Just a Touch

May 8, 2018

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It was the summer of sixty six. A group of high school students headed for a trip of lifetime which included stops in five European countries and ten days in the U.S.S.R. (CCCP). So many relationships and friendships were formed during those Russian Language learning days and black market exploration nights (a long tale for another blog). But for today I am fixated on the moment my eyes were drawn to Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, more specifically the focus of just the touch of two fingers. I remember being mesmerized by a simple moment of creativity when a touch would not only give life to Adam but to all of humankind, that trans-formative moment. Adam, unafraid, received the likeness of God. For now, I will let this sit with you.

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I Call on You

May 1, 2018

First memories of prayer~prayer at mealtime: God is gracious, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Prayer at bedtime: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Prayers in community: the Glory Be, The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles Creed and the Prayer of confession. Prayers were memorized and never personal or meaningful. They were a means to the end. And yet, even to this day, repetition of these prayers are soothing.

Prayer is the conversation I have with God.  I talk, he listens.

Just as I cannot ask you to do something for me, I cannot demand that of God.  I cannot expect you to give me what I want or make things right for me. Nor cannot I expect God to give me what I want or make things right as I see them. But through conversation with God, we are in relationship. I can be me. I can become more like him. There is where understanding, wisdom, hope and comfort are found; in conversation with God.

As one who is readily distracted, prayer brings me back to God.

 

Monday Mournings

March 12, 2018

The dreams that keep  me up at night are similar to a spinning kaleidoscope. Thoughts, memories and images of a quickly fading past activating the brain stem through the thalamus to the cortex (of which, I have often said, I would prefer to remove at night for complete sleep).

On this particular dreamy morning, I could see my family history fading quickly. With the death of my father 30 years ago, the youngest of nine children, I have no connection to the legacy that was the Krupa family. All that remains are two photographs; my father as a soldier in the Korean War and another taken 32 years later of him seated on top of a slide with his then two year old grandson.

When mother was alive, I asked her gently, time and again to tell me her stories, to show me her photos. Her childhood was like a travelling show through the foster care system. With her two sisters and brother, they moved from house to house, seeking a home. That is all she would tell me.  I met the father who gave the siblings up after his wife died once, for a brief moment on his deathbed. Any of the photos of them do not exist. Any photos of my first ten years of life were destroyed by her two sisters. And the memories of my young life are quickly being erased. My mother died in July of 2017.

Memories of the last 34 years have been fairly well documented in large, yellowing photo albums and in the clouds. Yes, memories in the making are now in the cloud.

“Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you” (Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel, 1966).

Simmering Sunday

March 11, 2018

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Makeshift burner                                                                                                                                                                               cooks with gas                                                                                                                              home cooked meal prepared alas!                                                                                              Oh, the joy a pot can bring                                                                                                         Pasta water simmering.                                                                                                                    step by step we count the ways                                                                                              dining with construction delays.                                                                                                    dining out becomes a chore                                                                                                               I heard a raven, “Never more!”                                                                                        inconvenienced with the messes                                                                                             thankful for the Lord who blesses.

A Spectacular Saturday

March 10, 2018

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We have been without water in our home for 22 days. Outdoor plants have suffered. We have showered daily at the gym. Buckets were brought inside to flush a toilette at the end of each day. I would bring in water from outside, pour into a pan and boil water to wash a few dishes.

We’ve worked around the inconvenience. We have survived. And on this spectacular Saturday we awoke to light rain and a temporary fix in the plumbing. We have water. Who could ask for anything more?

Having just completed my first load of in-home laundry in three weeks, I stared at the modern comfort of a washing machine. As it filled with water, I gazed at a gift we have been given.

Yes, we have no appliances. We cannot cook. There is no flooring. And two commercial size moisture machines hum loudly in the background. But on the sixth day, she said, let there be water. And there is!

Fragments from Friday

March 10, 2018

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On those “wake up on the wrong side of the bed days” MAKE YOUR BED. If it’s a
“sun peeking in through the shades” great morning, MAKE YOUR BED!

In the midst of three week of home chaos, I pondered why I made the bed first thing this morning. Was it because for years my father had said to do so? He had fought in the Korean War, and I couldn’t say no to him. Perhaps at the urging of my mother, who had grown up in foster care, I had no choice other than to make my bed. Initially at their promptings, I had to make my bed.

But I have a choice! Are habits really that difficult to break?  On this particular fragmented Friday, I gave more consideration to making the bed. How many guests or friends who visit or drop by will actually step into our bedroom? Messy room? Close the door and no one enters. But piles at the entryway to the home or dishes stacked in a sink cannot be overlooked by the unexpected guest. So why make the bed?

Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired), who served 37 years as a Navy SEAL, a Four-Star Admiral, Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces who just happens to be Chancellor of the University of Texas System and author of MAKE YOUR BED, suggests that if you do so, you will have accomplished your first task of the day and will be encouraged to continue to complete more tasks throughout the day.

I fought the urge and did not make our bed. I closed the door and went on with my day. Chores, cleaning, reading in other areas of the house torn apart by water damage. I chalked up many small accomplishments. That evening, however, preparing for rest, I walked into the room. Pillows were on the floor. Sheets were pulled back in a large pile. I felt uneasy. The bed was not welcoming. Not because the task hadn’t been completed, but because there is something special about pulling back that comforter and the cover sheet. Like when you walk into a hotel room and remove those covers. The bed whispers, you are welcome here. This is a place of peace. A place where you can find rest.

So for whatever reason you make that bed in the morning, out of habit or to feel a small sense of accomplishment; remember that at the end of the day there will be a surprise waiting for you behind closed doors.

Now is the Time to Worship

March 2, 2018
A favorite “praise” song of mine was written in 2001 by Phillips, Craig & Dean, Come, Now is the Time to Worship. Inspired, like hundreds of “songs” of Psalms, this one is from Psalm 95: 6-7. An open invitation to come into a prayerful place, just as you are, to give your heart… what power in the words of the psalmist.
I have experienced more than six decades of church music. I have found some to be too loose or too traditional; some not intellectually stimulating, some that moves me to tears; distracting lyrics on screens  wrought with human error, font size in hymnals too small; I’ve had a longing for organ music, and am inspired by a small band of musicians.
And, in spite of my observations, I am called to the house of worship. People seem to argue about worship preferences all the time.  But I have come to realize that at its very core, at the heart of the matter,  worship is the act of being present.
For me, it is truly the only place of complete presence.  NPR in background while I cook. KFI, while I am driving. Objects out of place in my home catch my attention.  On my walks, nature pulls me in and takes me away. And the most distracted of all places, the gym has music blaring and nearly 20 televisions displaying at least five stations.  I am distracted by books to read, blogs to write and cards to make.

60 minutes in a sanctuary is equivalent to 510 seconds a day of much needed sacredness. I have tried to sit in stillness for 8 1/2 minutes to meditate or listen to classical or religious music each day.

My walls are not the same as church walls. So, I accept an open invitation to come into a prayerful place, just as I am, to give my heart, no matter the music.

Photographic Madness

January 3, 2018

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I let my mind wander in the wonder of all things Smith, -W. Eugene Smith, that is. Thanks to the December 2017 edition of HARPER’S and “Framing the Shadows” by Vince Passaro, I could walk into several frames of his life.

By the time I would hold in my young hands the weekly magazine, LIFE, Smith had already quit his job as photojournalist. At the age of 35 in 1954 he would continue a career with a passion and obsession for the perfect images. From graphic images of WWII to the soulful side of Schweitzer developing clinics in undeveloped Africa to the documentation of mercury poisoning of thousands in Minimata Japan, W. Eugene Smith would change with course of photography, scrapping rules and sacrificing everything, risking his life.

Master of the photo-essay, as detailed in the eight page article with photographs that will take your breath away,  it is said about Smith that “during his relatively brief and often painful life, he created at least fifty images so powerful that they have changed the perception of our history.”

True as that statement is, Smith was driven to madness for the perfect image. Whether it took two weeks or 2,000 shots, his was total abandonment for the sake of art. We may never fully know the man behind the lens, but we will feel his raw emotion that is captured in faces over his short 40 year career.

Three Little Words

December 27, 2017
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Illustration: Beastfromeast/Getty Images
Three Little Hebrew Words

Kavod  is what happens when you’re exchanging the usual ‘How are yous?’ with a person you see regularly, only on this particular day she doesn’t respond with her normal, ‘Fine, and you?’ but instead says, ‘Not good’—and suddenly everything changes. Now the conversation is no longer brief and shallow like it has been for years, because now it weighs something, it is significant, it matters. She matters; you matter; the fact that she decided to be honest with you matters; the thing that is happening between you matters.”  “The word is often used in the scriptures to refer to that which happens when the monotony is pierced, the boredom hijacked, the despair overpowered by your sense that something else is going on, something that reminds you of your smallness, frailty, and impermanence. It’s that gut-level awareness you’re seized by that tells you, ‘Pay attention, because this matters.'”

Ruach “An explosive, expansive, surprising, creative energy that surges through all things, holding everything all together and giving the universe its life and depth and fullness.”  When we want to “talk about those moments, when an object or gesture or word or event is what it is, but is also more, at the same time, something more.” For example: “It was a meal, but it was more than a meal; just as it was a conversation and yet more than a conversation.”  “In our modern world, people understand spirit to mean something less real, less tangible, less substantive—something nonphysical, something that may or may not exist. But when the Hebrews spoke of the ruach, they weren’t talking about something less real; they were talking about what happens when something becomes more real, right before your eyes…The challenge is for me and you to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach, present to the depths of each and every moment.” 

 Echad   “A unity made up of many parts.” “We have an intuitive awareness that everything is ultimately connected to everything else. When you get a glimpse of what someone else has gone through or is currently in the throes of and you find yourself inextricably, mysteriously linked with that person because you have been reminded again of our common humanity.”  “We live in a dis-integrated culture, in which headlines and opinions and images and sound bites pound us with their fragmented, frantic, isolated blips and squeaks, none of it bound together by any higher unity, coherence, or transcendent reference point. This fragmentation can easily shape us, convincing us that things aren’t one. But everything has a singular, common source and is infinitely, endlessly, deeply connected. We are involved, all of us. And it all matters.”

Thought Patrol

August 28, 2017

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THOUGHTS,

They do not enter my head.

They are already there.

For if they did enter,

I would arrest every last one.

    Do not enter

The sign would read.

They cannot read.

They are not invited.

They are not welcome.

Here.

I learned long ago

I could hold my breath longer

than my unwanted thoughts.

I learned I can abstain from chocolate,

toxic relationships and unkind words;

But I cannot abstain from my thoughts.