not winter

The bit of snow we had is running down the alleys.

It is once again Spring.  In January.  In Minnesota.

Even as I celebrate the lack of swaddle in going about these days, I’m thinking about what I am missing.

I miss the crackle of really cold air.  Somehow, the crisp that instantly freezes noses brings with it clarity and a sense of being very alive.

Are the stars as brilliant?  The hush that happens when snow blankets the ground seems to heighten awareness of the stars.  When the world is true winter the basics somehow shine brighter.

And what have we Minnesotans to complain about?  The self-congratulatory parlayed into a communal sense of getting through winter is missing.  We seem a bit lost without it.  Certainly we talk plenty about the weather – it’s so warm, so balmy! – but the chatter has lost a flavor I have come to realize I value: sanctified suffering.

And the chatter underneath the chatter?  Worry.

Say what you will about how fine it is to celebrate a mild winter. I’ll join you.  But what does this mean?  What sorts of human abuses of this living thing called creation has prompted this warm?  What does the summer hold with so little water on the earth?  What have we wrought?

I am seeking to live the celebration that is now.

And, the questions will not leave me.

 

 

 

precious

My uncle Peers is nearing death.

Peers was born with a double portion of zest.  His liquid brown eyes were searching always for the next big delight.  He reveled in people, laughter, martinis and love.

His lust for life was both blessing and bane, I suspect.

His younger brother John was born with Cerebral Palsy.  Peers was coach, goad and heart for John through their growing up and into adulthood.  As John grappled with mobility issues, Peers was by his side in ways tender and fierce.  My mother’s voice lowers to the tone used when speaking of holy things when she talks about the love John and Peers have lived all their lives.  It is wonder, this love.

Peers made his way in life guided by his heart and his passion for people.  His passions took him to places sometimes difficult for his kin.  His convictions were seemingly unshakeable and his belief that hard work and determination would win the day seemingly endless.

And his laugh;  his laugh danced in his eyes and travelled with him as he wove life.

He was a man acquainted with sorrow and the soul need of joy.

Peers has been about a gradual leaving.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a number of years ago.  His sons have been seeing to his care with the kind of beauty that stretches the heart.

A number of years ago Peers came home to say goodbye to his sister Carolyn.  He needed to make a plane hop between Denver and Duluth.  One of his sons called and asked if I could meet Peers in order to be sure he made it from one plane to the next.

Of course I could.

When Peers walked off the plane, his whole body lit up with welcome for me.  I was wrapped in his arms and heard ringing out from him the self-deprecating laughter that marked his being in the world.  We had time to drink coffee and swap stories and as he walked onto the plane to Duluth, I knew myself to be blessed.  I didn’t know that I would have a chance to spend time with him in such a way ever again.

Oh, life and love are precious things.

May the huge wander of your spirit find delight, my uncle.

heart web

I witness beauty on a daily basis.

Lately I have been moved by the ways people are beauty, one for the other.

I sit at table with a group of men every Wednesday morning for bible study.  Some of them walk to get to church.  Others are dropped off by their wives, because they are no longer able to drive.  One man comes to bible study because every week his church friend comes to pick him up.  The man who is picked up is 93.  The man who picks him up is 91. Every Wednesday they come to drink coffee and swap one-liners and prayers.

Without a ride to church, one of our number would not be able to share in community.

Kindness matters.

I watch people reach out for squirmy babies.  I watch people listen attentively.  I watch people bite their tongues when a retort would feel lovely.  I watch people quiet themselves in the presence of people they trust and feel safe with.  It is like watching flowers unfold in order to soak in sunlight.

I am in the midst of these ministers.  Daily I witness grace.

The ways we live kindness bears witness to our faith convictions in ways no words can voice.

I’m grateful to be in community where hearts are woven into a web of care and compassion.

Daily I witness beauty.

yikes!

I was settling into to being home after a long Wednesday.  It was dark and cold and our house, even though old and sieve-like, felt warm and cozy.

I glanced up and there was a masked man on our front porch, peering in the window.

After my heart lurched, I realized that it was son Jameson.  He is one of those winter bikers.  He is swaddled head to toe in gear.  At first glance, his own mother didn’t recognize him.

He was here to pick up his college books.  The wonder of used books on Amazon is great,  so having pushed buttons, said books arrived here and were awaiting pickup.

What a treat.

It is good to love my work.  Throwing myself into the sea of people on a Wednesday night at church is gift.  We have a church dinner that serves sixty or so people and at table I get a chance to catch up with folk about life and life always has to do with family.

Coming home after such a time to an unexpected appearance of my own flesh kin was so fine.

The books were unwrapped, stories swapped, hugs shared and he was off.

I went to bed feeling the kind of wholeness that comes with being able to see and hear and touch and sniff my children.

There are wonders aplenty in the world.

The fierce warm that is love is life kindling.  In the physical cold of a Minnesota winter, it sparks the heat of wonder.  In the sometimes emotional and spiritual stagger of life, it sustains, does love.

 

home

Today is a momentous one.

The chair arrives.

When we got married and blended households, Cooper brought into our home a variety of furniture stuffs.  One of the most beloved by him was a man chair.  You know the type:  recliner overstuffed happiness.

When we tried to sell our house years ago (oh what folly, that) we worked with a realtor who helped us stage our home.  Most every piece of furniture Cooper brought into our home got tagged for removal.  Mostly, that was not so bruising.  But perhaps the first thing tagged was the man chair.

Since then, he has valiantly made nest in a comfy chair we have.  But there has been a sense of loss for him.  At first I laughed it off, figuring that a chair can’t really be that vital.  But as time went on, as Cooper has accommodated many comings and goings of children and critters through this porous thing called home, realization has dawned.

It matters.  Having a spot of one’s own matters.

So, for his 60th birthday, his son Louis and I went to furniture land and gleefully chose a fitting nest for our mutually beloved.

Today it gets delivered.  Cooper’s long sojourn is over.

It will have the place of pride in our house, facing the front door and a newly gifted depiction of “Dogs Playing Cards” given him by my children.  That story too has much to do with making claim on decorating ambiance.  It’s not on velvet (thank God) and it makes us laugh.

What I’m celebrating is that through the bumps and ruts and highs of blending homes and families, there are opportunities to mark milestones and make nest.

It matters.

 

 

possibility!

Today we explored a biblical text that asks us to own prejudice.

When presented with the wonder that is Jesus, one of the approached soon-to-be disciples cannot believe that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  Big shrug.  Why bother?  He almost loses the chance of a lifetime because of his reliance on what he thinks he knows.

So our Director of Spiritual Formation did a children’s sermon with a green pepper as her object lesson.  She had the kids smell it and feel it and talk about the assumptions they had about what was inside of it:  seeds, the usual green pepper accoutrements.

As the children’s lesson wound down the kids were losing focus and interest and I could feel the sanctuary making the internal shift from children’s lesson to what was to come next.

And then this amazing thing happened.  Marcia took off the top of that green pepper and do you know it was chock-full of M & M candies!!!!

Holy cow, I have NEVER felt the energy in the sanctuary shift with such gusto in my eight plus years at Richfield.

Chocolate!  In a place unexpected!  How can we keep from singing!

I’m still laughing.  I think the kids and adults gathered got the message:  prejudging can cost the world a heart.

As for me, I learned that if, while preaching, I get the sense that people are slipping away from me, I will unveil a green pepper stuffed with chocolate.

And then look out!  Anything is possible.

 

 

 

ground

Today I get to buy my son shoes.

The years go by.  For a time in my life buying shoes seemed an endless task.  With three children, it seemed like every time I turned around someone needed shoes.

Lately, though, with said children grown and launched, the adventure of shoe seeking is a mother-less affair.  This is good.  Self-sufficiency is a good thing.

But today I get to participate in a ritual whose grooves I know well.

Really, it is not about the shoes.  It’s about tending.  Even though children grow and leave and commence living, they are always tied to their parental units with heart cords.  For the life of me, I haven’t much figured out how not to scan them every time I see them:  are they eating well?  Are their teeth tended?  Are they shod in ways that will keep them dry and warm?  What about that bike helmet?  Are they happy?

The many calculations live in me.  I have to squelch most of the questions I might ask.  I encounter enough eye rolling in our time together.  Said rolling eyes tell me that I have a limited fussing budget to work with, so I have to check in judiciously.

The last time we were together my question had to do with shoes.  Bless him, my son agreed to allow me to replace the beloved (and many-holed) shoes he was wearing.

It felt like victory.

If all goes well, Jameson will walk and bike his way through the winter city in dry and comfortable shoes.

And his mother?  She will feel the warm good of caring for one of her babies.  Sleep comes easier when basics are assured.  As important, I’ll get time to be with one of my favorite people on this planet.

As I anticipate the joy of this seemingly mundane thing, my heart lurches a bit.

I can buy these shoes.  I can fuss and tend and see to it my son is warm and dry.  We’re even going to buy them new, without taking the time to cruise thrift stores, which is often our wont.

This we can do.

What of the so many who cannot?