Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation's short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.
Who turned on the lights? You did, by waking up: you flipped the light switch, started up the wind machine, kicked on the flywheel that spins the years. Can you catch hold of a treetop, or will you fly off the diving planet as she rolls?
...Knowing you are alive is feeling the planet buck under you, rear, kick, and try to throw you; you hang on to the ring. It is riding the planet like a log downstream, whooping. Or, conversely, you step aside from the dreaming fast loud routine and feel time as a stillness about you, and hear the silent air asking in so thin a voice, Have you noticed yet that you will die? Do you remember, remember, remember? Then you feel your life as a weekend, a weekend you cannot extend, a weekend in the country.
O Augenblick verweile."

-From "An American Childhood" by Annie Dillard
"What does it feel like to be alive?
Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing, and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and you feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly back up, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed. Can you breathe here? Here where the force is greatest and only the strength of your neck holds the river out of your face? Yes, you can breathe even here. You could learn to live like this. And you can, if you concentrate, even look out at the peaceful far bank where maples grow straight and their leaves lean down."

-From "An American Childhood" by Annie Dillard

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I started (and never finished) writing this back in May. Our beloved sister Ora has since passed away.

There's something humbling about sitting with an older Christian woman who is suffering from cancer (and the horrible effects of cancer treatment), in severe pain, looking back on her life of over 70 years, and looking ahead to an unknown number of days on this earth.
Ora is one of those people that, when you spend time with her, you can tell has seen a lot, been through a lot and just keeps going. She maybe even has a lot she could complain about - but she doesn't. I don't know the details of her story very well - exactly how many children she raised, or grandchildren she guided and guarded, with her prayers and stubborn love - or exactly what types of jobs she worked before I met her, past retirement age, in a volunteer capacity. But I have come to appreciate her in whatever moments we share together, which have mostly been in the day to day tasks of running a food pantry, serving food and dignity to poor families of all kinds.
When I think of Ora, I think of strength, and power, and unfailing persistence in doing right and good. I'm sure many, if not all, who know her would call her a saint, an excellent model of what a woman can be, of who a follower of Christ ought to be. My own saintly mother has expressed how she is inspired by Ora. We laugh about the time a few of us took a prayer retreat, and meek Ora was so overwhelmed with gratitude and honor that we "let" her join us - while we all looked up to her and felt honored that she came! We had so much to learn from her. I still do.
That simple, pure, servant-like spirit still pervades Ora's life. Saturday when I saw her in her home, though saddened to see her weakened body, I was filled with joy just to be in her presence. I felt refreshed by her softly spoken words of welcome, and the thoughtful look in her eyes as she talked about her current situation. She amazed me when she said things like, "Well, here I am. I'm alive another day. I woke up this morning and said Thank you."
After reminiscing about the past 10 years of the Center of Hope's ministry, we prayed together. I'll never forget the words she spoke through her tears: "Thank you, Jesus, for letting me be a part of it."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dreams and Nightmares

I've had some pretty crazy, unusually vivid and emotionally-compelling dreams lately. I definitely think dreams are connected to "real" life. Dreams are real. Are part of life. Anyway... Pastor Ryan read this prayer by Walter Brueggemann in church a couple Sundays ago and it really resonated with me. It's called "Dreams and Nightmares", from Prayers for a Privileged People.

Last night as I lay sleeping,
I had a dream so fair . . .
I dreamed of the Holy City, well ordered and just.
I dreamed of a garden of paradise, well-being all around and a good water supply.
I dreamed of disarmament and forgiveness, and caring embrace for all those in need.
I dreamed of a coming time when death is no more.

Last night as I lay sleeping . . .
I had a nightmare of sins unforgiven.
I had a nightmare of land mines still exploding and maimed children.
I had a nightmare of the poor left unloved,
of the homeless left unnoticed,
of the dead left ungrieved.
I had a nightmare of quarrels and rages and wars great and small.

When I awoke, I found you still to be God,
presiding over the day and night
with serene sovereignty,
for dark and light are both alike to you.

At the break of day we submit to you
our best dreams
and our worst nightmares,
asking that your healing mercy should override threats,
that your goodness will make our
nightmares less toxic
and our dreams more real.

Thank you for visiting us with newness
that overrides what is old and deathly among us.
Come among us this day; dream us toward
health and peace,
we pray in the real name of Jesus
who exposes our fantasies.