Sunday, December 28, 2014

Into Each Life...Etc., Etc., Etc.

You know that old adage, "Into each life a little rain must fall"?
Well, mine "fell" yesterday morning in the form of a bottle of
olive oil. You see, early yesterday, as I was preparing some of the
food which would be consumed so eagerly my whole family later in
the day, I opened a cabinet to get a bottle of olive oil, but instead
of grasping it, I bumped it somehow, causing it to fall on my left
foot. It hurt like the very devil, and I hopped around muttering
vague obscenities under my breath (the rest of the household was
asleep and I was trying to be considerate), then retrieved my
reliable remedy, Arnica, rubbed it on the aching toe, and promptly
forgot about it in the overwhelming busyness of the day, during
which I was almost continuously on my feet.

Only after the last of the thundering herd (I say this with deepest
affection, you understand) had departed, the dishwasher was
loaded, the carpet vacuumed, and the house generally returned to
some semblance of order, did I realize that I was limping. And when
I took off my slippers and socks, lo and behold I was greeted by
this sight.
 
I know, feet are not exceptionally lovely at the best of times, but
the vivid discoloration of this poor toe was shocking, even to me.
And the discomfort was now considerable (aided and abetted by
the sight before me, I'm sure). So- more Arnica, a couple of
Aleve, and off to bed, the only sure-fire remedy for anything and
everything, in my book.

Presided at worship and preached wearing slippers this morning,
as shoes were just too uncomfortable. Stopped by the open house
of some friends- delightful to see their grown children again and
to catch up a bit with the family. And then it was home again,
home again, where I have been comfortably ensconced in my
lovely red recliner, staying off my foot as much as possible in
order to facilitate healing. Guess if it's the price I have to pay
for the lovely and family-filled day I had yesterday, I'll take
the "rain" of today. (Sigh.) But that d**ned toe sure does hurt.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Just Playing...

After an emotionally draining week, I decided what I needed was
some play, and so I've been playing with a new app on my Kindle,
Pic Collages. Such fun. You see, I'm not one of those folks who
makes photo albums- though I did  do that for each of my three
children a number of years ago as a Christmas gift. But I have so
many photos stored in my computer and on the Cloud, and when
I discovered this app, I just began having fun. So far, I've
completed six of them and I intend to do more. They'll be saved
in "my photos" so I can take them out and look at them whenever
I choose. So lovely. And in case you missed the ones I've posted
on Facebook, I'll include them here. Play is indeed a grand and
glorious gift of God.

 







Saturday, December 20, 2014

Death Walked In...


A difficult week...there's no other way to put it. Beginning with
a memorial service for the son of a dear woman in my congregation
-the third son this woman has lost- just after returning from a
restful but emotional retreat in the NC mountains...followed
by a Tuesday e-mail from a dear high school friend, telling me of
the accidental death of the husband of another classmate (A
freak accident, actually- he was felling a tree and it hit him,
killing him instantly)...to Thursday evening's totally unexpected
death due to a massive stroke of a precious friend and fellow
pilgrim, Suzanne Goddard... to yesterday's arrival of her lovely
and very personal Christmas card (she had been at the post office
doing her Christmas mailing when the symptoms began). And today,
I am wrung out...physically, emotionally, and, yes, spiritually.

On Sunday, for the memorial service, I used at the text for my brief
homily, Psalm 22, which begins, My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?, words also attributed to Jesus as he hung on the
cross. As I contemplated the tribulation and pain amidst which this
dear mother found herself, it seemed most fitting... though I did
close with Psalm 23, since that's where Psalm 22 leads us, both
figuratively and literally.

But in the days since...in the light (or perhaps darkness would be
far more fitting an image) of the other deaths- unexpected,
unexplainable, undesired, undeserved- I have found myself again
and again returning to the words of Psalm 22. Not that I feel
forsaken- exactly- but I do feel the pain of the why and why now
and why them. I do wonder why at this time of year, amidst all
of the joy and celebration, Lady Death still enshrouds us with
her often-unwelcome presence, selectively welcoming some while
bypassing others, for no obvious or apparent reason.

And yet, there is always death in the midst of life. Outside my
window the trees stand empty and barren, their autumn finery long
since spent, their branches stark against the graying, overcast sky,
their seeming lifelessness emblematic of death's own relentless
determination. But at the end of the winter, with the coming of the
warmth and light of springtime, new life in the form of tender
green buds will appear, opening into the glorious green canopy which
surrounds and shades my yard.

But for now, for this moment, I am deeply saddened, traveling in
the valley of the shadows, doing my best to chase Lady Death away
from those I love...all the while knowing that her dependable
relentlessness will touch someone- many someones - this very day,
and they, too, are sisters and brothers of mine. If I am to be
honest and just and loving, each of those deaths is as devastating
to those who love them as the ones in my life have been and are
to me.

Once again, the reality of connections surfaces...the reality that
each person's death does diminish me, but even more, reminds me
of my own mortality, my own numbered days (though the number
remains blessedly unknown to me, to each of us). Each one of us
will at some point walk through the thin veil separating this life
and what is to come, Lady Death leading us by the hand. And once
again, the startling awareness hits me in the face, punches me in
the solar plexus...THIS IS my life...THIS DAY will not come again.
So, do I live it fully and wisely and sometimes foolishly but well?
Is what I am trading this day of my life for worthwhile? And when,
ultimately, it is my turn, what legacy will I leave behind? Will I
have done what I can to make this world a better place? For me,
that is the most important question, the only question that really
matters.

Death will do that, you know...will cause reflection and bring
questions and prod one into action...perhaps. If we let it. As I sit
here in my red recliner, typing on my hot pink Surface tablet,
listening to Christmas music on the stereo, surrounded by the
sights and sounds of the season, I am overcome by the sad but
truthful reality that loss hurts... and that the price of loving and
caring and living is to share in that hurt. And so I say to the ones
who have departed this week- Paul and Curt and Suzanne- God-
speed. This part of the journey is finished; the part about which
we know nothing has begun. You already know things, have
answers to questions, about which we can only wonder and
speculate. The mysteries are being revealed; and your unity
with Holiness is now reality. You will be missed- dearly missed-
but you will be ever and always near in heart. Of that, I am very,
very sure. Christmas blessings, wherever you are.

This is Suzanne...                                 
Smiling
Undaunted
Zealous
Accepting
Nurturing
No-nonsense
Encouraging



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Looking for Hope?


I have been gifting myself with the reading of an amazing book,
yet another product of the husband/wife team of Nicholas
Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. A Path Appears should be required
reading for every high school and college student. In fact, it
should be required reading for every citizen of this nation. When
I have not been reduced to tears by the stories, true stories of
survival and giving and dedication and hope, I have found myself
convicted again and again of my need to do more... to find a
cause, perhaps several causes, to which I can give my heart and
time and monies, knowing I can and will make a difference.

No pie-in-the-sky solutions here... simply the telling of the
stories of individuals who have made and continue to make a
difference in ways both big and small. Lives changed, towns
given hope, communities restored; seemingly insurmountable
problems faced head-on, often with few resources, and over
and over again the conviction that we CAN make a difference,
you and I...and we SHOULD.

If you do not read another book in the closing days of this
year or in the early days of 2015, make this one a priority.
I promise that it will not leave you unchanged...that it will
shatter some of your deeply-cherished stereotypes...that
it will unsettle and disturb and, yes, even anger you... so
much so that you will be challenged to GET INVOLVED.
And if that happens, then this excellent book will have been
more than worth the cost- to you and, more importantly,
to the world.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Early-Morning Musings...

taking time
A breath, deep and long
Another, then one more
as muscles and relax
letting go of all they have
          been holding
Anxiety and must-do lists
Rushing and stressing and
   tying myself in knots
   over the ways in which
   I am not doing all I could
   to help those in need
   to work for peace
   to advocate for justice
   to love...accept...include
A breath, deeper still
Another, then one more
as time's demands fall away
creating space for-
           clarity
           peace
           blessed emptiness
creating space for-
           the Spirit of Hope
           to enter in and
           dwell awhile...
the breath of life renewed.


living dreams...
God entered my dreams last night-
not a voice or even a presence
but the feeling of arms-stretched-wide love
expanding, including, welcoming

It took my breath away
even as my eyes and heart opened wide
as I tried to encompass and apprehend
and embody it all- this Love
that surpasses understanding.

And in my dream, I could-
so why is it so difficult when I am awake?
To love the unlovable- when I am surely
often one of those myself. To welcome the sick at heart-
in whose faces I can recognize my own if I look
deeply enough. To reach out and touch and embrace
those with dirty faces and broken hearts and skin
of varying hues- whose embraces I surely, truly need.

And so, today, God of Gods, Light of Light,
I am listening for your voice,
watching for your presence in each encounter,
knowing it is there... bearing with me the certainty
that each place I stand is Holy Ground because
You are fully, truly present in, with, under, around
every beloved one I meet...
making of my life a living dream.