Archive | August 2012

I am right!

My kindergarten picture – 1953.
I’m wearing my favorite outfit,
a hand-me-down from a cousin.
I’ve seen this outfit in lots of my cousins’ childhood pictures.
I guess we all liked it.

I guess that means you are wrong if you don’t agree with me. Right?

I learned from an early age that when I know something is one way, and someone else says it’s another way, that I’m right and they’re wrong. The earliest confrontation I remember about who’s right and who’s wrong came when I was in kindergarten. I went to school knowing how to spell my name: M-A-R-I-A-N. My teacher, Miss Polly, tried to spell it with an “O” instead of an “A” and I knew she was wrong.  But how does a 5-year-old tell a teacher that she’s wrong? I decided to try to teach her the right way to spell my name. She said okay, but she never really did write it right.

But that wasn’t the only thing Miss Polly was wrong about. She was wrong about “left” and “right.” She told the class that your right hand is the hand you write with. I knew she was wrong about that, too. I’m a lefty. I corrected her every time we danced the “Hokey Pokey” and she tried to tell us that our right hand was the one we wrote with, but she just told me I was different – everyone  else wrote with their right hand.

Somehow, I had confidence, knowing down deep that whatever I knew was right, really was right. My teachers and fellow students were simply wrong. I also learned that usually it wasn’t worth arguing with them. They weren’t open to enlightenment. I learned to accept differences of opinion as just something you had to live with, not something you had to get angry about.

Fast-forward 60 years. One thing I’ve learned about “right” and “wrong” over the years is that in almost every case, there is a kernel of truth in the “wrong” position. There are some people who really do spell their name M-A-R-I-O-N, and there are some people who write with their right hand – just not everyone.

Maybe there are even some people in the “other” political party who really care about poor people who are without health care. Perhaps all these people just disagree about the best means of providing health care. And maybe there really are a few people who are poor because they are lazy, even if there are many others who are poor and suffering through no fault of their own. And maybe not all rich and powerful people are greedy, even if some of them are.

The extreme polarization of politics in this country is so sad. A few of my best friends are followers of the “other” political party. I can’t understand how they can hold the beliefs they do, because I know they are good, moral people. From my perspective, there seems to be such a contradiction in their beliefs.  I personally don’t know how they can reconcile the positions of their political party with their Christian values.

I’m tempted to condemn them for their contradictions. But, then I would guess they could probably find some contradictions within my values and beliefs… Maybe…

I guess the best thing I can do is try to find the kernels of truth in their beliefs, and respect them for that. Maybe that will prompt them to look for the kernels of truth in my beliefs, and we could have some good conversation about how our world really could be improved. At a minimum, we would be kinder and more loving to each other. It’s a start.

A Special Cloud – Part 2

And now for the rest of the story…

Last week I wrote about Ruth, the latest addition to our assisted living family. Ruth moved into our condo (Country Comforts Assisted Living) less than two weeks ago. She was already receiving hospice services, and as soon as she settled into our home, she relaxed into the process of dying. Early yesterday morning she was born into her new life. Ruth’s son, her two daughters and their spouses, and some of her grandchildren gathered together at our place in the morning to share some time together, savoring being part of the cloud of love that has been hovering over our home that I blogged about last week.

Over the past ten days, members of Ruth’s family have become close friends of Mim and me. Sharing the experience of caring for a loved one as she passes on to her next life brings us together with a truly special bond. I’m thankful for all the new friends we’ve gained through Country Comforts Assisted Living. Both Mim and I really value the continuing friendships that have been formed.

“Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” Marilyn Huebel, a friend of mine who dates back to college days, also writes a blog every Monday. This morning, she started her blog by reciting the line above from an old camp song. In her blog she reflects on the different kinds of friends we have in our lives. Marilyn uses the image of an onion with all its layers to describe the types of friends we have – different circles of friends at different layers of closeness. (Here’s a link to her blog: http://monday-muser.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-colors-of-onions.html.)  I think an onion serves as a very good analogy for friendship. But since I’m not much of an onion eater personally, I’ll stick with the image of a cloud of love that surrounds me, a big, white, fluffy cloud filled with the positive energy formed by God and all my friends.

Between Country Comforts Assisted Living and Whispering Winds Retreat Haven, Mim and I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many people, some of whom have become very close friends, and others who have become good acquaintances. I’m thankful for all the friends, old and new, gold and silver, that have come into my life – school friends, church friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, and, of course, family members. All of these friends contribute to the “cloud of love” that surrounds each of us.

A Special Cloud

A cloud of love

 

There’s been a cloud hovering over our house for the last few days. A special cloud. A cloud filled with love.

Ruth, our newest resident moved into Country Comforts Assisted Living (our condo) on Friday. She’s 94 and is receiving hospice care. When her family moved her into her room, Ruth was too weak to walk, but she was very happy to be here with us and to have her family helping her get settled for her last stage on this earth. Over the last three days, Ruth has relaxed and is slipping into the transition to her next life. At times she is able to talk with her family members, and at times she is just resting. Her two daughters and her son, her grandchildren and great grandchildren are filling the house with their love. The positive energy created by all the love shared in this family is filling the house with peacefulness – “a cloud of love.”

On Saturday, I played the organ for a funeral in our church. It was a small gathering for family only, about 30 people. I didn’t know the person who died or his family personally, but some family members described the man as someone who had some very good traits and some very bad traits. He was a successful salesman and a volunteer athletic coach for young people in the neighborhood. He had lots of friends and was always the life of the party. But he was also an alcoholic and was abusive to his family. His children, now adults with their own children, were afraid of him. His grandchildren loved him. Despite the abuse, his wife and children loved him, too. There was a cloud of love hovering over this family, as well.

The funeral began traditionally with an opening hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” and scripture readings. The pastor started his homily by reciting this poem:

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;
There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud;
There’s one that’s brokenhearted for his sins
And one who, unrepentant, sits and grins;
There’s one who loves his neighbor as himself
And one who cares for naught but fame and wealth.
From such corroding care I would be free
If once I could determine which is me.
     [“My Name Is Legion” by Edward Sanford Martin]

We sang another hymn – “Just As I am,” an interesting complement to the poem.  The closing hymn was “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” The funeral ended non-traditionally. The family was going to go on a boat ride to spend the day together, enjoying the love they experienced as a family. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love! The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. The cloud of love continues to surround this family.

The poem the pastor recited captured my attention, so I asked him for a copy of it.

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd …
If once I could determine which is me.

Which is me? I guess we all ask ourselves that question at times. Take my dog, Abbey, for instance. To all the elderly men and women who have lived with us for assisted living care, Abbey becomes their best friend. She is kind and loving and always willing to shower them with kisses – in exchange for some petting, or possibly a few left-overs slipped off their dinner plate. But to Ashley, the golden retriever next door, Abbey is a ferocious, territorial bully. I wonder if Abbey ever wonders about which of her manifestations is the real her.

We’re all complex people presenting many different faces to many different people. Maybe our name is “Legion” as the poem suggests.

Over the last few days I have been reminded that regardless who we are, God has blessed us all with a “cloud of love.” The energy in the cloud may originate with family, or friends, or even strangers. God’s love surrounds us. Perhaps whatever clouds we see today can be reminders of that love.

Listening for God in New Ways

Mim, June, and Marian enjoying a picnic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at Ravinia in the summer of 1973.

In January of 1973, almost 40 years ago, a friend of mine, June Autry, called me with a job tip. That phone call was a gift from God. The job tip led me to a job that lasted only two years, but the phone call initiated a series of events that changed my life forever.

The day after I received the phone call, I drove to Chicago to interview for the job that June had called me about – editorial researcher for The World Book Encyclopedia. I was offered the job, and I stayed with June and her husband Arden for a couple days to look for an apartment and to plan my move to Chicago. One evening I went with June and Arden to a neighborhood Bible Study. That’s where I met Mim. When she heard that I was planning to move to Chicago, she invited me to stay with her until I found an apartment. Going on 40 years, and I still haven’t found my own apartment!

Why am I thinking back to something that happened so long ago? A couple reasons. First, I’m reading a very interesting book by Ann E. Aswegan, Awakening to the Song of Your Self: Revelations by Day, Dreams by Night. Aswegan is a registered nurse and an expert in dreams. The first 14 chapters of her book are about how your subconscious tries to communicate with your conscious self while you are awake. The last 14 chapters are about how your subconscious tries to communicate with you through dreams. Aswegan’s book is very helpful to me in gaining a better understanding of how God can communicate with us through premonitions and coincidences (“by day”) as well as through dreams (“by night”). Each chapter introduces a concept, provides lots of examples – often stories of her clients’ or her own experiences, and ends with several questions to help apply what you’re learning to your own experiences.

The first chapter, “Embarking on an Inner Journey: Finding the Paths That Lead Within,” included the following questions (among others): Describe the people you value and write a few lines about what each one means to you. What do you associate with each one? What feelings do they generate within you? What do they mirror about you?

That was a fun exercise! I made myself stop writing about the people I value after I’d written short paragraphs about eight of my friends and family. (I could have continued for a long time, but I wanted to get back to reading the book. I’ll continue that writing exercise later.) Number one on my list was Mim. That’s partly why I’m thinking about 39½ years ago when I met her.

The other reason is that Mim turned 65 yesterday. When we first met, she was just beginning her career as a registered nurse, working at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. Now we’re starting to talk about retirement – maybe in 5 or 10 years… We’ve lived most of our lives together.

Isn’t it amazing what June’s phone call about a job tip led to?

To quote from my favorite devotional book again, Jesus says:

I speak to you continually: through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, scriptures. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you. Your part is to be attentive to My messages, in whatever form they come… [Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, published by Thomas Nelson, p. 216]

Whether it’s a phone call from a friend, an amazing coincidence, a dream, an odd feeling, a scripture reading, a favorite song, a goldfinch singing while perched on a purple thistle, a persistent memory – however God wants to communicate with me, I’m doing my best to listen. With Ann Aswegan’s book, along with Sarah Young’s devotional, I think my hearing is getting a little better.

One last note. Speaking of ways God talks to us, Ken Lund will be leading a retreat at Whispering Winds from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, August 18. The title of the retreat is “Formational Scripture Reading: From Information to Transformation.” Here’s a link to more information about the retreat:   http://whisperingwindsretreathaven.com/publicretreats.html. (You’ll need to scroll down the page to get to this retreat.) Please feel free to call me at 608-212-6197 with questions or to register.