Saturday, December 24, 2011

One of my favorite stories gets pulled out every year when I once again set up our Christmas crèche. Inside the box is stored this story:

When Ken and I were first married, we bought a complete crèche scene and painstakingly painted and antiqued every piece. We still have all the pieces, minus one chip out of the donkey’s ear, knocked off the shelf by the family cat. We never did find that missing ear and finally decided that the crèche was just perfect without it!

As our children grew, however, the crèche took on “other” meanings during the Christmas season. Our kids had a lot of fun changing the scene. One year the shepherds and wise men formed a rock band, complete with little guitars and drums. Another year, Sylvester the Cat would show up in the scene. Or various animals would roam the stage. Or the smurfs. Or whatever action figures happened to be in vogue at the time. Our kids recreated life, mostly in fun.

But one year, as we were waiting to have our Christmas eve dinner, we got a phone call from our middle son. He had pulled out into oncoming traffic, driving my car, and been hit by a car he hadn’t seen coming. He and his girlfriend were fine, but shaken up, and we interrupted our planned events to go and sort things out.

When we returned home, the crèche had mysteriously morphed into a new scene, complete with a wrecked toy car with shepherds and wise men all looking on with concern. Joseph was on the phone, Mary was sitting at the dinner table waiting for the family. And above it all, the angel hovered, having done her job, keeping everyone safe.

Today the crèche sits, undisturbed by the hands of children, awaiting the next generation’s take on the meaning of Christmas. And, after a half hour search in my completely disorganized photo storage system, I found the picture! If you look closely, you can even see the missing donkey ear.

My grandson, Caleb, when he was 2-1/2, added to our story.  He and I set up my Playmobile creche scene. It has a cardboard backing with a stable and door. We set up the camel, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the angel. I was waiting for Caleb to begin acting out the story of Christmas. Caleb picked up a shepherd and resolutely walked him over to the stable door. "TRICK OR TREAT!" he yelled!

Guess we've got a little way to go til he gets the story down!

(Photo by mharrsch, shared via Flickr)

PS: Last  year, thanks to my crazy husband, the creche was visited by a Queen, a Rook and a Pawn, in celebration of then 6-year-old grandson Gavin's new interest in the game of chess!   Send me your creche stories!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Final Approach

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Susan, went into the bathroom and never came out.  She was in perfect health, age 57, a vibrant woman with a meaningful career and many family relationships that needed some tending.  She died of a massive heart attack and was discovered by her family members.  In October, I lost a dear friend to a sudden brain aneurysm.  It has been a hard couple of months.  Susan's husband wrote an amazing tribute to her for her memorial service, and I would like to quote it in its entirety here.  To see the post in its original setting, click here.

I can't stop thinking about this poignant reminder that life is short and precious.  May we all keep short accounts and be constantly aware that all of life is terminal.  Here is Mike's eulogy:

I'm currently writing a book called, We Will Be Landing Shortly, with the subtitle, Reflections on Being Terminal. The title is a phrase I’ve heard on every flight I’ve ever taken for almost forty years—and it’s always bothered me.

Whenever the flight attendant chants this mantra, I want to stand up and shout, “I don’t want to land SHORTLY! I want to make it all the way to the runway!” But this would only get me arrested by the sky marshal.

Back in the last century, I was a frequent flier. I used my trips as occasions to do a quick life-check. I would ask myself as the plane readied for takeoff if I was ready to go in the ultimate sense of the phrase. If things came to mind that needed attention, I wrote them down and purposed to address them as soon as possible. It proved a healthy discipline.

Susie’s death on Thanksgiving Day is a solemn reminder that we all are on “final approach.” Some of us will have time to get our seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position. Others will crash with little warning and no time to prepare. The one invariable is that every one of us will be landing shortly.
Susan was ready because of how she lived her life every day, in public and in private. I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye so soon. Her legacy is her family and the thousands of people she blessed over the years.She always had open arms, a listening ear, a non-judgmental heart, an accepting nature, an inviting smile, a steadfast faith, and treats for her grandkids.

Susan wasn’t perfect. She never got the hang of gossip; didn’t know how to carry a grudge; couldn’t keep her checkbook closed when it came to others, would accept just about anybody as a friend, and routinely welcomed strangers into our home for months at a time.

I know where Susan is and I’m happy for her and at peace. I expect to join her some day. Maybe then she can explain to me what in the world God was thinking when he left me without adult supervision … and why he let her cut in line in front of me.

Susie, you can never be replaced, and you will never be forgotten. I love you deeply; always have, always will.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time to write....

I have neglected my writing self for several months but now it is time to get going again.  On the day after Thanksgiving, my husband, brother and I decided to watch all 9 hours of The Lord of the Rings.  We weren't in the mood to go downtown for the parade (in spite of a nice break in the nasty weather) and so revived an old Bergstrom/McNichols tradition.  In the past, when the kids were young, we first watched all of the Planet of the Apes movies in one sitting.  Then I believe we did Star Wars and maybe even James Bond.  There are a lot more options now that might be worthy of a full day of viewing.

But here is a great speech from near the end of The Lord of the Rings.

"There’s some good in this world… and it’s worth fighting for."
— Sam, in The Lord of the Rings 

To receive an interesting quote every day between now and Advent, visit Busted Halo's website for a Surprise Advent Calendar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Then the rain came....

After a very late summer and more than usual days in the 80's, we in the Northwest let out a huge sigh of relief when the temperature dips and the threat of rain returns once again. You know you truly belong in the PNW if you melt when the temperature is over 75 degrees and long for a "good rain" to clear the air. We do enjoy those great sunny days and milk them for all they're worth, but when the rain returns, we settle back into the rhythm of our lives, wondering about people who actually need to water their lawns and worry about water reserves. The pressure of "enjoying the sun while it's out" fades into the background and we are content.

The rain allows us to get back to our computers, our books, our coffee shops, and give up the search for the perfect place to spend a hot and sunny afternoon, afraid of wasting one of our few precious sunny days. Remind me to read this post in late December or January!
(Photo by C4Chaos, Flickr) 

I repost this quotation about this time every year....  Let us rejoice in the rain!

No rain falls that I do not at once hear in the sound of the falling water an invitation to come to the wedding. It is rare that I do not answer. A walk in an evening rain in any setting is to walk in the midst of God's loving attention to his earth, and, like a baptism, is no simple washing, but a communication of life. When you hurry in out of the rain, I hurry out into it, for it is a sign that all is well, that God loves, that good is to follow. If suffering a doubt, I find myself looking to rain as a good omen. And in rain, I always hear singing, wordless chant rising and falling.

When rain turns to ice and snow I declare a holiday. I could as easily resist as stay at a desk with a parade going by in the street below. I cannot hide the delight that then possesses my heart. Only God could have surprised rain with such a change of dress as ice and snow....

Most people love rain, water. Snow charms all young hearts. Only when you get older and bones begin to feel dampness, when snow becomes a traffic problem and a burden in the driveway, when wet means dirt -- then poetry takes flight and God's love play is not noted.

But I am still a child and have no desire to take on the ways of death. I shall continue to heed water's invitation, the call of the rain. We are in love and lovers are a little mad.
-- Matthew Kelty, Flute Solo, Reflections of a Trappist Hermit, pp. 117-19.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning new tricks

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?  This video of Bruce and Esther Huffman learning to use their webcam went viral after their granddaughter uploaded it to YouTube.  Over 2 million hits so far.  You never know what is going to "go viral" in this technological society.  Better be careful not to do or say anything you wouldn't want the world to see.  These two are really sweet!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation....

Several of my favorite past posts have been about my Texas grandsons, Caleb and Samuel.   We had gotten used to having them nearby and somehow lived through their move to Texas.  Then we all made it through a very stressful visit at Christmas time and have had many trips to and from Texas to keep the relationships alive (it helps that they moved only 90 miles from our other Texas peep, Zella!)  This year's visit was actually so much easier than that Christmas visit -- Samuel is now 2-1/2, very verbal, and Caleb turned 5 while visiting us.  We were especially impressed by remembering that Samuel is now the age Caleb was when they moved, so we were reexperiencing the joys of life through the eyes of an excitable, enthusiastic toddler. 

We had agreed/offered to take care of these two boys for 11 days so that their mother could spend time in Italy with her husband, who was there for 4 weeks of theatre training.  Bethany stayed with us for a week and a half in advance of her trip and then had almost a week with us upon her return.  She taught us her tricks on handling the boys, which really helped!  I convinced my husband to take some time off to help with the childcare and he and I were both surprised at how much we both enjoyed the experience.  Yes, it was physically difficult and at times totally chaotic, but we also experienced the unconditional love and affection that is usually reserved for their parents.  We planned outings every day to keep ourselves sane, came home for lunch and a rest for all, then usually took boys to the park next door to chase and run (the playground is undergoing renovation and was CLOSED all summer).  DVD's and computer time and special treats abounded, lots of books were read and bedtimes occurred without much grief.  Space Needle, Monorail, Imagine Museum, Woodland Park Zoo at least 3 times, Pacific Science Center, spray parks, libraries, playgrounds, McDonald's (a big hit), the Blue Park a couple of times (Sheridan Beach) -- we hit them all!

The first couple of days Sam would get up and ask for Mommy to do things, but soon found that he didn't really have a choice but to transfer his allegiance to us!  I had put together 11 treat bags -- one for each day Mommy was gone -- and a red bag to show the day she would return.    Sam would get up from his sleep or his nap and say "Red bag, Mommy home!" then "Red bag, NOW!" after which I would go through the whole explanation again.  It seemed to work to help him somehow understand this long abandonment!  He was appeased by the treats in the bag and was soon playing happily again.  Sam's enthusiasm for all things was a joy -- he does his "happy dance" whenever he gets real excited, revs his body up before taking a run, wants to do everything "Meself," and insists on "hugs" whenever anyone leaves the room or the house!

Upon Mommy's return, Sam wanted both of us to put him to bed for his nap for a time or two, and we shared the responsibilities to keep him happy.  Caleb, in all his 5-year-old wisdom, kept us laughing.  He said that one of the books I was reading to him was too scary and we should wait to read it until he is ten.  "But," he says, "your voice might be too shaky by then!"  Alas, my voice MAY just be shaky by then, so I'm really glad we were able to have all this fun while we still are "young enough" to participate!  Or, upon finding out that there was a scary exhibit at PSC, he said "SAM would really be too scared to see this!"  His other comment was that he would really like to live here again.  And "if we could live with YOU that would be even more awesome!"  We tried to explain to him that we really don't have this much fun all the time, but we are so glad that a good time was had by all! 

We have now cleaned up the entire house, made a trip to Goodwill with toys that weren't popular or have been outgrown, sold the crib we had borrowed, put back the coffee table and the breakables, purged the frig and cupboard of things we'll never eat, and life is "back to normal," a state both wonderful and sadly too quiet!  It IS fun to go out to eat as two adults, take our walks, ride in our convertible, but we cherish the time we had with these two boys.  And their local cousins have gotten reacquainted and formed new memories! 

As grandparents we are truly blessed! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Weather

Sweaters for trees in Seattle how lovely :)!! on TwitpicHow boring am I to write about the weather?  But here in the PNW, we are complaining about the summer that hasn't yet arrived.  In fact, we are putting sweaters on our trees!  Check out the pictures and story of our local "yarn bombing" or "knit bombing as it's called. 

We really shouldn't be complaining, however, considering that many parts of the country are having a massive, dangerous heat wave.  We are hovering around the low 70's, while many places in the U.S. are in the high 90's or 100's! 

This picture, however, sent from my father who is roasting in the Arizona summer heat, says it all!

(Tree sweaters picture from Twitpik, melting ice cream truck by Australian sculptor Orest Keywan who won the $30,000 Sculpture by the Sea prize for his comment on global warming on the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama, Australia.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It seems I am just too busy to keep up with my writing self.  I have been on a road trip with my husband, an overnight with long-time friends and have an upcoming retreat with relatively new women friends.  These are all relationships that add spice to my "senior" life.  Here's an article from USA Today about the friendships of women.  It is writing about women in their 50's finding closeness with other women friends.  This friendship need even deepens with women in their 60's, 70's and 80's as many women tend to outlive their spouses. 

I am thankful beyond words for all of my women friends, past, present and future! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Facebook Privacy Issues

My friends know that I am a Facebook devotee and have had to defend that position with several people or groups of friends who think that social networking is surely of the devil (you know who you are!)  I have written about "keeping up" in prior posts.   I have offered my services for Facebook lessons, trying to convince others in the aging population that we must keep up to date.  Many people finally become convinced when they realize they are missing out on the pictures and posts of their extended family, especially grandchildren (although some wish they didn't know quite so much about their grandchildren's doings!)  For many, Facebook has taken the place of email updates.  A birthday full of messages from all your FB friends is a great new experience! 

But recently I have become aware that I need to also give some privacy pointers to these same FB converts.  It is unfortunate that one of the goals of social media is to get as much of our information as possible, but we do go into these internet places with that knowledge.  It is up to us to be vigilant, checking regularly to be sure that our privacy settings have not been changed.  Here's an example.

Recently, a friend was tagged in a "photo" by another friend.  What was sent was actually not a photo but a poster, detailing some controversial happenings in first person's life and work.  Sending that poster to the individual in question was a personal decision, made by tagging that person as though the poster was a photo.  This is often done by people, tagging friends at a party or family event.  It can be a lot of fun.  But what people don't realize is that if you tag someone, that notification goes out to their entire friend list, not just the person tagged, unless you have edited your settings to keep that from happening.  In other words, if someone tags me at the beach in my bathing suit, I want to be the ONLY ONE to see it and delete it before it goes viral! 

Here is a very good article on things that you should check out regarding your settings.  This does not, however, include instructions for avoiding the issue I mentioned above.  To change the settings for pictures tagged by others, go to Account, Privacy Settings, Customize settings (here you should set all to "Friends Only.") There is also a very small line to edit privacy settings for existing photo albums and videos.  You need to individually set these to Friends Only.   Under "Things others share," "Photos and Videos you're tagged in," you should Edit Settings, Customize, "Only Me" on drop-down menu, Save.  Also disable "Suggest photos of me to others" and click "Okay."

Facebook is notorious for making changes to the privacy settings when they do an upgrade or make universal changes.  They have gotten a lot of grief for this and continue to claim that they are changing this behavior.  However, it is up to you to check your settings regularly to be sure they have not been changed (perhaps by putting a note on your calendar to check settings once a month.)

 I still contend that Facebook is a fun place to see what's happening with your friends and family.  But do recognize that you must be vigilant about the privacy issues.   

(Photo by smemon87, shared via Flickr)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's in a name?

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times about how today's "young-ish" grandparents don't want to be called the traditional names because they don't want to feel old.  I had to laugh as we were queried regularly as to what we wanted to be called when our first grandchild was about to arrive.  Her southern grandparents had a lot of ideas, including meemaw, peepaw, mimi, pappa -- I don't even know how to spell them (but you know who you are!)  At one point our son said "This is SO not a problem in my family!"  We were the more traditional grandparents, I guess, assuming we'd just go with "grandma" and "grandpa."  I have a good friend who managed to have "grandmother" stick with her grandson. 

So we went with the traditional but as soon as our oldest granddaughter began to talk, she shortened the "grandma" to Ahma and Ahma it has been.  The other grandkids took it up as well, and that's who I am.  My husband, on the other hand, remained "Grandpa Ken," until a younger grandchild shortened that to "Bompa."  A local grandson, who had another name for him by then, finally said, "I guess I'll call him Bompa -- everybody else does!"  When he really wants to get a point across or get his attention, he calls him "Bomp!"

And those southern name-calling grandparents?  Well, we have Ahma Peggy, Ahma Karen, and me!  I say let the kids name us, but we at least need to give them a starting point that they can morph!  And whether we choose a name we think will make us seem younger or not, you can't fool the kids.  One day my grandson said, "Ahma, you're really OLD!"  Yup, and I love being a grandmother, whatever you want to call me! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Mother's Negligee

Here's a post Mother's Day story about an incident that happened with my mother.  My sister and I visited our parents in Arizona for their 67th wedding anniversary.  While there, my sister and my mom went shopping, paid for their purchases, got back into the car and drove back to mom's home.  Upon arriving in the parking lot, my sister asked mom what she had on her back, as something was peeking around the corner of her shoulder.  Imagine their surprise when they found THIS hooked to the back of my mom's jacket, hanger in the back of her neck, complete with bikini underwear! So much for tight security in the shopping center, no one even noticed, including mom and my sister.

Embarrassed, not wanting to be taken as shoplifters, my sister returned the item to the store and told the store personnel that her 85-year-old mother had gotten this for her 67th wedding anniversary but decided it wasn't quite right!  Then she told them the real story and everyone laughed hysterically.

My mother (and my dad) had so much fun with this story.  My sister took the pictures and had them enlarged for the anniversary party.  My mom told the story again and again and her friends laughed uproariously with each new telling.  My sister and I went back to the store and bought the negligee, presenting it to mom for her anniversary!  My dad hung it on the back of the door in their apartment for all to see! 

Here's the final picture.  We will remember this story for years to come.  So glad you enjoyed it, Mom!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A poem

We have had a very miserable spring, breaking all records for days without sunshine, rain measurements and cranky Northwesterners.  The flowers and flowering trees are gorgeous, thanks to all that rain, but behind schedule for blooming.  Check out this poem by one of my favorite writers, Jim Schmotzer, called "It rains all the time, doesn't it?"

This managed to cheer me up somewhat on this, another gloomy day, with many more in the forecast!  (We did, however, get a glorious reprieve over the Easter weekend, lest you think I didn't notice and appreciate that brief interlude.)

(Photo by solidether, shared via Flickr)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sales Pitch Fail

My husband and I watch almost no television.  Now don't get me wrong, we're not bragging.  We watch a ton of Netflix movies and television series via Netflix, Hulu, Roku -- we just like not having the ads or the hassles of watching at a time the networks think we should watch.  So I recently decided that it was time to get our cable bill under control.  I have a habit of calling the cable company every 6 months and getting my bill reduced to "keep me as a loyal customer."  That recently stopped working and I've watched the bill climb higher and higher.  I realized that the only reason I was getting more than just the limited basic cable channels was so that I could watch baseball games. 

So, armed with determination, and having spent a very long time on the telephone with an idiotic salesperson, I went into the Comcast offices to see what I could do.  I wanted to lower our rate, bottom line.  When I walked out the door, I had a huge bag full of new equipment, a larger modem for our high-speed internet, 2 complex remotes, a new box to attach to my television, and was the proud owner of more television channels than one could imagine.  Oh, and now I could order (and pay) for movies that I now receive free from Netflix.  Oh, and my phone would be "ported" over to Comcast, allowing me to keep the same phone number and save the money on the phone line.

Upon arriving home, I began to feel overwhelmed and burdened by my new collection of unused television channels.  If I wasn't using the 100 I had before, how would adding another couple hundred inane channels make me any happier?  The small savings for changing my telephone service did not warrant the pain and suffering we were going to go through to learn a new system and change all of our connections. 

Today I went back with my untouched bag of equipment and not only reversed the changes I had made, but downgraded to limited basic.  Gone is my ability to watch my baseball games, but I cut our bill 50%!  I find that I can pay to watch my games online (during just the baseball season rather than paying all year) or I can listen on the radio and save even more.  (My team isn't much fun to watch this year anyway). 

But my point?  I was surprised that even I was susceptible to this slick presentation by a very nice salesman who convinced me that, in order to save a total of about $20, all of this grief was worthwhile -- and wonderful, in his opinion.  He kept emphasizing the long list of cable channels I would now have, not really hearing me when I said I don't watch any channels now (except baseball).  His instructions for hookup were making my head spin; I was caught up in the small savings yet big upgrade improvement! 

We live in a country where we are spoiled by the options.  I'm feeling quite noble for bucking the system -- in my own small way! 

(Photo by doegox, shared via Flickr)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Myth of Aging Gracefully

THIS is an interesting article about the myth of aging gracefully.  It's a little depressing, but oh so true.  We can talk a lot about aging gracefully, but if our bodies or our minds don't cooperate, we may not have a choice. 
Here is a quote from the article:
Who wants to live to 100? Just about everyone, if old age fulfills the fantasy that we can sail through our 90s with vigorous bodies and minds and die instantly of a heart attack, preferably while making love or running the last of many marathons....The truth is that we are all capable of aging successfully—until we aren’t.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I have written before about shingles and the need for all of us to have the vaccination, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to write about it again.  A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook and gave me permission to use it to warn everyone over the age of 60 to get the shot.  I hadn't heard of shingles appearing on someone's face before.  If this doesn't convince you to get the vaccination, nothing will!  

According to WebMD:
Shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in your body. After you get better from chickenpox, the virus "sleeps" (is dormant) in your nerve roots. In some people, it stays dormant forever. In others, the virus "wakes up" when disease, stress, or aging weakens the immune system. It is not clear why this happens. But after the virus becomes active again, it can only cause shingles, not chickenpox.

You can't catch shingles from someone else who has shingles....While you have shingles, you can spread chickenpox to people who have never had chickenpox.
The shingles vaccine is newly available and is known as Zostavax and is recommended for adults 60 and older, whether or not they've had shingles before. There is information about the vaccine from the Center for Disease Control. The vaccine has only been tested in people over 60 years of age at this point. I heard about it and was interested because both my mother and my sister have had painful bouts of shingles. There are pros and cons for any type of vaccine, of course, but the pain and suffering that occurs from a case of shingles is a good reason to consider getting the vaccine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The AGNES Suit

In case you were wondering what it feels like to be old, check out this video about the AGNES suit, designed by MIT to simulate old age and foster empathy in those who haven't yet experienced the joys of aging.  As well as encouraging empathy, for those of us fast approaching what is now considered "old" it can be pretty depressing.  On the other hand, maybe it will also encourage us to keep up exercise as long as physically possible in order to stay fit!  AGNES stands for Age Gain Now Empathy Suit.  (10 second ad must be watched before video starts.) 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Donna VanderGriend

Another moment drops into my momentum bucket.  Time’s liquid is inching toward the three-score-and-ten mark.  Even as the pail fills, I am evaporating.  My significance pales; I am in diminishment mode. But I have not yet disappeared. So why not play?

First grade grandson Josiah asks again to play the Memory Game at the kitchen table.  Having far more intact and uncluttered memory bytes than I, he always wins.  My hand hovers hesitatingly over a card choice, hoping to find a match. 

“Look at your hands, Grandma…that’s gross!” he says.  I see what he sees.  It’s my veins, I conclude.  The backside of my hand looks like the topography of several small mountain ranges marked out by blob-trails of murky grey-green finger paint.

A Spirit-thought comes to me out of the hovering.  “But, Josiah…watch this.”  I put my elbow on the table and my hand in the air with the backside visible to him.  As my fingers fold into a relaxed looseness, the blood obeys gravity, slides down my arm, and leaves my hand smooth as the Great Plains.

“Wow!” exclaims my grandson.  “I want to do that.”  He drops an elbow on the table, situates his own hand at eye level, and stares.  Gravity is of no use on his already smooth, un-mottled skin.

“Do it again, Grandma,” he requests, sure he is missing part of the procedure.  He pays undivided attention to the blood-draining and tries again to repeat the miracle of veins at work.  Nothing.

Josiah looks at my aging hands resting in quiet victory next to the unturned game pieces on the table, the mountain map protrusions and wrinkled valleys obvious once again.  I watch his wide eyes display discovery:  his grandmother’s hands are no longer gross; they are full of ancient mystery.   I feel my evaporating self expand through the eyes of my grandchild.

(Check out The SheSpeaks Conference which promotes inter-generational learning, believing that midwifery on behalf of each other has no age limits.  Those of us hovering around age 70 are ‘dying’ to still be servants of God’s Word, to speak wisdom into those older and younger than ourselves, and to be reminded that we are vitally alive because He lives in us!    Scholarship information available here!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Prayer of Oscar Romero

Today President Obama visited the final resting place of Oscar Romero. To understand how important this gesture was in the healing of old wounds in El Salvador, read this article.  When we prepare for our trips to El Salvador, we often read the Prayer of Oscar Romero.  In researching it today, I find that it was not actually written by Oscar Romero, but was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.  As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer."   The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.”

“Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression."

Here is the prayer, and I am proud that our President is willing to put aside the mistakes of the past and join with the people of El Salvador! 

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


I must continue to write about aging, since I seem to be unable to stop the steady onward progression!  This is a great spoof! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Indomitable Me!

On my now defunct blog, Grace and Gravity, I once wrote this post about the power of compliments.   I recalled that post and that compliment this week when another good friend sent me the following email, as a follow up to our recent mission trip to El Salvador:
I’m back for only a few days and I already miss the people and the heat of El Salvador (as I walk around a heated house wrapped in a blanket) as well as the team.  In retrospect, it was a marvelous trip that is more appreciated every day by its very absence.  Thanks for your indomitable attitude and enthusiasm. Kudos for Ken too who was always available to help out with translations and a helping hand.
I was touched and looked up the word "indomitable," just to be sure.  And here is the definition:  "impossible to subdue or defeat."   I must admit that I do not always consider this to be true of myself in all situations, but there is something about this particular trip and this particular team and this particular country full of these amazing villagers that brings out those qualities in me.  And I am especially grateful and honored by the compliment.  I left in the part about Ken, as well, as we all need to hear that we are appreciated!

I will be writing about El Salvador in the near future, but for today, the compliment is greatly appreciated!  Thanks, Kike!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cracked Pots

This was sent to me recently by a friend.  I'm not aware of who wrote it or where it started, but it is a great lesson for all of us.  I often feel like a "cracked pot" myself!

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.' The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?' 'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.' For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Set Free

I must admit to something. I have not developed a solid pro- or anti-death penalty view in my 62 years on this earth. I vacillate between "an eye for an eye" of the Old Testament and "doing unto others" from the New. I hate to see criminals "get away with murder," but I also dislike everything I've ever heard about the death penalty, how it is administered, and how the justice system often fails. 

Two recent things have me thinking. The first is a book I just read, The Confession, by John Grisham. In this page turner, a young black man is obviously wrongly accused of rape and sentenced to the death penalty. I will not be a spoiler and tell the entire story, but it is a book that has deeply impacted my thinking. It takes place in Texas and does not paint a very pretty picture of the Texas legal system of the past.

The second is the headline "DNA exonerates another Dallas man." Because of the use of DNA testing and the fact that Dallas did indeed save evidence samples, Cornelius Dupree Jr. is now a free man, having served 30 years for rape and robbery, convicted on scant evidence in 1979. The story goes on to say that there have been 21 DNA exonerations in Dallas County in which all but one were the result of faulty eyewitness identifications.  The number in the entire United States is much higher.

I, for one, do not want to play God.  The system is incredibly flawed.  I cannot imagine spending all of one's youth in prison for a crime I didn't commit.