reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the view-master

a couple sundays ago i had the honor of speaking for a few moments to our church congregation.  normally, the hat i wear at trinity is a minister of music hat, but i was happy to speak a few words (ok, maybe more than a few…i am not the most succinct person on this planet) during that service.  the service was called “a joyful noise” sunday and it was day dedicated to a hymn sing.

taking into account the lessons to be read during the service and expanding on a recent writing, i prepared a few words on Joy.  a couple of  people have since asked me to publish this here and so, this is what i said:

IMG_0021This is a view-master. It’s pretty old-school.  Each time I push the lever a new snapshot is available to look at, to ponder. I recently realized that this is the way I write. And so, with respect, I’d like to offer a few viewmaster moments that make me think about joy.

It’s that time of year. There are pictures in the Kenosha News of students moving into campus at Carthage. Any day now there will be pictures of the first days of school at Unified. Nine years ago, right around now, i stood on the University of Minnesota campus. We had packed up the little Scion till you couldn’t even fit a Snickers bar into any of the spaces left. The entire car was glowing pink. The girl – that’s my daughter Kirsten – and her roommate were decorating in pink. Pink everything. Pink comforters, pink bins, pink rugs, pink shower pails. We unloaded into the dorm….traipsing with everyone through the halls, lugging huge futon boxes and armloads of clothes. Organizing the dormroom through the day I struggled to keep finding tasks, maybe to delay my leaving for just a little longer. We walked outside and started to stroll on campus when she turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to go.” “Where are we going?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I am going to go – to the union.” I realized it was time. Every word of wisdom I had wanted to relay to her dropped out of the synapses in my brain and I stood staring at her. I told her to go be her, to be amazing and I loved her. She walked away, with great anticipation, grace, excitement. With great joy. I stood and watched, tears in my eyes. My cellphone buzzed. There was a text from her. It read – “Don’t be sad, mom. Be ecstatic. I love you.” I drove home – alone. When I got there I put on laundry, cause that’s what my mom did when she was upset. In the putting on of laundry, I had to move one load into the dryer. I took out a dryer sheet and out of the dryer sheet box flew an index card. It read, “Thinking of you. With love from Minnesota.” The girl had hidden 31 of these around the house. Bringing joy.

Be ecstatic. Joy. Joy is our right. Joy is our responsibility.

My momma was rushed to the emergency room. Because we were there in Florida visiting her, we were able to meet her there at the ER. She had fallen and was in tremendous pain. At 93 a fall was dangerous and there was worry about her hip. For hours we were in the little examining room, waiting, watching, reassuring. It was the middle of the night and the attending nurse was obviously exhausted. She was a capable young woman, but had little patience and wasn’t friendly or smiling much. My sweet momma, in her pain, gazed up at her, smiled gently and said, “I wish I had your beautiful smile.” That moment. The moment that she brought joy to someone else, changed everything. The nurse was deeply affected by her words, which changed everything in the room, and, I suspect, in all the concentric circles that reached outward, including ours.

Joy. Our right. Our responsibility. Doesn’t one lead to the other?

When I interviewed for the job of minister of music here at Trinity they asked me several questions. Then they asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. (As you would suspect) I said that I did. I wanted to add that my mission as minister of music had formed through about 25 years of work in churches and with people volunteering to be a part of the music programs in those churches. The most important thing to me to tell them was that I feel deeply that the music and the music program in a church is about JOY. It is not about perfection. Like any musician (or anyone for that matter) I love when things go perfectly. But if perfection is the mission that they wanted at Trinity, I was not the right person. I have found if you expect perfection, you lose joy. If you expect joy, you find perfection.

We worship together and sing in community. Each of the songs we sing is a moment in time that we bring to worship, whether it is in a traditional hymn or a contemporary song. We offer songs of praise and songs of love and songs of yearning and songs of hope. We don’t come here expecting to get joy. We bring joy. And that? That begets joy. Our right. Our responsibility.

We were walking through Menards (like Home Depot, for those of you not in Menards-land)  and passed a sign that read “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” This immediately made me think of my best friend since the time I was three. This saying was what she had chosen to put in her yearbook under her picture. Somehow, forty years later, because I am ridiculously thready, I still remembered this. What was really funny was that when she and her husband visited this summer, she didn’t remember this at all. (I believe she just set about to live it.) These days we are surrounded by sayings and words of inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Menards. Sometimes they feel trite. But that’s only because they are so prevalent. They are no less real. No less worthy. They just flatten out because we see so much of them. We tend to not notice as deeply anymore. Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.

Sally’s momma’s farmhouse is for sale. Although, with a deep root there, she is able to find her way around the rooms, she doesn’t recognize it as hers anymore because she is in the throes of dementia. So when they were there, Sally said her momma saw the for sale sign and told Sally she’d like to buy it. Sally explained that then her momma would be far away – hours -from her grown children and they wouldn’t be able to be with her. She asked her momma what she would do all day. “Play the piano,” she said. “I’d play the piano.” Joy is not really complicated.

I read a striking CNN article about Hurricane Harvey and a man named Mr. Harding. I want to share part of it with you:
One of his sons is an avid piano player and was concerned the family’s piano would be destroyed by flood water. When Mr. Harding found the water hadn’t covered the piano, he sat down and began to play. “I decided to take a moment and play and take it all in,” he told CNN on Thursday. He posted the video of the moment on Instagram with the caption, “I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.” Joy.

Early yesterday morning we sat in bed, sipping coffee, early morning sunshine streaming in the windows, a cool breeze crossing the room. We could hear the birds, the squirrels, the sounds of our sweet neighbors John and Michele clinking silverware and plates, making breakfast. Babycat and Dogdog laid on the bed snoring. IMG_0024No matter the worries or sadnesses, challenges or problems that would befall us in the day or days to come, that moment was a picture of JOY.  A view-master snapshot of what is in our very fibre if we notice. Our God-given right. Our God-given responsibility.

 

 

 

 

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what moms (i) want.

childrenarethebestwithframe-jpegdear moms everywhere,

i want what any mom wants. the moment that baby is born or you wrap your arms around your daughter or son, your heart catapults you through a lifetime with that child, your brain step-stoning through time.

my children are no different than yours. i want for them what you want – peace, relationships of love, learning and work that will make them responsible and open-minded, forward-thinking people in the world, good health and choices that will keep them in the best physical and emotional health, a community of friends that will support them, challenge them, engage them, play with them, a world that recognizes them with respect and that expects no less of them than to recognize others with respect as well, the willingness and desire to help those with less than themselves….the list is actually endless….

i woke up one morning recently (the Unbelievable and Jarring has happened in the last two weeks) and looked at my news app….suddenly i am addicted to this app. one of the headlines was referencing the “religious freedom executive order” which “signals major win for conservative christians”. it addressed, among other things, that, were this to be adopted, the government would protect the tax-exempt status of any religious organization or privately held company that “…believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth…..”(draft titled “establishing a government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom” as quoted in huffington post, washington post)

i cried. and not just a little.

this would potentially cripple all the anti-discrimination protections and forward movement our country has made for the LGBTQ community in recent years. and that, in the heart and mind and body of THIS mom, makes me react with fervent opposition.

because i want what any mom wants. i want to share in the relationships that the boy and the girl, my beautiful son and beautiful daughter, have in their lives. i want them to feel free free free to have these relationships, no matter where they go. i expect them, as i would were their relationships to be heterosexual, to be respectful of each other, communicative and affectionate, gentle and loyal, involved and supportive and kind, compassionate and loving; i expect the same things you would expect your children to exhibit and have in a love relationship.

i want to, someday, attend their weddings, should they choose to marry….just like you. i want to ponder what to wear as the mother-of-the-bride or the mother-of-the-groom. i want to have a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, families-in-law, just like you. why should it ever matter if the daughter-in-law is married to the son or the daughter?

i want what any mom wants. i want the opportunity to one day have grandchildren – are you two reading this? 😉  – should either the girl or the boy decide that they would like to expand their family to include a child. just as you have put time into deciding what you’d like a wondrous new baby or adopted child to call you as their grandma, i want to have this same chance.

i want my children’s world to be open-minded and accepting, two of the descriptors i would overwhelmingly use when asked what my faith is about. because my faith isn’t about exclusion. it’s not about fear of what’s different than me. i want the world the girl and the boy live in to be embracing and to find discrimination and unfair treatment of people – because of their race, their religious background, their sexual orientation, their financial status – egregious. just like you, i would think.

so I ask, what mom wouldn’t want these things? am i different than you? can you honestly say that you wouldn’t want these things for your children were you to be in my shoes? how hard would you fight for the right of your children and their choice of partner to not be discriminated against?

being a mother is being a mom. the definition goes beyond that of webster: mother: a female parent. that merely requires a contribution of DNA.

being a mom is everything from breast-feeding or waking in the middle of the night to warm a bottle, to tucking a toddler into a big-boy bed, to cutting the crusts off the peanut butter sandwich, to packing notes in the lunch, to kissing skinned knees, to listening to playground travails, to sitting, with great restraint, on the sidelines of the soccer/little league field, to last-minute making cupcakes to bring to school, to going to school administration to sort out issues of disagreement, to instructing small children to ‘sit on the steps’ in time-outs for improper or out-of-control behavior, to saying “no”, to letting them dye their hair red, to parent-teacher conferences that aren’t exactly what you wanted to hear, to behind-the-car-steering-wheel lessons, to hard conversations about cliques and even harder lessons about exclusion, to late late nights at the dining room table while projects are being completed last minute, to moments – just moments – when you revel in a hug or something positive this child has said to or about you, to waiting up to hear the front door open as they safely return home, to making decisions about college and packing up the dumped-out-onto-the-living-room-floor dresser drawers full of clothes to go while tears fill your eyes, to helping discern what interests really are, with no regard to what you might want them to be, to answering hard questions or simply listening when they call in the middle of the night with news of something that has happened in their world, to allowing them to separate out but still letting them know you are there Always, to being a fierce protector of their rights. AND the rights of the children of moms everywhere.

because what i want as a mom is really no different than what you want. if you can, and i hope you can, see that.

with love, respect and in mom-unity,

kerri

 

 

 

 

 


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WE are the light.

fullsizerender1i was standing in our old kitchen looking out the big window over the sink, reveling in the sunshine that is outside. light. it makes all the difference. all of a sudden i saw the fox running through the yard behind the yard behind us (yes, that would be two yards away)… gorgeous reddish brown, confident, its pace unhurried and elegant. fox_edited-2-jpega few minutes later, as i watched, it chose a spot under some low-hanging pine branches and curled up in the sun. that beautiful creature is still there, napping, soaking in the sun. what a reinforcement of what sunshine means to all of us living beings. revitalizing. hope-giving. a pure energy source.

it’s been cloudy for days and days and days here…weeks actually. we saw in the paper that there have been only two days of sun since the beginning of january. this is kind of unusual for wisconsin. i bragged to david when he moved here from cloudy (albeit stunning) seattle that he would love winter…that the bright snow and the sun would appease his need for light and counteract the cold temperatures. this winter has been different. the cloud cover has kept some of those distinctly freezing days away, but it has made a groggy world, grey and slow-moving, yawning for naps and staying indoors, despite temperatures that weren’t as cold. snow has been at a minimum and the light has been temporarily suspended.

many of us feel that way about our world right now as well – the light has been suspended. we ache for people whose rights to just BE are being undermined, we shake our heads in disbelief at policies that seem willy-nilly and are destructive, we wonder at how the lack of light might forever change lives – our lives, the lives of our families, friends, colleagues, countrymates, worldmates.

grave decisions are being made. powerful words are being spoken. in turn, people are expressing conviction and passion, some through anger and hurtful words, some eloquently, some in peaceful demonstrations. and while this cloud goes on, people are drawing strength from each other, gathering together to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions. choir rehearsal didn’t start for at least twenty minutes the other evening because people just needed to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions. we are the light for each other as we gather together. where two or more are gathered….

and today? i suspect that many people feel just like this beautiful fox today. we rest for a few moments in the sunshine, we draw in hope and energy. we are revitalized by the light. and we vow to keep on keeping on, to not be complacent, to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions, to resist, to act, arcing our way to a better world, no, MAKING a better world.

~~~~~

If you’d like to listen to HOPE from the album THIS SEASON click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1hTs5QcMKQ

 

 


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it starts here: what were you thinking, LLBean?

i cried at 2am when the girl texted, “wtf is happening, mom?” i couldn’t answer her.

i was as stunned as she was that our country was choosing to support someone with vile opinions of others, with judgment and condescending attitude and open hatred. a man who, for one, openly objectifies women, scorning those who don’t fit into his opinion of ‘worthy’ of his attention, laughingly taunting and excusing himself with “locker room talk” excuses. not to mention ridiculing disabilities, holding contempt for people with different religious beliefs, ignoring responsible ecological decisions for this planet to survive, and deriding the LGBT community thereby undermining the right of choosing who to love, who to commit to, and, ultimately, who to marry.

what is happening? what is happening to the people we are choosing to look up to? what are we valuing in those people? what are we ignoring? and, in ignoring, what are we ultimately de-valuing about others? what is happening to all the progress we have made as a country, inclusive measures that have been finally put in place, opportunity for all people to live in free, respectful ways, supportive of each other, concerned about each other, our world, and our earth?

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-2-09-11-pm

one of the LLBean christmas catalogs came a few days ago. now, i usually love those catalogs – LLBean represents the northeast to me…the new england i love…a dedication to the outdoors. to being green. but this time? this time it reminded me of the catalog page i had just saved from the spring catalog.

i recently was going through the spring catalog because that is the one with all the bathing suit options. having not bought a bathing suit in at least maybe 10 years, the elastic on my favorite suit was doing that thing that elastic does when it gets old: stretches but doesn’t ever return to the ‘start’ position again…kind of crunchy…you can hear it as it stretches. and, in the hope of maybe heading to a beach or my sister’s pool one of these days, i had held onto the LLBean spring catalog. so I took out it out to shop for ideas.

i browsed through….

and this is what it said next to one of the $109.95 suits: “subtle shirring minimizes your hips and waist, while the draping helps camouflage figure flaws.”

what??? “figure flaws”???screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-2-02-44-pm

now i decided to take a closer look…and nowhere….nowhere…did i find mention in the men’s section of bathing suits that this suit would “help to cover your well-earned beer gut” or that this hat would “help cover your flawed hairline”….nothing of the sort. no references to a figure flaw or camouflaging cover-up.

what on earth were you thinking, LLBean? how did this make it through your editing? on what planet is it appropriate for your catalog to push judgment onto women, making being a woman in this country even harder than it already is?  why get behind goading us into thinking we must have the right body, the right look? and why are the “flaws” you so helpfully (read: disparagingly) refer to NOT the right body or the right look? why not celebrate differences in body, skin, shape….let’s bring that out further on the spectrum….life choices, truths….why not challenge the ridiculous and abundantly hurtful standard that actively –or passively- ridicules anything less than someone’s (whose??) idea of “perfect”? we must push back against this. in retail settings, in our homes, in our communities, in our country, in our leaders.

my sweet momma’s adage, that she lived by, reached across differences and embraced all. it reads, “i shall pass through this world but once. any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. let me not defer or neglect it for i shall not pass this way again.” (it is unknown who to credit this quote to.)

Goodness exemplified.

and now? more money, less waist (yes, this spelling), more stuff, less compassion, a bigger footprint on the earth, less mindfulness, more divisiveness, less unity, more self-absorption, less respect. are these the new adages? how can we be proud of these?

i guess I don’t need to be stunned by the presidential outcome, when our culture is out of balance. when companies like LLBean are making it entirely acceptable to hold women to a different standard than men. how many of those $109.95 bathing suits were sold?? how many women believed they were “flawed”? why did/do they believe that?  and what would the new president-elect say about these “flaws”? de-valuing indeed.

out of balance.

when superficiality is more important than any other characteristic. when the book cover doesn’t really reveal the book. it’s not a far reach to generalize this to all differences.  where does it go from there? where does it go from here? what are we ignoring?  when our children and our children’s children have a person to (supposedly) look up to who is prejudiced and harsh, disrespectful and just plain mean.

i ask you this: if your son or husband or brother or father said these things or acted in this manner, what would you say or do? would you stand by in silence? where does the line of speaking up start?

it starts here. how dare you, LLBean. you should be ashamed. the girl is right. wtf is happening?

speak-out-or-up