Monday, November 30, 2009

First Monday of Advent - C

Please read Psalm 23:3

going to bed each night
to regain strength
for the next day,
a hot shower
in the morning
to sting me awake,
pouring a bowl
of toasted oats (just
like the last 50+ years)
to energize me:
they are all second nature
to me by now.

carving out oases of silence
in an ear-shocked day;
letting your Word
edit my story;
searching for hope
amidst all those shelves
stocked with anguish;

all those dispositions
that could fill my emptiness:
keeping me from wandering
down the wrong alleys,
nudging me to follow Jesus
in paving the streets with justice,
joining the kids playing
hide-and-seek in the kingdom?

Habit Shaker,
come and restore my soul.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent - C

Please read 1st Thessalonians 3:9-13

when our faith
has faded away
until we cannot
find it with a
magnifying glass:
to dot the i
with a great dollop
of grace,
to cross the t
with the broad stroke
of incarnation;

when the gauge
of our love
has dipped below
and our meager lives
cannot produce another
to push us to
the Spirit's station
where we will be filled
to overflowing;

when our friends
have dropped us off
at the 'returns only' counter,
where we reach out
in hope only to find
no one will take our hand:
to surround us with
grumps and grannies,
prophets and punks,
whiners and wise ones,
your family here and now.

o come,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There's 86,400 seconds in a day

It only takes a second.

As you watch the multi-colored leaves drifting down to the ground, and then joining hands to dance across the lawn, you might spend a few moments grumbling about your neighbor's trees dumping in your backyard, or think about your aching back from the raking and hauling them to the curb for pickup.  Or you could simply look to the sky and whisper, 'thank you.'

It only takes a second.

There seems to be a lot of grumbling these days (at least in the region where I live) about the number of stores and businesses which post bi-lingual signs, menus, instructions (some even going multi-lingual) in recognition of the growing Hispanic population in our communities.  I figure I can spend a lot of time getting my shorts in a twist or I can learn to say 'gracias' to the young woman who is of great assistance in the store.

It only takes a second.

When I spent a week in Paris some years ago, I found a marvelous internet cafe located in a department store right around the corner from my hotel.  The first few times I used the service, I would go up to the young man at the counter, pay for my time, and (automatically) say, 'thank you.'  He would nod, take my money, and turn back to his work.  About the third day, I decided to be daring, and as I paid, I simply said, 'merci beaucoup.'  He broke into a big smile, and said 'you are welcome' to me, and we spent a marvelous few minutes, talking about the discomfort we often feel in speaking a different language, and he then asked if, when I came in again, he could practice his English with me.  I told him of course, if he didn't mind my fumbling, kindergarten level French. 

Whether it is danku, mahalo, domo arigato, whatever, it only takes a second to offer thanks.

So, why do we always act as if we don't have the time?

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Sighting of Saints

Yesterday afternoon, when we were visiting Teddy in Columbus, he decided he wanted to go to the bookstore at the mall to look for a movie. We said sure, so headed over there. When we got there, we immediately headed for the section of the store where movies and music are located.  There was about 25 or 30 folks of all ages there, so I assumed that the store must be having a great sale!

A few minutes later, the crowd began to clap loudly as a small group of older gentlemen walked in, obviously part of some tour group or another, as they each had a lanyard with identification around their necks. But this was no ordinary tour, rather an extraordinary group of men. These were some of the surviving members of those men we have come to know as the Band of Brothers, Easy Company from the 506th regiment of the Airborne Infantry. We know their story from the book, and the HBO series, but here they were in the flesh and blood.

Some walked in stiffly, their pain evident in their steps; others came with the aid of a cane or a companion.  Some had the stooped shoulders of age, every one of them had that dignity which comes to those who have dealt with life, looking it square in the face, through all the years.

It was a moving experience. Here were these heroes, being recognized, yes by current members of the 101st Airborne who were with them, but also by their peers in the crowd, and the children who could have been their grandchildren or great-grandkids busily taking their pictures.

As they were introduced and began to share some of their stories, it was if we were standing on holy ground.  For here were the men who, as part of that generation we call great, made it possible for me to stand in that store, for us to read whatever books we want, for me to travel freely, for us to have the kind of life we have.  These were the heroes who, knowingly and willingly, served to set us free from the fears and terrors of that evil which wanted to bind all civilization with its chains of prejudice and hatred.

Saints? These men would probably be as embarrassed to be called that, as they seem to be with the title 'hero.'  But surely, they responded to that command Jesus gave to the crowd at Lazarus' tomb when, after calling him from the grave, turned to the community around him and said, 'Unbind him, and set him free.'

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman