Let hope keep you joyful, in trouble stand firm, persist in prayer.... Rom 12:12

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just Thinkin' 'bout Patrick

Ok, so I wore lots of green today, including a green sweater, green shamrock earrings, and my emerald ring my parents gave me when I graduated from Divinity School. I used the expression, "Top o' the Morning to you!" I considered eating corned beef and cabbage, but decided not to over do. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was intrigued when my son posted a status message on his Facebook page. He was disappointed that no one was remembering St. Patrick on his day, everyone was just looking for someone to pinch for not wearing green. (Ah, middle school - aren't you glad to be out?!) I too was wanting to remember Patrick, and missing that element in the festive attitudes around me.

Tonight I read through several articles about Patrick, and refreshed my memory of him. We don't know a great deal about him, but what we do know is striking. Patrick came from a wealthy family, was kidnapped at a young age and spirited away to Ireland where he was made a slave. He managed a daring escape several years later and returned to England and his family. But instead of putting his suffering behind him, he spent years preparing for the priesthood, then returned to Ireland to serve the Irish for the rest of his life.

I read another article today, courtesy of my friend Dan Sloan, "Why Conservative Christians So Often Fail the Common Good", by Richard Hughes. Written by a professor at an evangelical college, the article was an exerpt from his book which asks why so many evangelicals and fundamentalists fail to hear and respond to God's call to work for justice and to minister to the poor. To put a fairly long and intricate article in a nutshell, the reason is because so many American Christians read the Bible through an American perspective, and have taken radical individualism and a vision of God's kingdom as political power for the Bible's central themes.

I wish I could speak as clearly and convincingly as the author did (it's on www.huffingtonpost.com). But the thought that kept running through my head was, here we are, two thousand years later, and Christ's disciples STILL don't get it! We still think the way to enter the kingdom of God is through power and might. And we still prefer to ignore or blame those less fortunate than ourselves, and to discount and denigrate those whose perspectives, beliefs, or opinions differ from our own. We want the kingdom of God to be our own little club, and you can't join unless you do what we say!

How vastly different is that sort of belief from the vision of Patrick, who dedicated himself and poured out his life serving those who had kidnapped and enslaved him. What would it mean to really love my enemy, to pray for the ones who pick on me, to do my best to make the world a better place by trying to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked or cold, heal those who are sick, visit those in prison....?

Today I heard about something someone said about me a while ago, and I was angry. I felt I was being unfairly judged, and my efforts to be helpful placed in a negative light. I confess I brooded a little, muttered something along the lines of "this always happens to me", and felt rather sorry for myself. Other than that, I had a delightful day - a lovely breakfast, good conversations, a busy day of work that I enjoy, a chance to see my husband before he left for his night's work, and the pleasure of picking up my car freshly repaired with new brakes and a fan that now works. In other words, no one kidnapped or enslaved me. And while I did nobly resist the urge to curl up on my bed with a good book when I finally got home this evening, and marched to the kitchen to prepare the yummy macaroni and cheese dish my children requested (check out 21st Century Mac and Cheese on www.splendidtable.org ). I can't exactly say I poured out my life for the wellbeing of others.

Actually, looking back on the day, I feel rather abashed. Despite my determination to be more cheerful and less grumpy, I don't think I managed to maintain a spirit of true Christian charity towards all. Sigh. On the other hand, I could have done a lot worse. And would have, in my younger days. Perhaps I should take some comfort that progress is being made. God isn't finished with me yet, thankfully. So once again I am praying for God to help me grow into my highest ideals so that I become who God intends me to be. I hope God can soften my heart and make me more attentive to the needs of those around me. As well, perhaps, make my skin a little tougher?! And tomorrow being another day, I will try again. St. Patrick and all the saints preserve us!

A prayer from St. Patrick:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all who love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger......

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mud Season

Ok, I hate Spring. Always have. It's definately my least favorite season. Why? I love snow, and hate letting winter go. I love summer, but dread having to face a mirror while wearing a swimsuit. But most of all I hate spring for the following reason: mud. It's sooooo muddy here. All the snow is melting away, and the ground is soaked. Everywhere you step is not just wet, it's saturated. I feel like I'm living in a bog. Mud everywhere, and there is no escaping it. It's becoming habit to get to work, get out of the car, and lean over to brush/clean the mud off the bottom of my slacks or skirt, from where I brushed against the side of the car getting in and out. The floor of my house is gritty with dried mud tracked in by 4 humans and 4 dogs. Driving up my driveway is every bit as nervewracking as it was with all the snow - I'm slipping and fishtailing almost all the way up. I'd park at the bottom and walk, but I don't think I can make it up through the mud without slipping myself. And I don't want to think about what my shoes would look like after walking through that thick layer of loose mud!

I'm trying to keep a positive attitude. I'm good at metaphorical thinking, so I'm trying to see the mud as a symbol for something good. Let's see, what's good about mud? If you're a potter, mud can be used to make lovely things, useful things, or just plain fun things. If you're a gardener, mud is the basic foundation of your garden. If you're a kid, mud is just full of potential for creativity, silliness, and play.

I remember as a child I loved to run around barefoot, still do actually, and I'd get really dirty sometimes. My mom would just smile and recite, "Nobody else but the rosebush knows how good mud feels between the toes!" Going barefoot was a big treat during the years I wore orthopedic braces on my legs. I wasn't allowed to take them off much, and when I did it felt so wonderfully free!

Perhaps I have been a wee bit too grown-up towards the mud. Maybe I should let myself be more child-like, and remember that mud can be delightfully gooshey, and squelchy, and sloppy, and that's good. Perhaps I need to let go of my grown-up need for cleanliness and order (and control) and just appreciate the freedom of being wet and muddy.... it's a good thing to remember our creatureliness, so we don't get too full of ourselves and start thinking human beings are so much better than all the other animals. I guess I really need to relax and have some fun with all this mud!

So tomorrow, when I brush the mud off my slacks, I think I'll whisper to myself, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return". And when the dogs leave muddy pawprints all over the floors and jump up and leave them on me, I'll laugh and enjoy being just another of God's creatures. And maybe, when I slip and slide and fishtail my way up the driveway, I'll have enough grace to holler "Wheeeeeeeee!" all the way home.

Happy Mud Season Ya'll!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Winter warmth

It's been a long, cold winter. I've been trying to keep quiet, but I've really loved this winter. It's the sort of winter I've always wanted with lots of lovely snow. I feel a little guilty enjoying it. I don't like that the cold makes for so much discomfort, even suffering. I worry about the deer, the bunnies and other animals trying to make it through till spring. But I have loved the snug feeling of being tucked away in our little hollar with my family. I've delighted in watching the snowflakes dance and tumble and race down the mountains. I've even thrilled when we had actual blizzard conditions, once Gary was home safe and sound. I love seeing each branch and fenceline furred with snow. The woods are so lovely and lacey. It's pure pleasure to me to look out and see the contours of the land -all the hills and valleys show forth so clearly when there is snow on the ground. And my favorite time of day - sunset glowing into twilight - is exquisite when the colors of the setting sun are pierced with silhouettes of bare trees!

But it's time for the season to change again, and this year, much to my astonishment, I find myself looking forward to Spring, or as I call it, Mud Season. I'm actually ready for some warmer temperatures, and feeling a little eager to see grass and leaves again! I'm not even dreading, much, the hassle of dealing with the mud. As I've gotten older, I've tried to appreciate each season for what it is, instead of anticipating the next so much I forget to enjoy the present. I'm tempted now to daydream of flowers and leaves and warm, sunny afternoons. It's not quite time for that!

But the thought I am clinging to these days is the mystery of being deeply grounded. I look at all the snow heaped up into large drifts, and think how long it's going to take to melt. All that lovely water will slowly soak into the earth. I imagine all the seeds and bulbs and hibernating things underground, being watered and warmed as the sun begins to shine more intensely. Those seeds will swell and finally burst as new life reaches up towards the light. It's going to be a gorgeous Spring this year.

Being a lifelong late bloomer, I like the thought that I too am waiting in the darkness, for the good soaking warmth to reach me, when I will reach towards the light and break out in a blaze of color! I just wonder, what will I be?

Tis a good time of year to ponder that....