Smurfs, Sons, and Second Half of Life

I wrote this  article 3 years ago on another blog of mine, but I still muse about the Smurfs and my inept parenting in the 1980′s…which in spite of, my two sons are awesome

Smurfs...those little elf-looking blue men with white caps and their blue wives named Smurfettes were invented in the late 1950′s, but they were born into American culture in 1981, the year that my first child was born. Those little blue people became an iconic symbol of the 1980′s and a thorn in my flesh.

I wanted to be a good Mom and I was told by my religious culture at the time that Smurfs were dangerous for children…they had a MAGIC flute,  they lived in a commune of mushrooms that “symbolized” getting high and they had a sorcerer/sage for their lead character. So, of course, as a good mother, I did not let my sons watch the Smurfs. To this day, I still often hear my sons tell their friends…”My Mom didn’t let me watch the Smurfs” and everyone looks pitifully at me like either I was a really right-wing Rush Limbaugh soccer Mom or like I was a controlling wacked-out psycho Mom.

So, as I stand before the universe and before my sons…I was wrong.  I should have let you watch the Smurfs at home instead of having to sneak off to watch them at your preschool friends’ homes. You are the greatest guys in spite of your Mom’s quirky ways of parenting. 

The second half of life changes a person significantly. Most of us either become more mellow or more bitter. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM,  has a great book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.  He says that in the first half of life, we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity-climbing, achieving, and performing. We eventually need to see ourselves in a different and more life-giving way. Rohr goes onto to say that the first half of life religion is almost always about various types of purity codes or “thou shalt nots” to keep us clear, clean, and together like good Boy and Girl Scouts. We are building a strong container in the first half of life to hold our deepest and fullest life.

One of my dear friends once said that she had changed her theological, cultural, and political views so radically over her life, that she was afraid to say anything in too dogmatic of language anymore and I know what she means. Life changes us. We start out with idealistic expectations of life, that one plus one always makes two, and discover through living, that things don’t always turn out like we expected…sometimes one plus one makes one or three or five. Sometimes life is  difficult and we discover that the answers to life are not always black and white, that there are some gray areas where answers don’t come easy. Sometimes life is way better than we ever dreamed and we rejoice in those blessings and we dance and sing and jump for joy at those good times. We come to realize that we need the good times and the times of bewilderment, wilderness, and suffering to make us into people with deep soul.

Sometimes we just need some blue people to come along and play their magic flute, embrace us in their commune of love, and speak their special language to us. It’s too bad that I did not know in the first half of life what I have learned from the ups and downs  of living. I am much more mellow and a free spirit in the second half of life…hopefully I won’t get “too out there” for my sons in their first half of life!

Oh and by the way, my beloved awesome sons…when you are home next…let’s download all the episodes of The Smurfs and sit down with some grown up drinks and watch them together…yes…we have come a long way baby!

This morning was Epiphany Sunday, 2013. Epiphany celebrates the Magi who followed the star to that stable in Bethlehem where  with great joy they found baby Jesus and brought gifts to this newborn king.  I always like this light-filled  last Sunday of Christmas which is usually the beginning of the promises and hope of a new year.

This Sunday, I added a wooden manger with some straw in it with a darker-skinned “baby Jesus” laying in that former animals feeding trough. This manger was placed at the bottom of our chancel steps in front of the Communion Table.  At the opening hymn of We Three Kings, a family of three with great care and ceremony brought the treasure of the Magi down the center aisle and placed them in front of the manger, then for the last time of the season, lit all the candles of the Advent wreath.

A beloved member of my congregation whom I will call Angel, is a middle-aged Down’s Syndrome woman who seems to me to be a spiritual savant. To be her pastor for almost 10 years is an incredibly great privilege. Over the past several months, Angel has been lighting the communion table candles. She walks down the center aisle, holds onto the railing with her right hand to climb up the chancel stairs and carries the long brass lit candlelighter in her left hand. With great reverence she lights each of the two candles and then usually salutes the Communion Table before she exits down the stairs.

This morning  Angel led  in the Three Kings family,  climbed the stairs,  lit the candles, and saluted as usual. Then something so very precious happened that it is seared into my mind and soul. Angel quickly turned around to go back down the stairs and was so surprised and astonished to spy baby Jesus in the manger that her whole face lit up with utter delight…her eyes twinkled with joy, wonder, and amazement. A huge smile came across her face. She could barely take her eyes off that baby…it was as if time stood still and my soul soared watching this little glimpse of  heaven, what it must be like when we are caught by surprise at the presence of Jesus.

Oh, yes, it is those unexpected glimpses of the holy that make me realize once again how amazing and awesome it is to be a pastor. Thank you Jesus for lifting the veil of the heavenlies for a split second to let my flock and their shepherd get a peek at glory.

I LOVE this article by Rachel Evans.


Calling all Christians! Let’s  stop this craziness!!  All of us have been broken-hearted over the insane and horrific killings in Tucson at the cusp of this new decade, January 8 at a political gathering outside a Safeway grocery store. So, we have to ask ourselves as Christians, when are we going to stop fighting each other? Of course, all religious faiths have sects within their ranks who fight horrifically with one another. Yet,  we are children and disciples of the Prince of Peace, who were baptized into a new covenant of love and forgiveness where we are universally and eternally connected with each other through the body of Christ.  As Christians, we are part of the eternal and universal kingdom of God where we are to live as Christian brothers and sisters caring for one another.

Calling all Christians! Please my fellow Christians, I plead for us to stop this warfare mentality among the body of Christ. No one will ever win this war of words and in reality, this wordy war will destroy all sides of the political rhetoric and destroy our ability to share the Gospel of the Good News of Christ. We should be standing together and embracing one another, not destroying each other through words and actions  of hatred and malicious strife. We have become consumed with proving that we are the ones who are right and our fellow Christians and fellow countrymen and women are wrong.When we purposefully hurt each other with warfare words, we are in reality, destroying the very body of Christ.  Jesus the Christ said that there are two great commandments, to love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Calling all Christians! Let’s take a repentant evaluation of how stoney our hearts  have become through hatred of another political party or someone else’s ideas and ask forgiveness and repent before it’s too late, before our children and grandchildren start schools of Christian jihad and before they think that one of the virtues of the Christian faith is destroying another’s person’s reputation because they interpret the Bible or the Constitution differently than we do. War rhetoric often leads to physical war. We are called to love  and forgive one another, bearing one another’s burdens, not adding to their hurt and struggles. Yes, of course, be part of the political process, but do it in a way of integrity, in a way that shows that we are first and foremost a Christian, and secondly a Democrat, Republican, Tea Party member, or Libertarian. Do to others as we would have them do to us.

Calling all Christians! Let’s take a holy and Christian fast from watching inflammatory news stations, let’s take a fast from speaking slanderous  words about another person, let’s let’s take a fast from sending emails about the perceived horribleness of another political group. Let’s instead, spend that time in prayer and doing good for the sake of the kingdom of God and for the sake of Christianity in the world and in America. Let’s ask the Spirit of the Living God to fill us with love of God and love of neighbor. We are called to love and respect all people, no matter the faith tradition, skin color, political ideology, or how they interpret their scripture. Following Christ calls us to another way of thinking and acting, one based on the incredible power of love and forgiveness, not hatred and destruction.

Calling all Christians! Let’s lay down our guns and grenades of word warfare at the cross and allow them to be transformed into words of living water bringing forth refreshment,  life, and blessing.

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, President and General Minister of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ has a great post about the Tucson tragedy. Hope you will read her very fine comments “God’s Heart was the First to Break” at www.disciples.org

Love One Another. From One Year Bible Blog

Now don’t get me wrong…I believe in security checks at airports. I want  safe skies as much as you do…but have we gone just abit crazy?

Today, my 82 year old tiny, white-haired, cane carrying Mom went through security at the charming, small Santa Fe, New Mexico airport. She had been on a little “get away” trip with us as her husband of 61 years (my Dad) died exactly three months ago. She has been grieving and we hoped this little trip would lighten her downcast spirit.

The American Airlines ticket agents had been so kind to her. Then there was an announcement over the loud speaker for all of us to get in line to go through security. Mom was in front of me in the security line. She heard the person in front of her say something about metal. So she told the security guard that she had two metal knee replacements. Obviously, too much information.

She was pulled out of the line, taken to a glass booth and made to wait awhile, then the blue rubber-gloved female security officer took her into a separate area that looked like a black-curtained room where she was patted down. Then for some unknown reason, they tested the material of her trousers and found some sort of “scary” chemical (likely “dangerous” dry cleaner fluid) and called in a professional for further analyzation. The other security officers went through her cell phone, her carry-on sack, and the contents of her purse. This interrogation lasted about 45 minutes in the waiting area of this little airport in front of all the other passengers. My law abiding, tax-paying, flag waving, church-going senior citizen momma was publicly humiliated by her government and she cried in embarrassment. She couldn’t stop the tears of humiliation. When she got home she found a card in her suitcase that they had gone through her checked-on luggage also.

When she boarded the American Eagle flight, the  deep radio-voiced African American steward who has a close iconic resemblance to the angel Gabriel recognized her distress, came over to her, knelt in that tiny aisle, and spoke balming words of comfort, offered her some tissues to help dry her eyes, and pressed a special snack treat into her hands. Praise God for an angel in the skies!

What do you think, should I file a complaint with the FAA on behalf of my mother or just forget it?

P.S. A friend just informed me that last week at LaGuardia airport an elderly woman who needed some money for retirement was paid to carry a cell phone activation device into the airport and the airport was shut down for two hours, maybe this is why she was pulled out for this long security check.

Partying with Christ

A night to remember. One of my friends was the Rabbi of our local synagogue and she invited me, my husband, and the church I pastor to some wonderful events at their synagogue. There is always lots of fabulous food, the most exquisitely decorated tables, and incredible hospitality. One of the most memorable experiences was the evening that a Jewish”gospel” group (yes, that is what they called themselves) played in their sanctuary. We were rockin’, hands in air, and the rabbi and some of the members were dancing in the aisles.  If I had closed my eyes and not seen the gorgeous Star of David chandeliers, the awesome stained glass windows with Jewish symbolism,  and the Torah in its sacred ark on the east wall, I would have thought I was in a charismatic service of worship. Harvey and I had the most glorious time of worship and fellowship with our Jewish friends. It was a night to remember.

Everyone’s Invited. Since then I have pondered about the Jewish Christ, the rabbi Jesus whom I love and serve. Surely, in his Jewishness he danced, and partied, and ate and drank. My theology of The Table is based upon Christ’s invitation to the outcast, the struggler, the seeker, the hungry, the thirsty to come and dine, to come and party. Everyone’s invited! Taste and See that the Lord is good!

Pretty Great Wedding Reception! Don’t you love watching Jewish weddings depicted on television with the joyous dancing, the couple carried in chairs above the dancing and adoring family and friends, and exhuberant music and abundant food and drink. I hope I get to attend one someday.

One of the first stories in the Gospels is Jesus being invited to the wedding where there must have been great partying with lots of food and wine freely flowing…because it ran out before the party was over. Jesus, at the bequest or should we say the command of his mom,  then took water and  turned it into the best wine of the evening, not the cheap stuff at the end of  a party when everyone has had so much to drink that they don’t realize that the good stuff’s gone. At the end, Jesus is still providing the best to make sure that the party continued in style.

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Inviting yourself to dinner. Jesus saw a small man up in a sycamore tree and Jesus, not waiting for an invitation, invited himself to have dinner. He wanted to party with one of the most hated and despised of people, the Jewish tax collector who had sold his soul to the Roman authorities. Some considered him Scumbag material. Zacchaeus  invited his other outcast friends to the feast and from being in the presence of the Christ who not only partied with them, but accepted them just as they were, Zacchaeus was a changed and transformed man, giving away half of what he owned and giving back four times what he had taken in false commissions. Salvation came to that house that day. Partying brought salvation.

Etiquette party pooper bloopers. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, there are two similar versions of the partying parable. Jesus told a parable of a royal man who planned a sumptuous banquet and sent out the finest handwritten and hand delivered invitations to his first class friends. His Emily Post possee didn’t bother to RSVP or to show up, so the party giver sent out his servants to hand deliver his invitation to the outcasts, the sick, the handicapped, and when there was still room at the party, the country bumpkins were invited also and they came and had an overflowing banquet.

Lost stuff. Jesus told three parables about lost things…lost coins, lost sheep, and a lost son. At the conclusion of each parable, when the lost coin and the lost sheep were found and when the lost son returns home, there is great revelry, great rejoicing, dancing, and partying and feasting. Jesus declares, “The lost has been found, rejoice and party with me.”

Jesus rejoicing that his lost sheep has been found
Laughing Shepherd by Karen Graeser

Best Bridal Banquet. In the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation, the Bridegroom, Jesus invites us to the heavenly marriage banquet where we eat with the Lamb of God and party in the awesome presence of the One whom we have loved through faith. I can only imagine that the best wine will be available also at His own wedding.

Party, Fiesta, Foreverrrr! Dallas Willard, one of the the finest Christian philosophers of our times states that “God is happy.” Our God is not a dour One who is spending eternity keeping a record of our wrong doings. Our living God is the one who invites us to the party, who dances with us, and embraces us because the lost has been found. We are God’s beloved, so let’s dance, let’s party with jubilation!! I have told my family that when I die, they are to have a party…a dance with classic rock n’ roll…no sad, dour stuff…celebrate that I had a great life, that I am experiencing resurrection, and that as part of the communion of saints that I’ll be partying too!

St. Francis with lots of God's creations

St. Francis with lots of God's creations

This morning as I was driving to work (to church) on Laurel St., I saw a beautiful tiger kitty curled up right in the very middle of the busy road, laying on the straight yellow dividing line. I drove past her, but the Spirit kept nudging me to turn around and go back. I did. U-turned. Stopped my car on the side of the road and fortunately there were very few cars going by. I picked up her lovely soft still warm body, laid her on the plush green grass, and prayed a blessing over her. If she had still been alive, I assume ( I hope) I would have taken her to the vet, but she had already recently died. May her owner  find her and be comforted in the loss of this fine friend.St. Francis with cat

Then at the conclusion of work today, two women came to the church and wanted to have their two darling dogs to be blessed. Love to hear the stories of how pets and their owners are brought together and what they mean to each other. Pets are God gifts to companion with us on life’s pilgrimage. What an honor to get the privilege to bless and hold God’s beloved creations in my heart and in my hands.

The last meal I ate with my beloved Daddy was on  the Saturday before Father’s Day in June at Outback Steakhouse in Addison. That day the manager was giving out scratch off games to see how much the Father was getting off on his next meal. Daddy got a $5.00 off certificate and Harvey got a $25.00 off voucher. Daddy kept kidding Harvey that he sure got the better deal of that meal!  From that point on, his appetite diminished and he just quit eating until he died (resurrected) August 14. So, tonight, we used that voucher for a lovely, almost free meal with precious memories of a last supper with a very special man. Thank you Outback.

The blessing of pets, the gift of good food, and the grace of great memories. You just never know what a day may bring.


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