Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unexpected Celebrations of Life

The River of Life
     My good friend Danielle sent me a countdown text for how many days until our July raft/hiking trip through the Grand Canyon will be. It’s the trip of a lifetime, something we’ve been trying for years to do. It’s a sacred place of ridges and cliffs, glowing rocks and red waterfalls, rare condors with their nine-foot wing spans.
     Why then, is fear seizing my gut?
     In the abstract, it seemed like such a great idea, but now I’m trying to shove a week’s worth of stuff into a pack that is not allowed to weigh much more than 10 pounds. Then there’s the fact that we’ll be sleeping on the ground, enduring blazing heat and living through thrashings by the Colorado River, something I hadn’t worried about until a friend sent me a link to this hilarious video by comedienne Jeanne Robertson, “Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.”

     Then horror of all horrors, I’ll be without cell service for 8 days. How does one live without that?
     I have no doubt the trip will change me. In one sense, it’s a rite of passage for this season of loss in my life. My divorce is final just before I leave. On the wall in my office is the Radmacher quote: "I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
     So, I keep culling through my pack, seeking just the essentials for my spirit to thrive, psyching myself to take the plunge.

     It was a lot of birthdays in a ten-day stretch. On Tuesday, my friends raised a birthday toast to me as we sat at a waterfront table on Shem Creek. The previous Saturday, I gave lots of treats and special fun outings to my dog Hurley as he turned four. And the Sunday before that, I got to fill the pulpit at a small church on Pentecost, the traditional birthday of the Church. My sermon encouraged us all to be amazed at the workings of the Spirit in our lives and rejoice, as in the story from Acts when thousands of new disciples joined the Church on Pentecost. Looking at another biblical story of the Holy Spirit, though, my sermon reminded us that we, like Ezekiel, can see a lot of "dry bones" surrounding us, situations that look hopeless and irredeemable. Birthdays are a time to acknowledge both the joy and the hopelessness as we reflect on the last year of life and look to the next one.
     In both these biblical stories, the wind of the Holy Spirit blew in and brought about new beginnings. The dry bones lived again, and the small group of disciples grew into the Church. I love that hope for change, for newness. I don't know what that might look like in the life of the Church, or in my life, or even Hurley's. But I am hoping that the Spirit-wind will sweep in some good changes, and that this time next year, we will have a lot to celebrate.


     Don and I were sitting on the back porch, enjoying one of the last cool evenings of late spring, when we heard the tinny music of an ice cream truck slowly making its way through our neighborhood.   Our girls are grown and gone, but we considered grabbing a dollar or two and running out the door to get a rocket pop or a nutty buddy or a dreamsicle or even some soft serve ice cream - just for ourselves. As we pondered, the repetitive music kept tinkling away.  
     “What is that tune?” I wondered out loud.  We both paused, listening attentively.  It was familiar, but I couldn’t place it.  After running through my mental list of childhood camp songs, I listened again and started singing along.... “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”  The ice cream truck was playing Christmas songs!  The truck rattled on through “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way” and the fa- la -la’s of Deck the Halls.  A cheery “Silent Night” faded away as the truck turned out of the neighborhood.   
     Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the familiar in an unexpected place.  We see a friend from home in a faraway vacation spot and it takes us a minute as we pause and wonder "Is that _______?"  We hear a the voice of a familiar actor speaking in a commercial and pause to recognize them.  "Is that ________?"   I think the Holy is like that as well, surprising us by showing up in unexpected places, waiting and hoping that we will pause for just a minute to listen and wonder "Is that _________?"


1 comment:

  1. Anita,

    Love this! A short piece that says so much!
    MaryAnne Massey