Sunday, August 25, 2019

2019.08.25 On This Day in 1911................

My father who art in heaven
Hallowed was your name—
    Daddy, then Dad, then mystery itself.

Your kingdom, your will—
            my desire, my hope.

On earth I pursued them
      through tears and fears,   
Urging myself forward
      in silent wonder.

You gave me each day my daily bread,
    my nightly peace.

But I wanted more on earth, not in heaven.

Forgive me my striving, my heart stretched thin with longing,
as I forgive you your alcohol and smokes—stealers of time, dealers of death.
Oh, the agony of watching you die, wrestling with demons,
moaning out your salvation—groan by groan through the night.
    Your own wordless lament.
    Your special prayer: What’s the point?

In such dark moments I knew you knew God
    the same God you’d showed me
    when you gave me my name
    when you nodded a blessing:
        “I understand, Lynda.” 
You owe me no debt
    I owe you my life, my looks, and my smarts.

I guessed your temptations, your trials and your risks.
    You made them yourself. As did I mine.

Thank you, my father, for sharing your
       God and your faith and your shy kind of love.
I longed for more words—but had none myself.
      The problem, dear Daddy? We’re too much alike.

The kingdom, the power, and the glory were yours on earth,
    so I thought. And in heaven?

Grand items like these belong to Mystery alone.
    We couldn’t take more than the glimpses we had, Dad.

Could we?

            Happy 108th Birthday, my father—forever and ever amen. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

2019.08.07 For The Beauty Of The Earth

My birthday is today. So is my husband’s We are Leos in love. What I want for my birthday is that we all notice Beauty. It stuns and it saves. We see it in all living things, even when it’s obscured or dimmed by pain. Creative people know this. God is creative and creating all the time—with our help—making and illuminating Beauty. There is nowhere God is not. 

I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,-by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.

    “Long Island Sound” by Emma Lazarus  born in New York City (1849).

I never noticed the beauty of Long Island Sound. It was too familiar a sight to me as I grew up on its banks and splashed in its waters. I think I would die of grief if it were not there to behold—ever again.

Emma Lazarus, a Jewish poet who was concerned for the plight of her people, the plight of the poor, and the plight of refugees and immigrants, knew about the spiritual power of Beauty. She is most remembered for her famous lines published in a poem, commissioned for The Statue of Liberty, gracing New York Harbor since 1886: “The New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

So did English hymnodist and poet Folliot Sandford Pierpont (1835-1917) who wrote the words to this hymn in 1864 when he was only 29.

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. 

Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

Our current 1982 Hymnal changed the refrain to read: “Christ our God to thee we praise . . .” I guess they wanted to showcase Christ. But the above refrain is the one I grew up singing in the children’s choir at the Presbyterian Church in New York City, and “Lord of all” best expresses God as Creator of all for all. I believe we must seek beyond— way beyond—our religious preferences for the Beauty of the Earth.

When American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts left this Earth and headed for the moon on their spaceships, they looked back. Here is what they saw.

And this is what they all returned to tell us: this Earth is worth saving, and it has no nationality.

Only from a distance—time or space, physical or emotional— can we get perspective enough to realize what is worth expending every ounce of life, individual and collective, to save—with the help of the cosmic Artist who created it and gave it to us.  BEAUTY.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

2019.08.04 Who Taught You To Walk?

Today’s scripture readings began at home and continued in church.

Some people abstain from looking at the morning newspaper before they come to church to worship. They say it’s a practice that protects their minds and hearts from being stained by reports of violence, and more violence. Violence sells newspapers. It’s also a fact. I read the paper as I drank my morning coffee before I headed to church.

Today’s lead stories in the Boston Globe: One detailed more mass shooting in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio; another was about a man who buys then runs "sober houses" where recovering addicts get support and safety while they recover from the disease of addiction. Many of these places are unsafe, unclean, and extremely costly. Families of addicts empty their wallets and bank accounts in hope. Residents are instructed to stop taking any and all prescribed medications and “find a Higher Power.” Death happens, because God fails. Not only is this bad and errant theology, it is CRUEL THEOLOGY, motivated by greed camouflaged as health care treatment.

I longed for hope and different headlines. In church I heard more of the same about human behavior. AND, I also heard the voice of God speaking tenderly through the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1-11) about loving Israel as a parent loves a child from birth—embracing, leading with “cords of human kindness, bands of love,” teaching the child to walk, and, even when the beloved turns away, refusing to “execute fierce anger.” Why? “I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”

Nowhere is there a suggestion of divine abandonment or wrath. These are human fears only.

In Luke’s gospel story (12:13-21) there is a dispute about dividing the family inheritance. Money again! Someone in the crowd wants Jesus to instruct a brother to divide the family inheritance. Ah, the inheritance! Jesus replies: “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then he warns them to guard against “all kinds of greed”—ALL kinds. 

Then Jesus offers a parable about a rich man whose harvests are so abundant he has no place to store it all. He, notably, does not think of sharing but decides to build larger and larger barns to lay up his goods, saying: ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ Oh, how familiar this sounds today. This is not what I was hoping for. I felt as if I were reading the daily news reports. Are we in America now storing up every privilege, every claim to greatness, every imperialistic ostentation, every violent strategy (war), even reiterations of policies that equate compromise, aka diplomatic dialogue, with appeasement, aka losing?

What is God’s policy? Jesus tells the self-satisfied Soul in the parable what God, Creator of all wealth, said to the greedy Soul: “You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

It is left up to each one of us and all of us collectively to discern what being “rich toward God” means. (One of my ways is to counter cruel theology, even if it’s in scripture. It breeds spiritual poverty.)

May I gently suggest you remember who taught you to walk? Who let you fall down and who picked you up to try again with tender encouragement—all your life. Who loves you in spite of yourself?

Life is short. We do not have much time to gladden the hearts and minds of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind. Be rich toward God, O my Soul. Be rich.