the midst of a little squall.

I listen to the somehow

rag-tag beat of the rain

against the metal

of the house

and the plants and the windows and the concrete.

All else is quiet as the children

and their own little storms

entered the world in their rubber shoes.

Is this Wisdom that arrives in this season

steady and scattered, coming to meet me?

My softened ear stretches, She teaches me the dance

before my limbs will live them.

     -CM  2.7.20

20.02.06 Balloon Pastor Rain BlurWith much to do and think on in the past days, the really wet weather has been an invitation to go within. I’ve been sitting with Henri Nouwen’s book, The Life of the Beloved in preparation for a study at the church.

As I put myself out there in the world, I keep steady on the point: we each are in the process of becoming what we already are–beloved. I can go on the corner believing in the unique beauty of each person, but I can only go wholeheartedly if I know, too, my own belovedness. I can go offering the simple act of waving, knowing that my belovedness meets yours.

“Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life…all of our life.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

And so, I will offer my hand again when the inner and outer winds and rains have lessened. When we can make out each others faces again on the corner of our shared life together. This is the Wisdom that waves at me through the tapping rain.

2.4.20 Special Election

Voting yesterday at Vantage House.

Folks are often thinking I am running for office, so they may have particularly thought that for Special Election Tuesday. I was able to stop over to my polling place on the walk from church to the corner.

What a gift to run into two neighborhood KC friends in the building. Otherwise, the corner had a decent stream of activity. I was joking with a congregant recently: “I know just about every look at human can give when encountering a strange woman on the corner with a balloon.” And it is true, I don’t press people. I know pretty right away if a person is open to engaging or would like to speak.

One woman stopped with her dog and let me pet her kindly canine. Her: You should carry a sign or something: “Free Hugs.” People don’t know what you are about.

There is a mystery to it with no obvious sign. Less for the mystique, I asure you. More for the simple fact that some folks are able to receive the wave as joy, and some not. A pastor to some. An anonymous (likely fool) person to others. Each remains from the corner’s vantage point, beloved.

I was surprised that the gentleman who has offered the middle finger three times before did not today. I saw him. Saw him turning. And it seemed like he made a conscious decision not to gesture. For whatever reason he made a different choice today: thank you.

My second big thank you is to the person in a parking lot in the morning out and about in Columbia. I had dropped by scarf. As I came back to my car, I saw the scarf hanging on a tree. What a gift to look up and see the scarf. Someone took a chance that the owner would be back and was so kind as to keep the white scarf from tire mark ruin. Do you think the scarf is waving?

20.02.04 Scarf in Tree



2.3.20 Early Spring

Sounds like the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday leading to an early spring. And the early spring got started early…today. It was toward the mid-60s out there, mostly sunny skies. A plethora of folks in shorts.

I was able to walk Wilde Lake in the glorious sunshine with my husband in addition to my afternoon time on the corner. This was my first time with no big, bulky jacket. No mittens at all.

I think I am used to the giant puffy coat as a little bit of a buffer, a bit of a cocoon. I felt a bit more “out there” today on my two month anniversary since I was first on the corner waving. For the first time, I got cussed at. Two young adult males yelled out “F*** Off!” A rite of passage?

How about you: Did you feel more unhidden today with the sudden appearance of spring?

Many of the regulars waved. For the first time the School Bus Driver who always beeps and waves opened his door: “Why you out here?” Me: Just sharing a bit of joy. Him: Oh, I thought you were with Vantage House (Senior Living). Me: No, but I am sure that they’ve got joy there, too! Hope you have a good one!

He waved and the students on the bus were waving, too.

Shortly before I left, a gentleman drove by slowly with advice for me. It nettled me a bit as he doesn’t want me out there as a hazard. But he was taking extended time driving to talk. Perhaps he will come and speak with me one day on foot. I should have encouraged that. What to say next time? Until then, we’ll see how early spring unfolds.

“But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive. ” —Mary Oliver from “Poppies”


20.02.03 Early Spring
View from West Running Brook


1.30.20 The Next Turn

20.01.30 Balloon Pastor Left Turn

How do you know when you are taking the next right step, the next turn in the right direction?

The light changes, your foot moves on the pedal and before you know it, you are facing another way.

But arriving at the correct arrows and heeding them? What if you didn’t get a choice and here you are?

As I think back to watching the cars go by today, I consider all of the decisions brewing. For some, it is a day like most others. For some, big turns are looming:

Will I stay with my partner? Will I look for another job?…

Will I have to consider putting my beloved pet to sleep?

Shortly after I was on the corner, I had to have just such a conversation with a church member. I often see this neighbor of Vantage Point out walking the family dog. Only with them for two seasons, the dog has come to mean so much–greeting them through the tough days, and cuddling up with them as they face health challenges. We pray he doesn’t have to make the big decision with their dog in the next couple of days as they go for a course of treatment. Today he can only continue on the path, acknowledging the heartache and uncertainty, and anticipating that as the next arrow would come up in the direction ahead, that he will have the strength to see it through. Love abounds. For the dog. For this family. For the neighborhood where they have gone on so many winding walks.

And we hold up hope for each arrows that you are facing out there. That is the thing about such intersections. Even if they feel so isolating and lonely, you are in the deep and profound company of others who are experiencing their own pangs that come with change and uncertainty. And even as we idle at the light, we breathe the same air. The sun pierces the sky and our eyes. We are in line until the arrow comes. And we launch where we are to go–each on our path–a part of a greater landscape of love and loss, of hope and healing, of right and left turns.


“If you have a big question mark hanging out in your soul, maybe one that has to do with faith, vocation, or relationships, perhaps your next right thing is to take a break from your frantic search for answers and look around for the arrows instead.”

-Emily P. Freeman, “Look for Arrows,” The Next Right Thing:                                            A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions,”  Revell: 2019.


20.01.30 Balloon Pastor banner



1.29.20 Near and Far

I went to an informational meeting for non-profits today. I was surprised at the end as a woman looked at my nametag: “Oh, I went to the pet blessing at your church last year and we loved coming. We live there in the neighborhood” Me: “Oh, it was like the ark this past fall, all rain! We had it inside. We missed seeing our neighbors.  That whole weekend in October was way wet!”

We got to talking at the end of our tour.

She: Did I maybe see you out before Christmas on the corner waving?

Me: You did! I was out that day and have been out there a bunch since. Hoping to spread some joy…

Okay, I may have gotten a bit chatty after that talking about what spurs me on, the gift of meeting the bicyclists and dog walkers. I talked about the investment I’ve really started to feel for the neighbors and the blocks.

It was such a surprise and joy to make the connection out and about in Columbia. This was my first time having such a conversation with a neighbor away from Vantage Point.

20.01.29 Balloon Pastor ShadowLater in the afternoon, I was back at Running Brook and walked to the very bright corner. I am so used to waving on the corner that I don’t always know what to do on my walks to and from. I do a little waving. Sometimes folks wave at me. There’s something about the little stretch of land that eases me into the ballooning.

Inevitably some of my more lengthy connections happen when I am not out by the intersection. I ran into a neighbor I had met previously with her trusty canine as I exited my post at the end of my time. I met her friend, too, and we struck up a conversation about environmental concerns in town. I got to talk about some of the passions of folks at KC about creation care. We are likely to meet at some point to talk more about envirnomental efforts that are being make in Columbia.

I look forward to seeing my neighbors out and about. Whether far out in this larger community, or right there as I travel to and from my post– I feel the strength of connectivity and the joy that comes when you start to meet and get to know those who reside so close.






1.28.20 Sky Opening

The sky opened up. It was this beautiful pocket of light in the clouds. Reminding me of the ways the Spirit continues to shine through the places in me that might rather close and squirrel away in the gray of the season.

One of the regular bus goers who had been skeptical of me early on had introduced himself recently. Today he said hello again and gave me a spontaneous hug: “Keep it up!” These were good words to hear on a day when I was sluggish to get out.

It sure helped when….

….the biker from yesterday came through again today and we chatted about her exercise. “I wasn’t getting out in the winter, but then I decided I shouldn’t let the cold stop me!”

…a pack of cross country runners came through peppering me with “Good afternoon!”

…I got that bright hug shortly before the middle finger guy came through. It had been a while. I had been wondering about him. Is it strange that it was good to see him? Like “oh, hi! I am glad you are alive and expressing yourself as you need to!” And I still wonder about his story. I wonder about the openings in his life and hope that he finds joy in the company of others. And I am sorry that I bring out something so viscerally unwanted on his journey.

…a mom and her two kids stopped me as I returned to the church wanting to know what I was up to: “I should be around, wave or stop by and talk again!”

And the sky touches each of us, seemingly so far out there, and really all the time within our reach.

20.01.28 Balloon Pastor Opening in the sky canva.JPG


1.27.20 The Serious Church

“Your church is so….serious!”

I wasn’t sure what to make of this description. I met a really nice Elementary  school parent and her son who live in the neighborhood. I love that they stopped to talk on their way home and were able to give me more of a scoop on our future school:

“The teachers are really nice. And things are good…mostly.” Her son chimed in: “Things are good except for the the not great things. But my friends and I run really fast and we are okay.” He smiled. I affirmed his creativity and speed at getting away from uncool stuff and sticking with his good friends. Certainly we all know what it is to have unkind folks who can make a day feel longer and more treacherous. “Overall things are pretty good,” his mom offered. “Thanks for giving me the scoop on the school!”–I was glad to make a parent connection.

When the mom and I got to talk talking about my church and the neighborhood, she immediately made that comment: “your church is so serious!” I came to find out that she meant that we take our garden seriously!:) I let her know that we sure do: “Folks are out there at all different times of the year planting and raking and caring for it. We want it to be a welcoming community space where people can visit and walk their dogs through. You are welcome to visit it!” I am glad that our “seriousness” about our garden is part of our neighborhood reputation.

I get to be the pastor of the serious gardener congregation providing a beautiful, welcoming space in the neighborhood. Thank you Elaine and all those at KC who make the Sacred Garden what it is. We’ve got a Sacred Garden Valentine Fundraiser February 15 coming up! (Details below).


It felt like more people than normal were waving today. Maybe it was my week hiatus of healing and the return today that made it feel like a surge. Maybe it was the electric orange-colored fuzzy mittens! I saw these out with a friend in a sale bin and couldn’t resist! It’s good to be over the flu…schwooo. And it is good to be back seeing all the joy that the good people traveling Columbia are emiting! Thank you for sharing.




Valentine’s Fun

A night of music, dancing, great food, original art and flower arrangements for sale, 50/50 raffle, all to benefit the Kittamaqundi Community Church’s Sacred Garden. Tickets are $20 per person by reservation in advance, $25 at the door. Featured performers: Amy Sens and Luke Chohany with bluegrass, Liz Fixsen with jazz, and Randy Malm with piano favorites.

Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 5 PM – 9 PM

5410 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD

1.20.20 Beloved Community

Friday took me down. I woke with 101.5 fever and chills.

I’m recovering. I made it to church yesterday with a nap thereafter. Today, I was slated to spend the day with my son low key. And I’ve wondered how much time off I should take away from waving in order to get fully well. I’ve been hit with conflicting pulls of wanting to live into commitment and undeniable health constraints.

Yesterday I felt the Spirit’s tug to take this week off from the corner in order to really heal up. It hasn’t meant that I don’t think of the commuters and my little patch of grass. I give the corner a little wave when I drive by. I’m looking to spend the time I would waving, prayerfully engaged in alternative ways.

Today of course it was considering the legacy of Dr. King. This time two years ago, I was deeply immersed in his writing and the historical realities of 1968. I was preparing to lead a group of thirty folks from this area to my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee for the observation of MLK50. We would spend April 4th at the Lorraine Motel for the official program, but we additionally spent several days in the city learning about the Sanitation Strike that drew King to Memphis. We also had the chance to learn about the continued segregation the city faces as well as signs of hope that persist.

Putting together that trip and leading folks to my hometown was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It’s right up there. I remember waking up some mornings before the trip feeling the impossibility of it. I just knew I was called to be in my hometown for that Anniversary and the call was ever: “Don’t go alone. Provide others with the opportunity to be there, too.”

Having been soul-stretched by that experience, I try to take the calls the Spirit brings seriously…even when all the pieces of it don’t feel clear to me. Even if I wake up one morning flat with fever.

Preparing for Memphis was a marathon. Balloon waving is a marathon, too. I don’t know all that will come from this call, but as I’ve shared in previous posts, I feel the shifting within. And this call to joy exists alongside the strife we face. Standing on the corner is not an invitation to cease the work of anti-racism or other efforts combatting injustice.

On the contrary, seeing the faces of all who pass keeps me in love with beloved community. Each child. Each worker. Each elder. From all walks of life. Of every hue. Of every make and model. Seeing the daily expressions of those laboring and forging along at one of life’s intersections continues to stir me beyond complacency.

Lorraine Motel
April 4, 2018 at The Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee