Sunday, July 29, 2012

A long good-bye

July 30, 2012

Dear friends,

Thank you for your prayers and concern. I am home for a few days to rest and to recoup. I plan to return to Kansas to be with my sister as soon as I can arrange to do so.

Lori, bless her, has agreed to keep my blog current, so you can check here for news. You will also be rewarded (I hope) with an occasional encouraging note from Lori. She writes her own blog, but I am trusting that she may at times share with you here some of her own thoughts as she in turn walks with me through this time of grief and loss.

Beth continues her long, slow good-bye.

In her lifetime my sister often found herself physically alone at times of crisis. As she is dying, her family has committed to being with her physically as best we can so that she need not feel alone at the end of her journey. My nephew quietly and lovingly spends hours sitting with her. Her daughter-in-law and grandchildren come. I am with her as much as I can be physically, and, when physically absent, with her by telephone, Skype, and by mail. The hospice staff is skillful and sensitive, and keeps watch with us.

We are richly rewarded. When she rouses out of that twilight world that she increasingly inhabits, she often will open her eyes for a moment and say with slow happy awareness, “I see you. You are here,” and then, with a smile, will slip away again into that gray world through which she continues to move away from us.

For the most part I am too tired and too sad to write sensibly. I trust you understand, and will tolerate patiently blogs with minimal content from my preoccupied head.

However, these weeks have strengthened (if that is possible) my long-held insistent belief that building relationships forms one of life’s most important tasks.

One evening I helped Beth with a drink of water. When she finished her labored swallowing, she turned her head so that for a moment her cheek rested against my hand.

“Good drink,” she said haltingly with great effort, then, smiling she drifted back to sleep.

Briefly, my eyes filled with uncontrollable tears. I was deeply aware that only the relationship we have built over the years had the power to make that moment a “good drink.”

Thinking with you this week about the way in which only the years of loving, sharing, resolving conflicts, and making music together make the pain of this long goodbye bearable.

See you next week.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

I am posting on Gay's behalf so that each of you will know that she had to leave for a family emergency in Kansas. She will not be posting today. She does anticipate a blog post the following Sunday. If circumstances do not permit, I will update for her.

I did not have instructions to do so; but, as a friend who has received countless hours of prayer and concern from Gay, I would ask that each of you pray for her as the Spirit of God would lead. I feel confident that she will be ever so grateful for your love and concern.

Go With God, Lori Clark

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What does together look like?

July 15, 2012

Dear friends,

In this blog I have proposed theoretically that good relationships are bi-directional with interaction marked by mutual participation and mutual benefits. Some of you may have wished that I would write more about practical experience and less about theory. However, you may wish you had been more careful about what you wished for when you learn what is about to happen.

This weekend it was my privilege to spend forty-eight uninterrupted hours with four women in the crowded  confines of my small condominium home. Among the five of us there are no biological connections. We do not share common work settings, common geographical communities, or common church affiliations or communities. We vary widely in age, education, and family backgrounds. We do, however, each have a deep personal commitment to daily practice of our individual understanding of the Christian faith. We share too a belief that as Christians we are called to life long learning and life long commitment to the common good of those around us.

For the next two or three blogs I am going to write about this weekend with these women, and the ways in which my experience compares and contrasts with the ideas about relationship that I’ve been exploring here.

I am not beginning this short series today for a reason you will likely anticipate: I am too tired. I would doubt seriously if there are many of you out there who would report intentional, focused, conscious group relationships as piece-of-cake-easy, no work at all, so I doubt that you will be surprised.

Yet, tired as I am, if you were to ask me if I were open to a weekend like this again, I would answer, “In a heart-beat.”

Somehow, I doubt that that surprises you either.

I hope you will be interested enough to check in again next week to catch the beginning of this short series.

Thinking with you this week about the mystery of relationships in the way in which, unmerited, they sometimes return seven—no—seventy-seven times over what we may have invested.

See you next week.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Higgs boson?

July 8, 2012

Dear friends,

On August 6, 1945, the front page report in newspapers everywhere described the bombing of Hiroshima, destruction that demonstrated with deadly clarity that the atom had indeed been split.  Thankfully, other less destructive consequences have followed this initial research. This week, July 4, 2012, the New York Times reported on its front page the discovery of a new subatomic particle that appears to be the Higgs boson.

I suspect that the initial response of many readers (including my own) was the question, "What in the world is the Higgs boson? And what is it doing on the front page of the Times?"

Dennis Overbye, a fine NYTimes science writer, described the Higgs boson as the particle predicted by the Standard Model (a theoretical paradigm) to imbue elementary particles with mass. He explained that physicists regard it as “. . . a key to understanding why there is diversity and life in the universe.”

This ‘atomic’ event is regarded as a historic milestone by physicists and was marked by celebration and champagne. News of the discovery has sparked excited speculation in the scientific community regarding potential new understanding of the nature of the universe that may flow from further research.

The sixty-seven years of my life-time that stretch between these two events incorporate major shifts in scientific explanations of the nature of our universe. Change forms an essential dimension of life, of course, one which often provides challenge. I am impressed by the context in which Overbye’s summary placed diversity as the positive consequence of interruption in the rhythms of life. He writes:

"The finding (i.e. of the Higgs bosom) affirms a grand view of a universe described by simple and elegant and symmetrical laws—but one in which everything interesting, like ourselves, results from flaws or breaks in that symmetry."
Thinking with you again this week about Cohen’s line in Anthem:

"There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in."
What would happen if in the difficult and broken times in relationships we shifted the energy focused on blame into passionate search for the new life that may emerge?

See you next week.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Handicapped by progress?

July 1, 2012

Dear friends,

This week a friend graciously gave me his expert assistance in order to do some much needed technological house-keeping. Our goals while he was here included: purchase a new mobile phone; purchase an i-Pad; purchase a recorder and install program that links recorder with my PC; clean up and upgrade my PC; set up a new e-mail address; locate and send a number of old manuscripts to safe storage in a cloud; identify and learn the basic skills necessary to function within this new structure and to utililize these new pieces of equipment.

All of this required me to function “left-handed,” so to speak. None of the thinking or language required for these tasks reflects my native tongue or my intuitive sense of reality. However, my friend is both an expert and a kind and skillful teacher. Had he not been both the week would have proven a disaster. But to my amazement (and his too, I suspect, if the truth were told—smiles!), we reached some minimum progress on each goal.

Friday afternoon my friend and his wife left to spend the week-end with family in a near-by town. The house seemed empty and quiet after they left. Miss Annie inspected each room carefully, then, satisfied that her world was still intact, settled for a nap on the couch. I wandered around a bit, somewhat at odds with myself and not clear why.

“It has been a productive, relationally rich week,” I lectured myself. “Now relax and rest a while.”

But after sitting for some restless minutes in my red chair, I realized that inwardly I was still journeying back from that world in which clouds do not describe atmosphere and bites represent not portions of food but measurement of space.

What makes significance in this information making world in which I have taken out a visitor's visa? How does it differ from the boundaries of significance in the world that to me speaks home?

Prior to the week of the Great Technological Housecleaning, I had been thinking about the importance of mercy in relationships, and the ways in which forgiveness and mercy interweave. My tattered old copy of Shakespeare lay open to Portia’s speech (Merchant of Venice):

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

I picked up the yellowed pages and began reading aloud with only sleeping Annie to hear. The measured cadence and the ancient dignity of words moved slowly into the silence. Most of you will remember Portia’s argument:

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

And then I paused. A half-formed insight helped me begin to understand my uneasiness. This week has left me unsure that I can ever master this new machinery at a level that will permit my mind to think of content while I perform the process.

I can readily see Shakespeare in my mind’s eye, barely conscious of the pen in his hand, writing furiously with no awareness at all of penmanship as the powerful truth he knew moved into words: “. . . consider this, that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.”

I wonder if unconsciously his pen gave the word none a darker script. I tend to read the line with a slight emphasis there. My printed copy gives no clue.

But my concern does not lie in subtleties of emphasis; it lies in the shaping of thought itself. Does the mechanism with which I write shape the boundaries of what I think? Do I write only what I can make the machine say?

Musing with you about the dilemmas of those of us who were not born digital.

See you next week.