Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hands of Time



I look at my hands, once quite lovely
with smooth, unblemished skin
and see instead a mesh of veins
quite visible beneath the thinning,
wrinkled skin, the nails ridged
and refusing to grow, splitting
in spite of all the supplements I take,
organic vegetables I ingest

Only their palms appear unchanged,
their working surface relatively
wrinkle-free, though the thumb
mounds have lost their youthful fullness
and veins appear where once
only pink, rosy flesh was visible

They tell a story, these hands of mine,
of love gained and lost and given...
of heartache and heartbreak and
heartfelt joy...of gratitude and
fervent prayer...of supplication
and giftedness...of sorrow felt
and comfort given...of meals cooked
and served and beds made and children's
wounds attended...

They have touched and held and felt so much,
these hands of mine, conveying
to my mind and heart messages
from the world around me, love letters
from my daily life reminding me of
what a gift the whole thing is,
reminding me to cherish every moment,
lest it slip too quickly through my aging fingers

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mothers' Day Remembered



On Mothers' Day long years ago
at our small German Lutheran church in our small town
everyone received a flower-
carnations, either pink or red-
their pungent odor censing the air
red for those whose mothers were still living
pink for those whose mothers had died
brilliant red singing of life
tender pink sighing of death

The ushers handed them out
from two vases filled to overflowing with the blooms
handed them to every one who climbed the stairs 
to the sanctuary on the second floor
handed them to men and women, girls and boys,
since each and all had a mother who had given them life,
who had borne them, gladly or sadly, into this world
a reminder and remembrance, a way 
to honor the sanctity of creation, 
to honor the holiness of every human life, 
to honor the ones who had served as the crucible 
for each life present that day.

And though this was far beyond
my child's understanding, I loved taking flowers
to the cemetery after church, 
loved seeing people tenderly placing gentle pink blossoms 
on the graves of those much-loved
loved seeing the vase on the family dining room table
in which stood five red carnations 
with a pink one in the center for Pop-pop's mother, 
my never-met great-grandmother, held ever and always
in his heart.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More Weather- and a Few Other Things...

If I had been the one creating the weather- which, of course, I am
not- I would have created today...this absolutely, amazingly perfect
day, with Carolina blue skies, temperatures in the seventies, a
slight breeze, topped off by low, low humidity. I mean, who could
possibly ask for anything more? Perfection...

And then there was Sara...a precious woman who played the organ
at my church for many, many, many years and is now in Hospice
care due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sara- with
her indomitable spirit and acerbic wit. We shared a visit today...
me doing most of the talking since her breath was short, even
with the oxygen nasal cannula...talking and laughing- yes, we do
a lot of that- about some of our favorite subjects: books, politics,
the state of the world, and our shared irreverence when it comes
to things religious.

Now, as a pastor, I guess I'm not supposed to entertain such notions,
nor to admit them publicly, but there it is. Sara and I, you see,
share a deep and abiding inability- and unwillingness- to accept holy
hypocrisy. And we share a deep and abiding belief that the way of
Jesus that we are called to is the way of love and tolerance and a
recognition of the one-ness which we all share as children of
Mother God. Now I know the previous statement was one which
sounded less than tolerant but neither Sara nor I claim perfection
and we're both still working on that "love your enemies" thing, but
with NPR providing the background chatter, we held one another's
hands and hearts for the time we were together, praying in the
time-honored way of using no words... simply laying our thoughts
and confusion and sadnesses and concerns and lack of
understanding for the ways of our world on the shoulders of the
One who loves and never leaves.

And there was a perfection in that interchange, in that sharing
of relationship, which matched and enhanced the perfection of
today's lovely weather...two sisters of the spirit joined in heart
and mind and presence, both knowing deep down in that silent
place within that, while one of us is looking her mortality firmly
in the eye, neither of us really knows when our end will come.
Not up to us. And there is also a kind of perfection in that, isn't
there?

If I had been the one creating today- ALL of today- I would
have created it just as it was- and so tonight, I breathe a
"thank you" to the One who Loves us all before I head to bed,
holding the perfection of Sara and this holy day in my heart.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Weather- or Not...


I know Forrest Gump said that Life is like a box of chocolates, but for
me, living in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Life is like the weather:
we never know what's going to happen and when it does, we're
usually not happy with it. Kind of like "Life"...

So much of what happens to us is truly and totally out of our control.
People disappoint or delight. Jobs are fulfilling or dead boring- or
cease to exist. Friends betray or are true-blue. The trip for which
we had been planning and saving for the past year is a mixed bag of
"Wow!" and "Oh, no, enough already," or "Is that all there is?" And
our bodies- even our bodies, that which is closest to us, that which
houses our essence- sag and bag, work well occasionally, but also
tire more easily and just aren't as flexible as they once were. And
when you roll out of bed in the morning, you're never quite sure
which you'll be dealing with: a well-oiled machine or a rusted-out
wreck.

And just like dealing with the weather- which comes and goes totally
without our input or control, much to our dismay- the happenings of
everyday life assault us, confront us, are in-our-face, whether we
want them to be or not. And like our reaction to the weather- "When
will the warm weather ever get here?" "Haven't we had enough rain?"
"Why did it get so hot so fast?" "I wonder if we'll have a long, dry
summer."- we grumble and complain and are rarely satisfied with
what is right in front of us.

And yet...and yet...the reality of Life, of living, is that it rarely goes
the way we expect it to go, rarely gives us the results we expected or
hoped for- at least not in the way we hoped for. Just like the
unexpectedness and variability of the weather in this neck of the
woods, Life hands us surprise after surprise- sometimes to our utter
delight, sometimes to our total dismay. As with Forrest's box of
chocolates, we just don't really know what will happen until we've
taken a bite, and- unless you're just completely gauche and ill-
mannered- you can't throw back the ones you don't like once you've
tasted them.

That's the way of things. That's the way of Life. And though we
can't control the events, for the most part, we can control one
important thing: how we handle whatever Life throws at us. Do we
gripe and complain, letting everyone around us know just how
miserable we are and how unfairly Life has dealt with us? Or do
we take the hand we've been dealt and play it out, laughing with
both consternation and delight, whether we win or lose the game?


Every time I find myself kvetching (look it up- it's a wonderful
Yiddish word), I picture the Mother Lion God grasping me by the
nape of the neck, shaking me a little (not always gently), and then
setting me down in a place where I can see someone- perhaps
many someones- who are facing things far more demanding and
devastating than my own small, often-petty grievances. And She
does it with such understanding love that I realize that, no matter
what befalls me, no matter how I handle it- or don't- that grace-
filled, loving presence will be there through it all, turning me in
the right direction, shaking me when I need shaken, licking my
wounds, and always providing the nourishment I need to see me
through.

So, the next time I complain to you about the weather here in
this lovely, blossom-strewn part of the world,  remind me that
my choice in the midst of all this giftedness is to see it as gift
or to turn my back on the wonder of the everyday. God willing,
I'll celebrate the NOW, no matter how hot or cold, wet or dry,
because this is Life, and it is all I- all any of us- have.