Prayers from the Ark: The Parrot

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During June, I am sharing a sampling of my favorite poems. The Prayer of the Parrot reminds me of the task of preaching.

Did you say something, Lord?

Oh! I thought You were speaking to me.

You are silent?

Are You afraid I shall tell Your secrets?

It’s true I’m a little talkative

but, at times, that is useful:

Heads are thick, slow to understand,

and have to be told things again and again.

If You need me, I am your servant,

one who never grows tired

of repeating the same word again and again,

which has its power:

I may grow tedious but people listen

in spite of themselves;

and what is repeated, repeated, repeated,

stays in the memory.

When may I serve Your infinite wisdom?

Think of it Lord. Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Butterfly

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During June, I am sharing a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection features the flitter, flutter, flailing of The Prayer of the Butterfly.

Lord!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! This flower, this sun, thank you!

Your world is beautiful!

This scent of roses . . .

Where was I?

A drop of dew

rolls to sparkle in a lily’s heart.

I have to go . . .

Where? I do not know!

The wind has painted fancies

on my wings.

Fancies . . .

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Lord,

I had something to tell you.

Amen!

Shingles’ Shot

I recently passed another mile marker on the road to senior life. Last month I received a shingles’ vaccine.

I initially encountered the disease during my first pastoral appointment. An “elderly” member—who in hindsight was probably my age now—contracted the virus. He suffered horribly for months.

The disease causes weeping blisters that often appear on the stomach or back. According to an old wives’ tale, a rash encircling the trunk of the body will kill a victim. If it doesn’t kill them, then further suffering will make them wish that it had.

I determined early in life that shingles was an experience I would just as soon avoid.

ShinglesLast fall the FDA approved a new shingles’ vaccine called “Shingrix.” Initial tests indicate a 90% efficacy for preventing the disease. Physicians encourage adults 50+ to get the two series shot. Since I narrowly qualify—ok, I overly qualify—I decided to follow the medical advice.

I received the initial shot in May. In the interests of full disclosure, it felt like a mule kicked me in the bicep for several days. However, I considered it a small price to pay. The second shot follows two to six months after the first.

Remember: a theological seminary and not a medical school bestowed my degree, so please check with your personal physician. As for me and my household, we hope to avoid the viral disease.

I’ve gotten my shingles’ vaccine; and to quote Bill Murray in Caddyshack: “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice!”

*The author does not currently receive a cent for his personal endorsement. However, pharmaceutical agents are encouraged to contact him to make a deal!

Memorial Day

During my childhood, Memorial Day signaled the unofficial start of summer. I never thought much about the holiday’s deeper meaning. For a boy, enjoying a day off from school seemed significant enough.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Major General John A. Logan issued General Order 11. It designated May 30 as Decoration Day—a time of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Arlington Cemetery hosted the first major observance in 1868. The annual event quickly grew into a national holiday.

Memorial-DayToday our nation observes Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. The holiday honors military personnel who have died during wartime. Parades, speeches, flags, and cemetery floral arrangements mark the occasion.

We remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. We also honor remember armed forces’ personnel who presently serve at home or abroad. Our liberties come at a high cost, and we recognize those who lay aside self-interest for their country’s sake.

We remember military families who also make their own sacrifices. Each member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard leaves behind a family at home. Our service personnel wear a uniform; however, parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends support them on the home front.

This weekend fly the flag. Take your hat off when the National Anthem plays. Speak the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in a strong voice. Express your appreciation to a veteran. Visit a cemetery. Place a flower arrangement. Say a prayer.

Remember, and give thanks.

Hedera Helix

Atlanta residents better know hedera helix by its more common name: English ivy. The green flame rivals kudzu’s ability to spread like fire. The vines can quickly cover trees, abandoned buildings, and slow moving children.

English Ivy 2Some gardeners plant English ivy to stabilize steep banks. The ivy controls soil erosion in yards like General Sherman eliminated urban sprawl in Atlanta.

In addition, the lush ground cover provides an ideal habitat for insects, rodents, and snakes. When we first moved to Buckhead, neighbors warned us that copperheads love the dense vegetation.

Joy.

Sin is the English ivy of the spiritual life.

Evil begins as a small sprout but spreads quickly. Sin always proves deadly and destructive. Left unattended, it can overwhelm our lives and choke our souls.

Paul understood this reality when he wrote: The wages of sin is death.

Hedera helix sounds and looks beautiful. However, the invasive vine can run amok, and it’s difficult to eradicate. The BEST way to control English ivy is to never allow it to take root.

Turns out the same principle applies to sin.

Rightest Comparisons

Creating comparisons in the English language confuses many would-be linguists. Comparisons are typically—but not always—made in one of two ways.

GrammarWords with less than three syllables use the suffix –er for comparisions and –est for superlatives. Examples: “John is taller than Juan” or “Susie is the fastest person in her class.”

Words with three or more syllables are preceded by the modifiers “more” or “most.” Examples: “Sean is more effective than Jean” or “Katie is the most productive employee.”

Back in the day, our teachers insisted on these sacrosanct rules. However, today’s grammaticians are a more wishy-washy group who ambiguously mumble that words with two syllables can go either way.

One site advised that –er or –est should be used UNLESS the newly created words sound “awkward.” Well, THAT clears things up.

I confess to being a grammar geek, and one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of comparisons. A recent commercial by a public utility invited people to become “More Cool.” Memo to the advertisers: it should read “Cooler.”

Others creatively combine comparisons. One meteorologist warned an approaching front might be “more stormier.” Sigh.

English is such a complicated language that exceptions always prove the rules. Comparisons have a subgroup of irregular words that march to the beat of their own drummers. Examples include: good (better and best), many (more and most), and bad (worse and worst).

Another group called “absolute adjectives” supersede any comparison. Consider words like “perfect” or “unique.” Nothing can exceed perfection. By definition, unique describes something that is beyond compare.

So be righter in your comparisons and most carefulest in your grammar. Otherwise, you might just end up looking like the most foolishest one of aller.

Be the One

When this weekly blog began in 2015, I searched for an appropriate Scripture theme. I eventually chose Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

jarChristians are jars of clay filled with God’s glory. It is a weighty responsibility to proclaim the gospel to others, but it is also a tremendous privilege. The Holy Spirit graces believers with the chance to be the one to make an eternal difference in others’ lives.

I am who I am today because of the examples of others yesterday. God has graced my life with wonderful saints who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ through word and deed.

Who served as midwives of faith in your life? See their faces. Speak their names. Recall their faithfulness. Give thanks to God.

AND be reminded by their example that we have the opportunity to be the one in someone else’s life.

Paul described the church as the body of Christ. We are Christ’s incarnate presence in the world. If God’s work gets done, it is because people like us are faithful to the task. One person can make an eternal difference; and WE can be the one.

Are you the one?

Be the one.