Sunday, May 30, 2010

LOFT LIFE: Thank you for serving

It’s May 30, sunny, and I decide to take a walk, happy that the sun is shining brightly, but still in the low 80s so I can breathe deeply and enjoy the mile.
Six yellow school buses, a blue tour bus, two police cars line Main Street, where I walk by the pond. I wonder. A sporting event? They don’t have a tour bus for that.
Then I see a parade, flags, a marching band, a float, and hear a male chorus belt out: From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles, in the air, on land, and sea; first to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean; we are proud to claim the title, of United States Marines. I can’t hear all the words. These may not even be right. I used to know them by heart. Now, I can’t remember them.
It dawns on me, of course, that this is Memorial Day weekend, and these people have not, as I have, forgotten. Especially the Marines. They have not forgotten, I did. At least for today--the very time when we have a national day set aside to remember.
I don’t want to forget this day, and really, on any day, these soldiers, the price of our freedom. A deep prayer rises in my soul. I want to thank them. I want to tell them I won’t forget. 
For two years I have been distributing a bookmark to remind people to pray for the military. I have only had one person, a woman who found me asking for any kind of prayer, repugnant, refuse to donate their dollar, take the bookmark, and promise to pray. Many have donated $10 and promised to hand out nine to family and friends. They seem almost eager to have this token reminder. They also don’t want to forget. Librarians, postal workers, mechanics, church people, hotel staff, bankers, construction workers--it doesn’t matter where they are. They care.
A group running in the Chicago Marathon for the troops asked for 50 bookmarks to hand out to the crowd. Some church women in Florida have asked for 100 to put into their care packages to their loved ones overseas, serving for our freedom.
So, maybe I think I'm trying to do my little something to remember, to remind. But, today I forgot--today of all days. Something in me realized I can never do enough to really pay back these men and women who represent the hundreds of thousands who have protected me, my family, my county, our freedoms. I cannot repay the thousands and thousands who have died, been wounded, physically and emotionally, and who are forever changed by war because they believe it matters.
The least I can do is pray, say thank you, and in my small way, gently remind those I meet to do the same.
I am glad I took my walk today. The sun was shining, the air was clean, the sky was blue, the clouds puffy and white. And, the Marines' chorus reminded me they will continue to protect me, and they, along with the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and the Special Forces--and if I have left any out, they too, are there for us.  
I say a prayer. I am still free to do that. Lord, protect them as they protect us. Keep them safe to return to their families. And, please Lord, tell them I say, “Thank you.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

LOFT LIFE: Love and grace

We’re allowed to love everybody. That’s right!  We’re becoming Episcopalian, and what an eye-opening experience. You would think the communicant’s class would be dry and irrelevant, like what so many believe about “training” classes in churches.
Instead of irrelevant, it is inspiring, vibrant and challenging. I have never been a liberal. I am a conservative, in every sense of the word, except maybe where love is concerned. There I am a convert.
When I was around 12, I was afraid of love. I thought of it like those fund-raising charts with the thermometer and a heart at the top (or was it at the bottom?). I believed, somewhere in my tiny little heart, that if I loved too much or too many, I'd use up in that red zone (Was it blood?). So, I was conservative even in love at 12. Then I discovered God. He made it clear that the more I loved, the more love I would get. That sounded like a good deal, so I converted. I became a liberal in love.
Now, I find I'm also a liberal in grace. The more I give, the more I get. Amazing. Thanks to Father B for teaching how much this can mean.
Before you go drawing conclusions about churches, liberals, conservatives, and even love and grace, consider this:
One communicant related how he felt abandoned by his church after divorce. He wasn’t permitted to partake of the church’s sacraments, or even to continue membership. 
Our teacher paused for a long moment--not wanting to put down any other church, even when they may be mistaken in their mission. After his pause he said something that rang into my heart, and will become part of my meditation for the rest of my life:
“It's not that we (Episcopalians) have a lower view of marriage,” he said. “It's just that we have a higher view of grace.”
Wow. Is there anything more powerful than that? 
I don’t normally use this forum to express views on faith and church. But, this statement captured my attention, my soul, in such a way, I just had to share it.

I’m still a conservative in many areas: I love what our forefathers did in our Constitution, and I don’t think it needs much updating, if any. I think our Constitution may be in jeopardy these days. I think our fundamental American values are being bandied about and juggled for political power and control. But, I believe that God is still in charge.
I agree with taking care of people, things, earth, and whatever else requires us to conserve and maintain what we are stewards of. We must care about health and productivity.  I believe in free enterprise, and I guess that means capitalism. I don’t believe in greed, but I think God is capable of regulating that too. I don't need government to intervene unless a crime is committed.
I believe that local governments do a better job of working and serving in their communities than big government does. I believe that states do a better job of assessing and responding to particular state’s needs than distant federal government does. So in these things, too, I am conservative. 
I don’t think conservatives care less about people and their needs. I just think conservatives have a more efficient and hands-on view of helping than their more liberal, big governments advocates have.

These views do not require my hating anyone--even liberals. My liberal stance on love and grace demands that I pray for and love everyone God loves--and He doesn’t always choose some of the people I might have selected as friends.
So there I am. I have to either do what I believe: love covers a multitude of sins, or, become dogmatic and rigid in my response to someone I disagree with, thus abandoning my faith. I can’t do that. I want a higher view of grace, even when it requires considering another point of view. I want to maintain a high view of my principles, and still leave room for grace.

Please consider this: when you have a gripe, a prejudice, a grievance, a bad experience with someone, a judgement, or even a hurt. Consider yourself as, possibly, the only emissary of grace that situation or person may ever experience.
Shout it from the housetops. Spread the good news. Grace. That’s what my faith is all about.
Thank you so much, Father B. for enlarging my heart.