Pastor Audrey Ward
12 January 2016 Pastor Audrey Ward
EVERYDAY. EVERYWHERE. ORDINARY
I am confident that there is no future for the modern
world, unless it can understand that it has not merely
to seek what is more and more exciting, but rather the
yet more exciting business of discovering the excitement
In things that are called dull.
--The Spice of Life by G.K.Chesterton
Early Sunday morning at first light, I walked out into my soggy backyard, gray skies spattering the air with what would have been snow, a few degrees below the current chill. The vineyard’s brilliant green grass provided the only color in the landscape. Then came a faint fluttering and finally a cacophony of birds landing and twittering through the trees of my neighbor’s yard.
I assumed they were a convention of a similar type, but there were many sizes and varieties, one, no larger than my thumb but not a hummingbird. They fluttered about getting on the branch that felt best, it seemed, calling out their tiny sounds that, all together, sounded out a chorus of birdsong. Wow. I stood in wonder observing their mighty little frames, fragile as they may be, but with such power in flight.
The birds came flooding back as I read a piece from Sunday’s paper this morning, “How to Hold a Heart.” Mallia Wollan quotes the adage “a good surgeon needs a lion’s heart, an eagle’s eyes and a lady’s hands.” Her example of those hands is the director of women’s cardiac services at a clinic in Santa Monica, Kathy Magliato.
Kathy tells us that anyone can hold a heart, “Don’t worry about the size of your hands.” Instead, she instructs, concentrate on not dropping it: very slippery.
Further, you must be in the right frame of mind: gentle but not afraid. Self-assured but not cocky. A flaccid heart is so fragile that you can put a finger through it. Pumping, it’s a workhorse. “It beats with such vigor, its strength is astounding.”
We walk around most of the time with little thought to this “workhorse” housed in our chest. Valentines are sent with sloshy sentiment and cartoon sketches of hearts that hardly resemble the unimaginable creation that inhabits and empowers us.
All of the above is so ordinary, isn’t it? We see the feathered creatures that surround us; feel the beat of our hearts within us, but usually don’t notice details. Until, perhaps, a bird hits the glass door and thuds to the ground…or we sit on the doctor’s examining table feeling the chill of his stethoscope.
Holding that fallen bird, still warm and so impossibly tiny in one’s hand, one may even detect its heart still beating and marvel that in flight somehow this feathered creature of such beauty and astonishing design can lift itself through the air at swift speed. Scientists admit they don’t know how wings actually work.
And, while we humans may be more complex than this, we too often treat ourselves and each other with callous indifference instead of the tenderness and awe each one deserves.
My suggestion is that we handle our family members and our neighbors as we would handle his or her heart: with great care and in the right frame of mind. Gentle, but not afraid; self-assured but not cocky.
Listen for the chorus our words create, sounds of kindness and care. Be together in cheerful comfort. Consider, thoughtfully, what it means to gather in community.
Then meet me in the sanctuary on Sunday. There’s so much music in the air and most of all, perhaps, this is a place where we learn to handle hearts, together.
See you there,
Pastor Audrey Ward
Birds of a Feather
Pastor Audrey Ward with her grandchildren
Yasmin, Olivia, RosElie, Lauren, Will and Zain
With Alexa Moghina
Here is a link to Audrey's website for her ongoing blog about her memoir http://www.audreyward.com/category/biscuits/
Don't you just love it when the truth pops out of your own surprised mouth? I wonder if that's like the blues singer - Keb Mo - promises, that it's "jus God tryin ta git your attention."
Anna Quindlan writes a moment like this into her latest memoir, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake." After her country house was barely missed by a tornado, her college-aged daughter called to say she had been frantic regarding her mother's safety, worried her mother would die young. And Anna quickly responded, "Oh honey, I'm too old to die young, now!"
Aha. There it is. And what an interesting marker for our years: too old to die young. Which means, of course, still here, alive in the world for whatever will come.
May Sarton, the poet, speaks of "the inexhaustible flame" that kept her mother alive until she died. Going on, in the poem "August Third" (Printed in full below) to say, "if you taught me one thing, it was never to fail life." And I pass this on to all of us as our calling, every day.
See you in church,
Lifting myself up
Like a heavy weight,
Old camel getting to her knees,
I think of my mother
And the inexhaustible flame
That kept her alive
Until she died.
She knew all about fatigue
And how one pushes it aside
For staking up the lilies
Early in the morning,
The way one pushes it aside
For a friend in need,
For a hungry cat.
Mother, be with me.
Today on your birthday
I am older than you were
When you died
Thirty-five years ago.
Thinking of you
The old camel gets to her knees,
Moves forward slowly
Into the new day.
If you taught me one thing
It was never to fail life.
Here is prose poem about joy and plenty from Mary Oliver in her most recent book “Swan,” seems like one Virginia might write. It’s the one she expresses through her 90 + years of life all the time.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.