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Friday, October 28, 2016

The Third Annual River Road Trip

Two years ago we enjoyed a lower Mississippi River road trip and last year it was the middle Mississippi River.  The Ohio River Scenic Byway in southern Indiana was our choice for this year.  I am blogging as a way of keeping our memories fresh.

Our first stop was Clifty Falls State Park where we stayed at the inn overlooking the river--and a coal-powered electric plant.  We drove to the nearby town of Madison and walked down several historic streets and then ate at the only place open on a Monday night--the 1834 Broadway Tavern.  I had a true Southern meal of chicken and dumplings.

Tuesday was my day for 21,000 steps and 180 exercise minutes as recorded on my Fitbit.  We walked to each of the four falls at the park.  One had to look long and hard to see any water dribbling down the rocky ledges.  The dry weather apparently also affected the colors because the trees were either still green or bare.  But the walks were wonderful anyway.

We left the inn around 11:30 and drove to Charlestown State Park where we had another view of the Ohio River at the boat landing.  We walked a bit there too and then on to New Albany where we had reserved a room at the Pepin Mansion, a home dating from 1850 and located on Mansion Row.  We walked again along the top of a levee with a great view of the river, went back to the room for a glass of wine, and then walked again ten blocks to town for supper at the Exchange, a newish restaurant featuring local foods.  Back at the room, I watched the Cubs on a TV in the parlor while Jim read in the room.  At 10 pm, I gave up on them and joined him.

The next morning Mimi served us a fabulous two-course breakfast of fruit and yogurt and then eggs, sausages, tomatoes and an apple-French toast combination.  Ron, the owner, sat with us and talked about restoring an old mansion and about New Albany's history.

We left again around 10:30 and had one last glimpse an hour later of the Ohio River at Leavenworth.  A coal barge was in sight so we waited and watched it make its slow progress around the bend.

The scenic road to St. Meinrad was lovely and our timing was perfect as we eased into Central Time Zone and were able to join the monks for noon prayers.  We walked around the campus for a while and then headed to the French Lick Resort.

We got a bit lost more than once in the 400 plus room hotel before walking a mile to the even more historic West Baden hotel. We sat in the great atrium for a while before taking the shuttle back.  We enjoyed drinks on the veranda and then supper at the Power Plant Pub.  I watched the Cubs take an early lead while Jim sat in the hall with his book and puzzle.  I turned the TV off at 9:15 but we did keep checking the score and were very happy with a win!

It was about a five hour ride home, some of it spent listening to David McCollough read his book The Wright Brothers.

It was a great trip with interesting places to stay and walk.  Our fourth annual river road trip?  We will have to think about that for a while.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Clean House

Yesterday, for the first time in years, I came home to a clean-smelling house.  Not that our house usually smells bad or that it is filthy, but it was beautifully clean and I did not do the work.  I paid a professional to do it well.

My cleaning is usually in bits and pieces.  Something looks dusty; I take a cloth to it.  The floor has spots on it; I mop it (and now swiffer it!)   But it is never all clean at once and I always feel like I don't do it well.

So even though I am retired and not working for money, I decided to hire a cleaning person.  My neighbor recommended hers and knew that she was willing to have more clients.  So I am helping her out and helping the economy, right?

There is a bit of guilt in all of this.  I made sure that I was not going to be home while she was working so hard in our house.  And I do still have to clean the less used upstairs and basement.

And there was some stress in that I was determined to pick up all the piles of stuff on the floor and to hide any personal items in closets.  And I had to get going earlier than usual in order to eat, be dressed, and empty the dishwasher before she arrived.  Jim referred to this as the "tyranny" of the house-cleaner!

But there is also joy--the joy of coming home, opening the door, and smelling that lovely, fresh aroma of a clean house.

A Visitation and a Vigil

I have written before about T, a former GED student, in a blog last February about "Courage."  She was my inspiration when I needed courage.  We have continued to have contact via Facebook.

Two weeks ago I saw a Facebook posting from someone else directed to her that made me aware of a death in her family.   I went to her postings and saw that she lost her father.   A few days later the obituary appeared in the South Bend Tribune with a notice about the visitation.

I went to the church and waited a bit for the family to arrive.  I was able to speak briefly with T and give her a hug.  She seemed stunned but thanked me for coming by name so I knew she was aware of my being there.  I messaged her later via FB and she thanked me for my encouragement and said her father was the only one who really cared for her.

A few days later, I was shocked to get an email forwarded through our church from the larger religious community here in South Bend inviting us to a prayer vigil for JG, a homicide victim.  This was T's father.  I had no idea his death was a violent one.  I did not ask T how he died.  It wasn't the time or place to do so.  I grieved for her even more.  This was not the first violent death in her life.

Last evening Jim and I stood with our umbrellas in hand and prayed along with about ten others in front of the house were JG was stabbed.   There were pictures of him on the tree along with some artificial flowers below.  We followed a liturgy with prayers and Psalm 23 and there was time for spontaneous prayers.  I prayed for T and her sons in their "overwhelming loss" as the liturgy had previously stated.  Others prayed for peace in our city.   There will be two more such vigils in the next two weeks because since JG was murdered, there have been more violent deaths.

I will send T copies of the liturgy.  I hope they will give her some strength and comfort--and the courage that she will continue to need.  I am thankful for the small group of people who pray regularly at these vigils.  I pray that they will not be needed.

A post-script.  There was no published news about an investigation into JG's death.  I asked our friend Joel Gabrielse about it.  As I suspected, he was stabbed in self-defense.  That makes it even more sad in many ways.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Sunday of Worship and Praise and Regret

Jim was asked to preach this Sunday.  After years of declining when asked,  he has preached three times in the last year and a half.   He preached when there was the crisis of our losing our previous pastor. He preached for our pastor Chris Rea's installation because he was her advisor at Notre Dame. This time, Chris had said to him with a big smile that she was eager to see what he would do with the passage--Ezra 9 and 10.

The problem passage was about the sin of being married to heathen women and Jim didn't avoid the issue.  He chose the New Testament passage from Corinthians about being married to unbelievers.  His focus was on being holy--and he brought the idea to the political campaign and Facebook posting--not spreading lies and nastiness.  He did well with his usual humor and self-deprecating remarks. Along with a great children's sermon and my friend Maggie Noll's wonderful prayer, it was a very good service.

After church, Lisa Oglesbee asked us to go  to the VanderGriend's place near Vandalia for the afternoon.  Jim had a golf date but I was happy to accept her invitation.  What a serendipitous adventure it was!  Ron and Lou have built what they call a Gnome Home into a cliff--one cozy and lovely room with everything one would need including hot water, heated floor, and a running toilet!  The 23 acres they own include part of Lime Lake.  I enjoyed a quiet pontoon ride around the lake with Ron narrating about the area.  The Oglesbees and one other couple canoed peacefully while the kids ran around with walkie-talkies. And we all ate and chatted.  Lisa posted on Facebook with a hashtag "church family."  I seconded it but don't know how to do hashtags!

It was enough activity for the day.  I decided our tickets to a ND event that evening would be considered a donation and we would stay home.

Jim was watching football when a phone call from "Van Engen" came up on the screen.  My friend Sue was warning me not to watch the presidential debate.  I had no intention of doing so but she said that Donald Trump was presenting three women who had accused Bill Clinton of assault--just moments before the debate.  He subsequently had them seated in the front row.  What a show! It was his way of taking attention away from the 2005 video in which he spoke in vulgar terms about taking advantage of women himself.  The ugliness of this whole situation is enough to make one weep.  During the debate (if one can call it that), Trump said that if he were president, Hilary Clinton would be in jail.   Isn't that what dictators do--put your opponents in prison?

So a good Sunday of worship in church and praise for God's creation ended in regret and sadness.    My prayer while lighting a candle at the Notre Dame Grotto on Saturday was for civility during the debate--and for an amicable solution to this campaign--one to which each family member who is a life-long Republican can find a way to support  the ticket without "holding his nose" as one of them put it.  The answer to that prayer is pending!  My prayer this morning was just "God help us."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why Christian? Day 2

Jeff Chu, the first speaker today,  attends Old Reformed Church in Brooklyn, just a mile from my son's new apartment.  He has found it a place of acceptance for him and his husband and says it is one of the reasons he is a Christian.  He also gave credit to his grandmother who sang and prayed with him as a child although he did fault her for her saying many times, "Be quiet.  Boys don't cry.."  He said this kind of toxic masculinity hurts us all not just gay men.   As Rachel Evans did, he did not put down his conservative evangelical upbringing but said it was a part of why he was a Christian.  He said,  "The church passed me up but the love of God would not let me go....God's love waited for me."  He had to get over "choosing pain and shame over the grace of God."    I chuckled at his comment that some of his friends were gifted in many areas--one friend was gifted in text-messaging! Maybe I can claim a gift of emailing or Facebook messaging--probably not text-messaging yet!  Although that is becoming more familiar to me as well.

Asher O'Callahan was born Mary O'Callahan.  He said that as a 6 year old he tried to be a good little girl, but he found it very hard.  He wished he was a boy.  As a 12 year old, he was baptized due to a fear of hell made more pronounced by the Columbine shootings in his city.   As a 20 year old, he was exhausted and wanted to die.  As a young adult, he found his way to Nadia's church and found his belonging in the Eucharist--as a part of Christ's body and the body of that church community.  He found the courage to follow through with changing his gender and his name and is now a Lutheran pastor.  Asher spoke to us barefooted because he said he was standing on holy ground! He said, " I blame Jesus for all of this.  He chased me out of hell.  He was the only force more positive than my own shame and fear...I am glad to be alive."

As with Jeff, he is convinced that he was not a mistake or a genetic confusion but that he is loved and accepted by God as he is--and that his sexuality and gender identification is not a curse but a blessing. He said, "God chose who I am.  He intended me to be this way."

I was very moved by both of their stories and by their awareness of the love of God for them as they were--even if the church of their youth was not accepting of them.

Unfortunately, I had a very hard time due to my seat and the echos in the church and a softer voice in understanding what Sandra Lopez had to say but it had to do with overcoming trauma.  I know she credited Pepperdine as a place of sanctuary for her.

Rozella  White was definitely a minority in the ELCA but it didn't bother her until the last few years when she has been very hurt by the black lives lost to police violence and the lack of reaction by her church.  She refered to the "sin of whiteness" which I would like to have defined.  I did appreciate her emphasis on the incarnation as a core of the good news--Jesus becoming man and thus there being the image of God in all of us.  She certainly challenged us to be "incarnate in the world" and "to see people like me and love us."

Neichelle Guidry preached at the Eucharist in black cadences and patterns--one I am more used to from hearing men preach.  It was a powerful message that centered on the theme "Jesus is still at the table"--and it led to the celebration of communion for all 800 of us.  I had the privilege of taking the bread from Nadia who lifted it high and said it was for me as a child of God--and then using tincture in the chalice held by Rachel.

So now what have I learned and felt?   I heard the name of Jesus over and over again this weekend.  It was encouraging to see such a diverse group of men and women, gay and straight, black and white, old and young, all there because of a desire for faith and a desire to make the church a place where everyone can feel included.  It supported my own feeble faith to have others express doubts and concerns and to recognize the flaws in the church but still want to be Christians.   Hearing the stories of gay men and women and a trans-gender pastor was good for me and made me far more understanding of their differences.  I can rejoice in their feeling that Jesus loves and accepts them.

I look forward to worship in our own church tomorrow--and celebrating communion there.  I think I will have more of a sense of it celebrating it as a part of the body of Christ.