How You Paint the Sky

Here we are, on the eve of the eve of a New Year, and resolutions and NEW YOUS abound. I thought I would write something profound to sum up 2015 and don’t have much to tell you other than my usual stories.

I hope you all got through the holidays without screeching at people, or having a nervous breakdown over those first world Christmas catastrophes (read: Elf wasn’t on demand, the store didn’t have the game you wanted to buy, the turkey was dry…). I hope you managed even in our green and temperate clime to dig deep and locate some magic.

I think that I did. I am still humming the carols we sang on Christmas Eve, still sort of unbelieving that the whole cycle has begun over again, and that in a few short weeks we will lower our heads in shame and complicity and walk the red road that leads to a wooden cross on a hill. Three of them, actually. I don’t like or believe in an easy lent, in a season without guilt, in only celebrating a resurrection. Because regardless of why you believe that squalling baby died the fact is that he did.

Today was the first time I took communion to someone ever. Today was the first time I said, in a not joking and shoving a chip in Casey’s face way (this is an inside joke, I swear!), the body of Christ, the bread of heaven. I was a little clumsy, it would have helped if I’d thought to bring more than one bulletin for the service.

What happened though was this beautiful hour, where this old woman and I exchanged stories, where we somehow ended up in this lovely rythm of reading the collects and prayers to each other, alternating, as we shared all the paperwork, passed it back and forth between her chair and mine as the cat looked on interestedly.

I am sure she has so much more to tell me, so much more I need to know, that we have been paired for a reason. She has a gigantic harp in her living room, and a catnipped out little cat, she has things to say that only I must hear; she is a prophet of sorts and I her unwilling vessel; the sort of vessel that must be strapped to a table and restrained to receive a message and  call. And she told me that the thing she misses most about church is the music.

Which I totally get.

She used to sing soprano, and said she never knows what will come out of her mouth any more.

And I get that too.

Today I was late for the noon service, where I would be officially sent out to deliver this sacrament to my new person. I cringed in my seat and couldn’t bring myself to go to the rail, staunchly denying that I needed any sort of hands laying on or healing, believing that there is nothing wrong with me and yet casting about, feeling around, for something broken or wrong.

By the time the sore spot was realized I was too late, standing near the altar, still in my coat, clutching my precious package.

Jared spoke about the Holy Innocents, all these baby boys slaughtered under the terrible reign of King Herod. He spoke about how as we celebrate their feast day we also are bearing witness to the holy innocents slaughtered the world over. Little Aylan and all the little boys and girls who will drown in the stormy waters, whose parents couldn’t afford the extra cost of a life jacket. The children bearing cold and desperate nights in Texan deserts, crossing into a land where they dare to hope that grown ups don’t turn little children away.

When Jared spoke about this he had tears running down his cheek and into his beard. He wore a read chasable I’ve not seen before. He seemed to grow larger than life and I tried hard not to cry.

I thought about the innocents right here, the little children I saw last Sunday who came for a warm meal, how happy I was to be able to tell them the menu finally matches their tastes; grilled cheese and tomato soup. They are innocents too, and they are among us, they are not other.

The concept of other people’s kids is one that should not exist, that does not bear even thinking.

Remember when we were kids? And we ran wild and biked and played and had all sorts of adventures? Casey remembers how the moms on his block all sort of took turns feeding this pack of boys who have since grown to be men (and fathers and husbands), how they all kept track of all the boys, not just the one who also shared their name, how you never got in trouble with only your own mom, but heard about your sin from all the moms.

We belong to each other, a lesson I had learned and somehow cast aside. A lesson learned anew today in an assisted living facility, in listening to a person talk passionately about finding soprano notes, about adjusting the pedals on a harp.

Tonight Casey has received the gift of inspiration. A long time ago, swimming in Lake Michigan, he banged his mighty toe on something out in the water. He reached down and pulled it out, it didn’t exactly shine triumphantly in the sun, but he held it that way, water dripping off it, a huge brick.

The brick has mortar still stuck on it in strange patterns, is not a perfect rectangle. It has lived in the garage for a long time and tonight he decided to paint it, he had this vision for how it should look.

He got out the paint and sat down at the table and asked Avery, tell me how the sun looks when it sets.

Avery was only too happy to chime in, its yellow at the top, and orange and red.

He said, tell me what the waves look like, out on the lake. And she described for him the colors there, how it smells and sounds to have powerful waves smash over and again into her small frame, as her toes grip the sand and the sun blinds her, as the world stops existing and she is only in that moment, in that wave.

My book about being a Eucharistic Visitor was full of sage and practical advice. One important piece was about being in the moment, and fully present with the person who is being visited. I tried hard, through not having thought to bring another bulletin and sprinkling in gospel readings from this Sunday along with collects for the innocents, with not having the Prayers of the People because I didn’t have my prayer book, with a strange headache and a little cat who wanted to alternately bite me or knock over the wine. With how perfect it seemed in that space for she and I to offer our own intercessions and thanksgivings silently and yet together.

Today I reminded my new person of what the sky is like.

I reminded her of what it is to sing a descant, to have those high notes float impossibly out and over those assembled. I reminded her of mothering daughters and had her tell me how a harp is played.

Tonight the stars are hidden, battened down in their little hatches as a cold wind puffs out his cheek and blows. Tonight Avery has reminded me of what the waves look like in summer, of how one can be carried away, how a little child will lead me.

Tomorrow is the eve of a New Year. Let’s do each other a favor and not make promises we won’t keep. Let’s paint the sky for each other, explain the way the sun sets as only we can experience it, recall for each other the exquisite joy of one soprano voice, hidden now behind age and years. Let us find a way to stop the slaughter of our children, for they are truly all OURS.



I love you still.










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