Sunday, December 28, 2008

More than watchmen

Each night partner and I say together the antiphon at the end of Compline from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.

Last night as I lay awake I wondered about that word "watch". For us Americans, "watch" is a passive verb. We follow action with our eyes, and in sports, we get excited as we watch and we cheer or boo. But, we are minimally acting. We are watching others act.

Photo courtesy of APOD/NASA, Tunc Tezel photographer
Psalm 130 finds us aching for God just as watchmen on the walls of the city do for the first dawning light. They squinted their eyes, looked away, looked back, spotted the first glow of sunrise - and then they acted. They sprinted away to the temple to tell the priests. People awoke to greet the daybreak. Watching was an active occupation followed by alerting the right ones who then provoked real action among all people.

I am not very active right now, but watching is something I can do. I can scrutinize the workings of the world and alert the right people when I see (another word for watch but with different connotations) wrongdoing or something about to go awry. I can be a watchman (please pardon my gender here for I am following the words of the psalm that I love). I can scan the internet. I can listen when I am out. I can read books, magazines and newspapers. I can listen, and sometimes I can even watch television. I can deliberately set out to "watch" the world with Christ, analyzing what is happening by Christ's saying of the two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

If I learn that someone is ill, I can alert the clergy and send out a message to our prayer chain. If I read an article that speaks of actions I believe are wrong, I can call the appropriate authority - government, board of directors, managers, corporate headquarters and I can write a letter to the editor with a different viewpoint on the same topic.

While I may not have the same effect on the population that the watchmen of old had on their world, I can have some effect. As Mother Teresa said about loving the world - one by one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Neighbor kills bear

Yesterday I went to the little service station/grocery/burger counter two doors down to get lunch. A pickup truck pulled out just as I approached leaving the only open parking space to me. (and, yes, I could have walked, but I'm lazy) As I approached the doors, I glanced into the back of a small pick-up truck parked at the gas pumps. Something black was bulging over the top of the truck bed. A 400 pound black bear was there - dead, tongue lolling out of its mouth. With the exception of two small propane tanks, this bear filled the bed of the truck.

I would rather have seen my first eastern North Carolina black bear alive and at a distance, but I certainly would not have wanted to be up close and personal with this Goliath. I grabbed my cell phone and got a picture - which I am not printing here. I wanted to be reminded.

I ordered my burgers to go and went back outside to talk to the man who shot it. He said that the bears had been eating his livestock and his neighbors' livestock. What would he do with the bear? Eat it. Nothing would be wasted. He lives about a mile down the road from me.

Picture is borrowed from Animal Trial.

We live on the edge of a large national forest where some minor logging is permitted and hunting is permitted, but the dirt roads through the forest show a few hiking trails and lots of trees - no human habitation - not even litter. The bears in eastern North Carolina have flourished and grown huge and hungry. As their habitat grows smaller - even with a large protected forest - they grow more numerous and food is scarce, especially in years when winter comes late. The bears are normally in hibernation by now; however, our warm weather has delayed their usual habits and they are hungry. They seek food; black bears are omnivorous. The grasses, berries and small animals are gone now. So they find fenced animals that are easy prey. And, the owners of these animals hunt them in return.

I took the picture with my cell phone to remind me that all of us are responsible for climate change. I am responsible for the death of this magnificent creature. And, corporately with the entire world, we are responsible for changes in this Earth this make species extinct before their time. I want to see polar bears live before they are gone from the north and live only in zoos. I want to see our black bears survive in this habitat.

My prayer is that I be made more conscious of my impact on the world and our climate so that others may live.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chistmas Past

Let's see; my childhood memories of Christmas are very scarce. The tree was always in the living room, which had no heat; Christmases were cold in Mississippi during my childhood. Santa came fairly early on Christmas Eve; David (My brother) and I waited in the warm kitchen while Mom put out the presents. I don't remember Dad ever being there...not before he went back in the Navy nor after he came home. I remember three presents during my younger years (before age 16) - a blue bicycle, a pair of clip-on skates, and a pair of drum majorette boots (no, I was never in the band, but I loved boots and still do - three pair now and counting - of course, two pair are red). Often during the summer as we cleaned out the two tiny little closets by the chimneys, we found Christmas coloring books and small items that Mom had put away and didn't remember - so we had Christmas again. I know that I received dolls for Christmas because Mom kept them and made clothes for them. She enjoyed them much more than I did. My Aunt Virgie worked in a factory up North that made doll clothes, and so I got boxes of dolls clothes of all sizes and sorts. I still have one little kimono jacket that is pink on one side and blue on the other. Probably fit a small baby doll.

Then, we moved away from the farm to Slate Springs, David was killed in an accident in the Gulf of Mexico, and that Christmas was very strange. Mom and my sister-in-law, Sue, drove to Memphis (about four hours) to buy Christmas presents. I stayed at home. Marty, my nephew, was at his sitter's house. On the way home from Memphis, Sue hit a horse on the interstate and destroyed the car. Mom's head hit the windshield (this was before seat belts) and she had a concussion and a large cut. They were taken to the hospital in Water Valley, MS, and someone either brought them home (a good samaritan) or maybe Mom's cousin went to get them. Anyway, they got home in the early morning hours. None of their purchases were hurt, and most of them were wrapped. I got a swing coat with a "mouton" collar, and inside the box were fragments of the windshield glass from the wreck.

Christmases didn't make a big impression on me again until Mom bought her house in Columbus, MS. It was a rambling 9 room house, and she invited her step-sister and family each year for dinner - and anyone one else who wanted to come. Huge meals and lots of games were the order of the day. The two step-nephews were a bit younger than me - though it doesn't seem so much so now - and I watched them grow from boys to men through the Christmases at that house. One year, Mom bought Santa Claus gifts for my ex-husband's new family, and I watched those girls enjoy their presents in front of her fireplace. Each year, Mom bought a dozen little wind-up toys for each place at the table - and we had races and much laughter after the pecan and chocolate pies were finished.

My second husband and I split our Christmas times between our Moms, but we always spent some time at my Mom's house and that's when the family gathered. One year, we elected to stay in New Haven while I was in seminary. Our friend Donna came to visit. We went to New York City and played all day and into the night. Driving down the street with the sunroof open, taking pictures as we stopped at traffic lights; dashing across streets to the big Christmas tree while Loftin drove around blocks. Sadly, when we arrived back in New Haven, Donna found that her mother had died that day. Judith, who was just returning from the midnight service, brought us communion and did prayers for her mother.

This Christmastime, Donna is burying her father - some 17 years later. Please remember Donna and her family in your prayers. Her father really missed his wife, and I am glad they are reunited - and with the Westies that he loved so much. May we also find that joy after death.

In 1988, our neighbors gathered for a tree-trimming party - the first one. And, I realized that we'd be going to seminary the following year; so I bought my first miniature Christmas tree and Hallmark miniature ornaments. I have a miracle story about that little tree's ornaments, but I'll save that for the day after Christmas.

Since I've been with my partner, celebrating 10 Christmases now, we've had a tree trimming party each year - with lots of good food and friends. Our family now is "chosen family", those friends that we would call sisters and brothers - except for our delightful - well, actually her delightful son, who will be here in a few days. Homemade Chicken Soup was at the other end of the table. um um good.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A voice crying in the wilderness

There's a voice crying in the wilderness; Prepare the way of the Lord.

Great sermon on the topic at this blog.

The wilderness is where people went to seek their calling, to find their names, to discover their strengths (and probably weaknesses, too). From the wilderness stumbles John the Baptist, obviously having been there a while since he's wearing clothing of hides. He's rough and uncombed and possibly dirty - the kind of person that we would cross the street to avoid. And, he's undoubtedly been doing some kind of mind altering substance because he's proclaiming that God is coming to the wilderness. Right, John. We hear you. You're still high on whatever you found out there, but you'll be okay in a bit.

So there by the river that is a separating place from the wilderness and the real world, John starts dunking people in the little bit of water flowing and proclaiming that they are born anew, their sins washed away. Right - that dirty sludging water is gonna cleanse sins? I think not.

But, I'm wrong. God does come to the wilderness. Jesus, the Christ, is baptised by John in that slinky bit of water and the world is changed forever. God announces that the Beloved Son has become both divine and human - sharing our world, using the outhouse, putting on his robe the same way that the money-lenders and tax collectors do. Jesus got irritated with his Mama, left his Daddy's work, went wandering around the country. Then, he started teaching in synagogues, and everyone thought he was crazy, including his family. Jesus died as all humans die - although some humans are privileged to have less stressful deaths.

Now about this wilderness. I've been there a number of times - looking for Godot 'cause he never showed up on his white horse to rescue me, finding myself, looking for love in all the wrong places, blinded by the light and wandered off the road, reeling drunk at age 30 and lying in my own vomit, seeking ordination, racking up debt in seminary (a wilderness all its own). I've spent a lot of time in the wilderness trying to stop the pain.

But, you know what: God was in that wilderness with me because others prepared the way. God walked beside me until I was ready to leave the wilderness - every time I left it. And God walked beside me every time I entered that wilderness again. Those times when I did not feel the presence of God did not mean that God had left me alone. Nope, I just lost the sense of being worthy of God's presence.

I still haven't stopped the pain - not the emotional or physical pain, but I'm not in the wilderness right now. God still walks with me. And, yes, I ate those five cookies tonight because they did for a few minutes what I won't let God do for me - they stopped the pain. God has blessed me by taking away my desire to drink, by giving me a one true love, by gracing my life with a ministry of caring for people. I still carry the pain, and I still seek unhealthy ways of ameliorating the pain.

We all go down to the dust, and I may carry my pain to the dust, but I will know that God has walked with me and helped me bear that pain all the days of my life. Perhaps my pain will help prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness so that others may feel God's presence as they stumble along the path of seeking.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Your Quirk Factor: 62%

You're so quirky, it's hard for you to tell the difference between quirky and normal.

No doubt about it, there's little about you that's "normal" or "average."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A little more history

Hmmm, seems some young folks are following my history and asking questions, and I answered some of them on the phone, but there's a big gap there.

Sister-in-law Sue, nephew Marty. Marty was deaf. Sue worked nights at the Coffee Cup. Sometimes Marty was left alone all night. Sue was unmarried and got pregnant - 1965. Mom filed suit to get custody of Marty. Sue married an Air Force guy who needed someone to take care of his kids. The baby was born and is mentally about 2 years old. She was beautiful and her name is Darcy. Her father was a very good looking drug addict who died before she was born. Darcy lives with her sister Dena now in Clarksdale, Miss.

The Air Force guy retired and they moved to Rochester, New York, where Sue stayed until his kids were out of high school. She spent a summer with Mom and me in Columbus when Darcy was about 2 and Dena, her next child, was a baby. Dena is bright and wonderful. They went back to New York, but eventually moved back to Mississippi. Sue married once and divorced. Marty committed suicide on July 4, 1996. Sue died in the operating room while she was having an ulcer repaired/removed. They are both buried in the cemetery with the rest of my family in Slate Springs, Mississippi.

However, between that part of the story and where I left off at college....Sue had another child and gave him up for adoption. Mom said he had red hair. I think that was the summer of 1964.

Make a snowflake

Here's a wonderful site where you can clip and cut to make your own snowflake.