Monday, December 8, 2014

It has not been a good day.  The last few weeks I have been dealing with health concerns that frankly have had me scared at times.  That have me scared now.

It's not the pain.  Pain I can deal with.  And to be honest, there really isn't too much of that.   It's the implications.   It's the unexpectedness of it all.   To be prepared to hear that one thing was happening to me, and to find out it is quite another.  Well, it catches you a bit off guard.

(Let me add,  there is no need to worry on your part.   It is, as I say, serious but not major.  But if you have a spare moment, I appreciate a special thought.  )

It happens all the time.  Life moves in a certain direction, and then the cell phone rings at 2 a.m., and it fundamentally changes.  A boy dies tragically, and towns, cities, states and countries begin a different dialogue.

I have said before that the Joseph is the figure in the nativity story that most fascinates me.   He had to deal with that unexpected call too.  He dreamt an angel came to him and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The situation was no less problematic when he awoke, but he had a different way of seeing: they would call the child Immanuel: God with us.

Right now, my plate feels pretty full.   There are myriad changes coming my way.  Some good, Some, well, I don't know.  But they are coming.  Nobody gets to go back.  Nobody gets to know what happens next.

What we can trust is that God is with us.

I am not one who sees illness as punishment.   I do not interpret events that occur as divine retribution.  I see it as living.  And I am okay with that.

In a larger perspective, what I am facing is nothing compared to what so many deal with on a regular basis.  Yet part of what matters most about the Incarnation, about Jesus being born in a small stable behind a small inn in an insignificant little village is the larger perspective only makes sense when we let ourselves truly feel the pain and grief and loss that makes up our little lives just like Joseph, for then we can hear the angel say, “Don’t be afraid.”

Immanual!  God with us!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 8

It is a ritual in this household.   Every morning's conversation - - "How cold is it outside?"  "Did you see the weather forecast?"  The answer is virtually always the same.  "I never see the weather forecast unless they give it on NPR."

Weather in Central New York can be interesting.   Temperatures can fluctuate wildly.  A simple phrase like Lake Effect can mean anything from a dusting of snow to 18 inches of white powder.  It just depends exactly where you are standing in that snow band at the time.  And literally, the other side of the street might not be getting snow at all.   It's a freaky thing.

The last year or so, temperatures have taken their toll on me.  I blame it on the weight loss.  My internal thermostat no longer functions.  I sleep with a blanket even in the summer.  Previously those windows would be opened when it was 10 degrees out.     Now, forget that.   I now own 6 pairs of long underwear, and I wear them regularly.   (Sorry if that was TMI.)

My perception of cold and warm has changed.   What used to be comfortable, no longer is.  What is comfortable now was previously unbearable.   What is cold to me is not the same as what is cold to you.   It has a new meaning.

The temperature is a major source of conversation.  A safe way to strike up a relationship with a total stranger.   Grocery clerks have to get sick of hearing weather forecast from every person who goes through the check out line.   But it is a way we check in with one another.  A way we start to take the temperature of whether the other person will hear us or not.  A way in which we enter the world of another.

To engage in weather discussion is an indicator of potential in our society.   If we talk of this, perhaps we can go a bit deeper.   And so we talk.. and talk .. and talk.  

It strikes me that once upon a time a child entered our world to check our temperature.  To put on our skin and feel what it is like to be one of us.  To begin to embody the conversation.

As mundane as these questions are,  it is important to have them.  It indicates whether we can ever be heard.   Maybe,  maybe I should listen harder.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Advent Journal:  Peace?

Yesterday, as I passed a governmental office in the community, a small group of people stood outside holding signs, protesting for peace.  The red light at the intersection caused me to stop and I heard them singing, "Let There Be Peace On Earth."  A good song choice.

Throughout our country there are people struggling to find a way to respond to happenings in Ferguson, Staten Island and now Phoenix.  Sadly, I suspect this will not be the end of such events.
I know, as a society we are trying to figure it out.  Who is to blame?  What has happened to our society?  Have the police gotten carried away with their power?  And there are solid reasons on all sides of this discussion.

We once referred to police officers as peace officers.  Now they are law enforcement.  Our Pentagon, rightly or wrongly, has chosen to donate surplus weaponry to local, county and state enforcement agencies.

Significant changes have come to our country by virtue of protesting:  Women's Rights, Civil Rights, LGBT Rights, the end of Viet Nam, among others.  One could even make the argument that our nation was founded due to a protest regarding a Tea Tax in a Boston Harbor.  They are a part of who we are as a people.  I have fond memories of several that I participated in throughout the years.

Society is searching.  There are reasons for it.  Economic disparity, marginalized people, lack of ownership and recognition, whatever.  People are searching for ways to change the status quo.  We always have.

My fear is that our divided nation, our divided culture, divided politics are creating a stronger have/have not society, and that we can expect escalation in the days ahead.

Somehow we have to change the conversation.  We have to remember that protests are not threats to security.  They are cries of frustration and calls for change.   We have to find ways to honor that.    Men and women in riot gear hardly seem like a way to listen to one another.  And rocks thrown at police rarely serve to let dialogue be heard.

In the season of peace we have to find a way.

This carol/song came into my mind as I wrote tonight.

Day 6 (Sorta):  One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

You feel like you're making progress, then POW, you run into a wall and you are back where you started.   In the words of one of my favorite Kid's books, "Some days are like that, even in Australia."
Yesterday certainly was.

I am sure it happens for all of us, but who needs a flat tire when going on a trip?  A stomach virus before a party?   A phone call when you are rushing out the door?   Granted, those tend not to be huge things, but they affect us nonetheless.

I know life is made of those moments.  We all have them.   But I hate them.  So do you.   And that's all I am going to say about that.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day #5-  Through The Eyes Of A Child

Talon and I spent some time together Tuesday morning.   It hasn't been just the two of us alone for quite some time.  I've missed him.

Every grandparent thinks his/her grandchild is the cutest thing on the face of the earth.  I don't think that.  I know it.

Some of the Christmas decorating had been done.   The tree was trimmed, simply this year, after all there is a 2 year old running around here from time to time, and his grandfather can occasionally get himself into some trouble as well.     But the tree stands in the living room, next to the fireplace.

At one point in the morning, I was out in the kitchen. Talon was playing in the living room, and I came around the corner, and saw him, simply standing there, looking at the tree.  Just looking, a small smile, eyes wide with wonder.   I stopped, and just watched.   I thought about taking a picture, but as I read in "Brother to a DragonFly" many years ago, some moments are too holy to photograph.

I just watched.  Tree lights reflected in those innocent eyes that long ago captured my heart.  It was the first time my soul thought "Christmas" this year.  I thank Talon for that.

It wasn't an earth-shaking, soul making event.  It was love looking at Christmas.  It was hope mesmerized by sparkling light.  It was innocence believing in magic.  And I felt my heart grow larger.

I don't want this season to come crashing down on me.  I want it to unfold softly, surely.  Maybe, maybe if I look, I can find magic through a child's eyes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 4 - Peace on Earth.

A meme appeared on my Facebook newsfeed today.
It isn't a new thought.  I've considered it before.  But is has affected me.
I read so many comments and posts about the wrongs/rights of Ferguson.  I hear reports of Jewish/Palestinian tensions in the mideast, our long involvement in Afghanistan, the Sudan.  I debate with friends the issues of gun control, and I so look forward to the increasing numbers of reports from various sources about the war on Christmas (he writes sarcastically).

It is no surprise that I struggle with a lot of the politics and what is labeled "traditional Christian values" of the day.  I struggle a lot.  It isn't a newsflash that we live in a divisive culture.  Politics, religion, sexuality, heck, even recipes can cause intense discussion and debate.   But I cannot comprehend how in the season when we so anticipate the coming of the Prince of Peace, we can so easily withhold and deny it to others.

I have often said that if I make mistakes in living my life, I hope that I will always err on the side of grace.  That includes getting my spirit ready for the Advent of God once again.

Several hours ago the following clip went through my mind.  It may be, perhaps, one of my favorite Christmas moments/songs.   I recall the first time it aired.  It had an impact.   I post it now, hoping it has an impact again.

At least on me.

A Day Late ....   But that is normal for me.

Yesterday was World AIDS day, and this would certainly be more appropriate for that occasion, but heck, that is entirely too predictable, and I would never settle for that.

Long ago, and just yesterday it seems, at Bethlehem's St. Luke's Hospital, I was doing a C.P.E. unit (Clinical Pastoral Education).  It was a demanding and energizing experience, and one that shaped me in many ways.

A patient, David, on one of my assigned floors had become the target of a lot of conversation.  A young man, 26 years old, he was in isolation due to what was the new scourge in our society.  He was dying of AIDS complications.   A gay man, rejected by his family, whose partner fled due to fear when he was initially diagnosed.  David was alone.   AIDS was new in that community.  Unknown.  Scary.  Nurses avoided taking care of him.  Doctors stayed away.  He lay alone.  His calls for help were often ignored until they could no longer be so.  Some staff refused to enter his room.  He was, in my recollection, all anyone talked about.

I remember thinking, I should go see him.  But I will admit, I knew so little, and I was scared.  I put it off,  but there he was, behind that door right across from the nurses station, alone and closed off.  So finally, I wrapped myself in whatever courage I could muster, and knocked on the door.

I entered, and this young man with sunken cheeks, was laying in the bed.   He had sores on his face and arms.  He shivered from the cold.  All he wanted was the bedpan.

Putting a patient on the bedpan was not part of my job, but no one answered his call.   I knew enough to know that bodily fluids transmitted the disease, but this guy needed my help.  So I grabbed the bedpan and helped him.   When he was settled, I sat down to talk.

He was charming.   He was lonely.  He was funny.  He was scared.  He was gay.  He was human.  He was alone.  He was David.   For six days we visited.  We talked.  I watched as he became a shadow of what he once was.  And on one of my overnights on duty, I held his hand as he died.

The fear of the disease he had, the prejudice against who he was profoundly affects me.   I assert that no one is outside the love of God, and should therefore, be beyond my caring, our caring. But so many are.   So many men and women have died isolated and alone because of who they are.  It cannot be so.   It must not be so.

Yesterday, I remembered David, and others who I have lost, who we have lost. Today,  I remember too.  I am grateful for them.  I honor them.   I grieve them.  Let this never be again.  Good God, let me never be callous to this again.