snowy days and mondays

It’s snowing. Nothing new for Chicago, but it’s snowing. After a really warm and rainy weekend (highs in the 40s, y’all!), it’s back to being cold and snowy. It won’t stick. But damn it’s cold. I left for work without checking the forecast and returned home. I left for work in my leather jacket that I wear in GA and returned home to get mittens and the walking-sofa-of-coat that is my winter down coat. It’s cold. And snowing. And for some reason, I’m having a cranky pants day. Nothing in particular. I’m just having a bad day. A day full of emails and office work. A day without interfacing with people. A bit lonely in this big, cold building. Thankfully my brand new Presto Heat Dish is keeping me warm.

So anyway…I head out to the Wal-greens, which is just across the street for some much needed Diet Coke and Resse’s therapy. And y’all, it’s cold. And so I make my way up and down the aisles of the store, debating between sales and calories, calculating the money in my account until payday, grateful for the bright florescent lights of distraction that are the world of retail. The check out guy was really friendly. We talked about the differences in Arctic Mint flavored gum and Mango flavored gum (settled on the Arctic Mint). And I zipped up my coat because as I may have mentioned, it’s damn cold out.

As I breezed out of the false safe haven of the brilliant store lights into the snowy dark of the Chicago dusk, I saw him. An old man with crooked teeth and yellowing eyes, grey hair and a worn burgundy sweatshirt. He sits in the chair by the door, seeking, I suspect, a respite from the weather, waiting until he’s stayed too long, until the clerk or manager tells him it’s time to go. I don’t stare. I keep going. And on my way to the sidewalk, with my back to her, I hear the crazy lady who makes her home the parking lot of Wal-greens. She’s there most days, talking to whoever it is that she sees that the rest of us can’t. She’s yelling at him or her or it. And I don’t blame her. It’s cold and there’s not a lot of places where she can go. And then my mind drifts, as it has so often, these past days, weeks, to Haiti, where there is no bright florescent lit store with chocolate and H1N1 vaccines on demand. And I find myself feeling–what? Hopeless, fortunate, ashamed, helpless? Maybe a bit of each.

Yesterday, in a sermon, I was reminded that when we pray, we are never alone. That, for example, in those words of the Lord’s Prayer, when we say it or the rosary, we are never alone. Someone, somewhere joins in the praying of it. Likewise, when I lift my tiny prayer of “For the people of Haiti, Lord have mercy,” which I have been trying to pray on the hour since the quake, when I lift that little prayer, there is no telling how many other prayers and pray-ers (people who are praying) pray with me. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

Y’all it’s cold here. And it’s broken in Haiti. And there’s a plane that went down filled with people who were brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and lovers and friends. The list goes on. For those of us who pray, let us pray without ceasing, let us pray together. Cause it’s cold outside. And none of us can make it alone.

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Post Vacation Train Wreck

So my fabulous assistant (and also our choirmaster) said to me today “I thought Church yesterday was really fun!” I peered out of my office and looked at him. “Really?” I said, “Cause I thought it was a train wreck.” “Well,” he replies, “the part when you COMPLETELY FORGOT THE ABSOLUTION was pretty funny. ” I blush. It’s true. Yesterday was one of those complete messes of a day. One of those days where way more goes wrong than goes right. The last page of my sermon somehow didn’t make it into the pulpit. So the sermon ended with me saying…”So…let’s renew our baptismal vows! Now! Amen!” And I literally lost my breath 4 times in the service–once in the sermon and 3 times during the Eucharist, which made me sound oh-so-unpleasantly flat. And then, there was, that absolution. Sigh. So I left the Mass, made it through the pat-the-preacher line and expected to hear about my horribleness.

But here’s the thing: they were just glad I was back. Maybe it was only small talk, to cover for the fact that my sermon ended abruptly and I clearly forgot important words and that for once I didn’t have enough hot air in me, but whatever it was, I was grateful. And glad to be home. Grace and forgiveness–when we are lucky enough to recognize them (and even when we are not)–are delightful gifts.

Happy Epiphany

A blessed Epiphany to everyone! Now the work of Christmas begins…

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…

Then the work of Christmas begins.

— Howard Thurman