For a year now, I have taken this class next to Leilani, who stands just a little shallower in the pool than I. Today, as we were warming up, one topic led to another. We were talking about getting rid of “things” and she told me a niece had asked for her lighthouse collection, and how was she going to mail them all to her, some of them were almost two feet high?
“Easy-peasy,” I said, “You know those storage tubs people buy at Target? You can use bubble wrap and ship them in those containers. They give fragile items a lot of protection.”
Leilani laughed and said how funny it was she didn’t know that because her husband had been a postman after his retirement from the military.
“Nice!” I said. “Two pensions!”
“Not really,” she said, “The day he retired he came home and handed me divorce papers. He’d been planning this for a long time. ”
“Another girl?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed sadly, “He was greedy. He said ‘You’ll never see a penny of my money.”
“I hope you got a good lawyer” I said.
“I did.” She didn’t look happy. “I had raised the four children, so I got parts of both pensions AND alimony. I don’t need a lot. I was happy.”
I asked if he had been the kind of man who had planned to walk out on her and leave her with nothing, if he had also been mean and stingy during their marriage, and if a part of her found peace when he left. She said because of the four children she would never have left him, but that yes, her life was better when he was no longer there.
“Money doesn’t make a person happy,” she said. “Things don’t make a person happy. You know he went and got a beautiful luxury apartment, and died just a few years later. He had emphysema from smoking all the time. No one to help him. So I went there every day, took him a meal because he couldn’t do for himself. I sat with him at night. I was there when he took his final breath.”
“And you know what he would do while I was out of the room? He would take out his money and count it. It never brought him any happiness.”
My pool friend is one of the sweetest hearted women I have ever met. In all this time, she has never said a bad word about her husband, and she was there by his side as he died. There is no bitterness in her, no anger; she didn’t resent him, she let all those feelings go and did the kind thing for a dying man.
I call this cross-cultural, because she is Hawaiian, and I have seen this kind of serenity in my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances. They are willing to let go of grudges, they are willing to move on. They have generous hearts. I feel like I learned something from her today.
Just a small post on a reading from Father Richard Rohr in today’s e-mail. It gives me great hope:
In the journey of prayer, as you sink into the mystery of God’s perfect love, you realize that you’re nothing in the presence of God’s goodness and greatness, and that God is working through you in spite of you.
LOL, it’s the “in spite of you” that gives me hope 🙂
I have to take a break from my trip stories to express an opinion.
We are The People of the Book. Suicide is not an option. The most precious gift we are given, of the many gifts, is the gift of life. One of the most heinous crimes against God / Allah is to shed innocent blood.
A callous theocracy sends “inspired” martyrs, testosterone-hopped-up jihadists to kill themselves, and to take as many victims as they can with them.
By what stretch can they claim to do God’s will? Where is the submission to the word of God? Where is the peaceful Islam of the Prophet Mohammed?
Did I tell you we’ve been stationed with two embassies, and at the second, I worked as a Foreign Service Officer? I know how busy and how harried the diplomats are, and I know how beleaguered the consular offices are with requests for visas and tourists who have lost their passports. They see it every day.
I lost my passport. My bad. Totally on me. I can’t expect anyone to feel obligated to help me out, but fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to expedite. You have to pay extra, but it’s worth it when you have a trip booked.
I told you about our run to New Orleans to submit paperwork and my delight to learn I would have a new passport soon.
I told you about the phone call telling me they needed a RECENT photo, not the same one that was on my last (never used, bright shiny new never used) passport.
I’ve been on edge all day. I’m away this weekend on a religious retreat, and I wasn’t feeling very religious. I was feeling nervous. I wonder if my passport reached New Orleans, or did it fall somewhere between the cracks? I wonder if Fridays are even work days at the passport center? What if it doesn’t get there and I don’t even know?
A short time ago, I got a phone call, from the same bureaucrat who called me about the photo. She was just calling to tell me that the passport is ready and will go out expedited this afternoon. She knew I would be concerned, and just wanted me not to worry.
I almost cried in gratitude. Who thinks of compassion when dealing with a bureaucracy? It was pure grace.
In the lifetime of our nation, we have elected some real doozies in high public office. Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors – some real characters. I don’t worry too much when lunatics run for high office, I thank God we have a solid bureaucracy, rarely corrupted; a bureaucracy that keeps plugging along when things get crazy. And thank God for this one particular officer who had a heart to reassure me that my passport is on the way. God bless her mightily.
We just finished our year in EfM, Education for Ministry, and the overall theme was a multi-cultural world, where we confront our own assumptions and prejudices. It has been a grand journey.
We have friends, friends whose son is our son’s best friend for lo, these many years, and they know how to be good neighbors. They are the soul of hospitality. They take in immigrants, fresh-off-the-boat, and teach them how to survive, help them find furniture, apartments, and a living. They welcome visitors, and care for them and their children. They are helpful. They do all this because it is the right thing to do, and they do it tirelessly. I am in awe of these friends; they are the essence of the Good Samaritan.
THURSDAY, May 21 (from Forward Day by Day)
Luke 10:29 And who is my neighbor?
This beloved parable is about more than being kind to our neighbor. It’s about the grace that is shared and the miracle that is manifested each time we help each other, and each time we allow ourselves to be helped. Both of the main characters in this story, the man who is beaten and left for dead and the man who rescues him and has him cared for, had to humble themselves in order to be in relationship.
Mutual distrust and mutual prejudice could have cost the injured man his life, either by the Samaritan refusing to stop, or in the injured man refusing help from such a suspicious source. Jesus asks us to look past the natural lines of religious creed, racial and ethnic identities, socioeconomic status, and all the other words we use to separate “us” from “them,” and to see his face in the man in the ditch. Jesus is asking us to look up and see his face in the man who is saving someone who cannot save himself.
We are invited to see the face of Jesus on each of these men—to realize that when we reach out in love or when we are being helped, Jesus is always present. Are you willing to be humbled in that way? Who or what can you help, today? Who or what can help you?
PRAY for the Diocese of North West Australia (Western Australia, Australia)
Ps 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32; Hebrews 7:18-28; Luke 10:25-37
When I think of the Good Samaritan, I think too of a very pregnant friend, pregnant with triplets, a Jewish woman working in Qatar, whose car broke down. In this day of cell phones, she called her husband for help, but in the time she waited for him to arrive with help, many many Qatari men and families stopped to offer assistance, insisted on giving her bottles of cold water, stopped and waited with her until her husband came and she was safe. They saw a stranger in distress, and they didn’t hesitate, they stopped. Good neighbors 🙂
It’s taken us a long time to get over the loss of our sweet Qatari Cat, sweet Pete. He was so special to us. For one thing, he was pretty. For another, he had some very winning ways. So many reasons to love that sweet cat and to regret his loss.
On our trip, we agreed that we are still not over Pete, and at the same time, it is time to bring another cat into our lives.
I had one in mind.
I have a friend. She has a ministry; she rescues abandoned animals, particularly cats. She tends to their wounds, she has them neutered, she gets them shots. She gives them boundless love, and teaches them to love and trust again.
She had put a photo of a cat on FaceBook. It was before our trip, and I couldn’t see adopting a cat and then putting him into a cat hotel, so I didn’t do anything. But my friend called while I was traveling, and I asked her during our conversation if that orange cat had found a home, and she said no.
So when we got back, we unpacked, we did laundry, we started to get back to our normal lives.
And we adopted Zakat.
Our friend brought him over. He was small, he was scrawny, he had a clipped ear, which I learned means he’s been taken from the streets and neutered, and . . . he had a huge circular scar around his face. He loved my friend, but AdventureMan and I totally freaked him out, and he ran into the cat room and hid (we have a lot of great hiding places.)
A couple days later, our grandson was staying overnight, with his Explorer’s tool (it has a flashlight, compass, magnifying glass, mirror, thermometer and whistle) and asked if he could see the cat. He’s a good boy, and he has three cats at home, so we took him to Zakat’s cupboard, and opened. Zakat didn’t run, and our grandson shone his flashlight and exclaimed softly in delight “Oh, I like his face! He has a sweet face!”
He didn’t even see the scars. All he could see was the sweetness of this cat. And I thought what a blessing grandchildren are, to help us see with the eyes of Jesus, to see sweetness where other see only scars.
Zakat has now discovered he is safe with us, and follows us around like a little shadow. He loves to sit in AdventureMan’s office with him, he loves to curl up with me while I am reading. He is fresh, and funny, and a sweet hearted little cat.
Zakat means tithe or alms in Arabic, but the truth is, we just love the double entendre, and love saying “Where’s Zakat?” We must be five years old, it takes so little to make us laugh.
Again, from the Lectionary readings for today, the devastation of gossip and slander, particularly appropriate during this season of vitriolic campaign ads, each more disgusting than the next:
14 Slander* has shaken many,
and scattered them from nation to nation;
it has destroyed strong cities,
and overturned the houses of the great.
15 Slander* has driven virtuous women from their homes,
and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.
16 Those who pay heed to slander* will not find rest,
nor will they settle down in peace.
17 The blow of a whip raises a welt,
but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones.
18 Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,
but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue.
19 Happy is one who is protected from it,
who has not been exposed to its anger,
who has not borne its yoke,
and has not been bound with its fetters.
20 For its yoke is a yoke of iron,
and its fetters are fetters of bronze;
21 its death is an evil death,
and Hades is preferable to it.
22 It has no power over the godly;
they will not be burned in its flame.
23 Those who forsake the Lord will fall into its power;
it will burn among them and will not be put out.
It will be sent out against them like a lion;
like a leopard it will mangle them.
24a As you fence in your property with thorns,
25b so make a door and a bolt for your mouth.
24b As you lock up your silver and gold,
25a so make balances and scales for your words.
26 Take care not to err with your tongue,*
and fall victim to one lying in wait.
A reading from today’s Forward Day by Day helps us to cope with the resonating horrors of that monstrous day. We are living in a world where we are more and more inextricably interconnected. Where I am living, I often hear people talk about how “Moslems are killing Christians all over the world!” and my heart breaks, thinking of the wonderful friends I have lived among is so many Moslem countries, their kindness, their hospitality, our long pleasant conversations. I learned so much.
I am glad we believe in a God who knows our hearts. I am thankful for grace, and forgiveness. When we talk about killing, we also need to take account for all the civilians we have killed, trying to bring about peace, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda, Al Shebaab, those who would harm us.
God asks us to love one another. He doesn’t say “Christians, you love just the Christians.” He shows us how to love the Samaritans, the lame, the blind, the mentally ill, the “other”. He tells us, clearly, to love our enemies. The Gospel that speaks the loudest is the gospel of our lives lived to honor him.
THURSDAY, September 11
Acts 15:8-9 [Peter said], “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them…and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.”
Thirteen years ago, this day became one of those days that divide time into what life was like before, and after; one of those days when you will remember, always, where you were, what you were doing—this time when you heard the news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center and thousands of people had died.
Job asks, “Does not calamity befall the unrighteous?” (31:3), but we learned, vividly, on September 11, 2001, that the righteous and the innocent suffer too.
Psalm 59:6 exhorts God to “show no mercy to those who are faithless and evil.” The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness. Perhaps we can learn something about that in Peter’s response to the heated discussions about Jews and Gentiles, about who could be saved, and how: “God, who knows the human heart…has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9).
Then, as now, there were good people and evildoers on all sides, religions, and races. Now, as then, judgment and salvation comes only through the mercy and grace of God.