Tag Archives: life

And love remains

To the grave from the cradle
we crawl,
we walk,
run, roll, dance,
strut, stagger, and shuffle
until we can move no more
and we are welcomed home
and love remains.

8 March 2018
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Filed under Family, Friends, Poem

Five years

Five years. The vagaries of time make it feel like yesterday and like a lifetime ago, all in the same moment.

Ruling Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died on 12-12-12 in the afternoon. This post was written on that day at a time before I knew of her death. For a number of reasons, it seems worth sharing again and remembering this amazing woman and beloved child of God.

I did something today I have never done before.

I stood in silence for five minutes.

I am not big on pomp and circumstance and formality. A South African friend once observed that I can be a bit “cheeky” to those in authority. For some reason everyone who has heard that assessment has agreed with it. Go figure.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

The tradition in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is to stand when the General Assembly moderator enters the room. Almost every moderator in my memory has encouraged people not to do so. Most of the time most of them meant it. Yet the tradition persists – in honor of the person and even more so in respect of the office. And while it is not my favorite thing, I take part.

Today, without being asked, without being prompted, I chose to stand in silence for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach – moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).

I watched her election from the back of the auditorium in Minneapolis. My son Sean and I leaned against the wall.

A period of questions and answers precedes the voting. Commissioners (the folks with the votes) pose questions and the individuals standing (we’re Presbyterian, we don’t run) respond. The questions deal with theology, issues before the church, and issues in the world.

At one point, a question was posed along the lines of: “What would happen to the church, if you were not elected and one of the other candidates were?”

One by one the candidates offered replies praising the others and noting that the church did not depend on their election. Then Cindy Bolbach stepped to the mike. I do not remember her exact words, but the essence was:

There will be utter chaos.

The Assembly erupted in laughter. Sean turned to me and said, “She just won, didn’t she?”

The Assembly still had to vote. But Cindy did win. And I believe her sparkling humor that bristles with wisdom played a key role.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

Cindy is a woman of incredible faith, deep love, amazing grace, and an incredible wit. She lives daily her commitment to Christ, to the Church, to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) , to all people, and to God’s world. She mixes simplicity and profound sincerity with a capability to navigate complexity and controversy. I am privileged to know her. The Church (in all its manifestations) is blessed by her presence.

For most of this year, Cindy has struggled against cancer. The struggle cut short her ability to attend events but it never dampened her spirits (at least in public). She wore a fedora to the 220th General Assembly (2012) and she wore it well.

This morning came the news that Cindy has entered hospice care. And I stood for five minutes in her honor.

But in the silence it came to me that another way – a better way – to honor Cindy Bolbach – is to give thanks to God for Cindy – to entrust Cindy to God’s merciful care – to pray for her without ceasing – then to get back about the business of ministry. I am pretty sure that is what she would want. So it is what I have done.

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, I will shed more tears. But I will also proclaim “Alleluia.”

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, there will be utter chaos. But in the chaos there will be love and there will be grace and there will be God. And all will be well for Cindy. And all will be well for us. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

See you along the Trail.

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A shoot from a stump

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24 November 2017
Goochland, Virginia

 

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It comes this night

It comes this night.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

Above the roar
of anger and hatred,

Above the howl
of prejudice and bigotry,

Above the maelstrom
of systems and structures,

Above the crash
of violence and war,

Above the groan
of doubt and despair,

Above the dis-ease
of heartache and heartbreak

Above the tumult
of turmoil and trouble

Above the clamor
of struggle and strife

Above it all,
despite it all
because of it all,

It comes.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

A baby’s cry,
proclaiming
life and
love and
justice and
peace and
hope,
this night
and all nights.

24 December 2016
Goochland, Virginia

 

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Filed under Advent, Poem, Uncategorized

Declaration

Independence.

Live free.
Live full.
Live well.

Independence from
old patterns,
learned habits,
undeserved guilt.

Live free.
Live full.
Live well.

Live free.
Live full.
Live well.

Independence
in the coming year,
on this very day,
at every moment.

Live free.
Live full.
Live well.

Independence
to laugh
to love
to live.

Live free.
Live full.
Live well.

24 December 2015
Cleveland Heights, OH

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Decent people

I oppose the death penalty for a number of reasons. Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, expressed one of the most important reasons in these terms:

You don’t reject the death penalty because the criminals are decent people. You reject the death penalty because you are decent people.

 

 

Our position on the death penalty says as much about us and our characters as it does about the person and the character of the person facing the death penalty.

Brian, the wife of my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow,  was murdered at his place of work in 2008. In the wake of the execution of Kelly Gissendaner and the four executions (Richard Glossip’s execution was stayed until Nov. 6 due to questions about the lethal injection drug that would have been used) scheduled between now and October 7, Bruce shares some “Thoughts on the Death Penalty and Remembering Brian.” He writes in part:

We are that family who has lost a loved one and we do not believe that the death penalty is right, just, or humane. Did the killer of Brian extend the same compassion, justice, or humanity, no. Are there times when rage and sadness manifest themselves into wanting revenge, certainly. But we also know that responding to evil with evil, hate with hate, and murder with murder pays no honor to the person that Brian was or to the world that he hoped we would become.

So for the very reason that so many scream. “Death! Justice! Vengeance!” in honor of the person who has been lost, even in the midst of our own rage, sadness, and our own yearning for retribution, we plead, “Life! Compassion! Dignity!” in honor of the person we lost.

Our position on the death penalty says as much about us and our characters as it does about the person and the character of the person facing the death penalty.

I am honored that Bruce and his family have chosen to be friends with me.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Friends

Unexpected

I read today
of grief and loss
of love and faith
and unexpected
saw your name.

Eyes leaking.
I read on
and the cold, stark words
confirmed that
you were dead.
Into eternity’s void
I stared and hoped
you knew,
and somehow in grace’s mystery
know still,
My admiration for your work
My appreciation for our collaboration
My gratitude for the moments our lives touched
And the ministry we shared.
Thanks be to God.
For Carol Eberhart Johnson
13 July 2015
Manhattan, New York

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