Two or More

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts.
Rest assured this troubadour is acting on his part.
The union of your spirits here has caused him to remain.
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name
There is love. – Noel Paul Stookey

There was a time during the 1970s when the above lyrics, from a song written in 1971 by the Paul in the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, were sung at nearly every wedding in every church in the United States of America.

The song, which the songwriter attributes to divine inspiration, uses some of my favorite words from the gospels. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus told his friends, “For where two or three gather together in my name, there am I with them.”

St. Paul – never one to let anyone have the last word, apparently even Jesus – confirmed this when he explained to the sinning Corinthians in his first letter to those folks that if you gather in the name of Jesus, you can fight evil.

I reminded myself of this fact at Mass yesterday, as I listened – or tried to – the priest’s Pentacost homily. I say tried to because I was faced with a few obstacles. First, the priest who celebrated our Mass was visiting from another parish. He is originally from India, and though his English is perfect, his accent is strong. That would be bad enough, except that he also speaks especially softly. Second, there was a poor, frenzied single father with three small children sitting directly behind us. He was trying his best; there was a lot of shushing going on. But have you ever tried to keep a toddler quiet when he or she is supposed to be quiet? So I wasn’t mad at Daddy or the children, but it made it even harder to hear the priest. And, of course, there was the poor acolyte who passed out, literally crashing to the floor, white as the Holy Ghost himself. She was okay and was revived by her mother who quickly came to her rescue.

These distractions were okay, however, because it gave me time to think about being in church for Mass. In particular, I wondered if there was any grace to be gained from attending a church service in which you can’t really participate for any number of reasons. Of course, if you’re Catholic, the Mass is really a celebration of the Eucharist, so that’s the primary reason why attendance is important. But for me, it goes beyond that. For me, gathering with a whole group of people – some friends, some slightly familiar faces, some strangers  — is an important part of prayer. Where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there right alongside of us, sitting with us, listening and responding to our group prayers.

Everyone’s spiritual needs are different. For some, God can be found in nature. For others, praying is easiest when driving alone in a car. Still others find their peace with God when sitting alone in a quiet church, their nostrils filled with the smell of leftover incense and listening to the sounds of quiet prayers coming from an old woman sitting in the back of the church.

I see God in nature and I often pray while I’m driving to or from a destination. The silence of a church is a perfect place to talk to God and listen for his response.

But for me, I need – and that word isn’t too strong – to gather with others every week and celebrate being a part of God’s family. I need to hear the familiar words of the Mass and the prayer responses. I need to greet others in the peace of Christ. I need to feel part of a church community. I believe that is why following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostles were absolutely desperate to gather together — whether in secret or in the open — in Jesus’ name. They remembered Jesus’ word about the importance of community.

I need to gather with two or three or more to feel the presence of God among us. There is love.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Saturday Smile: Raw Baby Food

The other day, I decided I had put off my craving for poke (pronounced po-kay) long enough, since I was dying for one of those sushi bowls. I texted my daughter-in-law Alyx and asked if she and 4-year-old Cole would like to join me for poke. A few minutes later, she responded, “Cole said yes!”

We met a short time later. Though I know Cole is a good eater, I expected that Alyx would order him a bowl of rice, or maybe bring something from home. To my surprise, she ordered the kids’-sized poke bowl with tuna and crab salad. It might have been my surprise, but it was his delight….

Yes, that is raw tuna, crab salad, and edamame that he is enjoying very much, thank you.

Nana enjoyed it too!

Afterwards, when his mom went home, Cole and I took a side trip to a park, where he could hardly contain himself. Who could, when you are presented with a rock that is perfect spot to jump…..

Before we left, I took him to the climbing wall where he posed for a photo…..

…..in the same spot where his sisters had posed a few years ago…..

It’s supposed to be a bit cooler this weekend with a chance of rain, so Cole and I were happy to have a bit of time to enjoy the outdoors when we could. The perfect ending to a lunch of raw fish.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Broken Girls

Simone St. James is the author of a series of books, all ghost stories. Ghost stories have never been my cup of tea, but The Broken Girls intrigued me. I decided to turn on the lights to keep the ghosts at bay and give the book a try.

It’s been 20 years since Fiona Sheridan’s sister Deb was found dead on the grounds of a boarding school called Idlewild in a small Vermont town.  Despite the fact that a man was arrested and has been imprisoned for the murder, Fiona hasn’t come to grips with her sister’s death. Something doesn’t seem right. Now, as part of her job as a journalist, she learns that the school—long closed and reportedly haunted—is about to be rehabilitated and reopened.

What Fiona doesn’t know is that 20 years before her sister was killed, another girl went missing from Idlewild, which at that time was a boarding school for throw-away girls: illegitimate, unloved, without parents. So when a body is dug up during the reconstruction, Fiona throws herself into learning the secrets of Idlewild and the truth about her sister’s death.

Part mystery, part thriller, part ghost story, I couldn’t stop reading this book. I’m generally not fond of ghost stories, generally finding them somewhat silly, but Mary Hand—the unsettled ghost who can’t find rest at Idlewild—seemed to enhance the story rather than distract. I found all of the female characters to be strong and interesting. I especially loved the four roommates who kept each other strong in the 1950 story line.

The ending was delivered with a twist, and was quite satisfying. All in all, I enjoyed The Broken Girls very much.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Vroom
The other day, I managed to drag Bill away from yard work long enough to get my scooter started for the summer. He has the knack. My precious vehicle has 7,100 miles, all mine-mine-mine. I used to drive it to work downtown. Now I use it mostly to putz around the neighborhood. Yesterday I took it over to Southmoor Elementary and then to the grocery store. I never am on my scooter on a nice sunny day when I don’t realize that riding my scooter is about as much fun as I can ever have. I love it…..

Squirt
The reason I went to Southmoor Elementary on my scooter (did I mention that I love my scooter?) is because not only was it Maggie Faith’s birthday yesterday, but her school was having their annual Field Day. For whatever reason, Southmoor’s Field Day is more of a Water Day than actual field events like tug-of-war or foot races. That’s ok, because the kids seem to love it. The weather was warm and sunny, and it was a great day to get wet. Which they did…..

 Tiiiiiimberrrrrr
Last autumn, Bill and I were quietly sitting in our family room watching television, when we heard a loud boom in our backyard. Upon further review, we saw that a small aspen tree that we knew was dead and had planned on cutting down had made up its own mind and came down without our help. Luckily, it landed mostly on our patio rather than our neighbor’s roof. We did lose a few roof tiles, but it could have been far worse. That’s why Bill has been very nervous about another dead aspen tree in the back of our yard. Yesterday afternoon, Alastair dropped by, and Bill put him to work. Bill tied the tree to another tree…..

…..and then used what he calls a come along tool to urge the tree down. So while Bill chopped, Alastair cranked the come along tool. My job? I sat on the patio and prayed. We were all successful…..

Shortly after this shot was taken, Alastair came in looking for a bandage for his blister! It was well earned.

Ciao.

It’s a Mystery

In my trademark cat-chasing-a-sunbeam manner, in looking for something completely different, I stumbled upon an article from late last year about a South Carolina man who, following a night out with his friends, decided to hit the neighborhood Waffle House for an early morning meal. It was around 3 o’clock in the morning. According to his story, he walked into the Waffle House and sat at the counter for about 10 minutes waiting for someone to take his order. When no one appeared, he did a bit of reconnoitering, and discovered the one-and-only employee sound asleep in the back room.

Now, this fellow had enjoyed a number of adult beverages, so he proceeded to do something he claims is quite uncharacteristic of him. He stepped behind the counter and prepared himself an entire meal. He ate the meal, cleaned up after himself, and headed home. The employee never budged. Later in the day, he returned to pay for the meal, at which time the manager apologized, thanked him profusely, and offered him a mystery shopper job. I’m guessing said employee was free to spend his remaining nights in his own bed, perhaps after spending the day looking for a new job.

While the story made me laugh, my real takeaway from his tale was that I want to be a mystery shopper. I would be a good mystery shopper. Well, except for the fact that I really don’t like shopping. But other than that, I am generally friendly, but could easily be crabby if that’s what the job entailed. Just ask Bill; he will concur that I do crabby quite well.

I don’t know if it’s still true, because I rarely shop at Safeway, being a faithful Kroger customer. But years ago, when my brother worked for that company, they used to have mystery shoppers visit stores regularly. Any time you would ask a Safeway employee something like where do you keep your Velveeta cheese, that employee was obligated to walk you directly to the Velveeta cheese, even if it was all the way across the store. While that is a very nice gesture, it seems somewhat inefficient. But even if you told them you didn’t need an escort, they walked with you because you could be a mystery shopper. And if you were – then he or she was BUSTED!

Only somewhat relatedly, I have a very good friend who – many years ago – was employed by the Creighton University Medical School as a mystery patient. When she would get to her job, the powers-that-be would give her a list of symptoms about which she should complain to the medical student. She was instructed to be a cooperative patient, a complainer, or maybe an obnoxious Chatty Cathy. She knew what her diagnosis SHOULD have been, and afterwards, would give feedback on how the medical student did and how successful he/she was at making the correct diagnosis. That might even be better than being a mystery shopper. While I don’t like being a patient any more than I like shopping, I certainly have plenty of experience.

By the way, the Waffle House story made me laugh, because it made me think about a story that my brother-in-law told about Waffle House. He and a number of his friends were out one night, and just like the story above, decided to venture into a Waffle House to eat an after-theater meal. They were all dressed nicely, and sat at the counter to eat. When the server brought their food, one of the men politely pointed out that he had requested no hash browns, but there were hash browns on his plate. Without skipping a beat, the server/cook took the plate from the man, scraped the hash browns into the garbage can, and handed him back the plate. “There,” he told the man. “No hash browns.”

But at least he was awake! And he should be grateful that the man wasn’t a mystery shopper.

Here and Gone

Having lived in Colorado for the majority of my life, you would think that the sudden weather changes in the spring wouldn’t catch me off guard. There are probably meteorological reasons for the crazy weather. Downdrafts from the Rockies to the west. Barometric pressure that results from the dry air of the Colorado plains meeting the chinook winds of the foothills. I’m making up stuff (and not very learnedly). But I know that Springtime in the Rockies is more than just a 1937 Bette Grable movie. Even so, yesterday’s crazy weather took me by surprise.

It rained Sunday night. A nice steady downfall for a period of time for which I cannot vouch because I ended up putting ear plugs in my ears because the person lying next to me was himself emulating thunder. When I awoke in the morning, the temperature was pretty chilly, but not chilly enough to have bothered my plants. The skies were partly cloudy.

Bill left home early to do that thing called work. Somewhere around 8:30, the temperatures began to rise, and I decided it would be a good day to buy some more flowers. It was after Mothers’ Day, after all. It was safe to plant. I was, in fact, at the garden center when Court texted and offered to come over and do some work in our yard. I was thrilled to accept his offer. Keeping Bill from doing work around the house and/or yard is a constant challenge, but one I embrace in my never-ending effort to save his back. Any work done by Court – or anyone else, for that matter – is work that Bill doesn’t do.

Now, here is some important information: May and June are typically months where you can expect to see violent weather in Colorado. There are thunderstorms with strong lightning, tornadoes, high winds, hail ranging from pebbles to golf balls. But that did not stop me from planting my petunias in my front garden box. Nope. I carefully placed 12 purple and white petunias into the dirt that Court had just poured into the flower box.

The weather forecasters had predicted rain for the afternoon. Sure enough, sometime around 11 o’clock, the clouds started pouring in…..

Did the dark and swirly clouds make me nervous? Nope. I suggested we go to lunch. Bill arrived home just in time to join us.

By time we finished lunch, the sky was black and it almost looked like evening had fallen. Raindrops began falling, lightly at first. Court and Bill began scrambling to get the garbage bags full of yard debris to the curb since today was a scheduled “extra bag day.” Those are the designated days when you can have up to 10 extra bags of garbage hauled away. In the spring, you don’t want to miss a single opportunity.

By time they finished dragging the garbage bags to the curb, it was raining hard. And within minutes, it was a virtual downpour. Almost on cue, the hail began…..

And I began dodging hailstones while pulling all of my potted plants under our covered patio. It is because of God’s good grace that I had the sense to have already covered my garden plants the night before in anticipation of severe storms.

It rained like Noah’s flood – for about 15 minutes, just long enough to create a little river running down our street…..

And then, just as quickly as it had come, it was over…..

When all was said and done, I lucked out. The hailstones were no bigger than pieces of gravel. My petunias survived the deluge…..

…..as did my columbine…..

All that remained to prove that a storm had passed through were several piles of hail…..

I brought my plants out from their shelter and uncovered the others. Until later today, when we’re supposed to get more severe weather.

Springtime in the Rockies…..

 

Celebrate Good Times

Being a mother is probably the best — if most difficult — job a woman undertakes in her life. The pay stinks. The work is often difficult. Sometimes the rewards are hard to see until much later. Still, it is satisfying beyond words.

The woman who is responsible for Mothers’ Day being a national holiday was named Anna Jarvis. Sometime in the early 1900s, she decided that mothers everywhere — and her mother in particular — should be honored. She started lobbying, locally at first, and then built up steam. Her efforts were rewarded a number of years later when President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation in 1914 that made Mothers’ Day a national holiday. Greeting card companies and florists around the globe cheered. The truth is, however, that she later regretted her efforts because she felt the holiday got too commercialized.

I’m happy to be a mother, but I will admit to not being a particular fan of Mothers’ Day. In this already stressful world, it seems darnright mean to make people try to figure out what to give to their mother/grandmother/mother-of-their-children when they likely don’t need a single thing. Only Hallmark and Godiva and Proflowers.com truly like Mothers’ Day. Every year at Mass, the priests ask the mothers to stand for a blessing. I am proud to do so, but I never fail to feel sad for the women who don’t have children for any number of reasons. Miscarriages, deaths, estrangement, never married, or even choice.

This year, however, we went to church with Dave and Jll and the kids, because Adelaide was being confirmed. I’m happy to say that at Wellshire Presbyterian Church, while we prayed for all mothers during the prayers for the people, mothers were not asked to stand up. Well played, my friends, well played.

Now, if being a mother is a satisfying job, being a grandmother is the Gig of a Lifetime. All the satisfaction without any of the responsibilities. God’s reward for getting through the years with your own teenagers and beyond. (Let’s face it, motherhood and its responsibilities don’t stop when the child turns 18.)

I was proud beyond words to watch Addie be called to the front of the church to proclaim her love for God and to be confirmed in her faith. Now that’s a Mothers’ Day gift for this Nana.

Following church, we gathered at Dave and Jll’s house, not only to honor Addie, but to celebrate Jll and her mother and Dave’s mother and me surrounded by some of the people we love most. What’s more, Maggie Faith turns 10 this week, and we celebrated early because yesterday afternoon, her father and his mother left for the airport, where they are going to fly to Poland for a two week visit. The Uber driver was quite taken aback when he saw the crowd sending them off! Allen and Heather will join Dave and his mother in a few days.

In this age of technology, while Heather and Lauren and the boys are far, far away in Vermont, they were still able to celebrate with us via FaceTime…..

They even joined us in singing Happy Birthday to the almost-10-year-old…..

Then there were the presents…..

So, one more Mothers’ Day behind me, and years of joyful Nana-ing ahead.

These girls…..