It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

I just wrote a global email to my fellow parishioners. I mean, someone’s got to do it and hey, why not me?

We welcomed our priest in September of last year. There’s an adjustment period – no honeymoon period for priests; they are either hated or loved instantly, it appears. He is the most evangelical priest I have ever had and sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, that’s a little grating but gosh, he’s on fire for the Lord, he’s wonderful with people, and he’s a learned man. What’s not to like.

In January, he and I seemed to ‘click’ – I saw great humility in him and a sincere heart and without even realizing it, I was behind him 100 percent. I have done varied things to help him and he is kind enough to refer to me as his ministry partner.

Ok, so then the ‘you-know-what’ happened and things got closed right quick, very suddenly, closed faster than a door in a hurricane – including our churches, all across America. What’s a priest to do? He has even less electronic savvy than I do but I’m retired and have time so I did some research and his first stepping out into technology was doing live stream broadcasts of Morning Prayer on FaceBook. He did very well, considering he’s sitting in his home office talking to himself. There was no self-consciousness and any minor household distractions didn’t phase him. He did a great job.

When it became glaringly apparent that it was going to be some time before we could go back to church, he stepped up his game and started presenting what would have been his Sunday sermon in church to giving the sermon on Facebook. Again, he did a very good job and I was proud of him.

I went back into research mode at his request. He wanted to be able to do Bible study but wanted it interactive (or why bother? study needs give and take). I wasn’t wild about Zoom because it had only recently (at that time) been hacked and people with more time than brains were crashing meetings with porn and other types of offensive stuff. Someone other than me had suggested he use Zoom and he decided to go with that. Not a problem – it’s his message and his room, he can do as he sees fit.

Every week I send a global email to the parishioners reminding them about Zoom Bible study (including the meeting id# and the password, as well as the time we meet). Never, at any time during the Bible study have we had more than four people. One of our parishioners is a Ph.D in marine biology and a devout Anglican and he’s our official unofficial resident Koine Greek expert. I ask a lot of questions because no one else does. Fr. Ellis gives it his all and it’s really quite a good Bible study.

Today, there were only three of us at Bible study and one of the three was the priest! Give me a break! And take a wild guess how many showed up to watch the FaceBook sermon? C’mon – you can do it … Right! Three people not including the priest.

Why is it so hard to get folks to do Bible study? Surely they don’t all think they know everything they need to know about the Bible, about Jesus, about our relationship with God?

There’s only one thing I know for sure – it shouldn’t be this hard.

 

Hilarious!

Girl and computer

I was in my early (is there such a thing?) forties when a neighbor taught me how to sew. I was so excited; I’d always wanted to sew and I was finally getting the chance. She showed me how to cut out a pattern, how to match up the markings, explained seam allowance, and all those things that help to make your sewing successful. We had the cut material, all pinned against accidental movement, and she told me to sit down. It was as exciting as sitting behind the wheel of a car for the first time when you are learning to drive. We take a folded piece of material for me to practice on, drop the presser foot on it, and she tells me to press the foot pedal to make the machine sew. A miracle! I sat there, tense as all get out, concentrating as hard as I could. And then I started laughing. I mean, laughing my behind off! I was so intent on this brand new thing I was doing, rather than watching the material against the line edge, my head was going up and down with the needle! Go ahead; it’s alright; she laughed, too.

I should probably never tell that story but it’s so innocently sweet, I can’t help myself. And now you won’t be surprised when I tell this …

I’ve watched all of Netflix I care to, a lot of the movies I’d like to see again aren’t on Amazon Prime, I’m bored like a kid during spring break so I needed to find something to capture my attention. I like to play mahjong solitaire but it’s basically a sight game, like a ‘collapse two’ game, matching tiles to remove them from the board. What’s fun, and why it never gets boring, is the puzzles are always in different patterns – sometimes flowers, sometimes letters or numbers, sometimes animal shapes. It has no sound so it doesn’t drive me – or anyone around me – crazy. I enjoy it very much but that much quiet can get to you. What to do? I had binged my favorite series on Netflix so often that I didn’t need to watch them, I could listen to the dialog and follow the stories and only look at them if there was an episode I especially liked, but I’d play mahjong and listen and I was a happy camper. And then, I watched the last episode of the last favorite series and now had nothing to keep me company while I played.

YouTube! Home of the sublime and the ridiculous! I rummaged around for a while and decided on the videos of Alexander Scourby reading the books of the Bible! Brilliant! I can waste time AND improve my soul and spirit at the same time! My day slows down (if that’s possible) around three and so I picked the Book of Matthew to finish today and then started Mark to keep me company when Matthew was finished. I am so grateful no one is around.

Grateful because here I sit, in a room all alone, nodding and agreeing with what Jesus is saying! Disciples ask a question and I answer it. Or, I give editorial comment, such as when the disciples say they can take the baptism that Jesus has (meaning the Cross) and I say, with attitude and head/neck movement, “Right; you THINK you can!”

See? I don’t need a party. I AM a party! I think I’m hilarious!

 

Knocking on my brain.

Years ago, while reading the Bible, I came across Isaiah 45:7. In that verse, God refers to the evil He creates. (KJV). It didn’t strike me any particular way at the time as I was caught up in the chapter and gist of its intent. For some reason, “The evil I do” got locked in my head. But I was younger then, working, mom, housewife – you know the drill – so I never did any research on it.

Retired now and having all the time in the world, when this verse came knocking on my brain again, I put other stuff down and decided to do some research. We all know God cannot ‘do’ evil, so what the heck is He talking about?

I pulled out of my bookshelves three Bibles; the Amplified Bible (very Protestant but a great concordance), a family Bible printed in 1940 (which is before ‘they’ stated taking verses out of the Bible and making other changes), and the King James Study Bible. The 1940 Bible uses the word ‘calamity’ in the place of the word ‘evil’. So I looked up calamity and the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined it as “a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering”. So my thought process is – God creates ‘evil’ weather? Calamitous weather? Hmmm.

Then I looked up what causes hurricanes – a good question for Floridians and folks living in the Gulf States. This is what I found:

The three main components critical to the formation of a hurricane are warm water, moist warm air, and light upper winds. A hurricane begins when large masses of warm water and moist warm air come in contact with cooler air. This collision prompts the warm water vapor to cool down very fast and condense, eventually forming dense storm clouds and emptying out as heavy rain. During the condensation process, latent heat is emitted. This latent heat warms the cold air above, causing it to rise and pave the way for warmer and more humid air coming up from below, causing a cycle.

As the process continues, more warm air is attracted to the mounting storm, and more heat is moved from the ocean’s surface to the atmosphere. The constant heat exchange leads to a development in wind patterns that spin around a relatively calm center, similar to water spinning down a drain. If the conditions remain the same, meaning that there is enough fuel for the storm to continue developing, the rotating storm becomes even more powerful, eventually becoming a hurricane. As the hurricane continues to strengthen, an opening at the center known as the “eye” will form.  (from Science ABC – online)

That was simple enough even I could understand it. Then ‘tornados’ came to mind and my research showed me this: “

What Causes a Tornado? / How do Tornadoes Form?

A lot of people wonder: “How do tornadoes form?” These severe weather events typically stem from thunderstorms, although they don’t have to.

Wind shear is one of the most critical components for the formation of a tornado. Wind shear is the change of direction and speed of the wind with height. This can create a horizontal spinning effect within a storm cell. The rotating air of an updraft meets the rotating air of a downdraft and creates that iconic and scary funnel cloud you’re probably used to seeing.

Typically, this combination of winds can happen when moist, warm air meets cool, dry air. When these air masses meet, they create instability in the atmosphere, which allows wind to change direction, move faster, get higher, and start that rotation we mentioned above.” (from earthnetworks.com)

Finally, I went to my priest, Fr. Ellis, and asked him bluntly – do storms and tornadoes and natural disasters just happen or are they God-directed. Was God mad at New Orleans and so Katrina hit? His response was, “My personal belief is nothing can happen, good or bad, in the universe without GOD in full control, therefore nothing happens without God’s permission and its ultimate purpose, like in New Orleans, is the mystery. It’s raining now and just imagine if it was controlled by one angry 😤 person…”

All this research brings me to this; God created everything. Yes, the secular people and scientists will tell us these are normal, explainable occurrences. It’s true, through science, we have greatly improved our knowledge and understanding of them. But one has to wonder – is it chance only? Or is Someone trying to tell us something?

I suspect it will continue to knock on my brain.

A Look in the Mirror

Sometimes – occasionally – every once in awhile – I look in the mirror. Aside from making sure the hair is combed/brushed to the best of my ability that day, I don’t really look in the mirror. Aside from my Cross necklace and earrings, I don’t wear jewelry, either. I have some lovely pieces but I don’t wear them.

I looked in the mirror today. I don’t really recognize the face. I look older than my brother who is eight years my senior. I look older than both my sisters (one older, one younger). I look older than Mom did at 65 – the last year of her life. My younger sister maintains that I’m wrinkled because, along with President Trump, smoking is the root of all evil. But I know the reason I’m wrinkled is because since I was five or so, I’ve rested my face on my hands or my fists. Pulls the skin, stretches it. Young skin is elastic; old skin is like the waistband on the underwear you throw out – the elastic is shot. But I keep doing it because it’s a deep, deep habit.

Though I still see some red (I’m a born redhead; got it from my paternal grandmother) basically my hair is gray. Couldn’t be the snowy white I always hoped for – no, that would be satisfying a vanity, at least – just a kind of gray hair that’s unremarkable. It’s still relatively long as I am not ready, mentally or emotionally, for the ‘little old man’ hair cut a lot of women my age opt for. Can’t do it. Used to be, when I was young and my hair got so long and heavy it would give me headaches, a fit of depression would cause me to go get my hair cut. Now, when that happens, I put it up in a barrette at the back of my head where I can’t see it.

There is something, however, that has not changed. The one connection I can still make with that woman in the mirror. The eyes. They are a dark blue, though not nearly as dark blue as my older sister whose eyes are almost lapis lazuli. But they’re dark blue. They are clear and bright and lively – I’m hoping it reveals what my brain is. There are no guarantees, however. Those are the eyes I know, the ones that got glasses at 12 years old, the ones that are in the faces of my children. I like those eyes. They are still me. I wear a lot of black – oddly enough, black makes my eyes look bluer. I am not completely devoid of vanity, you see.

The eyes have seen all the things that have shaped me – all my experiences, good and bad; all the mistakes I’ve made – some I had to live with and others that can’t be forgotten; the eyes have seen great joy and desperate sorrow. The eyes know. They have been washed with tears – the losses that happen in every life; the things that touch our hearts uniquely and the only appropriate response is tears; the joys that go beyond a happy birthday but live in our hearts forever – like finding and knowing Jesus.

I don’t recognize that lady in the mirror but I find, after all these years, I like her. I like who she’s become, where she is in life, how she gets on from day today. I’ve stopped hating how tall she was, how different her hair was from other girls/women, and her weight is no longer an issue. She likes to laugh, she thinks well of people until they prove she shouldn’t, and she cares about what’s going on in the world – good and bad.

Not a bad thing to do, every once in awhile – a look in the mirror.

Turn, Turn, Turn

In addition to being the home of the world’s best shower singers, the ‘loo’ is also where we assume the position the artist Rodin made famous. Said position seems to be oxygen for the brain as thoughts and ideas surge.

While embracing Rodin this morning, climate change passed through my mind. And drought, and wind storms, and ‘hundred-year’ floods. Everything around us can be explained, one way or another, by the Bible. In the Creation, God instituted that which keeps all things in motion; in this particular instance, seeds and cycles. Trees, plants, vegetables, all manner of the flora found on earth come from seeds; they multiply according to the master plan of sowing (done by nature as well as man), growing, production, wilting, and dying. This applies to us humans as well – we are created by seed, too, and follow those same steps of development. There are cycles visible in dust storms, droughts (usually seven years between events but sometimes longer, like here in Florida), high tides and low tides. There are many more cycles as well but you get the general idea.

At the same time, I was having those thoughts, from out of the deep recesses of what I laughingly refer to as my mind, the chorus of this song presented itself. Read the words carefully (and feel free to sing along!) and see if the lyrics don’t tell us the exact same thing.

What we are experiencing in this most remarkable year of 2020, is the cycle of cycles. A bit unnerving and distressing that there seem to be many cycles repeating themselves just now but it’s important to remember – it is a cycle and a new one follows on the heels of the previous one and so we get on. The phrase, “This too shall pass” should be Post It noted all over your home and your devices. Because it is true, this will pass and a new cycle will begin.

Turn, turn, turn – and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Afterword from Neo:

I have loved that Byrds song ever sing it came out, and still do. It reminds us of the fact that things do change, but the essentials remain essential.

As I’m sure Audre knows as well as I do, it wasn’t original from The Byrds though. Here it is in its original context:

¹ To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3

Something it is hard for us to remember most of the time.

Hmmm …

Either I should have my head examined or I need to get out more. Some perverse mood came over me and I wound up cleaning out my desk. Well, 3/4 of it, anyway (the last quarter will happen later this morning). It had gotten so bad, this big desk of mine, that I was stacking stuff on top of it because I couldn’t stuff any more stuff inside of it. I have bankers boxes to house the stuff, which means I can make a nice, orderly stack of stuff, all neatly labeled and which will, of course, sit around and gather dust but that’s another article, I’m sure.

I have a big executive desk with a left side return. The return holds two drawers – the small ‘pen’ drawer and a large file drawer beneath it. This is the drawer I use for bank statements, insurance papers, certificates and titles, and all that sort of thing for the running of the household. I removed six years of bank statements (yes, you read that correctly – six years), several years of income tax returns, and about a gazillion checkbook stubs. Now all neatly filed in banker boxes.

Yesterday I tackled the ‘me’ drawer on the right-hand side of the desk. It was quite a revelation. I removed, literally, at least two reams of paper – Bible color sheets, art projects, hints and ideas, lesson plans, and other stuff that remained from when I taught Sunday school. Cleared out tons of paper having to do with when I was going to seminary to become a deaconess (in my denomination it is a non-ordained position) but did hold back on some of the histories and the Church Fathers and the major heresies from centuries ago. Modern heresies are far too numerous to even contend with … but I digress.

Then I opened a file that was titled GOD. I had forgotten that was in there. Cleaning out the drawer slowed to a stop. I pulled out each piece of paper and read it. A large Mountain Dew and a pack of cigarettes later, I sat back and wondered at myself. Where did that woman go? The one who collected sayings and verses and discourses and apologetics and deep thoughts by brilliant minds across the ages and book titles and recommendations to myself on authors to research. Where did she go?

I remember when I was writing the essays that eventually became my book – the Holy Spirit sat on the desk here while I typed; He gave me the inspiration for a lot of the essays; He directed me to the correct sources for information. We got so close, He and I. To those I spoke really personal things to, I laughed and said I didn’t have ghostwriter, that the Holy Ghost had an Audre writer.

I want that woman back. I need her in my life. I used to wake in the morning with hymn verses running through my head. Jesus was the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, and a constant friend throughout the days. I think what happened was I stopped looking. Stopped looking for God in all things. Stopped seeing Jesus as the goal and example. Stopped needing the Holy Spirit – my Comforter and Teacher.

I didn’t throw away one piece of paper in the GOD file. They are all neatly standing in that file, ready for me to begin looking again, searching again, yearning again. I can feel the pull towards it now. I won’t forget about that file again.

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