Friday, April 29, 2011

Huzzah for the Brits!

Well, my fellow Americans, say what you will but the Royal Wedding could not have happened in the U.S.A.- not just because we don't have actual royalty (though some of our celebrities seem to think of themselves that way!) but because we seem to have forgotten the civility and good manners which mark the behavior of our sisters and brothers across the pond...seem to have left good manners behind in our haste to rush into the future and leave the past behind.

Notably, the new princess, Kate, chose a gown marked by beauty and elegance, simple and yet au courant in its style. Future brides, please take note! And the tenderness between the young couple was truly touchng, without being maudlin or over the top. Then there were the crowds...millions of people behaving well...no pushing or shoving but standing respectfully even as they cheered and waved their Union Jacks...being permitted to get near to both Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace without incident. And even the weather cooperated, the sun coming out, in spite of forecasts calling for rain.

And though I did not get up early to watch the entire wedding as some of my more Anglophilic friends did, I'm sure, what I did view and review...and will continue to re-view, I'm sure, for several days...impressed me with its successful blend of tradition and modernity...with its expressions of good taste and good behavior.
And so a tip of the hat- did you see those hats?!?!- AMAZING!- to the British, to the new royal couple, to the day's celebration, even in the midst of the diastrous news from our American southeast. May the sun continue to shine upon William and Katherine. Huzzah, indeed!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Day After...

Yesterday- Easter Sunday- I awoke to the sounds of "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah" coming from my clock radio. Our local NPR station was airing the complete Messiah and I had the good fortune to waken to this sublime music...waken to sunshine...to blooming azaleas...to a glorious day! Could Easter morning have been any more perfect?

Worship at our dear little church outside Lexington, NC, included a procession to the graveyard next to the church, where we sang and prayed together before returning to the sanctuary for the rest of the service. And though I personally have no one in that lovely old resting place, I could see on the faces of many present that they were remembering those loved and lost...for this time, at least.

And then, in the middle of the night- quite literally, the middle!- I received a phone call from my Rwandan "grandson", Emmanuel, the incredibly bright young boy I am trying to help with school fees so he can remain in school, since his sister and brother-in-law, both teachers at a primary school, don't make enough money to support themselves and their son, as well as Emmanuel, PLUS play for his schooling and their own on-going studies at university in order to keep their teaching certificates current. It was about 6:30a.m. in Rwanda and the family was up and getting ready to head out to their respective schools, and they wanted to thank me for sending the school fees for the new term.

Amazing, isn't it, how much we take for granted in this "land of the free and home of the brave"? Free public education through high school for everyone...everyone! What a hope and promise that is for our young people, for our nation. And yet so many fail to take advantage of the opportunity offered, instead complaining and goofing off and generally spitting in the eye of those who attempt to teach, to impart knowledge, to open the doors of the mind, to stimulate curiosity and creativity.

Emmanuel rides almost 2 hours to his school each day...the food there is very sparse and he usually arrives home late and hungry, with hours of schoolwork ahead of him each evening. And yet, he does it gladly, determined to finish secondary school and eventually, go to university. He sees a whole world of opportunity spread before him if he can only get an education, and so he works hard and calls this white-haired grandmother with joy in his voice to say "thank you so much" for his school fees for another term.

Guess I've gone far afield from the beauty and promise of Easter, and yet, perhaps not. New life, resurrection, is all around us, all the time, if we just take the opportunity to open our eyes to see. Whether it is the new life which emerges with the blossoms each spring or the new life which education promises, it takes eyes to see and a mind to comprehend and a heart to appreciate. Both the opening and closing of my Easter Sunday reminded me of that...the hope and promise of new life. Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Tuesday


A beautiful good morning, dear ones, far and near. Another day of our Holy Week journey...another day of our life's holy journey... another day of asking and wondering and seeking answers for the questions of life. Another day of trying to define "faith", since this is what keeps so many of us on the path.

Is "faith", perhaps, the effort to believe in light when we're covered by clouds and cannot see the sun? Of course, the sun is there...we know that with the head, the intellect..but the heart questions, doubts...and so the skepticism born of our emotional blindness renders us unable to see truth, experience reality...the reality that the clouds will come, time and again, and that rainy days can be the most blessed of times, bringing green and glorious life, punctuated by living color.

May the day ahead be filled with the awareness of light, of sunshine, even if gray clouds fill your vision. This, too, shall pass...as surely as day follows night...as surely as the seasons change...as surely as the lovely moon waxes and wanes. Live in that certainty this day, dear ones, and know, KNOW, that you are loved.

change
Change comes…inevitably
                          certain
          discomfitting us
          prodding us to alter our position
                              to move
                              to go in a different direction.                               
And like the children we once were,
          we cry out, “Why?”
                            “It hurts!”
                            “What will happen now?”
          clinging with clenched hands
                   to the familiar
                       the safe
                       the what-once-was.
Why do we so easily forget that
only when we let go of the past,
the familiar, the safe, can new life happen?
                                 It’s called RESURRECTION.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Monday


Good morning, dear ones. The sun is shining brightly on this Holy Monday, even as so many here in Carolina are digging out from the worst spate of deadly tornados this state has seen since 1984. Over 20 dead...and property destroyed in scenes which resemble a war zone or the pictures we have been seeing of the earthquake's devastation in Japan.

More than 60 tornados were reported across our state on Saturday, hopscotching in a haphazard fashion across the capitol city, Raleigh, and many rural hamlets, destroying a Lowe's Home Improvement store in Sanford and then moving willy-nilly through residential neighborhoods, flattening one house while leaving its neighbor untouched. Official tallies include more than 130 serious injuries, 65 homes destroyed, and another 600 damaged significantly, while many major roadways remain blocked by downed trees.

And those of us in the Christian community are venturing into the week we call "Holy" because it is the time we commemorate most fully the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth, the one who came to be called The Christ. From yesterday's joyous procession with palms, we will venture into the darkest valley of death on Good Friday, in order to come out on the other side in the light of Easter Sunday morning. But we cannot, we simply cannot ignore the pain and devastation of this week's journey if we are to truly appreciate the wonder and grace of new life- even though walking through pain is something we seldom do willingly. Yet the axiom, The only way out is through, is most certainly true, and we are reminded of this each Holy Week.

But here in Carolina, we are being reminded most fully this Holy Week by the very real devastation which our sisters and brothers are experiencing from the unexpected weekend storms. They have no choice but to "walk through" the pain and upheaval which has torn their lives to shreds...and their plight reminds the rest of us how tenuous life really is...how out-of-our-control. And countless families are walking through a very real "valley of the shadow of death" as they mourn the loss of loved ones, mourn the loss of homes and property, mourn the loss of what had been their lives.

And so, as you begin this long, mournful, and difficult walk in the steps of Jesus this week- if, indeed, that is part of your spiritual discipline, your faith journey, and even if it's not- remember those here in Carolina, those in Japan, those in Libya and in the Congo and in Iraq and Afghanistan whose walk this week will indeed be into the pain of life. Hold them in your heart and send love...and then, give thanks for the life you have been given, confident that there is beauty and happiness and new life on the other side of the pain. Thanks be to God!

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of  traveling.
-Margaret Lee Runbeck

dawn
Pink striations mark
          the site…
                   the sun’s path
                   paved with beauty
                             with glory…
A catch of breath-         
          loveliness does that-
          reminds me that
                   life is holy…
                   creation is holy…
                   and, yes, I am holy…
The light-stained path
          spreads out before me…         
          reminding me that
                   this life IS holy ground.
                   And I take off my shoes-
and DANCE!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Windy Wednesday

The sun is shining brightly today here in Carolina, which is lovely... yesterday there was more rain and today, there is lots of wind...and my taupe Civic is yellow...and I'm sneezing a lot, with a perpetually runny nose...POLLEN!!!

Can't tell you how incrediby beautiful the dogwoods are this year...everywhere i look i see bloomng clouds of white with an occasional touch of pink. And more azaleas are bursting forth every day. It's odd...each season i think the world around me couldn't be more beautiful...and then the seasons change and i am swept off my feet by the present one. This year, spring is especially lovely, methinks, and i am loving it! i saw some irises yesterday...can the peonies be far behind? Sadly, my lovely little violets are almost gone, but they lasted a long time and created a beautiful carpet in my back and side yard.
 
Cleaned my room first thing this morning...it was unbelievably dusty, with bunnies hiding everywhere! Now it's clean and lovely- for a day or so, at least. And next week is Holy Week! Can you believe it? How did it get to be mid-April so quickly? Seems only yesterday i was struggling to remember to write "2011" on checks, and now almost 1/3 of the year is over. How does that happen??? Some folks say time passes more quickly as we age and i'm inclined to agree...though "fun" times seems to come slowly and are over quickly...and perhaps that has always been the way of things.
 
As i sit here in my little rattan chair, i think of and picture the faces of my friends and family, scattered in so many places all over the globe. I love doing this...it makes me feel very close to each and all of them...and as i picture each precious face, i surround that person with love and light, with my deepest love and blessing, with the hope that this connection will be felt, will make a difference for them, as it surely does for me. And so the day begins...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Teary Tuesday


weeping...
Tears water the page before me
as recent rains have watered
the greening lawn
My heart is heavy with a sadness
I cannot explain,
put into words
Regret? The sense of wasted time
and opportunity? The wish tor
something different? something more?
The longing for companionship?
The passing of the years?
I do not know...
I only know that I hurt today,
feel empty, unfulfilled...
and the tears keep falling.

Sometimes, like this morning, i am overcome by a sense of deep, unrelenting sadness coming from the very core of my being. Has that ever happened to you? Of course, it doesn't help that the sky is heavy and overcast, since my emotions tend to be greatly influenced by the weather. But more is going on here, i think, than can be laid at the feet of meteorological events.

I am carrying a burden of heaviness which i am finding it impossible to put down: the on-going concern about my youngest son, Paul's depression...the very real problems of my Rwandan "grandson", Emmanuel, and his family...the financial difficulties of the non-profit to which i have devoted so much of the past year...the health and happiness of my dear friend, Karen...the relentless path of the Parkinson's disease which is taking my precious Uncle John...the declining attendance at the small church which i presently serve...the overwork and underpay of both of my son, Mark, and daughter, Hope, as they seek to work with integrity in their respective fields of theatre and caring for the environment.

Is it any wonder that tears fall? That i feel engulfed, for long moments, by despair? But then, remarkably, i find myself recalling the request from a friend, a couple of years ago, for my prayers, for my presence...i re-read the poem i wrote in response to her and find that the words are resonating today just as true as when i wrote them. It's time, once again, to turn my thoughts, my focus, from my own feelings- as legitimate as they are- toward those who need what i have to offer, as insignificant as it frequently seems

friend to friend
A precious friend has shared
her fears, her need for presence,
for prayer. She has entrusted
herself into my hands, my heart…
and so here I am- fully present
                                    fully prayerful
my love & intention & attention
directed to her need…to her…
Her healing- whatever that may be-
lies in other hands than mine…
     but the heart she has entrusted
     to me I hold gently but firmly in my
     hands, cradling it with my own loving care.

Whether I feel worthy or not, I am
being the presence of God for her
right now, shining the light of Love
into her paralyzing darkness, using
my words to convey hope, to stir
courage, to provide a safety net
when the burden she is carrying
knocks her off the precarious path
she is traveling by necessity alone-
          but not unaccompanied.


Love surrounds you, dear one…
cocoons you,

cushions you,
comforts & protects you- not from
the storm itself, but from the
uncertainty, the loneliness of
walking this perilous road alone…
Rest in the certainty of being
companioned…breathe in the
holy peace of friendship & love…
and walk in the confident truth
that, no matter what happens,
‘all manner of things shall be well.’  


And so, for each one of you who, today, occupies a space within my heart, know that i am holding you, loving you, caring for you, and sending you every bit of strength, courage, and love that i can... even from the place of my own weakness. The tears i shed are for you as well as for myself, and they are the stuff of compassion...
watering the space between us and turning it into Holy Ground.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It was a Misty, Moisty Morning...

It was a misty, moisty Saturday morning, far colder than the previous several days, as hundreds of people of every size, shape, and age gathered at Center City Park for the Greensboro Walk to Defeat ALS. Under tents scattered throughout the park, team members were registering and donning their respective team T-shirts, while shivering figures lined up at the popular beverage table for steaming cups of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, using the hot cups as hand warmers for unexpectedly-icy fingers.

Our team, Karen's Courage, had come together to walk in honor of our friend, Karen Kelly, who, at the age of 40, was diagnosed with ALS last summer. It has been a difficult and challenging year for Karen, husband Shane, and 9-year-old daughter, Sophie, but all three were there to welcome those
of us who were ready to make the 2-mile walk.

Some info: often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis. Every 90 minutes a person in this country is diagnosed with ALS and every 90 minutes another person will lose their battle against this disease. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries...and the cause is unknown. ALS is probably THE MOST complex disease there is.

It is also one of the most expensive diseases for the patient and his or her family. Much of the equipment and home modifications are not covered under insurance...and yet are essential if the individual is to continue living life as fully as possible. The Kellys are adding a master bedroom/bath on to their house which will have to have a roll-in shower and a ramp outside to enable Karen to get around. They will also have to get a van that is up-fitted for a wheelchair.  The list can go on and on. This means that every dollar raised really counts because the local ALS chapter gives $500 grants to families every quarter to help with the kinds of things listed above, which means that Karen and her family can get $2000 a year to help defray some of the costs.

Seeing the beautiful, courageous folks with this difficult disease in their wheelchairs and knowing what lies ahead of them is a stark, in-your-face reminder for all of us fortunate enough to be "able-bodied"...a reminder to be thankful for each and every day of good health...a reminder to live in the moment and to cherish each one...each person...each beautiful and glorious and precious second of this thing we call "life".
 
So this is why we walked, the nearly-170 members of our team. This is why we have accosted our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow church members. This is why we gathered on a misty, moisty, overcast, chilly day in downtown Greensboro to walk. It was our way of saying, "Karen, we love you. Karen, we value you and your presence in our lives. Karen, we're with you every step of the way on the difficult journey ahead. And don't thank us...there was nowhere else any of us would rather have been."

(And by the way, our team, with an original goal of $10,000, raised a total of $36,000!!! )

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where's the Power?

No power! How ironic, after having spent a week with the man born blind in John's gospel, with the Pharisees wandering around in the "dark", that I should be in the dark myself, quite literally. And with the darkness is the silence...the house is completely, totally silent with the only sounds i hear the wind and rain outside, the gusts sometimes threatening to shake the very foundations of my old house...the branches of my precious Japanese maple tossing in a frenzied dance, while bird feeders sway wildly- and the birds are nowhere to be seen.

It is only at times like this that i realize how noisy life has become, how- even in what usually passes for silence- the background noise persists...the hum of the refrigerator, the whisper of heat or air conditioning through the ducts, the various motors of appliances humming and thrumming along, polluting our silence with the taken-for-granted sound track of living.

So here i sit, on this blustery, rainy day, the only light coming through the big living room windows- and suddenly, there is a robin! A one robin, hopping around the side yard, celebrating the worms the rain is bringing to the surface...making the most of the gifts nearly hidden in this misty, moisty morning. And if he can, why can't i?

it's April...
nothing to do...
nowhere to go...
radio & TV & computer
     out of juice,
     their electrical life's blood disconnected
     by the blowing winds
          the persistent storm.

everything outoors
is in motion...branches tossing & turning,
trees and bushes swaying,
     pausing for bare moments for
     the wind to catch its breath,
     only to resume its bluster once again.
the wind chimes on the porch
play a crazy, jangling tune
in accompaniment to the wind's wild voice,
as gusts of rain assault the house-
first this side and then that-
as if uncertain of their source or
     destination...

nothing to do...
nowhere to go...
and so i sit,, surrounded
     by the silence,
     absorbed in the spectacle of
     Nature's furious power,
     even as one lone robin
     harvests worms in the
     side yard where the
     tender white lilac
     bows & sways & nods her approval.
It is April.