Monday, February 26, 2007

Juxtaposition

My dictionary says that to juxtapose is to put side by side or close together. It seems to also imply a dissonance of some sort ~ putting two unlikely things side by side, such as this.....
We have been back from our vacation for over a month. It seems like a long time since we soaked up the Caribbean sun. The feeling of snow under our feet is much more familiar than sand. Yet a wintry walk with Nicky isn't so bad. The snow on the trees is as beautiful as the sun on the water.
Much of our lives is a juxtaposition of unlikely or dissimilar things. Life and death. Love and hate. Plenty and want. Learning to live with the dissonance is the tricky part. For now I'm content with wintry walks and memories of sand between my toes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Remember you are dust....

On Ash Wednesday we joined with the other United Methodist Church in town for two joint services. The noon service was at North UMC and the 7:00pm service was at South UMC. It is a little bit complicated, logistically, having three pastors officiate. We decided that Pastor Mark would preach and Pastor Margaret and I would administer the ashes.

During his sermon Pastor Mark spoke of how difficult it was the first time he placed the ashes on the foreheads of his own children saying the words, "Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." When it came time to invite people forward to receive the ashes at the 7:00pm service at South, Margaret and I stood on opposite sides of the sanctuary. Several of our youth had arrived without my noticing and before I knew it I was smudging the ashes on the foreheads of kids who are in my confirmation class, seniors who are getting ready to go away to college, young people who have their whole life ahead of time. I found a lump rising in my throat. While they are not my children, I have watched them grow and mature over the past three years. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."

At the same time, we have been preparing for the death of a long time member of the congregation. Roger has had Parkinson's disease for many years. Three weeks ago he took a fall in the middle of the night and ended up in the hospital. While it was expected he would have to go to rehab, it was thought he would recover. Soon after his fall, though, he developed pneumonia. On Monday he decided to stop taking the antibiotics and go on hospice care. His family has been keeping vigil at his bedside and we have been stopping by to offer prayer, and hopefully some comfort, several times a day. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."

Whether we are at the beginning of our lives or at the end, we are dust. As one person said to me this week, "We are all dying. Some of us just don't know it." The hope we hold to on Ash Wednesdays is that we are not alone. Death may come this week, next month or forty years from now, but no matter ~ God is with us.

May God grant Roger peace, my youth protection and many chances to fulfill their dreams, and all of us the comfort that though we are dust, we are infinitely precious dust in the eyes of God.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Valentine's Mission

Nicky managed to pull off his Valentine's surprise for Fizzy. It involved a toy squirrel and lots of heart shaped love notes. The word is that she enjoyed it very much.... we are still waiting to hear from her directly!

On Valentine's Day we had our first major snow storm of the year. Schools were canceled, Gary stayed home from work, and I worked from home. It was a nice change of pace. I think that is what I like most about snow days ~ the world quiets for a while and life seems to move a little slower.

Speaking of a slower pace, here is another picture from our vacation.... (I'm still trying to get some of our pictures up, so bear with my bad transitions!) Life was definitely slower on Cozumel Island. Here is a picture of a Mayan ruin we saw. It is at the sight of the first Catholic Mass in the New World.

Of the islands we visited, we most want to return to Cozumel. It is a beautiful little island (close enough to visit the Mexican mainland) and the people were very nice. I'm still enjoying my vacation memories as the temperatures here in New England drop to below zero!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The fullness of my hands....

I've been away from blogging while recuperating from Bronchitis. What started out as a simple cold got much worse. I have been on the mend for over a week, but recovery was followed by the need to catch up on all the stuff I missed while I was sick! Meetings, sermons, visits! I think I have finally returned to normal ~ or as normal as 'normal' can be. I took Nicky for a walk today and will even get back to the gym next week ~ or so I say.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a book I read called, The emptiness of our hands: a lent lived on the street. While I was sick I began to reflect more on this book. While Gary and I certainly don't live extravagantly, we do take advantage of certain middle-class privileges. Doctors visits, prescription medications, being able to take time off from work. The Bronchitis that was a minor annoyance to me might have turned into a life threatening condition for someone who could not take time off from work to go to the doctor or didn't have insurance to purchase expensive prescription medication.

In the summer I complain that the Jeep I drive does not have air conditioning. In the winter I complain that it rattles when it gets too cold. I would like to be able to afford a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or another trip to the Caribbean. But what does any of that really matter when there are people in our world dying because they don't have enough food to eat, when lives are destroyed due to simple infections? I don't know. I guess I am realizing more and more the fullness of my hands.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Home Sick

The cold I've been struggling with for the past week has really gotten me down. While the sore throat is pretty much gone, this nasty cough persists. As long as I don't talk or exert myself by walking from one room to another, I'm okay. Once I start talking or moving around at all I start coughing and my voice goes all croaky. It is not a pretty sight. Even Nicky is giving me my space.

Yesterday at church was fun! At the first service I had to run out of the sanctuary right before communion due to a coughing fit. The second service wasn't much better. I made it through communion, but dashed out of the back of the sanctuary just after. I ran into the bathroom where I practically coughed up a lung. When I emerged from the bathroom ~ tears streaming down my face, robe still on ~ church was just letting out. I think I scared a few people.

Gary went out in the afternoon to get me some heavy duty drugs to break up the congestion, suppress the cough and help me sleep. I'm doing a little better today, but have decided to stay in, for the most part. Hopefully some rest will get me back on my feet.

Days like this (did I mention it is bitterly cold outside as well?) it helps to remember our vacation. Here is a picture from our stop in Jamaica. In Jamaica we hit the shops, ate authentic jerk chicken and visited a statue of Bob Marley. Look at the sun, purple flowers and beautiful palm trees.

Oh well... for now I will work on my sermon on the couch with my box of tissues while I drink tea and eat cough drops. Ach-ooooo!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Good Bye Piano

About five and a half years ago I finally realized my dream of owning a piano. Like lots of people, I took piano lessons as a child. As an adult I regret not keeping up with my lessons and practicing. My solution was to get a piano, which of course I would practice! Maybe I'd even become good enough to play in church.

Ha! Five years, one move, and lots of dusty keys later, I've decided to give up the dream. Piano movers arrived at the house this afternoon to bring my old piano to live with a young family from our church. Hannah, the ten year old daughter, is going to take lessons. My prayer is that they enjoy the piano. I'm glad that it is going to a family that will appreciate and use it!

I do admit that I felt a little sad watching it being wheeled through the door. It is a beautiful piano and I have wonderful memories of the elderly couple that gave it to me. They were good friends from my first church and were so pleased to be able to give the piano to me. God Bless Herb and Esther, who shared their love for me through this piano. May the blessings be passed on to Hannah and any other young piano players who may bang on its keys in the years to come.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The emptiness of our hands....

I recently joined the board of our local Conference of Churches. This organizations is made up of 24 member churches and operates a shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry and thrift shop. As a welcome gift I received a copy of the book The emptiness of our hands: a lent lived on the street by Phyllis Cole-Dai and James Murray. It is the amazing story of the journey of two people who voluntarily went out onto the streets of Columbus, Ohio during Lent 1999. They lived as the homeless ~ sleeping in shelters, eating in soup kitchens, wandering the urban landscape.

They did something that I know that I could not do, but having shared their story, I have a renewed appreciation for the fullness of my hands. While I believe that Gary and I live relatively simply, we still have much more than we need... more food, more clothes, more 'toys'.

The most striking this part of the book for me was how Phyllis and James became invisible when they went out on the streets. Stripped of their social status and power, they became essentially 'nobody.' The average person who passed them by didn't look them in the eye and pretended they didn't even see them. True, they were dirty, disheveled, maybe even smelly, but they were still human ~ children of God. This makes me reflect on how I react when I see someone that I might consider 'less desirable' for one reason or another.

Phyllis and James went on the street with the goal of being present to everyone they met. Having read this book, I hope I can do the same in my work for the Conference of Churches and, more simply, in my daily life.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Favorite Girl


As I'm sure you can imagine, Nicky has several girlfriends. How could he not with his dashing good looks, charming personality and sharp sense of style!? There is Coral from down the street, Greta from next door and Rosie from around the corner. He has to say, though, that Fizzy is his best girl. He is quite smitten with this miniature schnauzer who is Jake and Stephanie's little girl. If Fizzy gave him the nod, he would drop his other love interests without a second thought...

However, as in all good love stories, Fizzy has another beau. Skipper is Nicky's main competition. Smaller than Nicky, but with boyish charm, Skipper likes to court Fizzy during play dates at the groomer where they share a kennel. Valentine's Day is coming up, though. Let's see if Nicky can sweep Fizzy off her paws and maker her forget about Skippy! I'll keep you posted!