Get Busy

 

Get Busy

 

Easter 20

 

 

 

I adore books.  Whether it is at a tag sale, a consignment shop, a library or a bookstore, books just seem to call out to me.  On occasion, I apparently call out to them as well.  You see, it is not unusual for a book to simply and quite literally fall at my feet.  When that happens, I usually find that within the books are little tokens of wisdom at a time when I most needed it.  So now, whenever a book seems to fly off a shelf or table, I go on a literary surprise hunt and get busy learning.

 

 

 

“The Unmistakable Touch of Grace” by Cheryl Richardson is one of those books that literally dropped into my life via the top of my head.  I was sitting in the coffee shop of a local bookstore when an employee rolled a cart passed our table with stacks of books on it.  The top book dropped onto our table after bouncing on my head.  The paperback didn’t hurt,; it just startled me.  Then we all laughed at the irony of the ungracefulness of a book about grace.  The book looked interesting and I ended up taking it home.

 

 

 

At home, my book about grace slipped of my bed, this time due to the antics of a very large dog.  It landed on the floor open to this passage:  “As painful as they may be, some of our most difficult relationships hold the promise of our greatest healing.  When you learn to see your relationships in this way, you might discover that the friend who constantly took advantage of you, did so (on a spiritual level) to challenge you to stick up for yourself.”

 

 

 

Mindfulness and this passage have a great deal in common.  Tikun-olam is a Hebrew concept which means “Improve the world”.  Mindfulness encourages us to do that very same thing and the above passage lets us know we can do that even in the midst of our darkest time.

 

 

 

Mindfulness teaches us to never take our living for granted.  Each minute not only counts, it is a lesson for us.  It is very easy to savor the good times but unless we get busy and learn to savor the negative experiences, we are prone to repeat them time and time again. 

 

 

 

Recently I was taken advantage of and it hurt, especially since I had just given this person an expensive gift.  About a minute into my own little pity party, I suddenly remembered to be mindful of the big picture. I realize that I was more proud of my actions and generosity than I was hurt.  After all, I cannot and should not want to control others.  I can only dictate my own actions.  By practicing mindfulness, I realized an inner peace and calming of the soul. 

 

 

 

When you find yourself in those dark hours or hearing that negative voice, take a moment and get bust being mindful of the complete moment, what preceded it and then realize what will make the future better.  When we get busy with savoring life our life, we will realize the beauty of its being.

 

Unpack

Unpack

Epiphany 33

 

A big part of going on a trip is unpacking when you return home.  The same is true for moving.  Returning to where you started is not really the end.  One is not truly home until one unpacks.  And yet….how many of us “unpack” our living?

 

This post will not be lengthy because the point is fairly self-explanatory.  Hanging onto to old junk means living in a trash heap and most of us would rather not elect to do that. Before you start protesting about how you are definitely not doing that, that you don’t have any “old baggage”, let me quote Iyanla Vanzant:  “If you don’t have any baggage, then you don’t have a pulse.”

 

Having baggage means we have traveled.  It is not anything to be ashamed of because it means we have lived.  The thing is, though, we need to unpack.  We need to make room for the happiness of today and tomorrow.  If the spaces in our lives are too full of yesterday, then we do not have room for today and certainly not for tomorrow.

 

You might discover as you unpack that old stuff some hidden jewels.  Perhaps it will be a picture or beloved yet forgotten memento.  You will also find yourself amid the many things – the you that lived yesterday, the you living today, and just maybe the hopes and dreams of the you of tomorrow.

 

I cannot promise you that the next hour is going to be perfect.  Odds are that it will have its own share of challenges.  Make room for both the joy and lessons that it will bring.  Unpack yesterday and get ready to fill up today.  Get ready to live and celebrate being you.

 

Expressions of Grace

Expressions of Grace

Advent 12, 13, 14

 

The empirical approach to anything means to collect data through observation.  Empirical research is that research which has been obtained using empirical evidence. If it sounds like I am repeating myself, it is because I am.  I want to make this way of defending and supporting a concept very clear.  The empirical approach is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience and it can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively.  

 

The concept of grace, our theme for this particular series, is not something one can definitively identify.  Much like probability, the concept from which we have borrowed an approach to discuss grace, one’s perspective bears a great deal of weight in our discussions.  Empiricism values research more than other methodologies.  Empirical evidence, the record of one’s direct observations or experiences, has four basic goals:  go beyond simply reporting observations; promote environment for improved understanding; combine extensive research with detailed case study; prove relevancy of theory by working in a real world environment. 

 

In other words, we need to not just observe but really think about what we observe and provide a clear and objective perspective that includes some fact checking.  Then we need to pay attention and try out our resulting conclusions in reality.  So today’s post is a three-part series where we will do just that with three different real-life observations of grace.  I hope you share your conclusions.

 

Case Study Number One – Advent 12

A Kansas City organization is raffling off a tiny house.  In May a tiny house, a house typically under 800 square feet in size, was dedicated by the Veterans Community Project in Kansas City, Missouri.  Heralded as the start of a planned tiny home community, the house will provide transitional housing for homeless veterans. 

 

Lynn Horsley, writing for the Kansas City Star newspaper explained what the Veterans Community Project is.  “Some military veterans who want to help struggling and homeless veterans have started a program to build tiny houses on a vacant piece of land in south Kansas City. The first tiny house will be dedicated Monday.  “We identified too many veterans suffering from PTSD and addictions who were going untreated and not doing well in traditional shelters,” Chris Stout, president of Veterans Community Project, said in a news release. “We decided as vets that we had to do something to help.”

Stout, an Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, teamed with retired Marine Corps veteran Kevin Jamison, Navy reservist Mark Solomon and others to form their nonprofit organization. They are passionate about helping homeless veterans who don’t qualify for other veteran housing programs, and they pledge to connect residents with other services to aid their recovery.

 

A 240-sqaure-foot home is being raffled with the drawing scheduled for January 1, 2017.  It is the product of a collaboration between Veterans Community Project and Zack Giffin (co-host of Tiny House Nation) and sponsored Honeywell.  Labor was provided by local homeless Veterans, Zack Giffin, Veterans Community Project, many of Honeywell’s veteran-employees.  Materials were provided by Home Depot and 2×4’s For Hope. Tools were provided by Milwaukee Tools. Additional labor was provided by the Carpenters Union, Teague Electric, United Heating and Cooling, and UAW Local 249.

 

Homelessness is a growing problem among the USA’s returning veterans.  Some have difficulty finding employment while others bear the psychological scars of combat.  Veterans Community Project is raffling this home to raise funds for Kansas City’s Veterans Village. All proceeds from the raffle directly contribute to the Veterans Community Project’s mission to end Veteran homelessness.  Not only can we observe the grace of those involved in this organization but also the grace of those purchasing raffle tickets as well as the volunteers who built this and other such tiny homes.

 

Case Study Number Two – Advent 13

Benevolence is a buzz word this time of year.  While the Scrooges among us may claim people participate for the advertising and spotlight such action affords, the empirical evidence of race should not be ignored.  Nor is such isolated to just one area.  In Concord, California an auto body shop used the holiday season to spread some good will and grace by giving away refurbished cars to the needy in 2011.  Mike’s Auto Body is not just a mom and pop operation.  They have fifteen locations in the San Francisco Bay area so you might think they could well afford to be gracious. 

 

They have extended their giving program, however, and the customer helps decide who the recipient of such grace can be.  The thinking behind the Mike’s Auto Body’s Community Give Back Program is that by giving back, it can open your eyes to what’s really important and perhaps inspire you to “share the wealth” with others while making your local community a better place for everyone to live.  Mike Rose’s Auto Body this year will donate 3% of the parts and labor of auto body repairs to the local non-profit organization of the customer’s choice, whether it’s a school, charitable cause or other non-profit organization.  The list of available recipients is diverse and includes all facets of the local communities in the area and charitable organizations.  As their website states, this business wants to work with their customer base to give back to an organization or group “that’s close to your heart, because we want to help them and this is one way that we can do it together.” 

 

What a great example of grace in action!  To be eligible for Mike’s Auto Body’s Community Give Back Program, select one of the organizations from the participating organizations list or print a certificate for the local non-profit organization of the customer’s choice and then take it to Mike’s Auto Body when arriving for an estimate. When the repair is complete, Mike’s Auto Body will send 3% of the parts and labor directly to the non-profit organization that has been selected along with a check and a letter informing the organization that the gift is from the customer.

 

Case Study Number Three – Advent 14

Our last observation of grace for this the second week of Advent is from Athens, Georgia.  The annual Holiday Benevolence Market, an alternative to traditional Christmas shopping that provides an opportunity to learn about and support local nonprofit organizations, was held on December 3rd in downtown Athens.  At the Holiday Benevolence Market, shoppers can purchase items that the nonprofit agencies need, in the name of someone with whom they would ordinarily exchange presents, such as a friend, relative, teacher or coworker. The market has been part of the holiday season in Athens for more than 20 years, hosted by Athens-area faith organizations in support of an array of local nonprofit organizations.

 

Shoppers can select symbolic gifts ranging from $5 to $150 and make a single payment at checkout. The market has become a popular idea for teacher gifts, church staff appreciation gifts and stocking stuffers, and all donations are tax-deductible. Representatives from the agencies will be on hand to share information about their missions. 

 

The empirical evidence of grace in this event is very clear.  The Holiday Benevolence Market began in 1994 as a joint venture between First Presbyterian member Mary Burton and the First Presbyterian Outreach committee.  In 2003, other Athens congregations joined.  Patrons are given a “shopping list” that includes all of the agencies represented and items that can be “purchased.” The list includes a range of prices. For example, a shopper might buy a box of nails for $10 that will be used in building a Habitat for Humanity house. Or, for $100, a child can be sent to the Extra Special People summer camp for a week. 

 

“We are very excited to continue the tradition of the Holiday Benevolence Market,” the Rev. Margaret Davis, co-chair of this year’s event, said in a news release. “Through the years the market has raised from $15,000-$20,000 in support of the missions of these local agencies, and we hope to reach that level again. We are grateful to First Presbyterian for hosting and to the 10 congregations which are participating in the market. The united effort of faith communities to support Athens nonprofits serving those most in need is a powerful testimony of faith to our city.”

 

Area congregations will entertain with live music. A light lunch will be served with proceeds to benefit refugees and disaster relief, and musical entertainment will be provided by participating congregations which include First Presbyterian, Congregation Children of Israel, Covenant Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church, First Christian Church, Oconee Street United Methodist Church, Athens Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Our Hope Metropolitan Community Church, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens.  The United Way of Northeast Georgia is also participating in the Holiday Benevolence Market, and more than two dozen nonprofit agencies will be on hand to share information about their respective missions.

 

The agencies scheduled to participate are Action Ministries, American Red Cross of Northeast Georgia, The Ark United Ministry Outreach Center, Athens Area Emergency Food Bank, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Athens Area Humane Society, Athens Canine Rescue, Athens-Clarke Literacy Council, Athens Community Council on Aging, Athens Land Trust, Athens Neighborhood Health Center, Athens Nurses Clinic, Athens Tutorial Program, Bethlehem Ministry, Books for Keeps, Casa de Amistad, Children First, Clarke County Mentor Program, Economic Justice Coalition, Extra Special People, Georgia Options, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Jubilee Partners, Mercy Health Center, Nancy Travis Childcare Project, Prevent Child Abuse Athens, Project Safe, Samaritan Center for Counseling and Wellness, and the United Way of Northeast Georgia’s Wee Read Program.

 

This event combines the diversity of mankind with the needs of the local community is living not only grace but also the joy, community, and hope of the season.  Hopefully, grace is always present but at no other time is it more abundant.  Grace is the giving back to others, often strangers, out of gratitude for what we ourselves have.  Perhaps the greatest evidence of our own true worth is when we are able to help another while going through our own personal storms.  Grace is not only for those times where we feel we have too much.  Grace is for every day, an expression that gives our own life purpose and meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Voice, Your Vote

Your Voice

Pentecost 141

 

This is the time to manifest what one believes, to not only “talk the talk” but “walk the walk”.  This is the Time to live the revelation that tells what life is all about and what your life means.  This post is definitely for my American readers in the United States but it applies to everyone who has the chance to make your voice count by voting.  What is a voter?  A voter is someone with the chance to make their voice heard politically, someone who cares and then puts that caring into action by voting.   Isn’t it really what we all are put here to do?

 

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; but to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.”  Albert Schweitzer was not talking being a voter when he made this statement but it certainly fits.

 

IN this series we have discussed using our time, talents, and skills to make the world a better place, to turn the ordinary doldrums of living into extraordinary moments.  Voting is another way to help create the future and preserve freedoms.   I can promise you two things:  You are someone who can make a difference and no, it will not always be easy or popular.  Earlier this year I told you about the time I left a meeting because a song that was going to be sung contained a derogatory term, a word of discrimination that I felt I could support.  My leaving attracted no attention but it still made a statement.  I did not want to leave.  It was a great meeting with really great people but…I could not contribute to the discrimination of a group of people either.   I took a stand. 

 

We may not think one vote counts but it does.  Voters take a stand for their cause.  They give a voice to their cause.  We often overlook the power of speech.  Ask someone who has difficulty with speaking and you will suddenly realize how important it is.  For the six million to ten million in the United States alone with speech impediments, life is not easy.  They are sixty-one percent more likely to be bullied and eighty-two percent more likely to be unemployed, despite their talents, intellect, and skills.

 

In that post about my leaving a meeting in January I also told you about a young man with great potential.  our years ago this past October marked the anniversary of the death of that charming seventeen-year-old young man named James.  Attractive with a great personality, it seemed like his future was bright with potential.  For James, reality was much different that the outward appearances.  He was bullied and lived in fear of being asked questions by his teachers, questions that would require an oral response aloud in class.  His online persona was delightful but his in-person persona was shy and reticent.  Teased and bullied whenever he spoke, James preferred to let his computer do his talking.  You see, James was a stutterer.  The world saw only that one simple characteristic and heard only the hesitated speech, not the beautiful thoughts.  On a fall day in Virginia, James ended the abuse and took his own life.

 

Malcolm Fraser would have understood James’ pain.  He had lived that same pain, that same fear, that same grief.  In 1947, Fraser was a successful businessman in spite of also being a stutterer.  He endowed and established the Stuttering Foundation which offers assistance and guidance to those who stutter and also researches the causes.

 

For those who have been the chance to make their voice heard, even if it is not fluid speech, the results are usually quite successful.  Four months before James’ death, a gala was held in New York City to introduce a film entitled “Stuttering and the Big Cats’. Its producer, director, writer, and featured human being was Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, president and CEO of the New-York based nonprofit Panthera.   

 

“Alan’s courage is particularly inspiring to young people whose career paths have yet to be decided and for whom stuttering often seems an insurmountable obstacle. Through hard work, perseverance and dedication to his true passions, Alan never let stuttering hold him back from his quest to help endangered animals,” said Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation. “We are proud to make this video available and hope that every young person who stutters has an opportunity to hear Alan’s story.”

 

Panthera was founded in 2006 and is a leading organization devoted to the conservation of big cats.  “I recall vividly as a child staring at a jaguar as he paced in his cage at the zoo,” said Alan Rabinowitz, president and CEO of Panthera. “He was trapped, seeking a way out of a dark world, something I related to strongly at the time. And I knew then that when I found my voice, I would use it for him, for saving big cats around the world. My love for wildlife and the urgency needed to save the big cats helped me overcome stuttering. This life-long quest has resulted in Panthera – which is now my platform for speaking loudly for, and working to save, some of the planets greatest species.”

 

Both Malcolm Fraser and Dr. Alan Rabinowitz are people who have found their voice.  My small act of rebellion yesterday in standing up for those who suffer from such issues may have seemed inconsequential but if we all stood up and used our voices to stop bullying and discrimination, we could accomplish miracles.  Not everyone can create a great foundation or work in such a visible position as Dr. Rabinowitz.  Most of us will never attend a grand gala anywhere much less in New York City.  We can, however, attend the illustrious polling place to vote.  We can make our voices heard by casting a vote for a better tomorrow, a stronger society that will create a future that shines brightly for all.

 

If you are not registered to vote, please do so.  This week marks the deadline to do so in many locations across the United States of America.   If you have, please mark it on your calendar to vote.  Make a date with destiny to cast your vote.  Don’t follow the crowd when you vote but do follow your conscience.  Let your voice be heard.  It not only is a beautiful voice, it is the voice of someone who is important.  You matter, as do we all.

 

 

Mapping the Deep

Mapping the Deep

Easter 9

 

French philosopher Gilles Deleuze once remarked that “Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.”  I love that quote because it speaks to the effects of what is written today on tomorrow.  I mentioned yesterday that my blog posts are a type of theological reflection with less emphasis on the theology and more on life itself.  The final step of such a reflection involves moving forward, living tomorrow based on how one has mapped out the reflection.

 

Maps have always been of interest to me and if I lived somewhere with enough wall space I would have a map in every room.   I marvel at the earliest cartographers, those explorers and artists that took the land they were standing on and turned it into a drawing with the highest importance and meaning. 

 

I marvel at their ability to take a path well known and walked and turn it into a one dimensional drawing that others can interpret and then travel.  Recently I threw in the recycle bin several paper maps,  They were out of date and yes, I have Google maps on several devices so I did not need them but still, tossing them out was difficult. 

 

I found the algorithms used by cosmologists and physicists fascinating in mapping outer space.  Their confidence in knowing what to be positive about and what to estimate (read guess) boggles my mind.  The most talented of cartographers, however, for me must be those that map out the ocean’s floor.  They not only tell us where we are but can also tell us where our world has been and what it looked like eons ago at the beginning.

 

When you read this, no matter where you are or when you read this, an earthquake will have occurred in the past twenty-four hours.  Trust me; my husband keeps me up-to-date on each and every earthquake every day.  It is a hobby of his.  The importance of these is understandable.  For people in the affected areas, it is an upheaval and often a matter of life and death.  For the rest of us, though, we tend to forget about them.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

 

Earthquakes are the world’s biggest makeover show, a reality program by every definition possible.  Earthquakes have created and changed and created again much of the world we know today.  And yet, the Teutonic plates and their movement which create the earthquakes was never fully mapped out until the mid-1900’s and yes, it was co-mapped by a woman.

 

Maria Tharp first earned degrees in music and English before getting graduate degrees in geology and mathematics.  She was hired as a geologist and typical to members of her gender, given mostly desk work.  Hired at the Lamont Geological Observatory at Columbia University, Maria could not go out on ships to obtain the necessary data used in attempts to locate downed aircraft.  She worked with coworker Bruce Heezen using photographic data.  For the next eighteen years, Heezen would go out on a ship while Tharp stayed in the office.  Women were not allowed on the Observatory’s ship so Heezen collected the data and then Tharp would map it out.  This was the first systematic attempt to map the ocean floor.

 

Tharp’s maps gave much credence to theories that North and South America were once connected to Europe and Africa.  The mapping of Teutonic plates and the puzzle pieces of the continents that became one big continent based upon such oceanographic data has helped to explain the similarities of flora and fauna as well as bacteria found in differing parts of the western and eastern hemispheres.

 

In 2009 Maria Tharp’s Historical Map layer became a part of Ocean in Google Earth so you can check out her cartographic ability yourself.  It is simply fascinating.  Maria Tharp knew the importance of maps.  They represent our living, our past, and our future destinations.  Where will you go today?

 

 

Dare – Day 8

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas – Day 8

Dare

 

It is an old colloquialism. “Milking” someone is said to mean to con them out of something. In the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”, day eight is “eight maids a milking”. While it is doubtful that this is what the song means, eight maidens going about conning people out of their possessions or money, it is quite fitting. For it is on this day eight of Christmas tide, this celebration of the New Year, that people participate in what is called the oldest American folk tradition still in existence – being a Mummer!

 

The Christian calendar has December 21st as the feast of St Thomas and to commemorate it, people went about collecting money for charity. Prior to that, the poor would stand outside the wealthy landowner’s house begging for a bit of starter for their Christmas or plum puddings. The puddings were more a wheat porridge with things added such as fruit or meat suet since most poor people could only obtain the discarded part of the meat. Over time fermenters were added to prolong the shelf life of the pudding and plums were replaced by the more affordable and available raisins.

 

The first president of the United States of America George Washington supported the tradition of mummers, groups who by this time had evolved into charitable carolers who celebrated the joy of the season of Christmastide and showed love for their fellow man by collecting things given to the less fortunate. Today this tradition continues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania every New Year’s Day. The Mummer’s Day Parade is not just a time of festivities amid the bleak winter horizon. It is a joining of cultures and traditions.

 

In Ireland mummers were often seen on St Stephen’s Day or December 26th. Groups of young men had adapted the custom begun by children in going about and singing. Once children had wandered the streets, begging for a cup of hot wassail and perhaps an apple but now groups of young men would stand outside a home a sing until given a “donation”. History records that, since their singing was not always harmonious, money was sometimes given just to make them continue on to the next house. These carolers became mummers as Swedish, African, German, and the Anglican customs were all joined together in the new colonies and later the new country on the first day of the New Year.

 

“Here we stand before your door; As we stood the year before; Give us whiskey, give us gin; Open the door and let us in! Or give us something nice and hot; Like a steaming hot bowl of pepper pot!” The modern mummer is from age fifteen to eighty. Instruments never seen in a marching band, like a baritone sax, stringed instruments, or the accordion, are found in a mummer’s parade. Brightly garish costumes are made by groups who consider it a part of their patriotism as well as human benevolence. Like many things, the official Mummer’s Day Parade fell victim to harsh economic times itself but, in true mummer tradition, it also has been saved by the joining of strangers to help out a good cause.

 

When the winter winds are blowing cold, it is a good time to remember that no matter our faith or belief system, it helps us to help others. The goodwill on the streets of Philadelphia, the city known for “brotherly love”, on New Year’s Day is evidence of the hope that exists in the world. It is always a good day to be a mummer – to reach out and help others while reveling in the joy of life. There is no better way to celebrate a new year’s dawn than to be joyful and show love for one’s fellow beings on earth.

 

It takes courage to dare to show such kindness, though.  The last two days of 2015 I did not offer you a challenge.  It was because the very nature of acceptance is its own challenge as is fulfilling a need.  Some might even say the greatest challenge of all is admitting we need others.  Today, however, I give you this challenge:  Dare to be kind.  You can select the manner and format but ….Be kind, please.  Accept the dare and show someone a bit of kindness that we all crave and yes, need.  Dare to be the one who is kind.

 

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas – Day 8

Dare

 

It is an old colloquialism. “Milking” someone is said to mean to con them out of something. In the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”, day eight is “eight maids a milking”. While it is doubtful that this is what the song means, eight maidens going about conning people out of their possessions or money, it is quite fitting. For it is on this day eight of Christmas tide, this celebration of the New Year, that people participate in what is called the oldest American folk tradition still in existence – being a Mummer!

 

The Christian calendar has December 21st as the feast of St Thomas and to commemorate it, people went about collecting money for charity. Prior to that, the poor would stand outside the wealthy landowner’s house begging for a bit of starter for their Christmas or plum puddings. The puddings were more a wheat porridge with things added such as fruit or meat suet since most poor people could only obtain the discarded part of the meat. Over time fermenters were added to prolong the shelf life of the pudding and plums were replaced by the more affordable and available raisins.

 

The first president of the United States of America George Washington supported the tradition of mummers, groups who by this time had evolved into charitable carolers who celebrated the joy of the season of Christmastide and showed love for their fellow man by collecting things given to the less fortunate. Today this tradition continues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania every New Year’s Day. The Mummer’s Day Parade is not just a time of festivities amid the bleak winter horizon. It is a joining of cultures and traditions, a daring to come together.

 

In Ireland mummers were often seen on St Stephen’s Day or December 26th. Groups of young men had adapted the custom begun by children in going about and singing. Once children had wandered the streets, begging for a cup of hot wassail and perhaps an apple but now groups of young men would stand outside a home a sing until given a “donation”. History records that, since their singing was not always harmonious, money was sometimes given just to make them continue on to the next house. These carolers became mummers as Swedish, African, German, and the Anglican customs were all joined together in the new colonies and later the new country on the first day of the New Year.

 

“Here we stand before your door; As we stood the year before; Give us whiskey, give us gin; Open the door and let us in! Or give us something nice and hot; Like a steaming hot bowl of pepper pot!” The modern mummer is from age fifteen to eighty. Instruments never seen in a marching band, like a baritone sax, stringed instruments, or the accordion, are found in a mummer’s parade. Brightly garish costumes are made by groups who consider it a part of their patriotism as well as human benevolence. Like many things, the official Mummer’s Day Parade fell victim to harsh economic times itself but, in true mummer tradition, it also has been saved by the joining of strangers to help out a good cause.  These strangers came together and dared to try, dared to make the Mummer’s Parade happen yet again.

 

When the winter winds are blowing cold, it is a good time to remember that no matter our faith or belief system, it helps us to help others. The goodwill on the streets of Philadelphia, the city known for “brotherly love”, on New Year’s Day is evidence of the hope that exists in the world. It is always a good day to be a mummer – to reach out and help others while reveling in the joy of life. There is no better way to celebrate a new year’s dawn than to be joyful and show love for one’s fellow beings on earth.

 

It takes courage to dare to show such kindness, though.  The last two days of 2015 I did not offer you a challenge.  It was because the very nature of acceptance is its own challenge as is fulfilling a need.  Some might even say the greatest challenge of all is admitting we need others.  Today, however, I give you this challenge:  Dare to be kind.  You can select the manner and format but ….Be kind, please.  Accept the dare and show someone a bit of kindness that we all crave and yes, need.  Dare to be the one who is kind.

 

Strength Sufficient

Strength Sufficient

Pentecost 93

It is a story told in my family for decades, one that occurred around the turn of the twentieth century at a time when, in rural America, religious communities had visiting preachers.  These ministers of the circuit, as they were known, traveled from small church to small church, finding hospitality among the faithful who came to hear their preaching.

My ancestors had invited the traveling parson, as the story called him, to Sunday dinner which was held about mid-afternoon.  People traveled from their homes to the church in horse and buggy modes of travel so services began mid-morning.  Since this was before the time of modern electricity which is now found in almost every indoor chapel in the United States, the mid-morning start time also provided for ample lighting through the windows, even on a cloudy day.

Apparently having the traveling parson to dinner was quite an honor and the relatives from whom I had their story still remembered how polished everything had to be.  Floors were scrubbed multiple times, tabletops polished to reflect one’s face, and every corner clean enough to eat off of the floor and walls.

The family had more than ten children so long benches served the place of chairs on each side of the eight foot table.  Near the kitchen sat the patriarch of the family, a spot usually reserved for the mother.  On the day the preacher came to dinner, though, the preacher was given the patriarch’s place at the table, near the front door and away from the heat of the wood burning stove.  At one end was the father of the family, one of my great-something grandfathers, and at the other sat the traveling man of faith.

The children ate with their best manners and only spoke when asked a direct question.  No one refused to eat anything and no one took seconds until they received a nod indicating they could.  The minister was given first choice of everything and gratefully accepted the food offered.  Pies and cakes concluded the meal and then my great-something grandfather asked the parson if he’d had enough.  This was their conversational exchange:

“Preacher, have you had a sufficiency?”

“What’s that you say?  You went fishing?”

“Preacher, have you had a plenty?”

“Oh, you say you caught twenty?”

At this point, as the story goes, the multiple children on each side of the table were being warned with a stern look from both their mother and father to sit still and keep a blank face.  I remember hearing that they bit their lips and/or looked at their laps to keep from laughing.  Children in that day and age were expected to be respectful and never laughed at adults.  The visiting preacher was an older man and obviously hard of hearing.  My great-something grandfather was not one to accept defeat, however.  He tried one more time.

“Preacher, have you had all you can hold?”

“Oh, that’s too bad.  You broke your pole!”

I don’t remember the first time I heard this story but I do remember hearing it as a teenager and asking a question.  “Did anyone laugh; did any of the kids laugh?”  I was immediately assured no one did because…They had gone to church and their Lord had helped them keep a straight face and be respectful.

I must admit I do not think I have ever asked God for assistance or strength in keeping a straight face although the relative telling me this story was certain I had.  The deity of this relative’s faith was the strength with which we lived our daily lives and, at some point in time, were called upon to not laugh out loud at another’s situation.

It is an interesting concept, the strength we allow our deity or deities to exert, with which they are characterized, and to which we rely upon in our beliefs.  Apparently, early believers had no problem identifying their monotheistic deity with strength.  Jehovah Uzzi translates as “the God of my strength”.  They took this idea of a strong deity a step further.  Jehovah Sali, the Lord my rock; Jehovah Magen, the Lord my Shield – all were named given to the one deity of the Abrahamic faiths and even those religions not using the Hebrew names, used the descriptions in their holy writings.

Like my great-something grandfather’s words, religion became misconstrued and in time, often a danger to those who believed,  Thus their strong deity became a fortress and one with whom their asked for defense against their tormentors.  Jehovah Mauzzi, the Lord my fortress, and Jehovah Maginnenu, the Lord our defense, were prayed to and characteristics of the strength of the deity of the faithful.

All too often in our busy hectic world, our faith can get a bit skewed.  We hear the clamor of society rather than the echoes of the holy mythologies of our faith.  Instead of having all the belief we can hold, we allow the world to break our pole of faith.  It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of what seems to be trendy instead of taking time to be quiet and listen to the whispers of the holy.  The Lord is not deaf.  Are we?