These past few weeks, I have not had a smile on my face or heart. In fact, my heart is broken over the desperate cries of precious little ones as they were ripped out of the arms of their migrant parents. The anguish and desperation in their voices has reduced me to tears. This IS NOT the American way, or at least I pray it IS NOT the American way.
Grief is perhaps the greatest teacher known to humankind. It comes at a very steep price. Grief teaches us perspective, patience, love like never before, kindness, tolerance, acceptance, appreciation for the present moment, and so much more. Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is neither a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.
Do you have a nickname? When I was growing up, I had two nicknames. The first was Rara. I am not sure where it came from. Maybe my older brother couldn’t say Russel, and as he tried to pronounce my name, it came out “Rara.” I utilized that nickname with all the little children Nancy babysat over the years. Many of those children are now adults and still call me “Rara.”
The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls out to them, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!” The first to run to him are the bummer lambs, because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved; it’s just that they believe it. I am so grateful that Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd. I am a bummer lamb. Chances are you are too.
As I sit here at my computer keyboard, it is the day before my 64th birthday. Wow! How is that even possible? Depending upon which shoes you are in, 64 is a youngster and for others, well, you are seen as “old as dirt.”
My running route has turned into somewhat of an obstacle course with discarded Christmas trees strewn on the sidewalks. As I was running, I thought, only a month ago, these trees held special meaning and had a prominent place in the warmth and love of homes. And only a few weeks later, they are thrown to the curbside. The once beautiful, green branches decorated with lights and ornaments are now a tarnished brown, waiting to be burned or shredded into mulch.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is usually a time to look back to what has been and to look forward to what can be. To look back includes both the positive, as well as the negative, things. To look forward to what can be or should be possible is also an important exercise. As we stand at the threshold of a brand new year, it might help us explore the answer to the above exercise by reexamining one of the classic Peanuts cartoon strips.
Brian Abel Ragan’s father told him the same story every year, growing up, about a little boy so poor he had nothing but one toy: a little beat-up plastic car with two wheels and a broken windshield.
As I walked Lee Ann and Victoria out to their car, I noticed a woman in a wheelchair. She was dressed in her pajamas and was accompanied by a hospital employee. The woman had no bag of belongings, just the pajamas on her back. They were both perusing the cars as they pulled up to the hospital. I heard the employee ask the woman as a vehicle approached, “Is that your ride?” The woman stretched her neck looking to see if that was the person to deliver her from the hospital. It was not. I silently prayed for her.
I was invited to join their conversation when Chris, the rehab therapist, mentioned she was from Sewickley. As we engaged in conversation, she seemed to know about me and the Sewickley United Methodist Church. As I sat at the kitchen table, she looked at me and said, “I want to thank you and your church for praying for me and my family. I am Katie Parish’s mother.”
Why do so many hate? Why do so many say to some of God’s children, as I said to that cute little bunny: “Don’t you dare go into the church. You don’t belong there. You will just cause havoc and make the people upset.”
As I sat there listening to the funeral liturgy, a 27-page booklet (but who was counting), I could not help but think how my life would be different if my father had been an active church member, and we were reared in the Ukrainian Orthodox tradition.
For the past several weeks, I have been car shopping. I really do not like that process. I went to three different car dealers, and after doing my due diligence, I purchased a vehicle. And that is when it happened.
I recently read of a rather strange proposal: Jake Hess said his wife laughed at him the first time he asked her to marry him. She explained how he asked her, “Would you like to be buried with my people?”
I stood in the doorway as he walked down the steps with his head hung low. As he walked down the sidewalk I heard him begin to sob, and between sobs, I could hear him cry, “I just want to go home! I just want to go home, and no one will help me.”
John’s story of the first Easter is vivid, rich, and full of fascinating details. In John, the little things, the details, are often pregnant with meaning. There is an interesting detail in John’s Easter account—everyone was busy running.
The Season of Lent is 40 days, not counting Sundays. Sundays are always considered little Easters. The number 40 is an important number throughout the Bible
The other day, I was putting Eliana (my three-year-old granddaughter) down for a nap. She asked, “Pappy, what is your favorite color?” I responded, “Ellie, I like purple.” She quickly responded, “You can’t like purple. That can’t be your favorite color.” “Well, why not Ellie?” I asked, “Why can’t I like purple?” “Purple is a girl’s color. Only girls can like pink and purple,” she said.
As we stand on our tippy toes ready to open that “brand spanking new” New Year, I can’t help but wonder what is in store for us this year? Do we eagerly step into 2017 with excitement and enthusiasm, or do we cautiously step into the New Year with fear and trepidation?
As I journey through Advent to Christmas, checking off each item on my list, I am very much aware that the idea of doing something with Christmas is what keeps us from understanding what Christmas is all about. After all, Christmas is not something we do. Christmas is something done to us, for us, and in us.