Brokenness

No matter where we live or what our stage in life, all of us have a common problem:  our world is broken. It’s easy to name the multiple ills that seem to overwhelm our 21st century earthbound reality. Just a small list will suffice here – poverty, war, hunger, racism, disease. Yes, there are ample reasons to declare:  life sucks.

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

As individuals, we’re also broken. We muddle through life in the midst of our brokenness. Thankfully, the grace of God is available to redeem us from the despair and despond. That is superb Good News! No matter how broken we are, because Christ died for us, we’re not without hope.

No one knows how many people across the world suffer from soul-killing hopelessness that mars their lives, almost from the moment of birth. (I suspect that number is staggering beyond belief.) My high school teacher used the phrase, man’s inhumanity to man, but whether it’s a tyrannical government or a caregiver being abusive and cruel, we know there’s suffering over which we’re unable to exert even the most minimal control. Continue reading “Brokenness”

Christmas Past

Discussion of a Christmas Past may evoke ghostly images from Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol. Since first publication in 1843, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge remains an annual favorite. If anyone could dampen the spirit of Christmas, it was the old miser.

“Bah, humbug!” exclaims Ebenezer Scrooge.

But there are no misers in this Christmas Past. Nor does the tale about which I write wrap up as neatly as one miser’s timely transformation. This Christmas Past is for real people.

The central figure is generous, a young mother whose heart overflows with love and good will. Like Scrooge though, she had lost all enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas. Though Scrooge was beset by general grumpiness, this mother had reason for sadness. She’d been crushed by grief after the sudden death of an infant daughter. Christmas 1955 was close at hand and the mother’s precious babe had been in the ground less than six months.

With loss so fresh, how could anyone summon the strength to celebrate the Birth of a child – even the Holy Christ child? For months, she’d been going through the motions. Now, the thought of celebrating Christmas seemed almost beyond reason for her wounded soul. Continue reading “Christmas Past”

Sacramental Bonds

The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has elicited reams of commentary on her life and her legacy. Recognizing the deep affection she had for fellow Justice Antonin Scalia (who died in 2016), I could respect how two esteemed colleagues from divergent philosophical backgrounds remained close friends.

The day after Ginsburg’s death, Harper’s Bazaar reposted a piece (originally published in January 2019) describing the Justice as “our feminist hero,” “a towering force to be reckoned with,” and “a pop-culture sensation.” NPR (online) described her as a “Champion of Gender Equality” and a “demure firebrand.” The Brennan Center for Justice was equally effusive:  “small, mighty, relentless and unforgiving.”

Continue reading “Sacramental Bonds”

Together Again

Some years before my mother died, she made her wishes known about a funeral or memorial service. To each of her children, she gave instructions. I was expected to sing a song or two. In my younger years, this seemed an easy ask.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

However, as both Mom and I aged, I realized my particular assignment would be an impossible task. Oh, I knew the songs. I’d sung each one many times. From my earliest days, music had animated me. I sang boldly with adult choirs even when very young. When my older brother learned to play the violin, I followed in his footsteps. My dad brought home a Hammond organ and I learned to play; I still own it, though it suffers from neglect, no, involuntary abandonment. Continue reading “Together Again”

She’s So Fine

This morning just before four o’clock, my dear mother opened her eyes in Heaven. The nearest thing to my “other self,” she woke to find Jesus had wrapped His arms around her and welcomed her into His glorious presence.

In this space, I’ve posted more than a couple times with stories and recollections concerning my mom. The picture above was taken last December. We knew at that time her days on earth were winding to a close. Once the lockdowns were put in place at her long-term care facility, visits with her ceased. She died six weeks short of her 94th birthday.

It’s impossible to leaf through my memory to provide a full picture of Marion Ruth West (1926-2020) who fashioned herself (early in life) as Ruthe West and on one occasion, Bobbie Pringle, eventually living most of her adult life as Ruthe Stricker. Just the variations of her name offer a bird’s-eye view into her fun-loving, often-impulsive character! The world is poorer for having lost her, but Heaven is blessed … because she will do her part to keep St. Peter on his toes! Continue reading “She’s So Fine”

Who Has the Power?

A Sonnet: Demission
Observing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Imagine

In mid-March, a group of celebrities posted an online video singing their rendition of John Lennon’s classic song Imagine. The stated purpose was to “raise morale” as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe. (Their effort was not well-received.)

In the midst of this situation, imagination isn’t our primary aim. Reality reminds us daily we’re smack-dab in a real-life global pandemic. Things changed overnight. People died and countless others have been hastily quarantined. We don’t have to imagine grocery shelves picked clean nor the bewilderingly low supply of items like toilet paper and paper towels.

With amazing prescience, Netflix released (on January 22, 2020) a 6-episode docu-series titled, Pandemic:  How to Prevent an Outbreak. Though I haven’t watched it yet (too soon), I’ll probably do so eventually. One reviewer called it “visually stunning” and “a great piece of storytelling.” The series features caregivers who work the front lines when crisis occurs.

Since the dawn of time, mankind has faced disasters, some caused by disease, famine or flood. However, if there’s anyone with personal experience in dire circumstances, the biblical record of God’s prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, lays it out perfectly in I Kings 17. Continue reading “Imagine”

Who Keeps the Peace?

Our church today celebrated the second Sunday of Advent 2019 in a traditional way, lighting the Candle of Peace. Though there are different practices and traditions attached to celebrating Advent, this observation draws us to reflect on what’s truly important about Christmas (the birth of Christ).

Angels were the first heralds to announce “Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.” (Luke 2:14) But peace often seems out of our grasp. I’m reminded of Longfellow’s 1863 poem “Christmas Bells.” Each stanza echoes the words peace on earth, good will to men while the sixth stanza derisively proclaims “there is no peace on earth.

Continue reading “Who Keeps the Peace?”

Papers, Please?

Since the passing of my mother-in-law on March 1st, my Beloved and I have sifted and sorted through the tangible mementos she left behind. There are photographs and slides aplenty, so I set myself to digitizing as many as possible to add to our (informal) family archive.

My mother-in-law with her mother-in-law, about 1948

Scanning the vast collection of photos/slides, etc. required lots of time … and I’m not finished yet! What’s more, the stack of photos seemed to multiply every time we opened another box! My initial enthusiasm diminished as the number of digital images grew and my eagerness took an unexpected turn to frustration.

I had a nagging sense something was missing. But what?

In my mind, the possibility of a personalwritten memoir (or several, if fortune smiled) would help flesh out an understanding of my mother-in-law that forty-seven plus years of being her daughter-in-law had not achieved. By digging deeper, I thought to solve the mysteries of Inscrutable Daisy. Continue reading “Papers, Please?”

Inscrutable Daisy

My mother-in-law died last week. She turned 94 last October, so her passing wasn’t unexpected. In addition to dementia (which prevented verbal communication), she suffered congestive heart failure. Bed-bound over the last six months, she slipped away quietly in her sleep. That was a blessing.

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Previously in this space, I’ve shared tidbits about the complex relationship betwixt my mother-in-law and myself. Certainly, I have always admired my in-laws for crafting a long-term marriage. I’m sure they had their share of struggles … but they celebrated 65 years together before my father-in-law’s death. Continue reading “Inscrutable Daisy”