Sermons

Monday, October 23, 2017

Shiny, happy people


Atop an arch on the grounds of The Louvre in Paris.

Their heads make nice bird perches.

Happy Monday!






Saint Peter Saturday





And to close out our week of saints, here is St Peter (see his large key to heaven's gate?) on a church in Venice. This is one of the first things I saw when I got off the boat in that beautiful city filled with churches and religious art. Saints are everywhere - don't forget!

Happy Saturday!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Enough (a reflection by Tom Cox)


This is a guest post. My husband, Tom Cox, delivered this reflection at our Celtic Evensong and Eucharist last evening at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond Virginia. I am grateful to him for allowing me to publish it here.
The photo is part of a mosaic at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. 

When I was growing up, I loved baseball. (I still do.) Every October, my father allowed me – actually, he encouraged me – to take a “sick day”’ off school so I could stay home and watch a World Series game on live TV. My father was not a very effective parent when it came to enforcing rules or dispensing discipline. As my wife, and even my now-adult children, would attest, I came to share my father’s parental deficiency in that regard.
I have recently been thinking a lot about my father. This summer, my wife and I traveled to France. While there, we visited Normandy to tour the D-Day beaches and area towns he had fought in or passed through during World War II. That trip, like the recent Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam War documentary, reminded me what a terrible price young people, even those who survive, have regularly been called on to pay in wartime. 
And my father did pay quite a price. Before the War, he appeared headed toward big things. He was handsome, popular, and a star athlete, who after high school, accepted a football scholarship and enrolled at Virginia Tech. But the world intervened, and in 1943 (after his second year of college) he dropped out and enlisted in the Army.
Two years later, when the War ended, my father returned from Europe as a combat veteran, decorated for heroism at the Battle of the Bulge. He refused to talk much with his sons about his combat experiences, so I only know bits and pieces about some of the awful things he saw and lived through, but I am now convinced that he suffered from what only later came to be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He certainly exhibited several of the common symptoms: He experienced terrifying combat-related nightmares. He tried returning to college, but soon dropped out. He began turning to alcohol for comfort, which ultimately led to a series of job losses and family crises. And throughout most of the rest of his life, he wrestled with guilt and remorse because he believed he had let down his family and friends.
I regret that it was not until after his death that I began to recognize the extent of my father’s brokenness and how it affected his life. But along with my sadness and regrets, I have come to recognize another possibility. I now wonder: absent the brokenness and recognition of his own vulnerability brought about by his traumatic combat experiences, would the confident, even arrogant, young man who enlisted in 1943 have become the father who invariably found me and my own accomplishments, and even my failures, good enough in his eyes? The father who did not attempt to mold me into something that he, rather than I, wanted me to be? The father who encouraged his son to play hooky to watch the World Series?
I will never know for sure, but I now think it possible that my father’s woundedness, suffering, and perception of his own failures were what brought him to where he could offer me a gift he could give me – the gift of uncritical and non-judgmental acceptance.
Theologian Richard Rohr has written about suffering -- how it changes us and how God sees and shares in the pain and suffering of all humanity. After yet another week in which we -- and God -- have witnessed yet more trauma and suffering brought about by yet another terrible and seemingly inexplicable act of violence, I will close with some words from Rohr’s book The Divine Dance:

We [human beings] have to block out a certain degree of raw suffering for self-care. We can’t take it all in, but apparently God can. That’s the visual of the Cross – God taking in all of the pain of history.” So, Rohr says: “Let pain bring its gift of vulnerability. Let some of it change you.  .  .  In a way, there is only one suffering and one cosmic sadness, and it is the very suffering of God. And we all share in it.”




Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Singalong: Free Fallin'




In 2006, I spent the summer doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as part of my preparation for ordination to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church. CPE was intense. And the hours were very rigid. My older son had just turned 16, and we were going to need him to drive himself and his younger brother to their various summer activities. So I handed over the keys to the minivan and acquired a yellow VW Beetle with a sunroof, which I drove every day to and from the hospital.

CPE was intense. (I know I already said that. It bears repeating.) Often, my work was to make space to hold others in their grief. I tried not to take it on, but at the end of the day my "container" of emotion was full.

I had a CD of Tom Petty's greatest hits, and I'd put it in, find "Free Fallin'" and put the song on infinite loop. I'd roll down my windows, open my sunroof, and drive home in the summer heat, singing at the top of my lungs, just letting everything go, all the angst, the grief, the confusion, the doubts and fears about my abilities (including the ability to hang onto myself in intense emotional situations). I let it all fly out of the windows.

Eventually I added "Learning to Fly" to the mix, as it seemed appropriate, but still, it was "Free Fallin'" that got me through CPE.

I'm sad about Tom Petty's death. But I'm so glad that someone recorded his "Free Fallin' Singalong" during his last live show at the Hollywood Bowl a week before he died. So enjoy. And sing along!






Thursday, October 5, 2017

Artsy Thursday





The Metro stop at The Louvre features art along the platform. Duh.

Paris, je t'aime!








Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Olive Trees


Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh. So many lovely paintings of his to see in the Musee d'Orsay! May your Wednesday be fruitful.












Tuesday, October 3, 2017

People at the top



These people are wandering around on the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I'm sure the view was fabulous. They had to dodge a bunch of traffic on the Champs Elysees to get to the elevator. I took this from the top of a bus that drove around the arch. It was safer up there.





Monday, October 2, 2017

Night Prayer

Side chapel, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris


Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless  the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the  joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

(BCP 134)





Sunday, October 1, 2017

Water and Rocks






The western coast of Brittany

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” 

Exodus 17:1-7

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caturday: Find the Kitty






Not sure what this building in Paris is, but there's a large cat on top. Can you see it?










Friday, September 29, 2017

St Michael



A statue of St. Michael in the room at the end of the tour of Mont St-Michel in Brittany. Obviously there is a lot of St. Michael stuff there. I was intrigued by this guy in what looks like late medieval armor.

(See someone else's photo of the statue from the front, below. The dragon just isn't very impressive, is it?)

Happy St. Michael's Day!



Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment 
they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.






















Thursday, September 28, 2017

Annunciation







Another gem from Chartres Cathedral. This is one of the many, many Annunciation scenes I saw in France. So lovely.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Taking Pictures


The length we camera hounds will go to to get just the right shot .....

Taken along the coastal path of Brittany near Pointe du Van.







Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Medieval Hairdos




Obviously the long pigtail 'do was big at the turn of the 13th century....

Detail from the facade of Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral in France.







Monday, September 25, 2017

Lady Liberty




A copy of the Statue of Liberty stands near the entrance of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

She doesn't get a lot of attention there.







Sunday, September 24, 2017

Responding to the generous landowner



Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

Money quote: "You have made them equal to us." This is the great offense of the generous landowner.

We do not want others to be equal to us. We do not want their stories to be as important as ours. Instead of practicing gratitude for what we have and in response being joyful for others' good fortune, we want to get what we deserve and want others to deserve what they get. We don't want them to have what we have. What an old, old story. And it's to our shame.












Saturday, September 23, 2017

Caturday Dancing with Munch


Edvard Munch's Dance on the Shore

We saw this painting at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, part of a special exhibition - Beyond the Stars: The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky.  (It normally resides at the National Museum in Prague.) Note that there is a kitty watching the dance from the foreground.

Happy Caturday!







Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday fun at the beach


Personally, if I had to wear a wetsuit to go in the water, I would consider the water too cold 
in which to swim, but these folks enjoying the surf at a beach 
at Pointe du Van in Brittany were having a good old time. 

Happy Friday!






Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pax tibi


One of the things I love about wandering around in European cities (and villages for that matter) is all the public religious art that is just there, on buildings, everywhere. 

Taking a break from France, here's am image from Venice. The winged lion holds a book that says Peace to you, something something something. It's over the door to a house on the Grand Canal.

Peace to you on this Thursday!






Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Charlemagne and his guards


This is a Charlemagne, along with his horse and two guards. The statue, which was created by brothers Louis and Charles Rochet in 1878, stands outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The facial hair on these guys is amazing.  Here's a closeup:



Monday, September 18, 2017

A knight in shining armor


There are many knights and/or crusaders in the stained glass windows in the French churches we visited. Horses, armor, swords, etc. Fascinating!
This one is at Notre Dame in Paris.







Sunday, September 17, 2017

Noticing Grace




Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? 
As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 
When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 
and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children 
and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 
‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave
 released him and forgave him the debt. 
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; 
and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 
Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 
But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went 
and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 
‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 
And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 
So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother 
or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35


You may not know this, but there is this thing called God Math. Human math is not my best subject, but even for those who majored in human math, God Math has some especially unfathomable properties. One in Three and Three in One, for instance, One plus one plus one equals One.

Some of the numbers in our Bible stories may look like every day normal numbers, such as 7 or 77 or 40. But they are not. They are more like the number Twenty-Teen. These numbers mean something different to God because God Math is different from our math.

So when Jesus and Peter are talking about the number of times Peter ought to forgive someone at church who cheeses him off, Jesus gives a number that has meaning in God Math, but Peter doesn’t really know what to do with that number. Because, honestly, the numbers that Jesus talks about whenever he uses numbers tend to mean “as many as there need to be” or “all the numbers” or “any number of numbers,” or my favorite, “infinity.” This is just one reason why we sometimes have trouble understanding Jesus. Because he uses God math.

On the other hand, we can figure out something about how much a talent is worth even without adjusting for inflation. The daily wage in the first century was one denarius a day. And there are about 6000 denarii in a talent. Six thousand work days equals twenty years. Even I can figure out that twenty times ten thousand is 200 thousand. That means the slave owes the king around 200 thousand years’ worth of wages, give or take. 

No matter what kind of math we use, this is an unbelievable and un-payable amount. And yet, in his mercy, the king forgives it all. All of it. Debt wiped clean.

When it comes to forgiveness, most of us strive to put some parameters into play. We talk in terms of limitations and conditions. IF the person who hurts me displays appropriate remorse, THEN I might forgive them, although I also might not because I am human and frankly, there are some things out there that I might never be able to forgive even once. Or, I know I should forgive, but then the person who hurt me will think it is ok to do stuff like that, so I just can’t forgive them, on principle. 

And things really get complicated when we start talking about Hitler or terrorists or serial killers. 

Forgiving is one of the most painfully difficult things we are called to even think about, much less do, in life. And yet we beat ourselves up for not being able to do what we feel we ought.

But how about, instead of guiltily puzzling over how many times we are supposed to forgive someone by way of human forgiveness, we consider what God Forgiveness is? Because what Jesus is really saying in the parable he tells Peter is that the amount of forgiveness we receive from God for even the most egregious sins is one of those numbers like 200,000 years worth of wages. 

Being righteous, or better put “in right relationship with God” is not about what we do, it’s about what God does. God makes us righteous. We don’t do this ourselves - that is totally beyond our ability. This is God Forgiveness, being restored, made whole by God no matter how unworthy we actually are. There’s no way we could ever repay God for all we have - the smell of loamy soil, the warmth of sunshine and glisten of dewdrops, our fantastic bodies and our complex minds, relationships, the softness of rose petals, the sounds of music, the refreshment of spring water, the taste of chocolate covered strawberries AND repay for all we do wrong, and you can fill in the blank about that one during the confession. 

None of us is deserving of anything, as harsh as that sounds. But you and I know it’s true. And yet we are showered with abundance every day. Simply because we are God’s beloved. 

What Jesus wants to point out here is this: 

We are not supposed to identify with the king in this story. How about instead we identify with the servant whose gargantuan debt has been totally forgiven? Which means, as theologian David Lose puts it: “[M]y first job isn’t to assume or insist that I must forgive incalculable debts, but simply to bask in the unbelievable forgiveness, acceptance, and grace that I have experienced and try … to live out of that. The failure of the first servant isn’t simply that he won’t forgive his comrade, but that he has just experienced an utterly unexpected, completely beyond-his-wildest-dreams, life-changing moment of grace and seems absolutely untouched by it. And for this reason, he lives devoid of any sense of gratitude. His whole life changed…and he didn’t even notice.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t still have to consider the part about forgiving others. We do, and it is still hard. The thorny questions remain. But whether or not we can forgive in this situation or that one, because such extravagant forgiveness is possible for God, then it is a possibility for us. We can notice grace. 

Even if I am not able to fully live into the overflowing grace I have received, the possibility exists that things don’t always have to be the way they are. Things will not stay the way they are. My life has been touched by God’s forgiveness many many times, starting with the time I came back to church after many years away and spent most Sunday mornings just weeping in my pew, first because of guilt and then out of utter relief at the thought that I could be forgiven for all the stupid, dysfunctional, manipulative, mean, ignorant, and stupid - did I mention stupid? - things I had done in my life. 

And I can cultivate gratitude. I can stop and be touched by beauty, I can let go of the sack full of guilt I drag around behind me and accept acceptance instead. My inability to be generous does not have the last word. It is Love that has the last word, always. 

And so there is the possibility that because of love, someday I will be able to not only receive, but extend, God Forgiveness at a time when it will mean everything, at just the right time, and will change the world.










Saturday, September 16, 2017

Caturday? This is probably not a cat, either.


Detail from the Fontaine Sainte-Michel in St. Michel place in Paris. St. Michael stands victorious over his victim while two of these mythical creatures stand watch and spit water. They're not lions although the faces are somewhat catlike. They're not dragons although there is a dragon tail on this thing. And then there are the wings. Perhaps these are cherubim.

Anyway, happy Caturday!






Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Fun at the Beach


I took this picture at Omaha Beach in Normandy, the site of the D-Day Invasion of 1944. I know that some folks feel a little weird about people playing here in this place where so many people died, and I get that, but I think it's a kind of resurrection. We Christians believe that God brings life out of death, and so it makes me glad to see a happy doggie cavorting in the waves and people enjoying themselves on the beach and in the water. It is no longer a place of death, but still, with all the monuments (not to mention the massive cemetery) surrounding the area, there is no way that anyone will ever forget what happened on Omaha Beach. 







Thursday, September 14, 2017

Holy Cross

The altar in the abbey chapel at Mont St-Michel


Collect for Holy Cross Day:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
















Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Headless St. Denis









Here is St. Denis, who carries around his head, with his angel companion on the facade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jump!



Magpie hops through the grass on a knoll overlooking St-Malo. There were many of them, but the sun was very bright overhead and the birds, despite their large size which should make them more easy to photograph, stayed on the move. I love the glossy black that looks blue - like Superman's hair in the comic books. I wondered where they were nesting among the detritus left after the war.










Monday, September 11, 2017

War is Hell


This is the view from the top of the cliff at Pointe du Hoc, a point on the English Channel between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. While many of the land that was pretty much ground zero during the D-Day invasion of June 1944 now only show some of the stuff that went down there during those days, Pointe du Hoc was intentionally left the same. The shelling and bombing left craters everywhere. And the barbed wire barriers (I imagine these are regularly replaced or they would be totally rusted by now) adorn the top of the cliff. 

All this to remember what happened, but not just remember. 
All this also to remind us that war is hell. 
War is hell.









Sunday, September 10, 2017

Put on the armor of light

Statuary in the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Bayeux, Normandy


Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; 
You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, Love your neighbor 
as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. 
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. 
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 
let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, 
not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 
Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:8-14

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Caturday?


I don't suppose this gargoyle is actually a cat, do you? The pigeons certainly are not afraid of it!

This is part of the architecture in the village at Mont Sainte Michel. It was a very warm day when we were there, but the sky was very blue and one could see for miles. What a beautiful place.

Happy "Caturday"!





Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday fun: pool time!


There's a wonderful pool off the beach at St-Malo. I assume it's a sea-water pool. These guys were jumping off in all sorts of positions. This one did a back flip. Now that I look at the photos again, I wonder why I didn't go down there an get in the pool myself! 

Oh, well. Next time I go to St-Malo, I will.

Happy Friday!






Thursday, September 7, 2017

Anybody know who this is?



I believe there are a number of saints who are usually depicted holding their decapitated heads. In France you see a lot of images of St. Denis, for instance. But this guy just lost the top third of his head. The image is in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Any idea who it is?








Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Caption Contest:



I took this on the causeway to Mont St-Michel. My first thought was "Old Meets New," but then I decided that was a pretty tired phrase. Anyone got a better caption?










Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Back to school


I saw this group of young people at Pointe de Raz on the Brittany Coast. I have no idea what they are learning/practicing (rappelling comes to mind - they're on a cliff wearing helmets) but I admired them while at the same time feeling happy that I was just going to walk the path and not jump off it.

All the children are back to school now here in Virginia (our public schools are mandated by law not to start the new year until after Labor Day). Go and learn, everybody!









Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day: pray for the common good


Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



















Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Son of Man Coming into his Kingdom


The Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands 
of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! 
This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! 
You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, 
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? 
Or what will they give in return for their life? 
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone 
for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death 
before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Matthew 16:21-28









Lining things up



I take as many opportunities to make a fresh start in life as I can. So, this being "Labor Day Weekend," the unofficial end of the summer here in the U.S., I'm in fresh start mode. There are many things I need to do better, to quit doing, to start doing, and there's no point in even thinking one can turn over that many new leaves, but here's the plan for this particular fresh start:

First, today is cleaning out the clothing day. I have too many clothes. They take up a lot of room. I don't need all of them. So, with a brief nod toward Marie Kondo (because frankly there are some items I really do need to have in my wardrobe, whether or not they spark joy when I behold them), I will employ the three pile method (keep, throw away, give away) to every piece of clothing I own. I recognize that I will still have too many jackets and coats. I have a thing for jackets and coats.

Second, today begins my recommitment to posting photos on this blog. I have so many wonderful memories from our international travels of the last three years and the photos are just lying fallow on my computer. So, whether or not I am able to come up with a reflection to go with my posts, I will be posting daily, and perhaps randomly, a photo from our travels in Scotland, Italy, and France.

Today's photo is from Saint-Malo, the lovely walled seaside (on the English Channel) town in northwestern Brittany, which we visited in June. As we walked along the top of the walls, we watched a group of children learning how to sail. Here they are coming in after their lesson.

Happy September!








Sunday, August 20, 2017

Choosing to Connect

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28)


In June, I met a guy from Tunisia, the first person I’ve ever met from that country. He picked us up on the Pont Marie in Paris. We were headed to the rental car desk at Charles de Gaulle airport. He spoke a little English, we barely spoke any French and no Arabic. He understood airport, but we were having trouble identifying the exact place at the airport we needed to stop. At CDG there is Terminal 1, Terminal 3, and then Terminals 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, and 2G, all surrounded by a two-level highway reminiscent of a rollercoaster track.

Fortunately, we were able to speak with his boss by phone, who clarified that our drop off spot should be between Terminals 2E and 2F. That essential piece of business squared away, we settled in for a long ride.

My husband Tom is pretty good when we travel about initiating conversation and engaging with people in their language. He’s the one who actually studies the language ahead of time while I figure I will magically remember it all from my studies in 1971. Tom began to try out his French with the driver while I paged through my phrase book, staying well behind in the conversation. How long had the driver been in Paris, did he have family here, etc. Then it was the driver’s turn to as ask where we are from and how long are we staying?

The United States. Virginia. Not very far from Washington DC. Two weeks. Yes. Oui
The basics covered, we lapsed into silence.

Then the driver asked hopefully, do you have an h’oo-BEAR in Virginia? I frowned. I flipped through my French dictionary. h’OO-Bear. h’Oo-bear. I’m thinking about a quarterback. Tom looks at me and shrugs. Then the driver resorted to charades. “I (point) work (motion of driving car) for h’oo-BEAR. Do you have h’oo-BEAR in Virginia?”

Oh! Uber! He drives for Uber! Yes! Oui! We have Uber in Virginia! Nous avons h’oo-BEAR!

Connection made. We found something in common. We talked nearly nonstop the rest of the way. He showed us pictures of Tunisia on his phone - the seacoast with turquoise water and colorful boats, ancient Roman ruins in Carthage. He taught us how to correctly say some French words and we taught him some English pronunciations. We figured out how to make some little jokes and then laugh at them. 

Tom asked him if he felt more like a Tunisian or a Frenchman after living in France for 9 years. The driver immediately said, "Both. It is like having a mother and a father. Tunisia is like my father. France is like my mother. I love them both. They are both good to me. No need to choose which is better. They are both better."

We were all smiles when we reached our rental car. It had been a real joy to find a way to connect for a little while with someone so different from us, to share not only a ride but ourselves. To learn from and to teach, give and take, finding a commonality in something as small as the use of the same ride-sharing service. We didn't need to talk about Muslim and Christian or about Arab and Anglo or about politics - none of which we were likely to have in common. We talked about how beautiful the Mediterranean Sea is. How bold those “moto" drivers are whizzing past us on two wheels between lanes. How great it is to love both your mother, your mere, and your father, your pere. How great it is to learn how to say Thank you for teaching us to speak your language. We parted with the words Merci, merci, bon voyage! Have a good trip! Merci!

I like that the French word for thank you is “merci.” Of course I think of mercy. Because as I traveled around, bumbling with the language, needing help all the time with practically everything, it felt so right to say to everyone, Merci. For me it was not just “thank you,” but “thank you for having mercy on me. Thank you for your kindness as I struggle. Thank you for being merciful instead of impatient.”

Jesus almost missed his chance to make a connection with the Canaanite woman. He focused on their differences. She never denied there were differences. She just said, have mercy. That’s all I’m asking. Fortunately, when she showed him their connection, he remembered his mercy and forgot his impatience, and they understood each other. Despite their differences, they chose to connect. He was a Jew and she was a Canaanite and it turned out that there was no need to take sides, to choose which is better. They were both better. 





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