God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Temporary


One of the places that Reed wanted to share with me while I was visiting San Francisco was the Mission District. He wanted me to experience the street art. So we wandered around the area. Looking at these amazing works on the sides of the buildings. In the heart of the district is an alley where all of the garage doors and fences are painted with murals. The murals in this alley began in 1972 when Mujeres Muralistas a two woman team laid the foundation by creating murals that reflected Latin American culture and raised political points. In the 80’s, the alley took on its present day form when a troupe of mural activists wanted to praise the Indigenous Central American heritage and protest US intervention in Central America. This alley has 27 murals. The murals on this alley both change and stay the same. Some are repaired from the damages of weather while other are new being painted atop the old. The political themes have expanded to cover the concerns of today while still reflecting on Lantinx culture.
I was transfixed by these images. These images brought up memories, movements in my past that meant something to me. I was reminded of being a teenager and learning about what we as a country were doing in Latin America and the people we were harming. I had met people who sought sanctuary in the US and the churches that provided that sanctuary. I remember my first boycott as a college student when I stopped eating grapes in support of the farm workers. I remember the movements I studied in graduate school – of people seeking to change life under oppressive regimes, especially the mother’s of the disappeared who stood up to the government to find their husbands and sons.
What struck me as I started thinking about this art is how it is enduring and yet temporary. Some of the art is repaired but a lot of the art gives way to a new image, a new politics, a new artist. While the colors and vibrancy is the same, the work is different. The needs in the world have changed and yet remained the same. For we still have people seeking sanctuary, great inequality in wealth, farm worker struggle, women still searching for missing husbands and sons, US involvement that isn’t helpful. As I thought of the art, the culture, and the temporary nature of the art this verse from the bible kept repeating “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). This passage from Isaiah speaks of the fading of people and the constancy of God, a God who in the midst of trouble is there to comfort the people, strengthen the powerless, and renew the weary.

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Eulogy for a Pastor, My Dad


Our Scripture today speaks of seeds being sown. Seeds that grow in places challenging, hostile, and abundant. Seeds that are scattered extravagantly never know how they will grow. Small seed that grow into large trees to shelter others. When we look back at the life of a person we love, I like to look for the seeds. The seeds they have sown that we can continue to sow.

At the end of one’s life one begins to share the stories that tell about your life. Stories that share what you learned that defined your life.

1.              One of the seeds dad shared with us was that how people define you is not the last word.

When my dad was little he was run over by a truck/tractor on the farm. He almost died that day, week. When grandma spoke about that time she talked about how they didn’t think he would make it, but she wouldn’t give up. And he survived. Every day he lived after that accident was a gift.

As a child people didn’t consider dad book smart. With the accident, combined with the fact that they didn’t know he needed glasses and had dyslexia made school a challenge. People didn’t expect much from dad in school work. But he had no word for it or how to cope with the dyslexia. It wasn’t diagnosed until he was in seminary. In the midst of learning Hebrew and Greek, reading the Neigburs and Jesus. He learned to be someone that wasn’t expected and those visions people had of him weren’t the end of the story. He learned to be a pastor despite a disability, despite the vision people had of him. When they told him how to preach with a written text he knew that was an option. So he usually had a paper with 3 or 4 words, word to remind him where he was going. He learned to tell stories. He was a captivating preacher. Although sitting at our dinner table after worship you may not have known we all thought he was better than the other people we had heard, because we pushed him and challenged him and debated his points. I learned to preach from him. I found a script limiting and knew if dad could get up and speak from the heart I could too.

One of the stories dad shared in his last years was of beating people up. He would talk about during his younger year getting in to fights with people. My sister asked me why does he tell that story over and over. He would speak about protecting some of the weaker kids. The ones who got picked on. Dad being a linebacker and a farm kid meant he was very strong and big. He could scare and intimidate people. I told her he has forgot the punch line. He remembers the important point. He remembers when he decided to change his life and so he tells that part of the story, but doesn’t share the outcome. One time for a paper in seminary I sat down and asked dad to tell me his call story. He told me there was one time when he got is a fight. He was so angry he felt like he could beat him to death. He decided at that point to change. To not be controlled by his anger. Although he taught all of us to stick up for the lost, the least and the last. To defend the outcast. Giving up fighting set him on the path to change his life. While others remember the kid who got into fight, he became a minister. Although grandma though it should have been his older brother Bill. So one seed to remember is the worst thing about you, the thing that challenges you the most, does not define who you will be.
2.              The next seed I want to talk about is that we should laugh, play games, and enjoy life.
As a family we have always played games. Card games, board games, touch football. But games in my family were unusual. Some of us were competitive, but not dad. He just enjoyed being together and didn’t have to win. After Gene and I got old enough it was either him or I who usually won. But the winning was really less important than the time we spent together laughing and teasing each other. Our family could have the lowest scrabble score. We rarely got over a hundred points. But during this time we teased each other, spent time together. He taught this to his grand kids. The years Reed and I lived with Dad we spent time after dinner playing games. Even on his last visit we played games with dad. Dad, Uncle Hen and Arnold would gather all of us for a game of touch football. They would divide us kids by size and skill. There could be ten to a side depending on how many of us were around. We spent many hours on Grandmas lawn chasing each other, tackling each other, laughing with each other.
I can’t fail to mention is enjoyment of the Green Bay Packers and westerns.
Dad taught us how to tease each other. I should say this joy I was not always that good at. He loved to tease us. Although often left his sensitive daughter out. He taught me how to laugh with others, to bring them into the group with laughter. The poor people who dated us, had to learn to be teased. For if you looked at the slide show you can see a twinkle in Dad and Henry’s eyes in many of those picture. You just know that they did something to their sisters. Their favorite target was my Aunt Thelma. Even the last time he saw Thelma, he knew just what to say to get under her skin and take them all back to 5th grade.
While Dad was a typical minister from the 70s, that meant he gave his life to the church. One of his regrets in life was not spending more time with us when we were growing up. He gave his life to the call, but what we remember is the vacations we took. We went camping a lot. For we had to either head to Texas to visit Mom’s family or Connecticut to visit Dad’s family. On the way we would visit every civil was battlefield, every museum, and lots of camp grounds. We spent many a night around the camp fire asking for stories. We all life about the trip with not one but multiple flat tires both the car and the camper. He met each of us where we needed him to be. If my sister went missing we knew she had made her way into the church to hang out under dad’s desk. With Gene he played strategic games. With me he talked about the serious stuff, taught me to tell stories and enjoy the arts.
3. Another seed dad taught us is the dinner table is the time to debate politics and religion. Yes, in our house we spoke of the things you weren’t supposed to bring up. We learned early to challenge the political leaders of the day. We were to think about why things were happening and how the events happening were impacting the lives of others. Even as he was lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s if he saw Trump he could tell you about how horrible he was, how he was hurting so many people, and wonder how anyone could vote for him knowing that he was putting babies in cages.
Dad’s politics grew out of his faith. There were four stories that each of kids would tell you about faith.
We always to this day if asked what it is to be a Christian will say Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind, and strength and love you neighbor as yourself. We knew we were called to care for our neighbors. He showed us this with every person he helped, every call he took even when he was supposed to be picking us up from school. He showed us our neighbors were included those that society left behind. Here is the Huntly area he start                      which was a program to provide services for the elderly that they can no longer do for themselves. I don’t know how many women ministers I have met who have told me about how dad saw them, listened to them, took them seriously, supported them. When other men were mansplaining dad was taking women seriously. He taught us from a young age that everyone was a neighbor. He tried to teach us to be anti-racist.
Around our camp fire we heard the story of Moses, Daniel and Ruth. We learned that even us imperfect people can change the world. From Moses we heard that even if you don’t feel confident in what you are called to do we can overcome the evil in front of us. We learned that through hard time we can survive lions without losing our integrity. We can challenge power. We can join a new people and be loyal to our chosen family.
4. One of dad’s passions in ministry was church camp. I remember our trips to Moon Beach in Wisconsin and the time we spent and Pilgrim Park. Dad loved camp. Camp showed that faith could be fun. We laughed, sang, built fires, did crafts, danced, did skits, played games (blob) and learned about faith. I have heard from people who met Dad and camp and had their lives changed and became ministers because of these encounters. My own call story goes through Pilgrim Park. Dad led all typed of camps. He helped to start the confirmation camp. He led many a bike camp and knows where the best ice cream shops along the way for a rest break. What minister doesn’t want camp mostly done in one week. I heard stories of him becoming John the Baptist at the pond. Hair suit and all. And what you all remember him for is his snoring. He could snore. He had to be away from all the campers, with a cabin in between for people to be able to sleep. For us kids, those first nights away from home were always hard to sleep because we missed the constant rumble.
The final seed I want to talk about is love. My mom and dad met in Wisconsin. He from Connecticut and she from California. They met in Ashland Wisconsin at Northland College. They were together for 58 years. They loved traveling. After we left they had many adventures together traveling to Europe, Alaska, Hawaii and different bus trips around the states. Dad and Mom made it to every state in America. In the last week of his life. He told the doctor she took good care of him. She said he called her the boss. He teased her even at the end.

When we think of Dan, remember his seeds, remember what he has sown and use those seeds in your life. Share those seeds with those you encounter.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grace, Gratitude, and Buterflies


The week my father died my caterpillar became a butterfly.




 



In the book, Gratitude, Diana Butler Bass writes about the time when her grandmother was dying. She had heart problems and had to rely on her daughter to care for her. During this time she started attending a church and learned a song that felt brand new, that she experienced as her story. She believed grace said it all, was the whole story and said it all. Amazing Grace, was brand new both for her and for her granddaughter. Bass after telling this story goes on to speak about the connection between grace and gratitude.
The words “gratitude” and “grace” come from the same root word, gratia in Latin and kharis in Greek, as mentioned earlier. In addition to being the name of a goddess, “grace” is a theological word, one with profound spiritual meaning. Grace means “unmerited favor.” When I think of grace, I particularly like the image of God tossing gifts around—a sort of indiscriminate giver of sustenance, joy, love, and pleasure. Grace—gifts given without being earned and with no expectation of return—is, as the old hymn says, amazing. Because you can neither earn nor pay back the gift, your heart fills with gratitude. And the power of that emotion transforms the way you see the world and experience life. Grace begets gratitude, which, in turn, widens our hearts toward greater goodness and love. Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful (p. 19).
I needed the butterfly this week. I needed to see that chrysalis that I thought would never transform, change. It was weeks. Weeks of that green chrysalis with its golden sewing. I checked it everyday for weeks, waiting for it to become a butterfly. Then I learned that it has to get black and then the butterfly will emerge. So finally my chrysalis turned black as I took a picture and headed off to the hospital to sit with dad. Not knowing what I would get when I was there. The Dad who was mad at us for not taking him home and so didn’t talk to us. The Dad who just slept the whole time I was there. The Dad who would smile and greet you and then fade away, but smile and greet you again when awake. I don't remember which it was that day. What I remember is the Dad I last saw. We had prayed The Lord’s Prayer together and I told him I was off to take care of River. My last sight of my dad was of him seeing me, really seeing me. Seeing me the way he did before the Alzheimer’s took him. He looked at me. I didn’t know at the time that that was goodbye. It was grace and gratitude in one moment I will never forget.