Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds
are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning
and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy. – Psalm 65:1-2a, 5-13 (NRSV)
I’ve just returned from a short fall vacation in Wisconsin. Jack got a break, too. He went to Tracy’s house.
Tracy is Jack’s best friend. He doesn’t mind that she’s not a dog. (He’s very accepting of everyone.) Tracy and her lab, Said (sī – ēd), regularly welcome Jack to their home. Here are Tracy’s notes about Jack’s vacation (he said I could share this with you):
Thursday, November 4
Jack made up for lost time playing while he was here. At 1:00 a.m., Said and McQueen were half dead on the floor and Jack still wanted to wrestle. I only had to chase him around the house twice to get him in a crate.
Friday, November 5
When did you say the “quiet, cuddly time” was? Jack woke us up, raring to go. He spent most of the morning outside. It’s trash and recycling day. Very exciting around here — lots of trucks beeping all over the ‘hood. There are as many leaves on Jack as in my yard. He is very crunchy.
Saturday, November 6
Boone is here! The giant labradoodle that Jack loves. They are wrestling nonstop. Jack went to bed at 1:00 a.m. and woke us all up at 6:00 a.m. Everyone went back to bed after peeing, but Jack barked that high-pitched bark for 30 minutes. We all slept ’til 7:30. Then wrestle, breathe, wrestle, wrestle, breathe.
Sunday, November 7
Jack slept from 11:30 p.m. – 6:30 a.m. (Playing with Boone is very tiring.) They picked up in the a.m. right where they left off. He spent most of the day outside wrestling and inside with Said chasing him.
When we got home last night, Jack was moving pretty slow. I think he’ll probably sleep for two days … dreaming of his friends Tracy, Said, McQueen, and Boone.
This was my first-ever published writing — in the “Patterns” issue of alive now! J/F 1985. I wrote this following my mom’s last trip to Colorado before her death in 1983 from a brain tumor. This piece speaks to me today as I prepare the “Living in the Present” issue, J/F 2011.
Yesterday at the top of the Trail Ridge, I was getting really frustrated because Mom was so slow. I had to walk her to the bathroom and wait while she went and washed and dried her hands. I walked out. Dad wanted to go to the gift shop, but Mom wanted to look at the display in the visitors’ center. So I stayed with Mom.
I was so angry because I did not want to see the display — we’ve seen it so many times before — every year the very same display of stuffed tundra birds and pictures and charts. As I watched her walk around and read each display like it was the first time she had read it, it all of a sudden hit me that she might never see it again. Each trip for her could be her last.
The reading of the display, the rituals that we participate in as a family — certain things to be done (mail a postcard to Aunt Eileen from the top of Trail Ridge, read “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”), certain things to be said (“When are we gonna get there?” “Smell that cool mountain air.” “We’ll have these moments to remember.”) — all these things take on new importance as we/she lives every day as a holy one. Mom is the keeper of the ritual right now. In the participation in these family rituals, there is a combination of such pain and joy, such comfort and such vulnerability.
I just returned home from two weeks in Italy. I’m grateful for the opportunity and still processing everything I saw. Here’s the Top 10 according to me.
10. Olives — From olive oil to antipasto to the olive groves surrounding the places we stayed, olives were everpresent.
9. Clotheslines — Thank goodness for clotheslines — they add so much charm to the scenery of an Italian town.
8. Sculptors, artists, and artisans — Thank goodness for the sculptures and those who made them.
7. Cappuccino — Even I (not a coffee drinker) fell in love with Italian cappuccino. (My favorite bar in Vernazza put a smiley face on my morning drink.)
6. Siestas — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home.
5. Gelato — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home. 🙂
4. Church bells — from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. They reflected the rhythm of life — a rousing peal to wake up creation, quieter during siesta time, another rousing peal at 5:00 p.m., silencing after 10:00.
3. Symbols of faith — Icons, statues, reminders of faith were everywhere I turned. I’m always looking for signs of God’s presence. In Italy, the reminders were everywhere.
2. The evening light — the warm light of evening bathed the buildings with such beautiful color. I stopped each evening to watch the slow, beautiful progression of the sun.
1. Churches and candles — Nearly every church I entered had a place where I could light candles and pray for others.
I’m not much of a cook, but I love helping with the baking during the holidays. We had a pie-baking extravaganza on the day before Christmas Eve. The iPod was on “Christmas shuffle” and we spent the day making four pies. The recipe was “Jenni’s Mom’s Dutch Apple Pie.” I am the apple peeler and cutter and the one who cleans. (Oh, and the one who eats pie.)
I opened a gift from my brother on Christmas and discovered the Nativity scenes from our childhood. One was the figures we had played with — with Mary’s chipped nose and the shepherd whose legs were lost along the way. Joseph’s head’s been glued back on so many times that he has a mantle of Elmer’s. Also in the box were the copper wire figures my dad crafted as a part of an Advent wreath and crèche.
As I unpacked the box, tears flowed. I didn’t know the crèches were still around. These treasures from my childhood coming back to me now — what a great gift!
I’m wondering — what are the significant rituals or symbols you remember from your childhood? Do you still have them in your life?
I had the privilege of sharing Thanksgiving with my pastor’s family. Among the guests were three college freshmen – two from Rwanda and one from China.
What a wonderful experience to see this tradition through their eyes. New food, new ideas. The young woman from China had never had the chance to help cook a family dinner before (kids usually had to stay out of the way). The young men from Rwanda had question after question about the American culture:
• How did Obama get elected?
• Where are all the skyscrapers they thought they’d see in America? (They’re school is in a small town much like theirs at home.)
• What does it cost the bridegroom to marry a young woman (at home, it could be as much as six cows.)
We talked about where we got our names, what foods we like to eat, politics, race, and geography. The presence of these young people, their thoughts, cultures, and experiences made it a very rich time of fellowship.
I seem to be overwhelmed a lot these days — but this time, it was with love. We’ve had an art festival at my church this past week — “Art on the Edge.” Over two dozen of us Edgehill UMC folks displayed some of our artwork at the church. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, we had a reception and received musical gifts from some of our professional musicians.
Friday night, Barbara Bailey Hutchison performed. We finished up the evening with an auction of some of the pieces from the show. (Proceeds from the sales were going towards the “The Red Houses” — two houses we are purchasing for ministries with the neighborhood.)
I was sitting there at the auction when a mystery item was brought forth — it was sitting on an easel covered with a green cloth. The auctioneer (Pastor Judi) said that the item was a painting by Barbara Bailey Hutchison and that we would begin the bids without even seeing the item. “$100!” someone called out. And then, “$200!” The auctioneer said, “OK, now we’ll pause the bidding and see what it is. When the cloth was pulled off, I looked at it, blinked, twice, and thought, “Hey, that’s me.” While I was staring at me, my friend Jenni finished off the bidding — “$300!” “Sold!” cried Pastor-Auctioneer Judi.
I was still sitting there looking at the picture and feeling overwhelmed with love — by Barbara, by friends, by my family, the congregation of EUMC. What an amazing week — celebrating the Giver and the Gifts. (And raising a bit of money for The Red Houses — gifts of ministry for the Edgehill neighborhood.)