What the Day Gives by Jeanne Lohmann

This is an exquisite poem. I love the choices of poems Jan Falls shares. You might want to subscribe too!

Heart Poems

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back,
asking.
 
Across the street the fiery trees
hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months
of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles.

In the frozen fields of my life
there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers
they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair
to hope and back again, I commend my life
to Ruskin’s most difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage,
to be happy.

What the Day Gives

This poem just caught my attention and felt so perfect even though November is now over. You may remember…

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Every day I make the same promise that I will try to write something, but every day there is so much else to do, and so many other voices clamoring to be heard, so I don’t do it. Today I was impressed by David Brooks talking about going to a rally for conservatives in Florida, and listening to young right wing people who believe the left wing progressives are taking over the country, and threatening to destroy democracy. This is so crazy that it is hard to believe they believe their own twisted narrative, and certainly it is crazy that they think they are defending our country against those of us who are trying to increase the bandwidth of social justice, the buffering of people with healthcare and pensions and disability and unemployment insurance, the reform of the banks which gouge people especially in mortgages and lending, and just the hope for protection of the right of everyone to vote. It is so hard to read what he says, that people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley who are anti-democratic in the extreme, think that they are FOR the USA.

We are in the time of hoping that the Senate will pass the Build Back Better bill, which is very popular, because it aims at helping working familes, getting support for parents, for childcare, for medical care and disability and unemployment insurance. AND education! These crazy right wing people think this is unAmerican.

My brother-in-law strained his back and was in excruciating pain, and it makes me think of all the people with acute pain who can’t get medical care coverage and access, and all the chronic pain patients who are committing suicide because they cannot function with the pain– and the whole system of care for people in chronic pain has been dismantled by the pious who are so afraid of addiction they would rather have people committing suicide. And of course, the mental health needs we have in our country, and the homeless, many of whom cannot work because of mental health diagnoses.

It is just exhausting! President Biden is having to constantly bend and move against the headwind generated by the alt-right crazies and their Congressional Republicans, who took an oath to defend our country, but seem completely bent on destroying it. We have to keep praying, and trying to pass the bills to help the working class people, and try to ignore the dark money flowing to the Congressional reps from the corporate sponsors and lobbyists. And we have to try to stop the nuclear warheads from being built, and try harder to protect the planet from the weapons of mass destruction which is our main export as a country.

At least I get to sit peacefully in the silence, and not have to listen to the tv blaring. I pray and pray, that we can get past the danger to our country right now.

How’s Your Love Life? – A Sermon On Mark 12:28-34

This is a beautiful and true reflection on what love is. I appreciate Michael Marsh for writing it.

Interrupting the Silence

The year my dad was in Viet Nam my mom, sister, and I lived in my mom and dad’s hometown. I was about nine or ten years old. Every few weeks I’d go to Alfie’s Barber Shop for a haircut. It was always the same routine. I’d climb up in the chair and Alfie would wrap a sheet around me. Then he’d spin the chair around so we were both looking into the mirror and he’d say, “How’s your love life these days?”

His question made me so uncomfortable. I would giggle, squirm, and get embarrassed. I wondered if he knew I had a crush on not just one but two girls in my class, Jackie Callaway and Kim Cochran. His question still makes me uncomfortable today, but for different reasons.

I wonder if Alfie’s question is the unspoken question running through today’s gospel (Mark 12:28-34). 

“You shall…

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“Let Me See Again” – A Sermon On Mark 10:46-52

To see better, to see deeper, to see farther, and to look upwards are all part of this wonderful Gospel of the Blind Bartimaeus. THANK YOU!

Interrupting the Silence

Healing the Blind Man of Jericho by Unknown Author – Codex Egberti, Fol 31, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Most of you have heard enough of my preaching that you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I don’t want us to literalize today’s gospel (Mark 10:46-52) and make it about only physical blindness and sight. We often hear this story and think of blindness and seeing in their outward forms. But what about inward blindness and seeing? I think this story is bigger than outward and physical blindness or seeing. I think it’s a universal story that every one of us experiences even if our vision is 20/20. So let me ask you a few questions.

Darkness

Do you ever feel like you are in the dark? I don’t mean that someone turned off the lights around you, but that the light within you is no longer…

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God Wastes Nothing Of Our Lives – A Funeral Sermon On Romans 8:14-19, 34-35, 37-39

I love this– nothing is wasted, and God is always continuing the story of life, (in our evolving universe, I want to add!)

Interrupting the Silence

Where to begin? What to say?

He was a good man, a crazy friend, a character, an operator, an entrepreneur. He was a story teller, funny, gregarious, outgoing, and mischievous. He was a rancher, a pilot, an excellent shot, a great golfer, an Aggie. “He was fun to be with and we had some good times.” “I loved Bo and sometimes I just wanted to pinch his head off.” “We were the best of friends until we had a big falling out.” “He’ll be missed.”

Those are just a few of the things I’ve heard about Bo since he died. And I suspect each of your could add to that list.

There’s a lot that could be said about Bo and probably a lot that has already been said – good, bad, and indifferent. But that’s not unique to or about only Bo. That’s…

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The Lady from Afghanistan

When I was doing the first rotation at Coney Island Hospital, in Obstetrics residency training, I saw a woman in the clinic one day, swathed in drapery and veils, who was pregnant with her 5th child.  She was in her 8th month, and I was getting her first history and physical done, although there were no translators available, and it appeared that she had come to the hospital without a family member to help her with the language.  All we knew was that she was from Afghanistan, and had recently come to New York.  She knew I would be putting her up in stirrups, and doing a pap smear.  As I looked at her cervix, I was overwhelmed with worry, because I saw a cancer on the upper outer right cervical area, about an inch by a half-inch in size.  It was fungating and white, like a small piece of cauliflower, stuck on the cervix.  

I called the supervising doctor over to confirm what I was seeing, and then asked who we could get to translate for her.  There was no one who spoke her language.  Her baby was growing appropriately and the rest of her exam was normal.  I went through all the possible things I could think of, in trying to figure out how to get her to know and understand the seriousness of the situation, and that we thought the best thing to do would be to take the tissue out after she delivered the baby, but it meant she needed to come back to our hospital  when she was in labor, and where we would put all of this in the notes.   Since we did not have an early ultrasound, and I had held up my fingers to ask her how many months pregnant she thought she was, as I pointed to the swollen belly, we would not want to deliver her until she went into labor, trying to avoid an unnecessary premature delivery of the baby.  

Finally, I took her by the hand.  She could see by my face that I was very concerned for her, and that I had made a big deal talking about her with the attending doctor.  We went up to the postpartum floor, from the clinic.  I could not even tell her how to get there, so I took her there.   I asked the nurses if anyone who had had a baby in the past few days was from Afghanistan.  There was one woman, who was in the last room at the end of the hall.  I kept holding her hand, and walking her toward that room.  When we got there,  I asked the woman if she could speak some English.  She nodded.  I told her that this woman was from Afghanistan, and asked if she could understand her enough to communicate with her and translate for me.  

What joy it was, as they tentatively began to speak; and then faster and faster the flow of language between them went,  with laughter like cousins meeting by chance, like a fountain revving up to full glory!  YES, the mother with the newborn said, “ it is amazing, a miracle, I am from the same corner of the country and we speak the same language!” 

After a little getting to know each other, they looked at me.  I said that it was so important that we had found this woman, her new friend,  to translate; because there appeared to be a cancer on her cervix, which the doctors believe we should remove after the delivery of the baby.  She needed to know, to give consent, and that we can put this consent,  now, witnessed by her friend,  in her chart, so that if she delivers at a time there is no one to translate, the paper work would be done.  

It was done!   About a month  later, she delivered a healthy baby, and we were able to get the surgery done, and she was able to get the proper follow up.  She did not have complications. 

Lately, I have laughed to myself about the millions of times I wish I had kept notes, to be able to remember later, so many cases, so many miracles, and amazing wonders like waterfalls in those early years— too many, happening too fast to absorb them all.  Now I have the time to remember, but not that many cases have come up out of the mist for me.  This one did, for which I am grateful; and it was about Afghanistan, as we were ending the war there, and my thinking went back to what I have learned about the country, and its people.  

The need for care for women all over the world, and especially for the risk of cervical cancer, which at that time was still one of the highest causes of death of young women, remains one of the things I have carried with me, from the Peace Corps, until now.  

Wisdom

Wisdom

I am wise in the way I have grown old.  

At first, being retired was terrible, like having my hands cut off, or being a banana without a peel.

I have a skill that is still useful and vital, but now I am learning to let go, to let things flow through me, flow past me, flow through my fingers or my conscious thoughts, without grasping them.

I understand some important things about people:

Drives, needs, physiology, need for stability and need for growth.  

The need for support and the need for adventure.

I understand some of the weight of different social pressures, and the need for a livable pace.

Being able to balance doing and being matters to me. 

Never losing the prayerful center, the I/Thou is crucial.  

Holding heart and head in balance, even though often feeling only wobble, not steady state. 


St. Ignatius said we should try to always be in contemplation in action.  

I see medicine as service, rather than as a platform of authority.  I see we all need to continue to be useful as we are able. Every day is a new challenge in being useful in some way.

Writing my first letter

A visit with my grandmother

Writing My First Letter

Nana is dancing in the kitchen, frying weenies for dinner.    The weenies are sizzling in the black iron frying pan, with steam and stinging droplets of fat rising from it. She  is doing a little jig, and poking the weenies with a pancake turner.  I am standing in the doorway in my quilted robe and slippers, and just came from the hall which has the floor heater, standing over it and letting it blow warm air up my legs.  Sunlight pours from the window in the bathroom into the hall behind me, but the kitchen is in shadow, and is cooler.  The old black telephone is on the hall table, and if it rings, Nana will come to answer it.  Popie, my aunt, has gone to work at the high school, and we are at home this morning, just the two of us.  Later we may go to town.  I have come to spend a few days at my grandmother’s house.  

Nana came to get me, over the mountain from our house in Fillmore, to bring me to visit her and my aunt at the farm.  

She has me sit at the Mexican table in the breakfast room to write a letter to my parents.  She has bought me some wonderful stationery, with yellow ducks marching along the bottom of the page, and it has lines, so I can practice writing.  I copy the letters she shows me.  I ask her to help me compose this letter; 

“Dear Mommy and Daddy,” ( It takes an eternity and half a page to write that ).  “I am having fun with Nana”.   (This takes another half a page and a lot of time, but it is legible! ). “Love, Tina.”

Nana is going to take me with her later to the P.O. and she will address this first letter I have written, and put a stamp on it.  I feel so grown up, so wonderful, to be able to put words on paper, above that line of yellow ducks.

I am happy we are getting to eat weenie sandwiches for lunch.  I love them, half-charred, and covered with mustard.  My grandmother carefully cuts them vertically down the middle, and splays them so that the flat edges of the insides get braised in the frying pan.  She presses on the rounded outer sides of the twin halves with the pancake turner.  They want to curl up, but she keeps them flat.  

The bright yellow mustard is the same color as the yellow ducks on the child’s stationery with the wide lines.  We eat in the breakfast room, redolent of smoke and bright Mexican blue— the walls, the chairs and the table, although it is covered by a red tablecloth, and there are little red flowers painted on the cross-bars of the chair backs.  

My grandmother is laughing and cheerful, and the house is peaceful and warm.  Nana drove to Fillmore to get me, to bring me to her house.  I am not sure why my sister didn’t get to come too, but I am glad to be getting my grandmother’s full attention.  When Popie gets home, we will do something together, the 3 of us.  I am a very happy child.  Nana and I sing little songs, like “Twinkle, Twinkle little star.”  I can’t remember all the little songs, but I am familiar with them, and chime in when I can.  I love to hear my grandmother sing.  

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

The quiet and beauty are what we need to be able to heal. We are in existential dread with the sweltering heat, scared of a future of more climate change. I want to hear the cows on the hillside, and feel the air dancing the ginko leaves!

Heart Poems

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Lying in a Hammock

When I first read Wright’s poem, enticed by the title, I came to the end and broke into smiles. I realize it may not strike you this way. Certainly that last line is an abrupt turn around from all the gorgeous pastoral images – butterfly, leaf, cowbells, sunlight, golden stones, a chicken hawk floats over. What does he mean?

I’m not going…

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The Divine Touch – A Sermon On Mark 5:21-43

This is a very beautiful meditation on the power of touch. It is a remedy for so much of the isolation we have been feeling!

Interrupting the Silence

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year B – Mark 5:21-43

I’m usually the one that drives when my wife, Cyndy, and I go somewhere. If we’re going further than a few blocks I almost always roll up the sleeve of my right arm, lay my hand in her lap, and say, “Would you rub my little arm please?”

On the one hand it just feels good and I like it. On the other hand it’s about so much more. I want to be touched. I want to be seen, recognized. I want to be reminded that I am real and that I matter. I want to feel connected to someone and something beyond myself.

“Would you rub my little arm?” She’s heard it a million times. I don’t think I am the only one that asks that. I think all of us, in…

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