Elevator Talk

img_2056.jpgFor the record, I prefer taking the stairs to riding an elevator – when my destination is just a floor or two away.

Also for the record, I believe in kindness.  I try to make eye contact and smile at strangers when in public places.  And when I’m taking the elevator I (gasp) talk to the other occupants.

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“What floor?” is the easy question when standing near the control panel and someone gets on the elevator.

The weather can be a good topic – especially when carrying an umbrella.

Remarking on what is being carried might work.

There are generally three reactions:

  1. Being ignored, sometimes preceded by a glance that says “you’re crazy.”  A cell phone in hand makes it really easy for the other to ignore you.
  2. Politeness even if a bit uncomfortable.  People raised with any kind of manners will give at least a half a smile and a simple response.
  3. Engagement, maybe with enthusiasm.  This response is my favorite.

“What floor?” the lady asked.

“Five,” we replied.

“Winner, winner chicken dinner!” she said.

“Are you cooking?” I asked.

She wasn’t sure about making fried chicken.  But told us she worked in a bakery and could certainly whip up something sweet.

The conversation didn’t last long.  It happened at least a month ago.  But it still makes me smile.

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Welcomed

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While Elrond lived there, it was said “His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.”  – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

My beloved  and I are on a road trip.  We spent three nights, two days with parents a week and a half ago.  We arrived at their home again yesterday.

Their friends call it the party house.  It’s just right for gatherings from four to twenty-four or maybe more.  Help yourself to food and drink.  If they know your preferences, the fridge and pantry will be stocked:  peanut butter, M&Ms, yogurt, tea, diet coke.

They freely share the password for high speed wifi and offer unlimited access to the washing machine and dryer.  Dad is glad to have you play in the wood shop with him.  Mom is eager to have you spend time in the quilting room with her.

Much love.  Good food.  Laughter.  Stories.  Pinochle (a card game).  Sleep.

We are blessed.

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Remembering after an Overdose

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”  (Isaiah 40:1 NRSV)

Until Tuesday morning I had never heard of the young man.  By Tuesday noon I had met him through stories his parents shared.  Today, I’m preparing to preach at his funeral.

A drug overdose.

He’d been in rehab and was doing so well.  Relatives commented at his grandfather’s funeral just a month ago.  He looked so good.  So clean.  So clear.  (“Clear” is such an interesting description.)

Addiction is a disease.  An illness.  Brutal – for addict and loved ones alike.

“Comfort, O comfort, my people.”

Tomorrow we’ll name the ugly, the gut wrenching, the heart breaking.

We’ll turn to the words of our faith  and to the One who offers comfort like no other.  Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NRSV)

And we’ll remember this one particular child of God.

As an elementary student he welcomed a new kid in the class.  Befriended him.  Helped him fit in.  A decade or more later, that kid remembers.

As an employee he was glad to cover for a fellow worker – to the extent management made him take a day off a week.  His associates remember.

As a member of the family, he loved to cook.  Great food.  Leaving an equally great mess in the kitchen.  His parents remember.

As an uncle he took delight in children.  “Uncle X” they’d squeal in delight at the sight of him.  “Where’s X?” they’d ask, over and over and over until he appeared.  Siblings remember.

He’d strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere.  Strangers may not remember him exactly.  But the smile, the kindness, the few moments shared surely are held in more than one heart.

He was one of those who’d give you the tie-dyed shirt right off his back.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”   Matthew 25:34b-35 NRSV

We’ll remember with tears and laughter.  We’ll give thanks for his life.  We’ll pray for strength and comfort.

And we’ll go out, I hope, to gladden the hearts of those we meet, resolved to love, and practicing kindness with ourselves and others.

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us.  Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”  (Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher, 1821 – 1881)

A Photo a Week Challenge: Water

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Photo:  TLClark, 8/16/2012

I stumbled across a photo challenge in the blog-o-sphere.  The instructions this week:  “In a new post created for this challenge, share a photo or two that features water of any kind.”

The intent, I think, of the challenge is to take new photos.  But I immediately thought of the photo above.  Taken more than six years ago, it’s water from a well at the Neumann Ranch in eastern Montana.  The pump on the well is now run with electricity, but once upon a time it was an old fashioned windmill.

The water runs through a pipe and then a hose to fill a stock tank from which the garden is irrigated.

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While waiting for the water to flow through the rows of the garden, you might use the watering can to hurry things along.

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Photo:  TLClark, 8/16/2012

The best part:  digging a few carrots, washing them off at the well where the water is clean, and enjoying the treat of really fresh produce.

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Grandpa and Grandson.  Photo: TLClark, 8/16/2012

 

Mud

After all the rain this past week, my favorite bike/walking path had patches of mud.  It wasn’t as deep and widespread as what was left after the flash flooding at the beginning of July.  But it was still messy and slippery.

It was also kind of beautiful.

There were criss-crossing trails…IMG_7032

…and little mud-mounds formed from leaves.IMG_6961

Dirt and sand on the concrete path before the storms (from a child playing?) became works of art.

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Hoping you’ll find beauty after every storm.

Puddles

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Heron and ducks on the pond near 36th between Trilein and the Woodland Preserve Bike Trail.   Photo:  TLClark, 9/4/18

The Woodland Preserve bike trail in my neighborhood isn’t very long, but it’s just right for a daily 2-mile walk easily made shorter or longer.  Out my front door, south on Trilein past the pond, head east on the bike trail along 36th, then turn north parallel to Four Mile Creek for a walk that goes by the pond again and then through the woods (albeit on a concrete path).  At the other end, near 47th, the trail opens to large field.

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The field as seen from sidewalk along 47th – the path is at the top right.  Can you see the baseball diamond, complete with pitcher’s ‘mound’ and catcher’s place behind home plate?  It was created by boys and girls, ages 5 to 15, playing unsupervised!

More than a week ago a mom was squatting, watching her little ones play in the field as I exited the wooded part of the path.  Both children wore rain coats and rain boots.  Mom stood up as I approached – keeping her eye on me and on the kids.  I commented about it being a great day to be outside.  She relaxed and told me they didn’t get out early enough; the puddles from the overnight rain were mostly gone.

I thought of them yesterday on my first walk this week.  Thunder, lightening, and too many brief heavy downpours meant little time outside Sunday and Monday.  It also meant plenty of puddles!

Although puddles weren’t on my mind when I grabbed the camera as I left the house, the pictures in the puddles quickly caught my attention.  Clouds, trees, shadows and light reflected off the surface; the images shifting as I got closer and walked by.

The reflections reminded me of last Sunday’s reading from the book of James:

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forgot what they were like.  – James 1:22-24 NRSV

Too often we forget we are made in the image of God, beings made to reflect God’s steadfast loving mercy and never ending compassion in word and deed wherever we go.  We aren’t called to do it alone; Jesus promised the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God that was with him – would also be with us.

May you take time to see reflections in puddles this week.   May your words and deeds reflect our maker’s love.

All Are Welcome in this Place

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“All Are Welcome”  Music & Words by Marty Haugen;  Table Runner pieced/quilted by TLClark

More than a month ago my husband asked me to make a table runner for the new table by our front door.  When I asked what color he had in mind he replied “Rainbow.  Because it would make a lot of people mad.”

I just happened to have a  Row-by-Row Experience kit (i.e., a pattern and fabric) that was easily adapted into a rainbow table runner.  Directions for “Name that Tune,” the original pattern by Laura and Liz at Crazy Redhead Quilting, suggests you appliqué music notes for the melody of your favorite song.

After considering a number of different songs, we settled on “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen.  The refrain fit within the staff – not going too high nor too low – and all the notes fit on the length of the runner.  Here’s the first verse with refrain:

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

To hear the hymn as sung by Haugen with others, search for the “All Are Welcome” concertato on the GIA Publications website (or click here) and click on the PREVIEW button.

One of my favorite Bible stories of welcome has to do with Jesus and the children.  As the story is set up in the gospel of Mark, the disciples have been arguing with one another about who is the greatest.  When Jesus calls them on it, they go silent.

“[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’  Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”  – Mark 9:35-37 NRSV (see also Matthew 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48)

In the very next chapter of Mark, the disciples try to keep children away from Jesus.  It’s a story I use every time I have the privilege of baptizing a child.

“People were bring little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But when Jesus, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” – Mark 10:13-16 NRSV (see also Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17)

We think of younger children when hear these verses.  But I believe it applies equally well to school age kids, teenagers, and adults — in other words, to every person who has ever been a child.  We are all children of God.

May you be warmly welcomed wherever you find yourself today.

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