Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Simple Pleasures

May 15, 2017

The story I am about to relate is true, though it is filled with assumption and speculation about facts which may or may not be accurate, let alone any of my business. But I tell the story because the vision I saw moved me and made me smile.

TruDee and I were eating at a local establishment recently and enjoying conversation and the atmosphere. I noticed a woman, perhaps about my age, wheeling an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair through the front doors. The host helped direct them to a table where another joined the two. My assumption was; an elderly man and his daughter, perhaps granddaughter, and his wife, or another daughter. It appeared in addition to his obvious different ability regarding the wheel chair, that he had perhaps had a stroke. His expressionless face held steady and his left arm bent in a right angle at his elbow with its hand clenched in a gentle fist as she navigated him up to the table.

I did not notice much after that and resumed my conversation with TruDee as we waited on our order. Our server brought our dinner and we began to eat. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement once again of the three gathered at the table. The two women were conversing and laughing and the elderly gentleman for all intents and purposes appeared engaged in listening. And then he did, what I deemed to be, a curious thing.

beerWith his right hand, he reached to the table and picked up a glass, it was filled to the rim with beer. Very deliberately and gently he brought the glass to his lips, took a sip, and smiled. He continued the ritual, and with each deliberate and gentle action and sip of his beverage, he smiled. As we were leaving I took note once again, and just as I stood from our table he finished his beer, held the glass a few inches from his face, seemed to peer into its depths, and…smiled, as did I.
The vision this night moved me. This man, obviously in diminished ability, sat in the company of family, immersed in the moment, and savored the simple things of life. I sent my boys a text shortly after that and told them, “When I am old, in a wheel chair, perhaps unable to communicate or converse, please take me out and have a beer with me.” Let me relish in your company and enjoy a simple pleasure.

In this culture and environment, not only in society but even in the church, when things can seem to be so difficult, so opposed to justice, compassion, and grace, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find a gathering of family, of community, of friends, and immerse yourself in the moment and savor the simple gifts of life and faith. Take time to immerse yourself in grace, in compassion, in soul food, in love. Jesus knew the importance of such self-care. That self-care is what fueled his passion and compassion for social justice of his day.

Give a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a mom or dad, a friend a call this week and be together. It is one of the many ways we find the Way Forward in this journey of life and faith. Until next time, know you are loved, you are not alone, …ever.

Peace and Light for Our Journey,

Pastor Kent

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Zombies and the Power of Love

March 25, 2013

As most of you know I love movies. TruDee and I both do, and I am always sermonizing and theologizing them in my head as we watch wondering where and how they might “preach.” The other day I received a recommendation from our friend Gaye that we need to see a movie and it was a good sermon. She said it was the movie “Warm Bodies,” a zombie love story. My first response was, “Hmmmmmmm, a zombie movie?” She assured me it was good.

A week ago Sunday after church TruDee and I headed to the theater to see it. I confess I was still a bit skeptical, zombie movies have never really appealed to me on any level. But our friend was right. It wasn’t scary, the scenes where any sense of blood shed or goriness were pretty much left to one’s imagination, nothing on the screen. Maybe it was a little cutesy and/or cheesy in a place or two, but she was right, TruDee and I both found ourselves laughing, inspired, moved, and even a tear or two snuck out of the corner of my eye, either that or my allergies were starting to act up. Ha!

In some sense, though I have never seen a typical zombie movie, my take was this was a bit of a spoof of the typical genre. It really was a love story. But not just a love story between to two main characters, it was a story of the power of love. There are so many ways in this journey of life we can be dead so to speak. Lack of relationship, isolation, fear, hatred, suspicion, runs rampant in our culture and society. This movie was a critique of the ways we have found to push others way, to live in fear, not trusting or caring, a death comfortable in our own little world walled up to keep others out.

I will not spoil the movie for those of you who have not seen it other than to say this was a statement about the power of love that can reach beyond any obstacle and bring purpose, connection, and life. This Lenten season we have been talking here at College Hill about those things that can instill fear that hold us back; money, risk, dogma and doctrine, justice making, change and isolation. As we journey through this Holy Week in preparation for Easter Sunday we will continue pondering these and other things that might entomb us in fear as we look to Broadening the Table on Maundy Thursday and venture Into the Dark on Good Friday.

We will be considering these fears and coming together as a community to find ways to put those fears in their place an emerge from the ashes of fear into the Awakening of Love which not even death can hold. I hope you will join us this coming Sunday for The Awakening as we celebrate Easter morning as only College Hill can do, we are not your ordinary church. Thank you your continued witness, your welcoming, your grace, your love and Life! I am glad we have found our place at College Hill, I hope you will bring a friend who may be looking for just such a place. And after church, maybe you can go catch a good zombie movie!

It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

The Last Journey

April 22, 2010

   I was driving home yesterday after a short trip away. In El Dorado, KS a funeral coach turned at the stoplight where I was waiting. I followed the coach over 100 miles, clear to Pratt, KS where it turned north and I lost sight of it. I pondered the white coach as we journeyed along Highway 54. I could tell there were two individuals in the front seat visiting as I could see hand gestures and an occasional head nod or shake. In the rear of the coach was the casket with a floral spray on top and flowers by the side window as well.
   I am not sure where their journey began nor where it ended, but as we journeyed along separately together, I pondered the things of life and of death. I wondered about the one who had died through the lens of my own experience, and all of those throughout my journey who have taught and encouraged, shaped and molded, lived and loved me along the way. They all made the same journey the silent one in the car ahead of me was making in that moment.
   In some sense, even though we have faith, even though we have hope, this life and death we journey through is a mystery. We begin somewhere as we are born into the arms of grace, and we make that final journey to be laid to rest where we are not conscious of. To be a little cliché[y], yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow will never be … so to speak.
   It was a feeling not unlike anytime I journey to the final resting place of those I serve; it is an honor and a privilege to escort them on that final trip. I hope and pray this one whose last journey I was aware of made a difference in their corner of the world. That somehow, some way the world was a little better, a little brighter, that someone some place has been touched with a bit of love and grace because of this one’s life.
   I pray someone might say the same of me as I make that last trip to wherever I will be laid to rest. That somehow, some way the world was a little better, a little brighter, that someone some place has been touched with a bit of love and grace through my life. It is all any of us has much control over, the here and now, in this time and in this place. If you didn’t take the time to share love and grace yesterday that is gone, if you wait until this final journey it is too late.
   Take some time now, in the moment you read this to call someone, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a loved one and just say thank you, or I love you, such use of the moment is never wasted.

Pace Yourself

March 9, 2010

   I have been looking forward to more Spring-like weather. This last week was a welcome change from the cold and wind that we have been having. The other day the temperature was up in the high fifties maybe into the sixties. Simeon and I took off on our walk, it was a beautiful day and a good day to get back into the walking and exercise routine.
   I decided to walk down to the sandpit and around, Simeon likes to go to the pit because there are so many “things” to investigate … some “things” I wish he would not be quite so curious of but be enjoys the run when I turn him loose there.
   We arrived at the pit and when we were away from the main road I unhooked his leash and away he went! Every now and then for his own exercise benefit I would reach down and pick up a stick and heave it to the bottom of the pit and Simeon dutifully charges down the side of the pit and then back up to the road to my side for a moment and “sometimes” he actually brings the stick back!
   We have been used to walking in the cold and I have never been sure whether the cold walks actually wear him down or just soup him up. Sometimes when we get back from our walk on a cold day he seems more energetic than when we left, but this day would be different. As he charged up and down the slope of the pit and out away from me, back and forth it seemed to me he was starting to slow down a bit. We were about three quarters the way around the pit when I realized I had not seen him for a few minutes so I whistled and called to him. I turn around to see him sitting in the middle of the road behind me, frothing at the mouth, panting furiously, and tongue hanging almost to the ground… he was tuckered out!
   It is good to pace yourself on this journey of life, as we run the race with perseverance. When we read our sacred texts we often find Jesus going off to a quiet place to rest and pray. We can get so caught up in what we are doing, where we are going, the things we need to get done, the people we need to see, that we can find ourselves sitting in the middle of the road of life and not be able to carry on, tired, worn down, worn out… it is good to take time, to rest, to “BE” in the presence of God and to let that Spirit renew and refresh us for the journey.
   I do not know if Simeon learned this lesson I found in his run that day. I suppose he will continue to run full out until he gets used to the warmer weather, until then I will take note and at least try to pace myself and be mindful of the Spirit of the Divine in my midst along the Way, I pray you do the same.

Gone Flat

March 24, 2009

Simeon loves toys! I have enjoyed that part of him as much as anything I suppose. Though I have been known to give TruDee a hard time about spoiling him, I enjoy the toys as much as he does; trying to decide what he will like and/or which ones he will eat or not. We have seen him play himself to the point of exhaustion falling asleep not only surrounded by his toys, but with something like a ball in his mouth, sound asleep in the floor. He is really like a little kid in a lot of ways, it is rather endearing to us.

   I enjoy it in part because I have always enjoyed wandering the toy aisles at the store. I enjoyed it when the boys were little and have even been found perusing the toys after the boys were too old to appreciate them as much as myself. So, now with Simeon, I once again can find additional purpose to my toy aisle wandering.

   We bought him a new ball yesterday. It was a really nice ball, one of those playground balls, blue with big multicolored polka dots! We brought it home and Simeon LOVED it! I was downstairs when it was gifted to him by TruDee so I am unsure of the timeline, but it lasted perhaps ten minutes, when I came upstairs it was already flat; a little too much exuberance perhaps, a little over the tope excitement and it was all over. Oh, he is still playing with it, albeit when he throws it up in the air now to watch it bounce it just goes thump on the floor, but he is persistent in his attempts to get it to bounce just one more time.

   I suppose there is some sort of lesson in there for all of us too. We need a little balance in our lives, a little play, a little work, a little rest, and when we over-do any one of those things life can get out of balance and we can find ourselves going thump with little or no bounce to our own lives. Too much play, too much work, too much rest, can cause us to go flat and find ourselves down on our back or worse.

   I suspect we will try and find Simeon a ball with a little more stamina to it next time. In the mean time I will reflect on my life and be mindful of the balance I need as I journey along in this life and faith.

Footprints in the Dust

March 18, 2009

Walking north of town this evening I was thinking of how dry it is. The dust, particularly along the edge of the road is a fine powder. I watched, as Simeon ran ahead of me, the plumes rose from where his paws landed creating quite a cloud of dust even along the road but especially when he ventured full bore into the wheat in the field beside us. My goodness our good green, albeit not very green, earth could use a good long drink of water!
I noticed as I walked along, the paw prints Simeon left behind, some of them from this evening, some of them from days past on our previous journeys north of town, I was a bit surprised they were still there with the Western Kansas wind and all. Alongside his paw prints were other prints from other animals that had obviously walked our path at some time previous to us. And in the midst of all those prints were human prints, shoe prints left by myself from days before. All of them pressed into the dust. As we walked along it was a bit like we were writing a story in the dust in the midst of a story that had been told days before, prints of journeys past along with new ones in the present.
I am reflective today as I walk. I am reflecting on dust… we are told in our sacred texts it is the stuff from which we are created, it is the stuff to which we will all one day return … ashes to ashes and dust to dust we hear at our final resting place. It is dust … sacred dust … dust that tells a story … dust that tells our story.
I am reflective of the footprints left behind by myself, by my companion on the way, and by the ones I have not seen but know of their presence because of the mark they have left behind. I suppose, in part, I am reflective because of current happenings in my life and the life of our church, I am reflective of the footprints of life that have been left on my heart and soul of those who have gone on before me; those who have made me, for better or worse, who as well as whose I am. I am reflective of my own footprints, my own life, and wonder about the impressions I have made on those who I have helped make who and whose they are.
In all this life reflection I am drawn to a song by a Christian singer who died some years back. He sang a song about the baptism of a baby and in the chorus to that song he spoke of “footsteps” in our lives and his hope that in “every footprint that you leave, there’d be a drop of grace.” I like that, it is good medicine on a reflective walk this evening.
As I watch the dust cloud known as Simeon bolt down the road in front of me I give thanks for the company, for the dust, for the footprints on and of my life, mostly though, I give thanks for grace and pray within the footprints of my life there would be at least one drop.

The “Stuff” of Life

February 24, 2009

            I spent this past week with my son, sister, and step-sister going through my dad and step-mom’s house and shed. We have gone through a lot of stuff. Stuff was the operative word for the week and lots of questions as to “Why?” did they keep this? A common answer was, “Just add it to the list of questions.” When one is faced with such a task care needs to be taken that things are not discarded that hold value, be it material value or sentimental family value. In order to make sure that does not happen we had to wander our way through every box, drawer, book, pocket, hutch, etc.

            The task that lay before us last week and in the weeks to come did and does seem time consuming and at times overwhelming. Sorting, organizing, boxing, labeling, searching, sifting, cleaning as we went, the days seemed to drag on and at the same time we found ourselves at the end of the day and feeling less than accomplished.

            I think some of the things we went through and encountered along the way; clothes, crafty items, Christmas decorations, books, tools, etc., we found things that caused us to wonder, things that caused us to stop and ponder earlier days, things that caused us to laugh, and those things of memory and meaning that catch our breath away and bring a tear to the eye.

            I think of these things now some three days since being there in the house and ponder the deeper things of life and love and faith. Even though there were chuckles and queries as to why and what, the things we sorted through were the stuff of life … the stuff of the lives of two we were connected to, bound to in the cords of family and love.

            I sat on Saturday and visited with an aunt and uncle and we were talking about the task we were set on. My aunt spoke of cleaning out one of her family’s homes and said much of the same things we have pondered and then she said something that caused me pause. When asking the “why” question it was obvious at some point this/these things meant something to them. The items, be they simple material goods or sentimental to us had meant something to my dad and my step-mom at some point along their journey and so they kept it.

            Some of the things we handled that week we knew why they were still in the house. We knew the story behind them or at least a portion of the story and in that those things held meaning for us as well because we were part of the story they told. Some of the things we held and passed through our hands we had no idea what the story was or the why’s, how’s, when’s, or what’s of them, to us it was just stuff … or was it?

            As I muse over the past week , even in my questions, chuckles, laughter, wonderings, and tears … there was something sacred at the core of what we were about there in that house. There was something holy about the ground on which we stood. There was Presence in our midst as we sorted through the very lives of a dad and a mom, it was the stuff of life I believe, right down to the dust that filled our nostrils and coated our faces. We held in our hands the stories of our families, our own stories so to speak, part of who we are is contained in those clothes, books, Christmas decorations, and tools, part of why we are is contained in those things.

            As we passed this sacred stuff through our hands and washed it off at the sink we told the story to one another, we remembered, we shared, we told of new understandings, and old hurts, of laughter and of tears. The old house breathed of the stuff of life, of good times and struggles, of joys and heartaches, of life.

            These are the things that make up our lives. Our lives would be flat and bland if the days were only filled with sunshine and would be too much to bear if only filled with cloudy and stormy days.

            So today, these are the things I ponder about a week of sorting through the lives of my dad and step-mom. These are the things I ponder as I consider the stuff of life that passed through my hands that has had some effect, consciously or unconsciously, on who and why I am… in the midst of that … I am confident as I return to continue to task another day … maybe just for a few moments I will remove my shoes as I cross the threshold and stop and give thanks … for life, love, and faith … and family.

 

 

 

 

Pondering Hospitals, Life, and the Depths of Love

February 11, 2009

          Over the past couple of weeks we have spent considerable time in two different hospitals with my wife’s dad; worrying, stewing, encouraging, teasing, laughing, crying, sitting, and walking as they have tried to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to do it. A hospital is an interesting, wearying, exhausting place to be whether one is a patient, visitor, hospital worker, and or family. Waiting is a draining task.

          I have tended to deal with the drain through exercise in the form of walking, walking the halls. I have walked in the midst of patient rooms, a variety of intensive care units, waiting rooms, family rooms, administrative offices, chaplain offices, lobbies, and cafeterias. I have navigated around nurses, doctors, office workers, patients, family, visitors, and people I, for many obvious reasons, have no clue who they were, and medical equipment. I have seen tears, smiles, and the seriousness of sober thought. I have heard the sounds of sickness, laughter, screaming, and uncontrollable sobbing. A hospital is a place of the highs of the mountaintop and the dreaded lows in the deepest of valleys.

It is a sacred place filled with all the human emotions of feeling and struggle possible. It is a sacred place filled with the laughter, tears, struggle, suffering, joy, and heartache of God. This place of healing of mind, body, and spirit … healing though not just in the physical sense but perhaps healing of the senses… healing of the spirit … a healing of God, so to speak, or at least a healing of the image of God. I wonder … in the context of my wanderings in the “halls of medicine,” I see the image of God in whom we are created … the image of a hurting, suffering, laughing, crying, chuckling, weeping, and surprising God … a God of vulnerability, a vulnerable God if you will.

Where else in our lives can we be so vulnerable as we find ourselves in the hospital bed or in the chair waiting on the one in the bed. Whether we are wrapped in one of those open backed hospital gowns, bare butt mooning the world or sitting in a chair beside a bed yearning for good news, yearning for any news , caught between unyielding hope and crushing loss.

We don’t do vulnerable well, we humans, but I have to wonder in the midst of that if such highs and lows and all that is in the middle is what it means to be fully human … vulnerable … and in the midst of that I wonder if we don’t always do God so well either.

 I am reminded of that as I sit in the room next to my father-in-law’s bed. He is of that generation. You know the one, the Greatest Generation, the one on which Tom Brokaw wrote his bestselling book. I haven’t read the book, perhaps one day I will, perhaps because of my place here in this chair beside the bed of one who lived it, perhaps I will now.

Sometimes, one looking from the outside in, his manner and matter of fact, no nonsense speaking can be seen and heard as gruff, harsh, and uncaring. But sitting here beside his bed I have had a revelation of sorts, though I suspect it is something I have known all along. I understand now, at least I have convinced myself without confiding in him, it is about life experience and how our lives shape and mold us. It is a revelation of a generation, yes; I suppose even the greatest of them. I suspect I would be much the same as he, perhaps even, suspect I would hope to be the same as he, of course with the exception of needing open heart surgery!

Here is this guy, this WWII vet laying in a hospital bed learning each day of something else, some reason they couldn’t do this procedure but could this one, only to learn the next day they could not do that one, but maybe a different one. I watched this one I know as stubborn and hard headed take the decisions in stride, disappointed yes, but open and willing to do what needed to be done. His matter of fact attitude and willingness to “do what needed to be done” is exemplary of his generation, of him.

Joining the Navy when he was really too young to do so, this man has seen and heard and experienced things I cannot begin to imagine and really do not have a lot of interest in trying to imagine in my mind’s eye. He is a practical and matter of fact kind of guy. He wants honest pay for an honest day’s work, he is generous to a fault, constantly telling us stories of helping someone out when they needed a hand. Stories not to brag about it, but simply as a statement of his life, a statement that simply says, “This is the way things ought to be, it’s the right thing to do!”

I suspect it is just those experiences that have shaped his disdain for nonsense and wasted time. He just doesn’t seem to have time for such things. I suspect his experiences have taught him to live in this moment, to not waste time with silly political, religious, or other platitudes and arguments, they are a waste of time and we don’t have much time on this good green earth. I suspect, for one who has seen and heard the things he has seen and heard, nonsense and the like are a waste of the gift of life. I suspect those experiences and his life have shaped his sharp wit and sense of humor as well. He always has a comeback or an unexpected comment that brings a smile, chuckle, or an unabashed belly laugh, his timing is incredible, which is simply another witness to his appreciation of life in its fullness, in the “now-ness” of it all.

He is stubborn, but in a good independent way, a way that says he doesn’t want anyone worrying about or over him, although he takes exception to that when he chooses to worry about others, I guess at 83 he has that right, more power to him! I have watched over the past couple of weeks that tough exterior melt away in glimpses of that tremendous soft heart he has. It has periodically bubbled up and over flowed with a word caught in his throat followed by a tear or two. That stubbornness is borne out of his hard working life that simply wants to provide for his family and himself, and on  be his own as long has he can.

          That stubbornness is matched, no it is exceeded, only by his fierce love of his family, his four girls and his grandkids, I suspect even his son in laws though I would never ask him to confirm that out loud. But that love is evident in his calm spirit and concern and those moments that are only shared between a father and his daughter[s]. It is sacred time; it is the essence of love, borne of a willingness to lay one’s life down for something larger and more important than self.

          I see that in my dad in law, that self sacrificing nature of that Greatest of generations. Shortly after his admission to the hospital one of his doctors noted he is a Vet and then proceeded to thank him for his [Dad’s] service and his [the doctor’s freedom], it was a moment in the truest sense of the word.

          So here I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital while the doctors have that heart, that huge heart, literally in their hands and am thankful. That that guy has put up with me for 30 some years now, thankful for a guy who participated in one of the most difficult times of our country, who has, not unlike these halls I walk now, seen the extremes of life, the mountaintop of joy and the valleys of heartache, and everything in the middle, thankful for a vet whose work and service provides me with the opportunity to sit and write as I please, thankful for the stalwart, yet vulnerable, resolve of the one who help raise my wife into the loving person she is, thankful for this man, this Vet, this father, this Dad. I think I will read the book, I am sure it is worthwhile, … though, I think now, I may already know what it says.