Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Real Superhero Named Jimmy Needs Our Thanks and Prayers


"Superman never made any money, saving the world from Solomon Grundy, And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him."
            --"Superman", the Crash Test Dummies band, 1991

Superheroes never really die. Right? 

There must be something written in the “Superhero Instruction Manual”, a clause that says no matter what disaster strikes a superhero--in the last cartoon panel, on the final page of the comic, in the waning seconds of a blockbuster movie--he or she always survives somehow. Always. I’m sure of it. She beats the bad guys again. He carries on again, fighting for justice, peace and a better world because, hey---he’s a superhero.  She’s a super heroine. The rules of the universe don’t apply to them.

But then I heard last week that former President Jimmy Carter, a real life superhero, one of my personal superheroes: he is very, very sick with brain cancer, and that made me very, very sad for me and for our world.  No…Carter can’t fly at supersonic speeds, toss a tank aside like it’s a toy, or morph into invisibility. Yet his super powerful work for love and peace, the tireless ways he has stood with and on behalf of the world’s poor and oppressed since leaving office in 1981…for me, that’s what makes him a real superhero.  He is mere flesh and blood, yet heroic in the deepest human sense.

You want super heroic deeds? Carter’s lent his name, power and sweat to the cause of building housing for all God’s people in need, through Habitat for Humanity (HFH). In the thirty nine years that Carter has helped expand HFH, it’s grown from a small grassroots organization to the largest non-profit builder of affordable housing in the world.  Five million people in 70 nations now live in one million Habitat houses. 

Thanks Jimmy.

In 1982, Carter founded the Carter Center, at Emory University in Atlanta, to work for a more peaceful and healthy world.  Today the Center’s 175 employees are deployed in 91 countries: monitoring elections for fairness, brokering peace deals among warring factions, helping to eradicate chronic diseases like trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.  From Albania to Zimbabwe, the Carter Center’s commitment to a better life for all God’s children has made Creation freer and healthier.

Thanks Jimmy.

Not every one thinks Carter is a hero. Maybe that’s good. Heroes aren’t supposed to make all of us happy. A man of authentic embodied Christian faith, Carter left the Southern Baptist Church (America’s largest Protestant denomination) in part for that church’s stands against the full inclusion of women, and gays and lesbians. That cost him friends and goodwill.  His stand against the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel has made him an enemy of many in the United States and abroad.  He is far from perfect, sometimes speaks too soon or too sharply and later has to explain, but he always takes an honest position on issues that matter. He uses the power of his ex-Presidency to work on behalf of the powerless. 

Thanks Jimmy.

He deserves thanks, too, for what he has not done, since departing the White House.  No worldwide tours and speaking gigs for millions in fees, speechifying to well heeled groups and power brokers.  No jumping on board some cable TV show as a commentator, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for empty pontificating.  No lobbying or backroom deals. He’s always stayed “Jimmy”. Teaching Sunday School at his home church in Plains, Georgia.  Finding joy in writing books and woodworking and loving Rosalyn, his partner in life for 69 years.  He’s remained a true public servant.  A public servant.

Thanks Jimmy.

I know I’m bias about my superhero.  I actually got to meet and work with him at a Habitat “Blitz Build” on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, in 1994, when Carter led 3,000 volunteers in building 34 homes in seven days.  Standing together in a long line for lunch one day, we exchanged greetings and shook hands. He was gracious, kind and humble, anxious to get back to work.  Always the work. I’ll never forget that.

Superheroes aren’t supposed to die.  But in the real world?  My oh my: how well some heroes live in service to their fellow human beings. 

So God bless you Jimmy.  And thank you Jimmy. We’re praying for you.






  

  

 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Candidates: Please Tell Us The Truth That We Need to Hear


“Tell the truth boldly, whether it hurts or not. Never pander….If truth is too much for intelligent people and sweeps them away, let them go; the sooner the better.”  --Swami Vivekananda

Twenty two. Twenty two! That’s the number of women and men running as candidates to become the President of the United States, on January 20th, 2017.  Two women and twenty men.  Five Democrats and 17 Republicans. Eleven former or current governors, seven ex or standing United States Senators, a real estate mogul, a retired high tech CEO, a neurosurgeon and a recent Secretary of State. And a partridge in a pear tree…

A somewhat seemingly diverse bunch in its own way, I suppose, hailing from places as different as their personalities: a sharp elbowed New Jersey boy, a soft spoken son of steamy Florida, an old boy Arkansas preacher, a diminutive Rhode Island politician.  All but three will one day collect a government workers’ pension.  Two come from Presidential relations and want to carry on the family tradition. Ideologically they range from the fiery Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont to the radically Libertarian Ron Paul of Kentucky. 

But each, in his or her own way, practices that oldest of political games.  Pandering.  That’s where a candidate tells us what we, in the electorate, want to hear, or does not tell us what we need to hear. So red hot is their desire to win, to take office, to sweep to victory, to govern, that the typical politician these days regularly says from the stump whatever their given audience is clamoring to be told.  They tell liberals exactly what they want to be told, and tell conservatives exactly what they want to be told too.

Or they just equivocate, prevaricate, dodge, or avoid the questions all together.  Last month candidate Hillary Clinton was directly asked whether she favors or opposes the Keystone pipeline, a proposal to pipe Canadian tar sands oil through the heart of the United States down to refineries in the south. Liberals and green voters hate it.  Conservatives and energy independence folks love it.  You’d think she’d bite and just say “No way. I’m against it!”  Yet her answer? A non-answer. “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” 

What?! To be fair, pandering and prevarication is the norm across the political spectrum.  But still it begs this question: why can’t our candidates just tell us the truth?  Tell us what they really believe and how and why? No glossing. No nuanced verbal dancing to win votes or avoid controversy.  I’d love to see a Democrat stand in front of a group of New Hampshire seniors and say the only way to save Social Security is to raise payroll taxes and the minimum retirement age.  I’d love to see a Republican stand up in front of a group of wealthy donors and say that the rich need to pay higher taxes to fund vital government programs and lower the deficit.  I’d love to see any candidate stand in an Iowa cornfield and tell farmers that ethanol subsidies are nothing more than welfare for the farm states. Heck, I’d love to see a candidate at the Iowa State Fair refuse to eat a proffered corn dog and instead reply, “Yuck—that looks disgusting! And I’m on a diet anyways.”

The problem is not just about the candidates.  It is about us as citizens too, we who far too often just do not want to hear what we need to hear, about all the challenges we face as a nation.  We clamor for and expect robust government programs like universal health care and national defense but then protest that we pay too much already to Uncle Sam.  We drive on roads and bridges crumbling around us but then refuse to pay higher gas taxes.  We are more than ready to cut services to some groups—the poor, the homeless—but then get angry when our pet subsidy (student loans, the mortgage interest deduction, a local military base in need of closure) is on the chopping block.  We want to have our cake and eat it too and our candidates are more than happy to then feed us any position, as long as it results in a vote for them.

Reminds me of a complaint the biblical prophet Jeremiah had against the leaders of his day, in ancient Israel. The priests and the generals sat by and did nothing as invading armies gathered at the borders of that nation.  All pretended that nothing was wrong, the people and the politicians together.  “They cry ‘peace’, ‘peace’, when there is no peace!” Jeremiah lamented.  Some things never change.

So candidates: I know it a lot to ask.  I know it will take each of you time to figure out how to tell us, the voters, the actual truth. I know it will be a great risk for each of you to have the moral courage to tell us exactly what you believe and then what you will really do when elected President.  And fellow voters: I know to be pandered to sometimes feels really, really good. To imagine that a candidate is perfect just for “me”: my peeps, my specific issues, and my narrow needs.

Yet we need a President, not a panderer.  Twenty two candidates. Fourteen months to go. Let the truth telling begin.






Monday, August 10, 2015

The Dog Days of Summer: Catch Them While You Can



Dog days: (origin in or around 1538)--signifies the hottest time of the year, early [July] to [mid] August…coincides with the rising and falling of the Sirius or “dog star” at sunrise and sunset.                                   --etymonline.com          
 
It is time to coin a better phrase than “dog days” to describe this peculiar and singular time of the year in New England.   Summer is going along now at full speed, no turning back.   If summer stretches from about the last Sunday in June to the first Monday in September, we’re more than halfway past the mid-point of the season, 47 days in, 25 days to go.  The BBQ grill is well broken in.  For six weeks watermelons have been slurped, drippy ice cream cones licked, and ice cold beers sipped. That first hot dog of the summer is now but a distant memory. Our first sunburn has faded into a tan.   The Red Sox are once again dwelling in the basement of the standings, so at least we need not fear a September swoon. Their swan dive happened weeks ago but hey: no problem getting tickets, right?
 
So how about we call this time of year “Deep-Summer”?
 
These are the days we are either on vacation, missing vacation or packing for vacation, anticipating or remembering some sweet time away from routines and the office and the sweaty suburbs.   The garden is well along and if it isn’t, it is too late to salvage that summer salad harvest. There’s always next year.   This is a sweltering time when tomato plants reach up to the sky, soaking up heat and sun, tantalizing us with fruit about to burst. Corn is higher than an elephant’s eye in July and sweet ears finally grace the picnic table. The promises of our May plantings are finally beginning to pay off.    
 
Maybe we should name mid-August “Tomato Time”?   “Chapter Corn”? Too corny.   
 
Summer sounds are in full volume.   Hot bugs buzzing in an eerie symphony on a deserted town street.   The rumble of thunder in the distant, the pitter patter of an afternoon rainstorm on the back porch roof. There’s the lack of sound too and people, the emptiness of many cities and towns.   Where is everybody?   Away.   So quiet.   Short lines at Starbucks.   Sparsely populated pews at church.   
 
Maybe “An August Ahhhhh…”?   “Halfway Hotness”?  
 
It is tempting in the midst of our current heat wave to curse the temperatures, complain about the burning hot beach sand or the muggy sleepless nights, and maybe even wish for cooler weather.   Don’t tempt fate! Only six months ago we were out in the driveway, struggling to hoist and toss away another &^%$# shovel full of snow. Remember?    Four months ago it was cloudy and muddy and mucky.   No—now is the time to embrace the heat, strip down to the least covering possible and then sit back in a lounge chair or on a breezy back porch and revel in the sun blast.   Long days and lots of sunlight.   Lazy mornings at the pond and precious naps in the afternoon.    Breezy bike rides at dusk and windswept journeys on the bright blue ocean.    
 
OK: try this…”Awesome August”.   “Sweet Summer Soiree”?  
 
Too fancy. We need a moniker that simply captures where we are at right now calendar-wise: far away from the winter blues, way beyond spring blossoms, yet still loving some God blessed time before fall reemerges and life gets back to “normal”.
 
I guess it has just got to be this: “summer”. There really is no other way to name it.   As the writer Ada Louise Huxtable concluded, “Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.   A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world. “
 
It is still summer in New England.   Sweet. Brief.   Soft.   Delicious. Languid.   Fiery sunsets. Misty mornings.   And hot, yes, there are still some dog days left, that’s for sure. Hot enough to sustain us through next winter; short enough to remind us what a gift from God these precious months and weeks and days really are.
 
Labor Day? Still 26 days or 3 weeks and five days or 624 hours off into the future.
 
Now? It is still summer. Enjoy it. I know I will!  

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Precious Life of Dr. Carolyn Kaelin: The Real News Today


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  --Mary Oliver

"Zeitgeist" is a German word meaning, "the spirit of the age or the current times": what's on folks' hearts and minds at any given moment in cultural history.  Zeitgeist is what people are talking about right now around the water cooler, at the coffee shop. It’s the story trending on Twitter or Facebook or Wickedlocal.com, a “must read” post making digital rounds.  Last week's Zeitgeist moment might have been the tale about a dentist from Minnesota who shot and killed a lion. Or remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Zeitgeist. For a few weeks last summer it was all people posted about, tweeted about, shared about.

So it was with surprise I opened my browser to the BostonGlobe.com page this morning and saw that the most viewed article of the day, our zeitgeist, wasn't the latest overblown lamentations concerning "Deflategate".  Wasn't another column carping about the Boston Red Sox or a breathless report about a possible shark sighting off the Cape. Instead thousands of us were reading and sharing a real story about a real person whose one precious life made a huge difference in the lives of so many others: Doctor Carolyn M. Kaelin. She died on July 28th after a twelve year struggle against breast and brain cancer.

Her story. She was a surgeon, loving wife and caring Mom to two kids, the founding director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a post she accepted at the age of 34, in 1995. In a 1999 Globe story, she spoke of her life's work and call to be a doctor for cancer patients. “...with a breast cancer patient, once you care for them, you care for them for life....it’s really hard–you get to know these patients and their families...become emotionally attached. There are days where we’re calling back patient after patient with not very good news from their biopsies.” The story continues: "If a prognosis was particularly poor, [Kaelin] would explain that, 'at least they may have some time, and can choose to use that time however they wish.'”

The tragic twist to the story is that in 2003, Kaelin discovered her own cancerous lump after a training bicycle ride for the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC).  She rode multiple times in the PMC, the largest athletic fundraiser in the world. Just last weekend 6,000 riders (myself among them), raised $45 million for cancer care and research at the Dana-Farber. That Kaelin passed away just four days before the PMC is heartbreaking.   

Zeitgeist. Convergence. Synchronicity.

So after reading about Kaelin's one great life, good life, the meaningful life that she truly lived in her fifty four years on this earth, my hope this day is a simple one. I pray that Kaelin's story of courage and commitment, of a lived live in service to others, won't quickly fade away, won't get lost in the hyper quick news cycle, tales found today but lost tomorrow. Instead, what if Kaelin's story actually inspired some of us to consider, reconsider, the lives that we are living this day, our one wild and precious life, in the words of the poet Mary Oliver?

I'm 54, the same age as Kaelin. Her obituary makes me think about the quality of the life I live, how well I am using the life that God has gifted to me. It makes me ponder how a random "click" on my DNA strand to one side rather the other, might decide if I have cancer or not, if my days left on this earth are long or short. Kaelin's story reminds us all as mortals that life is finally precious and unpredictable, wild and beautiful, chaotic and a conundrum.  We don't get to choose the end game.  We do get to choose just what we do before we get to the end of the ride called human life.

So here's some good news, God's true zeitgeist and not just for today but for every day that we get to live and breathe and feel our hearts beat in our chests.  As Kaelin so presciently said, we still have some time and so we can choose to use that time however we wish.  We can live for ourselves alone or we can dedicate a part of life to helping others.  We can get caught up in the cultural backwash of the daily news. Is Tom Brady guilty? What did Donald Trump say today? Or we can seek out the truly good news and then let it inspire and shape our lives.  We can focus on all the bad in the world or we can read about a person like Doctor Kaelin and then be moved to be more like her.

That's the news this day and I'm not going to turn the page.  Thank you Doctor Kaelin, for your one wild and precious life.


  

        



Monday, July 27, 2015

Imagine You Are Sandra Bland. Do We Have That Moral Courage?


“Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.”        
 --The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Why We Can't Wait”

Here’s what I challenge you to do.

Watch the nine minute and twenty nine second video documenting the arrest of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas on July 10th, a close up unfiltered view of what begins as a routine traffic stop, but then quickly escalates into an angry confrontation, and then handcuffs, and then arrest. Three days later Bland was dead, and according to the preliminary autopsy report, she committed suicide in her jail cell.

The video is easy to find. It’s all over the Internet.  Google “Sandra Bland video” and there it is. Then just watch it. Watch as what might have been, should have been, a simple encounter, a “by the book” stop, frighteningly and swiftly devolves into a holy and hellacious and now all too familiar and tragic mess. Be warned: the language is at times graphic and the action shocking.

As Washington Post columnist Lonnae O’Neil wrote in a July 26th opinion piece, in response to seeing the video, which was captured from the dashboard car camera of Officer Encinia, “I am struggling with whether the nation that watches the video can see itself....[that] Encinia and Bland were already reading from two different books [as the encounter unfolds]. “

One white “book”. One black “book”.

One from a position of power, the other from a position of frustration and anger and, right beneath those emotions, I imagine, fear.  A young woman returning in joy to her college town to begin a new job and a new life. A young man brand new to his profession (a little more than a year on the job), somehow allowing a situation get completely out of his control.

It’s a very painful video to watch but is just the next chapter in a story unfolding in this our all too hot and long year of race relations, anger and despair, in the United States.  Prairie View. Ferguson. Charleston. Cleveland. New York City.  How we view all of these events, how we frame them, understand them…well it finally depends on where we stand in the world. In our society.  Our nation. Our neighborhood. The “book” of our life experience which provides a narrative as to how we imagine our lives as citizens.

So my “book” is one of privilege and power and I need to name that, remember that, own that, confess to that. All men and women may be created equal by our God, but equal treatment: that’s a whole other story.

For me a traffic stop is just that, a traffic stop, nothing more. It might increase my heart rate a bit.  Might annoy me.  But in the handful of times I’ve been pulled over in my car, not once, never, ever, did I have an idea in my head, a concern, a fear, that this event would result in anything more than a warning or a ticket and then a nervous drive away.

So do this. Watch the video and then put yourself in Bland’s place, in Bland’s front seat.  Try to imagine all the history and all the family stories and all the experiences you’ve had as a woman and a person of color in your one life, in this country in 2015, then think about what might be going through your heart on that hot July afternoon.  How might you feel? The fact you are a stranger, thousands of miles away from your home and friends and family, and alone. What scenarios might be playing out in your mind in the moments before you produce your license and registration?

Imagine that.  

If only…if only we humans could do that more, have this quality of moral imagination when it comes to our shared lives in this diverse nation and world.  If only whites could imagine what life is too often like for folks of color in the United States. If only Christians could imagine what life is like for Muslims and people of other minority faiths in America. If only the rich could somehow imagine what it is like to be poor in our land. And yes, if only civilians could better imagine how hard and risky it is at times to be a police officer. For if we are to have the courage of this moral imagination, it must extend to all, to everyone, everyone in our world.

So if you dare, watch the video. Let go of the need to blame or judge or conclude.  Then just for a moment, imagine that you are Sandra Bland.




      

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Great American Hero Gets Re-Written: Say It Ain't So Atticus!


"Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light."    –Vera Nazarian

I can't imagine my life without books and reading.  Can you?

From the first childhood book I loved oh so dearly ("Curious George Goes to the Hospital" by Margret and H.A. Rey), to the latest Stephen King novel I finished last night, "Finders Keepers", which kept me up past midnight for a week, books have always been a good friend. Ever dependable. One always nearby. So many books: sitting on a night stand table waiting to be picked up again. Books: scattered all over my house, in overflowing book cases and in piles stacked high on the floor. Too many books some might say, but not me.  Books of any kind, many kinds. 

Science fiction: I still remember at 16, reading my first Ray Bradbury short story while sitting at a lunch counter on break from my first job as a department store clerk. When I opened that book its tales of outer space and science gone wild enchanted me. Biography: I've learned what life was like for Walt Disney and Eleanor Roosevelt and John Wayne and Amelia Earhart. Novels: as a college sophomore I read "The World According to Garp" by John Irving, when I should have been studying. That book pulled me into its narrative grip like none before. I had to turn the page to find out what would next happen to T.S. Garp, whose best friend is a transsexual ex-football player; Garp, who was conceived by his mother in a late night dalliance with a comatose soldier in a hospital bed. I've since reread it and will probably do so again.

Because that's how it is with great books and the great characters within them.  Though "just" words on a page or images flickering on an e-reader, the stories and characters become real somehow to we who are blessed to get to know them. Great books can teach us life lessons. Expand and deepen our view of the world and ourselves. Help us escape when we need a break. Inspire us to live better lives because of the lives we read about on that page. 

So it was with trepidation I read last November that a new novel by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee would be published this year. "Go Set a Watchman" came out July 14th.  Its initial printing of 2 million copies set a record for publisher HarperCollins and it is the fastest selling title in the history of Barnes and Noble.  The fact that Lee published just one novel before now, makes this book a seeming must read, especially for millions of devoted fans like me who absolutely love "...Mockingbird" and its tale of moral courage in racist 1930's Alabama. 

I want to be the main character in "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus Finch, the brave lawyer who stands up to a lynch mob which would hang an accused man.  I want to be like him, a widower who with care and gentle love raises his kids, Scout and Jem. I want to have Finch's compassion, possess his American idealism about sticking up for the powerless in a seemingly unwinnable fight. Finch: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is that rare book which has achieved near universal critical acclaim and commercial success with its simple message of justice and moral fortitude and its tender depiction of small town life through the eyes of a ten year old girl.  A Pulitzer Prize winner later made into a classic film, the book is read by practically every American adolescent in English class. It still sells thousands of copies and has been in print for fifty five years.

So even though I am that most devoted of Lee's fans, I don't know if I will read this new book, which is not so much "new" as a much earlier unformed draft of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Reviews report that "Go Tell A Watchman" takes place when Scout is all grown up and Finch is now a  bitter and racist old man, who (God forbid!) even attends a  Ku Klux Klan meeting.

STOP THE PRESSES!

What just happened? The KKK? Why the need for a re-write?  At 89 and largely infirmed, Lee isn't up for interviews to explain her decision. Her agents and publishers will certainly profit from the book, money in the bank, that's for sure.  Why transform an American hero into an American scoundrel? Why cut down, edit, erase such a beloved literary character? What's next? Ishmael puts down his harpoon and joins Greenpeace. Huck Finn turns in Jim for the reward money. Jay Gatsby lives out his years as a feeble minded senior in a Long Island assisted living facility.  Romeo and Juliet skip the poison and elope to Las Vegas. 

I guess I'm just not ready to run out and get a copy of "Go Tell A Watchman".  Not yet.

For me, the best books are sacred somehow, whole, complete, stories which enlarge the human heart, encourage the human struggle, and mirror our beautiful and broken world.  Beloved books like "To Kill A Mockingbird" entertain, yet also, as we the reader enter into an alternate universe: we are changed for the better.  That's why I'll keep my unrevised version of Atticus Finch for now. He is much too dear to me to let go of.

What book are you reading these days?  Enjoy it. Dive right in. Love it even, for you never know. That one book just might change your life forever.  Thanks Atticus.


             



Friday, July 10, 2015

Our Sacred Summertime Charge: Get Away, Go Away, Be Away!


“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”         --John Muir

For me it’s not really summertime until I go away to camp.

Camp.  A week, several weeks or even a whole summer “away”, excused from home and family and school and work and regular life. I’ve been a camp devotee for many of the past 39 summers and know I’d be excused if I decided to retire my ritual. When I tell folks I’m spending a week in the woods with 300 or so kids and adults in the middle of a hidden corner of northwest Connecticut at a church camp, the typical response is, “Well, better you than me!”

Camp is kind of retro, old school.  Cell phone service is spotty at best.  Fine dining is hot dogs by the lake followed by a glass of infamous “bug” juice. Our first night together is always marked by at least one camper who is very homesick and needs reassurance. The weather is completely unpredictable and riding out a thunderstorm in a stand of swaying trees is not for the faint of heart. And the pay?  Let’s just say it’s priceless.

Yet still camp calls out to me like an old friend. Camp is a sacred place and space I return to year after year, that I trust, I get to know again, all over again, every summer. I’m not alone in being a lifelong committed camper.  This summer more than 10 million children and adults will go away to 12,000 day and overnight camps across the United States and why?  To meet that most basic of human needs….

To just get away.  To just be away.  To strip away the distractions of daily life and be in an intentional community. To pack up a bag and maybe some books and some sunscreen and stamps for letters home, and leave behind the everyday.  Let go of the typical, the comfortable, the routine and predictable and plunge into the singular experience of being “away”.  Of not being here but instead being there. 

Away.  

To sleep out in a wooden cabin with creaky doors and one pesky buzzing mosquito that somehow always find the tiny hole in the screen. To spend seven days and nights with a rambunctious group of middle school kids in a prayerful hope that somehow in a week we’ll build and find community. To wake up at 6 am before everyone else arises so I can find a morning slice of sanity and then to stay up past 11 until the last waves of giggles from the cabins finally cease. To be fully screen free for the only time all year: no cell phones or Facebook, TVs or texts, video games or Netflix. To feel the wetness of dew on my back as I stare up into a jet black night sky and watch for falling stars. To sit around a crackling and flickering orange and yellow campfire and eat sticky s’mores and sing silly songs until my voice is hoarse.

We all should cherish our “away” place. An island tucked amidst rocks and surf off a windswept coastline. A snug cabin nestled on a hillside with a waterfall’s symphony playing in the distance.  A tent in a meadow, the peepers lulling you to sleep. A sailboat skimming over blue seas, as an orange and red sun sets in the distance.  Maybe for you “away” is the open road, wind whistling through the windows, the car pointed to  parts unknown and miles of possibilities which lay ahead.

To just be “away”, no matter where, allows us to retreat, encounter the gift of God’s amazing Creation and reconnect to the earth. We remember our souls and that these too need tending. We jettison distracting technology which so rules modern life. We return, and in returning by going away, we rest. We are renewed for summer’s end which, by the way, will be here before we know it. I hate to say that but I have to say that.

So in the weeks ahead, here’s a spiritual prescription: just go away.  GO AWAY! To camp, to the coast, to a cabin, to a cove, to anywhere but where you are most of the time. Change your scenery.  Change your outlook.  Change your life if only for a week or so. 

I’ll soon be on my way “away” to camp. See you when I get back!