Monday, January 30, 2012

My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I have a book on my new Kindle Fire that gives readings from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke for every day of the year. I was struck by the one for January 30 so I thought I'd share it with you all. It reminds me of something I would write myself.


No. Of my heart I will make a tower
and stand on its very edge,
where nothing else exists - just once again pain
and what cannot be said, and once again world.

Once again in all that vastness
now dark, now light again, the single thing I am,
one final face confronting
what can never be appeased.

That ultimate face, enduring as stone,
at one with its gravity,
drawn by distances that could dissolve it
into some promise of the sacred.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor

When you hear potential leaders of our country disrespecting each other,
When you hear millionaires say that poor people should just get a job,
When you hear them say that people without health care should die,
When they judge some fellow Americans and would deny them the same rights that we all cherish, the same ones that allow us the "pursuit of happiness".
When they claim that abortion is wrong but not funding programs for all the impoverished unwanted children is ok,
When they believe they should decide whether women should have access to contraceptives -

When these people call themselves Christians,
ask yourself what "Love Thy Neighbor" means to you.
Look in your Bible for a list of exceptions to that rule.
You won't find them anywhere.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pure Beauty

Of course, an upload on a blog on a computer screen could never do justice to a painting like this - or any other work of art for that matter. Art is like the Grand Canyon - you have to see it in person. My mom and I went to the Akron Art Museum to see a wonderful show of Impressionists - but the difference was that the vast majority of this show was American Impressionists, not European - many I had not heard of before.

This painting literally glowed from across the room -the sunlight shining on the faces and reflecting under their chins. The sky so clear and blue you believed you were there with them. I was drawn across the room and did not want to leave it.

Every time I go to an art museum or special exhibit I always choose my favorite before I leave and this was definitely it. Yes, the theme is a bit sugary and prosaic, but how can you argue with pure beauty?

It is called "On the Heights" by Charles Courtney Curran. It was painted in 1909. Curran was an extremely successful American Impressionist. He lived from 1861-1942, born in Kentucky and lived in Sandusky, Ohio. This beauty hangs in the Brooklyn Museum in New York so I am grateful to have seen it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coexist with Kindness

So many gods,
so many creeds,
so many paths
that wind and wind.
While just the art
of being kind
is all the sad worlds needs.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
poet, 1850-1899

(Artist listed only as Sawyer.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For the Love of Winter

My abundance is in winter.
I dwell in the peace of the silent snow,
sitting by the yellow light of a lamp
with a blanket and a book,
or comfortably close to him on the love seat.

I find joy in the lack of humidity and
the offensive noise of lawn mowers.
I feel happy covering my homely limbs
with sweaters and jeans instead
of sticky sunscreen and sweat,
and justified in drinking another hot tea.

There is beauty in the stark outline
of trees and squirrels against whiteness,
or watching my little dog sniff deer tracks
and race inside with a snowy nose.

To come out of the quiet cold
into a warmth of a home,
to hear the furnace kick on,
to snuggle up to a warmer body
under chilly bedsheets
is the abundance of winter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

God is Good

We've been to so many funerals this past year. I have a feeling that this trend will not let up as we get older. Two of those funerals were of family members and my husband and I were the recipients of condolences. People say many things that sound like cliches or benign comments just so they have something to say. But I reminded my husband that people often say things that they truly believe. Many years ago I said something that I meant to be comforting but was distressing to the mourner. I will never forget that and try to think before I speak in those situations.

None of us can truly know the mysteries of this world. Why do some people seem to have easy lives and others suffer? Why are there wars, crime and natural disasters? If you are a person of faith you must decide what you believe God's role is in this earthly life we live. As I've written before I believe that we are given free will and the vast majority of our circumstances result from our own choices. God allows us to make our choices he doesn't cause them.

At the time of a death many people, in their desire to accept and understand, will say it was God's will. Or they may say that God needed another angel in heaven. While these notions can be comforting, they also blame God for the death. Do you believe God wants to hurt us? Make us suffer? If so, we are doomed, aren't we?

An essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday made excellent points. The essay was written by a well-known local pastor, Rev. Kenneth Chalker. His writings and ideas make complete sense to me and are so reasonable. He wrote on the topic of whether God is good or whether he causes disasters and suffering. You no doubt heard that God was punishing our nation with Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Rev. Chalker writes:

There is, to be sure, a living, loving Creator of us all. God reveals God's self, not in the cause of our suffering but rather in the great mystery of good. God is in the inspiring presence that motivates discovery and encourages science and learning. God heals through the development of medicine, thrives in the hearts of first responders and long-term caregivers. Look for God there.

God is not in the earthquake and the storm. God is found among the emergency crews and those doing the best of things in the worst of times. God is the still small voice within us that brings joy. God is the presence that encourages, uplifts, transforms, does justice, resists evil, strengthens, gives hope and is the source of purpose in all our days.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

COEXIST XXXIII - The Kindness Alternative

On New Year's Day we had 45 friends, family and neighbors fill our home with joyful chatter and laughter. It was a wonderful way to start the year. Associating with so many dear people made me think about how kind and loving most people are - as opposed to the impression we are given of human beings through the media, news, TV, movies etc. I have a great deal of trouble listening to politicians and talking heads who do nothing but criticize and belittle others.

So this year as the presidential race gets going I propose the "Kindness Alternative." Don't let the animosity of those who have a platform cause you to lose faith in the kindness and goodness of people. Pay attention to your own speech and when you may be offending someone. Turn off divisive news and radio programs. Fill your life with good people. Stop all gossip, which is nothing more than judgement. Listen to others. Express yourself in a respectful manner. Be the change you want to see in the world.

So many of the presidential candidates boast of their Christian faith - but remember the example of Jesus. His example was of humility, forgiveness and grace. He told us to pray in private. His whole ministry was based on advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy and powerful. He told us to "turn the other cheek", which superceded the Old Testament "eye for an eye." He accepted and dined with the lowest members of society. He loved, not hated. He was a pacifist.

If you do not see the difference between the example of Jesus and the powerful, famous "Christians" we hear from in the media and politics then open your Bible and reread His words. Notice the things that Jesus did NOT say that are somehow attributed to Him now. I think you'll see the difference.