wising up

There are three things I would tell my younger self. Besides relax, relax, relax. Three things that would have saved me much angst when I was younger if I had known, and embraced them.

The first is, it is not all about you. The world doesn’t actually revolve around you. The sun doesn’t rise and set on you only. In our younger years, in my younger years I held no other perspective than my own. I wasn’t even aware of another perspective other than how I was being affected at any given moment. Everything was personal. I had no concept of anything that didn’t include, impact, or matter to me. It wasn’t so much that I was a bad person as much as it was I was asleep to the world at large. Immature. Unripe.

I’m a sensitive person and a sensitive person without perspective tends to be overly sensitive. A gift without perspective is a curse. Everything and everyone was either for me or against me. Maybe, we all start out this way as infants, only knowing the world as we are in it. Some wake up to the larger picture sooner than others. My five year old granddaughter had some of this figured out by the time she could talk. She’s always shown an awareness of, and concern for, the feelings of others.

I would tell my younger self to wake up, it’s a big world out there and a lot of it, most of it, has nothing to do with you. Realizing we are a part of a much bigger whole is the beginning of wisdom I think. Maybe that is why we are told in scripture that the fear (awe) of God is the beginning of wisdom. This is at the heart of the book of Job.

In this story from scripture, Job is a good man, considered a righteous man….in right relationship with God and neighbor. And, he loses everything, his property, livelihood, beloved children, everything that makes up a good life. Everything that reflected his righteousness. It is not fair. It is not right. The people around him are perplexed and want to know what he has done to deserve such torture. Even his wife puts in her two cents. Job rails at God, demands an audience. God takes him on a ride. Shows him the world. The big wide world, everything that Job had no part in creating or sustaining. The big wide world beyond Job.

Job “wakes up” to the truth that there is always more than meets the eye, there is more than him and the small world that has insulated and then betrayed him. Does he get his answers? Not really. Does it make his pain go away? I doubt it. And, in the midst of the uncertainty and pain he does gain perspective, and that perspective prepares him to live in a deep awareness that he is part of something much larger than he ever realized before.

This new deeper and wider perspective opens up the possibility of letting go of his grip on all the things he thought his life was supposed to be about. And in this letting go space there grows the possibility of deep awareness and gratitude for what life really holds. Gratitude made possible through perspective. Job is restored and his life is restored, family, property, livelihood. Most of all his awareness of his place in the world. Job discovers the place of humility. I’m forever grateful to the wise friend who pointed me to this truth. So, I’d tell my younger self, wake up, be humble, it is not all about you and what you think your life should be.

The second thing I’d tell my younger self is this; not everything wrong in the world is because of you. Not everything is your fault. You are not to blame for everything that happens in your, or the larger, world. I don’t mean to be sexist but it seems like I know more women than men who struggle with this. That feeling of being responsible for everything and needing to fix everything that goes wrong. That is my go to reaction when something goes wrong around me. Must be my fault. I must fix this. I used to blame myself for everything…still working on recovery.

We are especially vulnerable to this urge when it comes to our kids. If something goes wrong in their lives, in loving and often misguided intention, many of us think it must be our fault and rush to make it all better. I always felt like I needed to fix what was wrong in my child’s circumstances so she would feel better.

Then, and only then, would I feel better (see first thing I would tell my younger self).
I would now tell my younger self, everything that happens is not your fault, nor yours to fix. Sometimes you need to get out of the way and let the other person have their own journey, make their own way, face their own consequences, deal with their own pain, test their own faith. It doesn’t mean I can’t be there to support them, it just means I acknowledge I can’t control life for them.

Sometimes really messed up things happen in the world and it is hard to tell who is to blame. Try as I might, blame is not the answer to the pain. I have often blamed myself because it was someplace familiar to put the pain, to lock it away. But blame too often brings shame, and it’s hard for any sort of healing light to get to shame. Nothing is accomplished by shame. Nothing that brings life anyway. Shame only adds to pain.

So I would tell myself, stop blaming yourself for everything. Everything is not because of you. Own your own stuff and do what you can to bring about restoration. Let other people own their own stuff. And let all of the other stuff for which there are no answers be your teacher in the school of learning to trust in the midst of uncertainty and pain. It will bring you back to that place of perspective and gratitude. For it is there you will find the sustaining hope of the power of Love in and through all things.

The third thing I would say to my younger self is this. Not everything good in the world is in spite of you. You are not outside of the activity of the world. You are a part of the whole, an essential piece of the puzzle. We all are. Stop waiting for permission to participate. Stop waiting for someone else to bestow upon you some sort of credibility for you to get into the game. Your credibility, along with your gifts and talents and purpose were yours all along, from the first minute of your God breathed life. You’ve been given this life to pour out as an offering to the world at large. Even your weakness and flaws can be used if submitted with a heart of love. You, like each and all, have something the world needs and if you don’t do your part that part will be missing from the whole.

There is no gift too small to be useful. We all have something to give, something we are born to give to the world. There’s that old saying that your life is a gift from God and what you do with it is your gift to God. If that isn’t permission and credentials enough what will be? Jesus said when he first arrived on the scene that it was time to turn around because the kingdom of God, a new way of being, had come. Now. The world doesn’t turn in spite of you. It turns with you. Wake up and do your part.

I have learned, or more correctly I’m learning the value of keeping these three things, these three cords of the wisdom of perspective, in balance. Oh, if I had only grasped them much sooner how much more open would my life and heart be to the beautiful possibilities of life. I guess we wake up to the wisdom of life when we’re ready though. I am grateful for all of the wake up calls.

I wonder what I will learn today.

Something to chew on…

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if not now, when

Like for many I’m sure, tears have been flowing in my house this week. I can’t get my head wrapped around the mental process of someone who would go to such violent extremes as did the shooter in Las Vegas. I can’t get my head wrapped around the fear that must have been experienced by those who ran for their lives, not knowing or understanding what was happening. And, I can’t get my head wrapped around why anyone needs a bump stock. And, really, what the hell that even is.

I went to the pink chapel this afternoon, seeking something. Peace. Inspiration. Answers. I’m not sure. As always, it was beautiful and I felt safe as I listened to the hum of traffic in the distance outside. The nuns were reciting their daily prayers. The sacred of the ordinary approaching Mystery. Feeling safe only made me think more about those who Sunday night also felt safe. Until they weren’t. Until they felt terror. Sitting in the chapel brought no answers. Only a sense that the stakes of love are high. And urgent.

So many lives interrupted. So much left undone. Conversations that will never occur. Words that will never be written. Goals that will never be achieved. Contributions that will never be made. Songs that will never be sung. What beautiful things might have happened in this world if each of them had lived. What will we all miss because of their deaths?

I guess my biggest question today is will this be THE wake up call? The one that makes the difference? Will I now wake up to all of the good but abandoned intentions in my own life? Will I tend to my unfinished business? Will I be courageous enough, and disciplined enough to finish the book, preach the sermon, lose the weight, reach out to the friend, speak up for those who can’t, get closer to God….whatever is left undone, will I have the will and follow through to completion? Will I be able to sustain this sense of urgency of the Present in the future?

What about as a nation. As a people of faith. As humanity. Will we actually do something this time? Will we even try? Or, are we too tired in our grief and our desire to regain our own illusion of safety to let ourselves risk the status quo? Will we have the courage to at least ask, hear, and talk about the questions? Will we stop making this an either or debate? Can we not have rights and sensible weapon guidelines at the same time? With all of the other things we have accomplished as a nation, can we not at least attempt to accomplish common ground? These aren’t statistics we are dealing with. These are people. People who loved and were loved. People who leave behind huge gaps. We are less than Whole without them. Can we really afford to lose any more?

Some say that it is too soon to ask some of the hard questions. Too political. I don’t know about that. People have died. For them, it is too late.

What will we do with our Now?

Something to chew on…and act on…

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as hope floats, unity rises

I’ve always been one who frets a bit. It’s in my DNA. But, somewhere underneath all the worrying, I’ve also been a person who believed in the fantasy of Disney Land. You know, that everything is controlled and safe and happy and nothing really bad is going to happen. The juxtaposition of dread and hope has woven a blanket of cautious security in which to hide. As long as I kept worrying about what could happen, nothing bad would happen. Sounds crazy, huh. However, I bet some who read this can relate. I think another way of expressing it would be I lived under the illusion of control. And, worry was the lever.

And then came Harvey. And, with it my neatly constructed illusion has been torn to shreds.

We worried in Corpus Christi about Harvey. We boarded up. We evacuated. And, we watched from afar as our sparkling city by the bay was spared the brunt of the storm while our neighboring communities took the full impact. Communities knocked to the ground with nothing left but the fierce will of resilience and the compassion of strangers to sustain them during these early days of aftermath.

And then Harvey moved on up the coast and struck Houston in a way that the fourth largest city in this country had not seen in years. Houston had prepared for the fierceness of this storm. But there was no preparing for what turned out to be so much worse than the winds and rains of nature.

What hurt the city the most was the human made decision (no doubt a difficult one) to release water from overloaded reservoirs in an effort to prevent them from breaking and causing catastrophic flooding. Why do we humans keep thinking we can somehow control nature instead of, at best, respecting and partnering with it. The nation watched in horror as homes that had stayed dry through the initial storm succumbed to the rising waters of release. Waters that became rising waves of terror and even today remain in control of many areas and homes.

My sister and her husband were spared water in their home, yet had to be evacuated by boat as their once lazy street became a restless river. The home that had been in my husband’s family for forty-five years, the home we had loved and lived in for thirteen years and sold last year to a precious young family eager to make new memories, was flooded and may still be today. Whole neighborhoods of families doing their best to make their lives purposeful and productive lost everything. It will take years to recover and it will impact us all whether we realize that or not.

To make things worse, as the waters recede the reports rise that perhaps the worst of this could have been prevented if the powers that be had heeded the warnings and recommendations made some twenty plus years ago. If they had planned more, if they had gone to the time, effort and expense for safety rather than for development, maybe….we wouldn’t be seeing the devastation we are seeing today. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that in the wake of these reports there will be division and blame as all continue to wade through the responsibility of recovery. As if our country needed something else to divide over.

It’s not fair that people living in these areas had no idea of the real danger they were in. For years! Yes, no one expected a flood of this proportion. No one ever does. Even when there are warnings we don’t believe that the worst will really happen. Until it does.

I’m not one who says that all things happen for a reason. Or, that God did this. I don’t believe God orchestrates things like some elaborate puppet show. I do believe God’s love and power are present and available in and through all things, even the flood waters, and if we are open to it there are gifts among the ruins. There are threads of grace in all the muck and mire. And there can be peace in the storm. Life that comes in the midst of loss. Joy can rise in the midst of pain. This is the nature of Christ. This is the peace that passes all understanding.

Along with the images of destruction I also watched (from my admittedly “dry privilege”) the visions of compassion as stranger reached out to stranger in the deepest of waters. This storm was no respecter of person and the rescue was not either. From what I could see no one cared about creed or color. It was one human being carrying another. It was unity of purpose that transcended any of the differences we usually impose upon one another. It was a thing of beauty to see, and these testimonies have provided lifelines of grace in the face of so much pain.

Somewhere, in the midst of all the differences and uncertainties in the world, in these storm torn areas there came a rising swell of unity as relationships were forged, not on like mindedness but rather a mutual awareness, respect, and compassion for shared humanity. Something in the words I read and hear and see in the faces on the many news reports convinces me these storm survivors and helpers now know something I don’t. This experience has changed them. It has deepened them.

The illusion that life is safe and predictable is gone for them. An innocence has died.They are now on the journey of grief. What’s left behind and what they take with them will be for each to decide. For some this loss of illusion will be replaced with anger and bitterness. For others it will be replaced with gratitude and wisdom, and yes, joy for what truly matters. The difference will be determined by their capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness towards God, nature, government, neighbor, self. Forgiveness in the midst of their pain and frustration. Forgiveness is the lifeline through grief and the bridge to recovery. I’d like to think if I were in their place I would choose the latter, the wisdom, gratitude, and joy. If I’m truly honest, the best I can hope for is a mixture of both.

Even as I finish this, I am getting notifications about Hurricane Irma and the impending danger for its target. I brace myself for the pain I will see (again and this time at least, from afar) and ready myself for the beauty I will see in its wake. People loving God in loving their neighbor.

Something to chew on…

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owning up

I started this blog as a place to process life through the lens of faith and to, hopefully, engage a community into doing so with me.  But it’s been hard lately to be open about what I am trying to process without fearing I might offend someone.  Because a lot of what I’m trying to process is what I see going on in our country and my feelings range from anger and frustration to fear, despair, and shame, with, thankfully, the stubborn seed of hope refusing to give up mixed in.  And, I have seen when things are posted regarding what’s going on in our country there can be some pretty volatile reactions and in some cases I’ve even witnessed breaks in communication and friendship.

I don’t want to offend anyone. Sometimes I worry too much about that.  I’m not the conservative I used to think I was, and I may not be quite as liberal as I think I am. I don’t know. I’m stuck somewhere out in the margins, not even certain where that is.  I suspect there are many of us wandering nomads out here in the field of uncertainty, feeling more like we’re in the Twilight Zone than reality after our nation’s last election.

The one thing I know in my heart and bones is there is no justification, or even acceptable explanation, for hatred and white supremacy, bigotry, or violence that we witnessed as a country last weekend.  None. Nada. My dad fought bravely in a war that engulfed the world, risking life and limb to ensure that the kind of hatred brought about by the Nazis would never be able to rise up and thrive again. And yet, here it is in all it’s ugliness before us now.

For years I kept telling myself that kind of hatred happened a long time ago. Somewhere else far away.  I remember being awakened to an even deeper awareness of the evil of the Holocaust when I went to Budapest ten years ago and learned more people of Jewish faith were killed there in a shorter amount of time than anywhere else. And, much of it was done with the official Christian church turning a blind eye. It was a humbling and painful realization.

I’ve been stunningly reminded recently that hate is hate and the hate of the Nazis is the same hate of organizations like the KKK, which I also thought was part of a long ago history but not in the now.  Tragically, it is a hate that is alive and kicking, a hate based on white supremacy. And that hate is what was in action in the violence last weekend. Having a permit to gather does not justify this hate.

What is really hard for me to admit, much less accept, is that white supremacy, which is the breeding ground of this terrible kind of hate, is in my DNA, my history, my story.  Simply because, I am white. I don’t feel, experience, or participate in this hate, but I cannot escape that I share its basis of privilege because of the color of my skin.

My ancestors were confederate soldiers and proud of it.  They believed they were on the right side of history. My ancestors were church going, God fearing, family and friend loving people. Yet they ignorantly, and no doubt stubbornly, believed they were somehow superior as human beings because of the color of their skin.  And, I’m fairly certain they clung to their interpretation of certain Bible verses to justify this attitude.

I’ve written in a past post about going to see my grandparents in South Carolina and seeing the three bathroom doors at their gas station/convenience store…Men, Women, Colored. As a little girl I didn’t know or understand what that was all about. I only know the feeling it gave me was fear.

My grandfather had the only gas station and store in town and he was friendly to the African Americans who frequented his store. There was a cordial rapport between them all. Yet, even as a child I sensed the steel whisper of disparity of power within this rapport. My grandfather was the boss man.  Even with these people who were actually his customers. There is no justification for that kind of power deferential.

Thankfully I woke up years ago to the ignorance behind this sort of passive aggressive prejudice world view.  It’s not because I’m any better than my ancestors. Rather it is the gift of those who have gone before me to uncover truth about this history we share as a country.  And an expanding awareness that Scripture was never meant to be used as a weapon to give one power over another but rather as a promise and confirmation that we are all equally loved and created in God’s image.

I shamefully admit, when I first heard the name of my high school was being changed from Robert E. Lee I scoffed.  It wasn’t that I cared about the name of the school. I just never really attached the name of the school to anything other than the three years I was there and all the fond memories of being there with equally awkward adolescents. I’m so thankful someone else was more enlightened than me and saw the wisdom and necessity of this change.  No, we as youngsters didn’t really want the south to rise again when we sang our school fight song Dixie.  We were just kids cheering our team.

And, yet, as I sit here and write I wonder how many people felt oppressed by all of this.  You see, this was fairly early in the days of integration and I have to wonder how awful it must have felt for the young African American student being subjected to this song.  Even the ones being celebrated on the football team. What an odd and uncomfortable thing to experience.

I heard someone say the other day that we can’t erase history by taking down these statues like the one around which there was so much violence this weekend. And, that may be.  And, I don’t for one second think that everyone who is sad to see these statues go have prejudice in their hearts.

No, we can erase history. Yet, we can be honest about the truth and nature of the complexities of our history and we can be honest in our need to repent of, in any way, glorifying a time when one group of people in this land of freedom and democracy actually made a practice of owning another. It may have been out of a misguided ignorance but there is no justification for the displacement and pain it manifested for so many, the echo of which is still evident in prejudice today. The glorification of this history dehumanizes all of us. The thoughtful and thorough dismantling of these concrete reminders of this past glorification is one tangible thing we can do to show our repentance and intention toward a better future for all of us together. Especially in light of the fact that many of these statues were erected many years after the Civil War and during a time of overt prejudice and discrimination toward so many of our brothers and sisters. I’m not sure how much that gets lifted up and it’s an important part of the puzzle.

Just as I was closing this post I saw our President’s latest press conference. I’m heartsick. I need to go to God in prayer now.  I need to still my mind and open my heart so that I can continue to seek God’s wisdom in the areas in which I need to repent and forgive. And in thankfulness, encourage others and show more love. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like Heather Heyer, who was run down by the embodiment of white supremacist  hatred on Saturday, showed love in all she did. How tragic her life was cut so short because of such hate. Such a waste. I know she is held in Love now. I still believe, I have to, that Love wins over any hate.

I can’t fix this. I know that. And, I can’t wait for someone else to. All I can do is learn to love more. Learn to love all more.

Something to chew on…

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my new neighbors

So, I’m back at the pink chapel. It’s blazing hot outside and I’m grateful for the cool quiet of this space.

I am thinking about the man who told me about finding the Holy Spirit in this place. Or rather, the Holy Spirit finding him. His name is Sam. He came here one day and said a wonderful peaceful feeling came over him here. Better than any high he’d ever been on. I’m wondering if Sam is someplace cool this afternoon.

Sam doesn’t have a home. He does, however, have a bed, more like a cot, in a residence ministry. A ministry that works with those who are experiencing poverty and homelessness.

I’ve recently started doing some volunteer chaplaincy with this ministry. I lead a book/scripture study one night a week. It is similar to the one I host in my home. Only different. Because I go to their home…which is not really a home but a transitional space. It’s clean, cold, and temporary. Home or no home, we’re all seeking connection.

Recently I read them the parable of the Good Samaritan. You might remember it. Jesus told it in response to someone trying to justify his goodness and entitlement to heaven.

The story Jesus told goes something like this…a man was beaten and robbed and left to die on the street. A priest comes by and, in those days, a good religious person was not supposed to get anywhere near someone’s blood. So, like the good religious person he was, he crossed the street and walked away. Similar thing happened with the next religious person. And then, someone who was from the wrong religion, someone who was considered unclean just by being who he was, stopped and took care of the man. And, when I say take care I mean he really did all he could for this man. Took him to shelter, got medical care for him, and even paid for future care for him. After telling the story, Jesus asked the self righteous religious guy which one had loved his neighbor. It must have been difficult for the man to answer because Jesus was pointing a mirror to his heart. His stone cold heart. Jesus was clear, when it comes to showing God’s love there is no justification for exclusion. Or self-righteousness. Both tough mirrors to see.

After reading the story through twice I asked them if they had heard anything in this reading they hadn’t noticed before. I was interested in how people who are forced to live daily with their vulnerability exposed to the world would experience this story. One guy spoke up that he hadn’t realized the guy laying on the street had been beaten so badly. I wondered to myself if he has at some point recently suffered such a beating and thus found this connection to it.

I then asked if they identified with someone in the story and, if so, who. The same man who spoke before said he was the one who walked on by. He said he was raised to mind his own business and not get involved. And, from observing him I could tell he was trying to stay out of trouble in this place as well.

The man next to me, a weathered man with wild hair, few teeth, and a tired smell blurted out he was the robber, the one who beat and left the guy for dead. I was startled, and yet weirdly encouraged, by his honesty. He continued that until recently he would rob people to get money to feed his drug addiction. He said this was before “he saw the light”.

About this time another young man, someone you would look at and think what a nice young man, spoke up and said he had done the same and had taken money from people who loved him. That he had hurt those he should have trusted. I asked him if he has forgiven himself and he paused before saying he was working on it.

The discussion led into whether or not to give people money on the street when asked. I could not help but consider the irony of this conversation. Had any of them felt the need earlier this day to ask for money on the street?

The thing that struck me the most was, as they shared their differing opinions, some saying it’s always a con and you should never give out money and others saying you should just do the right thing and give whenever asked, this could have been any group of people of any economic status discussing this over a dinner table in any home. This was a conversation that transcended the present circumstances and this perhaps gets to the core of the struggle to be human.

Are we connected to each other or not? Does our survival depend on one another or not? Is it more loving to give when asked or to hold one accountable for their own survival? Should we decide who is deserving and who is not? What is empowering and what is enabling? So many questions race even now through my head. Lots of questions and absolutely no firm answers.

I looked across the table at Sam, the man who told me about the pink chapel. He told us he senses and depends on discernment from God when it comes to giving.  His kind eyes seemed to pierce through all of the other comments and I really do believe he has a strong sense of connection with the Divine. So much history, pain, and hard won wisdom in that face. And, it also occurs to me that if I had seen him, or any other of these gentlemen, on the street I would not have noticed his eyes. Because I would not have looked him in the eye. I would have been afraid to. And, I would have missed something special.

I am not the good samaritan. I’m too selfish. Too scared. Too blind. I’m very thankful, though, to be able to journey with this group a bit. It’s unsettling, convicting, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at once. They are my mirror. We are the same. Created and sustained by the power of Love that holds us through anything. The Love that calls us Home. I’m learning what happens to them in some way happens to me.

I hope they all have a cool place to be and something that gives them purpose today.

Something to chew on…

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perspective in pink 

I’m sitting in a Catholic chapel tucked back on a busy street. I pass it every day, but today I sit in it’s embrace. It’s beautiful, crisp and clean with white, purple, pink, and gold. 

It looks like Kate Spade in spiritual architecture. 

Yet, this is not for show or fashion. This is a place of reflection, meditation, quiet worship and prayer. A place to simply be still and know that God is…

I’m here because there are so many people I know and love who are hurting. And, my heart hurts with and for them. Some are facing uncertainty. Some pain. Some loss. Some death. All burdens too big to carry alone. I want to fix and know I can’t. I can sit. I can pray.

I’m here because I’m aware of the fragility of life and humanity, and I want, no need to be re-minded of the orientation of leaning in to God’s loving presence in all things.  I need to re-member God’s manna comes for each day.

There’s such a peaceful awareness of God in this place. I can hear the cars rushing past, and wonder, if those driving by are awake to It as well. I’m skeptical about that.

I can hear the hums of mowers and I’m reminded of how ordinary life really is. And, how extraordinarily beautiful that truly is.

I’m here because it’s my birthday. 63. How did this happen?! I’m at once grateful. And surprised. So much joy, much more than I could possibly hope for. And, so much grace. Oh, so much grace!

I slept through so much of it. Rushing and fretting. Not slowing down to take it all in. To savor it’s richness. Please God don’t let me miss a second more. I’m here to have that prayer re-membered in my soul. 

What to do with my Now? I want to be a part of the beauty and do what I can to ease the pain. To do my part. To love with abandon. I don’t want to forget. I want to stay awake to it all. To be present. 

I don’t know what you are doing today. But, I pray that no matter what, you are wide awake. In the midst of whatever uncertainty, pain, loss, or joy you are experiencing, I pray that you will take a moment to re-member the marvelous, beautiful gift of grace you are from and to God and to the world. 

Something to chew on…

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a matter of taste

On Easter Sunday our five year old granddaughter, Eloise, took her first communion at the Episcopal church where they belong and Tom and I are presently attending with them. She could have taken it earlier but she and her parents had really wanted it to be special and Easter Sunday seemed like the perfect moment to partake at the table!

Always before she would approach the alter, kneel, and bow her head over her hands, waiting for a blessing. Watching her do that was beautiful, sweet, endearing.  The priest would kneel down, touching her head and bless this little angel. And from the look on the priest’s face, he thought it was a sweet as I, and the rest of her family always did.

This was such a routine on Sundays that on this Easter Sunday when she kneeled,  holding her head high, and extending her open palms I noticed the surprise on the priest’s face as Eloise jolted him from routine. His surprise was quickly replaced with a grin as he gave her the bread of heaven. When the cup came by she dipped the wafer into the wine and put it in her mouth. What a special moment! Something the Episcopal tradition does every single Sunday, and yet, this particular Sunday seemed to me like such a momentous occasion as Eloise made this rite of passage in the family of faith.

On the way home Eloise was asked how she liked taking communion after all this wait.

“I liked the chip but I didn’t like the dip.”

She also told her mom that she had to ball the wafer up in her mouth just to be able to swallow it. When I heard this I realized I too usually have to maneuver it around a bit before I can swallow those dry cardboard like discs. Why do we grownups lose this level of transparent honesty?

I’m not sure if Eloise is all that excited about taking communion now. Not sure if it was all she had built it up to be in her mind. It occurs to me that many things in life are like that. How often the anticipation is greater than the actual event.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Easter. The big feast of God, a central point of our Christian worship. The coming to the table in remembrance and celebration of the sacrificial love of Christ until he comes again. The participating together of this beautiful body of love. Shouldn’t an event of this proportion be greater than what we imagine? Every single time?

One of the things I was most looking forward to in being ordained as a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament was being able to preside over communion. To be able to tell the story of the night Jesus was betrayed when he shared a simple meal with his disciples, one that was steeped in eternal love and significance. The anticipation of being able to do that paled compared to the worshipful experience it has been to actually be able to share this moment with a congregation. Or, with a group at a retreat. Or, anytime I get the chance to serve “the meal”.

Not long ago, the Thursday study group I have mentioned before changed meeting locations for one meeting from my house to the home of our beloved friend who has been fighting pancreatic cancer for over a year now. I’ve told you about her before. How she loves to dance. How she didn’t let a little chemo bag and bald head keep her from coming to our group. She has been an inspiration of joy in the face of difficulty for all of us. Since she had also suffered a major stroke recently and was unable to move the left side of her body she invited us all to her house for this particular Thursday so that she could be a part of the study that day. When I got there her sister had taken care of everything that this woman would have normally done, coffee and cookies, served on china. We were all touched at the generous hospitality she showed us. We all sensed this was a significant and bittersweet moment for the group, and no one took it for granted.

I’d had a last minute thought on the way to her house that we should celebrate communion together. So, I’d stopped at the grocery store for Hawaiian bread (because I was determined it should taste sweet not pasty), grape juice (like a good Presbyterian, although I debated myself on this) and dixie cups. The kind you put in a child’s bathroom for them to use when brushing their teeth.

I was clumsy as I presided over and served this meal but it may have been the most significant communion in my ministry history. We were gathered, Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and NonDenominational. Gathered in the love of Christ. And, the love of our friend. And, everyone partook! Our hostess said something about how it had tasted good, and how it should taste good. Truer words were never spoken.

It will be a long time, maybe never, before I don’t think of her when I take communion. She’s on hospice now and is on the suffering road home. I went to see her yesterday to pray for her but she was too sick when I got there. I prayed with her husband. Most likely I won’t be able to see her again. But, I will always see her in my heart.

The thing is, she is right. It should taste good! It should be a feast like no other. I’ve always thought this but I’m convinced more than ever now.

 I used to lead a communion and prayer service on Wednesday evenings at one church where I served. I got this hair brained idea that I would try a different kind of bread each week. One week cheese bread. Another week challa (Jewish ceremonial bread). One week it was rye, which was a bit of a mistake as it got stuck in some peoples’ throats. People were patient with me. But,the point was, I thought our communal experience of God’s grace should be something with taste. Something to satisfy hunger, both physical and spiritual.

At another church I served, one Sunday the person responsible for bringing the elements forgot to bring the bread. She was regretful and nervous to tell me. We were having a luncheon that day so I asked what we had available. Someone had brought baklava, a filo filled pastry filled with nuts and honey. Have you ever had baklava? Tastes like heaven! It was the best tasting communion ever. People came forward to receive the “bread” and dip it into the cup (that’s called intinction) and it made me smile, really big, to see them walk away, licking their fingers and grinning. Oh sure, there were a few ruffled feathers. But, really, how can you not like baklava. And, I was an interim pastor so they knew I wouldn’t be there long.

I mean no disrespect against the worship practices in any tradition by any of my observations . It’s just that life, and faith, and our love for grandchildren and beloved friends who are ill, and the strangers we worship with….it’s all mixed up together. And shouldn’t we do what we can to bring the goodness of all it to the surface? To make life as palatable as we can for one another? To make our worship as meaningful and fulfilling as possible? In doing so, I think we get a little closer to what Jesus was talking about that night he fed his disciples. If we are commanded to share these meals in remembrance of Christ, shouldn’t they really taste like the feast of God for the people of God? The feast of our lives. To be shared. In love.

So, I’m determined, if I have the honor to serve another church again as their pastor, we will have baklava. Or, at least, good tasting bread. And, I am fairly confident my granddaughter will like it a lot better.

May your worship and life and loves be sweet to the taste and fulfilling always.

Something to chew on…

Painted in Waterlogue

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