Thursday, May 30, 2019


My silly guy hanging out with St. Francis!

As the mother of five children, three of them boys, I feel very lucky that my trips to the emergency room have been relatively few (relative, that is, to my mom buddies whose offspring were always shoving random objects up their noses or breaking their legs in three places in bizarre playground accidents.) Still, it’s always traumatic to pull up to that entrance next to the ambulances with a sick or injured little one in the back seat. Steve and I remained home with Peter last night when Sher and Yaj sped off to Abington Hospital with Aiden. He had been coughing for a couple of days, but suddenly he was barking like a seal and struggling to breathe. Textbook symptoms of croup, yet knowing how common this virus is in kids didn’t take any of the fear away. 

While we waited for news, I thought back on ER experiences we have had over the years. There was the checkup at Dr. Lockman's office with six week old Julie that rapidly became a rushed trip to triage, then to admission for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Then when baby Sheridan was transported by ambulance to Beebe Hospital in Lewes with dehydration in the summer heat. Rose’s ruptured ovarian cyst, which necessitated emergency middle of the night surgery. A concussion here, a fractured arm there…now that I add them up, I guess we WERE rather frequent pacers, and non-readers of old magazines, in medical center waiting rooms.

The older I get, the more I worry about possible serious complications with any illness or procedure. I think maybe it’s because I HAVE been so fortunate up until now, and so many others with precious little ones have not. And why is that? I haven’t done any super-duper good deeds to earn me a reprieve, that’s for sure. Is it all just a spin of the Wheel of Fortune? In my Big Book of Questions for God when I arrive at the Pearly Gates, the suffering of children is at the top of the list.

I cannot believe in a God who causes bad things to happen. I struggle with a God who allows bad things to happen at all. But I can take comfort in a God who paces the cold, fluorescently-lit waiting rooms with us, and who also holds the innocents in His arms, soothing their fevered brows, whispering words of love. My God is right there, sleeping in detention centers with terrified refugee children, holding the hand of a tiny patient on an operating table, and God cries with them.

And in the emergency rooms of our lives, God is with the doctors and nurses who, sometimes, are able to work miracles.

Our Aiden came home very late, after a dose of steroids that tamed his dreadful cough. He slept, and today he seems better. As I hug my grandson, I try to give my worries and fears up to the God who understands, and who stands, with me through it all.

Abington ER

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The God Project

You are an employee of a nameless Scandinavian furniture store. You work in the disorienting maze of aisles where every Swedish-labeled item is stocked. You are tasked with putting together displays of all the furniture. You hear your supervisor’s voice, but have never actually met her. You were given an employee manual when you were hired, and are urged to make your own checklist.

This is the world of The God Project, a fabulous new play Steve and I saw in center city last night. It is the latest offering of 1812 Productions, a long running Philadelphia theatre troupe known for its pungent satire and lighthearted musical revues. In recent years, 1812 has tackled grittier material, led by co-founder Jen Childs.

Jen and fellow performer Sean Close had arrived at a rehearsal for another production, with the exact same break time reading material: a book by theologian Richard Rohr. Wow, what were the odds? Turns out, they are both PK’s (Pastor’s Kids), their childhoods marked by their lives as offspring of church leaders. A series of conversations led to the writing of this show.

The curtain rises on aisle after aisle of cardboard boxes, each containing a piece of knocked down furniture. The night shift workers, Drew and Sheila, are tasked with assembling displays. Aside from their background as pastor’s children, they could not be more dissimilar. Drew shuns the church and organized religion entirely; Sheila hangs cross necklaces on cardboard cutouts and keeps a prayer list as part of her daily “to do’s”-and Drew is soon added to her list. Drew questions everything he was raised with; Sheila worked selflessly for 30 years at her father’s church before the new pastor fired her—and bears no grudge.

As the evening progresses, Drew and Sheila spar on the subjects of inspiration, miracles, even the way to approach the voluminous manual (Bible?) the employees are given, which Drew hasn’t even read. Drew is currently homeless, living in display bedrooms while trying to hit it big as a singer/songwriter; Sheila begs God for a sign about her calling. God is portrayed as an ebullient African American woman who regularly bursts into song, and appears randomly to our protagonists.

Eventually, Drew urges Sheila to apply to seminary, and he takes a leap of faith to write and perform some new musical material. What becomes of these two misfit companions? Are they doomed to put “Bjorns” together for eternity, or does life offer more? What I loved (beside the numerous inside church jokes) was the subtle movement of the two main characters toward a center point of understanding—Sheila becomes less didactic, and Drew opens his mind and heart a bit.

I will never enter IKEA again without seeing the store as metaphor for the crazy spiritual journey we each take. We are, every one of us, God Projects: sometimes lost, unprepared to put it all together, puzzling over a manual in a foreign language. But determined, by the grace of God, to succeed.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Office, Revisited

Work in progress--but there IS progress!!
When it comes to room makeovers, I am very very slow to act. While I adore the idea of a beautifully redone space, I am incapable of making the magic happen. And I am too embarrassed to ask someone else to do it (though if I were ever to win the lottery, my first act as a jillionnaire will be to hire someone to vacuum for me. I know. I’m pathetic.)

So I recently marked 17 years in my church job, sitting in the depressing disarray that was my work area. I took inventory: in the corner, three huge boxes of stuffed bunnies from MLK Day of Service in January; on my sofa, a towering heap o’ Lutheran World Relief personal care kits. In trash bags on the floor, 60 bottles of water decorated with drawings and messages by our little guys. The toy bunnies had not yet found a home (the place we used to send them no longer accepts stuffed animals, since the last donors had given them teddy bears filled with bedbugs). The personal care kits are here until mid-June, when the collection point in New Jersey will take them. As for the H2O bottles, I forgot to bring them when I volunteered at the Welcome Church last month.

But even after I moved these bulky good deeds to other locations, the scene remaining was not any more attractive. Blog readers may recall I received the gift of a small orchid plant back in December, and I vowed to fix up my office to be a fitting home for it. But when said orchid rapidly shed all of its blossoms, I took it as a sign: I don’t deserve nice things.

Well, a few weeks ago, The Monday Morning Men, a stalwart group of retirees who do what needs to be done in the church maintenance department, offered to paint my office walls. I chose a lovely shade of light blue, which the guys informed me was called “Teensy Bubbles.” Though I consider that a better name for a stripper than a paint color, I went with it, and now my walls are indeed a Rhapsody in Blue.

New IKEA bookcases! A new IKEA desk! A new IKEA filing cabinet! All of a sudden I started speaking Swedish! But seriously, everything looks amazing. My desk in particular is small and perfect (the old one was a behemoth taking up WAY too much space). This weekend we (meaning Steve of course) will hang up my icons, my cross collection, and my Van Gogh print, and the transformation will be complete.

Sitting in the relative splendor this morning, I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable. I am so used to a mess, and deep down have thought that’s where I belong. But I am trying to accept that I am worthy of a nice office after all.

And guess what? Yesterday, my orchid suddenly bloomed again. If a plant can be an optimist, maybe I can too.