He leads with humility and grace. Today, Pope Francis chooses to wash the feet of aged and frail people who live at the Don Gnocchi Centre in Rome. Washing of the feet is an integral part of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, celebrated today, Holy Thursday. The gesture commemorates Jesus’ act of washing the feet of his disciples.
While most believers celebrate this holy day not in Rome, but in their local churches, we carry Pope Francis’ message in our hearts: love those who need it most, serve them with humility, and when you do, you become the hands, the heart, the face of Christ.
(S-R archive photo: Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013.)
Holy Week…Passion and Grace: we enter Palm Sunday with triumph and joy, a journey into Jerusalem; our own lives seek the journey to return home, to enjoy friends and wonder about our future. Jesus was deceived by false claims of devotion. We travel our lives with similar steps.
Holy Thursday invites us to share food, drink wine, speak holy words, share our thoughts amid laughter, memories and gentle friendship. Ritual and celebration define us. But soon darkness, betrayal, and anguish overcome us and life offers no real control – even when you are Jesus.
Good Friday crashes down with tragedy and skewed loyalties among friends; a frenzy of courage and grief and loss and confusion and hopelessness; a spiritual wandering; emptiness and death. Primal-scream loneliness. Darkness extinguishes one’s spirit. Where is that God who promises so much?
We seek quiet stirrings and reflection and desperately demand meaning out of endings. How can one live with deep anguish? How can one survive the death of all that is good, close, holy, loving? Chaos reigns.
And then…when hope no longer lingers in one’s bones…that stone which has sealed us into death, suddenly quakes loose in ways we could never imagine, understand or even ask for. The thunderous movement liberates creation and the stone moves farther and farther away, smashing darkness. Light reaches into our own hiding places and warms what has been broken, offering healing and hope.
While our brains cannot explain, measure or understand, we are healed as we eagerly race from that sealed tomb into God’s grace of light and love; we arrive crashing into our God who will not abandon, our God who dances with joy at our own goodness.
The passion of Christ is the passion we claim for our own lives.
When we listen, we know the cosmic message: we are made in God’s image and deserve to be liberated from all that shackles us. In thunderous revelations or in quiet wandering, we arrive in the Light, we are made whole.
We deserve to dance in the Light of God’s Grace. Joyous Easter, promised resurrection ~ life.
(S-R archive photo: Sunrise from the slopes of Mount Spokane)
Holy Week arrives. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, palm branches strewn; disciples, strangers, love him and cheer, but finally turn away. Loyalty morphs into fear: the crowd condemns the man of justice, a counter-cultural man with a message of love.
Who would I have been in the crowd? If I had rushed to the noise, to the screaming, what words would have fallen or spewed from my mouth? I ponder the thought.
We walk before Mass, the lot of us - parishioners diverse and noisy, some silent; a community of hope. My son meandering away walks with the crowd. I hold back, accompanying my friend whose legs move more slowly than they once did. We walk the neighborhood, around the building that feeds the hungry of our community each day – no matter their faith or lack of it. We feed them.
This morning we carry palms: smooth blades, blessed and fresh. Walking, the People of God – we are imperfect, stragglers, helpers.
The sun casts shadows on our return to Church, down a small hill. Bagpipes lead us and the wailing notes echo off the bricks. As the choir sings, we crowd back into the building, eager souls who listen to the Word, awaiting this week of Passion, humanity’s defining pilgrimage.
Let us begin.
You may not know her name, but you have seen the results of her pioneering work. Phyllis Frelich was the first deaf actress to make her way onto the stage and walk away with a Tony Award. She inspired the play “Children of a Lesser God” which later became a move. Actress Marilee Matlin, also deaf, played the lead role in the film –and won an Academy Award.
Frelich, 70, passed away in Temple City, Calif., her husband, Robert Steinberg, said. Frelich suffered from a rare degenerative neurological disease called progressive supranuclear palsy.
Frelich and Steinberg were married for 46 years. “I would have been happy with 46 more,” Steinberg said.
The violence continues in our country. We honor people who serve, who protect and leave us too soon. May their families’ hearts heal, may our nation continue to seek effective care and treatment for those who suffer from mental illness.
We remember soldiers who defended their comrades, their military community.
An ancient papyrus document suggests Jesus may have been married. Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King writes about the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” as the words on the ancient fragment have been termed.
The authenticated fragment contains a phrase where Jesus, speaking with his disciples, says, “My wife…” The context is one of debate over whether women who are wives and mothers can be considered disciples – not an independent declaration of the marital status of Jesus.
While the marital status of the historical Jesus is fun to ponder, it has no bearing on my own spirituality. The discipleship role of women has always been clear: Women who are wives or mothers or vowed religious or single or widowed or divorced or anything else have believed, followed and loved as Jesus loved. Loved others with a profound kind of love Jesus likely experienced from his mother, maybe even his wife.
A recent finding of the PEW Research Center tells us more mothers are staying home with their children than did at the turn of the century – the last turn of the century – 1999.
In 1999, 23 percent stayed home while in 2012, 29 percent reported being at home.
Interestingly, many Americans - 60 percent -believe children are better off when a parent stays home.
Many factors contribute to a family’s decision to stay home or work: financial necessity, desire to contribute to society through work – and a desire to contribute to society by staying close to home and being a stay-at-home mom.
Mickey Rooney was irrepressible and delightful as an actor, singer, dancer, entertainer.
He debuted as an infant and never stopped. He was the screen’s most famous teen face during World War II – starring as Andy Hardy, the active fun-loving teen.
Rooney’s real life reads like an action film: rich beyond imagination by the time he was 40, earning $12 million, spending it more easily than he made it; he loved risk and adventure with his fortune and gambled early on. He was married eight times. His relationships were marred by his fiery temper and irresponsible habits.
Still, we loved Mickey Rooney on screen and in the news. His 93 years of life have inspired and delighted us all. May his legacy be one of entertaining a nation who adored him.
(S-R archive photo: In this Jan. 5, 1942, file photo, Mickey Rooney, 21, Movieland's No. 1 box office star, and Ava Gardner, 19, of Wilson, N.C., pose together in Santa Barbara, Calif., shortly after the couple applied for a marriage license.)
We used to see them on milk cartons: faces of missing children, the text describing the child and asking consumers, “Have you seen this child?”
Today parents use social media to ask friends, strangers and anyone who accesses information with the click of a mouse or an index finger: “Have you seen my child?”
The process worked for one Seattle mom who posted her plea on Facebook for her missing daughter Hailey. Soon Hailey was home.
A Missing Persons department is not open 24/7, but social media never closes and a plea for finding a loved one seems to spread within minutes. In a complicated world, especially complicated for struggling teens, social media has become a life-saving blessing.
(S-R archive photo: In this May 18, 2012 photo, Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, rings the opening bell of the Nasdaq stock market)
A life-saving device, similar to an EpiPen used to stop allergic reactions, has been approved for use to treat those who have overdosed on opioids. Prescription drug abuse is rampant, killing more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined. In 2010, more than 16,500 people died from opioids according to federal sources.
The device, called Evzio, contains naloxone and is small enough to hold in one’s hand. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an overdose; Evzio will be used on someone who has lost consciousness or stopped breathing. The new treatment may be available this summer.
Okay, I admit it. I am not of the generation who listened to Doris Day in her teen years. I loved her when I was only a few years old. “Please play Dayis Doors,” I would ask my parents. Her records spun for hours on our family hi-fi.
Later I loved her movies, especially Pillow Talk with that great kiss on the couch with Rock Hudson. She was smart, and of her time. But her off-screen life was less than storybook: one child who predeceased her and four marriages. But today Doris Day lives a rich and full life, she tells admirers. She advocates for animals and enjoys time with friends. She stays close to her Carmel, California home (afraid of flying her whole life). Her legacy is one of grace, talent and class.
Happy 90th birthday, Doris. You remain America’s sweetheart for all time.
(S-R archive photo)
A friend writes she now has health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. With reoccurring cancer, she is able to return to her beloved oncologist – whom she could not have care for her under her previous insurance. “I can’t explain what peace of mind that gives me to know that he will be with me through this time. I was so excited that I wrote a thank you letter to President Obama.”
Light in times of darkness comes from many directions. Through medical challenges, a trusted provider alleviates fear. My friend Pam McCauley, a writer, shares one of her poems.
We are all ships in the fog
Trying to navigate
Our way through
The sea of unknowing.
God is the lighthouse,
Giving glimpses of light,
Showing the way,
Reminding us of His presence.
Even when His light,
Is nowhere to be found,
The sound of the low, deep foghorn
Resonates through our souls.
Our ships will come to shore
The fog will lift
And God in His Glory
Will gather us up.
For one woman, the Lighthouse illuminates a path made easier through the Affordable Care Act.
(S-R archive photo: The lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point, a 36-acre Washington State Park on the west side of San Juan Island. )
The digging, the waiting, the mud continues.
The names of the deceased appear, the names of the missing posted.
What happens to a community when so many simply vanish? How do we come to understand the catastrophe? When overcome with grief, how does someone survive?
One takes small steps, uncertain of the stability of each day, for the terrain of one’s heart has shifted and one’s world altered forever. Grief, like cleanup, requires small steps, lots of rest and a community who loves without reservation.
His image was grainy and odd when I saw it on the television in 1966. I was 11 and had seen images of war on the evening news for years. It would be a long time until I understood his profound courage, courage he knew would likely lead to more torture. It did.
Jeremiah Denton, Jr. served in Vietnam and was shot down on July 18, 1965, when he was flying his 12th mission over North Vietnam. He took off from the South China Sea. As he flew over the Thanh Hoa Bridge on the Ma River, he was shot down and taken prisoner. He was kept in different prison camps for the next seven years and seven months. Awful, torturous spaces.
Ten months after his capture, he was selected to participate in a propaganda interview for Japanese television. As he appeared on television, he blinked in odd patterns, as though the lights bothered him. But he was sending a message with those blinks – TORTURE – he spelled in Morse code with the blink..blink..blink-blink of his eyes.
The POWs came home – alive – in February 1973. I was a senior in high school and understood a bit more about war. I wrote letters to one POW who returned, welcoming him home. He came to school and spoke to the students, explaining how they communicated with tap.tap. tap on the walls. Learning each other’s names and remembering hometowns. They were a community of heroes.
Jeremiah Denton, Jr. died last week at age 89. Today, we remember him: his patriotism, his courage and all that he suffered, all he endured - for US.
The mudslide story plays constantly on the Seattle news stations: the faces of waiting loved ones reveal exhaustion and grief. The workers who dig and pole and sift through the muck appear as subject to slipping away as the victims of one week ago.
The rain pelts down, hour after hour after hour.
Fire Chief Travis Hots has been in his job since January – two months. No matter if he had been chief for two decades, no imagination or experience or training could have prepared him for this disaster. We keep vigil with him, with the communities of Oso and Darrington and Arlington.
(S-R photo: Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots )
A woman can see and function again. She has reclaimed her life thanks to a printer. Really, a printer.
A 22-year-old woman whose skull was thickening, suffered from headaches, lost her vision and her sense of coordination from the thickening skull. In a 23-hour surgery she received a new skull created from a 3-D printer. The new skull is a perfect fit. She has recovered from her symptoms and is a living miracle of modern times.
The marriage between unlimited imagination and science continues to improve and redeem our lives.
Kay Ryan writes a lovely poem that easily fills the grief spaces in our hearts as searchers continue to slog through the sludge, debris and pain caused by Saturday's mudslide. Somehow humans persevere, but each step demands intent and hopeful purpose. A poem:
Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard
A life should leave
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
Her things should
keep her marks.
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
be so hard.
Kay Ryan was the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States.
(S-R photo: A searcher uses a small boat to look through debris from a deadly mudslide Tuesday in Oso, Wash.)
The mudslide scene in Oso, Washington reminds us of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen in 1980: the debris and mud and unknown. Where are the lost?
We seem to hold vigils almost daily during these days of catastrophes, made by nature or ourselves. We are a community of humanity who suffers together. We wait together. And listen for news, for names, for images of life.
We keep the light in our hearts burning with hope.
(S-R photo: The Oso Community Church displays a sign reading “pray with us for our community.”)
Planes, helicopters and walls of mud – all falling away from life. The last two weeks have been difficult. Saturday a hillside became a mudslide and washed away homes, and with them, security. Three people are confirmed dead. An infant clings to life at Harborview.
We work so diligently to create secure and certain lives – and so much lies beyond our human control. Seems a good time to tend to simple acts of kindness for whomever we encounter. Life is harder than it looks.
So dad can’t “explain” how he forgot his infant daughter in his car in the parking garage; he just “forgot” to drop her off at day care and left her in the car – all day? Hmm.
I understand forgetting a half gallon of milk in the car and books, a pile of swimming gear, but an infant?
The question becomes what is the focus of our lives? What is so foremost in one’s brain that a father becomes more intent on getting himself to work than on caring for his child? The child in the back seat of his car.
Wonder what conversation followed between dad and mom; perhaps the consequences from Child Protective Services paled in comparison to the wrath of one enraged wife.