Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Laughed...I Cried...I Enjoyed...

I laughed out loud, I cried, I was captivated every minute by a
little Spanish film (English subtitles) about the relationship
between a play-boy gigolo father and the daughter dumped
on him by her mother after the two had a brief fling in Acapulco,
Mexico.

"Instructions Not Included" was a total surprise to me, and as
I have checked it out on-line, it has apparently been quite a
surprise at the box office, too. Great cast...lovely, tender story...
and don't be misled by the poster or the trailers which seem to
indicate this is JUST a comedy. Laughter abounds, yes, but
the story goes far deeper than the usual yuck-fest which has
seemed to dominate so much of American comedic films in
recent years. It's about relationships...life changes...over-
coming fears...truth...brokenness...healing- anything but the
usual cookie-cutter model of a comedy. Actually, it fits the
Shakespearean model of a "comedy" far more closely than
what the American audience has become accustomed to
seeing.

I emerged from the theater (I was the only person in the
particular auditorium in which I sat) wiping tears from my
eyes but with a smile on my face. And it takes quite a
film to do that, I'm sure you'll agree. So if you want to spend
a couple of hours immersed in a lovely movie with themes
enough to touch every heart, then this is my recommendation.
And believe me, the subtitles detract not one bit...in fact,
it was fun to try to see how much of the Spanish I understood.
Remember, it's called "Instructions Not Included", all about
parenthood and relationships, sorrow and joy. What more
could you want for $6.75? (The price of a Senior ticket at my
favorite theater.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Arrival...

Yesterday at 4:44p.m. EDT, the fall equinox heralded the official
arrival of autumn. I'm not at all sure of how this precise time was
determined; I only know that here in my part of Carolina, it was
a marvelous, glorious, beautiful day...Carolina-blue skies, bright
sunshine, and clear, cool air. It could not have been more perfect,
except...

Yesterday was the funeral of a former parishioner and long-time
friend of mine. Her untimely death on Wednesday came as the
result of a traffic accident, caused by a man- under the influence
of prescription drugs and driving without a license- running a
stop sign and plowing into her minivan. Both Teresa and her
little dog were killed; the man was not- and though he has been
charged with three or four felonies, that is small comfort to the
family and friends of this life-filled, vibrant woman.

When will we ever learn, I wonder, that an automobile is a lethal
weapon in the wrong hands? That drugs, including those both
legal and illegal, those ingested in pill or liquid or powder form,
simply do not mix with the act of getting behind the wheel of a
car. Of course, the reality is that anyone taking drugs of any
kind may have their common sense so impaired that they have
no real conception of the risk they are taking with their behavior.
Kind of a Catch-22, isn't it? and more than a little scary...
especially since it can have such far-reaching and long-lasting
consequences...like those I witnessed yesterday afternoon.

Which is how life is, I guess. Beauty interposed with tragedy...
death in the midst of life...a gorgeous harvest moon shedding its
light on a weeping mother...a funeral on a gorgeous Carolina day.
And this is the bottom-line message of the Christian faith to
which I adhere: the oxy-moronic truth of the grace-filled presence
of God in the midst of all of life...birth, death, resurrection, new life...
pain and pleasure, beauty and ugliness, joy and sorrow...and the
promise that it all continues, cycle after cycle...eternally, un-ending,
world without end. Let it be so...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Talking about the Weather...and More...

Today's weather here in my part of Carolina can be described in
one word: GLORIOUS. Temperature presently 66 degrees, bright
sunshine, Carolina-blue skies with a dusting of fluffy white,
cotton-candy clouds, and a slight breeze tickling the leaves in the
trees outside my window. Our first taste of autumn- and this
thrive-in-cool-weather person loves it.

We've had a very wet summer here, with an overabundance of
gray days, something unusual for us, and I heard lots of griping
from folks on those days, as they expressed the wish that the
wet weather would end. And so it has, as we've moved into a
dry cycle which has some of those same folks complaining
about the need to water their flowers or lawns.

Kind of a metaphor for life, it seems to me, this love-hate
relationship with the weather- OVER WHICH WE HAVE NO
CONTROL. And perhaps that is part of the reason for the griping
and complaining. It just happens to us- and we are left
contemplating what has occurred, what is occurring, with a
sense of helplessness- and sometimes- as in the case of
things like the massive rains and flooding in Colorado-
hopelessness.

It sounds trite, but life happens, just as weather happens...
out of our control, often beyond our understanding...and we
are left with the choice to gripe, complain, kvetch, become
depressed by it all, or to look it in the eye with acceptance
(which is not the same thing as resignation), a sense of
okay-ness, and get on with life. Of course, an important part
of the "getting on with it" is being open, aware, awake, to the
many surprises which await us on this often-messy, always-
challenging journey we call Living.

I had gone out late this morning to redeem my free beverage
at the local Starbucks and was returning home when I chanced
to glance to my right at the Krispy Kreme and received a
wonderful surprise: white irises in full bloom. Now, had this
been April or May, the spectacle would have been lovely, but
in mid-September, it was truly a miracle. And so I pulled into
the parking lot, got out my cell phone, and snapped a couple
of photos. Why they were blooming now is a mystery- but I
was intensely grateful that I happened to turn my head in
their direction and saw them.


So it is with life- and weather. In the midst of storms, a
rainbow...in the midst of sorrow, the joy of a friend's presence...
in the midst of winter's cold, a dusting of pure, white snow...
in the midst of hardship and discouragement, a helping hand
reached out to comfort and encourage.

Today is GLORIOUS...and I welcome, accept, rejoice in that
with my arms and heart wide open...for who knows what
tomorrow will bring? And in it all, I am reminded to be truly
thankful- for life, for weather, for surprises. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mostly Lost...Truly Found...


Lost & found...the themes of this week's gospel reading...of all
the scripture readings, actually. Makes me think of recent
personal losses- oh, nothing intense or profound like the loss of
a loved one, and yet at a deep level, intensely profound for me.

Recently, I have been experiencing a problem in my right hip
which has been affecting both my mobility and my sense of
comfort and well-being. The result of an old injury caused by an
auto accident, the problem flared this summer as I tried to keep
up with mostly-younger people in a strength-and-flexibility
class at a local yoga studio. By the end of five weeks (I couldn't
even go to the sixth!) I was in almost-continuous pain and
found myself walking...getting in and out of the car...getting
up from a chair...navigating the stairs...like a decrepit old woman.
ME- who had prided myself on remaining as youthful as possible-
at least in terms of my physical abilities and good health.

Now, I have long acknowledged the reality of my aging, clearly
seeing the encroachment of wrinkles on my face and neck and
hands and knees. I refuse to dress like a twenty-something and
have become quite comfortable with my long-white hair. But in
these recent weeks, I have come to realize that this loss of
mobility is causing me deep, intense grief, and has been engen-
dering more than a little fear in the heart of this fiercely-independent
aging person.

Having had some good success with acupuncture in the past to
relieve pain, I returned to the same caring practitioner and after
three weekly treatments, I am doing much better...at least a
50% improvement. But I have had to allow another loss to
happen- I have had to be willing to relinquish my need to be
active, bust, physically on-the-go, and to permit my body to
rest and heal. Indeed, when I asked Diane on Monday if I could
resume yoga practice, she smiled, patted my hand, and said in
her soothing voice, "There is a time for everything, and this is
the time to rest so your body can heal. Activity will come."

So- lots of reading...far more at-home time...eschewing daily
walks and yoga practice...and finding in the process a sense
of peace, even joy, in the awareness of my dear body's needs...
acknowledging both the losses and gifts of aging...and finding
myself held in the arms of Love, ministered to by the hands
of healing, the Divine in the human flesh of my acupuncturist.

Oh, I know- this is nowhere as life-shattering as the discovery
of the author of one of my favorite hymns, "Amazing Grace",
when he felt God saving him from his life as a slave-trader,
but I feel quite intensely and intently his words- "I once was
lost, but now I'm found..." Lost youth...lost mobility...lost
self-image...and yet so much found- serenity, peace, healing,
awareness. And I can truly say today with my patron saint,
Julian of Norwich, "All manner of things shall be well."
      Thanks be to God.