Windshield or Rearview Mirror

April 28, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was at the retirement center today and had long chats with two 88 year old residents. They had been doing life review and wondering why they were were alive. What’s the point? Their family had died. Their friends had died. Their minds were healthy but their bodies were weak and they were of no use to anyone. Why live? But death is not so easy an option either.

Sr. Wantabee thought of the audio book she had listened to over the past five days. It was the story of the Guardian by Nicolas Sparks. A young, age 29, widow returns to the world of dating only to be torn between the the handsome debonair man who turns out to be a stalker and the homegrown mechanic with whom she is so comfortable and enjoys life. At one point in the story she is driving down the road reflecting on the people in her life and remembers how she had decided that people were of two sorts. There are the “windshield” people and there are the “rear view mirror” people. The windshield people look ahead to see what’s coming and are excited about it while the rear view mirror people look back to see what’s behind and what’s chasing them. Sr. Wantabee heard this and laughed. She remembered teaching her second son to drive in Chicago. At one point, in his excitement of driving, he verbally reflects, “I don’t know if I’m trying to stay ahead of the guys behind me or catch up with the guys ahead of me, Mom!” How very true. Are we looking ahead or are we afraid of what is catching up with us from behind? Is the knowledge that we are a valuable child of God and that He is strong enough and capable enough to lead and guide our lives and speak to us if we are going the wrong direction enough motivation to keep us going when our friends have left the road and we are feeling alone and forgotten by society? What keeps us focused on the windshield?

Sr. Wantabee thought of her prayer that she has been working on this month from the book of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


April 19, 2010

Sr. Wantabee got to give devotions on the memory care unit this morning. The Bible text for Sunday was John 21 where the disciples return to fishing after the resurrection and yet again catch nothing after fishing all night. Jesus yells from the shore to toss the nets to the other side and in swim 153 “big fish.” That is a genuine Minnesota story as we love fishing up here and the men were deeply engaged.

One of the disciples realizes that this has happened before and says, it must be Jesus. Ever eager Peter jumps in the water in his underwear (chuckle, chuckle) and swims to shore where Jesus is fixing him a breakfast of fish over the fire. Our mouths watered at the thought. Sr. Wantabee wished she would have thought to have the little ole people sing a breakfast prayer!

Breakfast comes from “break” the “fast” of not having eaten since six p.m. the night before. She had just learned from the teacher from the Univ. of MN that breakfast is the most important meal cause it starts the day right and provides energy to work and fight disearse. A good breakfast helps prevent diabetes and fatness! Ooops, Sr. Wantabee has diabetes and is fat and eats breakfast every morning. All laughed. But it is very true that when we are tired and hungry we get grumpy and out of sorts. We need food. Jesus fed the poor disciples fed who had worked all night and who were probably discouraged from the appearing and disappearing he was doing.

But Jesus did not just feed their bodies, he knew that Peter was carrying a load of guilt for denying Jesus and so he fed his soul. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus, reminding Peter of the three times he denied Christ, but rather than reprimand him, he told Peter to “feed his sheep.”

Sr. Wantabee reflected that when she fasts from reading the Word, she gets more tired and grumpy and guilty and when she breaks the fast, energy and joy always returns. He is always waiting with a fish fry. What a fun thought.

“I didn’t know the gun was loaded!”

April 17, 2010

Yesterday Sr. Wantabee stood waited with others for her turn at the window to apply for a passport. Her adopted son age 15 was with her. Finally it was their turn.

She asked him if he had his state ID with him. “No, it’s home in the pocket of my other pair of pants.” What said she, how can you come to a government office without official identification? The lady behind the desk asked her for proof of adoption. A call was placed to the husband waiting at the bus stop for her daughter to arrive and then they would join Sr. Wantabee. Bring the adoption papers. Next question, what is the social security number? Another phone call to the husband to bring the social security numbers or call them to us. Had we brought passport photos or were we going to take them in the office? Step to the camera room. As Sr. Wantabee’s picture rolled from the camera, she could see that it would be obvious to all for the next ten years that the lady had not said, “one, two, three, smile,” and that Sr. Wantabee had been swimming that morning and her hair was flying all different directions.

She thought. Her son who had never been to a government office forgot his ID but he had no way of knowing. She, on the other hand, had gone for a passport many times and should of known. Who had the right to be peeved with whom?


April 17, 2010

Last night Sr. Wantabee was watching “Black Hawk Down” with her husband and just as the pilot of the second Black Hawk was taken prisoner, her daughter called to be picked up from her babysitting job. As she drove to get her daughter, Sr. Wantabee remembered the Friday a week ago.

A week ago Friday, Sr. Wantabee was at a retreat with the Deaconesses. Friday morning they had opened their session with a Lectio Devina reading of Ephesians 4:1-6. Listening to the passage read through several times prayerfully, she listened attentively for what impressed her. The first words, “I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord,…” grabbed her heart and tears started flowing, uncalled for. She was not upset. She was not anxious. She was not afraid. She was crying. What was going on? The second time through the passage, she could picture herself standing in a prison cell, looking through the bars. The third time through the passage, the vision continued and the jailer walked in and with down cast eyes she could see his nail pierced hands open the jail door and invite her out. To do what, she asked. What change did this vision imply, she pondered.

She, a prison of Christ, her Lord, and this pilot, a prison of the soldiers of warlord Eidid. What a differences, she thought as she drove. She did not experience fear but was being invited to life. The pilot was prepared to die and fingering the picture of his wife and child, showing grief at the thought of leaving them. Was she a trophy of war, a token of power, even as Eidid’s men had stepped in to claim this one man after killing others? Was she isolated from her companions as the pilot was? No. And yet there is a similar release of freedom and recognition of the authority of the person in charge.

Somehow the acknowledgment of the reality of the situation, freed the pilot to focus on important issues, his family and his life. Sr. Wantabee too was called to answer for the dynamics of her life as she stood before the jailor. All she could do was respond, “I’m yours, Lord. Do with me as you see fit.”

Noise, Another Frontier

April 15, 2010

Sr. Wantabee came home this evening to a letter from the City that her dog barked and disturbed a neighbor. Last year her beautiful husky/malmut dog slipped out the gate which sprang back when Sr. Wantabee brought in the groceries and had a night running in the nearby cemetary. A neighbor down the block saw it and reported it. The dog never hurt anyone but it was guilty of being on the city’s grass. Sr. Wantabee was guilty of negligence. The dog had to be put down or Sr. Wantabee had to agreed to lock it in a box, hide it from people, and muzzle the beast. The dog was nine years old so the freedom of death was given it. She believes it is roaming free and happy in the next life. Last month her son asked her to babysit his great dane/boxer mix with the assurance that it never barked. The beast has been a wonderful comfort but, sigh, it does bark and now has been reported. It has offended the ears of a neighbor. Noise.

Sr. Wantabee remembered Robert Frost’s question, What is it that does not like a wall? and thought, what is that is offended by the bark of a dog, a dog doing what dogs do. In an inner city neighbor hood with thieves and shootings, the presence of a large dog that woofs, enunciating the “f” rather than yap, yap, yaps, seems to be a comforting sound to Sr. Wantabee. But to someone else it is offensive. How does one make a dog not bark? Lock it in a basement? Is that humane?

We live in a funny world where do not want dogs to bark but to protect us. We want lights to shine at night to make us think it is daytime and then expect to not be tired. We want good food to be available quickly and for only a dollar. We want our straight hair curly and our curly hair straight or we want no hair where the good Lord put it. We travel faster than sound. Maybe like our airplanes, we are getting ahead of ourselves and will meet ourselves coming. In the meantime, Sr. Wantabee will be puzzling on how to make a dog not bark, how to conquer the noise frontier.

“Space, the Final Frontier”

April 14, 2010

Perhaps some of you like Sr. Wantabee grew up, can we say survived, high school watching Captain Kirk and his side kick Dr. Spock on the spaceship Enterprise, “going where no man has ever gone before.” All sorts of lifeforms were found on other planets in distant galaxies, lives based on nitrogen, lives based on…. There was always some terrible cross cultural communication problem but our heroes lived to explore again. The newer versions of the old favorite have dealt with racism and political powers differently but always, the adventure.

This weekend Sr. Wantabee went to downtown Chicago, about a mile from Lake Michigan to a retreat center. Wanting to “feel the adventure” she rode the underground with her sidekick, walked to the lake with the masses of people, got coffee at a little alcove, and retreated with a group of sisters. She marveled at the mass of people, mostly younger than she, the mass of cars driving much more aggressively than she, and house built right on top of each other more closely than hers. It all felt rather strange, like being on a different planet.

Upon returning home and re-entering her own space she went through withdrawal or reverse culture shock. Then she remembered going to Uganda in 1998. It seemed so different from Kenya from whence she came. Was it the war ravaged buildings line with plastic tables with Coca Cola umbrellas and white plastic chairs? Was it the people using bicycles as taxis with passengers perched on the back? Was it the obvious Scandanavian influence seen on the building signs? It was not until she returned to Kenya and realized that for every Ugandan she saw, there was 100 or 1000 Kenyans – in buildings, on buses, in cars. Kenya was full of people and Uganda was ravaged by war and AIDS. THAT was the feeling returning home. For every person she saw on Monday, she had seen 100 in Chicago on Sunday. How the people in Chicago handle space is so different. There was no room for everyone to have a car or a yard. One beautiful white Victorian style house had a black iron gate around it with a hedge of flowers next to the porch, six inches of grass, a stone side walk, six inches of grass and the gate. Each space was maximized and personalized.

Sr. Wantabee pondered. How do people living in such busy, crowded spaces make spiritual space for their souls to grow? Perhaps “space” is the final frontier.

Yesterday vs. Yesteryear

April 6, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has been fighting a battle. For Easter she piled her family in her car and drove several states away to meet at her eldest son’s home with his family and the second son’s family who had driven an equal distant from a different directions. All united. Other siblings reported in on computer cameras and so the “clan” spanned the world and spanned three generations. Absolutely amazing.

Returning home, Sr. Wantabee raced along the highway but her mind raced back to yesteryear when she would pile five kids, born within six years of each other, into a landrover and head across the desert to grandmother’s house. No gas stations. No rest stops. No play yards. But also no seat belts. Babies nursed while the car jiggled along corrigated roads and paths. Who will see the next giraffe was a game. We sang and sang and sang over the clatter. Half way to destination we would pull out cots and cook over a fire, or bunk down on wall-to-wall mattresses on the floor in a friends house, or sleep three to a bed in a little hotel with a communal shower. On the other end were no lego blocks or toys, just grandma and her big garden, open spaces, and fireplace. In Africa traveling was part of her way of life. She missed it. Yesteryear.

Monday morning she reported to the Homes and her little old people, just as unique as always. As it was about lunch time, she noticed a new face. “I don’t know you,” said she. “I don’t know you,” said the woman with beautiful white curly hair. “I’m Sister Wantabee, chaplain on this floor,” she replied. “I’m Sussie and I don’t want to talk to you!” replied the lady rather bluntly and to the delight of the other residents snickering. The awkwardness was diluted by a woman who needed Sr. Wantabee’s chair to sit and so Sr. Wantabee shifted to the other side of the table and engaged in general gab. Where are you from? You married into Minnesota? How long? General chat. Suddenly the lady who did not want to talk said equally directly, “Being a widow is no fun!” All the little white heads bobbed up and down. Sister Wantabee knew this lady understood the war between yesteryear and yesterday that sometimes brings tears to today.

The Leap of Faith

April 3, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was not in her home church for the Good Friday service. Visiting different places with different perspectives always opens her thinking a bit wider. The church was darkened as expected. The focus was on the crucifixion as expected. The music was excellent. Tall candles flickered. Tastefully done art framed the front area. The homily focused on the cry of Christ from the cross found in Luke, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The pastor pointed out that Christ had always addressed God as “Father” and so addressing him as “God,” was a change of orientation. Perhaps this was the point where Christ most deeply felt the weight of our sins that separate us from God. Interesting. Christ’s inability to experience the face of God insured for us the certainty that God’s face will always be turned toward us! Sr. Wantabee struggled inside. Must the God of Justice swallow up the God of Love? Can they not co-exist? How can she put that together and deal with the horrible sense of guilt that her misbehavior, her sin, killed someone?

This morning the during her readings, she reflected again on last night. Christ looked around on a reality in which he could not find the face of God and gave up the spirit, leaped into death. The thought came that maybe those are not two unrelated events like I ate my toast and then I drank my coffee. Maybe the ability to step into death, not humanly sensing the presence of God, was the ultimate leap of faith in the presence of God, holding and supporting His life. He was right. The proof, the resurrection. The scene stands on the opposite end of the spectrum of Psalm 23, “yea tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, though art with me, they rod and they staff they comfort me” The Psalmist talks about the total awareness of God’s comforting presence even in the midst of death. Christ’s experience speaks to a world devoid of the a sense of God and stepping into death, in faith that God is there, and finding resurrection.

The patient on Tuesday who had struggled with a terminal disease for 19 years, lay with a body overwhelmed with infection, and made the decision with his family that the journey was over and he was ready to die. No heroic methods to prolong a terminal situation. And yet in death he struggled, fighting to breath, committed to dying, not yet able to “leap.” Perhaps Christ showed us that the “leap” is not about satisfying an angry God offended by our sin, but a leap of faith into the arms of a loving God who longs to be with us for eternity. It is a mystery for Sr. Wantabee, but this morning the mystery felt a bit warmer.