Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's Birthday Time

I don't know what to say today. I stand on the cusp or the Grand Canyon of yet another birthday. Seven-nine. God, how embarrassing. How did I get here? The Lord only knows. About every time we sing, "Through many dangers, toils and snares..." I tear up. But not just for me but for all of us--everybody included--nobody left out--that have found the journey hard and fun and scary and impossible and wondrous and downright awesome. I don't particularly like the word blessed--but I don't know another word that covers it all...and there has been a whole lot out there to take in.

One of my fav-o-rite poets which I just discovered a few years ago is a poet named Alden Nowlan from Nova Scotia. He's dead now but he left us some amazing words. And one of my favorites I'm going to share with you today.  It's entitled "Great Things Have Happened."

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, 'Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time.' But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once
   had been the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince

(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me, 
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

'Is that all?' I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in
   Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently

than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love."

You can't  beat that can you?


So much has happened. The memories swirl and wash over me. The day "I got borned" in that tiny little four-room house across the tracks from the mill. They thought they could never have children and at long last: "Ta Dah"  I came along. And four years later my brother. We had so very little--and thanks to my parents--we really didn't know it. We never, ever felt deprived even though some thought if you live "over there" you were not quite somebody. I never felt that.

There were animals like Lucy the cat, who in her profligately left us a zillion kittens. There was Princess, our cocker spaniel and I don't know how many others. Pooch, Red Dog. Beethoven. Agnes. Cleo--to name a few.There was the

Church up the street that made a powerful impression in my life. And the school, across that same street, opened some doors that have never closed. Early on--there were books, books and books. And still are. I  don't remember who taught me to read--but God bless them over and over.

There were teachers and high school and college and friends and friends and friends. A mere prelude of what would happen along this Jericho road of 79 years. And there were jobs and challenges that stretched me aplenty.

There was a 21-year-old that had no idea what she was getting into when we married. And after all these years--she has come all the way. She has put up with  a lot from her husband and his circuitous moods and peculiarities. There were two kids--a boy and a girl--and I can still remember where I was the night both of them came into the world. Somebody later sent me a book called, The Birth of a Grandfather--and that has happened to met two fine times. The family thing may just be the greatest thing that ever happened.

There was Church and Church and Church. Carlyle Marney used to say "the church  has dirty underdrawers." And I guess he was right. But that's not the whole truth. When she gets dressed up her her finery my, my she is something to behold. And she sometimes takes breath away and forces me to be more honest with myself than I ever thought. And trailing behind her was that glorious company too many to number. All ages. Shapes. Sizes. A handful mean as hell. Strange and wondrous. I found her and them in every church I ever served.

I don't want to bore you anymore. I just want to say to all those out there--do you have any idea how you have amazingly graced my life. Emily Dickinson talked about "sending a love-letter to the world." Well--I don't know if I would go that far--but I do know I send this love-letter out and I hope even to those who have gone on before know that these words have their name on the envelope too.

If I ever get the time I want to write a book called, Things I Wish Jesus Had Not Said. But today, looking back--where would I be if I had not heard and believed and tried (haltingly and sometimes not at all) to follow what Jesus really did say.

And so my rantings are over today. Thank you family...that you friends...and thank you God for the memories which are far, far richer than anything I ever even knew was out there when I sat at that little desk in that little classroom when I was eight years old.









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