Ash Thursday

ashwednesdayThe imposition of ashes was yesterday – of course,
I know that much.
The calendar said so…
The liturgy dictated it…
I even carried out – despite a snow shriveled congregation huddled in a sanctuary being renovated – carpets removed, chalk lines on the floor and walls, electric lines dangling like tongues from the wall.

I thought about the dust swirling about us…
Of course, it was carpet fiber…
Of course, it was wood dust and plaster.
But perhaps, just perhaps, among the sixty year old carpet ripped from its resting place
there were the long ago deposited cells of saints now in glory.
It took my breath away, this thought, and tempted me to breathe deeper still.
We talked about that.
Listened to a reading about dust and ashes, ashes and dust.

And thirteen times
I dipped my index finger into the oily black mess
of burnt palm branches and
God only knows what else that settled from our place of worship.
(Yeah, I’m different that way…I use my thumb to push back stray hairs.)
I made the sign of the cross on foreheads.
I said the words, “You are dust, to dust you shall return.”
We prayed.
We sang.
We stared at the different crosses one pastor/artist could create on the canvass of skin.
We laughed and we left.

But today is “Ash Thursday” for me.
I look at that paintbrush which is my index finger
and I see it.
The ashes,
the dust
that has embedded itself deep into the quick of my finger.
Only a painful cut with the nail clippers will erase its presence.

Yet before I pull out the eraser,
I am reminded
that this is the first time,
the only first time,
that my Dad is among those saints remembered as dust, celebrated as ash.

He is embedded deep too.
Not just in the quick of my finger but somewhere quite deeper…
in the ganglia of my nerves…
in the composition of my cells…
in the foggy clarity of my memory…
in the power of my family system.
Cut off from the family – but present still.

I can cut out the ashes on my recognition of Ash Thursday,
almost as easily as I wiped the cross from my increasing forehead.
But some dust, some ash will remain deep.

Maybe that is why we were told not to look for the living among the dead –
We can easily find the dead among the living…
Look in a mirror…
Listen to a laugh…
Talk to a child…

It’s Ash Thursday for me…and I thank God I am happy for that!

An Ode to Friedman

A dig through the past for some kin,

Unearthed stories – some slathered with sin.

Rose colored glasses now gone;

System ties travel on.

Where I am could be right where they’ve been.

 

Thanks to Edwin Friedman and my many teachers and coaches from The Center for Family Process – especially Coach Mickie – for allowing me to take an incredible systems journey.

Peace!

#writing201

#RunLikeaGirl

#runlikeagirl

#superbowlcommercials

Okay, it is quite safe for me to admit that I am not that great at getting out timely posts. Perhaps I think about them too long. Perhaps I procrastinate on the writing part. Perhaps I just find other things that I think are more important at the moment. Perhaps…well, this could go on for a very long time.

So this post is a bit on the late side. The Super Bowl is almost out of everyone’s memory by now and so are the commercials that so many people looked forward to watching. When I saw the “Always” commercial “#likeagirl” I immediately began to think about this post but alas, I am just getting around to it.

If you haven’t seen it, watch it here.

Thank you, “Always” for getting this message out and making a part of our social conversation. You are so very right.

I am the proud father of three very wonderful young women…

My oldest has had a harder life than many would imagine. She came from a broken home – her mother and I divorced before her second birthday. She spent most of her life going between homes and trying to figure out the different boundaries that came with those homes and the changes that took place in them. Sometime in her teen years she became addicted to pain killers and carried that addiction through a couple of relationships.

But she kicked it. She survived.

Now, she is a stay at home mom to five children and the supportive wife of my favorite son-in-law. (Okay…I only have one but he’s a great one – great with the kids and good to my daughter.) She is surviving day by day and has recently become very active in a local church that is made up of families a lot like hers – where someone in the family is fighting “the” fight. I am so proud of this young lady who #kickeditlikeagirl and #survivedlikeagirl . We could all wish to do so well.

My middle daughter is finishing up her first year at Marshall University as a Voice Major. We moved right after her sophomore year of high school and this young lady had to navigate her last two years of high school in a brand new community. She did it with style, excelling both academically – top ten in her class – and in music – just too many accomplishments to mention. I can’t forget that she not only sings, she speaks, she preaches with boldness and conviction.

She also navigated the decisions surrounding college and college financing on her own. Her mother and I were there to support and talk, but we left the decision up to her. She chose a school that she could both love and afford to pay on her own.

I am so proud of the way this girl uses her gifts.

She #thinkslikeagirl , #preacheslikeagirl and #planslikeagirl . We could all hope to do so well.

My youngest is still navigating the landmine that is known as high school. I don’t envy anyone in that position. But this young lady paves her own path. She recently returned from a twenty day mission trip to India. It was her first time in an airplane and she decides to fly half-way around the world! She sings, she is teaching herself to play the ukulele and she is asking the hard questions of her faith that many don’t get around to asking till much later in life. I am proud of the way this young lady displays her love for all people. I am proud of the way she follows in the footsteps and shadows of her sisters and yet find her own journey to take.

On top of all of this she has the wit and humor of one twenty years older than herself. A sharp wit. A polished use of sarcasm. A laugh that infects all around her. She’s just funny!

She #discoverslikeagirl , she #loveslikeagirl and she #bringsjoylikeagirl .

Several years ago, I had a couple of colleagues that made the obvious observation that I suck at basketball. In their effort to make their observation funny they began saying, “You run like a girl.” And yes, I laughed and joined in by returning the favor.

I get it now.

“Like a girl” needs to mean AMAZING THINGS like I see in my girls. We do need to rewrite the rules. (Okay…admit you haven’t seen the commercial yet…here’s another link.)

I can only hope to be as strong as my girls!

Watch

“Therefore, keep watch…” Matthew 24:36 (NIV)

Watch

Watch

This is Rascal.

He is the youngest cat in the Sears home.

Sometimes, well, we wonder about his sanity.

Other times, I think about the family he is with and realize he just fits in nicely.

Rascal likes to watch for water.  He will come running if you turn on the sink.  Truthfully, there is some debate (in our household and apparently among cat owners on the internet) as to whether or not cats can see water.  My personal opinion of Rascal is that he cannot see it.  He hears it.  He occasionally sees the rippling of the water in the sink.  But running water seems to be beyond his vision.  He can poise himself on the side of the sink and get drenched when you turn on the water.  It’s quite a sight actually.  Cat shaking and meowing at something he can’t quite figure out.

It doesn’t stop him from watching for it, though.  Once that faucet is on or the ice dispenser makes a sound, he is all over that sink – waiting and watching.

I know that the Kingdom of God is often out of my line of vision.  I know where it should be – with the people of God, with the poor, with those who are in need of any help.  But at times I just can’t see it.  I might notice the ripples around it but it is just as likely to knock me flat on my behind before I know its there.  I look a lot like my wet cat at those moments – shaking my head and making weird noises about something I quite understand.

But I do watch.  I just pray that I have the attention and tenacity of my cat.  (Without the “distraction disorder” he also has…If something shiny goes by him while he is watching for water, he is off on a new chase!)

Alas, though, I am often distracted as well.  I know that this week, a plugged up shower/tub, a problem with a car and a couple other little things have kept me from probably seeing the great and awesome power of God in the world.

But I will keep watching.  Maybe one day I will do it with feline determination!