Sunday, June 28, 2015

Small Boats and Big Seas

Nobody honestly can or should care what my considered opinions are on any of the headline making events of the past week, so I'm not going to limn them out here (or repeat them, if you do happen to know). For goodness' sake, I'm a part-time retail sales clerk, and last time I checked, we were neck and neck with taxi cab drivers at the bottom of the list of people world leaders or anybody else should contact for input about public policy.Yes, I know how self-serving it is, then, to publish this at all, so let's just add that to the list of my personal vanities and shortcomings. 

For purposes of this post, the point is that it really doesn't matter what I think about any of it. Folks on both sides of any of the Big Issues of the week all need to settle down and take the same advice: IF YOU KNOW YOU ARE RIGHT, THEN BE KIND. I've been on the wrong side of issues often enough to know that the louder and crasser the dissent, the more folks realize -- deep down -- that they are not right about something. When you have the assurance of being in the right, you don't need to knock other people down and run over them with your words. 

Again, I say that with a whole lot of humility, because I've too often been the one spitting in another's face because I don't like to be wrong, and somehow being LOUD was the only substitute I could come up with for being RIGHT. We get loud when we know we're wrong because it's scary when you realize that, in a sea change, the boat you've been comfortable in has sprung a leak. 

Out on a walk this week, contemplating how much fear I was reading in some of the angry posts on social media, I thought back to something I wrote in September of 2001, sometime after the 11th of that month, when I wondered in writing why people of faith are so often fearful of the future, when we have been given the assurance that there will always be a future, and a hope. It referred to that time when, on a storm-tossed sea Christ's disciples jostled him awake, imploring Him to DO SOMETHING, to which he responded "Why are you so afraid?"

I am a white heterosexual Christian woman, born and raised in the American South who was fortunate enough to be born into a family of some means and education. Those things have been my life jacket. I'm betting some of you reading this have been wearing the same brand of life jacket.

We are all of us -- black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, Republican and Democrat, churched and unchurched -- in the same boat here on Earth. Some of us are equipped with life jackets of a certain sort of privilege that we did nothing to deserve, and woe betide anyone who asks us to let them at least hold onto a corner of it so they can stay afloat, too. 


I'd been thinking about this post for a couple of days; had really decided not to post it, but in church this morning my preacher spoke from the book of Romans. The gist of the sermon was that Paul, with a history of being the biggest T-crossing Pharisee of his day, had had his heart strangely warmed*  and now found himself compelled to open up his heart to the world beyond his ken, to open his heart to view every person as one of sacred worth, to whom he was beholden because his Christ had died for them, too, and when you're a person of true faith looking at all these folks Christ thought were worth dying for, your boat gets mighty big, mighty fast. My husband wasn't in church this morning, so when I got home I wanted to talk to him about what the preacher had to say. The Bible at close hand was one of my father's, so I grabbed it, and opened it to Romans 13... and an old clipping from a magazine fell out. Our preacher had recommended that when we respond about these Big Issues to those with whom we do not agree, to remember Romans 13:8.

...for he that loveth another has fulfilled the law.

After I read that bit to my husband I unfolded the clipping that my father placed right there, haphazardly, I'm sure, sometime in 1969, most likely. It was a recounting of the Christmas Day broadcast from the astronauts of Apollo 8. They each read a bit from Genesis - and what a backdrop Earth viewed from space provided for them! Then each of the astronauts delivered a personal message, and Frank Borman was the last to speak. He was a lay leader at his church in League City, Texas at the time, and he broadcast this prayer. The world was in turmoil in 1968, and it surely is today. We seem to have a penchant for such, and that is why I found this hidden treasure so poignant today. 

"Give us, O God, the vision which can see Thy love in the world in spite of human failure.
 Give us the faith to trust Thy goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each 
one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen.'"

* Sue me. I'm a Methodist.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Name That Tune

Y'all need to know a couple things about my Mama.

She never met a person with whom she wasn't eager to make conversation in order to find some common ground. When she was hospitalized late in 2011 due to shortness of breath, one of her first stops was radiology, where she met a young man, name of Hernando.

The next thing you need to know about my Mama is that random things would often cause her to break into song. Having met Hernando, an old tune kept running through her memory, and it nearly drove her to distraction that she could not remember the words so that she might sing it to Hernando. This was especially important to her because apparently, Hernando himself had never heard of such a song existing.

I don't know how much time passed before she had the mystery solved, but as was her wont, from the moment that tune popped into her head until she found someone who knew the words it would have been the only thing on her mind.

Thank goodness, then, for this guy. His name is Jack Horner (and that's his amazing wife Gayle there, beaming in the background.) Jack has been Minister of Music at my church for 20 years, and this photograph was taken today at a retirement reception held for him after church.

Where does he fit into the Great Hernando Narrative? Well, as it happens, he paid a visit to my Mama in her Intensive Care room, sometime after Mama began worrying over the lyrics to that tune. Jack, who it seems knows everything about every genre and era of music, launched into singing the song in its entirety to my Mama, right there in the middle of the intensive care unit.

I wasn't there when this happened, but when she related it to me some hours later, there was such delight in her voice and on her face. In the days that followed she received a terminal diagnosis, and also lost her ability to speak because the cancer that was killing her made her unable to breathe on her own. It is not stretching credulity one bit to think that in a very true sense, that visit from Jack gave her one of her last genuinely happy moments.

I've told Jack this story, told him that although I know the other "real" ministers visited her, nothing they said or shared or did while they were there caused such a gleeful report, and in fact, I don't recall that she ever remarked on their visits, although I know she held them in her heart and gratitude.

You see, there is more than one way to minister to the heart and mind and soul of a hurting person. Jack sang to Mama from the Broadway Hymnal that day, and the elements of that communion were rhythm and rhyme in tango time.

May every blessing of retirement find its way to Jack and Gayle. I hope they find time to dance a little. I know a tune.....