Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome Home!

“Welcome Home”. So much is conveyed by these two simple words. I’ve been thinking about home a lot recently, particularly as I am coming to terms with elements of my past, reconciling the truth with the ways I have chosen to remember them. In so doing, I have needed to delineate my definitions of home - - and there are several - - exorcise a few demons and wipe away the remaining debris. Herein lie a few random thoughts about home, as I have been pondering the subject.

In thinking of home as a physical address, well, I’ve had many. I counted it once, and I have lived at 18 different addresses in my life, with the longest at any one in particular being my current one in Virginia - - eighteen years and almost four months. I moved here when I got married. When I was single, I moved every chance I got at college in the dorms or the Wesley Foundation, and then at the ends of leases after I had embarked on my career. I guess I was restless and searching for something to ease the boredom. When I did manage to remain in one house, apartment or flat for more than the one year, I had to rearrange the furniture so that it felt as if I had moved. When someone asked me back in those days, “where is home,” I would answer that home was where my stuff was located. There were times that it felt as if home were a hotel room or an airplane.

My mother refers to me visiting her, my dad, my brother and his family as “coming home”, and there’s something to that. Home can be where one’s family is, and my nuclear family is there in Florida - - hundreds of miles away from our original home in Tennessee, and even well away from the homes I had in Orlando and Tampa back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. To some extent, visiting Florida is a “been there, done that” experience because I resided in the state all those years ago for a period of about five years. On those occasions that I have been to Nashville over the years, it feels less and less like home, and yet, it’s where I was born and was home to the families of both of my parents for generations. As I write this, I am preparing to embark on a pilgrimage of sorts to Wales, birthplace of a number of distant ancestors on both sides of my family tree. Make no mistake, I’m about as American as one can be without having Native American in my heritage! And yet, I feel an indisputable tug when experiencing the music and culture of the Celtic countries.

Home may well be less of a place than a feeling of belonging. Home is safe and it is a situation, perhaps, where, or in which, I am at peace. Home is being in the company - - physical or virtual - - of those who know me the best, have my best interests at heart and accept me for the person I am, and not the one I would necessarily want others to think I am. For some, home may be a marriage, a deeply held conviction or faith, a long-standing or perhaps recently rekindled friendship, and it is often a prayer. For me, home has taken on some interesting meanings and situations: the Presbyterian Church USA, the Shenandoah Presbytery and the Warrenton Presbyterian Church congregation are home for me; my marriage to the man I love is another; my friendships with people I have known only a few months to those I met some 45 or 46 years ago, with whom I am once again in contact; all these constitute situations where I feel at home, no matter where I happen to be physically located.

I’m something of a Josh Groban fan, and on one of his more recent recordings, was a song written by Randy Newman entitled, Feels Like Home. I’ve never cared much for Newman’s compositions, but this one is absolutely beautiful, both musically and lyrically. It is undoubtedly written about a romantic relationship, but love is love. Whether agape or eros, love is that indefinable something that attracts people to one another and then binds them together forever. Similarly, home can be that inexplicable connection that people have when they are truly “mates of the soul”, whether mates in a biological or erotic sense or not. It’s that property that allows people who have not been in contact for years to meet again and pick up the relationship at the point where it was set down previously. There are a few people in my life about whom I can make the claim that they are “mates of my soul”, and the love I have for them is similar, yet still different than what I feel for my family in general and my husband in particular. Each of them “feels like home” for me every time we’re in contact. So perhaps home can be considered to be love in some sense. I’ll come back to this point.

Sometimes home lies in memories. Perhaps in vacation trips with loved ones, or in recalling those who have passed from this life. I became acquainted with grief at an early age, with the loss of my lone maternal uncle when I was still only two years old. Other relatives would follow soon thereafter in my childhood - - my paternal grandmother when I was eight and my maternal grandfather when I was twelve. My grandfather was my favorite person when I was little, and memories of spending time with him are warm and inviting, as well as comforting. This is true of others of my relatives and friends who have passed from this life, but I’ll leave them for another discussion. There are wonderful memories associated with all of them. So home can be warm and fuzzy memories.

Home is where one is known. I don’t mean that the face and name can be connected consciously, but rather, there is a deep knowledge of who this person is, his or her history, his or her opinions, and thought processes. Home is when and where one can pour out one’s very soul, trusting that the one on whom this torrent of words and emotions is being placed will honor it and respond to it with compassion and an equal sharing. Home is when and where one is the trusted recipient of such thoughts and emotions, too. It goes back to that “mate of the soul” concept for me. I have several friends with whom reestablished contact can just pick up the relationship where it was left off, even if years have elapsed in the interim.

So, if home can mean love, then by definition, home must mean God because God is love. People sometimes refer to death as being “called home” to heaven. God’s kingdom is here and now, and it will continue be home for many incarnate in the world today, as well as for those who have gone ahead of us. I cannot imagine it, but the kingdom is said to be a new heaven and a new earth. I’d like to think that earth will retain its wondrous beauties such as the Grand Canyon, or the mighty rivers such as the Amazon, mountains such as the Alps in Europe and the lush tropical beauty of a South Sea island. I also believe that all the filth and decay from evil and sin would be wiped away from all creation, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and that we will be restored to our original purpose, which is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Prayer, particularly centering prayer, can incorporate many of the definitions of home. With eyes closed, in a quiet room, sitting in a comfortable chair, I can banish for a few moments some of the stresses of life, imagining myself to be enveloped in the loving arms of God - - almost like being held in my grandfather’s lap when I was little - - safe from harm, warm and comforted, resting in his strength. It sure feels like home to me! I hope it will for you as well.

May the Peace of Christ be with you, and Welcome Home!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Confessing our Faith

This morning, March 11, 2012, the worship service at Warrenton Presbyterian Church here in Warrenton, Virginia, was led by our congregation’s Presbyterian Women. The entire service was based on the Bible study being used this year by the Circles, called “Confessing the Beatitudes”. As it happens, our pastor, Carl R. Schmahl, has been preaching a series of sermons this academic year on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and this morning’s section had to do with giving to the poor. The entire service was very thought provoking, as the different segments of worship fit together perfectly, and I firmly believe that our Lord was pleased by the experience; I know I felt a renewal of my own commitment as I exited.

When I arrived home this afternoon and logged into my Facebook account, one of my friends from the church had indicated that she wished she had enough room to post the creed that had been written by the Presbyterian Women specifically for this service. I promised that I would share it in this venue. Without further ado from me:

Written by the Presbyterian Women of the Warrenton Presbyterian Church
Based on the Bible study “Confessing the Beatitudes”
(Read Responsively)

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to honor the destitute and hopeless.
With Christ’s help, I will seek to work with others in ways that meaningfully honor those who are poor.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to honor the weepers and mourners.
With Christ’s help, I will seek to honor the weepers and mourners by listening to them, standing with them, and telling their truth when they cannot.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to stand with the humbled against the wicked.
With Christ’s help, I will look for ways to honor the humbled through my prayers, my choices, and my uplifted voice.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to honor those who are hungry and thirsty, and those who are famished and parched for justice because they are the particular concern of God.
With Christ’s help, I will seek to honor, with my prayers and my gifts, my voice and my actions, these famished sisters and brothers of mine.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to to show mercy by our emotions, our actions, and the dedication of our lives.
With Christ’s help, I will rededicate myself to the practice of mercy that Jesus calls honorable.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to be pure in heart.
With Christ’s help, I will have a “heart condition” that compels me to live with more integrity as my vision of God gets clearer.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to be peacemakers in the church and in the world.
With Christ’s help, I recommit myself to the joyful work of peacemaking, that all the world may know God’s shalom.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to follow him even in the face of persecution.
With Christ’s help, I trust that in times of trial, the Spirit of God will give us the words to speak.

I confess that Jesus calls his disciples to the fearless work of discipleship.
With Christ’s help, I will follow the way of Christ, honoring those who are destitute, weeping, humbled, and famished for food and justice; patterning my life after those who do mercy, walk with integrity, and make peace; and living a life marked by the unearned and overwhelming grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

May the Peace of Christ be with you!