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Oh, that Jesus!

Dec. 14, 2014 6 a.m.

On the this Sunday of Advent,I give you a poem, written by L. Patrick Carroll of Seattle. He shares his words each year at this time - a holy gift for this season of waiting, for light, for hope, for the kid next door.

     Since We’re Neighbors

Christmas 2014

L. Patrick Carroll

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Jn 1:14)

Literally, he “pitched his tent in our midst . . .”

Lived right next door,

No distance.

Emmanuel … God with us —

With a family, dysfunctional like ours,

Unwed mother, bewildered father,

Mostly broke,

With, as in most families,

A crazy cousin in the desert eating locusts,

Making family functions awkward.

Stories say that as a boy, he ran away;

Hid in a temple.

It took his mom and dad, distracted,

A couple days to notice.

We lose our keys, glasses, sometimes our mind,

Rarely a child, as his parents did.

Like most of us, his family didn’t understand him,

Worried, wondered, wept for what he might become,

Troubled by his words and wandering.

We try to make him different, distant

Less vulnerable than we so often feel and are,

But no — Jesus is, was and ever will be,

One of us,

The kid, next door,

Our God, at home

With all the messy mysteries

Of our incarnate life.

(S-R archive photo: A Christian pilgrim touches a column inside the Church of the Nativity, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the town of Bethlehem )


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Slices of light

Dec. 12, 2014 5:48 a.m. - Updated: 6:07 a.m.

While Advent continues toward Christmas, we look for slivers, slices of light. And when we see light, hope arrives.

My friend has stage four cancer. She worries she will never meet her grandchildren so she knits her love into baby sweaters. She has four sweaters now, ready for little arms in the future. My friend continues with chemo.. And last week? her “cancer numbers” plummeted by 30 percent. She is defying the odds of this vicious disease.

Knit one, purl two, pray always. Christmas is coming. 


December Darkness

Dec. 4, 2014 5:56 p.m. - Updated: 5:59 p.m.

These December days feel dark with violence in the streets, angry unsettled people screaming. A starving teen of 35 pounds clings to life; a boy hidden behind a wall in his own father’s care finally reunites with his mom.

If ever we needed light in the darkness – it is now.

In the Advent (means “coming”) season – the four weeks before Christmas - we wait. We wait for the coming light of Christmas when a small child arrives among us, bringing a message of love for one another, an urging to follow the Spirit in our lives.

We live with so much chaos and terror. Turn off the nightly news – the Good News is coming. 

(S-R archive photo: Advent wreath)


End-of-life hilarity

Nov. 28, 2014 12:41 p.m. - Updated: 12:47 p.m.

My mom and Mary met in seventh grade and remained best friends for decades – until Mary’s death from Leukemia. They shared secrets and opinions and their mutual outrageous humor. They even shared their funeral wishes hoping those wishes would be followed.

“But our kids will probably be responsible for that ritual,” they lamented.

When my mom arrived for Mary’s memorial service she listened as mourners commented on the beautiful flowers, the music and the crowd. Then my mom saw Mary’s final joke – a request Mary made years ago as she giggled, “Wouldn’t that be fun?!”

My mom did not dare look around or speak; she just kept her eyes forward through the service, especially when she heard someone comment, “She was a strikingly beautiful child!” The framed photo in front, surrounded by flowers, was of a lovely young girl; it was the photo Mary wanted. But in the frame was not a photo of Mary, but a photo of a very young Elizabeth Taylor.

(S-R archive photo)



Thanksgiving – a day for grace

Nov. 25, 2014 12:50 p.m. - Updated: 12:59 p.m.

Anne Lamott writes: as a child she never said grace at her family’s table, but was drawn to her friends’ homes where people paused and recalled blessings before scarfing down the vittles.

Thanksgiving is a holiday for every American, no matter their religion – or lack of it – their heritage. We bring ourselves as we are to the table of everyone. We eat, we laugh, we remember and we give thanks for all that has been good.

We are grateful for each other – and the freedom to love as we like, worship as we want and celebrate our blessings. And that is grace. Happy Thanksgiving.

(S-R archive photo: harvested wheat)


November: National Adoption Awareness Month

Nov. 21, 2014 9:58 p.m. - Updated: Nov. 22, 6:55 p.m.

We all deserve to know our own story. Many people who were adopted wonder where they began their life. Michaela Pereira of CNN shares her story of growing up in a family of girls who joined their family through adoption. As an adult, Michaela found her birth family – and a new wonderful friend.

In Washington state, 2,167 children live in foster care, waiting for their own forever family.  We all know there are no unwanted children: it really is just a case of geography – matching eager little ones with adults who long to become parents.  Spokane celebrated National Adoption Day with families bound in love, now legally bound - forever!

(S-R archive photo: My son, Alex, adopted when he was four months old.)


Mike Nichols, director, dies at 83

Nov. 20, 2014 8:38 a.m. - Updated: 11:09 p.m.

Mike Nichols died suddenly Wednesday of cardiac arrest. He was 83. Nichols was an admired and award-winning director. His genius earned him Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards. He won nine Tony awards.

Stars loved him: Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ron Silver, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman all worked with Mr. Nichols more than once.

His work includes: “The Graduate,” “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Carnal Knowledge” on the screen.  He won an Oscar for “The Graduate.” He directed theater successes “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “Death of a Salesman” on stage.

Nichols’ unparalleled success spans decades.  

Mike Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, on Nov. 6, 1931. His dad, A Jewish doctor from Russia, escaped the Nazis and fled to America in 1938; Mike and his brother followed the next year. Mike’s mother arrived in 1941.

Longtime friend, Elaine May once said: “So he’s witty, he’s brilliant, he’s articulate, he’s on time, he’s prepared and he writes. But is he perfect? He knows you can’t really be liked or loved if you’re perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Just the right, perfect flaws to be absolutely endearing.”

Mike Nichols is survived by wife Diane Sawyer, daughters Daisy and Jenny and his son Max, his brother, Bob and four grandchildren. 

(S-R archive photo: Director Mike Nichols at the premiere of “Closer” in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, in 2004.)

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Snowflake babies

Nov. 19, 2014 8:44 a.m. - Updated: 8:47 a.m.

When couples long for a child and are unable to conceive, they seek various options. Liz and Kevin Krainman opted to “adopt” a snowflake baby – a frozen embryo that was implanted into Liz.

The frozen embryo is considered “property” and the rights of the property are transferred to the receiving couple. The action can be perceived as an ethical alternative to destroying or donating the embryo.

Liz says, “Love is what made her. The love of so many people went into creating her and bringing her here.”

(S-R archive photo)


Poignant grief

Nov. 16, 2014 7:22 a.m. - Updated: 7:30 a.m.

Some stories feel too painful to tell, yet they are extraordinary tales of human compassion and resurrection of the spirit.

Chris Picco buried his wife, Ashley and their son, Lennon, on Saturday. Chris met his wife while they were both assisting firefighters after the September 11, 2001 attacks. They married in 2007. His pregnant wife – with their child due in February - died in her sleep last Saturday. The baby, named Lennon, was delivered 16 weeks premature. Lennon died on Wednesday.

As the baby struggled to live, Chris Picco, played a guitar and sang the Beatles’ song, “Blackbird” with the tender words: “take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

The video, posted on YouTube, evoked responses of sorrow and compassion from viewers. 

(S-R archive drawing: Duncan Cooper)



Nov. 14, 2014 7:09 a.m. - Updated: 7:13 a.m.

I have been away for nearly three weeks.

Traveling home to my native Minnesota and then to the Caribbean with friends from high school, offered perspective. St. Augustine wrote: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Conversations with Mom and friends connected my present to the past. Cool, crisp Minneapolis weather reminded me of childhood ice-skating parties and high school days of marching band and boyfriend kisses. A week in the Caribbean forced me to listen to myself.

I left home at 18-years-old; seems I have been on a field trip for decades. At the Minneapolis airport yesterday I felt I was leaving home to travel home. And while travel means I have read many pages of the world’s book, I can only stay on one page at a time. My heart, dissected by time and place, always leaves pieces behind.

(S-R archive photo)

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