The month of July is drawing to a close. It is a time where Cindy is very much on my mind. On her birthday, I hiked through Blandford Nature Center with a friend. Cindy and I enjoyed nature walks and it was a good way to remember her on her special day. The center has changed since we were last there together. I wish she could see it.
A week later I was kayaking again, introducing a friend to Wabasis Lake - a large local lake that has fun places to explore hidden among the reeds. Cindy and I discovered kayaking together and we really enjoyed it through the years. I hadn’t been on the water for two years - she had become too weak to paddle and I just wanted to stay available to her. Last summer, it felt disloyal to take my boat out when she could barely walk. So my kayak hung on the garage wall until last week.
The flowers Cindy had given me for my garden bloom in July. They are a beautiful reminder of our friendship.
This has not been a great year and in some ways I’m glad she didn’t live to see the pandemic, the brutality, the national strife…but I will always miss her and July will always bring her to mind.
Mary Oliver was one of her favorite poets. I’ll leave you with this poem that she read at a friend’s funeral a few months before her own.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. - Thomas a Kempis
Someone posted an idea on Facebook last week that I thought was something worth pondering, so I shared it on my feed. Basically, the writer wondered why the Church in general was not leading the charge to protect the vulnerable and postulated that a it was due to political expediency. I didn’t comment on it, just thought it was something worth mulling over.
Perhaps it was this quote, or perhaps it was already raging on but it seemed like suddenly the subject of masks was a hill people were willing to die on. Pro or con - the debate raged (and continues to rage) on social media.
It’s become so toxic that I’ve stepped away from that platform to ponder and to pray. What on earth is going on? I prayed for God to explain things to me, and I believe that no matter which position a person lands on, the intense reactions are based on fear. From fear of a virus that can kill or disable to fear of the government overstepping its role to take away civil liberties. One person I know has a very limited oxygen intake and fears wearing a mask would kill her. It’s not as far fetched as some have expressed since even without a mask she has passed out due to lack of oxygen. Everyone has a reason for their response. You may not agree with it, but as the Kempis quote points out, you cannot change people - we can barely change ourselves.
In the atmosphere of general panic, I want to take a step back and reorient myself. How, in this overwrought atmosphere, do I live a life of faith? How do I reach out to others to still their fears? How should I live my life to demonstrate God’s love and mercy in these dark times?
I turn to scripture and find that Jesus said “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid” a lot of times. A lot. Someone did a devotional that claims there’s 365 verses about not being afraid, but I haven’t come up with that number. However, the version of scriptures that I prefer (New American Revised Standard) comes up with 4 – fear not; 57 – do not fear; and 46 – do not be afraid. Enough to know that God is making a point. A point I need to pay attention to.
I can’t make everyone chill out. There are times I can barely do that for myself. But as a believer in Christ, I can remember that He is where my most important freedoms are and I can set my heart and mind on Him as I try to put into practice the verse in Micah. Do justly, be kind, walk humbly.
And a note to myself - stop posting things on Facebook. It’s better to sit down in conversation to find out why people feel the things they do. To anyone I’ve hurt with my posts, I do most humbly apologize.
And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8 NASB
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.