Monday, March 28, 2016

While Traveling

We'll be traveling in June to the West Coast - Washington - to visit our #2 son. His daughter, our oldest granddaughter, is graduating from high school. Hard to believe, but we're so happy for her. Thinking about it, the following article came to mind. I wrote it for Prairie Times many years ago and I hope you enjoy the read.  

The Bride, the Priest and the Maniac
By Susan Sundwall

We both sighed when the gate agent announced our flight would be delayed – again. Only twenty more minutes the agent promised. My stomach gurgled as I slumped into my seat and returned to my book. Great. I’d probably have to run like a crazy woman to make my connecting flight at the next airport. These kinds of delays are one of the reasons I dislike traveling alone. My mind inevitably churns with all the "what ifs," especially if re-routing is involved. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman beside me pulling something from her canvas bag. She settled back and removed a small square of colored paper from the package on her lap and began folding the paper. Her fingers moved quickly, and in about two minutes she was twirling a little paper bird in her fingers. I lowered my book.

“How pretty,” I said.

She smiled. “It’s a peace crane. I’m making them for the guests at my wedding.”

I smiled back and took note of her appearance. She wasn’t young and there was an air of calm confidence about her that I envied.

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said.

This middle aged bride-to-be then explained about the Cranes for Peace project, the Children’s Peace Statue and how she hoped her bright paper creations would be a useful reminder for her wedding guests. My book stayed on my lap as she talked. The hypnotic rhythm of her fingers working the paper was a pretty distraction from my current travel worries. My anxiety was much reduced before we were finally called to board the plane. The bride shared with me that she was a chaplain and just before we went our separate ways, she gifted me with a pink crane. I still have it.

The Priest

I was kind of shocked when the man in the clerical collar glanced at the flight attendants legs then asked her if she played tennis.

“I used to,” she replied, “but it ruined my legs. I have no strength in my joints anymore.”

“That happens to a lot of athletes,” he said.

I didn’t really want to be privy to their conversation so I buried my nose in my book. (Yeah, I always travel with a book). It wasn’t too long before I was nodding off, but the priest must not have noticed because he leaned across the aisle and said, “That’s a very good book.”

I guess a priest would have to say that about Mere Christianity. I smiled at him. “I’ve read it a couple of times and always learn something new.”

As our conversation progressed I learned that he traveled throughout the country helping high school coaches build team spirit and foster a positive attitude towards their sport. One of his programs main principles was to highlight respect for one’s opponent.

“The seeds of that respect are planted when we respect our mothers,” the priest said. "It all begins there."

We exchanged a few more pleasantries and time passed quickly. Watching his retreating form as we deplaned, I marveled at the people we meet when traveling.

The Maniac

Well, the guy was from Maine, after all. I noticed him sitting in the window seat as I told the man next to him that he was in mine. Got that? There was an open seat in the middle though, and I volunteered to sit there so the offender could stay in the aisle seat. I plopped myself down next to the guy from Maine. Nothing much was said until it was time to decide on the movie.

“Have you seen this?” the man asked.

“I have,” I replied. “It’s quite good and has a wonderful message.”

The movie also had some funny parts, and I felt my friend chuckling at the same spots that I had. When the movie was over he thanked me for recommending it.

“There are no accidents,” was the message in Kung Fu Panda, and the man was truly touched.

From there our conversation escalated to matters of faith, and I happened to mention my frequent flyer book, Mere Christianity. It was downright spooky what happened next. The couple in front of us peeked through the small crack between the seats and chuckled. Then the man held up the book he was reading, The Complete Works of C.S. Lewis which I knew had to include Mere Christianity. A chill ran down my spine.

My new buddy, Paul, (he revealed his name and shook my hand later) then told me of the difficulty he’d had when a beloved nephew died in a car accident a few years earlier. I just let him talk. I’d figured out it was no accident that I’d sat beside him that day. The few hours on that plane passed quickly, and when it was time to land my head was full of  much more than travel fears.

“If you only knew who walked beside you,” said Paul just before we parted. I smiled at that. It seems I’m watched over in the area of my greatest fear and these three examples let me know it’s so.  

Image: My Peace Crane

Monday, March 21, 2016

Do You Wonder About This?

Do you ever wonder about religious people? About faith. About church. About God. Are those who believe in such things delusional, needy, narrow minded and maybe even intellectually lazy? Perhaps a peek around the door of a real church might help with your wondering. Here’s my take from the inside.

I love it when the questions and opinions fly at our mid-week Lenten study. Why does blood satisfy our debt of sin? Why hadn’t anyone told us before now that there was no Garden of Gethsemane? Say what, now? Turns out a Gethsemane is an olive press. Huh, who knew? And was John the Baptist an Essene or not? C’mon, we want to know. We want to work on these delusions and get them gone. We wrestle it out together.  

I love the moment during communion when our pastor and his assistant leave the altar, come into the aisle, stop at a certain pew and offer the wafer and cup to our oldest member. She’s 95 and needy. Doesn’t walk that well so Jesus comes to her. Sharp as a tack, smiling and there every Sunday she’s able. Her need is met.

And then there’s the dog. A service dog to be sure, but still, a dog in church? Yes, his owner is well capable of keeping him in line. Yes, it’s a shocker the first time you hear the jingle of his collar when he shakes during the Lord’s Prayer. A dog in church?  And when he let loose last Easter and joined the choir in a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus perhaps some narrow minded eyebrows shot up. Not mine, nor any of the choir members. We’re an extraordinary group and very open to new voices. Canines and others welcome.

Doctors, lawyers, school teachers, authors, nurses, engineers, military, hospice workers, social workers, and musicians. A short list of some of the professions evident in the weekly attendees. They weren’t lazy in pursuing their life’s calling and questions about their intellect don’t come up while we worship. They don’t mind sitting with the downtrodden, the less educated, the doubter. Do we walk in lock step in our ideas, opinions and concerns? Pffft. Sure don’t. But we put those things aside because we’re all in the mess together and holding on to the One who gives life, love and forgiveness. It’s very cool.

This is how it looks from the inside where  we peer out into the world where you are and hope you’ll want to be on the inside with us. Go ahead, bring your delusions, your  needs, your sorrows, joys and your intellect. His love and ours will meet you there.

Easter Sunday would be a good day to begin.

Image: atibodyphoto                                                    Free Digital Photos

Monday, March 14, 2016

Our Dancing Queen

So there she was, all of three years old our, Anna Banana, decked out in her yellow tutu and waiting for the music to begin. Her classmates were up there, too.  All in a row looking  utterly adorable. I sat next to her dad, our oldest, as he steadied his camera. “Go Banana,” he cheered quietly. And when the first notes sounded she bent over, grabbed her knees and bounced her yellow tutu in time to the music. My heart bounced, too. I only had eyes for Anna. “You go, sweetheart,” I whispered.

And she did.

Flash forward seven years. She’s made the competition dance team at the Isabelle School of Dance. Yesterday she was up on stage again, right in front, all dolled up. And when this music began she was beyond ready.  Right in front – did I say that? Far left and lookin’ good.

The number was called The Listening Chair. Never heard of it, but it began with a series of complicated hand motions and Anna had them down cold. She was snappin’ her fingers and moving her arms in perfect time. She had attitude. She had joy. You could see it on her face and in the sassy swing of her ponytail. Her feet moved in motion with all the others on her team – maybe twenty  dancers. They exited to wild applause – her family clapping the loudest. The team's second number, all in pink and black, was also awesome and even her big brother paid attention. A feat – let me tell you.

Her team claimed the Platinum Award for that first number. You go, sweetheart. 

Kisses and hugs rained down on her at the stage door. Her grandparents (all four of us), mom and dad, brother, earlier her aunts and cousins. Our dancer had triumphed. Our dancer had shown us something. For all her hard work, for all her dedication, for all her “Grandma, wanna play dance school?” moments, in the end . . .

Hard work always pays off. Kudos, more kisses and here’s to next year, Anna.

We only have eyes for you.



Monday, March 7, 2016

A Tough Topic

Have you ever had the experience of sitting down in front of the television to enjoy a sandwich and some news anchor announces the death of someone famous?  But – you have no idea who the person was? Oh, man – happens to us all the time. In similar fashion I’m asked quite often if I know of this person or that and I’m left scratching my head. Recently,  while I was on Skype with our number two son, we were talking about shelters for abused women.

“Have you heard of Erin Pizzey?” he asked.

I had not.

“She opened one of the first shelters for women in the UK.”

Hmmm. This might be a person I should know about, I thought. Our women’s group at church has been making no sew blankets for a local women’s shelter for quite a while now and perhaps some shelter history would be a good thing.

Then I was asked if I knew how many similar shelters there were for men and again I had to profess my ignorance.

“There aren’t any,” he said. “Men live under bridges.”

Wow, really?  I vowed to find out more about that -  and Erin Pizzey. And what has one to do with the other? Take a minute to read one of these.

Here’s an excerpt from the national Post article:

. . . that the tendency to violence in intimate relationships is bilateral and rooted in individual dysfunction: Men and women with personality disorders and/or family histories of violence are equally likely to be violent themselves, or seek violent partners. [Don Dutton]

And from Wikipedia:

Pizzey has been the subject of death threats and boycotts because of her research into the claim that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally capable of violence as men. Pizzey has said that the threats were from militant feminists.

I don’t like to do “issues” on my blog. I much prefer to stay light hearted or just plain entertaining. But I’m not blind to what goes on in the world. I know a loaded-to-one side report when I see it. I think it’s dreadful that this woman was unable to seek allies in the place where she probably thought she would naturally have them – in modern feminism. Sorry, didn’t happen. Granted, she’s in her 70’s now and perhaps things were tougher to get across many years ago. But, honestly, do we want to remain in the dark about this? It is not to anyone’s credit to ignore half of those abused because they happen to be men. We’re better than that – or should be.

Here’s another link that sheds some light.

Things will only change if we turn from what we’ve always thought was true and get ourselves educated. This is my small part. If you think you know a man who's being abused at home - be on his side. Pray for him and urge him to get help. 

Thank you for reading.

Image: Free Digital Photos