Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love and Ashes







I can’t help but register the strange coincidence of today. The peculiar quirk of the year 2018 calendar, when  …

The day that so extravagantly celebrates love in all its delightful forms…

AND

The day that publicly acknowledges our utter inability to love as we ought – 

inability to love God as he so vastly deserves...

inability to love our neighbors as ourselves (being we can't even properly love ourselves as we need to be loved!)

But, today these two strange companions come together in one glorious heartbreaking embrace.

Valentine’s Day.

Ash Wednesday.

Side by side. In each other’s arms. Supreme power and absolute weakness.

Love and grief. Love and loss. Love and heartbreak.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around it.  I want to draw a line and say,

Love, you belong in THIS camp.

Loss, you go over THERE.

I want clean-cut divide that keeps love pure and simple, safely tucked away from the heartbreak, betrayal, hypocrisy and pain that ashes so powerfully symbolize.

I want to separate these unnatural conjoined twins.

But life doesn’t permit.

Of course, I can choose to ignore the facts. I can ‘focus on the positive’. I can even talk myself into believing it's all true. I can put my imaginary VR headset and live in the VR world, believing it’s real…

Some of us do it more than we are willing to admit...

But sooner or later the RL catches up. One way or another, we find ourselves surrounded by ashes… 

It's only then that the RL - the real love and the real loss hand in hand - can finally begin their quiet journey…back to being simply human again.




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Illegitimate Child of Lent






Today is Mardi Gras, which is fancy French word for Fat Tuesday.

Never before have I thought of this day as integral, even essential to the Lenten season.  I always assumed that most ‘good’ Christians frown upon the excess, the revelry associated with the celebration of greasy food, spiked drinks, loud parties and the rest.  

I treated it more like an illegitimate child of Lent. A bastard well loved and celebrated by those outside the church while God’s holy people begrudgingly have to put up with him.

But, today something clicked for me, and this wild introduction to Lent suddenly made more sense.

Because, that’s who we are, us humans. Without even trying, we gravitate towards excess.

We continually wobble from one extreme to another.

Eating too much.

Drinking too much.

Partying too much.

Sleeping too much.

If I start feeling a bit smug about this list...

...if I feel I am doing pretty good in the 'Self Control Department', I need to remember that  the list goes beyond that…  way beyond that, and it's pretty obnoxious, perhaps even more than the above! 

Because, we also 

Work too much.

Worry too much.

Nag and gripe too much.

Judge and criticize and spiritualize too much.

We opinionate, speculate, pontificate way, way, waaaaaay too much.

And in all this too-much-ness we lose ourselves.  We throw our beautiful, simple, unaffected humanity under the bus and reach out, keep reaching out for more. Far MORE.

Because, More, of course is better, right?

More, bigger, better…?

Our FOMO kicks into overdrive and we don’t know how to stop… until we pass out. 

Or fall apart. 

Or get sick.

Or die!

Sometimes I wonder if I would even recognize Enough if I met him in the street.  I would probably blast right by him, without even blinking an eye. 

We...


... just...

... don't know...

... when...

... enough...

... is...

... enough.

And Fat Tuesday, in its over-the-top celebration of excess, is a gentle, loving reminder to all of us how far into the left field we’ve gone… the whole lot of us

Monday, February 12, 2018

Like a Red Tesla in Outer Space






In the midst of our messy, disorderly lives where perpetual battle rages between chaos and order (chaos's currently winning by a mile), it hit me like a red Tesla speeding through outer space, 

Lent starts this week! 

It was the strangest, the most ‘out of place’ thought imaginable. 

Immersed in the firestorms of Larry Nassars and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world,  the Winter Olympics and the MeToo movement, the bathroom renovation and the concert preparations, trips to Y and doctors’ offices...

Squeezed between dishes, and loads of laundry, self-imposed and others-generated stress, Lent sneaked up on me like a cat from under the living room armoir. 

It wagged its slender tail and cocked its cute little head as if to say,

I am here again. What are you going to do with me?

It's funny because I already view it as 'tradition' although it's only been few years in the making. I mean my tradition, something I started observing, watching, paying attention to as of super-recently, unlike the rest of the world that is serious about stuff like this and has done it for centuries! 

Regardless of what the rest of the world who is serious about God is or isn’t doing, I must say that my Lenten adventures have been the best, the funnest– if I dare use made-up word – the most refreshing and rejuvenating season of the year…. and this has happened year after year. 

It’s as if God chooses to use this time to rip out the boring, dutiful, demanding, serious, frowning, irrelevant, disengaged mask I put in front of His face, and shines through the dusty windows of my shriveled up soul, does His magic and makes Life worth Living (capital L) again.

I don't know about you but, right now my life feels like it could use some ‘refreshing’…

Right now, my soul feels like it could use some ‘rejuvenating’…

Right now, I could use some fun, some good news, if there is any good news at all to be found, because it’s been a lot of heartbreaking, disappointing, devastating news… and with such influx, I tend to forget that God is still good and He cares about me and the hurting people I love…

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Old Dogs New Tricks






I somehow managed to injure myself during last yoga class, so today it was either skipping gym altogether or taking it easy by attending Senior Fitness class. I've never been to this class and I could feel all kinds of little discouraging devils bubbling up in my mind, but I shoved them resolutely aside and decided that in this case something is better than nothing. So I dressed out and went.

I wasn’t quite sure what I would find when I got to the exercise room and how I would feel about it.
With the world in many ways understandably enamored with youth, ‘old’ people (and my kids think 30 is old) seem to have very little to contribute to the bustling table of life . The 'grumpy old men (and women!)' stereotype has sufficient support in real life grouches to make the label stick.

This class proved the assumption seriously wrong. 

First of all, there was energy in the room of the kind that could put to shame TurboKick, Zumba and BodyPump combined. A different kind of energy, though, more like genuine joy to be there in the moment, moving, swinging, lifting, even breathing! And, it was more contagious than the flu at the peak of the season. 

At the end of the class everyone burst into a spontaneous applause, the way passengers honor the pilot for landing the airplane safely and bringing them all to the desired destination.  Then our (VERY young) coach was instantly surrounded by grateful clients and showered with compliments for the job well done. As if that wasn't enough, while some were waiting in line to express their thanks, others got busy and were putting away not just their own, but chairs, mats and weights that others were using during the class.  There was atmosphere of mutual support and encouragement and a delightful sense that we are in this together.

As people were leaving, greetings were exchanged,

So glad you made it - see you next time!

I've never witnessed anything even remotely like it... I do like my Zumba peeps and my yoga peeps and my BodyPump peeps...  but I realize that beyond the workout, these old dogs still have a few tricks up their sleeve we all would do well to learn. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Chicken Coop for the Soul






For those who imbibed the words of poets and dreamers along with their mother's milk…

... I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space…

For the resident aliens and the homeless…

For the artists and outsiders…

For all the oddballs that don’t fit in a box...

... in a system...

... in a formula…

… life can get...

... complicated.

Because things are not always what they seem and the soul can wear many disguises.

Some people  live in chicken coops and have the souls fitting for a royal mansion… beautiful, even breathtaking, spacious and inviting… with plenty of room for all who care to come in… especially for all the ‘others’ that nobody else wants, the cast-outs and orphans, the prodigals and the prophets.

They could be bounded in a nutshell, and count themselves kings and queens of infinite space…

True sons and daughters of the living God.

Nobody can judge the size of the soul by the size or shape or the condition of the chicken coop that soul inhabits.

Conversely, some people live in enormous mansions and have souls that would get lost in a chicken coop...


Or inside a shell of a nut.

One must wonder,

What happened to you poor soul that you shriveled up like a dead leaf tossed around by the wind? 

What hardship have you suffered? 

What neglect? 

What trampling of most precious?

Which abandonment of body and spirit? 

What trickery of men or angels did you succumb to that you shrunk like an old hot dog forgotten on a grill?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Right Place Right Time Wrong Place Wrong Time







Ms. Fiony, our daughter’s preschool teacher used to say that I have a special knack to be at the right place at the right time.

What she meant by this was that I would often walk into her room just in time to witness the peak of an emotional meltdown of a tired mom. 

Or at the end of nasty temper microburst of a busy dad, dropping off his preschooler on his way to work. 

Sometimes I would walk into her room, Ms. Fiony alone in the center, motionless,  as if struck by lightening or a fire truck. The storm might have passed but the emotional debris still swirling all around.

There I discovered that perfectly nice, calm, poised parents are capable of producing powerful weather conditions on any given day. I guess parents are humans too. 

Not to disagree with Ms. Fiony but  I feel my special knack is more along the lines of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maybe that’s what she really meant but being too nice she didn't put it into those words. Funny how words work like that sometimes. They mean exact opposite from what is said. I find that extremely confusing.

Anyway, back to the story…

I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that I wasn’t supposed to overhear the conversation between two of our guests that day.  It was a large party with lots of people around, everyone, I naively assumed, enjoying themselves. 

I just happen to be... I don't know if it's at the right place and time or the wrong place and wrong time. Only God knows that...

And, being God... he can certainly take wrong - horrible, terrible wrong - and make it right.

Just as we can take right - perfect, beautiful, amazing, awesome right - and ruin it. Make it all wrong.

So, good or bad, right or wrong, I learned something new that day.

I found out that what I considered a wonderful, lavish mansion some people, our guests, in fact, saw as something akin to a ... chicken coop!

A chicken coop unsuitable for human enjoyment... or at least some humans... 

I was stunned.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Hotel Chicken Coop








As long as I can remember, our home was ‘a place to be’ for all our friends.  It started with 240 square feet no indoor plumbing, wood stove shack where I was born. My sister’s classmates would come regularly for an evening of Pictionary and eating my mom’s krempita, piled up on top of each other inside a single all-purpose kitchen/living room/bedroom that took most of the square footage of what we affectionately called ‘chicken coop’.

From there we moved up doubling in size to a 5th floor 490 square feet apartment with indoor plumbing AND central heating. Not only did we have all this SPACE but I also got my very own room, which became ‘a place to be’ for all my friends. We would pile up on top of each other, eat snacks and drink coffee,  talk and philosophize until our brains hurt, which indicated it was time to crank up the record player and quibble over favorites.

We loved having people over, making them feel loved and welcome, enjoying their company. The space (or lack of!) never seemed to be an issue nor did the shabbiness or absence of any recognizable decorating style. I was blissfully oblivious to both.

You can only imagine my happiness when I moved to the States, and we bought a 1900+ square feet mansion with a giant back yard.  I had such huge plan for such enormous space. So much room! So many people to have!

We did just that. Flung our doors open wide  and invited anyone who cared to come in. When we were not around, we handed our keys to friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers.

No furniture? No problem! We improvised with cardboard boxes, curbside mall, castaways and hand-me-downs. The carpet was worn out, but who had time to notice! The dishes were mismatched, but who cares?? The walls were bare and cabinets dated. So what?

My relaxed approach to hosting seemed to work very well, or so I thought, until…