The Tree Still Stands

In early March of 1971 our first child was born in a hospital an hour away from our home. On the way home we made a short visit to a family who lived near the hospital. The weather though above freezing in the daytime, still hovered around the low forties and I had dressed our newborn for arctic weather. When my friend Lisa, a veteran mom of two young children, laid our crying baby boy on her sofa. She began unwrapping the layers: warm blanket, lighter blanket, receiving blanket, hat, booties and sweater down to a cozy footed one piece PJ.  His tiny forehead was awash with perspiration. She wrapped him in his receiving blanket and he fell happily asleep. Jim went outside and returned with a rooted one foot high stick, and shoot from his dogwood tree.

Our friends gave us a hearty lunch repackaged the little one minus a few trappings.  We moved on to our second and last stop before home at grandma’s house. Delighted she held him in her arms and gave him a nickname, Butchie. She called my husband that when he was a baby. I remember thinking of her when we had our first grandchild also a boy. It felt as if we had our son back again.  Home at last, my husband placed the stick on the eastern side of the lawn on solidly frozen ground. We were not too optimistic when the ground thawed and we planted it there.

Some forty years later sitting on my deck as the sun rose, I wrote this poem

The Tree Still Stands

It blooms a while in springtime and lifts my soul To contemplate all that’s happened Since the stick was planted in the soil  The babe came first before the barren, rooted wood  They grew together one in earth, the other in love

Some Forty-two years have past The tree has grown and bloomed  Almost destroyed by storms  Trimmed and allowed to live The child, a man, a gift to us withstands the storms of living  His progeny will face the bitter winds of life, yet live  As the dogwood blooms in springtime…                                                                                                                      May 3, 2017

 

 

Easter Morning: Excerpt From Daybreak

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised.       Luke 24: 5-6

Nothing could stop me from going to the tomb. The Lord guided my footsteps. Finally the gate of the garden came into sight. It was appropriate He rested in a garden. That was His Father’s original intention for all His creation, to live in the garden of Eden. There were sounds of earth’s awakening all around. Birds singing, a small brook splashing over rocks, a gentle breeze rustling through the trees.

I saw the place where we hid yesterday and then the tomb. The entrance was open, the specially made stone rolled to one side. There were no guards or mourners. I hesitated but could not resist entering. The slab was empty where a dead man should have been. Only the burial cloth and the costly scent of myrrh and aloe remained. The appealing fragrance filled the tomb. It felt sacred. In one corner on a small ledge, I noticed the face cloth of Yehua folded neatly. The light from the entrance lit up the whole area. He had risen as He said!

Trembling I knelt on the stone floor uttering a prayer of gratitude. The Messiah had come. Born like every man and He died so men might live forever. He conquered death by dying and rising. Who could understand the mind of the Lord?

I left the tomb and walked outside into the light. Everything appeared more intense and vivid. Something made me look down and I saw a patch of tiny white flowers, the kind I’d picked for Sarai the night we met on the roof of my uncle’s home.

I had to tell my dearest relatives: Yeshua had risen! I had to tell everyone.

Holy Thursday: Food for Thought

Today begins the journey of the Passion. Many of us know the story well but it is surprising how many do not, in our increasingly pagan world. Holy Thursday begins the final days of Divinity who became part of humanity. Being human, we can imagine the thoughts, fears and emotions of the Eternal Galilean (a great book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen). Unlike most of the human race, Jesus knew what was about to happen. He wasn’t sick or old. In fact He would ask later that night that this cup would pass from Him… the human part of God’s Son really didn’t want to die and certainly not by crucifixion.

What did He do the day before His death on the cross? He prepared to celebrate the greatest feast day of His earthly family, God’s chosen people, the Jews. He organized the party, first telling two disciples they would meet a man in a certain place in Jerusalem carrying a water jug and tell him their Master wanted to have the Passover Feast at his home. How this man knew he should agree is not mentioned in the Gospels; perhaps an angel came to him or a dream or any number of ways in which we know the desires of our God.

Jesus said He greatly desired to have the Passover meal with his Apostles. As the Jews long ago passed over the Red Sea to freedom, Jesus was about to pass over from this life to eternity. It was a better life there with His Father but He had lived and loved his friends and all of humanity on His earthly journey.  He knew what was ahead — great physical, mental and emotional suffering. At this last supper with His closest friends, He would give then a Gift, food and drink that would sustain them on their journey; the mystery of all mysteries: bread and wine that would become through His Word His own body and blood. Like the Passover He entreated them to continue to have this meal in memory of Him until He returned and to hand down the story of  His Gift to future generations.

During this Last Supper Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of His closest friends. He knew all present would abandon Him that very night. Yet as they left the upper room Jesus sang on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives. He would be seized by His assassins in a garden. It was in a garden that humanity was destined to die because of disobedience to their Father and in a garden Jesus would accept His death so men and women might defeat death and live forever as the Father intended. We are on our own journey to death and eternal life. We should sing as Jesus did on the way. Life is indeed a choice.

{The account of Jesus Passion, death and resurrection is told in each of the four Gospels.}

Bloom Where You Are

Spring is fast approaching and if you have a gardener’s spirit and are a lover of the soil, plans for your passion are forming in your mind. A single clump of lavender crocus          will delight you in an otherwise barren garden. What inspired me to write this in my blog today was a quote my daughter shared written on a teabag: A garden is a delight to the eye and solace for the soul. from contemporary British poet, Sadi Ranson.

This brought to mind another quote I saw on a wooden sign on my sister-in-law’s wall many years ago as we visited them during a snow storm/ blizzard in upstate NY in a small town in the middle of nowhere. She and her husband had four preschool children and moved there from Madison, NJ for his job. She explained the difficulty of relocating from an area with direct train access to NY City to a town without even a hospital or any medium size city nearby, plus adjusting to raising four young children after a career in nursing. (Her first job was researching the cases of the young women who worked painting the radium dials on watches, control panels of planes, etc  in the 1940’s, as they were later afflicted with horrendous debilitating affects of the radioactivity.)

The sign contained just four words: Bloom where you are. It said a great deal about her situation and also our own when we question our surroundings, our work, people in our lives, our vocation. It sounded biblical and Google gave me two passages. Corinthians 7:17-24 and Jeremiah 29:4-13. I will share with you Cor.7:24 Everyone should continue before God in the state in which he was called. Paul was speaking  t converts to Christianity; that they should maintain their former roles in life.

The second reference from the old testament given by God to Jeremiah was that the Jews exiled in Babylon should build houses, find husbands for their daughters, have children, etc. And God said: After seventy years I will send you back to Israel.

So the moral of the story for us today is: bloom where you are. And delight in your garden!

 

Frozen Sunshine: For Ethel

        It was the first Saturday in March. As usual I rose early;  looked out the window and wrote this poem:

I awoke to a world of whiteness
Marshmallow mountains
Barren branches lined with titanium white
Cedar trees dipped in sugar

A panorama painted in the hours of night
That I might be greeted and gloriously gifted by day
Winter weather frozen forever in memory
Adorned in white
Frozen sunshine.

      The phrase frozen sunshine was a tern used by a lover of nature, particularly fond of winter and skiing. I was introduced to her briefly one morning by a dear neighbor Both of these women passed on in their nineties and both were lovers of natural wonders and the outdoors. While we dread winter and complain of shoveling and shivering, these ladies adored the frozen sunshine that fell and painted their world white and full of wonder.

Once Upon a Meeting: Conclusion

Our friend still stood by our table holding a couple of plates he had cleared away. We asked him to sit with us but he  shook his head. He seemed to be staring at some spot across the room and finally said, “Ah yes, we do indeed revere the Mother of God as all Christians should. In my country not only Christians cherish her, but also Muslims and others as well. A few words on our history are necessary first. You may remember in 1967 after only six days of fighting we were defeated by a small country we supposed to be inferior to Egypt in every way; in size, might, and wealth. The Six – Day War with Israel brought us to our knees both militarily and physically. You see our Christian population both Orthodox and Catholic had joined the materialistic ways of the pagan world.”

He sighed before continuing. (Admittedly we did recall the war but not the details of it.) “We were in dire need and began praying for our very survival. One year later in 1968 a Sunni Muslim passed by St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church where I lived in Zeitoun, a suburb of Cairo. He saw a woman on the roof and thought she was about to commit suicide so he reported the sighting to the police. It was believed by observers to be  the Blessed Mother. That was the beginning of numerous apparitions seen by millions from April 1968 to 1971. Investigations could not explain the appearances of the luminous figure. The witnesses included Christians, Muslims and even Nassar, the leader of our country and also a Marxist. The head of the Orthodox Coptics sanctioned the apparitions and years later Pope John Paul 11 visited the sight. The outpouring of believers was widely reported in our papers but not in western news as I understand.”

My husband said, “We had no idea of this. Did the Catholic Church also sanction the apparitions.”
“No, Paul VI said it should be left to the Orthodox Coptics because St Mary’s was not a Catholic Church. Catholics are  much fewer in number in my country. One time Blessed Mary came bearing an olive branch and we knew she was our path to peace in the Middle East. She gives us hope but my people suffer and Christians are persecuted daily.”

We were enthralled by our host’s revelation and speechless for a moment. I finally asked, “Is there any more to the story?”
“You don’t want to spend the beautiful  day here in this dark restaurant. Just one more thing I must tell you. Zeitoun  has been known for centuries as the place Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed when they fled Herod. St Mary’s is known as the actual spot where they resided in Egypt.” Reluctantly we bid our acquaintance good-by and travelled on down the windy river road.
One Sunday afternoon a short time later we decided to have lunch in the same restaurant; however, when we arrived, the parking area was empty and a for sale sign posted. I could not help but hum that theme song from The Twilight Zone: duda, duda… Was the Meeting an apparition only experienced Once Upon a Time?

Note:    This post is not fiction. Reflecting on this encounter we realize the natural world and the spiritual realm are entwined and designed by the One…who knows when I sit and when I rise… and when I stop along the way for lunch.    Psalm 139:2 NIV

Once Upon a Meeting : Part 2

We ordered a pasta dish from the menu and a glass of beer on tap. The mysterious person came with our drink and my curiosity took over as my husband gave me an, Oh no look! It did not deter me from asking him a question, just one.
“Where is your homeland?”
“I’m from Egypt, I am a Coptic Christian.”
“I’ve read about the Coptic church when we got our first computer eons ago. You are Orthodox then.”  It surprised me he spoke English so well with only a slight accent.  “My dad was Russian Orthodox.  Have you been here in the states long?”
“A year or so.  I grew up being bi-lingual.  That’s why I had no problem with language.”

This was going well. He answered my question before I asked.  My husband smiled; he was amused but interested.  Our waiter excused himself and went to check on the food.
He returned in a few minutes with the salad and pasta and I asked, “Tell me about the Coptic religion. My husband and I would like to hear more about it.”
“I was raised in the traditional way. Fasting was a major part of our faith.  We fasted not only in lent but also during advent and before Our Lady’s Assumption.  We hold Her in great esteem as do the Muslims in our country.  You must have heard in the news, there is much upheaval in our country.  There are factions opposed to one another. But the people just want to live their lives. They love food and festivity and family just as people in this country.   It is sad for young people.  The  cannot marry and have children because unemployment is rampant and though many are highly educated, they find no jobs.  It is distressing but there remains our faith and Our Mother.”

Our host talked with us just being interrupted once when we heard a Harley pull in and the fellow came into the bar for a speedy refreshment and left again within minutes of his arrival. (Seemed he came to verify this was a real business.)

The most memorable part of our new found friend’s conversation came when he returned to clear away the dishes and we ordered desert and coffee. With no one else in the place he stayed standing beside our table and  asked us a few questions, the usual ones: Where are you from? Where are you going today? And another not often asked: Are you Christian?
After answering those he posed, I felt entitled to one more question for him. “How is it there is such devotion to the Blessed Mother in your country?”

The answer follows in the next and last segment of this story…