Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Farewell to April...

Two poems today, one from early morning when I was
serenaded by a wren and a robin, perched together on
my deck railing, singing in chorus...the second written
this evening, as I recalled the scenery on my drive home,
the vivid green where only short weeks ago there had
been only brown...my words offered tonight as my way
of saying goodbye to April and bidding a welcome to
May.

true community
Unity
Community
A wren and a robin
Perched on my deck railing 
Voices lifted in chorus
Tiny wren
Full-breasted robin
Differences forgotten
Unimportant
As their two voices
Became one in
Offering greeting
To the new day

spring greenery...
All around me
the world is greening
the green of growth and aliveness
                  of springtime and new birth
every imaginable shade and hue
                             with a few
         beyond imagining, tinged with
         the mysterious, the mystical
The plentious proliferation of blooms
can distract even as they celebrate
the season
         but without the green-
         the beauteous, bountiful, life-giving green-
         there would be no canvas
                    for the blossoming masterpiece of spring


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Night Dreams...

I was tired last evening, so I went to bed early- about 9:30- and
fell quickly into a deep sleep. I became caught up in a dream and
I abruptly awoke at 12:30a.m. with an image clearly in my mind...
a phrase which had come from I-know-not-where but which would
not let me rest until I had put it down on paper, lest it be forgotten
by morning. And so I grabbed my journal and my pen and wrote...
and the phrase turned into complete thoughts and the thoughts
turned into verses...and what emerged in the wee hours of Sunday
morning were these lines...


star light, star bright...
I dreamed myself among the stars
soaring through space
weightless yet still embodied
                          still myself
my head thrown back in utter joy
as, freely borne, I saw in
the Milky Way a light-filled path
     to where? Eternity? Infinity?
Like thistledown blown by the wind,
my flight imposed no destination, no goal
                           only wonder
                                    marvel
                                    amazement at the sights
                                               my eyes beheld
and I awoke fearless...
      doubt and anxiety left behind
      among the ether, amidst the stars
                           of whose very dust I am created
                                                                        constructed
      guided by the hope-filled starlight
                           into another day.


Thinking I could now get back to sleep, I was once again
grasped and held by other thoughts...other images...and so
I wrote again:

uneasy aging...
I will not go gently into that good night,
have no intention of slipping quietly off this mortal coil.
NO! I will be kicking and screaming
     until the end, clinging tightly to life, to living,
     not because I fear what lies ahead-
          for who truly knows what that is?-
    BUT simply because I cherish this life, this world
                 so much, with its wonders and beauty and pain and struggle-
            simply because I have loved it all- though some of it,
                admittedly, in retrospect-
            the hills and valleys, light and darkness, joys and woes-
            every bit of it valuable and oh-so-precious.
This human existence has been incredibly rich and deep
and I will leave it only with
the deepest sadness and reluctance,
     clutching the waning days and months and years
          with both hands,
               determined to wring from it every drop,
               and savoring every delicious taste of honey
                              on my tongue.    

Then it was time to crawl back into my comfortable bed, 
snuggle under the covers, and slip back into the dark and 
comfortable blanket of sleep until the morning light.
                  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Believe?

Tomorrow, I'm supposed to be preaching about Thomas, the
disciple we've tagged with the sobriquet, "Doubting Thomas"...
as if the other ten guys didn't doubt. After all, the story in John's
gospel takes place on the evening of the day of Resurrection...
the women had visited Jesus' tomb and were told by an angel,
no less, that Jesus had been raised, was no longer there. And
Peter and John, two of the inner circle, had checked it out for
themselves and found that the women weren't suffering from
hysteria- the grave was indeed empty. Good news, right? So
why are they gathered together in a locked room, shaking with
fear?

Afraid, perhaps, that Jesus' fate awaited them? Afraid of how
they could go on without their leader, teacher, friend? Or
afraid that if Jesus really were alive and showed up, he would
be totally pissed off at their desertion and denials and all-round
cowardice? That he would ream them out royally for their
failure of faith? Behind closed doors they stood, sat...shaking,
quaking with fear and uncertainty and shame...and doubt. Yes,
indeed...doubt that the resurrection had even really happened.

And let's be honest...when life throws something at us that
totally knocks us for a loop, that tosses a monkey wrench into
the works, that hits us in the solar plexus and makes it hard to
catch our breath, our first reaction is usually fear. We want to
hunker down and lock the doors, to keep out what we fear-
forgetting that the fear is right there inside of us, with us. Like
those earliest disciples, we feel ashamed of ourselves for our
doubts, our fears, our pain, our disbelief. After all, haven't we
been promised Jesus' presence? So, where is he, we wonder.
Has he left me to handle this by myself, all alone? What's all
this stuff about him being a savior? Well, I could use a little
saving right now...couldn't you? Doubt, doubt, and more
doubt...

So let's not be so hard on poor Thomas who, for some reason
was not among the other disciples and so missed Jesus' totally
unbelievable appearance in the midst of his cowering friends.
After all, I suspect that none of them would have believed
the story if they had not seen Jesus with their own eyes...
if he had not come to them in their locked room, if he had
not entered into the place of fear with them, speaking words
of peace. If another one of them had gone out to get the food-
or whatever errand Thomas was on- if it had been Peter or
James or Matthew or Philip, we would today be recalling him
as "Doubting Matthew or Peter, etc."

And there are definitely days, weeks, months, when I would
have to add my own name to the list..."Doubting Linda".
It's easy to believe when all is going well...or perhaps at
those times, faith doesn't even get a second thought. Life
goes on smoothly, without a wrinkle or a hitch...the sun
shines and skies are blue. But when times get tough- when
hard and terrible and painful things happen- the loss of a job,
the end of a marriage, the death of a child, the diagnosis of
cancer, fear sets in, accompanied by doubt, and the hope and
reality of resurrection seems highly unlikely. Retreat into that
locked room seems the most desirable, easiest way to endure...
just crawl into bed and pull up the covers. Maybe it will all just
go away...fade away like a bad dream.

But into the locked room of our heart Jesus comes...always,
ever, reaching out to us through the caring phone call from
a friend...through the spontaneous hug of someone at church...
through meals prepared lovingly by friends and colleagues...
through the words of scripture haltingly remembered...
"The Lord is my shepherd..." even when other prayers seem
out of reach.

It's easy for us to forget, in the midst of this season of
Easter, with the flowers and music and celebration still fresh
in our memories, that nothing about that first Easter was
lily-scented or lovely. It was about fear and doubt and
amazement and disbelief...it was about Thomas and Peter
and John and Matthew and all the rest doubting and fearing
and then, responding...slowly...haltingly, I'm sure, to the
presence and peace of Jesus.

So, on this second Sunday of Easter, perhaps what we
should be confessing together is our faith in what we don't
know for sure...for isn't that really what faith is? Belief
with doubt as its flip side. Perhaps you will join me in
confessing, on this second Sunday of Easter, "I believe;
help my unbelief." For me, those are the most honest
words I can say...and they are from the heart.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Verses...

In the sanctuary on Good Friday...
The world around me
is greening...coming to life
     leaves
     grass
     flowers abound
yet a heaviness of heart
persists, even amidst
nature's bounty
             beauty
Perhaps it is the ever-present
awareness that far fewer
springs await me
than have gone before.
Perhaps it is the loss of
friends and family,
those once so central
in my life.
Perhaps it is the niggling
fear- which I mostly
keep at bay- that I will
outlive the resources
I possess...
     and then what?
Before me hangs a
purple-shrouded cross...
and sitting in this silent
sanctuary, I breathe
this prayer...
    God, grant me the serenity
    to accept what I cannot change...
              aging
              losses
              time passing
     Grant me the courage
     to change the things I can...
               how I use my time
               how I use my money
               how I care for myself
               how I care for and about others
     And grant me, O God, O Spirit of Life and Love,
     the wisdom to know, to discern, to comprehend
     the difference.

This is today- Good Friday, 2014.
I am here, now...
     in this place, at this time...
     and Holy, Blessed One,
               let it be enough. 

present...
Purple pulsates
Precious people
Peace and presence
Patient pondering
Praying...praying...praying
Here at Nazareth
     this Good Friday afternoon

              spring haiku
   The celebration of dogwoods
        caressed by the breeze
         branches swaying in
          the dance of spring

This I Believe...

For some reason, last evening, I was thinking about creeds, about
how the words of the ancient, traditional creeds of the Church no
longer seem to speak my heart's truth, my life's experience. I
realize this is, in some circles, pure heresy, but I have long been a
heretic when it comes to orthodoxy, so my straying off the tried-
and-true and accepted path is nothing new. In fact, if truth be told,
I spend most of my time off the beaten spiritual path, either
wandering in the wilderness of my own doubts and questions or
dancing in the cleansing, enlightening rain of joy and wonder and
mystery with no need for any answers at all.

And so, when I awoke this morning with these things still tumbling
around in my mind, I decided to compose my own personal creed,
putting into words my heartfelt beliefs- at least for today. I share
them in the hope that they may speak truth to some of you, too,
fellow pilgrims.

+I believe in a God who perpetually creates all that is living, who
   is the energy that is the source of our being, who breathes into
   us the very breath of life. In God we live and move and have
   our being.

+I believe that Jesus of Nazareth, who became the Christ, embodied
   the living, compassionate nature of God, and incarnated the
   truth of God's accepting, welcoming, forgiving grace.

+I believe that the Living Spirit embodied in Jesus is alive in me,
   in the world, in all things living, and connects us to the Source
   and to one another- a living, breathing, interconnected web of
   loving energy and strength and hope of which we are all a part.

+I believe that the Truth resides in many forms, in many places, 
   and that the Creating, Creative God speaks in a myriad of spiritual
   tongues. I believe that every being is a child of God and of
   inestimable value, thus deserving of respect and loving care. I 
   believe that our call is to embody- insofar as we are enabled- 
   the loving inclusion and acceptance of God in our thoughts, words, 
   and deeds, and to bring the Reign of God to this place and time.
          This I believe...



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Being in the NOW...and Loving It!

Today, I spent the day, the entire day, in Charlotte, seeing two
plays, productions of the Children's Theatre of Charlotte. Oh, yes,
there were many things, so very many things, I could have been
doing here at home...like cleaning the basement...or working in
the yard...or doing laundry...or balancing my checkbook...but I
chose- yes, CHOSE- to immerse myself in imagination and wonder
and fantasy and joy and the laughter of children...to be actively
present in the NOW of what was happening onstage. And it so
filled me with pleasure that I will be borne along on the feeling
for many days to come.

Of course, it helps that my son, Mark, was involved with both
productions. He created the amazing owl puppets for "The Owl
who Was Afraid of the Dark" and worked with the actors who
were bringing them to life onstage. And he was the voice of and
brought life to the huge "Reluctant Dragon", an amazing creation
which took four actors to manipulate and animate. Both of the
performances today were school shows, with the audience made

up of children from area schools and their teachers. I was clearly
the only "elder" in the audience and drew more than a few looks
from the kids as they filed past where I was sitting, I'm sure
wondering just what this white-haired, grandmotherly-looking
woman was doing there. But part of the enjoyment for me was
seeing and hearing their responses to both shows...with the
actors eliciting from their young charges true involvement in
the stories unfolding before them.

I love live theater. Indeed, there is nothing like it...and as much
as I enjoy films, I am totally enthralled by a live performance in
which there can be no second takes, no do-overs...where the
actors are giving fully of themselves to the audience, over and
over and over again in performance after performance, the lines
they are speaking from memory being enhanced by deep emotion,
by deeper commitment to bringing their characters to life. It is
far more than entertainment for me...for them, too. It is a way
of connecting with the deepest places in the hearts and minds of
their audiences...of reminding us that we are indeed part of the
same humanity and that we share so much of the human
experience.

Do I think for a minute my young fellow-audience members
were thinking such deep and profound thoughts? Not at all. But
being exposed to the magic- and there is no other word for it-
the MAGIC of live theater is something which will enrich them
in ways no other form of entertainment can. So thank you,
dear Mark and all of your compatriots in the cast, for giving me
such a beautiful, joy-filled, magical day. Just imagine that you
are seeing the smile on my face for the next several days.




Monday, April 14, 2014

Gray Skies...

The grayness of the day is
Like a shroud
Reflects my mood
Makes me long to
Crawl back into bed
And sleep it all away
Perhaps I will-
For a little while-
Only the bed is made
And remaking it
Seems hardly worth
The effort- so I'll stay up
And face the day with a
Less-than-perfect
Frame of mind
My attitude needing a
Radical adjustment-
Which seems too
Complicated to contemplate
At this very lonely
Gray moment...
Maybe later

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Resurrection...YES!




As this Holy Week begins, resurrection, new life, is evident all
around, in every flower and blooming, leafing tree, where only a
few short weeks ago, there was only barrenness and it seemed
as if Spring would never come. Yet, here it is, once again, shining
with the promise that lay dormant in the quiet buds on recently-
ice-covered branches...alive with brimming life, reassuring us once
again, yet again, that out of death comes life...out of the darkest
places in our lives comes the grace of hope...out of the tombs in
which we seem to lie enshrouded comes the wonder, the joy, the
hope, the gift of beginning again.

For Christians, this week is a time to walk the last difficult road
with Jesus of Nazareth, the road which went from the seeming
triumph of Palm Sunday to his arrest, torture, humiliation, trial,
and finally, his death by that execution method so favored by the
Romans- crucifixion. For those not among the faithful- the
Christian faithful- this often seems like an exercise in masochism
of the worst sort. But that misunderstanding only underscores the
very real journey which we make each Holy Week...the journey
which takes us into the deepest, darkest valley, into pain and
suffering, into the reality which is life...the journey which, at last
and with wonderful clarity, takes us to an empty cross, an empty
tomb, and the joyous realization that transformation, new life,
resurrection, can and does happen in this world of ours.

For this remembrance, anamnesis in Greek- living remembrance-
of the happenings of Jesus' final days is, for us humans, nothing
less than a living reminder of the realities of life...of the fact that
life is indeed filled with dark places, with pain, with dreadful and
dark tombs, with deaths of many sorts. To deny this is to deny our
humanity. To deny this is to wall ourselves off from the very
emotions which link us to one another in our shared humanity. 
To deny this is to forget that we are all one and part of the One 
that is over all and in all and around all and part of all.

And the denouement, the culmination of this week of being real
with one another and with ourselves, of recognizing and opening
ourselves to and acknowledging the pain of living is the glory and
beauty and wonder and amazement and hope of Easter, when we
celebrate- with mouths agape in total amazement- the surprise of
God in the resurrection. New life DOES happen...new beginnings 
ARE possible...the reality of resurrection is all around us and in us 
and among us. And so, on Easter Sunday morning, the traditional 
greeting among Christians is one of affirmation and hope: "Christ 
is risen! He is risen indeed!", reminding us that this same new 
life is pulsating in us.

May you have a blessed journey through Holy Week and may the
wondrous love of God through the peace of Christ be with you all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Home, Sweet Home...


I have come to love living in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina.
Oh, yes, our state has its share of problems, not the least of which
is our present retrogressive state government and its rush to
enact laws which will do anything but enhance our state' image
in the eyes of many, including many of its own residents. But this
area of the state which I have called home for the past twenty-
four years has been blessed with an overwhelming abundance
in the realm of the Arts. And for an art/film/theater/music lover
like me, it is my idea of heaven.

My own city, High Point, is admittedly lacking in this realm, though
we are home to North Carolina Shakespeare (which has struggled
mightily with finances in recent years), the High Point Theater
series, and the High Point Community Chorus- of which I am
delighted to be a part this year. But living, as I do, between the
other two major metropolitan areas, I am able to easily access the
incredible opportunities available there (unfortunately- and much
to my chagrin and confusion- this does not seem to be the pattern
of many of my fellow-residents who seem to view my frequent
forays to "distant" cities- about twelve to eighteen miles- as
something akin to intergalactic travel.) But I digress...

Right now, Winston-Salem is in the midst of hosting the River
Run Film Festival, ten days of new and independent films from
around the world, this year showing 140 in all...some full-length,
others very short, each one the unique creative endeavor of a
group of dedicated film artists. The films has been presented at
five different venues, and by this day's end, I had viewed thirteen
films at four different locales. For a movie buff like me, this is
pure delight. A number of the films were shown this year at the
Sundance Film Festival, several at Tribecca, which indicates the
high quality of the offerings here. I have laughed, cried, been
enlightened, been horrified, but never for a minute bored.

Winston is also the home of the North Carolina School of the Arts,
and the various artistic productions it presents each year are
not only incredibly inexpensive to attend but are the amazingly
professional work of students. For history buffs, there is Old
Salem, a lovely restoration of an early section of this city,
settled by the Moravians. And for those who admire the visual
arts, there is the Reynolda House Gallery and the galleries at
SECCA- the Southeast Center for the Creative Arts. The great
resurrection of the arts district on Trade Street has been
nothing short of amazing, with galleries and restaurants and
shops to tempt every taste. And how could I neglect to mention
the Piedmont Opera, whose productions this season included
The Flying Dutchman and South Pacific, both of which were
excellent, as well as the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra,
whose concert in March with guest artist, violinist Joshua Bell,
was nothing short of sublime.

Of course, I cannot neglect our third Triad city, actually the
largest of the three, known as The Gate City- Greensboro. From
the wonderful live, creative, affordable theater offered by Triad
Stage to the vintage films and special concerts held at the
historic Carolina Theater, to the newly-opened independent
Scuppernong BookStore to the long-standing Green Bean
Coffee Shop, downtown has a great deal to offer. And I can't
forget the Greensboro Historical Museum, a real local treasure,
and the Civil Rights Museum, housed in the original Woolworth's,
site of the historic Greensboro lunch counter sit-in. Unique
in its own right is the Servant Leadership School, housed at
beautiful Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Green Street,
offering as it does classes and discussions groups to both enrich
the spiritual life and inspire to service all those who attend.

Gracious! I almost forgot the Greensboro Symphony and the
Bel Canto singers and the countless offerings at the War
Memorial Auditorium and the Coliseum Complex. And I can't
begin to name the countless galleries, displaying the work of
innumerable talented and dedicated local artists.

As you can see, the Triad is rich in music, theater, and all
the visual arts, offering something for every taste, feeding
the spirit as well as the eyes and ears. Oh, yes, I love living
here...and, no, I am not being employed by the Chamber
of Commerce or the Arts Council. I am just loving it here!