Sunday, November 19, 2017

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

If, perchance, you ever find yourself awake at 5 AM, give me a holler, because I’m up. Why 5:00 in the morning? I do not need to milk the cows. I do not have a paper route. It is too early to go down to church to work. I am usually down there around 7 AM, which is still 1 ½ hours before the secretary and the preschool teachers arrive. I get a lot done in the peace and quiet, but being down there even earlier, when it’s still dark, in a big building all alone, does not strike me as the world’s wisest idea.
Time was, if ever I was awake at 5 AM, it was because I’d never gone to bed the night before. I recall fondly the Saturday sleep-ins of my teen years and early marriage. We wouldn’t put the coffee on until at least noon. With the arrival of the kiddos, our sleep was much more interrupted for sure, but still we’d sleep late every single chance we got.

Ready for a (late late) night on the town, many moons ago!

Now, I do realize that our bodies need less sleep as we age, but this is ridiculous. I literally cannot stay in bed past 6 at the latest—even on my day off. On my precious Thursdays, I come to consciousness, glance at the clock radio, register that I do NOT have to get up…then get up anyway. When I first started awakening before the rooster crowed, I would lie there, willing myself to get another 40 winks. If I did fall back to sleep, my last dream of the night would be a nightmarish doozy, so that was no help. I finally gave up the fight, and now I am downstairs before dawn. Meanwhile, Steve has already been up, read a page or two of a boring book, and gone back to sleep in a living room chair. Talk about your fun couples!

I remember years ago subscribing online to something called “Fly Lady.”. This was the brainchild of a woman who had housecleaning down to a science, and sent out perky, MANY times a day reminders via email: “Have you polished your kitchen sink yet today? How about scrubbing your bathroom tile grout?” She had specific days and times to do things like laundry (hah!), and swore we all could have magazine worthy homes with mere days of effort per week. This woman was a big believer in using those early morning hours to do chores, and I’m sure I could have the shiniest sink in the neighborhood if I put my mind to it. As it was, I stopped subscribing to Fly Lady because it was all much too much for me. Polish my sink! Give me a break!

So now, instead of accomplishing anything, I lollygag my way aimlessly through my first hour each day, surfing the internet and drinking too much coffee. But I would love some company! Pop on over any 5 AM you like! I’ll be wide awake!

Newborn Peter, sleeping like a baby (don't I wish!)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Luther Who?

Steve speaking at our synod assembly
A few years back, I invited the young people from the synagogue up the street to join us for three classes (and we were invited there for the same). It was a wonderful interfaith experience. For our first class, I came up with a quiz, with questions about Lutheranism/Protestantism and Judaism, just to see what the kids already knew about each other’s faith tradition. I remember my first question: The Lutheran Church is named after a) Martin Luther King Jr. b) Martin Luther or c) Luther Vandross. Two youths thought it was MLK; one picked c)—and, I blush to disclose, it was one of the Christ’s Lutheran kids! Oops!

Most people know little about the life of Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who questioned the church and began the Reformation. But this year (October 31st, to be precise) we celebrated the 500th anniversary of his bold action (nailing 95 theses, or points of discussion, on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg). As this was obviously a once-in-a-lifetime event, we have spent a lot of time in class this year on the history of our church. The kids (and adults) learned so much in the process—including the reason for the rapid spread of Luther’s ideas (the recent invention of the printing press). For the first time, books were mass produced. Luther translated the Latin Bible into the common language of the people, because he felt so strongly that everyone should be able to read Scripture.

But the Luther expert in our house is my Steve, hands down. In 2014, Steve traveled with our bishop and a group of other church leaders to Germany for a tour of the different places important in Luther’s life. Steve came home inspired to write a program, to share what he had discovered. The result “Luther 500: A Layman’s Guide to the Protestant Reformation,” was a hit, traveling during the past year to many area churches.

The portrait of Luther that emerged from Steve’s presentation was that of a deeply faithful, yet complicated man. Luther journeyed from the depths of despair, to a life-changing acceptance of grace and the promise of salvation as a free gift from God. Steve told the story well, peppered with typical Stevo humor. He didn’t shy away from the topic of Luther’s anti-Semitism, which unfortunately became pronounced later in life. But Steve also described Luther as a devoted husband and father, and emphasized his unwavering efforts to spread the message of Heaven as attainable, not through any good works of ours, but through our faith in a loving God.

Steve ended his program with the question: “What will the next 500 years bring?” We none of us know, of course, but it’s worth thinking about. Modern technology has given us access to all information, but knowledge without reflection and understanding does the world little good. We are not necessarily doomed to repeat history. We can learn it, and learn from it. I hope and pray that we do.

Friday, November 17, 2017

NOLA, Revisited

This week, in honor of Patrick and Meg’s second anniversary of dating, and Meg’s birthday, they flew to New Orleans for a short vacation. They both work incredibly hard, and I am really tickled that they were able to make this getaway happen. New Orleans happens to be one of my favorite cities, so I enjoyed hearing about their plans. As I listened, the years fell away, and I was back in 1981, and my first time in NOLA.

I took the train (the old Southern Crescent) from Philly, and was visiting my good friend Lisa, who was working at the Times-Picayune newspaper. I had recently fallen during a performance of “The Wizard of Oz” (darn that slippery Yellow Brick Road!) and broken my wrist; I was in a cast halfway up my right arm. Since I am left handed, I could navigate fairly well--still able to enjoy a Café du Monde beignet and café au lait, so the important things happened! I heard some amazing jazz and Cajun music at the Maple Leaf Bar, ate at locals’ favorite places including Buster Holmes, Roussel’s and Mother’s, and attended Easter Sunday Mass at St. Louis Cathedral.

The city made a major impression on me— its beauty, the music, the food…so much so that I returned the following year with Steve, and we had an equally delightful time (with Lisa again as our gracious hostess.) Within 18 months I became pregnant with the first of our five, thus ending our child-free jaunts for quite a few years.

I always hoped for another chance to spend time in the Garden District and the French Quarter, and in 2009, I was finally able to go back, this time chaperoning 30 teenagers at the Lutheran National Youth Gathering. I was eager to introduce two of my kids (Patrick and Julie) to New Orleans. 28 years had passed, and the extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina four years before was still very apparent in many neighborhoods. Our group spent a day painting the water-damaged house of a couple who had evacuated to Baton Rouge. Even after the disaster, they were determined to come home to their beloved city.

On the Natchez 2009 with Julie and Patrick

On the Natchez 2017 (Patrick and Meg)

A highlight of the 2009 visit had been a cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the steamboat Natchez. Yesterday, Meg and Patrick took a cruise on the same boat, which still runs daily excursions. They will be having brunch at Brennan’s (a 1981 brunch stop for me), and of course hit Café du Monde. They’re having great fun, and I’m so glad to know the city is back on its feet at last.

In a country where most metropolitan areas have become sadly similar, with their downtown high rises and their ubiquitous chain restaurants and hotels, New Orleans is one of the few cities that remains proudly unique. May it always be so, and may Mother Nature be kinder in the future to the Big Easy, a place that has come to mean such a lot to me