Going Home

While in seminary we lived at the Capital Yacht Club in D.C. aboard our boat.  Arriving home after class one gray, drizzly day, dock-mate Rhoda ran up to me, sobbing uncontrollably.  “S,s,s,Sam ran out of his 9 lives. We want to b, b, bury him at sea.  Would you do a f, f, funeral service?”  Gosh, my first funeral, I couldn’t say no.  Donning clerical garb, grabbing my prayer book, I boarded Tom’s john boat.  Rhoda and Sam were aboard.  At the end of the Washington Channel, Tom shut down the engine as all eyes scanned the water for marine police.  Apparently it is illegal to bury any dead body in the channel.

In my most reverent voice, I started.  “Grant that your servant will be resurrected with…” Oops, I don’t think cats are resurrected.  And, I know cats aren’t servants. I continued, “We remember this day our brother….” Oops.  Sam is not human.  Dodging further human references, I commended Sam’s soul to God, committed his body to the deep, and prayed for the grieving Rhoda.  Sam was in a large, square box.  I nodded to Tom to throw Sam overboard.  Rhoda stood ready to toss rose petals on Sam. Splash. Oh. My. God. The box was floating.

Image result for images of floating styrofoam box

Hauling in the bobbing Styrofoam box, we opened it, and wrapped in a plastic bag, tied to two cinder blocks, lay Sam’s cold rigid body.  Rhoda became hysterical. I knew the police would arrive and arrest us.  Tom stood stone mute. Nobody moved. A torrential rain drenched us.  I said, “Forget the damn box. Just throw Sam and the cinder blocks overboard.”  Tom did.  Rhoda emptied her bag of rose petals. Sam sank and went home, over the rainbow bridge.  We motored home sucking up the rain. WOW. My first funeral – priceless.

A Good Hair Day

We all (at least the ladies) know what a bad hair day is, right?  I have them regularly, like right now.  Today I’m waiting for guests to come and play bridge, and I sit here with bad hair.  Really bad.  I even need a haircut. Well, into the shower, wash, wash, rinse, rinse, condition, blow dry, poof – “Good Hair Day!

But what is a “Good Hair Day?”  Really?  I recall my wedding day (both of them) and one of the main priorities was that my hair look perfect!  Not close, or nearly so, but perfect.  If that meant hours at a hairdresser and a bag over my head until the event, so be it.  There is something about hair that we women obsess over.  Ask my daughters – I nag about their hair all the time.

At a conference years ago a black woman said that white women obsess about weight and black women obsess about hair.  I disagree.  I think women of any color obsess about both of them!  The scale may just tip a bit more to one side than the other for some.  Skinny women with perfect hair don’t obsess about much of anything, but perfect women like that are robots.  Fat women with rotten hair obsess about both and then there is everyone in between and you can place yourself wherever you want on the continuum.

I wonder however, if we would know a “Good Hair Day,” when we had one.  You see, a “Good Hair Day,” is as much about how we feel about ourselves as how our hair actually looks.  I have had one of the best hair days in my life lying in the ICU after having major surgery and surviving it.  I know my hair looked like hell, my face was bloated beyond recognition due to the eight hours of surgery lying face down on the gurney, and the hospital gown did nothing to enhance the blob of body lying in that bed connected to a dozen kinds of tubes.  But….it was a “Good Hair Day!”

I think too that a “Good Hair Day” is also about how good we feel when we say or do something that makes someone else feel better or live a better life.  Or how we feel when we’ve done something to help ease the aches and pains and sorrows of the world around us.  For Christmas last year and this year, I gave several bee hives, with instructions and all the parts including the bees, to families in third world countries to help them earn a living.  I felt good about that.  It was another “Good Hair Day.”

Have a “Good Hair Day,” even if you are having a bad hair day!

When the Wheel Comes Off

It was Sunday, April 10th, just a little after Noon, and we were crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel returning from a trip to Florida. The speed limit was reduced to 50 mph and the wind was howling a steady 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph, and white caps on the bay.

White caps on the Chesapeake
White caps on the Chesapeake

Our silver mini-van, affectionately called “Minerva,” was buffeted about, but stayed true and steady on the path.  The bridge is 12-miles long and we were in the last 600 yards when i heard what sounded like a small rock hitting the side of the van.

“What’s that?” I asked my spouse, R, as we tooled along.

“What?”

“Didn’t you hear that sound?”

“No.”

Back to reading my book.  Not more than two minutes passed when there was a loud rattling sound.

“What’s that noise?” I asked R.

“That’s just the luggage rack rattling.”

“Oh.”

Another minute passed. “You know that doesn’t sound like the luggage rack sound.”

“You may be right.”

“Let’s pull over on the next side street and take a look around.”  We did. We both got out of the van and peered at all four tires, under the van, and over the van.  Shrugged as we found nothing visually amiss.  Hopped back in and went back to highway 13 in Cape Charles, Virginia.  The noise was louder now and more a clunking sound than a rattle.  R put on his flashers and slowed down to about 20 mph as I looked up the nearest gas station.  It was 1.7 miles ahead.  We clattered and clunked along.

We pulled into the station.  I went to the ladies room, R went in to ask about the nearest repair facility.  It was a Shell station 7 miles up the road. Back out on the road, we started up the highway.  Not 100 feet later the clunking sounded like a train running us over.

“This van is not going to make it seven miles. Let’s go back to the Citgo station.”

Then the van started to shake, the steering wheel had a quivering life of its own.  R made a quick U-turn across the divided highway, sidled over onto the shoulder, and crept up to the gas station entrance.  Twenty feet into the parking area, the left front wheel clunked off the van and started its independent journey headed for the highway.

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Sheared bolt, four unscrewed bolts. Off goes the wheel
Sheared bolt, four unscrewed bolts. Off goes the wheel

Jolted, but unhurt, both R and I jumped out of the van in pursuit of the meandering tire.  Fortunately, it hit a curb, swerved to the left, and just averted heading into the oncoming traffic when I caught up with it and stopped its progress.  Phew, that was close.

“AAA, may I help you?”

“Sure, we need a long tow.  How many miles do we get for a free tow?” Luckily, we had the premium level coverage.

“You get 100 miles free for any tow, but only one free 200 mile tow per year.”

“Yah.  We need a 120 mile tow.”

Up on the flat bed, Minerva. You're going for a long ride
Up on the flat bed, Minerva. You’re going for a long ride

Four hours later, two in the cab of the tow truck, we are nestling the van in front of the repair shop.  They will pay to have the work done since they had just taken the four wheels off to install new struts and shock, the day before our trip to Florida.  Obviously, the nuts on one tire had not been torqued.

But, the weirdest part for me a least, was that I never worried about any consequences until it was all over and I realized we could both have been killed, along with perhaps several others, had that wheel come off as we were traveling perhaps 65 mph on the Interstate.  Then it struck me how fortunate we were, and how much worse it could have been. I started to cry.  Thank you Jesus.

Failure

Failure is one of the words in my lapsed Lenten discipline.  It is also I. There are currently 22 words I have not addressed.  I’ve read them, daily, as they are sitting on my desk in plain view.  I meditate on them and think about memories or thoughts each one evokes.  Some, like number two, Something Purple, washes over me like a waterfall – Lent colors, my chasuble, my favorite jumper, a cherished silk blouse long gone, royalty, a rainbow ribbon.  Failure.  Me.  While I can ponder those words, something deep within my soul keeps me from attacking my keyboard each day and jotting down a few words about a word.  I wonder if Jesus ever got up in the morning and said, “I’d love to go talk to a few people on the corner about love, but man I’m really just not that into it today.”  Maybe one day Mary said about 11 am, “I just don’t have the energy to bake any bread today.  We’ll just have some wine with our stew and be done with it.” I know that Moses didn’t feel much like doing a face-to-face with Pharoah.

So, I accept that I am a Lenten Discipline Failure.  But, maybe only halfway.  I mean, after all, I DO read them. Daily. I DO ponder them, daily. I just don’t write about them daily.  Probably never will.  I’m sorry Jesus, and thanks for forgiving me.

Here then are those 22 words, plus the last 4 for you to ponder:

  1. Loss
  2. Something purple
  3. Success
  4. Bread & Wine
  5. Fasting
  6. Fire
  7. A Verse
  8. Heart
  9. Bible
  10. Joy
  11. A stranger
  12. Ruin
  13. Healing
  14. An idea
  15. Journey
  16. Water
  17. Failure
  18. Longing
  19. Community
  20. A book
  21. An old treasure
  22. Darkness
  23. Cold
  24. Remoteness
  25. Favorite prayer
  26. Jesus.

Warmth & Nature

Here I go again, slipping behind in my Lenten discipline of writing on one word each day.  Sigh.  It makes me aware of my human failings, even when I have vowed to be diligent.  I suppose we all find ourselves in this position from time to time. Yesterday and today’s words are warmth and nature.  Another two words I find couple together nicely.  Whenever I encounter the word “nature,” I immediately think of Mother Nature.  It is always a puzzlement to me why we call God Father, but Nature, Mother, but we do.  Neither is actually a gender.  God for me is Spirit. God for theologian Pannenberg was a “force field.”  I can accept that.  Nature, for me is our entire universe, and the Hubble Telescope photos are awesome evidence of its enormity, infinity even.  It is the birds, who I call my little dinosaurs and feed every winter.  It is the animals, including my beloved Maltese, Loki.  It is sun, moon, sky, oceans, earth, flora, fauna; it is all of creation. I suppose I could do without mosquitoes or the house fly. I love the nature in my life, particularly when it is warm and I can enjoy it fully outside of my home. I think too of Mother Nature as a Spirit of warmth and nurturing.  Okay, most of the time.  Mother Nature can be violent during tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, all the horrors of nature.  But, on a quiet, warm sunny day, Nature and I get along just fine.  Nature is God’s creation. Nature is God’s own, just as I am. I like that.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

Friendship

When I was seven, and a southern Baptist, the ministers always talked about having a personal friendship, or relationship, with Jesus.  That puzzled my young mind since I simply didn’t grasp how one could be a friend with a dead person.  And then I learned about resurrection, our soul, and a plethora of spiritual entities from the mystics to the myriad of saints.  In my adult life I even experienced many spiritual interactions with what I like to call the “Spiritual realm.”  Finally, as I studied the scriptures, attended seminary, studied many scholarly works on Jesus, I too developed a personal friendship with Jesus.  Obviously it wasn’t a face-to-face, I can reach out and touch Jesus friendship, but a deeply spiritual friendship nonetheless.  We take walks together, we have chats, I pray with Jesus, and in my mere human weakness, I even ask Jesus to let my NY Giants win the Super Bowl (they did). What a guy that Jesus.

One of my favorite early hymns is “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  It was the first hymn I learned to play on the piano, and to this day I can at least sing from memory the first verse.  Over the years I have learned our friends can be near or far away yet our bond of love keeps us connected; often frequently; often rarely. It is like that with Jesus and me.  Our love for each other keeps us connected. Thanks be to God.

A friend loves at all times.  Proverbs 17:17

Sacrifice

As words go this is not my favorite word.  Even in Lent.  I am not one who actually makes any sacrifice in Lent.  I still eat my chocolate, dessert, or surf the net.  Rather, I prefer to do something positive, or take on a special ministry. One year I decided to give to Habitat for Humanity on a monthly basis, and three years later we are still doing it.  This year I am finding one extraneous thing in my home or my closet to donate each day.  At the end of Lent I’ll have 40 items to donate for others to use and enjoy.  I’m not sure we are called to sacrifice by God.  I am sure we are called to always be positive and to love, love, love.

“…and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Matthew 12:33

A Word, Peace

Another pairing to catch me up on a daily basis.  Lenten discipline is hard for me, but I’m trying.  A Word. Peace. Years ago someone took a huge national poll to see what American’s wanted most.  The winner by a large margin was “Peace,” or “World Peace.”  Wasn’t that one of the main messages of Jesus of Nazareth.  Peace be with you.  We all want peace in our personal life as well as in the world.  And so we pray to God, to God the Word, for peace.  Perhaps someday all those prayers will be answered.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   John 1:1

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:5

Favorite place to pray, Sacred Space

Well, I’m already way behind in my daily Lenten Post, highlighting my human flaw of procrastination.  And, then the day gets away from me, and before I know it the day is gone.  To catch up I’m doing two topics:  Favorite place to pray and Sacred Space.  I do however, think they are a good pairing.  Wherever I pray, for me becomes a sacred space.  A space where God and I converse.  Where, if I am good, I listen to God.  Where, I hope, God listens to me.  I don’t really have a favorite place to pray.  That would really inhibit my praying.  I like to pray everywhere, anytime.  I remember at my Commission on Ministry interviews someone asked me what time did I put aside every day to pray ? I paused for what seemed to me like an eternity.  Finally, I said, “My whole life is a prayer.”  Everywhere then is my favorite place, and God’s world is always sacred space.

Hope

Hope.  Just the word is awesome.  Hope.  My daughter once told me that if we didn’t have hope, she didn’t think the human race would survive.  Interesting.  I thought about that a lot and came to the conclusion that she was absolutely right.  As Christians we say we live in the hope of the resurrection.  We hope for good weather.  We hope for good health.  We hope our loved ones will not die too early, or without saying goodbye, or some painfully slow death.  We hope our team will win.  We hope we will get good grades in school.  We hope our marriage will last as long as we live.  We hope people will love us. We hope, we hope, we hope.  Yes, hope may be the very foundation of our life.  As Jesus wandered in the desert, climbed the mountain top, or spoke to the masses, he most likely hoped people would hear his message to help the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help us to live in truth, mercy, and justice.  I hope that I can live up to and into the life Christ called me to be.

“the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Psalm 147:11