Hurt

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Depression is no fun. It slinks in on a perfectly lovely day and hovers over everything, putting a slightly minor tune over the notes of each hour.

I’ve learned over the years how to take care of myself in the midst of recurring depression. I know to be gentle with myself, to do my best to eat well and keep on exercising. I speak to myself in a mothering way, gently reminding me that even though I might feel like burying my face in junk food or watching TV all day, I will likely feel better if I get up and move and stay busy.

I read a book many years ago called, “Care of the Soul”, in which the author, Thomas Moore, talked about how these times when we feel unhappy or ‘down’ have real value and rather than trying to usher them away, it is better to see what insight they might offer us. For example, if you are feeling bad and you don’t know why, don’t punish yourself by thinking, “I really ought to feel happier. Why am I being so ridiculous!? Cheer up, self!”  Instead, consider that perhaps you are needing some time alone or some time to be quiet. When we feel down, we naturally tend to be quieter and more lost in thought and perhaps that is what you need. Take time for yourself and remember that just as the earth goes through seasons, so do we.  Not every day is going to be a sunny summer day. There have to be the gray, rainy days, too.

When I keep this perspective that feeling down is a natural part of life rather than the sign that I’m doing something wrong, I’ve found that the dark times don’t get quite so dark.

Sometimes I think being a mother helps, too. I need to stay healthy and take care of myself so that I’m able to remain present and functioning for my children. I can’t afford to be a drama queen like I sometimes was in college or my twenties or even my early thirties. The world won’t wait for me while I sit on the porch and smoke a thousand cigarettes in a cloud of doom. So, instead, I look for ways to draw glimmers of joy back and lift the depression as soon as possible.

I realize as I write this that there are levels of depression – and actual clinical depression can’t just be lifted with some simple steps. It often takes therapy and/or medication. If you are feeling persistent, ongoing depression, please get help from a medical professional.  And, for the rest of this reflection, I will switch to the term, ‘sadness’ to refer to what I am addressing here.

Here are the best ways I have found to combat sadness:

  1. Work on a task: cooking, baking, creating anything. Getting the mind going and focusing on something else is quite helpful.
  2. Watch a movie. I love movies and they can be a blessed reprieve from thoughts that are taking me on a downward spiral.
  3. Spend time with my children. Doing anything with my kids helps me find laughter again.
  4. Go for a walk! Fresh air and a change in scenery is best, but a treadmill will do.
  5. Pet a cat.
  6. Or a dog.
  7. Take care of some small chore or errand you have been putting off: organize your drawers, organize the spices, clean out the refrigerator, take some items to Goodwill – completing something that needs to be done gives a sense of accomplishment and that combats the helplessness that sometimes comes with random sad days.
  8. Usually when I write, I am able to figure out why I am sad and that understanding brings a sense of peace.
  9. I find that often my writing takes on the shape of prayer when I am sad.
  10. Call a friend or go for a walk with a friend. If I am feeling like talking, spending time with a safe, trusted friend is great therapy.
  11. Or isolate myself for a bit if I need to and not feel guilty about that. For an introvert, time alone can be very healing and helpful.
  12. A nap or going to bed early has great curative properties. Most of us walk around tired too much of the time. If you are feeling ‘off’ and you just aren’t sure why, a nap could be a great place to start.

It might be comforting, as well, to remember that most people go through times when they feel sad for reasons they can’t quite explain. It’s part of being human. If today is a sad day for you, I pray you feel better soon. Until then…listen to some Johnny Cash – cuz that can only help.

Hurt

Recorded by NIN and Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Glamorous

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

We sat at lunch, two friends who had not seen each other for a long time. Out of the blue she had sent an e-mail the week before: “Thinking of you today.” I responded with a short note, the kind of note that feels like way too little when you haven’t had a proper conversation for nearly a decade. As I closed the note, I wrote, “Do you ever come to Minnesota?” Within a few minutes, she wrote back and said that she was going to be in Minnesota the next week! She had forgotten I was living here now. I checked my schedule and devised a plan to meet up with her.

And that is how we came to be sitting at the Riverside Bar in Minneapolis on a November afternoon.

Part of the way through our lunch, she was telling me a story about a visit to New York she had recently had with her husband. He took her to the Cartier store to buy her a present for the tenth wedding anniversary. She showed me the watch and it was lovely. The way she phrased the story and talked about the gift, I knew it must have cost a substantial amount. Later that night, curious as to how much it was, I decided to look up how much a Cartier watch costs.

It quite literally took my breath away to think of having a watch that costs that much.

One of the many flaws in my character is that I get very judgmental very quickly when I find out people have spent what I perceive to be an excessive amount on anything non-essential. I immediately start picturing starving children in Africa and all the meals that money could have provided. It’s not fair that I do this and I don’t like that judgy-ness I feel, because I know that watch is important to her for many reasons and who am I to say what is and is not a valid thing to spend money on? Someone could look at my overstuffed bookshelves and say, “what a waste – look at all the money those books represent. She doesn’t need all those.” But to me, those books are important and meaningful. So, I seriously try hard to rein in judgmental feelings and realize that everyone has different ideas of what is important to spend money on. The cost of that watch couldn’t have fixed all the problems in the world, fed all the starving children – and it is a lovely thing that her husband wanted to buy her such a beautiful gift!

But it wasn’t just my own judgmental attitude that surprised me. What surprised me even more was that when I saw the price tag of a watch like that, I felt the sting of hot tears beginning at the corners of my eyes. I could never afford that watch, unless I didn’t want my family to eat or pay our bills for a couple months. In that split second, I felt shabby and ashamed. I was right back in junior high – alternating wearing my same two pair of jeans day after day and looking with jealousy at the pretty clothes the other girls had.

It wasn’t that I wanted that watch. I’m not easily swayed by fancy things – so why did I have that reaction to it?

It reminded me of when I lived in Texas and there was a parade of homes each year at Christmas-time. I went on the tour one year and vowed never to go again – because with each spectacular house I visited, my own house began to seem smaller and dingier. Before the tour I had been completely satisfied with my home, but afterward, for the rest of that day at least, all I could think about was what a bummer it was that other people had so much and I had so little.

It made me think about the tenth commandment. When we covet, we take our eyes off of all that God has given us and instead focus on what other people have. When we do that, it is so easy to start feeling jealous and put-out.

You see, on a normal day I feel like my world is full of abundance. I marvel at my warm house, our full refrigerator, that we have two cars that work great! I lack for absolutely nothing and I don’t ever want to forget that. So, it startled me that a watch (that I am happy my friend received) should ever bring up a negative feeling in me.

But any of us are capable of breaking any of the ten commandments at any time. While I know I might struggle with some of the other ones, I never think coveting is something I have to worry about, except rarely, every now and then the impulse sneaks up and bites me in the rear-end.

So what is an effective way to combat that coveting impulse?

I give thanks. I make long lists in my mind of all the beautiful things this life has given me, and then I remember there is nothing shabby about me or my days or the space I take up in this world.

A truly rich life….I’ll always say that most of the time it can’t be purchased for any price. And when I think of my friend’s smile as she showed me that watch, I suspect that her joy wasn’t in that piece of metal so much as all it represents: a gift from her beloved husband, love and time together, hard work, deep affection, and a significant wedding anniversary. Priceless.

 

Glamorous

By Fergie

If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home.
You say, “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home.”

G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S.
G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S.

We flying the first class
Up in the sky.
Poppin’ champagne,
Livin’ the life
In the fast lane,
And I won’t change
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy

The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy
The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy

Wear them gold and diamonds rings
All them things don’t mean a thing
Chaperons and limousines
Shopping for expensive things

I be on the movie screens
Magazines and bougie scenes
I’m not clean, I’m not pristine
I’m no queen, I’m no machine

I still go to Taco Bell
Drive through, raw as hell
I don’t care, I’m still real
No matter how many records I sell

After the show or after the Grammies
I like to go cool out with the family
Sippin’, reminiscing on days
When I had a Mustang
And now I’m in…

We flying the first class
Up in the sky.
Poppin’ champagne,
Livin’ the life
In the fast lane.
And I won’t change
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy.

The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy
The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy

[Ludacris:]
I’m talking Champagne wishes, caviar dreams
You deserve nothing but all the finer things
Now this whole world has no clue what to do with us
I’ve got enough money in the bank for the two of us
Plus I gotta keep enough lettuce
To support your shoe fetish
Lifestyles so rich and famous
Robin Leach will get jealous
Half a million for the stones
Taking trips from here to Rome
So If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home

G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S
G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S

We flying the first class
Up in the sky.
Poppin’ champagne,
Livin’ the life
In the fast lane.
I won’t change
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy.

The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy.
The glamorous
The glamorous, glamorous (the glamorous life)
By the glamorous, oh, the flossy flossy.

I got problems up to here
I’ve got people in my ear
Telling me these crazy things
That I don’t want to know (fuck y’all)

I’ve got money in the bank
And I’d really like to thank
All the fans, I’d like to thank
Thank you really though

‘Cause I remember yesterday
When I dreamt about the days
When I’d rock on MTV,
That’d be really dope

Damn, It’s been a long road
And the industry is cold
I’m glad my daddy told me so,
He let his daughter know

(If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home)
My daddy told me so
(If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home)
He let his daughter know
(I said if you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home)
My daddy told me so
(If you ain’t go no money take your broke ass home)
He let his daughter know

A Long December

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Earl was a widower I visited regularly in Texas. He was a staunch Republican who had been a successful businessman and also loved theology. He was always working on some research or paper. He would often give me books to read after he was done with them. He had a brilliant mind and he loved the Lord. He never missed going to chapel services and liked to help lead the singing.

I had been in Texas for about four years when Earl’s health started declining quickly. Within the span of a few weeks he went from being active in many activities at his assisted living facility to being bedridden and incoherent.

He and his wife had no children – he had one niece who would come visit him when she could and she handled his affairs. Years before he had given her all the plans for his funeral down to the final detail. Earl was not leaving his funeral preparations up to anyone except himself.

The last couple weeks of his life he spent in the nursing home, sleeping. Every time I went to town I would stop to visit him. Often, I would read some scripture and then just sit there with him for a while in the late afternoon light. He had told me often he was ready to go “when the good Lord was ready” for him. It was a peaceful thing for me to sit there with him and spend those hours with him. In a way, it felt right – because I knew how much his pastors and his churches, especially mine – where he had grown up and then returned to in his old age – meant to him. It sort of felt like the least I could do – to just sit with him a bit when there was no one else left who could.

I’ve done funerals for a few people who outlived most of their friends and didn’t have children. One lady at my internship had only a great niece at her funeral as her sole living relative. Her pallbearers were men we recruited from the church. Another graveside service I did was for a woman who had been in a nursing home for many years and had no family at all. The only people in attendance were me, the funeral director, and two workers from the nursing home. One doesn’t forget moments like that and at least pause a bit to wonder what your own funeral will be like. Who will care? Who will cry? Who will be there?

Earl had a graveside service a couple hours away and he was buried next to his wife in a Presbyterian cemetery. It was a rainy December day. An elderly woman who had been the nursing home chaplain and Earl’s friend for many years rode with me to the service and we went out for lunch afterward.

I wonder if Earl knew I was there those afternoons I would read him scripture and sit quietly with him? I will always wonder if he could hear me as I prayed out loud for him. It always used to be that when I would pray for Earl, he would insist on praying for me as well before I left, so in those last days when he was unresponsive, it felt very silent when I would say “Amen.”

A Long December

by the Counting Crows

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’
Now the days go by so fast
And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven…I wish you would
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California…I think you should
Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean…I guess I should

 

Peace Train

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

I saw a bumper sticker in Colorado once that made me laugh out loud. It said, “Christ is coming, look busy!”

Some denominations spend a great deal of time talking about Christ’s return. They predict it regularly, using the certainty of it to scare people into ‘right’ living.

I’ve almost tended to be the opposite way. I figure Christ comes when he will come. I can’t control that and so I don’t think much about it or preach much about it. Maybe it’s all the family systems theory training I took as a younger pastor that emphasized that we can’t control what anyone else does, only what we do. I took that to heart.

And yet, Scripture talks a lot about the surety of Jesus’ return and the necessity that we be ready. In the gospel for this coming Sunday, Saint Matthew tells a parable about Christ’s coming – comparing it to bridesmaids who went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. All the bridesmaids brought lamps, but only the wise ones brought extra oil. The foolish bridesmaids ask the wise ones for some of their oil but they say ‘no” and so the foolish bridesmaids have to go out and get more oil. When they do, they miss the arrival of the bridegroom. He brings the wise bridesmaids into the wedding feast with him and shuts the door. When the foolish bridesmaids arrive, they are not allowed in.

It’s a puzzling little parable. I do not like the not-sharing of the oil, the latecomers not allowed in – I like my Bible stories to be full of sharing and room for everyone no matter when they arrive. This is not that kind of Bible story. So as Martin Luther would say, “what does this mean?”

It’s a story about how to wait. You see, the bridegroom is coming, the bridesmaids know this – the only thing they don’t know is exactly when. They know they will have to wait, but not how long. While we might think this parable is calling us to constant vigilance, looking for Christ on the horizon every day, remember that even the wise bridesmaids fell asleep. The only difference between them and the foolish bridesmaids is that the wise ones were prepared for the bridegroom, whether the wait was short or long. They were intentional, still focused on the bridegroom even in their waiting.

And here we are in the waiting time. As Christian people, we know that Christ is coming again someday, but are we waiting purposefully or are we waiting as if we have forgotten or don’t really care that much that he is coming back?

There’s a post-it note that I have stuck to the wall in my home office that reads, “Your day is your week is your month is your year.” It’s one of those quotes to remind me that how I spend this day matters, because if I exercise this day and the next day and the next day and most days, in the long run, I’m healthier. It reminds me that if I write today and the next day and the next day and most days, in the long run, I’ve written a lot. If I save a little bit today and tomorrow and the next, eventually it adds up to enough to go on that trip. You see the point. Your day is your week is your month is your year.

And how we live each day determines how we are doing in this waiting period – if we are waiting like people who believe that Jesus is returning someday or if we are waiting as if we have forgotten he ever promised to come back.

And every day we get so many opportunities to live out our response. What do we do when we hear someone speaking a racial slur? Do we stay quiet or do we speak up and say, “That’s not okay or funny. Please stop.”  What do we do when we hear someone tell their story of being sexually harassed? Do we listen and help them seek justice or do we ignore them, or worse, mumble that maybe they had it coming? What do we do when gun violence erupts again and again and again in our schools, malls, workplaces, homes…churches? Do we shrug our shoulders and say ‘nothing can be done.’ Or do we respond by working for peace with our time, our voice, our votes, and all that we have?

Because these moments of response? These moments show whether we our lamps are trimmed and ready with oil enough to spare, or if we never really believed the bridegroom was returning anyway.

When I first heard about the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas where 26 people died last Sunday, I was at the musical at Detroit Lakes High School. It was an excellent production, full of life and happy music and laughter – and then I glanced down at my phone to see the headline pop up about the shooting. I sat there with my children on either side of me in that crowded theater and thought about how this world can hold so much all at once. So much joy, so much sorrow. So much good, and so much unspeakable violence.

In the days that followed, I heard the usual news reports and endless gun debates that followed. I felt the usual despair and grief I feel each time another one of these shootings happens. While we shake our heads at the horror that 26 people died in that church last Sunday during the morning worship service, statistics show that over 30 people die each day by gun violence in the United States. Sutherland Springs just made the news because the violence was all condensed in one place.

And I felt the usual sick dread and certainty that soon we will hear of another mass shooting. It’s not an “if” anymore, it is a “when”.

How do we respond as Christian people in the thick of this violence?

First, we do not give up on prayer. We need to be praying now more than ever – crying out to God for wisdom and bravery for how to speak to each other and spread peace in these desperate times.

Second, listen to each other. Let’s talk about guns and our fears about them or our fears about stricter gun control. Let’s be people who can talk in Christian love, have our opinions, and still sit side by side, united in Christ who loves us and grieves over this violence, too.

Third, we work for peace, and work hard. How this looks will be different for each of us. One person might work for peace by daily making calls to his congressperson. Another might work for peace talking with their Sunday School class about the great value of each human life. Another might work for peace by making amends with someone in their own family with whom there has been discord. Another might work for peace by patiently listening to the opinions of someone with whom you disagree and trying to understand. Another might work for peace by getting to know someone very different from them – because every time we work to tear down the walls of division, that is peace-making.

Your day is your week is your month is your year. How will you work for peace today?

Peace Train

written by Cat Stevens

Now I’ve been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, something good has begunOh I’ve been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be, some day it’s going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

Now I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together, go bring your good friends too
Cause it’s getting nearer, it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living, it’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer, soon it will all be true

Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

 

 

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

I listened to a Ted talk recently about the importance of allowing oneself to be bored sometimes. In these modern times it is possible to fill in the cracks of every day with something. If we do have time to be still, so often the phone is out and we are shuffling through Facebook or Twitter. We quite literally don’t know how to just ‘be’ anymore and truth be told, I find it a little scary. I don’t like that my face is always buried in my phone. Even though I put it down when others are talking to me, I feel the itch to pick it up again, to get back to whatever pressing e-mail or post or text is on my mind.

In fact, I wonder if my relationship with my phone is part of what is making me feel so exhausted. As part of this same Ted talk, the presenter was talking about how when our brains are switching gears constantly, as they are when go from writing a document, to checking a text, to working on a sermon, to checking e-mail, to reading a news story, to watching a video, etc. that the brain can only do this so much. It changes the chemistry in the brain so that we need more and more stimulation. I imagine it is like eating Doritos – we get so used to the intense flavors that eating something natural and with a milder taste just doesn’t cut it anymore. More salt! More fat! And in a similar way our brains cry out for more stimulation, more activity, more hits of social media.

I quite literally have my phone in my hand most of the day. Even if social media isn’t a huge part of that (although some days it is more of my time than I like to admit) I listen to my music and podcasts on my phone, I keep my calendar on my phone, I revel in how ‘easy’ it makes my life. I love that I can work from anywhere because people can reach me anywhere. And yet, the way it makes me so constantly connected is part of what is so exhausting. There is NEVER any down time. From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep I am plugged in to the world.

I think I need to take a break from it. I need to manage my relationship with my phone differently in hopes that if I allow my brain to slow down a bit, allow boredom to catch up with me a little, perhaps I can begin to feel more rested again.

I’ll start with a Facebook fast for the rest of the day. That sounds really good right now.

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Simon and Garfunkel

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovyHello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

Scar Tissue

I have a scar on my index finger from a car accident back in 1996.  One minute,
my cute Isuzu trooper was upright and cruising down a road in northern Minnesota and the next I was skating across glare ice until I landed upside down in the ditch.  In the sub-zero November temperatures I assessed my situation as I lay shaken up in my now smashed Isuzu trooper.  My glasses were broken.  I had been in the midst of moving to a different apartment and so I had a bunch of my stuff in the back seat that was now blowing across the snowy countryside.  Papers, clothes, a random tube of eyeliner.  My right index finger was bleeding and as I looked closer, I noticed a bone, snapped and sticking out of the skin.  I observed it thinking, “Hmmm…I would think that would hurt more than it does.”  I grabbed a sweatshirt that had landed next to me among the wreckage and wrapped it around my hand.  I remember it all in slow motion – the nice farmer stopping to help me and giving me a ride to the hospital, I remember laying in an operating room with just enough anesthesia that I couldn’t feel them putting my finger back together, but I could hear the doctors talking to each other, one said, “That was a bad accident – did you hear her vehicle was completely smashed in?  Did you know she works in a church?  I think someone is watching out for her.”  And the other doctor said, “Oh yeah – well if someone is watching over her so closely, why did the accident even happen?”  “Touche”, I thought.

The wound has healed.  But tracing the outline of my scar I can still feel the
icy blast of the wind roaring through a broken windshield, the scary wondering
whether my vehicle would explode – because that is what always happens in the movies when a car rolls over, and the helplessness of the moment.  Alone, hurt, cold, my possessions blowing away in the wind.

I was thinking about this last week – when the weather changes that old broken
bone in my finger aches and calls my attention to it.  All these years later I
didn’t think it would still bother me, but it remains…a tiny, dull ache.

In much the same way, the non-physical scars we collect over the course of our lives often remain for many years, sometimes forever.  There are scars leftover from love lost, from tragedy experienced, from abuse, even the scars that we hardly dare speak of because if people knew about them we think those scars would say something about us that we don’t want everyone to know.  These are scars left by things like failures, like bad choices made, like shame at something we said or did that we know was beneath us.

Could it be that a part of our healing is to not be ashamed about those scars or to hide them, but to see them as a patchwork that uniquely describes the journey we have traveled?  Is it possible that being brave enough to share our scars with others might not only bring healing to us, but to others as well?

There is a little statue I keep on my desk that was given to me by a friend. The statue is of a child resting against a large hand.  The verse underneath it is from Isaiah 49 where God says, “Even if a mother could forget her own child, I will not forget you.  Behold, I have carved you on the palm of my hand – so close to me.”

It is a message from a loving God who says, “I know all about your scars – their depth, their length, and how they have hurt you….but they only make me love you more.” 

Scar Tissue

by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic Mister know it all
Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share
This lonely view
With the bird I’ll share
This lonely view

Push me up against the wall
Young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra
Fallin’ all over myself
To lick your heart and taste your health ’cause
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Blood loss in a bathroom stall
Southern girl with a scarlet drawl
Wave goodbye to ma and pa ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Soft spoken with a broken jaw
Step outside but not to brawl
Autumn’s sweet we call it fall
I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic Mister know it all
Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ’cause
With the bird I’ll share
With the bird I’ll share, this lonely view

 

Right Here, Right Now

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Oscar is eight months old.  He puts everything in his mouth.  He cries when he is hungry, tired, crabby, or bored.  Every day he is soaking up information about the world around him.  After smacking the water in the bathtub a few times he learns that it makes a great splash.  After pulling on the edge of the basket of toys a few times he learns that it falls over and spills its contents onto the floor where he can easily get to them.  Every waking moment is an opportunity to figure out how to move toward his goals.  Whether he is focused on pulling himself up to standing or making his way over to the big old cat sleeping in the corner, he eventually figures out a recipe that works and then lets go of methods that don’t work.

Why is it that grown-ups often forget the wisdom that babies apparently are born with?  Of course, we continue learning and growing, but too often along the way we get stuck in patterns or ways of living that don’t work and we become either too tired or too complacent or too unfocused to make positive changes.  When this happens, we trade in living life in all its fullness for a cheaper version of simply getting by.

Do you want to know Jesus’ recipe for a good start at the richest life possible?  Begin with a firm foundation.  Be grounded in the Gospel.  Don’t get distracted!  There will always be countless other ideas and people and shortcuts competing for your attention and devotion, but our greatest wisdom comes in daring to believe that maybe there is a truth so vast and so pure and so good that it is worth building our entire lives on it, and letting it guide everything we say and do.

 

Right Here, Right Now

by Jesus Jones

A woman on the radio talked about revolution
when it’s already passed her by
Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about
you know it feels good to be alive

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history

I saw the decade in, when it seemed
the world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything
then there’s your sign of the times

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history
Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history
Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history

God is a Bullet

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

The first years I was a pastor, during the worship service my mind was usually racing to whatever was coming next in the service. If I was finishing the opening litany, I was thinking about what hymn was coming up. If the offering was winding down, I checked to make sure I had my book open to the right page in case I forgot the words of institution. These are things that a pastor thinks about as they lead the congregation through the dance of worship each week.

But somewhere along the way, I think it was in 2007, I began to have another thought regularly occur during worship. It was in December of 2007 that there was a shooting at a church in the northern part of the city where we were living, Colorado Springs. Two people died and three people were injured on a sunny Sunday as they left church. It was around that time I began to think about what I would do if while I was leading worship, someone started shooting.

Back then, as a mom with two children under the age of two, I knew exactly what I would do – dash into the sacristy and out the door on the other side, and then into the nursery where I would barricade myself inside with the children and call for help. The other pastors could worry about everyone in the sanctuary, I would be protecting all the infants and toddlers like the fierce mama bear I was.

Tonight at supper, after 26 people were killed in a small town church in Texas, I sat with my now 10 and 11 year-old boys at supper and we made a plan for if a shooting were to ever occur in our church or in any public place we were. It’s something I don’t want to think about or talk about, but this is apparently the world we live in now – a world where any public place can become a killing field. A place where school children can be killed and no gun legislation changes. A place where people get killed while praying in their church and Mr. Trump, and so many others, pretend that ease of access to guns that can mow down 26 people in two minutes has nothing to do with it. A man I know says that the only way that the gun laws will ever significantly change is if there is a mass shooting at an NRA convention. It seems to me he is probably right since absolutely nothing has changed after all this death.

This week in our confirmation class we are studying the Ten Commandments. I was thinking about the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Martin Luther’s explanation of that commandment in the Small Catechism reads, “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”

There is nothing about purchasing or owning an automatic firearm that is helpful to our neighbor. Absolutely nothing. I can see the logic of having a rifle or pistol around if one feels they need it for protection, the desire to hunt, or if there is a wounded animal that needs to be put out of its’ misery, but automatic firearms are designed to shoot fast, to cause as much devastation as possible in a very short amount of time. I’m sure they were created for war, so then why do we allow them to exist outside of war zones? There is no good reason for anyone to have a gun like that in day to day life.

Mr. Trump and others like him who defend the obscene gun excess and access in this country have no business claiming they care the slightest bit about Christian values – not when 26 people can die in their place of worship within the space of minutes. I don’t want to hear about “oh there are other ways people can be killed, they don’t need guns to do it” – we need to open our eyes and see what is actually happening all around us. People are dying by guns at an alarming, blinding speed. Other countries have taken steps to avert this kind of crisis. Why don’t we?

I can’t imagine any scenario in which the Jesus I know from the New Testament would approve of the ownership of such death machines. He was the one who said to forgive endlessly and to let go of revenge. “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)

Twenty-six people were alive yesterday morning. They got up to go to church, to pray, to sing, to focus on worthwhile, beautiful matters of the Spirit. I keep picturing each church I have served, the beloved faces out in the pews, the generations gathered together, and my heart breaks over and over when I picture a gunman coming into that holy space.

But I don’t lose hope. I don’t lose hope because even though it is so desperately awful, and wrong, and dear God I pray that the gun laws begin to change soon, I don’t lose hope because I know that guns can’t take away the most important things. Even if I am killed while leading worship someday, even if I lost the people I loved the most, it’s only flesh and blood that is lost. My hope has never been found in this life anyway. My trust has never been in what this life has to offer. My hope and my trust is in Jesus. I don’t write this to be sanctimonious, I write it because it is true. I have seen how everything of this life ultimately slips away. Money can only buy so much. Looks fade. Good health can be lost. Everything of this life and world is fleeting, it is vapor, a breath. Don’t get me wrong – I love this world and every breath I get to take in it – but I know someday it will be gone. Someday, I won’t have any more mornings to wake up, no more pancakes to make, no more errands to run, no more movies to see, no more smiles to see or give – one day all that will be done and that is okay. It’s okay because I’ve always known that there is more than this life. My hope is built on nothing less.

Even so, I think it is desperately sad that my government is making it so that the only comfort I can find today is knowing that even if I die in a shooting tomorrow I trust and hope in Jesus’ promise of a life beyond this one. Why can’t we at least try to make it a safer nation for ourselves and the generations to come rather than throwing up our hands and pretending we are helpless?

It’s so hard to know what to do in these times.

How to offer something helpful to this world when

‘Thoughts and prayers’

Have begun (a long time ago now)

to sound vacant

Empty.

Hollow.

I feel so angry

Don’t bring this violence in the church

I don’t want it brought anywhere!

(but selfishly, especially the church!)

I don’t want to look up with suspicion at the stranger sitting in the pews

I want to welcome everyone in at every hour

I want to extend the hospitality with no boundaries

No suspicion

No isolation

No locks

No fear

I want children to be able to sit in church the way I did

Counting the ceiling tiles

(Granted, a little bored sometimes)

Not a care in the world

Wondering what is for lunch

Not wondering how quickly help can come

When the blood is flowing down the aisles.

I feel so deeply angry at leaders who abuse their power

Abuse us

Abuse the reputation of our country

Abuse our future

I feel rage at others who can explain it all away

Pouring drivel into tweets and posts absolving our ease of access to guns

Absolving our glorification of violence

Absolving our comfort with selling our souls

Absolution

but never contrition

Blah

Blah

Blah

On and on it goes

Tell it to the mother who lost her child

Tell it to the child who lost her mother

Tell it to the family who lost 8 members in two minutes

The congregation who lost 26 people during morning worship

Don’t tell it to me.

I’m too busy looking for some good I can yet do

In this broken, busted, shot-up world

We call ‘Murica.

 

 

God is a Bullet

By Concrete Blonde

 

There’s a green plaid jacket on the back of the chair
It’s like a moment frozen forever there
Mom and Dad had a lot of big plans for their little man
So proud
Mama’s gone crazy ’cause her baby’s cut down
By some teenage car chase, war out of bounds
It was the wrong place, wrong time, wrong end of a gun
Sad

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
Gone forever in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your brother
(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
Shoot to kill, yeah
Blame each other, well, blame yourself
You know, God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

They’re gonna call me sir, they’ll all stop picking on me
Well, I’m a high school grad, I’m over five-foot-three
I’ll get a badge and a gun and I’ll join the P.D.
They’ll see
He didn’t have to use the gun they put in his hand
But when the guy came at him, well, he panicked and ran
And it’s a thirty long years ‘fore they’ll give him another chance
And it’s sad, sad, yes, sad

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
It’s all gone in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your mother
(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
Shoot to kill, ya’ll
Blame each other, blame yourself
You know, God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
Gone forever in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your mother
(Shoot)
John Lennon
(Shoot)
Dr. King, yeah
Harvey Milk, and all for goddamn nothing
God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone.

 

 

 

All You Need is Love

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

(Written in 2007)

We decided that our older son, Owen, needed a little chair for the living room.  Sure, he can climb up on the big couch or sit on the floor just fine – but we wanted him to have his own chair.  So, we hunted around a little bit and then went up to Pottery Barn Kids to buy him a soft chair.  It felt terribly frivolous – all of our current furniture is either hand-me-downs from parents and friends or purchased at the local thrift store.  This little sea-foam green chair from Pottery Barn Kids is honestly one of the first pieces of new furniture we have ever purchased.

And as we all sat in the living room that night – Chad and I on the couch, Jesse cooing in his swing in the corner, and Owen alternating between sitting in his new chair and pushing it around the living room, I thought about how Owen has no idea how much he already has.  As far as he knows, every little kid in the world has a pile of toys in the corner, a warm house, a full stomach when they go to sleep at night, and a sea-foam green chair just their size to sit on.

It’s funny the moments that make you start thinking about important things.  A quiet evening and a little green chair started me thinking about the things I want my boys to value in their lives.  And since then many questions have been on my mind: how can we raise our kids to be people who care about others and this world we live in?  How can we best teach them about what matters and what doesn’t?  How can we best raise them to have thankfulness for their blessings and an awareness that a responsibility comes with those blessings?

There hopefully comes a time for each of us as years go by that we begin to see this world as a place that not just we or our parents live in – but as the place the generations after us will live.  We begin to understand in tangible ways what the teacher, academic, and humorist, Leo Rosten meant when he said, “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be ‘happy.’  I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate.  It is above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

And so I’ve been working on something – what follows is my first draft of a letter to my sons.  It’s a letter about my understanding of what is important and the tools I think will suit them best as they maneuver their way through life.  It’s far from complete and I have no idea when I will give it to them.  I’m thinking sometime after they are out of diapers and before they leave home.  I’m pretty sure that no matter how perfectly I try to time giving it to them, there will be a good chance it will end up on a dusty shelf underneath a pile of socks or video games or something.  But at least I’ll know I wrote it and maybe someday they’ll come across it at the perfect time when some words from their mom will be just what they needed to hear.  That’s what I hope for…but in some ways I’m writing it more for me than for them anyway as I think about them and pray about the kind of men they will become someday, and the kind of mom I want to be for them, and as we all contemplate the kind of lives God calls us to lead.

Dear Sons,

Not long ago I was up at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp.  The confirmation students I was there with were doing the ropes course one afternoon.  In addition to all the kids putting on their helmets and harnesses and heading up to complete this challenge course twenty feet in the air, so did the father of one of the confirmands.  He had come along on the retreat to help out and he had never done the ropes course before, but he climbed up there and finished a few minutes after his son.  Afterward we were talking about it and he spoke about how it was important for him to encourage his son through his own actions, teach his son to take on challenges by accepting challenges himself.

Of course his statement made me think about the two of you – and the years that lie ahead of us like crisp pages of a notebook not yet written upon.

I wonder what challenges that lie ahead of you?  What demands will be made of you and how will you step up to meet them?  What risks will you take as your future unfolds?

As I ask these questions of you, trust me that I’m asking them of myself, too.  Will I be the mom who tells her sons what they should do and how they should be without modeling that myself?  Where will I be standing when the time comes for you to brave that ropes course?  Will I be encouraging you from a comfortable tree stump somewhere on the ground or will I be trembling up in the trees with you?

I hope I’m in the trees.

I hope I’m in the trees because that will mean that I still value the lessons that can be learned from regularly doing something that terrifies you.  The lessons that can be learned from literally going out on a limb.

Be courageous, boys….but don’t think that having courage means never being afraid.  As the columnist Earl Wilson said, “Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death.”

You will need courage as you make your way through your lives:  Courage not only to live fully – but courage to live purpose-fully.

What does it mean to live purposefully?  I’ve found that answer in the words of Jesus.  Over and over Jesus calls us to go beyond the limits of our own comfort and safety.  He calls us off the couch to go and help our neighbors.  He calls us to find ways to share the gospel through word and action.  And he calls us to see that all we have – everything – is only ours for a time.

We are merely managers…that is what we are.  God entrusts us with this earth, with material possessions, with time, with relationships – and then we get to find ways to glorify God through how we treat all of these things.

Billy Graham said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.”  Hopefully our decisions about how to use our resources become clearer when we remember:

I’m not so interested that you know these statistics but rather whether or not you can answer the following question when faced with the troubles of this world.  That question is:  What will you do about it?

Unfortunately sometimes with age or busy-ness or bitterness, people get pretty good about ignoring the problems around them.  Sometimes the need can seem so great that we just throw up our hands, we say, “it’s no use – there is too much need.”  Or we make excuses, we say, “I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got, I deserve to enjoy it.”  Or sometimes we become good at avoiding – “maybe if we don’t look at the homeless folks in the park or pay attention to the news of the hungry and the war victims, they will go away.”

But I pray that no matter how old you get, you will never forget the words of Mother Teresa, “It is true poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  My sons, your choices matter.  All of them.  You may work very hard for the money you will earn in your lifetime, but part of being a Christian, part of being a member of this human family, is realizing that no matter how hard you work for it, it isn’t yours.  You must share.  You must find ways to show you care and not just say you care.

I pray that somehow you will avoid the sickness that afflicts this great nation of ours.  It’s an illness that afflicts most of us individually and even the church, too.  This desire to accumulate, to collect, to build bigger and better when we could get by just fine with what we have.  You are enough – you don’t need to collect things around you to be treasured, to be valued, to be loved.

Although I love our warm little house, the years I spent being able to fit everything I owned in the back of my old car were truly a happy time, too.  I want you to know how that feels.  I want you to learn to be content with throwing some clothes and books in a backpack and have the sense that you have everything you could possibly need and more.  I want you to have the opportunity to scrounge around in the couch for some money and then feel like the richest person on earth when you come across a couple bucks so you can get a taco or something.

No, I do not wish for you wealth.  Oh, if you happen to become wealthy someday – that is no crime – but I simply wish for you enough – enough money to buy the things you need and then the courage to share the rest.

It’s all about being good stewards.  And yes, we often think about it in terms of money – but that’s not the only thing.  Another precious commodity you have is your time.  You get a certain number of hours every day.  How will you spend them?

Susan Polis Schulz said, “If you have a goal in life that takes a lot of energy, that requires a lot of work, that incurs a great deal of interest and that is a challenge to you, you will always look forward to waking up to see what the new day brings.”

But in addition to the blessings of material things and time, there is also something far more precious we are blessed with – we are also given love.

One look at you and your father and I went from being people who had very little patience for children and their strange noises and smells, to being absolutely in love with you.  But the truth is that even though your very cells were created out of ours, still you don’t belong to us.

Remember that about all the people that come into your life – whoever you love  – whether it be your partner, your friends, your children.  God will give them to you for a time – to treasure, to adore, to share your journey with.  Each day you will get to decide if their interaction with you will be one of patience or impatience, joy or anger, peace or discord.  Each day you will get to decide how you will show them what they mean to you.  More than anything I pray you will be excellent at doing this…being good stewards of love.  Most anyone whose opinion is worth anything will tell you that Sir James Barrie was right when he said, “If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”  Or as John Lennon more concisely said, “All you need is love.”

All You Need is Love
by The Beatles
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Yee-hai! (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=csyHN3LoRJ4

All that We Let In

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Winter seems to have started early this year. Some years we can squeeze in some warmish days even in November, but not this year. By the end of October, snow began to slip down from the sky now and then and by the time November started, it wasn’t melting away between snowfalls. Today as I look out my sunroom window, the field is covered with snow with just a few clumps of dirt poking through. The sky is gray, the trees are a darker gray, the snow is white. Gray and white are the only colors of this day.

A friend of mine who has always lived in Minnesota was wondering in a Facebook post why in the world he still lives here. His tone was weary and any of us who live here can understand it. It takes a certain amount of tenacity to live here. One has to be able to find the good in this long, cold season it and that is hard for those who don’t like ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, etc. Personally, I’m not a fan of any of those things either – but this year my younger son and I have committed to trying snowshoeing. Maybe that will be our ticket to getting outside a bit more this year.

This is only my third winter back in Minnesota. I was away for 16 years – western New York (where the winters were worse than here), Colorado (where winters were about perfect – snow but also a lot of sunshine), and Texas (where it could easily be in the 80’s on Christmas Day). Each year as the “snow birds” in my congregation leave to head south for the winter, I wonder if I’m going to get to the point someday where I just can’t stand the winters and I decide to move away because of them. Admittedly, when we moved to Texas, part of the seduction was that when we went to interview at the church it was February and while we were still wearing winter coats in Colorado, the grass was green and flowers were beginning to bloom in Texas. It was nice to have five years of warm and hot weather, even though the summers were tough to take. There was no way to enjoy being outside on a summer day until after the sun went down, and it seemed sad to me that the months my kids were out of school, it was nearly impossible to be outside. The boys couldn’t run around barefoot in our yard because of the fire ants. Rattlesnakes were always a possibility. However, being able to be outside in short sleeves in January now and then was pretty wonderful. After a few years there, I was surprised that I got to a point where I longed for a good blizzard. I didn’t think it could be possible, but I eventually missed winter. I missed a good ‘snow day.’ I never missed driving on icy roads, but I missed winter.

I missed the great diversity of seasons that Minnesota has in abundance: bundling up and heading outside when snow is falling in fat, wet snowflakes, the first Spring days when the sun is just beginning to gather her strength again and people eagerly strip off the long layers to soak in as much Vitamin D as possible, summer days by the lakeshore when everyone is outside and lingering in conversation, the onset of crisp Autumn and the leaves so colorful it takes your breath away.  It’s all these times and seasons and the moments in-between that make Minnesota fine by me. Each of these seasons strike up memories for me because they are the same seasons I shared with my parents and friends when I was growing up. People who grew up other places don’t understand it the way we do – how the snow can squeak and the air sounds tinny when it gets cold enough, how your heart aches to watch a perfect summer day come to an end because you know how precious those days are, how there is no smell as sweet and good as peonies and lilacs on a May morning, and the immensely bittersweet days of an “Indian Summer” in October. I wanted my kids to understand this language, the difficulty and beauty of living in a place like this.

There are pluses and minuses to wherever you go. While I lived in Colorado and New York and Texas, whenever I vacationed, I came back to Minnesota, because this was where my parents were. Now that I live in Minnesota, I can vacation anywhere I want – I see more different places now. Since we moved back here we have traveled to Norway a couple times, the Black Hills, Montana, and I get to see my friends so much more often. I like that. I can plan things with my brother and his family who live only 45 minutes away and if the plans fall through it is no big deal because I will be able to see them again soon. It isn’t like a yearly trip back when everything hinges on being able to cram as many visits with as many loved ones into the few days I am back.

I’m glad my home is here now, but I am also glad I lived away for a while. I needed to do that. I needed to know that I could go away and create a life for myself elsewhere, experience other places, really get to know the culture of other locations. That was important to me. I’m glad my kids have lived somewhere else – but I’m thankful we could come back. I’m thankful my parents’ graves are only an hour away and I can go visit them and the place I grew up anytime I want. I’m glad my kids have a connection to my past and to my husband’s past by living in the state where we grew up. However, because they weren’t born here, they know they don’t always have to stay. They know I might not always stay. I tell them that we are here for now and that I hope it will be a good long while. I would like them to not move again until after high school. I would like them to have the sense that they have roots somewhere. I would like to invest in this church for a good long time and see what we can build together by the grace of God. But I’m open to that someday I might be called away. The Spirit is always at work and I want to be open to the motion of that Spirit, but for now, I’m so glad to call this cold, snowy place ‘home’.

I’m committed to taking these winter days one at a time. They can’t be rushed, and while sometimes it might seem difficult to find something to savor in them, I’m interested in trying. We bake cookies and bread, I spend more time writing, I remind myself that Spring will come but now is the time to be in winter, I give thanks for my warm home and that I have a commute of 200 paces up to the church.  I keep an eye on the weather and try to be out and about when it looks like the roads will be dry. One of my favorite things is how during the dead of winter when there has been a series of snowy, icy days, the first day that the roads are dry – no matter how bitter cold it is – people come flooding out of their houses again. The stores are full, the restaurants and churches are full – everyone gets out while they can to see other people and see some different scenery before the next snowstorm hits. There is a certain sense of camaraderie about it.

Wherever you go, there you are. There is so much to love about each place.

In Colorado, I climbed mountains on my day off. The sky was brilliantly blue most days and it was hardly ever below zero degrees. The spirit of the people there was so free and I felt at home there. Most everyone I knew there had transplanted there from somewhere else. It was easy to find a community in a place where everyone was searching for community.

In Texas, the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush and all the wildflowers of the Spring were indescribably gorgeous. I could go running outside any day of the year and it was never too cold, and in the summers I just had to wait until the sun went down and the temperature was tamed a bit. There is no other place I have lived that was so wild, proud, and different from where I grew up.

Western New York was green and the air was thick like soup in the summertime. I drove up to Toronto all the time, I smoked one million cigarettes. The people were hip and interesting. They were also hearty people who all knew how to drive in extreme winter. They had a biting sense of humor I didn’t understand.

I have called all these places home and I was glad to do it while I did. I’m so grateful for all that came to my life because of those places and the people I met there. And it is good to call this winter place home again.

 

All that We Let In

By the Indigo Girls

Dust in our eyes our own boots kicked up
Heartsick we nursed along the way we picked up
You may not see it when it’s sticking to your skin
But we’re better off for all that we let in

Lost friends and loved ones much too young
So much promises and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single centerline
And the brutal crossing over when it’s time

Oooooooo
(I don’t know where it all begins)
Oooooooo
(And I don’t know where it all will end)
Oooooooo
(We’re better off for all that we let in)

One day those toughies will be withered up and bent
The father son the holy warriors and the president
With glory days of put up dukes for all the world to see
Beaten into submission in the name of the free

We’re in a nevolution I have heard it said
Everyone’s so busy now but do we move ahead
The planets hurting and atoms splitting
And a sweater for your love you sit there knitting

Oooooooo
(I don’t know where it all begins)
Oooooooo
(And I don’t know where it all will end)
Oooooooo
(We’re better off for all that we let in)

See those crosses on the side of the road
Tied with ribbons in the medium
They make me grateful I can go this far
Lay me down and never wake me up again

Kat writes a poem and she sticks it on my truck
We don’t believe in war and we don’t believe in luck
The birds were calling to her what were they saying
As the gate blew open the tops of the trees were swaying

I’ve passed the cemetery walk my dog down there
I read the names in stone and say a silent prayer
When I get home you’re cooking supper on the stove
And the greatest gift of life is to know love

Oooooooo
(I don’t know where it all begins)
Oooooooo
(And I don’t know where it all will end)
Oooooooo
(We’re better off for all that we let in)