Monday, June 29, 2009

Robins in the Lilac Bush

The lilac bush in the front yard is overgrown, too tall, and too broad to blossom well. It needs pruning. But not today, not yet, because a family of robins has made their nest there.

We worried when the storm of two weeks ago shook everything with gusts of 60 mph. But, the nest was still intact. Inside, were three—could it be four?—young robins. Mom and Dad would scold if we came to close, but soon became accustomed to our simply being in the yard. Daily feedings! Hourly! We soon could see the feathering young heads just barely above the nest.

Now, so soon, they are leaving the nest. Baby robins are ready so much more quickly than their slow-growing human counterparts. Over the last two days, one by one, a youth, now ready to fly, with parents no longer feverously feeding, left the nest.

This morning only one remains, perched on the edge of the nest. But this one is hesitant. He stretches out his wings. He looks all directions. He stretches tall; but there he remains. His siblings fly close, role models for this big adventure of flight. Mom and Dad come back around, encouraging. But still, he hesitates. They all leave for awhile. Maybe he needs some time? Maybe he needs to do it by himself? But still he waits. The family returns, encouraging, urging. I find myself urging, too. And yet, I’m reluctant to see him go. The world is big beyond the lilac bush.

I’m reminded of Wartburg seminary graduates this time of year. They all leave…they need to leave. Many times I have sat by their sides as some had to wait long--too long--for call.

I’m reminded of our granddaughter Jennaya who this fall will head off for kindergarten in Mason City, Iowa. I’m reminded of her father Joel, a generation ago, as he set out on foot for the one-block walk to kindergarten at Welsh school in inner city New Haven, Ct. He boldly sang to himself (I don’t think he saw us watching), “Got my coat and got my hat, leave my worries on the doorstep…” He motioned with his hands, as if to toss all those little childhood cares on the doorstep, and off he went.

I’m reminded of his younger brother, Kirk, when he years later needed to make a decision about which of two colleges to choose. It was the final day to make a choice and return his papers. He was hesitant. I said, “Take all the time you want… just make your decision within the next hour.” He went downstairs and came back within the hour…he had chosen. And he would be off. He now teaches at Austin College in Texas, encouraging others to “Come! You can do it…” and be in his dramatic arts department.

I’m reminded of our oldest son, Mark, when he had finished graduate school in Phoenix. He was home for Christmas wondering whether to go out to Washington D.C. where a friend had told him of prospects for a job, or whether to head back to Arizona. When I awoke the next morning, and he had the car packed. He would head east. After quite a few years there, he did head back to Phoenix and has worked there with American Express ever since.

Three sons in our nest, long flown. And yet at each stage of life, there are “leaving the nest challenges.” Ourselves included.

Other Lilac Bushes:
I trimmed a different large lilac bush last week. It took me about an hour to prune it, crawling underneath and through the branches, carefully making room for light and air to get through. I took out a lot of limbs. I admired its new beauty. Then the storm came through Thursday and took the large center limb right out. The center could not hold...was it the trimming that made it vulnerable? Or just the storm.

I had just transplanted yet another lilac bush. It had been close to the house, sheltered, but with not enough sunlight to blossom. The storm came through and pulled the whole thing right out of the ground. We had been thoroughly watering the new place for it to put down its roots easily, but with the wet earth there was no grounding for that strong wind.

Just storm stories I guess….

I did go out into the rain and put the latter lilac right back in the ground, weighting it down quickly with whatever I could find, a bag of potting soil...not enough...then a large rock on top of that. Will it hold? Will it wilt and die, or flower?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comments on Our Various Vocations in the Public World

Three seemingly unrelated comments:
President Obama is trying to take what may seem like a cautious public stance concerning the contested elections in Iran. Actually it's a strong, positive stance about America's role in the world. We are interdependent partners, not dictators of "democracy." (Of course, it's pragmatic, too, lest we be seen to be instigating the protests which would harm, not help the protestors)

Newt Gringrich at a recent Republican Party fundraiser (quoting Obama)warned against what he thought abhorant, that we might think of ourselves as citizens of the world. We are! We need to be. And, as Christians, because we have a Creating, Liberating and Empowering God, we need to see each of God's created ones in that light. Ours is not a "gospel" of "freeing the world" for our kind of democracy.

The President of France and our president had an interesting exchange with Obama when he was in France a couple of weeks ago. (There are so many other things to comment on in regard to his Obama's speech to the Muslim world, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, etc, but for now I comment on this small one.) France is a secular democracy; therefore government workers cannot wear apparel that marks their religion. (The controversy is what Muslim girls can wear in school) The U.S. is not a secular democracy. People of all faith traditions are encouraged to be influenced by their faith and to carry those ideas into the public world. We are called to help create a safe environment for us to be different together.

Well, perhaps the connection among those three comments above is quite apparent.
So let me add a couple more:
The shooting of a man in Wichita while he ushered at his Lutheran Church was tragic. He was carrying out his ministry in daily life...trusting women to know their--sometimes life-threatening--needs. How do we support people in our congregations as they carry out their ministries in daily life, carry their faith into the public world? In this one country, within a given congregation,in the world, we may have quite different viewpoints and vocations that carry us in very different directions. But we have a calling in the public world.

And we all have the responsibility to protect one another, and in the case of the killing in Wichita, to address the terrorist threat within our country in regard to anti-abortion advocates who turn violent.

I just returned from my ELCA Southeastern Iowa synod assembly. We dealt with many issues, including the issues of sexuality which will come before the churchwide assembly in August. People in my synod think, and think carefully. They had studied the issues and they voted--favorably toward the Social Statement. It was not a unanimous vote, but there was such a sense of wise calm. It was a trustworthy environment for us to be different together. (We also needed to talk about our churchwide vote and the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriages.)

All of us are called to have conversation together about our vocation in the public world, whether within the church, locally and globally, and as citizens locally and nationally and globally.