English Majors Go To Radio To Play

May 31, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was listening to Garrison Keeler Saturday evening as she got ready for the family dinner. He is quite famous here in the midwest for his love of Lake Woebegone and the loving way he pokes fun at Lutherans. He did a portion of of his program where he listed a huge list of complicated words like “exhaustion,” and then the sound man would make a sound like the word. He must have listed at least 15 words, the majority of which I knew but would have been challenged to match with a sound. As a member of the “listening audience” I was thoroughly entertained. Then he said in his rambly sort of way, some comment that ended with something like , “radio, that’s where English majors go to play!” Aplause, aplause, aplause!!!

Sr. Wantabee reflected on the cleverness of the statement. People who love language and putting it together, can “play” with language on radio. Great. She wondered, where do theologians go to “play?” Where do we go to let down our hair, laugh at ourselves, and just have fun? She did not like the feeling of being so serious. Certainly she had heard jokes about God laughing…after all he made me! or the beloved picture of Christ holding the children and refusing the disciples seriousness. Surely he must have been a fun person for people do just follow seriousness, dry boring sermons, rules, rules, rules. No, theologians must play and have fun, but where?


May 29, 2010

This morning Sr. Wantabee started the second book in the Sackett series by Louis LaMour. Barnabas Sackett, the originator of the family line, is preparing to flee England for the New World. He is reflecting on what he needs to take with him besides the trinkets he will sell and bargain with. He decides that he must take books so that his children, should he have them, will know their “traditions” because without traditions, a person is rootless and looses a sense of civilization. The little aside on the value of literature is perhaps the author speaking about his trade through the mouth of his character. Great fun! But it also made Sr. Wantabee reflect on her favorite movie, Fiddler on the Roof, where the movie opens with a similar aside. How does man stay balanced on the roof of life, playing his fiddle? ponders Tevya. Tradition. Traditions tell us who we are and what God expects of us. An amazing one-liner.

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, remembering those who have gone before us, who have laid their lives on the line that we might live in freedom. Truly memories and traditions go together. We will barbeque and tonight we will eat beans and chapatis to honor our African roots. We will remember who we are, pray we understand more of what God expects of us, and hopefully will have time for literature to enrich our lives.


May 27, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was at the hospital again today visiting and found another person with her name! Her tale quickly unfolded that this was the fourth operation this year, one on her back and three on her ankle. Her father had died in the time also after a marriage of 65 years and her husband, actually her second one, has two forms of stage four cancer and is expected to pass within three or four months after her return home. Tragedy upon tragedy this last year. Now there would be no more anniversaries, no more birthday parties, no more celebrations for those loved ones that demand the family gather. How would she be able to handle the loneliness with just her two dogs? Yes she had survived divorce but her kids were young and kept her moving. Now they were grown and out of the house, but did visit and her mother also was a faithful listener but that was not comfort in the grief and anticipated loss. Grief overload!! Sr. Wantabee reflected that it is small comfort to know one has survived a similar event before. Knowing the other will be out of pain is a comfort of sorts. But still the question of how life will again become meaningful and warm hangs in the air and the need for a hug remains. As she prayed her mind returned to the cross and the cry of anguish of a God facing death and separation. Christ did not cry out for joy at the reward set before him and deny the agony he was going through. He too cried out in anguish in the face of death, it’s grief, and potential separation. Our God understands and does not pretend it is easy.


May 25, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was at the hospital today and had the opportunity to say farewell to her namesake who had been there for 14 days. One operation led to another but she had recovered and was waiting to be released – mostly healed. She shared that more family was coming tomorrow. Oh, to rejoice that Mom is alive, quipped Sr. Wantabee.

No, on the 30th we will celebrate the birthday of my daughter who died five years ago. The patient had been told after her first child, she would never be able to have children again so she had taken no precautions. 18 years later her husband commented that she was eating enough for two. She better get checked out. Indeed, she was three months pregnant. The daughter was born and named Baraka, the blessing. At age eight the girl informed her mother she knew she would never live to see age 21. At 19 she broke up with her boyfriend and he “accidently” shot her through the head. The mother reflected on her grief and on her own inability to listen to her daughter or see what a blessing she had been to others – they shared at the funeral. An aunt reflected that the girl had been the factor that kept the family together as in their later years they gathered to rejoice in her life events. The girl had lived up to her name. She was a blessing and people will travel this weekend to rejoice for her life.

“Baraka,” blessing. We have a president with the same name. May he live up to his name also!

The Silmarillian

May 22, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has started a new habit. She spends a fair amount of time in her car transporting kids, going back and forth town for chaplaincy and ESL teaching, and so she thought she would get a book on tape from the library. It was so much fun listening to several Nicolas Sparks books that she branched out and just finished 12 cassettes that record J.R.R. Tokien’s, “The Simarillion.”

She read The Silmarillion in her twenties. It gives the historic background to The Lord of the Rings trilogy but Tolkien also creates a fictional explanation of what falls between the cracks in Genesis. How is it that the “sons of God married the daughters of men?” Where did the tall people come from? And it is an exercise to read because it is like a hint of old English. But it was fascinating to listen to a pro reading it now, even if she could not remember all the names.

Tolkien creates from the high God, Iluvatar, spirits, elves, dwarfs, humans and they all interact on Middle Earth battling with the arch fallen spirit and his forces. In the next to the last chapter, there is a conversation that Sr. Wantabee found fascinating in its truth as there is a discussion on the nature of life and death.

“Whereas you and your people are not of the Firstborn, but are mortal Men as Iluvatar made you. Yet it seems that you desire now to have the good of both kindreds, to sail to Valinor when you will, and to return when you please to your homes. That cannot be. Nor can the Valar take away the gifts of Illuvatar. The Eldar, you say, are unpunished, and even those who rebelled do not die. yet that is to them neither reward nor punishment, but the fulfilment of their being. They cannot escape and are bound to the world, never to leave it so long as it lasts, for its life is theirs. And you are punished for the rebellion of Men, you say, in which you had small part, and so it is that you die. But that was not at first appointed for a punishment. Thus you escape, and leave the world, and are not bound to it, in hope or in weariness. Which of us should envy the other?’
And the Numenoreans answered: ‘Why should we not envy the Valar, or even the least of the Deathless? For of us is required a blind trust, and a hope without assurance, knowing not what lies before us in a little while. And yet we also love the Earth and would not loose it.’
Then the Messengers said: ‘Indeed the mind of Iluvatar concerning you is not known to the Valar, and he has not revealed all things that are to come. but this we hold to be true, that your home is not here… And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Iluvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield, until life was reft from them.” etc. (p. 265)

How true!

Post Script

May 20, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was at the hospital today. A patient was about to enter a gruelling ten hour surgery to have his whole back realigned – or it sounded that way to her. The surgery was to be in 45 minutes so she thought she’d drop by and offer a prayer.

Much of the family was gathered, spouse, daughter, parents, sister-in-law, and the patient was teary. The spouse offered to read Psalm 23. Sr. Wantabee immediately flashed on finishing her last talk with the old folks with Psalm 23. In a brief two minute recap of her talk at the Homes she shared of how she had been blessed to realize that Sunday, Pentecost, is not so much about speaking in tongues or about a correct understanding of the Trinity but about the fulfillment of a promise by a faithful God who is always with us, even when we go through surgery. He doesn’t wait at the door or watch from the sky but is there with the patient and guiding the surgeon’s hands.

We prayed and she left a patient smiling, speaking more confidently, and with a verse to focus on during the surgery.

Sr. Wantabee wondered as she left at how she had been blessed preparing the talk, blessed delivering the talk, and tripply blessed today being able to comfort a person headed to surgery. WOW!

The Mirror

May 18, 2010

Sr. Wantabee met with her faithful leader at the hospital today and reflected on one of the patients she had seen recently. He was 69, “one of us,” an army vet, though had only been in for three years helping to build the Berlin Wall. He came home to start his own company, married, had two children, ended the marriage of twenty one years, twenty five years ago, but not remarried as that “was against the rules of his church.” Instead he had turned to alchohol and now struggled with balance problems and had been found at home all confused, sitting in a mess. They got him to the hospital for observation and he was pulling himself together. Chatting with Sr. Wantabee, an agemate, was fun for us both. He was enjoying advising the nurses about their dating life and the intricacies of the male mind but greatly missing his beloved cat of 18 years who curled up on his chest and loved him and his beloved dog of 12 years. He was “OK!!!” and did not need to be committed for observation. The problem was only he was of that opinion.

Sr. Wantabee left the room deeply touched. The struggle for self dignity in the face of aging and a failing body and a failing social life was so real. At the same time she felt the love of the family for a father who was confused and by whom they wanted to do right and protect. Likewise the nurses who saw the irregularities of gail, the failing body, were trying to do their best to help the patient.

He did not talk of the alchohol or of being found incontinent. He shared of his struggle for dignity, the love for his animals, and the conviction that he was not ready for assisted living. Sr. Wantabee remembered a similar struggle with aging parents and her own drive to maintain dignity as long as possible.

She left in tears. He was a mirror to the struggles of life that plague us all.


May 17, 2010

Sr. Wantabee met with her little ole people this morning and did the dry run of her Wednesday talk on promises. They all nodded at the childhood chant of “cross my heart and hope to die” but allowed that they had never “stuck a needle in my eye.” They were not so sure about becoming a blood brother with anyone. But we all hung our heads knowing we were not so good at keeping promises and we were prone to wander and needed a guide to keep us on the “path of life.” She shared that this weekend her daughter came home from babysitting totally irrate. The person had come home drunk with “friend” and could not even write the check. The next day there was a call asking for forgiveness for the “slip from the path,” “the mistake.”

This week we celebrate on Wednesday, the Ascension or return of Christ to heaven, and then Sunday we do Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Rather than argue about speaking in tongues or the nature of the Trinity, the focus for the Sunday is on the fulfillment of God’s promise given in Ezekiel and Joel that His Spirit was going to come and stay with people and Christ’s promise in the Upper Room that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, was coming. The promise of the Spirit living within us is a promise to never be forsaken, never to be lonely, never to have God lie to us, and always to be guided, even onto death.

The little ole people always like to say Psalm 23, they remember it. “Ye tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou are with me…” Indeed, the Holy Spirit is right there inside us, keeping us company during that scary hour, guiding us, and comforting us.

I’m glad God keeps His promises!


May 12, 2010

Next Wednesday Sr. Wantabee is going to speak at chapel at the Homes, for the little old people, trapped by wheel chairs. Sigh. It will be the Wednesday before Pentecost and so she thought she would do a lead in to Sunday’s service. Pentecost celebrates the coming of the “promised” Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2, but actually promised back in Ezekiel and Joel and in John by Jesus after the Last Supper. Promises bring a taste of bitter joy to Sr. Wantabee’s mouth as she thought about all the broken promises. But the church celebrates Pentecost as the fulfillment of a promise. That conveniently sidesteps the need to explain the Trinity which probably is of no interest to the elderly whereas the assistance and continual presence of the Holy Spirit probably is a great comfort — perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit is called “The Comforter.” But going back to “promises,” how are the promises of God different from the promises made by people?

Sr. Wantabee thought back to young childhood and how we used to chant, “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” We were swearing by our heart and our eyes that what we said was true. How many of us lied knowing we would never be required to “stick a needle in our eye?” Then there was the heroic cut of the finger and exchange of blood with an equally heroic friend that symbolized that we would be friends forever. What was that friend’s name? Hmmmm. Life moved on.

Sr. Wantabee thought of her trip to the States, driving from Los Angeles to New York and how her 10th grade son stuck a tape in the car deck as they drove out of LA and into the desert, “I Swear” by the moon and the stars in the sky….I’ll be there. That was the song for his girlfriend. Perhaps if eyes and blood were not constant enough to remind us of a promise, the stars in the sky would be. Did he marry her, you ask. No. Then she remembered the beloved Christmas movie, “What a Wonderful Life” where the uncle wrapped a string around his finger to remind him of…what??? and the money was lost, and a wonderful angel got his wings. Darling.

No, human promises fail because humans are human. We usually mean what we say but most often our humanness gets in the way. We move. We go to the next stage. We forget. Life changes. Human promises are pretty flakey.

As we move to adulthood, we develop more stable ways of ensuring truth. We give rings at weddings. Rings are made of gold, a precious metal, and are round, symbolizing eternity. We swear on Bibles in courtrooms. We place our hand on our heart for the pledge of allegiance to the flag. All are attempts to create credibility ad commitment. How do Godly promises differ? Tomorrow we will ponder that.

Two Rights Can’t Make a Wrong

May 11, 2010

Sr. Wantabee dragged herself through the rain and 45 degree weather to swim this morning. She chatted with the lady a couple lockers down — about the weather, of course, in MN! The other lady parked her shoes, reached for her locker and commented. “We do need rain!” That always seems like such a funny statement to Sr. Wantabee who spent years on the desertifying edges of N. Kenya, that DO need rain, whereas the green grass and lush trees here in Minnesota are not such worthy recipients to her untrained eyes. Sr. Wantabee countered, “And I do need exercise!” She thought and quipped, “Two rights can’t make a wrong,” modifying the old adage, two wrongs don’t make a right. The earth needs water and she needs exercise so all is ok in the universe as she started to do her laps.

Two positives make a positive in math, thought she. But do two positives necessitate a positive in social life. Her mind wandered through her years. As a 3rd grader living in Iowa, the rains had brought flooding and the neighbor who lived behind her had a flooded basement and they were rescuing their goods and taking them upstairs. Sr. Wantabee parked her first grade sister on the steps and told her not to move. She was too young and too short. Right. Sr. Wantabee herself spent the morning helping the neighbors rescue their goods in what seemed like a nice swimming pool. A good deed. Right? She arrived home with her sister in tow and discovered to her dismay that it was 2 pm and she had missed lunch, terribly upsetting her mother. “Wait until your father gets home!” Two rights produced a wrong.

She thought of her missionary dating in her early 20s. Certainly the wonderfulness of herself would result in a fun date and a person influenced for Christ. Two rights. Wrong. The dates were ackward and no lasting friendships developed.

People should be free to pick their government. That’s democracy. Right? Fair elections. Right. The corrupt politician with more money wins and people are killed as in the elections in Kenya. Two rights produced a wrong – bloodshed.

Perhaps two positives make a positive in math but in life, it is much trickier and much less predictable. Perhaps in the greater scheme of things it will work out but Sr. Wantabee was not so sure. She continued swimming, humbled.