Today…

January 15

 

There is nothing special about today, O God.
There is…
My list of things I hope to get done.
Several meetings I said I would attend.
The dog to walk.
Dinner to prepare.
The details and rhythms that make up my daily routine.
My daily life.

There is EVERYTHING special about this day, O God.
After all, here I am…
With work to do which I both enjoy and find meaningful.
Surrounded and sustained by the love and support of family and friends.
A list to tasks to accomplish for which I have both the resources and the skills.
A dog to walk who will help to introduce me or reintroduce me to neighbors and strangers on the Village streets.
Food to prepare and to eat which is more than what many…maybe even most…will have today.

There is EVERYTHING special about this most ordinary day, O God.
Thank you.

The Work Is Not Yet Done

Last night I attended the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Banquet organized and hosted by the local black Baptist congregation.  I am deeply grateful for their continued witness to me and to our community.

It was 50 years ago that Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his I Have A Dream  speech.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even in the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering in the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day in the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

We have come a long way since 1963.
Last night I sat a a dinner table with neighbors – black and white together.
The local legislator, who is white, presented an official proclamation to the pastor who is African-American.
All stood together and sang Lift Every Voice and Sing.
50 years ago that would have been nearly impossible.
Not just in Alabama or Mississippi, but in Bedford, NY, as well.
We have come a long way…
But, we still have a long way to go.

Last night I was reminded again and inspired again to be driven by a dream.
A dream eloquently articulated 50 years ago by Dr. King, but a dream of equality and justice and peace that is as old as humankind.
Now, it is my turn…
And your turn…
To find our own, often faltering words, to give voice to that dream;
And then, not just to say the words, but to do our best to live them in whatever way we are able, and in whatever place we find ourselves.

Silence is not an option.
I have a dream today.

If It Saves Your Life

So, here is the story…
A number of years ago our famiily was shopping for a new car.
A young salesman for one of the cars we were considering eagerly pointed out all of the safety features on the particular car we were looking at, including the fact that it had side airbags. (Side airbags were relatively new at the time.)  In his effort to make the sale he said to us,
“Even if they only save your life once they are worth it.”
We thanked him for his time and left the showroom.
And, I wrote down what he said.
“Even if they only save your life once they are worth it.”

Now for what I believe…and don’t believe.
I believe my life needs to be saved.
I don’t believe that has anything to do with what happens after I die.
I believe it has everything to do with how I live today.
I need to be saved from selfishness.
I need to be saved from narrow-mindedness.
I need to be saved from arrogance.
I need to be saved from thinking it is ALL my responsibility or my fault.
I need to be saved from taking myself to seriously.

That list can certainly go on.
But if that is what I believe then the next question is:
What is going to save my life today?
What is going to turn me in the direction of hope?
What is going to turn me in the direction of gratitude?
What is going to stop me in my tracks and make me pay attention?
What is doing to take my breath away?
Rather than being rhetorical, these are real life questions that I need to find ways to live with and to pay attention to each day.  Otherwise the life I have to live today will be lost.

He was right, you know.
“Even if they only save your life once they are worth it.”
And we did buy the car.

Mental Health Day

ski

 

First, a confession.
I don’t think of myself as a workaholic, but I probably work more than I should.
Some of that is because I feel responsible.
Some of that is I tend to be something of a perfectionist.
Some of that is that I want those around me and those I work for to be happywith me and with my work.
All of that leads up to today.

For the first time in a couple of months I was able to take a mental health day.
There was nothing on my calendar that could not be pushed back a day and nothing pressing in the office that I just had to do, so Sunday evening I drove up to Vermont to get away for a couple of days…and to ski.  When my children were young, we would take mental health days several times each winter.  I would take a day off work.  They would take a day off school.  And, we would go to one of the closer ski areas and ski for the day.  Back then, it was not so hard to do probably because I was doing it with my kids.

It was a bit harder for me the last couple of days.
While I thoroughly enjoyed skiing…
Blue sky.
Great snow.
No lines.
And, my first two days skiing this winter.
And, while I very much needed the day and a half away…
(I feel rested for the first time in several of weeks!)
One part of me kept telling the other part of me that I should be working;
That I should be busy.
I know that is something I need to learn about myself.
But, I also think it is not just me.
I think many around me, both young and old, have conditioned themselves to think that they must be busy all the time and when they are not something is wrong.
How many of us, I wonder, need a mental health day?
Maybe we all need to learn and to practice a more healthy way to live.

May the words of our mouths…

words

Words matter.
How words are used matters.
Jewish and Christian sacred text includes these words:
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” 
Right now, our words are not…
Acceptable, that is…
To God or to anyone else.

When our political leaders speak in ways that denigrate other elected officials, they give tacit permission to those who listen to them to speak in the same way to and about those with whom they disagree.  When our news outlets speak of every political decision or compromise in terms of winners and losers, they help to create a competitive environment where leaders do all that they can not to be seen or labeled as losers.  And, what happens there filters down to here and to me and to my neighbor and to my community.  We draw up sides.
Me versus you.
Red versus blue.
Us versus them.
Urban versus rural.
Black versus white versus Latino.
Neighbors become strangers.
We become suspicious of each other.

Something has to give.
Either we are going to draw the line in the sand deeper and wider making it harder to cross or someone has to be strong enough and brave enough to step forward and begin to speak with and about the other side in a different tone of voice, and challenge the language and the rhetoric of those who constantly belittle and demean.  Maybe that is just wishful thinking in the arena of hardball politics, but I am afraid if we don’t find a better way forward the fabric of our communal life and common good will become much more frayed than it already is.

But, here is the other side of the equation…
What if the rhetoric we hear from our elected officials is merely reflective of what is at play in our communities?  Where you and I live?  What if they are merely saying out loud and in front of a camera what we whisper to each other on the street corners about those who are different or who think differently than we do?  If that is the case then it is not their problem, but our problem.  Then you and I need to be the ones to find better, more civil ways to talk to and with each other.  Maybe if it starts here, it will filter up.  Maybe if you and I can find a way to do it, we will become the model for our elected officials to do it as well.

Rather than looking elsewhere,
Maybe you and I are the ones who need to be the leaders right now.

Christmas Continues – December 26

The Work of Christmas

Years ago we received a Christmas card with this quote on it by Howard Thurman.  Since then it has been a part of the decorations we put up/out each year.
It serves as a helpful reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

When the song of the angels is still,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal broken,
To feed to hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among our sisters and brothers.

Christmas Eve – December 24

On Thanksgiving Day, as we were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I saw an commercial with a person rushing from store to store with an arm-load of shopping bags.  The tag line of the commercial was: Make my Christmas.

Which got me thinking and leads me to ask this…
What will make your Christmas this year?

Advent Continues – December 23

In those days a decree went out from the Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2: 1-7

Reflection:

For all our elaborate and beautiful preparations…
Trees and lights.
Candles and carols.
Star and flowers.
Decorations both here and in our homes carefully set in their assigned places.
For all of this…
The actual story of the birth of Jesus, as we read it in Luke, is strikingly simple.
Out of 32,000 verses in the Bible a mere seven describe this event.
Rather than special, this birth is more like the birth of any other and every other child than something different and unique.
And while scholars and pastors can parse words and infer meaning;
And preachers write and preach elaborate sermons;
What strikes me today is the simplicity of the story.
And, with that the reminder that that which we most long for…
Most desire…
Most need…
Is, more often than not, found in the simple.
The ordinary, everyday moments that grace our lives.
And, when we have eyes to see a star in those moments;
And ears to hear the echo of angels;
We will begin to discover God in all our other moments, as well.

Advent Continues – December 22

What words would we wrap around our prayers this day, O God?
Continued prayers for healing and hope and strength and comfort for all those whose lives have been and are torn apart by violence whether in neighboring towns or a world away?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And prayers, too, for those for whom the holidays are more empty than full?
For those who move through these days with a lingering sense of loss and who face an empty place at the table?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And, prayers for all those who move through these days with a deep sense of expectation and hope; who catch a glimpse of what you intend for us and for all?
Your grand dream of peace on earth.  Good will towards all.
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And prayers for ourselves?
For wisdom enough to recognize and to name that which is really the most important as we move through these final days towards Christmas and then beyond?  For an openness to be caught off guard by wonder and surprised by awe and overcome with an excitement that pushes through our busyness and past our preoccupation?  For a sense of gratitude that breaks open our hearts and makes room for another?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayers.

And, finally this, O God…
Here we are, poised on the edge of another Christmas.
We would pray for peace.
Peace on Earth and peace between and among all Your children.

Advent Continues – December 21

blog post that I read this morning written by Landon Whittsett got me thinking.  He wrote about the what words we use each day to tell ourselves who we are and how our life is going.  It made me stop and think about the meaning and the importance of the rituals that have become a part of our family traditions as our family has gotten ready for Christmas.  These rituals, I think, become our unspoken words about what is important to us about Christmas.

Yes, there is the wreath hung by the front door and a decorated tree in our living room. And,there are candles in our windows from the First Sunday in Advent through Epiphany. But, it is the Advent wreath on our dining room table that is the most meaningful to me. As we gather for dinner, with whoever is at the table that evening, the candles are lit before we begin our meal. A simple, quiet reminder, often at the end of a busy, sometimes chaotic day, that serve as a reminder that as we move through days with more darkness than light, we are still moving forward towards the promises of Christmas.