Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Walls of Gold Entomb Us

the presidency of donald trump continues to amaze and trouble.  the world watched as he bragged about the sale of billions of dollars worth of armaments to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, describing the sale as a boon to american workers, as he shoved aside the prime minister of another country at a photo-op, and as he alienated our closest allies.  all the while, the revelations about his campaign's connections to the russian government continue to play out here in the usa.  his proposed budget guts the social safety net for the poor and for family farmers, crippling environmental protections.  the good news on the budget front is that leading republicans said that the this budget was "dead on arrival."

it is difficult to have compassion for bullies like mr. trump.  his continuing rallies where he reinforces the prejudices of his base are too reminiscent of rallies of another bully who was masterful in exploiting the longing for a scapegoat among the german people.  one can only hope that the country will wake up to the danger in which this presidency places it and that leaders of his own party will disavow the man who now heads their party.  the 2018 mid-term elections should signal whether the american people are ready to turn away from the path on which mr. trump's election placed us.

it is apparent that mr. trump is out of touch with the lives of ordinary people and that he has no experience with the difficulties faced by those at the bottom of the economic ladder.  he sees the world as being made up of "winners" and "losers," the losers being those who haven't managed to enrich themselves at the expense of others and the winners those who have.  his rhetoric is close to the randian view of producers struggling against looters, moochers, and parasites.  during his campaign, he promised to leave social security, medicare, and medicaid untouched, yet his first budget contains drastic reductions in social security disability and medicaid funding.  those who are his strongest supporters are among those who will be most harmed by the implementation of his policies, but the effect of those policies has not hit home yet.  pronouncements at his rallies and those of his surrogates like mr. pence distract the loyal followers by reinforcing his base's view of an "us versus them" society.

may we find ways during this 100th anniversary year of the birth of john f kennedy to return to the ideals of his presidency.  may we who are citizens of the usa renew the spirit of mutuality that embodies our highest ideals.  may our government serve all its people, not just those in power and those at the top of the economic ladder.  may we see that, as citizens of the world, we are more alike than we are different and that we have a responsibility to care for one another.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Charm from the Skies Seems to Hallow Us There

our house is full of boxes, even after we've hauled almost 500 boxes of various sizes to storage in our new home town.  all the decorative items that made our house "ours" are packed away, as are the souvenirs of trips we've made and things that remind us of our life as a family here.  we can begin to picture another family living here, and our minds have shifted from thinking of this as "our" house to realizing that soon someone else will occupy it.

despite the depersonalization of this home, it is still warm and protective, a safe haven, as it has been for us for the past thirty years.  i recall our first look at our home when the realtor unlocked the door for us.  when we walked through that front door, we knew immediately that this was "our" home.  everything about it welcomed us, and we knew our search for a house was over.

as i sit thinking about this wonderful piece of architecture, my mind goes to the new owners and what i would say to them about how much this home has meant to us.  it has embraced us, it has made us better people.  the architect and the first owners who worked together more than fifty years ago to create this place must have "gotten" each other, and the spirit of their collaboration lives on in the home they created.  we are the third family that has called this "home", and in a couple of weeks a fourth family will move in.

i hope that the new family will find the joy in living here that my wife and i and our two children found.  i hope that they will sense the warmth that their new home generates.  i hope that they will look forward to coming into this home at the end of each work day and feel that it their refuge, as it has been ours.  we will be sad to leave, but we know that it is time for others to enjoy this house as we have.  we looked at many, many houses in our new home town before we found one that spoke to us as this house spoke to us thirty years ago when we walked through the door that first time.  we are excited to find such a home there, and, as with this home, we knew as soon as we walked in that it was the right home for us.

may everyone find such a place to live, a home that embraces them and comforts them, a home that protects them--not only from the elements but also from the vagaries of life in this world.  may those who have no place to live find shelter and peace.  may we all work until there are no homeless, no hungry, no poor, until all people find a place to belong.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

our planning for our big move continues, and a myriad of details swirl in my mind.  there's so much to be done when undertaking such a move--bank accounts to be closed and new ones opened, addresses changed, business affairs put in order, all the arrangements for movers, closing out of professional and personal relationships--the list goes on and on.  on top of all this is the packing, the acquisition of boxes to pack in, the sorting and thinning out of possessions.  in addition, my wife is suffering from some health problems that we have to attend to, many of them brought on by the stress of the move.

amidst all the chaos, i began to feel overwhelmed a few days ago.  i am normally a very optimistic person, but some of our relatives who have been here helping us with our packing are very negative.  their pessimism dragged my wife down, and in my efforts to keep her spirits up, i suddenly felt completely exhausted, drained of the energy it takes to move forward with the joy and excitement which is my usual persona.  after our relatives left, my wife suffered a severe episode with her health issues, and i went to bed that night filled with anxiety.  the next morning, i sat for my daily meditation, focusing on my feelings of helplessness in the face of all the chores and decisions ahead of us.  as i sat, i explored my emotions and how my angst expressed itself in my body.  at the end of my meditation, i realized that all this was a passing phenomenon, one that i could deal with and come out happy and whole at the end of it.

i was able to admit that i'm no super-person who never experiences worry or depression, but i am a resilient person who can deal with these temporary problems.  i can be strong for my wife when she needs me, and i can see beyond the negativity of those well-intentioned folks who tend to see only the worst possibilities as they attempt to help us.  as i honestly owned my feelings, i was able to accept them as natural under the circumstances, that as the circumstances change my feelings will change, too.  my feelings are not me, but a transient reaction to transient events.

may we each live into our inadequacies and shortcomings, accepting our imperfections, while opening ourselves to the deep strength within us.  may we not confuse the stories we tell ourselves with the reality of who we are.  may profound joy and peace undergird us as we deal with the vagaries of our daily lives.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Love to the Loveless Shown

my wife and i are busily packing for our move.  we've begun the process of buying a home in our new town and must be out of our present home in about three weeks.  one of my wife's sisters who lives in the town where we're moving came to help us pack, and her two other sisters decided to drive up to help us.  one of them is controlling and is very free with her advice as to how we should live our lives.  she had not been in the door thirty minutes before i had to stifle the temptation to tell her to mind her own business three times.

when this sister is around, my wife is very ill at ease.  i soon realized that her fear that i would blurt out something in anger at her sister's meddling and my wife's  desire to do the same was causing my wife a great deal of stress, and i resolved to shrug off her sister's unwelcome advice so as not to compound my wife's trepidations.  we made it through the evening without any angry outbursts, and the tension headache my wife was suffering from had subsided by bedtime.  as i thought about the grief this sister causes those around her, i tried to think about how she must be suffering.  she pushes all those who want to be close to her away by her insistence that all things be done her way, and she has no friends.  her only daughter cannot get along with her, and her grandchildren spend time with her reluctantly.  in her loneliness she reaches out in the one way she believes that she can, by sharing her life experience to tell others how to conduct their lives, and in the process further alienates those she is trying to help.

over the course of that first evening with her, i resolved to look for ways to have compassion for her and to recognize that her bossiness was a symptom of her deep suffering.  it costs me nothing to refrain from angry rebuttals to her unwanted advice and benefits all those around us when i hold my tongue.  today, my goal is to look for all the good in her that i can and to remember the source of her need to help in the only way she is able, unwelcome though that help may be.  i hope to remember that she didn't have to travel 250 miles to help us pack and go another 250 miles to deliver as many of our belongings as her vehicle can carry to our new home.  i hope to respond in gratitude for her generous help and to shrug off the comments that so often cause me to become angry.

may each of us find ways to show compassion for those who cause us suffering.  may we be grateful for the opportunity to live more skillfully that they afford us.  may we love the most unlovely.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I Give Thee Back the Life I Owe

last week i wrote about a situation in our church that was causing my wife and me a great deal of anxiety.  that situation is moving toward a resolution, not the one we had hoped for, but a resolution nevertheless.  the aggrieved staff member is actively seeking employment elsewhere and, in the meantime, is making the best of a difficult working environment.  he hopes to stay on until he can complete some projects that will benefit the children and youth with whom he has been working, but it may be that a new job will present itself before he can do that.  i fear that his departure will make an already bad state of affairs in our church worse, but when he leaves he and we will know that we have done all we could to minimize the damage that has been done by other parties.

our moving plans continue, and their pace is picking up.  our children were home this weekend to help us load a rental truck with all the boxes we have packed so that we can move them to our new hometown where we will store them in a rental space until we can find a new home.  while we're there, we hope to make an offer on a house so that we can complete our move by the end of next month when the buyers of our current home will take possession.  we are anxious about not having a home to move into and hope that anxiety will be ended by the time we return from our trip to deliver our packed boxes.  if that is the case, we can move forward with confidence in packing up the last remaining odds and ends in our present home, a house that has been our refuge for the past thirty years.

we realized as our son and daughter worked with us to move what seemed to be hundreds of boxes, though the number was certainly not as large as it felt to us from our aching muscles at the end of the day, how fortunate we are to have two wonderful children.  as my wife and i talked last night just before falling asleep, we marveled at their willingness to work so intensely without complaint and at their comments that this was the least they could do for us after all we had done for them.  they worked together so well, treating each other with great kindness, and we are so delighted that, though they are separated in age by ten years, they have such great affection for one another.  to have such children is a great blessing to us in our advancing years.

amidst all the changes that are coming in our lives, the great constant is the abiding love that we feel for one another and the close family ties that bind us, our children, and their spouses together.  as we look back on our lives and all the difficulties we've faced, it is gratifying that kindness and compassion for one another overrides any differences and obstacles, that we are united in love.

may each of us find such connections to other human beings.  may we recognize the power of love to heal the wounds and suffering of life.  may the love we feel for those close to us expand to include all that we come in contact with, and may we see each sentient being as our kin.  shalom.