Sunday, February 25, 2007

Time Began In A Garden, Part One

Sherron and I are working on Sarah Sporrer's "Time Began in a Garden" project. I'm using black flannel for the background, and all wools for the appliques. There are twelve blocks that are 12 x 9 inches and they surround a larger central block. I've completed two of the outside blocks, aster and sunflower. The color on the aster block isn't true, prolly due to flash from camera. The plan is that I'll make a couple of blocks and then pass the patterns along to Sherron.
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The blocks don't take a long time to do; the most time-consuming part it seems is going through my floss to find out what to use for the embroidery and the buttonholing, and then going out to Michael's to get what I don't already have. Last night I bonded chinese lantern and tulips. I haven't managed to get the floss lined up for them yet.
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I have only done one wool project before, and it was a BOM where all of the fabrics were provided each month. So I didn't have a wool stash to work from on these garden blocks. Not to worry! LQS had some very nice pieces of wool squares and small bags of miscellaneous scraps. For the chinese lanterns and the tulips, I needed gradations of colors I didn't have so I took to the internet. There are several people out there selling gorgeous hand-dyed wool in gradations in strips about four inches wide.
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Which puts me in the position of having quite a bit of left-over wool once this project is finished. So I imagine I'll become a penny-rugger at last!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thoughts at the Start of Lent

Some thoughts at the beginning of Lent. I do not think they are connected to one another, but of course I could be mistaken about that. And it doesn't matter if they are or they are not.
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One of my readers asked me to post pictures of my liturgical wall hangings as they change. This one went up on Wednesday but I didn't have the opportunity to photograph it until today. The background is actually the wrong side of a piece of too-bright purple fabric that I had. The black of the cross is Moda marble. Everything is hand buttonhole stitched.
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Our new Interim Pastor started working at our congregation on Tuesday. Her first services were on Ash Wednesday and I was fortunate to be assigned as Assisting Minister for the evening service. I liked her very much: She seems bright, sincere, easy to be around, and not self important. She will be with us for 12-18 months, helping our church do a self evaluation and assessment and figure out our goals and also determine what we will be looking for in our next pastor. From my first impression, I believe this woman will be very helpful.
. . . .
For starters, her Ash Wednesday sermon made reference to the positive side of Lent. She spoke about the way Lent has been regarded as a time for deprivation, for giving things up, for sacrifice. She then used the Isaiah reading, which reads in part,

Is this really the kind of fasting that I want? Do I want a day when people merely humble themselves, bowing their heads like a reed and stretching out on sackcloth and ashes? Is this really what you call a fast, a day that is pleasing to the Lord? No, this is the kind of fast I want. I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke to set free the oppressed, and the break every burdensome yoke. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, opressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Don't turn your back on your own flesh and blood!

The idea of taking something on as opposed to giving something up, to be active rather than passive was the emphasis of this part of her sermon. I have always been partial to this passage, and was glad to hear her preach on it.
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Finally, in this morning's paper there was an article about the stress people experience when it is their task to go through and clear out the personal effects of loved ones after their deaths. There was a bit about a Quaker woman who was helping a Roman Catholic friend with such a culling. She came across a bottle of holy water and thought she would use it to water the plants. The other woman said that she couldn't do that; it wasn't an appropriate use for holy water.
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In my church, we are taught that after Communion, any left over elements must be dealt with immediately. In the case of wine, we are to drink it or to pour it into the ground. In the case of bread, we are to eat it, or scatter it outside for the birds. To me using holy water (and I'm not totally sure what holy water is, actually) to water plants makes good sense, and I wonder what other -- better? -- use there could be for it? Please understand that I am not mocking another set of beliefs; rather, I'm just trying to understand them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On Death and Fabric


My hunch is that this particular comic strip is popping up on quilters' blogs all over the net today. So I wasn't going to be left out!
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It puts me in mind of a conversation I had with Joe, though, about my own demise:

Nancy: I was thinking about what should happen to my fabric when I die.
Joe: Your fabric?Nancy: Yes. I don't want it thrown out. I think you should call Marsha and let her come deal with it.
Joe: Marsha?
Nancy: Yes. She would know what to do with it. She would keep some and give the rest to other people.
Joe: Okay. But, could I keep the batiks?
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Gotta love a guy like this.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Praising Children

Yesterday my coworker Russell sent out a link which he called "great article praising kids." I liked the article very, very much, even though it made me feel sad.
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It provided yet another piece of the explanation for why I am who I am: I can't remember ever being praised for effort as a child. It was instead always a peculiar kind of negative praise for being smart. Smartness, according to the article, is something we can't help having or not having. Effort, on the other hand, is something we can choose to make or not to make. Without positive reinforcement for effort, there is little incentive for the making of it. Here is a link to the article: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/
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At some point as a young adult I apparently received some praise for effort from someone because I ultimately did learn to make it. I can't help wondering, however, what my first eighteen or so years of life -- and later, even -- would have been like if I'd had the kind of reinforcement necessary to produce consistent effort.
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The thing is, though, is it makes me wonder how I praised my children. Without a role model to show me how to praise for effort, I think it is unlikely that I did. My guess is that I praised results and not smartness, but most of the time probably not effort either. I think one of my now-adult children reads this blog; if you choose to comment, Honey, please don't be too hard on me!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Madeline Elizabeth's Quilt is finished

Yesterday was Quilt Day at our church. There were twenty-one of us with our sewing and knitting, come to spend a day working and talking and eating and laughing together. Marsha, Helen and I had been part of the set-up crew on Friday night and we decided to stay and sew for a while before returning home. I had sandwiched and tied the quilt on our snow day earlier in the week, and Friday night I pieced binding from 30s repros in pink, yellow and green, and then stitched it to the quilt. Did the hand-stitching last night while watching Netflix with Joe.
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I don't know when I'll meet Madeline. She and her parents live far away from Near Philadelphia, all the way in Texas. Proud grandfather Bill is a good friend and I'm going to give him the quilt tonight to take to Texas when he goes to visit. In announcing Madeline's arrival, this circus-loving man writes:
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Madeline Elizabeth LeDoux, born 2/1/07, 10:14 p.m. 8 lbs., 10 ounces (BIG!!!!!, 19 1/2", a future circus sideshow giant?), San Antonio, TX, United Memorial Hospital to Melanie Elizabeth (Hall) & Robt.LeDoux, also San Antonio residents & married!!!!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

That of God

It will become quickly apparent to the reader that I’m struggling with a concept here, attempting a reconciliation which may or may not be reconcilable. I hope that you bear with me, and if you are one of my Lutheran readers, I ask that you be gentle.
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I spend most of my waking hours in a Quaker environment, a Pre-K through 12 school. Never mind that there are relatively few birthright – or even card-carrying – Quakers among the students, the faculty, the administration. There appear to be more Jewish than Christian students, with a smattering of Islam and other faiths here and there. Doesn’t matter. We subscribe to Quaker tenets and testimonies, faith and practice. The students and faculty attend Meeting for Worship weekly, and Meeting for Business is the model for faculty and student meetings; we speak of bad behavior as being “unQuakerly.” Consensus is striven for, and generally reached.
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Two years ago for our winter Inservice Day, the Quakerism and Community Committee brought to the campus three or four individuals who explained how Quakerism impacts on their own non-Quaker faiths. I can’t remember what all of those faiths were, but I remember that one was a Quaker with Buddhist tendencies and the Roman Catholic with elements of Friendliness has now become our Head of School.
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I wondered then, and have continued to wonder, how Quakerism might inform my own Lutheranism. I promised myself then that I’d learn more about Quakerism in the attempt to work that out. As with most promises to self, I have made little progress. Until very recently.
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The ubiquitous Moment of Silence has found its way into my adult education class at St. Paul’s, and it has been a useful transition for my learners to sit for a brief period letting go of the concerns they had before class, and focusing on why we have gathered. Quakerism, creeping into my Lutheran Sunday School class.
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Friends never say, “I’ll pray for you,” a term which often seems hollow – I am well aware of how many times I have made that promise, and lost track of it. Instead, in times of trouble, they “hold” one another “in the Light.” It is never said, but I have come to understand that the complete thought is to “hold in the Light of Christ.” Another way of praying, but somehow much more. In the past eight months our little school community has had one of our faculty become ill, ill unto death; and too soon after her passing, another member came down with a serious and mysterious malady. Rosy and her family truly were held in the Light from the time of her diagnosis until her passing: she was visited, written to, telephoned, cooked for by the members of the school community. When she died, her family asked if the memorial service could be held at the Meeting House; she was Jewish, not Quaker, but it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The other teacher, I’m relieved to report, has at last received a diagnosis and treatment, and there is hope for a full recovery, over time. Meanwhile, the members of the community hold her in the Light, each in the way that she or he is called.
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"Quakers do not make a division between religion and everyday life, no place is more - or less - holy than another. God may be experienced both in the Sunday meeting for worship and in the midst of everyday life and relationships." If that doesn't sound like the Martin Luther that Tim Wengert taught me about, I don't know what does. It seems awfully similar to Luther's thoughts on the changing of diapers as a ministry.
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There’s a Quaker concept that seems to raise the hackles of some other Lutherans who have heard it, but has seemed to me to be fraught with possibility: “There is that of God in every one,” is the statement we hear over and over in a Friends School. Often the principle is invoked when considering a thoughtless offense committed by an Upper School boy and someone seeks a mitigating circumstance. It struck me as another way of saying that we are made in God’s image. But I saw frowns when I would mention this during my years at seminary. So I had set it aside for a time. But recently I have begun to think I understand it in a better way.
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One of the most meaningful Lutheran ideas for me comes from the Smalcald Articles where Luther lists the means of grace. He begins with the obvious: the spoken word, the sacraments, absolution; then he comes to the surprise: “the mutual conversation and consolation of sisters and brothers.”
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This, then, is where I think that my Lutheranism may be informed by Quakerism. For is it not in the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the visiting of the sick and the imprisoned – is it not in these things that “that of God” is active in us? Is it not in the silent bearing of another’s burden, the ministry of presence, the selfless listening that “Christ within” us reaches out to the neighbor? And aren’t all of these things somehow holding our brother, our sister, in the Light?
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I believe I'm no less a Lutheran for having explored a bit of Quakerism and seeing what is meaningful in that tradition. To the contrary, I am thinking that my Lutheranism, informed by Quakerism, has become richer, deeper, and somewhat more practical.

Snow Day!

I was so happy when the phone woke me on Wednesday! It was 5:10 in the morning and even before answering, I knew the reason for the ringing. Unlike most before-dawn phone calls, this was good news! The only time I was ever happier to be wakened by the phone was around 3:00 in the morning on February 1, 2006, when Sherry called to tell us of Sam's arrival.
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My niece, Susan, used to be a lifeguard as her summer job during high school and college. "Lifeguards pray for rain and thunderstorms," she told me once. Sitting up on those perches gets awfully old. People who work at schools pray for Snow Days; we also do Snow Dances, just to be sure. Snow Days are wonderful wild cards in the regular routine of classes, exams, grades, and so forth.
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"Happy Snow Day! The world is closed and so are we," said my most welcome caller. I made my calls and -- amazingly -- was able to get back to sleep! Woke again around 8:00 and made Joe a yummy breakfast when he came in from snowblowing and snow shoveling. Dorothy had given us some lemon and pecan waffle mix as a recent gift and this seemed to be just the morning to indulge. Did not venture out of the house all day, but rather spent it working on the little elephant quilt for Bill's baby granddaughter. Pieced the back, pieced the batting, pinned the sandwich and then spent literally hours tying the knots. What remains to be done is trimming the edges, piecing the binding and applying same. Picture to follow when it is finished.
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Surprisingly, the phone rang early again this morning. It was an "Open--Two Hours Late" call. "No need to get carried away," I thought, mindful off all the work on my desk. So I once again made a wonderful breakfast for He Who Shovels and came to work, arriving just 15 minutes later than my regular arrival time. It was amazing the amount of work I got done before the rest of the crew showed up. And then it was time to go over to Lower School to give the Pre-K their Valentines!
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Life is not only good, Mz. G. Some days life is pretty darned sweet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reclaimed Memory


When we were at Sherry's recently, we noticed that she had a basket at the foot of the steps and it held the Christmas cards that they had received. After a period of intense activity, Sam crawled over to the basket and began "reading" the cards. He'd spend a surprisingly long time with many of the cards; others he'd discard almost immediately. Joe's theory was that this calm activity was a means of catching his breath before pressing on to terrorize the cat.
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Took me back in time to something I've not thought of in more than fifty years (ye gods, did I really write that?).
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Nana, my paternal grandmother, lived alone in a row house that was within walking distance of the house where I spent my first four years in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. Despite the proximity, I don't remember being at her house on a regular basis. It was always more of an occasion to be there. When we moved outside of the city to Near Philadelphia, these visits were even more occasional, and before very long Nana gave up her house and moved in with Aunt Helen.
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The thing I remember best about going to Nana's is that down in her basement (but it was called the cellar), she had an actual sandbox. It was not very big and it was not fancy at all. It contained New Jersey beach sand, rather than the commercial kind of sand in most kiddy sandboxes. And there were discarded kitchen findings there -- measuring cups, spoons, sifters, those kinds of things. While the adults were visiting and getting a meal on the table, I was allowed to go down there to cook and bake. It was magical.
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The other thing, though, the newly reclaimed memory, is that somewhere in the living room, Nana had some kind of a box where she kept greeting cards that she had received. And now I remember very vividly that after dinner, I would be allowed to go and get that box out, and go through the cards. This was all before I could read, and it felt like such a special privilege to be able to do this. I just loved it.
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Our Christmas cards are in a basket in the living room still. Last week I put my birthday greetings in there, too. And somewhere in the closet is just the right box -- it is pale blue, and is made like a round hatbox with a ribbon -- it came from Elaine for a birthday about seven or eight years ago. It will be perfect for holding the cards for Sam's perusal when he comes to visit Nana.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

On Saturday, our church is having our umpteenth "Quilt Day." It started out many years ago with our hiring someone to come and teach a new project, but over time as different people have taken a turn organizing the day, it has turned into pretty much of a "Do Your Own Thing" Day with lots of input from peers. We generally have a Quilt Day in February and another one in July or August. There will be about twenty of us this time, each woman bringing her own machine and project. We share mats, cutters, rulers and advice. We pay $15 per person and that includes juice, coffee, and sweet rolls in the morning, a substantial lunch, and always door prizes. I've seldom missed one of these days since they started back in the late '80s. Marsha, Helen and I signed up to do the set-up on Friday night and all at once it dawned on us: We don't need to go home after the set-up! We can hang around and sew for a few hours! None of us knows why we didn't think of this before.
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My dilemma is what project to bring. Out of my massive stock of UFOs, the projects under consideration are these WIPs:
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Bill's baby's quilt. Bill has just one daughter, Melanie, and Melanie had a little girl last week, on Sam's first birthday, actually. We knew ahead of time that the baby was a girl, so I was thinking pink. I had some wonderful 30s/WOW blocks from a swap and picked out nine that contained a fair amount of pink and then put WOW blocks in the intervening spaces. But it looked too plain. Bill's a dedicated Republican and -- coincidentally -- circus elephant aficianado. I'd seen and earmarked a pattern in an Australian Patchwork and Quilting managzine years ago for a quilt with little appliqued elephants. Dug it up and enhanced those WOW blocks. This quilt needs to be sandwiched, tied, and bound. The baby -- golly, I wish I knew her name -- lives in Texas, and Bill will be going down in sometime in the next several weeks to get acquainted with her. It would be nice to have this ready for him to take along.
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Pre-K 2007-2008 quilt. Each year, my best friends at school -- the Pre-K class -- make self portraits that are magically transferred onto fabric and then I set the portraits into a quilt which goes to the school auction. The class this year has fifteen students -- a very nice number for a quilt. Some years it is more of a challenge to get the lay-out to be attractive.
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These kids bring so much joy into my day, coming to visit me usually on Mondays on their way to physical education, and other times as well. Sometimes I go visit them in their classroom. They are always full of news, and frequently have a new poem to share with me.
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This year the auction isn't until May -- it used to be early in March -- and so I've dawdled a bit on this project. I need to put some bottom borders on, sandwich, tie, and bind.
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Laurel Burch baby quilt. Thought Sam might like this. It was made from swap blocks and there are plenty more where these came from!
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We used her Jungle Songs line when it first came out and we were all smitten with it (and some of us still are!). We used Kona black for the background and most of us made much more intricate blocks than we usually do for a swap. Needs to be sandwiched, tied and bound. Have been trying to decide whether to use red or black floss to do the tying. In either event, procuring the floss will entail a little trip to LQS -- always a risky behavior!
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Tom and Anastasia picked these blocks from several sets I had around. These were from the first "favorite fabric swap" that I ever participated in, and I've always like them, though I must admit that my taste in fabric has changed over the years. They are up on the design wall now, and need the alternate blocks to be made and then the side triangles cut, etc., etc.
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Making those alternate blocks might be just the thing for Quilt Day -- there are always so many distractions and interruptions that something mindless would probably be a very good idea.
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In any event, I need to make a decision by Wednesday afternoon so I can spend time that evening getting everything together. I'll post pics after the Quilt Day, fershure.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chameleon


When we were young, we called them "chameleons." The biology teacher today told me that they really are "anoles." They were popular pets, permitted by even the most squeamish moms. They didn't make noise, didn't put out an odor and didn't live very long. They were mild-mannered and small and best of all, they had this amazing capacity to change color! The same animal would be a verdant green one minute, and several minutes later after being placed on a piece of bark, he would have turned to a nice dusty brown with scarcely a hint of green. We wished we had the ability to do the same, but try as we may, we remained the same colors we always were.
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I don't know whether it is just me, or whether it holds true for most people. But I've found that when I'm around someone a lot, I tend to pick up some of that person's characteristics. Sometimes for better; other times, for worse. The perceptive can tell when I've spent time with Joanne: I'll start calling them "Hon." Usually I'm aware of the cameleonism and work to keep the less desirable traits from taking root. There was a Woody Allen movie on this theme back in 1983; it was called "Zelig," and the title character actually changed his appearance. My case isn't that severe.
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I had a colleague that I spent a great deal of time with for five or six years; we shared a suite of offices. Over time I picked up two bad traits from him: making fun of people behind their backs and buying hardback books instead of waiting for titles to come out in paperback or -- heaven forfend -- using the library.
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That colleague has gone and I've made a conscious effort not to mock, and have had pretty good results from that effort. Have done really well with the book thing, too; I use the library almost exclusively. About the only new hardback books I buy are Harry Potter.
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My new suite-mate is different from his predecessor in so many ways. I wonder what characteristics of his I'm picking up. There are many desirable ones; for one thing, he buys paperback books. But if I have to pick one, there's no contest: Like Luther, he always assumes the most positive explanation for a person's behavior; he never rushes to a negative judgment. I admire this trait so much.
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I don't know if these chameleon things can be cultivated intentionally. But I'm trying my hardest on this one.

Monday, February 05, 2007

In Sickness and In Health


On Saturday afternoon, Joe and I attended the center city wedding of our friends' daughter. It was a lovely wedding, practically perfect. We watched as Jaime and Dennis promised to love each other under all circumstances, and we listened to the homily where part of the emphasis was on their having become one, rather than two, in the eyes of God.
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I imagine I wasn't the only person present who thought back to my own wedding day -- just a few months short of forty years ago -- and having made those same promises. I was and am thankful that there have been far more times of health than sickness, of comfortable rather than poor, and so many more times of better than worse. I wished the same for Dennis and Jaime.
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On Sunday afternoon I left church as a eucharistic minister to take Communion to one of our members who has been very sick for a long time. Her name has been in the Sunday prayers for as long as most of us can remember. When I got to her home, I learned that she had had a bad night and was sleeping -- not up to a visit or Communion.
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I spent the better part of an hour with her husband, mostly just listening. It was a painful visit for me as the stark and lengthy reality of his life came to light. Not only have the years of medical care taken a tremendous financial toll, but for many months now he has needed to get up several times at night to attend to his wife. It seems that all of his waking hours that he is not at work are spent at home, providing increasingly more care for his partner who will never get better. I thought of his promise to stand by his wife in sickness and in health and knew that their time together has been far more full of the former than the latter. Some pastor at some time pronounced this couple to be one in the sight of God, and this man has been faithfully by her side through circumstances that have been extraordinarily painful and long.
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I was struck by the need to pray not just for the sick, but for those who care for them. And also that these be prayers of the kind Jeannie spoke of many, many years ago when she said, "You shouldn't pray for things without being willing to be part of the answer if that is what God wants."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ministry

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that our pastor of 31 years has left our church to accept a call to another community. This has been quite a shock to our congregation, but we are rising to the occasion. It is encouraging to see new initiatives springing up, even without a spiritual leader. We're about halfway through what I'm calling The Gap -- the period between the previous pastor's departure and the arrival of the interim pastor who will be with us for at least a year and helping us to prepare for the calling of a new pastor. All in all it is a very interesting time.
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As a seminary graduate with experience in hospital chaplaincy, I offered to handle pastoral care needs until the Interim Pastor comes on board. There have not been a lot of requests, and I've been glad to respond to the ones I've received. I have a dozen or more trained Stephen Ministers available to help, as well.
. . . .
Yesterday I went to visit Laura, a lovely woman in her mid-forties who has been battling breast cancer for about fifteen years. That battle is nearing its end, though all who know Laura are in agreement that even with her death, it is Laura who wins the battle and not the cancer. She has made this disease work very hard to claim her. At home on hospice care, she has weeks rather than months to live. A number of weeks have passed since I last saw Laura. I had heard that she was very, very sick, so didn't know exactly what to expect from our visit.
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I'd left home without my gloves so my hands were cold. I'm a kind of "hands-on" caregiver, but I surely didn't want to touch my patient with these icy paws. When I pulled up in front of the house, I tried to warm them from the heat vent in the car, but that wasn't effective. So I stuffed them in my pockets as I waited for the door to open.
. . . .
Laura's room wasn't brightly lit -- I wondered if the light bothers her eyes -- but there were a couple of pretty candles and an immense, lush "Morris" type of cat lounging on the foot of the bed. The "Tree of Life" quilt that Kathleen made for Laura hangs above the bed. It is a very inviting space. Laura smiled and reached right away for my hand. I apologized for how cold it was, and her smile became more broad. She has the use of just one of her own hands now and she used it to rub and massage the cold out of mine. It felt just lovely. "You feel so good to me," I told her and the smile grew even more. I noticed that her nails had been groomed and polished beautifully and it made me remember when my mother, in the last week of her life, had received a home manicure as a birthday gift from the woman who cared for her. "Now, do the thumb, please," I asked and Laura's hand moved there to continue its work.
. . . .
We visited for about a half hour. We didn't have a lot of real conversation -- Laura has lost many of her language skills and much of her vocabulary at this point, and she would close her eyes and drift in and out of sleep. We prayed together and I promised to return on Sunday to bring her Communion. It was a short and pleasant visit, and what made it particularly meaningful is the role reversal: I was the designated caregiver, but even in her diminished condition, the visit began with Laura's ministering to me.