Changing the Season of Darkness into the Season of Light…

When we lived in the city we had a strategy for homeless people or those on the sidewalks with signs. We carried gift cards for Subway and gave them out one or two at a time. It seemed mostly satisfactory, until one day a guy asked how much was it worth. Later that same week I discovered a “cash-in your gift cards here” machine in the local grocery store.

We have since moved to a small town/rural area, and the people with signs aren’t so frequent. I don’t carry gift cards any more, and I rarely have cash with me, so I mostly just feel bad when I see someone with a Need Help sign.

I was thinking this morning of something that happened last fall before 2020 happened: I had made an uncharacteristic stop at Walmart to get Burt’s Bees chapstick. While there, I bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner. As I was leaving the parking lot, there was an older man standing at the curb. I could barely read his sign; all I got was “Need Help, Lost Job…”

I drove by.

I had a twenty dollar bill in my purse and a chicken for dinner. Playing on the car audio system was “More Like You” by Scott Wesley Brown. If you don’t know that song, the chorus goes like this:

More like you, Jesus, More like you, Touch my lips with holy fire, and make me more like you.

At the bottom of the hill, I turned around and drove back to where he was standing. I gave him the twenty dollar bill and prayed that he would use it wisely. I don’t know. I’m not writing this for any praise from you because it wasn’t my first thought to be generous. It wasn’t even my second thought. And for all I know, he went out and bought drugs or whiskey with it. But the story that keeps coming to mind is from C.S. Lewis: he was walking with a friend and he gave a generous amount of money to a street person. The friend gently chided him, saying the standard remark, “You know, he’ll probably just drink it up.” To which Lewis replied, “Well, so would I.” (This is from a biography of Lewis by Owen Barfield — who actually was that friend…)

But there’s another quote that’s not so well known in Letters to an American Lady.  Lewis writes, “It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been “had for a sucker” by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.”

I’m not suggesting we give money to every homeless person; we all have to figure out  how to live generously and thankfully, and what that means is different for everyone. But the events of this year — from pandemics to hurricanes and wildfires to racial unrest to large scale economic upheaval — have left so many of us feeling overwhelmed by the need. And feeling overwhelmed, I am trying to figure out what I can do.

sunriseToday is the first Sunday in Advent. As we await the light coming in this dark year of dark years, I suggest we choose something to do about it. It could be giving anonymously to someone in need. It could be making a meal for someone who is alone. Maybe every Thursday in Advent, you call someone you’ve been thinking about. Yesterday I read a suggestion–that instead of buying Christmas presents this year, we all donate to food pantries or agencies that are struggling to help people in need. We’re considering this: I’m thinking about making cards to send to family members explaining our strategy. Now, more than ever, is a good time to reconsider our spending habits and instead of spending our money on Cyber Monday, let’s spend it on Giving Tuesday instead…

I’m interested to hear if you have any plans to make this Advent season of 2020 different. To bring joy. To bring light. To this hurting world.

Grateful on February 20th

The country world is a mess; governments are failing in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, Syria, United States; there are wars and rumors of wars everywhere; Australia is burning; there are diseases and rumors of diseases everywhere; and the potus has not yet been banned from Twitter. Sometimes it seems like a world gone mad, and it can get a person down in the gray winter dumps…

Here are some things to be grateful for…

 

  1. If you are reading this, you have survived the grayest winter ever — 0 sunny days in January; 3.5 sunny days so far in February… (statistics are from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
  2. Though there wasn’t much sun, neither did you have to touch your snow blower or snow shovel (This is specific to Southwest PA…);
  3. You probably have not contracted the Corona Virus;
  4. There are 28 days left until spring — (Dandelions are sprouting in my yard. In February! And the daffodil buds are fat.)
  5. We have spring gardening, summer vacations, and fall harvests to look forward to in 2020;
  6. Writing the date 02/20/2020 is very symmetrical and pleasurable;
  7. According to Ballotpedia there are 1,047 candidates who have filed to run for president in 2020, including:
    • 309 Democratic candidates
    • 156 Republican candidates
    • 64 Libertarian candidates
    • 22 Green candidates
    • 1,045 of them are probably better than Donny Johnny Rump or Grumpy Grampy Bernie;
  8. You have 256 days left to decide — Nov. 3, 2020…
  9. the courage of Col. Alexander Vindman, Ambassador Bill Taylor, Dr. Fiona Hill,  Marie Yovanovitch, and Mitt Romney;
  10. This is a Leap Year and you have a free day on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Celebrate it.
  11. the joy of getting a new book and having time to read it. (Currently reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; just finished Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.)
  12. You are still here, most likely sitting in a warm place on this beautiful blue planet, in this candy bar galaxy, in the Lord’s world. We are here for a purpose. What will you do about it?

 

20 for 2020

It’s a new year; it’s a new decade.

Can I get a Hallelujah?

A few months ago (actually many months ago) a friend reminded me that I had not written a post since February 13. “Yes, I know,” I replied. “I think about it almost every day.” The true question was, “Am I done blogging?” It seems so out of date and self-serving. Can I just say that this world does not need any more self-absorption?

I wrote at least five drafts that bored even me. Then, every time I would sit down to write, the egomaniac who is the current president would do something so ridiculous, so awful, that I would start to rant. And  I didn’t need to add to the clamor, the din, the tumult… But that might be just a weak excuse.

Like all years, this past one had its ups and downs, goods and bads: I lost 25 pounds; our  beloved Henry the cat died; I planted sweet potatoes and peas for the first time and they did great; the staples of tomatoes and peppers did poorly. We had tons of cherries and pears; we had almost no apples. I retired and had plenty to do; I retired and sometimes felt at loose ends. I read a lot of great books; I stopped writing almost entirely. We finished the beautiful back porch and the lower side of the house; the bathroom is still unfinished and ugly. I read and studied my journaling Bible every day, but truth be told, this year God has often seemed distant. I get depressed reading the New York Times and watching World News Tonight; my faith tells me I must have hope.

So last night just as I was deciding to give it up entirely and not even do a New Year’s post, WordPress sent me a notice that my stats were booming.

An unknown person across the internet somewhere far away was reading my blog posts in order — they had started with all the early posts about the cottage and then read at least forty-five of my 245 posts.  And that one little thing changed my mind. So here is my post for the New Decade. It might be the one and only, the first and the last; I’ve no guarantees. After all, I’m retired…

This morning I was reading an article written by James Hatch, a 52-year old former Navy SEAL who is a freshman at Yale. He wrote: “I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed… To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.” Amen, brother. Let’s stop disrespecting each other. Starting today.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

1. those who would go to Times Square for New Year’s Eve, and those who couldn’t be paid enough to go…

Sunrise from our bedroom windows

2. those who go out for New Year’s Eve, and those who stay home…

3. those who would rehab an old vacant house, and those who would look for a new one instead…

boards

4. Cat-lovers and Dog-lovers…

Cat in the Christmas tree

5. Savers and Pitchers…
pitchers

6. Dreamers and Doers…

7. those who believe and those who scoff…

Micah 6:*

8. those who stay, and those who go…

9. those who love snow, and those who don’t…

10. those who take naps, and those who feel superior to those who take naps…

Cat nap

11. those who love city streets, and those who love country roads…

12. those who look up and those who look down…

13. those who eat their fruits and vegetables, and those who eat their meat’n potatoes…

green tomato salsa

14. those whose glass is half-empty and those whose glass is half-full…

Stag's Leap winery

15. those who work for pay and those who work for love; and those who are blessed to do both at the same time…

Mr. H.C's truck

16. those who believe santa is a democrat, those who believe santa is a  republican, and those who believe santa should just start a third party for the rest of us — the Dempublicans? The Republicrats? (Surely he would get more than just my vote…)

17. Those who love to go shopping and those who would rather eat worms than go to a Walmart.

18. Flitterers and Plodders…

19. Readers and TV watchers

 

20. Right and Wrong (please God, give us grace for both…)

At different times in our lives, we can be any of these. (Well, probably not too many of us would admit to being that turtle…)
Me? I have been all these — a city lover, a country girl; a scoffer, a believer; an optimist, a pessimist; a cat-lover, a dog-lover; a dreamer, a doer; a shopper and a worm-eater; right and wrong…(Though I would have to be paid a lot of cash to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.)
Can we remember this?
Can we remember that our differences make this beautiful world what it is?
Can we let go of our prejudices, our prides, our preconceptions, our disrespect… and just love each other?

May grace, peace, and joy be yours in abundance in 2020.

Christmas angel