Monday, January 26, 2009
Last night The Salvation Army's National Capital Band played at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church (GPC). James B. Anderson directed his thirty talented band members. This was the second year the band played a hymn sing just prior to the church's annual Chili Dinner.
Earlier in the day, I asked Ann Schmidt, GPC's director of music, if this would become an annual event. Ann didn't know. She said the director had cancer and doctors had given him only 3 months to live. That was in July.
Last night, I listened and watched James Anderson as he joyfully directed the young musicians. From time to time, Anderson recited lyrics or told us background information about the Salvation Army's origins. His lyrical Scottish accent had a music all its own. He never mentioned he was dying. Joy filled his face and energized his movements.
I was impressed.
If I had only a few months to live, would I be conducting a concert? Not likely. But then that isn't an activity for which I have either an interest or talent. Anderson's face and mannerisms showed he loved what he was doing and the people he was with in the moments we shared last night.
After the benediction, Anderson asked his band to play one last song. I didn't catch the title but the lyrics, "Until we meet again," set me to wondering who among us would gather beneath the beautiful oak ceilings at GPC in the coming year. Several members were struggling with health issues. Some people were likely to move. Who knew what the year would bring?
Whatever the year may bring, I hope to live as joyfully as Anderson, as far as I am able. Each day is a gift we share with others. Anderson never said this in so many words. He lives it and will each borrowed day . . . "until we meet again."
How about you? What would you do if you had only 3 more months to live?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
President Barak Obama shared a stirring speech that was interrupted on several occasions by applause -- at least by those who had space enough to clap. I hoped he and his advisers were up to the enormous tasks that face us as a nation.
Getting home was a challenge
We headed to the Metro, not realizing how packed it would be. We spent hours stuck in L'Enfant Plaza. We stood in an underground shopping area beneath office buildings and a hotel in a mall-wide line that seldom moved.
The Mall coralled a good-natured crowd. Whenever we moved more than two steps people cheered. At times the Mall Crawl was light hearted. Someone held up a glove and called for help to reunite a missing pair. Others passed lost gloves forward.
Eventually, the overheated area became uncomfortable. Some people were getting sick. When we reached a hallway with an elevator, Lauren and I escaped to yet another crowded place.
Hallways and public areas of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel overflowed with refugees from the cold. People stood in lines for Starbucks coffee, for the restaurant, and for restrooms. Huddled people sprawled or slumped along busy corridors.
Eventually we ventured outside for an open air food stand. We returned with Teriyaki Chicken Steak and noodles. Hotel employees were turning away people without room keys, but we found an unguarded door and slipped inside.
We sat on the floor in a corridor. Strangers stopped to ask where we found food. People exchanged stories and the latest news. We were tired of standing and it felt so good to sit down.
We watched as hotel employees closed off hallways and meeting areas in preparation for evening balls. When they herded unregistered guests from upstairs hallways, we knew those of us who were seated along the main floor corridors would also be asked to leave. For the time being, they ignored us. We were grateful for the temporary refuge.
People used cell phones to keep up with the news. Rumors circulated that someone died on the Metro tracks. We later found out a woman fell onto tracks at Gallery Place, a station near L'Enfant Plaza. A quick-thinking officer pushed her out of the way into a recess beneath the platform as a train arrived. She survived.
We never knew if this event or other health emergencies caused Metro delays at L'Enfant Plaza. Perhaps the logistics of huge crowds played a role or it was a combination of things. But, when we heard lines were moving, we headed to the Metro station and home. We arrived safely, tired and glad to have gone to the National Mall to be a small part of the 2009 Inauguration.
Was it worth it?
At the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, one woman said, "I hope Obama appreciates all we've gone through for him." I was thinking, I didn't go through today for Obama.
The Rev. Rick Warren's prayers for the new leadership inspired me: Even small ones, even specs on the great Mall of Life, have a part to play in history as we make it. As a Christian, I can pray. Our leaders need wisdom and grace for the enormous challenges we face.
We're in this together -- for better or worse -- in the corridors of today as we walk and stand, as we jostle or wait, and as we share our journeys along the way.
What do you think? Can we find ways to move in similar directions and at peace with one another for the common good?
Monday, January 19, 2009
Inauguration preparations decorated D.C. I've never seen so many police cars, temporary fences, fur coats and lines of port-a-potties near the National Mall. Crowds of pedestrians clogged major intersections. We didn't mind since it gave us a chance to snap photos.
Tomorrow, when even larger swirls and streams of pedestrians are let loose in Washington, Lauren and I plan to be a pair of specks among the many, perhaps millions, who are drawn to the area and the moment.
This week large screens flank and festoon areas near the Washington Monument and the Capitol grounds. Not everyone will see Obama's inauguration in person tomorrow. Many will look toward one of those large screens as, simultaneously, millions of others witness the events in homes, businesses, and on palm-held devices around the world.
Why will people stand in the cold tomorrow to watch history as it unfolds? Maybe we want to be some small part of history. You may ask, couldn't we do that anywhere? Maybe we don't want someone else to go alone. Crowds can be scary. Maybe we'll be there because we can. Why not? Many reasons will draw people to the D.C. area or to a screen for a glimpse of tomorrow's historic 56th Presidential Inauguration.
Today's preparations reminded me of another event I hope to see. As we waited at a red light and watched Garth Brooks' performance from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on a large screen, I thought of how technology connects us to current and historical events in ways that were once impossible.
Someday, Scripture promises us, every eye will see Christ's return. What a moment of just and meaningful change that will be. I don't care where I stand or kneel when I see it. There will be room for each of us to stand as equals in the dignity and freedom of God's love.
Until that time, other moments of history welcome our involvement.
How about you? Would you brave crowds or cold to feel part of a historical moment? Why?
Photo Credits: Lauren Hecht, 2009, used with permission
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This week's topic in The Writer's View 2 (TWV2), an AOL online writer's group, yielded a painful truth: few writers earn a living only from writing.
Today, the panelist who initiated the discussion, focused a spotlight on a more important truth among these harsh realities of the publishing field. Cec Murphey wrote these faith-filled words to other Christian communicators:
Dream big. Work hard. If you truly believe that God is sovereign, it means your responsibility is to be faithful as you continue to improve your craft and send out manuscripts. One day God might smile brightly on you.Does faithful and hard work pay off in writing or in any area of life? Maybe not in blockbuster sales or six-figure salaries. But God rewards his servants in amazing ways -- seen and unseen. Consider the hope the Apostle Paul shared with believers:
Cecil ("Cec") Murphey
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Cor. 15:58 (TNIV)The Apostle Paul was a full time communicator of God's truth. He also mended fishing nets for cash flow.
It isn't always the money thing that keeps me from sending out manuscripts. I battle discouragement. This post is for others like me who need to put discouraging thoughts in perspective.
As you work today at whatever your hands find to do, I hope your heart serves God first and, then, others as he contracts your services out.
I'm seeking God's smile. How about you?
Monday, January 12, 2009
"When my spirit grows faint within me,David wrote this psalm from a cave where he hid from King Saul's soldiers. David didn't feel safe. He didn't feel supported by enough others to meet the challenges he faced. In the dim light of that moment, David called on God to rescue him and show him a path to a future place where he could praise God's goodness with others. David asked for and hoped in God's help. History teaches us that David eventually received what he asked for in ways beyond his dreams.
it is you who know my way." Psalm 142: 3a (NIV)
How about us? We may not have a platoon of soldiers hunting us; but, in these economic times, we can feel besieged by fears about jobs and finances and worries about the future. Like David, we may yearn for a sense of safety, freedom and a path to a future time when we can celebrate with others in God's faithfulness and goodness to us.
God is in the business of freeing prisoners and giving hope to those who call on him. When no one else seems to care, God cares. God listens. And, in his time, God answers his children with provisions, good gifts, and blessings in abundance, including joyous community with his people -- if not in this life, then, in the next.
Lord, when fear pursues us and worries tangle our paths, free our hearts and minds to see beyond the caves of our circumstances. Open our eyes to see your love and faithfulness shining as a light in the darkness. And as we walk toward future feasts, help us hum a song of praise through the dark night and the shadowy moments of this day.