The Color is Red

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  It isn’t on the same day every year, but changes date, in relation to Easter.  My husband and I have had a lot on our minds lately, busy with too many projects, and so walking into church, the bright Red Paraments were my first reminder that today was Pentecost.   (Well, to be honest, had I been paying proper attention,  the greeter gave us a bulletin as we came in the narthex from the parking lot which had a symbol of Pentecost on the cover — a descending dove.)

The Old Testament Reading this morning was Ezekiel 37:1-14.  This is the story of the dry bones.  Verse 11 reads in part:  “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  .  .  . Thus says the Lord God:  Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will bring you into the land of Israel.”

The Second Reading for the day was Acts 2:1-21.  Chapter 1 tells how on the day of Pentecost “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

We don’t even understand each other very well when we speak the same language.  Imagine how bizarre it must have been to Jews, living in Jerusalem, who came there from every place under the heavens, and they understood what was being said to them!  Chapter 2 verse beginning at verse 7:  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Well, well, well.  What does that have to do with you and me living in a whole new millennium?  The same thing that it meant way back then.  In verse 14, Peter responses to the questions posed by the people  “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem. . . .” and then quoting the prophet Joel: he ends with this:  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Pentecost is the festival in the life of the church when we recount the historical event of the Spirit of God coming down to give voice and hearing to his people — pouring out his spirit in a flame upon them.

It has often been said that every saint had a past and every sinner has a future.  Call upon the name of the Lord — and may the dry bones of your life be given new life and a new beginning.  If you took this chance — this weird out of the blue chance — how might your life change if you merely dared to hope and called on the name of the Lord?

 

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Take Two — A Bit of an Edge

My husband has yielded to my twisting of his arm — and you are my witnesses.  I am laying aside some other projects for the time being, as I have coerced my Navy Veteran husband to share some of his stories with you.

By way of introduction, I am reposting a piece I wrote about him three years ago.  Many of you weren’t following my blog then, and you might find this introduction to the man a bit of an eye-opener.  Warning.  He is colorful.  Stay tuned in the future, for a few more stories — this time dictated by the man himself.

Here is my 2015 blog post:  A Bit Of An Edge

I have written blog posts on a whole variety of subjects, but today I write, not about an idea or issue, but about a man. He is a man who can tell a story and who has a handshake that can break your hand. Some years ago he promised me he would give me the world. He continues to make good on that promise. In fact, he has done so many times over.

He understands hard work, he understands failure and success, he understands sacrifice and honor. He doesn’t have a college degree, but he is an avid reader who has pursued history, politics, war, scripture, astronomy, electronics, theology, and classic fiction.

When I was a school girl, decades before we met, he enlisted to serve his country in the United States Navy training in aviation electronics. In the mid-1960s he served in the Navy, much of the time aboard the USS Coral Sea. He was assigned to HC-1, a helicopter squadron whose crews performed sea-air rescue operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. When he got back from Vietnam, no one came to meet his ship.

[designed by the man himself]

He is the kindest man in the world, but a rough cut gem. He doesn’t always weigh his words before they leave his mouth. The most notorious example, sitting at the dinner table with his parents after he returned from Vietnam, he told his mother to “pass the f-ing butter.” When he saw the look on her face and remembered he wasn’t aboard ship anymore, he said “oops.” He worked harder to never say that again.

He built a race car with a friend and once rode his motorcycle from California to Arizona in the pouring rain. He learned about the hard work and long hours of running a restaurant while yet in high school when he had the job of cleaning the restaurant his parents owned and operated. His working career has spanned decades in Tucson. Mention of the fourteen years he worked for Tom Brown in Burr-Brown still causes him to wax poetic. Started in Tom’s garage, Burr-Brown was sold to Texas Instruments and was the largest business sale to date in the state of Arizona, approximately 7.6 billion. When we reminisce about the best and worst bosses we ever had, Tom is always at the top of Ron’s list of the best.

He studied to be a deacon in the Roman Catholic church and was approved to be ordained a deacon, but at that time, with a wife and two young daughters, he withdrew and did not pursue it. It would have meant that the Bishop could assign him to any church in the diocese and he was not in a position to be able to move his family.

When we were corresponding long distance before we got engaged, he told me that there is nothing that I cannot ask him or talk with him about. He has been true to his word. Some people say that, but when you wade in, you find the beach littered with landmines. He is not like that.

He has wiped away many a tear and manfully dealt with lots of baggage that has come with this woman whose biggest sorrow in life was that she failed in her first marriage. He isn’t threatened or angry or hurt when I cry over the loss of someone else. He is thoughtful in surprising ways. When we moved into our house in Arizona, and I set up a room for my daughter when she is able to be in town, he suggested that it would be a good thing if I would put a picture in there of my daughter’s family: a photo of my daughter and her dad and me. Was he threatened? Not a chance. He just thought it would please my daughter. I asked her, and she loved it. Amazing. It had not occurred to me.

He is mischievous, outrageous, plays well and loves to act up in public. He doesn’t get perturbed when I cry at a sappy movie, or a touching song, or for no known reason. He just calmly asks me to tell him about it. He brings me treasures, like frogs to see, and laughs at me when I get too serious. When watching politicians, he tends to forget his manners. When asked to jump he just asks how high.

[in this case, Horny Toad]

He is fiscally conservative and has never replaced his ancient Rolex which he bought as a young man when making an impression seemed important. We know that we would never have been interested in each other then and give thanks that we have each other now. He is not made uncomfortable about big picture dreams: what you would do if you suddenly discovered you inherited a huge sum of money. Weirdly our thoughts on that subject dovetail nicely. Still, when I grouse about a job I dislike he reminds me that it is temporary, tells me to be brave and just do what we have to do. We talk about everything, so we have a plan. We work the plan.

He has expanded my world by teaching me about the stars in the sky and explaining about the wonders of the Sonoran Desert.

Sometimes I catch him looking at me. After our six and three-quarter years of marriage, I love how he notices me. How his eyes light up when I walk into the room. We love picnics together, although I have learned that his attention will wander to the Quail, Ground Squirrels, and Roadrunners looking for handouts. What a soft touch.

He can swear like a sailor, but he thanks God every morning for blessing us with another glorious morning. I love this man, and we pray for 23 more years together. We have so many conversations we haven’t finished and trips we haven’t taken. A few of the subjects: childhood friends, the soft hearts of our fathers, creation and miracle stories, the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches, cities we’ve lived in or visited, Rome, marriage, wars and rumors of wars, wounded veterans, politics, astronomy, America, dogs and cats, hawks and white-winged doves. We haven’t finished taking all the trips we have talked about to see family and friends, to show me places where he used to hunt, to visit national parks, to take another picnic. Besides which, there are still paintings he has yet to create.

His two daughters are now remarkable women: both are loving, funny, and kind – of whom he is very proud.

Every day I start the day by praying that God keeps us safe and brings us home to one another.

We have no idea what the future holds. No one does. But this man is a treasure, and I am so glad he is holding onto me. I am such a fool. Every day I find that I was wrong the previous day: I do love him more today.

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Seasons of Life: Waiting for Babies

There are many seasons in life. This post is about just one season in my life, long ago when I was eagerly and then desperately waiting for babies. It is dedicated to the young people who are now in the same place I was then.

I was married, and we both wanted children. Our lives were busy with grad school, internships, jobs, postgraduate school and a slew of apartments and long-distance moves. We moved five times during our first six years of married life, none of the moves were in either of our home states.

Working while finishing a degree (me); teaching while finishing a dissertation (him), came with the territory. When we settled into the first professional job and our first home we turned our eyes toward the arrival of little ones. But they didn’t arrive.

My mother had miscarried before any of my brothers were born. It was especially rough on her because there were no doctors to be had; they were in short supply because of WWII. But that wasn’t what happened to me. I couldn’t get pregnant. My hopes kept being dashed and over the years I began to despair that the blessing I always assumed would easily be ours might elude us.

I have friends and family who adopted or who have stepchildren. In my own life, I have seen prayers answered, yet there were times during those years when I doubted. Eventually, I concluded, that I needed to wrap my head around the fact that I might never have children.

Sometimes when we are in the thick of painful lessons, we are incapable of understanding the big picture. When we think that God isn’t answering our prayer, it may just be that the time is not right. Thankfully, I have friends and family who remind me when I can’t see or have forgotten.

Eventually, I did succeed giving up the hope that I would have babies. I’m writing about it not because my story is unique, but because I know how painful it is to want children and not be able to have them. All of us have unique stories, and I hope that if you find this speaking to you that you find some help in it.

As so often happens in life, blessings occur when we are least expecting them. That is what happened to me. Ten years after I got married we discovered that I was pregnant. I was thirty-four years old. What an amazingly wonderful discovery

The little one was due the last Sunday in March. The due date came and went. A week passed. During the second week, the doctor checked to make sure all was still okay. The baby’s quarters were getting a little cramped, but all was still okay. The doctor set a date to induce labor, in case I hadn’t yet given birth, two weeks and one day after my original due date.

Even though I had given up praying for a baby and given up all hope that I would ever conceive, I know that our baby was an answer to prayers. I believe in connecting the dots: so let me say that not only were my prayers answered but God underlined the answer with an exclamation point in case I was too dull-witted to understand.

Our baby arrived on the day that God intended. While waiting for her arrival, my hospital room windows were open and I heard church bells ringing all through my South Carolina town – ringing to celebrate the feast day of the Living God! Our girl, who kept us waiting two weeks, was born on the highest feast day of the Christian Church – Easter Sunday! The day that we celebrate Christ’s victory over death and the grave with his Resurrection.

The days of mourning were done. Crying and sadness were turned into joy and thanksgiving. The Lord of Life had answered our prayers.

Psalm 30:5
For his anger endureth but a moment;
in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning.

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Living Life

My Dad used to tell me stories about several people he knew who, while grieving the loss of their spouse, were worried that they hadn’t told them recently, or often enough, how much they loved them. My Dad and Mom were life-long lovers, best friends, adventurers, disciples, and happiest when they were together. He thought such worries were sad. He occasionally would say to me, but daily showed me via his relationship with my Mom, that there should be no doubt as to your love. You should often show and tell those you love how much they mean to you.

My parents’ love was infectious. Their love was so rock-solid that they could be generous to others.  They were funny and caring, they would jerk you up if you didn’t behave according to Hoyle, they were kind to those who needed some kindness shown to them. Twice, battered women showed up on our doorstep, and my parents took them in, hid their vehicles, and tended to them until it was safe for them to go home. My parents volunteered much time and talent in teaching young people to read, in doing pro-bono legal work, in visiting the sick and infirm, in leadership and teaching within their church and in civic groups.

Many things have been written in the past day about the life and wisdom of former first lady Barbara Bush who died yesterday at the age of 92. They have told of the 73-year marriage to the love of her life and former President, George H. W. Bush. There have been many memories shared about Mrs. Bush and the things that she cared about. Her husband held her hand all day yesterday and was with her when she died. Her son, former President George W. Bush said, in part:

Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end.

It doesn’t matter if you live to be 110 – it will still pass too quickly. Never put off until tomorrow what you need to do today. I really don’t believe that anyone looks back on their life and wishes they had attended another meeting; won another case; spent longer hours on the job.

Think about and attend to what matters. Relationships matter. Laugh with your spouse. Say “I love you” often. Be exuberant. Invite a friend over for a meal. Meet your neighbors. Volunteer at the old folks home. Wish people happy Wednesday. Look up at the stars.  Send someone a party in a box. Take a walk in the park. Take a hike in the woods. Enjoy the swingset. Jerk your child up when they need it. Hug them often. Celebrate birthdays – the older you are – the longer your celebration should be. Give thanks to God. Tell the truth. When you tell someone, you will pray for them – write it down and keep praying for them. Never sell your vote. Clean up your language. Be the kind of person that others know they can turn to in time of trouble. Buy art from a struggling artist. Look up your old friends and give them a call. Tip well. Be generous with your talents and time. Share your passions. Teach someone a new skill. Share your hobby. Enjoy picnics often. Love your country. Be of good cheer. Recycle your books. Rub your honey’s feet. Offer to babysit so a young couple can go out on a date. Teach your kids how to read, cook, use power tools, sew, garden, change a flat, read before they sign, enjoy music, appreciate art, and remember birthdays. Make sure that they know that it is wrong to steal and tell lies, that they are chosen and precious, that they are children of God, that they are loved by you. Dance under the stars.  Give your sweetheart full-body hugs. Be thankful for all of your blessings. Be generous. Be loving. Be kind. Have fun.

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Empty Cross, Empty Tomb, Risen Lord: Alleluia!

Our parents tell us many things, and my parents often told stories about their growing up, their families and friends, the things that were important to them.  Both of my parents were good at telling stories, and I loved to listen.

My Mom’s father was a Lutheran Pastor.  There were 13 children in his family, eight of them were boys, and four of those boys grew up to become Lutheran Pastors.  Her Dad taught her the Catechism of the church — the Ten Commandments, the creeds,  and raised her, along with her sister, to commit to memory many texts of scripture, hymns, and prayers.  As a wedding gift to his wife, my mom’s father gave her mother a gold cross necklace.  On my wedding day my mother gave that cross to me. 

The expression to cut one’s teeth on something means to begin to learn about something.  It is sometimes literally true.  My mother cut her baby teeth on that empty gold cross.  The tiny dents all over the back of the cross bear witness to that fact.  She didn’t know it yet, but it was the beginning of her education that the crucified Christ was no longer on the cross.  That he had, in fact, Risen from the tomb.

We have many things for which to give thanks.  I am thankful for that gold necklace which serves as a reminder of my grandparents and my mom, but more than that, tells a larger tale.  It is an empty cross, and for that, we give thanks to God.  Our Lord has conquered death:  Neither Crucifixion nor the grave could hold Him.  Alleluia, Alleluia!

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Entry Into Jerusalem: Thus Begins the Week

01A1 Giotto De Bondone--Entry-Into-Jerusalem-1304-1306Giotto De Bondone, Entry into Jerusalem, 1304-1306

Thus it begins. Palm branches and cloaks are scattered on the ground for Jesus of Nazareth. He comes to Jerusalem with his twelve disciples. They are come to celebrate the Passover.

The Gospel of Mark 14:12-15
12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples do as Jesus commands. They prepare that upstairs room for the celebration of the Passover. There will be thirteen of them. Jesus and the twelve disciples. They share the meal together.

01A2 Da Vinci Last Supper 1495-98 Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495-1498

The Gospel of Mark 14:17-25
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

 

The words that Jesus uses during the meal are new.  But betrayal is old.  Who have we betrayed?  The disciples ask that same question.  Which of us is the one who betrays Him?  It is Judas Iscariot.  His betrayal is done with a kiss.  All this for thirty pieces of silver.

Duccio di Buoninsegna Betrayal 1255–1260 – c. 1318–1319Duccio di Buoninsegna, Betrayal, from back of Maesta, 1308-11

Then follow the trials of Jesus.  First, he was taken to the religious leaders: Annas, then to Caiaphas, the high priest.  Finally he was bound over and sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.

0A Michael Munkacsy-christ-before-pilate-1881Michael Munkácsy, Christ before Pilate, 1881

Against his better judgement, and the pleading of his wife, Pontious Pilate condemns Jesus to death by crucifixion.

01A3 Durer-woodcut-the-crucifixion-the-small-passion 1509Albrecht Dürer, Woodcut of the Crucifixion, 1509

01A3 Anthony van Dyck Crucifixion 1629-1630Anthony van Dyck, Crucifixion, 1629-1630

While on the Cross, Jesus Christ, is reported to have spoken seven times.   They are reported in a variety of different places in scripture.

  • “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  • When the criminal on the cross next to Jesus spoke to him saying: “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom” Jesus replied “Truly I say to you this day will you be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43)
  • Jesus saw his mother standing beside a disciple and spoke to them both: “Woman, behold thy son!  Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27)
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 )
  • “I thirst.”  (John 19:28)
  • “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
  • “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
opnamedatum: 2006-04-18

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Descent From the Cross, 1633

 

Jesus’ lifeless body was lowered to the ground.  Many have attempted to depict what the mother of Jesus felt at that time.

0A Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pieta, 1498-99Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pieta, 1498-99

 

But there was much to be done and time was limited.

The Gospel of John, chapter 19: 38-42
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

01A5 Sisto_Badalocchio_-_The_Entombment_of_Christ,_1610
Sisto Badalocchio, The Entombment of Christ, 1610

The Agnus Dei is part of the liturgy of the church, used during the celebration of Holy Communion which is also called the Eucharist.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

It is based on scripture.  Agnus Dei are the Latin words for Lamb of God which is a title for Jesus (John 1:29), where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

01A4 Francisco de Zurbaran Agnus Dei 1635 -- 1640                                      Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei, 1635-1640;                                                                (note, Latin text to the Agnus Dei has been added to the painting)

 

If you have gotten this far you have travelled from Passion or Palm Sunday, through the last week of Lent to Maundy Thursday, which is the night that the Last Supper is commemorated, and Good Friday, which is the day on which Christ was crucified.  Now he laid in that tomb, provided by Joseph of Arimathaea, for two nights, Friday and Saturday.  But strangely enough, when women came to the tomb on Sunday, the stone had been rolled away, and he was not there.   Should you want to learn more, you can read about it here:  The Gospel of John, chapter 20.

Sao Paolo Museum of Art tourism destinations

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael,
Resurrection of Christ,1499-1502

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut – Asking Your Advice

My confession: I am a reformed horrible speller and still struggle with grammar and syntax. I have improved a great deal, but I am still very conscious of those liabilities. I have worked hard over the years to overcome those shortcomings. At one point I was even hired as an adjunct to teach several semesters of English Composition to Associate Degree students.

Occasionally I would ask my students what their education goals were. It always gave me a great deal of distress to hear the ones who were in their thirties to mid-fifties who believed that they could succeed in gaining entrance to a law school when they were unable to construct a simple sentence. It came up repeatedly. More than my distress with them, I was angry at the school staff who had encouraged them to believe that and the school systems that had failed them as children.text on writing

Now I am faced with a related problem and would like your suggestions. I have not been asked for advice. The situation is complicated because the aspirant to the lofty profession is no longer a child, nor has been for many years. Good manners suggest that the proper response is to keep my mouth firmly shut. But I ache for my friend who seems totally unaware of that pathway ahead. What would you do if someone you cared about dreams of a lofty professional career yet possesses none of the skills required to get there?

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