Treat ’em like a tax collector….

September 4, 2011

We were at the Lutheran Home this morning, as we are the first Sunday of most months. We help wheelchair-bound residents attend the weekly worship service.

One of the interesting things about this is that the Lutheran church uses the same lectionary as the Catholic church, so in almost every case, the sermon is on the same readings that we heard at Mass the night before. Their pastor, Rev. Karen Minnich-Sadler, often puts an interesting twist on the message. The reading from Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 18:15-20) discusses what to do if you have a disagreement with a member of the Church. Karen pointed out that this is one of the hard lessons from Christ, forcing us to deal head on with division among us. (Ironic that it was the Sunday for the Catholic kids to be helping out, I thought!)

At the end of His advice, Jesus says, “If he refuses to listen to even the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” I recall that last night, I thought about how the Jews would not have had anything to do with Gentiles or tax collectors, and that it seemed strange that Jesus was telling them to ostracize someone. I didn’t reflect on this, it was just a passing thought.

But, as when Karen spoke this morning, I realized I missed the point! (Just call me Peter!) She said, “And how did Jesus treat the Gentile and the tax collector? He fellowshipped with them!”

That Jesus! He is a tricky one! 🙂

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The Magic Number

August 2, 2011

Today qualifies as a “glorious summer day,” as Steve would say, and all morning, the number 2717 keeps popping into my head.

What is this number? Everyone in my household knows! It was our account number at the former country club pool! And today, I am remembering all those glorious summer days spent there with the kids and our “summer friends,” the people we didn’t see often during the school year because our kids attended different schools.

What a wonderful time in our lives! I miss my summer friends, the old snack shack, being part of the progression of the moms from the baby pool to the
shallow end and finally to the deep end or even the lap pool, and Friday late nights!

It was so much fun!

The Mango God

May 8, 2011

I have been thinking about mangoes lately.

It started when our daughter, who spent the spring semester in El Salvador, shared a new term she learned on retreat: mango friends. She told us that mangoes are the most abundant fruit in the world, with about nine Salvadoran varieties and more than 50 varieties in Hawaii. Spring is  mango season in El Salvador, and there were mangoes everywhere: in the grocery, on the table, falling from trees into the street, accumulating on the patio at Casa Romero where she lived. Sarah explained, “Mango friends are your close friends, those friends that show up everywhere, the friends that you can’t escape and wouldn’t want to if you could because they are so darn delicious.”

Then I read a Catholic News Service blog post about Blessed John Paul II which referred to him as “The Mango Pope.” It seems that when the pope visited Mexico for the first time in 1979, he was so taken with this Latin American fruit, his hosts prepared them for him in every imaginable way. Until he died, the Mexican people made sure that there were regular mango deliveries to the Vatican. This was just one example of how John Paul II connected with the people he visited. “Throughout his 26-year pontificate,” John Thavis wrote, “Pope John Paul paid attention not only to world leaders but also to the ‘little people’ and what was on their minds. On his journeys outside the Vatican, he would chat with workers, visit the sick and make pilgrimage to even the most humble of local shrines.” Thavis also shared the story of a visit to a shanty town in Brazil,where JPII took off his papal ring and donated it to be sold for the benefit of the local residents!

It made me think: our God is The Mango God. He shows up everywhere: in the Upper Room, on the road to Emmaus, and at Zacchaus’ house in Jericho, the well in Samaria and the wedding feast at Cana. He knows us by name. He is concerned about what we are concerned about. He meets us wherever we are. And He makes our lives so darn delicious!

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important

April 29, 2011

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.    ~ Wedding Prayer of HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 

*Sigh*

I know it’s silly, but I loved getting up in the predawn hours to watch the wedding, sipping my Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea. I remember watching his parents’ wedding in the upstairs flat my roommate and I sublet the summer after graduation. I secretly hoped for my own fairy tale.

Looking back over the intervening years, I’d have to say that dreams come true if you keep your eyes fixed on what is real and important: family, love, generosity and comfort. (Because, as my brother-in-law John Langer so famously put it, “believe me, there will be days….”)

Here’s to happily-ever-after. Cheers!

The Rotogravure of Easter Past

April 24, 2011

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, 
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade. 
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over, 
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade. 
On the avenue, fifth avenue, the photographers will snap us, 
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure. 
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet, 
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

~ “Easter Parade” words and music by Irving Berlin

Happy Easter!

We stepped out of the house into a beautiful spring day on our way the 7:00 Easter Sunday Mass this morning, the beginning of a lovely day that has included worship, dinner with friends, a movie with the family and naps! But with Sarah still in El Salvador, it’s the first Easter without our precious oldest child in 21 years, so the Ghost of Easter Past has accompanied me all day.

Here is the rotogravure of Easter memories making me smile today.

1. Singing our special version of “Easter Parade” as we lined up “on the avenue, Erie Avenue” for the annual photo of the Hart kids in our Easter finery.

2. Easter bonnets, new white gloves and shiny patent leather shoes.

3. Coloring Easter eggs with my brothers and sisters and with our three children ~ the smell of newspaper and  vinegar and Paas dye and hard boiled eggs.

4.  Baskets full of Easter joy.

5. Bubbles and play dough and sidewalk chalk and baseball cards.

6. Peeps!

7. The best chocolate ever! (My dad had a good relationship with the Easter bunny.)

8. Black and spice (never fruit flavored) jelly beans.

9. Sharon’s family celebrating Easter with us in Gettysburg.

10. The year a bird pooped on my head on the walk to Easter Mass.

11. Imagining the man in the clover suit in the Easter parade. (The same guy who wore the big, red rose, when you wore a tulip, a big yellow tulip.)

12. Hoping to someday meet and marry the guy who would think I was the grandest lady in the Easter parade, even if he wore a clover suit.

13. Being married to him.

Backing Up Your Buddies

April 16, 2011

I drove three high school baseball players to practice this morning and overheard their conversation about a talent show at school yesterday. It seems there was an act with two boys, and one of them forgot the words during his big solo. The other one stepped up and covered for him. They got a standing ovation.

“That was a class act,” I heard one of the ballplayers say, referring to the friend who made sure his buddy didn’t fail in front of the whole school.

Indeed.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.” ~ Author Unknown

Ain’t Down Yet

March 23, 2011

“Fix it!”

That was an admonition from my daughter to my generation, a reminder that we cannot sit back and wait for the next generation to change the world, to fix the problems we created and those we inherited. Made me think of this quote from Richard Bach’s Illusions: “Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.”

(It was really good to see her this weekend!)

Off to change my little corner of the world!

But till I leave the rear, it’s from the rear you’ll hear, “I ain’t down yet.” ~ from The Unsinkable Molly Brown, music & lyrics by Meredith Wilson

The View from the Middle

March 15, 2011

Did you ever read the stories about the Moffat Family by Eleanor Estes? I read them aloud when the girls were little. Every character in the family was lovable, but my favorite was Jane, The Middle Moffat. In the eponymous book, Jane decides that she is tired of being plain Jane, but since she is neither the oldest nor the youngest, she decides to be known as “The Middle Moffat”. When you are number three of nine (and the second girl), you understand what it means to feel like a nondescript member of the family, to hope that people will notice you, too.

One of the things that I loved about Jane is that she liked to look at things from a different vantage point. She would bend over and look at the world upside down from between her legs. Our Laura, who happens to be The Middle Neitz, used to do that, too! Often, I find that my take on a situation tends to be a little off-center from the people around me. I was reminded of that again on Ash Wednesday.

Each year, our parish gives out a little token as an aid in our Lenten preparation for Easter. One year, it was a wooden cross on a plain black cord. Another time, it was a little pebble. This year, it was a coin-sized disc with a line from “Footprints in the Sand“. You know it, don’t you? It’s about a dream where the author is walking on the beach with Jesus, reviewing her life. When times were tough, she only sees one set of footprint, so she asks Him where He was when she needed Him most. Jesus tells her that those hard times where when He carried her.

It is a moving story, but it does not ring true for me.

When I was being treated for cancer, I felt that God was walking with me each step of the way, helping me to pick up the cross and carry it every day. God was there in my family and friends, in the health care professionals, in my parish, in the youth group, in other breast cancer survivors. God’s presence was real and immediate for me the whole year. I felt held up by prayers, able to do things that sounded impossibly difficult. Sure, I was afraid sometimes and sad sometimes, but I never felt alone.

I think when things are going well, it’s easier to forget about God’s presence. In my dream, when I ask Jesus about the times when there is only one set of footprints, He tells me that those were the days that He carried me on His shoulders, celebrating with me as I whoop and holler in joy, or He is behind me, dancing.

This Lent, I will remember to look down, even upside down, to see that God still walks with us.

On Being Alone

March 11, 2011

“Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” ~ Paul Tillich

I am sitting outside the yoga studio enjoying a moment of solitude. It feels really good after a busy week.That makes me think I need to make more of an effort to plan time to think and pray and dream and read and write into my days, to accept that I don’t have to wait until I am organized, the laundry is done, or the myriad items on my to-do list are checked off.

On the other side of being alone, I experienced an overwhelming sense of loneliness during the noon Mass on Ash Wednesday. It was very strange, because my parish church is a place where I feel like I belong — the pastor even addressed me by name during the homily! But it got me thinking about people who feel alone, and that I might be surprised at who they are, so I am recommitting myself to radical hospitality, to being warm and welcoming, no matter how I feel or if I think the person in front of me needs my hospitality or not.

A Different Kind of Beautiful

March 2, 2011

I am not sure when or why this changed, but lately, I have been appreciating the beauty of winter.  Not just the sparkling coating of ice that shines on some mornings or the new fallen snow under a clear, star-light sky, but the stark, bare trees and the dormant fields and lawns surprise me with homely allure on my ventures in the world. I imagine that the trees’ roots reaching underground in a pattern that mirrors the expanse of the branches, providing home to unseen creatures, the golden fields resting in anticipation of the coming spring.

And I think about the unknown depths of the human heart where we carry so much more than can be seen by casual glances. But if we really look, might we see a different kind of beautiful?

Image here.