Archive | Vicar’s Voice

Drawers

March 24, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

“Things” don’t often draw tears but when the kitchen table, (a table where Vickie and I had enjoyed her family and coffee for decades), was removed from her parents house, the tears flowed. Last week my thoughts were on my Mom and basements. This week I’d like to share some thoughts on drawers and my Mother and Father-in-Law, Tix and Jimmy Arnold of Corning, Arkansas.

Vickie’s Mom died in 2005, her brother in 2007 and her Dad in 2011. Not only did that leave her an orphan, but also without any siblings. She’s shared there is a loneliness to that reality that no one can transcend and that only God understands. I believe her. We struggled to figure out how to handle all their “stuff” after her Dad died. We decided to have a house sale inviting people to come and buy whatever they liked.

That meant we had to clean out everything. It was like an anthropological dig. Each drawer we explored told the story of the past 50 years of the Arnold Family. It was a fascinating experience. The first part of a drawer contained current items. When I reached back into the recessed parts of the drawer, out came the pictures of their son Steve who had died, pictures of Tix, and further back, all their mementos of our son Nicholas who died in 1989. Further back were pictures of their children, their parents, their siblings, houses, cars and their businesses. Every time something happened they added it to the drawer. Trust me, those drawers all over the house were packed. It took hours to sort them out because of the story they told, the memories evoked, the feelings experienced, the joy and grief revisited.

Sometimes we need to put things in a drawer for a while. Some times we need to open the drawers and reach inside and see what there is to behold. Tix and Jimmy knew every item that was in each drawer. Some they took out and looked upon, some not. Some memories were too painful for this life and now are healed in the life to come. Like our lives! Lent is a time to explore opening the drawers of our keepsakes and taking a look. We often begin thinking that this “stuff” has to go. And then we remember and admit that some things can go and others must stay even if we never look at them again because it isn’t that they are located in a drawer in a desk, but they are located in a drawer in a room in our hearts.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Spiritual Basements

March 17, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

Basements were standard in the houses of my youth.  The two flat where my grandparents lived on the South Side of Chicago had a basement; a real basement with dirt walls, piles of coal and coal dust, narrow stairs to walk down, a healthy musty smell, and two bare electric lights.  Our family homes on the South Side also had basements, as did both our homes in Hinsdale.  My Mom was an ardent cleaner of basements.  Whenever she was stressed, blew her top, or felt overwhelmed by life, (I see this now; didn’t see it then), she cleaned the basement.  If I was the cause or recipient of her unhappiness, her move to the basement was sweet relief.  There was no telling how much time she would spend down there.  My guess; it all depended on precipitating causes.  She certainly had many to balance.  The metaphor didn’t strike me until many years later in life.

Psychology and spirituality both refer to the house as a metaphor for the self.  If your “house” has a basement, then going down to clean the basement was going down into those recluse and hidden parts of herself where she could be alone and address them in her way.  You know why I think this?  Because, fundamentally, the basement didn’t change very much!  There might be the occasional bag of items for Goodwill or a slight reorganization, but the actual cleaning fell to me.  The basement was her place to sit within those places of herself where only she and her God would be.

Lent is time to have courage to sit in our spiritual basements, which only we know.  Perhaps it’s time to give away a few items that are no longer needed and gather dust?  Perhaps it’s time to clean up some old gifts and find a new expression for them?  Perhaps it’s time to wipe clean the slate of sin, guilt, shame and resentment and prepare for walking back upstairs on Easter Day?  I don’t know.  You’ve got your basement and I’ve got mind.  Our spiritual houses are built upon them.  Jesus tells us in scripture that God built them and lives in them also so we have nothing to fear.  Time to clean the basement!

See you on Sunday.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Don’t Take Life for Granted

March 10, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

I admit it: Lent evades me right now. The usual patterns are in place including an additional book on a spiritual concern (Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa) and no meat on Fridays (that isn’t the same as a fast) to remind me to give extra money to the poor and hungry and to remind me of putting my life in God’s hands. It seems my basic character defects are here to stay until God decides to remove them and my sins continue to be all too familiar; daily forgiven and daily familiar. This morning (Tuesday) all I wanted to do was read and rest and meditate. My good protestant work ethic would not allow that to happen so off to my lists about St. Stephen’s, NWPA, home, personal and a look at the end of the day showing what’s been checked off. Nothing wrong with getting things done; makes the world keep moving. Nothing wrong with reading and praying; feeds the spirit within. At the end of the day my heart is grateful for the gift of another day and a certain curiosity about what dreams will come in sleep and what adventures await tomorrow. Maybe Lent, more than any other season, reminds us to not take life for granted and to plumb the depths of each day, each relationship, each opportunity to love and serve God and others. Sounds good. See you on Sunday.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

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