new old year

I am home sick on New Year’s Eve.

This was not my plan.

Instead of playing games and eating food with great folks I am tuned into a concert being broadcast from Lincoln Center.

I turned it on and my mother swooped into my heart.

For many years we gathered at my brother’s house to celebrate Christmas on New Year’s Eve. We would eat and play and then gather around an outdoor bonfire with the stars dancing overhead.

That tradition morphed for my mother into symphony concerts in the company of my sister and her husband.

And then, as the years made getting out harder, she took in the concerts available to her on television. I would call her and she would fill me in on what the orchestra had played.

So I am carrying on her tradition, I guess. She would have enjoyed this concert.

On this first turning of the calendar without her, I ache with missing her as I wonder at this living of life without her.

This year would have worked her fierce heart.

The falling from the sky of her grandson and his miraculous healing would have made her near sick with worry for Miles and Brook and for her beloved daughter Margie.

The finding of cancer in the body of daughter Cynthia would have been anguish for her.

And this election? She would have been spitting mad.

I dreamt about my mother last night. In my dream, she was dying. I remember thinking in my dream that I thought people only died once. But there she was, readying herself for death. I was grateful to be with her.

I wonder: Do we die more than once? Do we leave incrementally?

The gifts of those who touch our lives sound on in Copeland and in Strauss. Stars shine over bonfires. Hearts ache with missing.

Blessings on that which was.

Blessings on that which will be.

Blessings.

Happy New Year.

power

There is power in blood.

By that I mean, there is power in blood ties between people who are family.

I spent a day with my two sisters.  One is seven years older, and one is seventeen months younger.  We have been elastic in our ways of relating; bodies and souls.  Sometimes life has brought us under the same roof and into proximity and sometimes life has found us far distant from each other.  We have gone our ways into and through life.

And, we are home for each other.  Our mother has recently died.  We are finding that home is a moveable tabernacle.  One of us recently grappled with the heart terror of loving a child who literally fell from the sky.  Given a one percent chance of survival, her son is alive.  Today we found a dress for my sister to wear to her son’s miracle wedding.

How did she have the courage to endure?  How will we each find the courage to face all that life has yet to present us?

I believe in the power of the song of the blood.  We are part of a tribe of almost relentlessly positive, foolishly tenacious people.  We curse and we weep and we reach for and we hold one another and somehow we remember who we are and from whence we came.

Eternal is this line.

Eternal is this power.

 

 

 

holy fool

“…As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why we are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Merton called “a hidden wholeness.””  Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr writes a daily message that arrives in my email box.  The quote above was today’s bit of wisdom.  And, the above quote represents today’s bit of challenge, truth be told.

On a regular basis I get to sit at table with beautiful souls.  On Wednesday nights I am part of a Covenant Bible Study.  We are making our way through scripture through reading and great discussion.

Last night, one of the people at the table made a comment that provoked a snap response from me.  What I said in response to said comment was not out of line, but the speed and intensity of my response let me know that my sense of equanimity (“Okayness”, as Rohr names it above) is far from matured in me.

In truth, I agree with Rohr and Merton that a hidden wholeness grounds all that is.

And, we live in a fractured and fracturing time.

Author Barbara Kingsolver says that the time for speaking up has come:  We must name the things we can no longer countenance.  Instead of politely nodding assent (implied through our silence) to statements and actions that harm the hidden wholeness God’s heart has created, we need to find ways to come to voice in cadences that challenge oppression and build community and wholeness.

I apologized to the individual and to the group for my quick response last night.  I named my desire for the foolishness Rohr names above.

And, as an aspiring holy fool I wonder:  How do we ground ourselves in wholeness and hope whilst challenging systems, words and actions that create fracture?

God has given us this day and this time.  What deserts are crying out for voices?

Grounded in goodness, how will we witness to the light?

 

 

 

waiting

I just finished writing worship for Sunday.

Malls and gas stations and near every other establishment on earth are pumping Christmas Carols into the air.

In the church, we are marking Advent.  It is a time of waiting.  It is not yet Christmas, so we practice the pain of waiting.

It is the musical waiting that makes it hard to write worship this time of year.  I want to break out the songs that so need to be sung:  Songs about joy and love and glorias ringing from the choirs of angels.

I want that.

Instead, we wait.

Scripture from Matthew on this coming Sunday features John the Baptist calling people to change their hearts and lives in order to live God’s vision of grace.

Isaiah speaks of the peaceable kingdom and a world in which  those who have long been enemies will find harmony.

Paul prays that the God of hope will fill the new followers of Jesus with joy and peace.

Harmony, heart shift, joy and peace.

Perhaps this time of waiting isn’t so bad, after all.

 

 

 

 

O Come O Come

In church on Sunday we sang words that felt like prayer and plea:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Surely in these days we long to be reminded that Emmanuel is:  God is with us.

We are freshly up from Thanksgiving tables.  We read newspapers and wonder about who and how we are in this world.  We think about how we will ready our hearts for the big hurrah that is Christmas.  There is no snow nor freeze in the northland and it makes for a sense of wobble in these days of Advent.  There are many things that command our attention and worry our beings and the prayer goes up:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

It’s a worthy prayer.

Perhaps these days of Advent might be a noticing and naming of how we live “God with us” in the now.

Grace is so real.

Perhaps these Advent days of readying ourselves might be spent sniffing the wind for hope.

The Word became flesh, and flesh it remains.

Where is it you experience Emmanuel, God with you?

How will you call it home?

 

 

mom

Today at church we celebrated All Saint’s Day.

We lit forty candles symbolizing those from our congregation who died during the year. We named them, and we heard the vibrations of their names echoed in the sound of a bell tolled after each name.

In my mother’s church, her name was read. Miles away from that place, the vibration of her heart was sounding in my own.

Later in the day I scrambled to ready myself for a church gathering.  I threw on a much-mother-mended sweater bought on the Isle of Skye.  I have worn it with gratitude for nearly twenty years.  Mom kept it healthy with her knitting and mending genius.

Today as I put it on I noticed a hole in the elbow and it hit me that my mother can’t fix it.

Mom can’t fix it.

This hole in my sweater has unraveled me.

selling the world

The family joke goes like this: My children ask me what I want for my birthday. I tell them that I want them to write me a poem. Sometimes it has even worked, this birthday request of poetry.

Yesterday I received a gift. Aware that my heart is sore from the pain of my little sister’s beloved son in intensive care and knowing that my heart is sore from the bruising of this election and life, my eldest daughter sent me a poem.

I share it with you because it was balm for my soul and perhaps it will be so for yours.

And, would you loft a prayer for my nephew Miles? He is a paramedic who flies through the air on a helicopter to provide healing for others. His medical helicopter crashed early Saturday morning. He is in critical condition. We are not meant to fall from the sky and live but live he does and so we give thanks for good bones and the ways in which beautiful is made.

Good Bones
Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.