UNDER-APPRECIATED ARTIST

I was sitting in church and suddenly it dawned on me. Keith was playing the organ. He is our organist at the church and the week before he was not there. A guest organist was there and I knew it when I heard the first notes. It didn’t sound the same.

But, last week Keith was back. And all was right with he world. I am accustomed to his practices in worship. I know how long he waits to begin the introduction to hymns. I can detect the subtle differences in the way he plays a spiritual or a classical piece. His selection of the music for the offering is diverse and interesting.

As I sat there listening last Sunday, I realized how much we take Keith’s presence for granted. Here is an artist who shares his gifts each week. He has practiced piano and organ for hours on end throughout his life. He works on music each week to enhance the experience of worship. He selects music that helps communicate the message for the morning. He courageously puts his music into the worship knowing that each mistake he might make will be noticed. And yet, he keeps sharing his love of music with us.

But all to often I come and go from worship, failing to notice how important his gifts are for my experience of the divine presence. His constant presence, his gifts woven through the words, prayers and liturgy, his leading of the congregational hymns with the touch of fingers on a keyboard, all help create a unified experience. All the different things that we do in the worship service and held together by the sensitive contribution of Keith’s talent with he organ and the piano.

I noticed last Sunday, and I deeply appreciate an artist who often goes unnoticed. 

PRETTY COOL!!

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I did it on the back of a horse. And that’s saying something. For I have seldom been on the back of a horse. But, there I was on a family outing, nose to tail on a trail through some of the most beautiful mountains of Colorado. The vast sky, the mountains reaching beyond the imagination and I was there with the family riding horses.

It suddenly dawned on me that we would be flying out of Denver International Airport the next day.  We were to fly on Southwest Airlines. For those who don’t know about flying on Southwest, you can check in online 24 hours prior to departure and when you do, you are assigned a section for boarding. The hope is to be in the A section so you can board and find an isle or window seat and not have to sit in the middle between strangers. We were not going to get signed in early enough to get good seats if we had to wait till be got back to the house.

Then Deb said, “You have an SWA app.  You can check in now.”  And sure enough, while riding on the back of a horse, I opened the app, looked at the clock on my phone and exactly 24 hours before our departure, I clicked “Check in” and we made it—into the A group!!

I remembered my friend who is in the tech business telling me some 15 years ago that the internet and the digital world was going to change everything.  And he was right. We are all so instantly interconnected that it is sometimes overwhelming. We can keep up with each other, find long lost friends, order groceries while flying across the country. 

And there are lots of opinions as to whether all this connecting is good. For indeed, people walk around texting and Skyping, lost in music fed directly into the head. We can find out about anything anyone has ever thought about and become consumed in a virtual world while missing the physical world around us.

I know that this digital world has a lot of good and a lot of bad in it.  I know that we can argue how we are changing and whether it is healthy or not.  But, that day, there on the back of a horse, enjoying the beauty of the season and the love of my family, when I was able to connect and get a seat just like that, I have to say, “It was pretty damn cool!!”

MORE THAN WE KNOW

I found it and was moved. I was looking through the Moseley Suitcase* at the recent Moseley family reunion. And there they were—love letters.  There in a crumbling scrapbook were envelopes and inside were 2 letters. They were the first love-letters my mother and daddy ever wrote to each other. They were written in 1934.

And they were such a treat. For they revealed young and flirtatious people whom I never knew. By the time I knew my parents, there were five children to feed and love. These letters were written during the depression and before the second World War. I did not know them till the war was half over and they were trying to make ends meet. 

And what was cool about these letters was that I saw my parents as human beings who were not parents. They had not been changed by the deep responsibility that love of children calls forth. They had eyes for each other that had not been tempered by the reality of war and struggles to raise a family. They were young and playful.

As I read those 2 love letters, I was moved to tears. These were people whom I had known all my life and yet, were people I had never known. I was sad that I had not known them and was so happy to meet them now. For I saw an innocence and a delight that all young people need. And I saw that my parents were far more than I knew them to be.

Maybe that is important for us all to remember. Every one of us is more than we know—more than we can know.  Each of us is a collection of experiences that have shaped us but experiences that are unique and hidden from each other. Maybe that is why looking at each other with eyes of grace is so important.

* (The Moseley Suitcase is one piece of luggage that contains remnants of my parents’ life. This brown fake-leather case with a green strap holding it together was created by me and my siblings when my mother died and we disposed of her furniture. The suitcase contains old photos and scrapbooks and reminders of my parents’ life. The suitcase has been carried from house to house where we can all delve through the memories.)

LOVE OF AN IMPERFECT MAN

Hiking around the back roads of northern Wisconsin. Rainy and 60 degrees.  I heard it before I saw it. A car straining against a hill. I then saw evidence of it in the smoke from the exhaust. Then it appeared. Old but not antique. Out of shape and rusting. The aroma of the exhaust found my senses and I was immediate transported.  Stigler, OK. 1948.  Images careened through my mind: my grandparents place; an old frame house; a big vegetable garden; a back porch with a wash tub where we children bathed; and an old Model T  Ford in a dilapidated shed.

And the exhaust smell of pre-leaded, pre catalytic converted gas opened my memory data bank and there was my Granddad. Ball-headed, red faced, portly. And I remembered how he would take us kids in the old black Model T down to the gas station. There in the corner of the shop smelling of oil and sweat was a gum ball machine. For a penny you could get a gum ball and in most machines, if you were lucky, a trinket.  But there in the back roads of Oklahoma was this machine that spit out not only some gum, but often as many as 3 trinkets for one penny.  A bonanza!

I remember my Granddad sitting in a chair in the back yard. And I would sit on his knee. It was a wooden knee—part of a wooden leg that he had all the time I knew him. He would laugh and seemed to enjoy me.  I felt loved.

Later in my life I would discover that there were characteristics of this man that I might not appreciate. Hints from the past held rumors. I don’t know which of them were true. But at that point in his life and mine, there was a love shared—a love that passed between us. And I am grateful for the love of that imperfect man. 

And I guess that love from an imperfect man prepared me for life. For I have discovered that any love I give is from an imperfect man. And any love I receive is from imperfect people. And I am grateful that the giving and receiving of love does not require the perfection of the giver or the receiver. Because love does not require perfection, I can say that I have been greatly loved.

GOOD ENOUGH MOTHERING

I saw a recent Facebook post by a young mother. It was an article talking about how hard it is to parent these days. The culture offers us minute by minute advice on how to raise strong, healthy, creative, sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, athletic, well-rounded children. The stress can be overwhelming and the guilt can be debilitating.

When I read the article I was reminded of the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott who studied child development. He believed that central to the health of a child is the way she is held.  The mother’s holding is important in that it creates a warm and safe place in which the child might navigate the changes in her life. He calls this “good enough mothering.”

Jacqueline J. Lewis interprets Winnicott this way: “[A] mother creates a holding environment for the child as she cradles him in her arms and creates a safe place for him to grow. This holding environment is increased with time and space; it becomes a cradle, a playpen, the next room, and eventually the weekly phone call between a parent and an adult child. Thus the arms-around feeling of the holding environment becomes the transitional space in which a child develops; transitional space is also the space for adult living, learning and playing. It is the space in which art, creativity and religious experience occur.” (The Power of Stories)

There are many things that our culture offers our children and so many of the young parents I know work really hard to make these available to their off-spring. But, I sometimes wonder if the stability of a holding space isn’t the most important. Parents, whether men or women, create a container to help children hold their energy and spirit so that they can work out how to live in the family, the neighborhood and the society. Children, regardless of our ages, need people who can help us hold what is sometimes the chaotic emotions of growing and changing.

So parents, hold on and stay present. Our children need the “arms-around” feeling that can help them discover their own way, their own strength and their own direction.