Dying and Rising

This is going to sound really shallow and self-centered, I fear. I’m going to write it anyway.

We are building a new house. We will be leaving this house that has been home for 31 years. Granted, we are staying in the same town. But, we’ve been on this spot of ground for 31 years — raised 3 children here, survived a fire and rebuilding here, planted blueberry bushes that I will truly miss here.

This morning in mass I had a flash of Holy Week and Easter and it was captured in this whole house business. How’s that? It’s all about the excitement of new and the future rather like Palm Sunday. That’s followed by the Holy Week walk where one realizes that to get to that new, shiny, happy place, there is all kinds of dying that’s going to have to happen. All kinds of things to let go of. There’s the realization that some old friends just won’t make the transition successfully. Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied knowing Jesus and the disciples just couldn’t stay awake all night with Jesus as he prayed his way through these realizations. There’s the moment when it looks like there is no hope — Jesus has died on the cross, after all, and what’s it all for? Then, there is the new beginning when Mary Magdalen discovers that He has risen. Even then, she (and the world) have no real idea of what this new life will be.

I am excited about the new place. It’s larger inside, has a 2 car garage and someone else takes care of the yard. The other homes on the street with the same floor plan feel spacious and comfortable. There will be a zero entry shower which is near and dear to my heart after being in a cast and a boot for over 2 months now and dealing with a wheelchair ( I was a failure at crutches), a knee scooter and a walker. High ceilings, large closets and an open kitchen. So much to look forward to.

But the journey, while nowhere near the struggle of Holy Week has some mild parallels. To get to that new home, I must walk away from this home of 31 years. I will no longer live next door to Mary and Larry. I won’t have dog doors or a fenced yard for Cooper and Grace. If I want blueberry bushes, we have to plant and nurture¬†new ones. The yard will be smaller, the covered back porch will be smaller. We must decide what goes with us and what goes to the curb or gets sold or given away. And, I’m sure there will be moments when I think “What in God’s name was I thinking? How will this work? Will this work?” I don’t let go easily.

Yes — it seems shallow in many ways to even begin to make a comparison. However, I have found that great spiritual and emotional lessons are often learned best in the most common, but concrete experiences. Moving. Just deciding to move. Realizing that it’s time to move.


Crossing O’Neal Bridge
the welcoming sign
filling up the words
“Coca Cola”
fill, flash, drain
fill, flash, drain
Welcome! You are approaching home…
“Coca Cola”
fill, flash, drain

It seemed a forever ride
in the big back seat
from Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Town Creek…
From Birmingham and parts unknown

O’Neal Bridge is dated
and the river crossing replaced for many by
the Patton Island Bridge just upstream
The Coca Cola Bottling Plant
no longer graces the crest of the first hill
welcoming visitors with its filling and draining sign

And yet, to cross the Tennessee River, headed north
at times still feels a lot like

Competition: The birds in my yard are not happy with me

The jays, mockingbirds and brown thrashers out back are not pleased with me these days. It has nothing to do with my playing Angry Birds (oh, yes, I’ve been playing Angry Birds and enjoying slingshotting birds of various capabilities with varying success at blowing up green pigs in all sort of houses… but I digress).

We have blueberry bushes out back, with an abundance of berries which are ripening up nicely. The birds and I disagree over who should get most of the crop. So, a couple of days ago we covered the bushes with bird netting to inhibit the birds’ ability to steal the berries. They have squawked and fussed at me. I have run at them flapping my arms like a human scarecrow. I’m winning, I think.

Competition for resources is a part of life. My spiritual life leads me to try to live in the parameters of “share” and there will be enough for everybody (even the birds, I guess). But, for now, I’m taking the hard line. There is other food for those birds in my yard. There is enough to go around. I just want the blueberries. The birds can have the worms, the grubs, the pine nuts, the acorns — the nectar (I saw a humming bird the other day).

Something to ponder… while I eat the blueberries.



Lessons from Aladin

My granddaughters have been here for a day or so, and I’ve watched Disney’s Aladin 3 times in less than 24 hours. If you sit through it and try to pay attention, some interesting points begin to surface. Not just the overt “Freedom”¬† theme, but more quiet, interesting interactions.

Yes — Aladin is about freedom. Princess Jasmine wants to be free to be herself. She stands her ground in the face of rules that keep her trapped in the palace and mandate her marriage to a prince. She seeks the freedom to be herself. And the Genie wishes to be free. Genie declares that freedom is worth more than all of the magical powers he would ever possess as genie.This is a sort of freedom that I see as a gift in my life when I truly accept that I am loved by God: I get closer to being free to be myself in response to that love.

On the second or third time through the movie, I paid attention to Aladin and Abu’s trip into the Cave of Wonders to get the lamp. One rule: you can touch nothing but the lamp. Sounds a bit like Eden — don’t touch the that one tree! Abu, of course, fails the test, and touches the forbidden jewel. Poof! Everything falls apart. Aladin and Abu find themselves trapped (with the flying carpet and the lamp). The most interesting part of this is that despite the fact that Abu’s “sin” triggers the fall into the pit, Aladin never seems angry with him. Nowhere in the movie do I hear Aladin chastise or blame Abu for his failure. You’d think Aladin would yell at the monkey — at least in the darkest moments. But no — it doesn’t happen

Now, I ask — is this just fluff from a Disney kid movie or is there a lesson here? Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where scapegoating and assigning blame don’t seem to exist? Isn’t this, in some way, a lesson from the Gospels on justice? Aladin and Abu just work toward getting things right rather than blame and vengence. Oh, my.

I could go on about Aladin believing that he had to be someone he wasn’t to win the girl only to discover that it was his true self that was loved in the end. However, I’ll let it go with this thought: there are great lessons everywhere — even in old Disney movies that you thought were all fluff.

Who knew?

What you say and read

Advertising is targeted — it’s really obvious if you pay any attention at all to the ads that show up in the sidebar of a google account or a Facebook page or have every bought anything from Amazon and get on their mailing lists. Some of our other utilities try to figure out what we will like – It seems that Tivo will try to figure out by the shows you record what it thinks you might like to watch and can record things for you. It seems that programs — just like people — can draw some very odd conclusions.

There’s a story about a guy who had a Tivo that thought he was gay. When he tried to make it change its mind, by recording lots of war movies (“guy stuff”) it decided he was a crazy who wanted to see everything about Nazi bigwigs. I have ordered books from Amazon so I get email because they want to sell me everything Mary Daley and Sue Monk Kidd have every written… and watches, fancy lotions and camera equipment. Facebook sure seems to think I want desparately to lose weight and get rid wrinkles while studying photography. And just this morning, as I read my email from The Daily Gospel I found ads for The American Monk (Accelerate your spiritual growth…), Speaking in tongues today, Dr. Oz’s Real Age Test (???) and the Gnostic Bookstore. But, the ones that intrigued me the most were the learn more about the Easter Bunny and Kindergarten Sightwords.

Kind of scary, huh? I find it to be a warning to me. As one human in a community of humans, I hope that I do better at seeing the whole, real person underneath these external expressions. But, I probably don’t. We all make two mistakes — we observe through the particular focus of our own eyes, and we so often see only the things that we are keyed in to see (keyword searching, anyone?). It might be all I CAN do — so just be aware: I’m only slightly better at judging you than Google Adsense… and therefore I shall attempt to leave that judgement to God.