Saturday, May 3, 2014

Leaves or grass? Not Walt Whitman, but it delayed the yard work

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It's going to be a great day. The air is cold early this morning, but there is not a whisp of a cloud in the cornflower sky.  It will be perfect May weather by noon.

There is a lot to do outside today.  There has not been much time between storm outbreaks and my normal schedule to do yardwork, so I must make up a lot of ground.  Or more aptly, rake up a lot of ground.  But that's okay.  It is a perfect day to be outside.

I think I will start with the roof.  There are pockets on my roof that collect leaves.  It is time to get them down.  From there I will move to the front flower bed, which is also full of leaves, and then to the front yard, which is covered with .  .  . you guessed it, leaves.

I was busy last fall.  Give me a break. Or better yet, a rake.

I hate raking leaves.  It seems so pointless, so hopeless. Even if you are responsible and rake in a timely fashion, it is only a few months before it must be done again.  But if you take a stand and do nothing, shaking your fist at the futility of it all and at the trees, the true culprits, standing there so innocent and unaware of the trouble they have rained down like a flood of sweat and teardrops,  all you end up with is a lot of leaves and very little grass.  Hmmm. . . .  No I do want grass, but the thought of no raking or mowing did give me pause.

I suppose if I could cut down all the trees within a few hundred yards of my house.  Then I would never have to rake my roof, flower garden, or yard again.

But then I would not have trees. Or shade. Or the beautiful colors of Autumn right outside my window. Or acorns or hicker nuts for the squirrels. Or places for the birds to nest. Or the soothing rustle of a gentle breeze. Or a place to hang a swing or my ENO.

So I'll rake the leaves.

Life is not simple.  No wonder I didn't have time to rake leaves last fall.  It is tempting to consider a chain saw policy for  life, cutting down everything that causes a complication.  No leaves to rake, no roots making uneven places that hang up the mower.  No hicker nuts or acorns to shoot out of the mower and break a window.  Just a nice, smooth yard full of the same kind of grass, with no weeds, everything perfect. Everything the same.

But then, I wouldn't have the trees.

Better get started.

The rake. Not the chainsaw.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Faces (obtuse title about Don Sterling and the NBA Clippers . . . and other unnamed choices)

Advertising companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold work-hours trying to find just "the right face" to represent their product.  Some are famous, like Michael Jordan for Hanes or Jennifer Aniston for Aveeno.  Some start out as little known but become a household name, or at least a household face, like the guys that play in the band for Creditscore.com or Flo for Progressive or the Gecko lizard for Geico. The right face is critical to making your point.

One of the biggest news stories of the past week has been the horribly racist comments by L. A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling which were made public and created a furor in the NBA, the media, and to millions of others.  As a consequence, a discussion has erupted in public forum about the discrimination against African American players in the NBA.  Eighty percent of the players are African-American, and only one team owner is African American, less than five percent.

I understand that.  It does not seem right.  It is a legitimate concern about which a larger discussion should continue and hopefully result in some changes.

But I regret that this is the face that has been chosen to represent the injury that racial discrimination inflicts upon young black men.

NBA players make millions of dollars a year.  That does not mean that Donald Sterling should not get what is coming to him, nor does it excuse racial discrimination in any way.

But still, NBA players make millions of dollars each year.  This is not something new.  Been going on for a couple of decades now.

I spent a few days in a state correctional facility a short while back.  About eighty percent of the inmates that I interacted with were young African Americans in their twenties and thirties.  Most of these young men were from Alabama.  Most had little or no opportunity.  Many grew up in poverty, in areas where the schools were sub-standard, and opportunities for employment were slim.

And I have no doubt that all of them have been the subject of the meanest, crudest racial slurs that can be uttered.

Nothing new. It has been that way for decades. Centuries.

And as far as I know, the media has not visited one of them this year to get a good quote about racial discrimination.  And the radical chic  have not asked to come visit for a photo op either.  I guess they prefer a guest list to a DOC visitors list.

There are a few hundred African-American NBA players.  There are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of young African-American men behind bars like the ones I spent time with a few days ago.  There are thousands more not in prison who never got in trouble, despite the lack of opportunity and seeming lack of hope.  Nobody has sought them out for a quote either.

So they have no voice. They have no face.

Because they have no money.  So they have no power.

And that's shameful.  Not just the lack of money or power.

But that it makes all the difference,  no matter what kind of face you put on it.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Yes, it's called Holy Saturday

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Saturday has once again become a day of sleeping late.  I will forgo the explanation for this change, but suffice it to say the explanation would be enough to help you sleep a little later as well.  Nothing exciting here. I'm just tired..

But I do enjoy the sleeping late.  It has been a long time since my body wanted to do that, to lie in bed after the room gets light and turn over, adjusting the pillow and the covers,  trying to find the darkness again.  Not a bad darkness. A good darkness.  A cocoon-like darkness that wraps me up and invites me to stay asleep under the warm covers and dream.  Kinda makes me want to go back to bed just thinking about it.

But even in my sleeping late this morning I woke up from time to time after the sun crashed in uninvited, invading my cocoon,  as it does on these clear-skies days.   And the birds.  I think they have discovered an amplification system.  They were raising a ruckus this morning.  Not enough to wake me up completely.  More like a natural snooze alarm. Except I couldn't reach over and slap them off. One of my favorite choir anthems for Holy Week is "And No Bird Sang."   Apparently the birds on my hillside haven't heard it.

In terms of Holy Week, I am not sure what we call today.  Hold on, let me do a search on that. Yes, it is Holy Saturday. That would have been my educated guess during Holy Week.  Holy _______.    Sort of like guessing Andy Warhol for every pop art question in Trivial Pursuit.    The Church has created traditions for this day. Some have changed over the years.  Fasting for some. No fasting for others.  No communion served except when it is allowed.  That sort of thing.

But the Holy Bible does not tell us much about Holy Saturday.  From the gospels (actually one, Matthew) we learn that officials placed guards and seals at the tomb of Jesus on Holy Saturday to prevent his followers from stealing his body and claiming he was resurrected.  That's about it for Holy Saturday, scripture wise.

We don't really know.

We don't really know what to do.

What we do know is that Jesus is dead, having suffered an unthinkably painful, humiliating public execution. His body is in a tomb, sealed with a huge stone, guarded by soldiers.

And we know that the last few days have been horrible. Violent. Mean. Cruel. Disappointing. Confusing. Not just for Jesus.  It has been hard on us.

More than enough to make us want to find the safety of the darkness and hide, with souls shivering in the absence of the light.  And wonder, just to ourselves because of what others might think, what do we want?

Do we want him to stay in the tomb?

He turned everything upside down.  Those who love Him are hated by others. And those others can get pretty mean, obviously.  He said he came bringing Peace, but it is hard to find it right now.    We are afraid.

We are afraid that he will stay in the tomb.  We are afraid that he won't.

And so we seek the darkness.  Not a bad darkness, really.  Just the kind that wraps us up and invites us to stay, sleep, and  maybe to dream.

Until something wakes us up.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bethany . . . a Holy Week thought.

Holy Week.

 I doubt that Jesus thought of it that way. Holy, I mean. Jesus visited the Temple first, the place that he might have expected to be Holiest in Jerusalem.  But the temple had been  turned into a market place, a robbers' den.   This was Jesus' first order of business in Jerusalem, to clean up the mess in that place that should have been the most Holy, to turn over the tables, to run the robbers out with a whip made of ropes.

Holy something, maybe, but it sure didn't seem like Holy Week. It did not help  that there were powerful people who wanted  Jesus dead. Some of those people were also at the temple.

Awkward.

 Because that was where Jesus decided to set up for the week.  At the Temple.

Jesus held nothing back. Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, you brood of vipers. Yep, the gloves were off.  His words infuriated everyone who possessed the power and the desire to see him killed. And yet, Jesus was in absolute control, unstoppable, untouchable for four days. Until he had said what needed to be said.  Every day was filled with a growing tension.

But today I was struck by something else.

Bethany.

That's where Jesus went when he got off work during not-so-Holy Week. Bethany.

 I assume that Jesus was staying at the Bethany home of his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  After all, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.  I suspect that bought him a lifetime of hospitality. A favor that's a little difficult to repay.

Can you imagine being Martha, working busily preparing dinner, while Jesus sat on a stool at the counter talking about his day at the Temple Court, emptying a bowl of olives that were meant for dinner?

Or Mary, standing in the doorway and listening and watching, and worrying,  asking questions,  wondering what would become of Jesus, and maybe all of them?

Or Lazarus, who already owed Jesus his life, sitting with Jesus outside for awhile after dinner, drinking another cup of wine, listening intently, wishing he had something wise he could say or do to help his friend?

Or all of them, as sleep didn't come, kept away by whatever it was that was energizing Jesus, getting stronger and clearer with each passing day,  keeping him talking or asking them about their lives, as if he were soaking in all that he could with his dear friends. And Jesus friends, doing whatever they could to help, even if they had no idea what to do except be in the present.

I  cannot imagine.

We talk so much about who Jesus is to us, to the world, especially during Holy Week.  Teacher and Prophet,  Healer, Lord, Son of God,  Messiah, Savior.  All important to ponder.

And sometimes; like I wrote about a few posts back, we think about who we are in the story of Holy Week.

But wouldn't it be great to be Jesus' Bethany?  To be that place where the Son of God himself chooses to come and be when he is off work.

I am sure Bethany is a perfectly lovely place, but I doubt that Jesus came to Bethany for the local scenery.  He came to Bethany to be with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, his friends who he loved and trusted.

And who loved and trusted Him with all they had that week.

And that is why he came.

Oh to be worthy of being Bethany.


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