Sunday, August 30, 2020

Stirring The Waters

 John 5:1-9 describes a pool close to the Sheep Gate called Bethesda where people who were sick lay around the water, waiting for it to move. Occasionally an angel from the Lord went down into the pool and stirred the water. The first sick person to go into the pool after the water was stirred received healing from whatever disease he or she had. On Jesus' visit to Jerusalem for a religious festival, he went to the pool and talked with those gathered.

These verses are in my heart every time I swim. I usually swim laps five days a week, sometimes six. Before I begin, I take a few moments to sit on the edge of the pool, reaching in to swirl the water with my hands. I ask God to bless my swimming in whatever way God thinks I need. I thank God for the ability to move my limbs so I can exercise regularly.

Swimming is a metaphor for the way God holds me. The water supports me as I go from one side to the other multiple times. I receive comfort as the water glides over me with each movement I make. God is in the water for sure. I am never the same person when I finish my laps as when I began. God works through each stroke and kick, giving me what I need. 

I also feel containment from the lane dividers and the circumference of the pool. Containment helps me feel secure and surrounded especially when I arrive with strong emotions needing boundaries.

I recently wrote the following prayer when I returned home from one of my swims.

"God in the water,

You give me what I need with each stroke and kick.

I breathe you in and give the water whatever I want.

You receive my words, you hold me.

You cleanse my soul and body with each lap.

God in the water, I worship you,

I praise your kindness and love. Amen." 

A Question for Reflection: What passages of scripture do you see each day? How do your favorite verses come alive in every day life?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Profanity in the Starbucks Drive-Through

 Profanity in the Starbucks drive-through?  Here's what happened.

After swimming laps, I am always thirsty. Last Saturday, I got out  of the pool, grabbed my towel, gym bag and headed for the car. My water bottle was in the front seat. I anticipated a refreshing, chilled drink - or so I thought.

The car was hot when I opened the door. Standing outside, I reached across the driver's seat for the red container, but when I picked it up, I could tell it was empty. Opening the lid, my suspicion was confirmed, no chilled water.

The Starbucks down the street from the YMCA is one of my favorites.  I quickly reached the drive-through noting the long line of cars. I didn't mind - I was thirsty.

After a few minutes, I ordered an iced tea. I could only move a few inches because of the cars ahead. Suddenly, I heard a loud, angry voice in the car behind me.     "Would  you get the f______ out of the way so I can order!!"

Startled by this woman's outburst, I crept forward as much as I could, but unfortunately not enough for her to get close to the speaker.. While I waited, she continued to shout. She appeared to be in an argument with someone on her phone.

Eventually, the other cars approached the window allowing me to round the corner. I could hear her place an order. Sadly, her loud and angry yelling continued to fill the air.

When the barista greeted me, I handed her a twenty dollar bill, explaining I wanted to pay for the person behind me. I didn't know what was causing her anger and discomfort, but I hoped when she reached the window and was told her bill was paid, she felt a moment of love and care.

Driving away, I prayed the woman, would soon experience a calm and peaceful heart.

I often ask God to put people in my way who need a word of encouragement or love. My prayer was answered last Saturday.

Prayer: God, thank you for putting me in the right place last Saturday so I could extend your love to the woman behind me. I pray you will always keep me alert and responsive to those I encounter. Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Big Ten Bus

 I was a commuter student during my years at The Ohio State University. I longed to live on campus.  I wanted the dorm experience, making new friends, having easy access to classes and getting involved in student life. I got to school by riding the city bus, forty minutes one way.  Occasionally, my father would take me on his way to work.

Riding the bus was always an adventure. The buses were not air conditioned in the mid-sixties. Summer travel was often miserable because of the heat. 

Eventually, I grew to cherish my time on the bus. I saw different kinds of people. The bus went through impoverished areas of Columbus unfamiliar to me. Even though I never spoke to anyone, I developed a silent kinship with fellow riders. Looking at the structure of  buildings and store fronts opened my mind to wonder and reflection. 

"What would it be like to live in the inner city?" "Would I have freedom to roam the streets and visit neighborhood stores with friends or by myself?" 

I wondered if I could find a family to adopt me so I could see what life was like in another part of town. Living within walking distance to friends and stores was appealing. 

Eventually I did get to be in the area where the bus gathered most of its occupants when I chose to student teach for a quarter in a school filled with poverty. I loved the children and we had the best time working together.

I recently wrote a poem, "The Big Ten Bus" based on those many miles I rode in the city transit system. I was grateful for safe transportation to multiple lectures, labs, and tests.

                       The Big Ten Bus

I deemed my life deprived

Having to ride the city bus

To college each day, class of 1970,

Forty- minutes one way

Twice the time it would take by car.

Accordian doors opened.

I grabbed the side bar

Lunged up three large steps,

Walked the narrow aisle between seats.

The bus in gear,

Standing, I jerked off balance

Getting to my seat. 

Quarters and dimes

Clinked through the zig zag metal maze

To the bottom of the glass coin deposit.

Sweat on my forehead

Heavy smell of diesel fuel

Waved through the open windows.

Patched, ragged shirts and jackets

Frayed hems of men's pants,

Large bags slung over shoulders

Bulging with groceries,

Books or an occasional

Newspaper sticking out the top.

No others dress for school

Just me with the aching heart,

And the stack of textbooks

Resting on my lap.

Fellow travelers,

Sat like chewing gum stuck to the plastic seats.

No conversation, not even about the weather.

Only my thoughts like whispers echoing in an empty church.

High Street approached,

I tugged the string above my head,

To ring the bell.

Tires slowed.

The door opened.

Down the three large steps,

I balanced my books

Anchoring myself for the day

At the Big Ten school.

Center of campus,

The oval, crisscrossed paths leading to 

Old brick buildings

Wooden desks

Space for me to learn and grow.

Heels on hardwood

Announce the arrival

Behind the lecturn,

A woman

In a navy blue suit

Ruffled white blouse

A vision of what I could become.

Back on the bus

A container of safety

And hope

Carrying me to and from class

Carrying me to freedom. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

How to Get Hugs During the Pandemic

                 Every Friday since June, the church I attend prepares a meal for families experiencing food insufficiency. Volunteers arrive at the church in late afternoon to deliver dinner. I take a meal to a family whose husband recently died of cancer. 

I look forward to visiting with the wife each week. Seeing her helps me stay connected, especially since we can visit outside, masked and six feet apart. She is one of the few people I care about who I can see in person, not on zoom or face-time.

Last Friday, I copied a prayer I thought she might enjoy written by an author we mutually appreciate. When I gave my friend the paper, she took a minute to read the prayer and exclaimed, "This is my hug for today!"

I smiled and was grateful to provide something to help with her grief - a prayer and a hug via paper!

Driving home, her words clung to my heart - "this is my hug for today." I realized maybe we need to think of new ways to hug, different from the traditional arms embracing each other.

The next day, I went to get the mail and found a letter from a long-time friend who lives in Florida. We have known each other for thirty years and keep in touch only by letter. I also received a package from my younger daughter's mother-in-law who lives in California. She knows how much I like the beach. She sent a beautiful card with a stunning photograph of a rock formation on the cover and six heart-shaped rocks from the ocean. She explained in the card, "Whenever I come across a heart-shaped rock on the beach I know I've found a treasure!"

After I opened both of these pieces of mail, I decided I had already received two hugs for the day!

Changing my focus helped me receive texts from my children as hugs. When I led a monthly Saturday morning group at the church I attend, outside, masked and six feet apart, I gathered four more hugs.

Maybe during this time when we are so mindful of spreading the virus, we can think of other ways to receive hugs and realize throughout the day, we are getting more hugs than ever!

When I swim, I have a hug from the water, when I watch the birds, squirrels and rabbits eat food I put out for them in the front yard, I receive a hug from nature, and when I read an interesting book, I am embraced by the author's words, thoughts and information.

Everyone is learning to do things differently these days - getting groceries delivered or picked up at the store, shopping online, so maybe if we change our idea of what a hug can look like, like my friend suggests, we will make seemingly common occurrences hugs and feel additional love during times greatly welcoming both.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Art Center ......... And More

I enjoy the two hour "Make and Take It" offered by the Indianapolis Art Center. I have learned printmaking, silk screening and studied famous artists during these programs.

For Christmas last year, I asked to take two classes, one in early March and the other in late April. I attended the March 4, class on silk screening, but the April class was canceled because of the covid virus.

When I arrived in the printmaking studio, I watched women enter in groups of two, find a seat at the table and wait for the teacher. "Everyone is here with a friend except me," I moaned, always sensitive to pairings in social settings.  Finally, the last person enrolled, walked in by herself.

The instructor described the process of silk screening. She suggested we form groups of two and get an apron from the rack hanging along one of the classroom walls.

"You won't have to worry about ink on your clothes with these sturdy aprons," she commented.

The person who came by herself, walked by my stool, and asked, "Would you like an apron?"

Startled, I replied, "Yes, thank you." She walked over and returned with two aprons made of canvas splattered with the paint of many previous projects. I took a picture of my apron and wished I knew the stories of people who wore it and what they made. I realized I was going to add another layer of paint and another story, with the screening I planned to do.

"Would you like to work together?" I asked.

"Sure, my name is Heidi," she replied. "I'm Jacquie" and off we went to get two sack cloth towels and claim a station with a pad and roller.

Heidi was quiet. I was old enough to be her mother, but we easily got into a steady rhythm of applying paint to the pad, then layering the cloth, finally moving the roller to make the imprint.

Heidi and I chose the same color ink, medium green and dark blue and the same sayings for our towels, "Lettuce Give Thanks" underneath a picture of a large head of lettuce, and "Be Grateful" on a picture of a hand-held grater.

We worked together all evening talking, and screening our towels.

We were almost finished, when Heidi said, "I feel calm next to you."

I wasn't expecting such a deep thought and replied, "I am glad you do."

We finished our work and continued talking long after the other participants left. I discovered she was a counselor at the school where my oldest daughter used to teach.  Walking out of the art center to our cars, we said good-bye, with a hope to see each other again in another class.

I admired her honesty and wondered if there was a reason for her comment. I was thankful to provide a calm presence for two hours and pray she carried my energy home.

We never know how our manner will come across to a stranger.

Lord in your mercy, thank you for helping me be a calming presence to Heidi.