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…

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Radical Christmas

Trailing behind its more glamorous, more popular twin…

…After most of the western world has already moved on with life…

…Curbs lined up with stripped down, unadorned, waste pile ready trees…

…Crumpled up wrappers and empty boxes filling the garbage cans…

… The healthier, more organized, more fit New Year’s resolutions in full swing…

…comes Orthodox Christmas.

If one didn’t know they came from the same playbook, it would be easy to conclude it was two completely different holidays celebrating birthdays of two completely different persons in two very different styles.

Whether it’s cultural or personal, we each gravitate towards one or another.

Some find the energy and pageantry of one exhilarating others exhausting.

For some the soft-spoken unobtrusiveness of the other is boring and so-last-century, while others feel it's refreshing and restful.

Clearly each of us sees Jesus through our own lens, welcoming the aspects that suit our taste and preference, while if not shunning then simply (or barely?) tolerating the rest. 

Some of us can turn this into an argument, or even a war of words.

The US Jesus vs. the THEM Jesus.

Jesus for the shallow and superficial and Jesus for the deep.

We pigeon-hole Jesus for ...Catholics, protestants, sinners, saints, prodigals, hypocrites, missionaries, atheists, married, single, divorced, with and without kids, with and without dogs, cats, guinea pigs, iguanas... homeschooling, public schooling, fat, skinny, black, white, gay, straight, artists, engineers,  in shape, out of shape, democrats, republicans, independents, organized, scatterbrained, healthy, sick, American, Russian, Greek, ... 

But, whatever our label, whatever our fascination, whatever our pet obsession, it's not so much that we get to pick 'our' Jesus, but that there is room, ample room for all of us – the us and the them - inside Him. 

Now, that's the kind of radical Christmas the world might be still waiting to celebrate...

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13