Ducks and Flowers

Monday, December 25, 2006


FEAR NOT ... those words of the angels to Mary seem comforting just like the words and prayers we heard in Spanish a week ago. We went to be part of a candlelight VIGIL for solidarity in our community after the traumatic raids of Latino people at the SWIFT plant here in our town over a week ago now.

On that Tuesday, 261 persons were taken from their workplace and sent in buses to Iowa where they would be detained and then deported if they did not have the right documentation on them. If they did have it or could get it, then they had no way to get back to our town. Some churches responded by sending a van to get people to help them.

Families were literally torn apart that day as children were at school and now their parents were being taken away without any time for preparations or for even gathering their documentation. In other towns this same thing was happening and the photos of children in the news told the story.

So we decided to attend the vigil held from 6 to 8 PM on a Sunday night a week ago at St Mary's cathedral parking lot in the cold Christmastime night..... and to bring candles. Who would understand more than Mary the mother of Jesus about not being afraid or scared?

People came quietly with candles or to find ones there in large sacks that Sunday night. People came together quietly and wondering what could be said to comfort anyone there. A makeshift platform on the back of a pickup truck became the stage in this vast parking lot between the cathedral and the parish hall. We were exposed to the elements and reminded of our vulnerability but yet the need to come together publically and not hiding in our church buildings.

Various pastors from the Hispanic community in Grand Island started in with prayers loudly in Spanish, poured out their hearts in Spanish, sang songs and prayed more..... several were very emotional and many waved their Bibles into the night air talking to God almost as if it was somehow a comfort to the people to have it to wave as a symbol to comfort the people along with the candles, the scriptures read aloud and songs sung from the heart.

There seemed to be sadness everywhere in the group of about 200 people, children, families all huddled together around the pickup and guitar players as the prayers went UP to God in all languages and all faiths to FEAR NOT and to COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE....... and to just be there with us.

The candles seemed to bring warmth to the bitterly cold Christmastime night and comfort us more than usual. And to think that families were separated at Christmas in December was just breaking everyone's heart there that night. Families just trying to make a better life for their children.

How could they do this raid on the Hispanic day of the family and at Christmas which is a time for families to gather and celebrate? It all seemed like a plan to disrupt and induce FEAR and then we went back to the night air, the prayers and the people to FEAR NOT and to bring Comfort for each other and candles as a symbol of God being with us!

For two hours the prayers, songs and scripture went UP to the night sky from pastors in Spanish, from priests in Spanish and from a nun who also translated into English. We all held our candles high, relit them when they went out and heard the sadness, anger and pain of others mostly. Fear not and comfort all the people........ God be with us in all faith journeys in all the many different ways people express their spiritual lives.

Hear our prayers for all these families and for those who are AFRAID. Coming together was important this night and will continue to be important as people find ways to respond through actions. I saw eight people from our community of faith giving comfort by coming and lighting a candle as a sign of hope for all the people. It was good to see familiar faces from our community and to also see many strangers. Just coming together seemed to be a way of crying out together to God in the cold night and to be a part of these prayers of anguish and pain for all families and persons affected by separation into the future.

Here is my candle of HOPE for a world that welcomes all strangers just as my ancestors were welcomed from Sweden and Germany.... and to remember that families need to be together to make life better for all and as the fabric of many faiths....... and to find new ways to WELCOME each other into our communities and lives. And to be with those trying to find their way now.

A Hispanic woman who I do not know came up to me as I blew out my candle. She shook my hand and said, "THANK YOU FOR COMING." She comforted me. She knows how to welcome the stranger and comfort all the people so they will not be afraid........ in places of our anxious world. Once again the people in the most pain know how to WELCOME the best!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Interruptions on Golden Pond

The last few weeks have been full of INTERRUPTIONS. First we had Jay's trip to the ER in early November which led us on a journey of interrupting other people's lives as well. Jay was in overnight and so Nancy had to preach Sunday interrupting her life. Of course we needed to call close family members and put out a quick email to let folks know about it.

Jay was supposed to do a wedding the day he was having tests in the hospital on a Saturday so this all interrupted the wedding party a bit as he realized in the night he could not do a wedding if he was in the ER or hospital. Jay had done the rehearsel Friday evening before he started having "chest pains" around Midnight and had not been feeling well all day in his shoulder and arm but we kept dismissing it as a touch of the flu. Little did I know that these are signs of a heart attack which I discovered later.

I was in my PJ's and about ready for bed; so when he said he had "chest pains" it interrupted my going to bed as I quickly redressed and talked Jay into heading for the ER that cold November Friday night. I was scared and I am sure Jay was too as we interrupted the lives of our family and friends by that morning with a few calls and email. After the overnight stay and many tests that day and the ongoing month, we needed the help and support of doctors and friends as Jay went in for a stress test and a trip to the cardiologist to discover they were not sure.

It seems that there were still some questions about things even though the cardiologist at the hospital had declared he didn't think it was cardiac (coming in after the Neb game that day from Hastings) and he thought it was Pleurisy or an infection in the lining of the lungs which can be very painful as well. He said it can be either a virus or bacteria and so he would try treating it with antibiotics before we left and I knew he was tired so it seemed likely to me it was that too.

It seems like all month our life was full of INTERUPTIONS and interrupting other lives as we headed to Lincoln for a heart scan finally a month later and slept at the home of friends whose lives were interrupted by our visit on a school night with small children in their home.

The best INTERRUPTION of all though was getting the news before our THANKSGIVING trip to MO at the last minute saying that Jay's heart was ok! And it was not two sizes too small as we had joked about. So picking them up before leaving town was a GREAT INTERRUPTION that day. This whole LARGER INTERRUPTION had given us a new sense of how important our health is again, how much we all need to exercise and how important our friends and family are in emergency situations and having each other as friends that long night and day in the hospital.

Since then we have had a few other interruptions like my nasty sinus infection yesterday, my allergies and the fall I took checking my plants on the porch in the dark before taking Jeremy to the plane the week before Jay's trip to the ER. I have learned you always GO AROUND into the house and TURN ON THE LIGHT ON THE PORCH before heading up and down cement steps too!

It seems like our lives have been FULL of interruptions lately but also we have received many notes, emails, phone calls, visits, conversations that we would not have received otherwise and we have had many other good interruptions along the way.

Then a week ago when our church had the LIVING NATIVITY at Fonner Park (it's 20th anniversary by the way) I had chosen to go first to a Central Nebraska Peaceworkers meeting and potluck dinner at the church at the same time and Jay went out to help where he could. Halfway through our meeting and dinner celebrating the fifth anniversary of this group, in walked three kids from Sudan who are in the Youth group asking us if we knew where the LIVING NATIVITY was or where they could be shepherds and an angel. They had been dropped off on this cold night at the church as they didn't realize the LIVING NATIVITY was somewhere else but their ride had left aleady.

So carolyn and I had them call their parents and inform them of the problem so they would know where to get them. We found them a cell phone in the group and I could hear the youth telling his parents what had happened in another language so I asked if his parents spoke English. He said "no."

By then the whole group trying to finish the potluck dinner, was listening to us. About then we realized that they needed to be at Fonner Park to be shepherds and an angel in about twenty minutes at 6 PM. If their parents did not come SOON, they would miss it completely. So we made a decision to have Carolyn take them immediately or they would not make it at all. We also decided that I would stay to wait for family members so someone would be there to go with them and show them the way to get their children. Preparing the way and finding the way for their family to come seemed to be very important too!

So carolyn took off quickly with all three kids and then I realized that soon some parents from Sudan who did not speak English were coming to get their children and I would have to tell them somehow that their children were NOT HERE but at Fonner Park in the BARN acting out the LIVING NATIVITY!! GREAT! Of course I do not know their language either!

I stood outdoors for a while waiting and then realized it was way too cold to stand outdoors and they would surely come in... but by now the whole dinner was INTERRUPTED by what had happened and people were wondering if the three kids had eaten dinner and how we would communicate to connect with carolyn etc.

Finally a Sudanese man walked in and wanted to know where the kids were and he didn't speak much English I could tell. I tried to explain they were on South Locust at the LIVING NATIVITY and it was not HERE as they had thought. It turns out he was the UNCLE to the children and he understood enough to know we had to go.

So I bundled up and told the whole group I would be BACK SOMETIME and they would have to clean up without us. Hopefully I would get a ride back with Carolyn but by now it was nearly 6:30 PM and I wondered if Carolyn would wait for me? If not, surely I would find Jay or someone to get me back to the church to cleanup.

We went out to get in their uncle's van. As we entered, I realized for the first time that I was getting in a van with someone I did not know who I could not communicate with....... and we were heading to the LIVING NATIVITY someone in BARN if I could find it myself. He did know about South Locust it seemed that after we made it to Eddy Street the main word he knew was "STRAIGHT" so we went "straight" on Eddy as far as we could go! Then we made it to Locust nearby Eddy. As we came near to FONNER PARK I pointed out the sign and hoped he would understand. We made it around the new EVENT center after a detour through Skagway parking lot. About then I kept telling him we were going to the BARN...... he said, "the Bar?" or maybe I misunderstood him??

And I said, "no the BARN where the animals are" and then I wondered if I had really confused things. As we walked towards the "barn" I asked their uncle if he knew about the nativity waiting inside (I was hoping) with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, animals, shepherds, angels and so on? He nodded YES and seemed to understand.

We made it inside where the animals were roaming about and people were "living out" the nativity all right. Carolyn was very happy to see us in the doorway and exclaimed, "we made it and they were able to do it twice!!" We both realized at that instant that this whole big INTERRUPTION was worth it afterall. All we had to do was TRUST it would work out. The three kids were reunited with their uncle in the dressing room that was crowded with people in many various costumes and all was well finally!

So thanks to Carolyn's haste in getting them there, we had succeeded and the many interruptions that night were starting to feel a bit crazy but good inside. We were all safe and sound and they knew their way home now in their car. We headed back to the church to see if anyone was still there as we had left Christmas trees lit and the gas fireplace going at the church with a mess of dishes and food.

Sure enough, three friends were waiting at the door all bundled up and ready to go as soon as we arrived! I guess they trusted too we would return and they wanted to make sure we made it back safely. They had figured out the kitchen and had cleaned up most of the mess. So the next half hour was full of stories back and forth between us about what had happened since the INTERRUPTION. We kept telling and retelling the story as we cleaned up, turned off Christmas trees and made our way to our cars to hug as we left each other. We both knew all the crazy interruptions were worth it that night in those moments.

Once again I thought about the INTERRUPTION this had been on the way home; but it made us all more aware of this family who had come to a new land to new places. We felt some of their uncertainty but also their TRUST too. We had no idea how difficult the journey of this family had been from Sudan but we had a taste of their new life. I hoped that we had helped them somehow in their adjustments and their confusion of new places and experiences.

And I realize now how the last six weeks have been a series of crazy INTERRUPTIONS and yet many GIFTS have come to us....... and new understandings along the way. We had also learned how important community is in solving problems all along the way. And now as we are in the ADVENT season of preparation, we think of the Christ child coming into the world as a similar INTERRUPTION that became a GIFT to so many through his life journey.... to make the CROOKED STAIGHT and to give us new role models for living and loving.

And so now as I reflect, living on a Golden Pond this fall and advent season, I think of the many gifts we have received since living on this Golden Pond here in Nebraska this fall along with all the unexpected INTERRUPTIONS!

I am also reminded of Preparing the WAY for all the things coming in our lives we don't know about: the changing seasons, color, vegetation and animals....the constants and the changes -- the ebb and flow-- how the seasons are also part of the constant yet changing pattern. And how it is that the INTERRUPTIONS here on the lake --- as we head toward Christmas with loved ones and winter -- they are what we remember the most.