A Home Blessing–and Everywhere Else, Too.

A day at home. What luxury! I did not go anywhere today beyond our yard, except to walk with Jonathan and Cocoa in the early morning.

I love my work as Pastor of MCC Richmond–nobody feels more blessed by and alive to his work than I do–and as President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia (POFEV)–a great passion for justice and transformation in Virginia–and I have no desire or intention of giving either up any time soon (a few years maybe, but not now).

There is only thing that ever pushes against that intention, and that is that I so often have to leave home for this work. Retirement has one great allure: I could stay home lots more.

I am a homebody at heart. And it helps that Jonathan and I have been blessed to own–well, to be buying is more accurate–what feels to us like the perfect home.

Our wonderful home

Today, I prayed, I read, I napped, I mowed, played with Cocoa and walked with him and Jonathan, I began erecting a chicken wire fence around the garden, I cleaned parts of the house, I paid a bill or two online, cleaned out my email inbox a little, played with Cocoa , and oh yes, I played with Cocoa. . . I’d be glad to do it all again tomorrow.

And maybe I will do a couple of those things again tomorrow–walking for sure, playing with Cocoa, maybe a little weeding or trimming bushes . . . and I will also work on my sermon for Sunday, make pastoral phone calls and texts, prepare other things for church, engage POFEV colleagues around the state.

I will do most of it at home! If Monday is my day off, than Tuesday is my day to work at home–not home work, but office work done in my study (a really good project would be to clean the study, too!).

So, as I contemplate the joy of Mondays at home, I can anticipate the joy of Tuesday here, too. And then on Wednesday – Sunday, the joy of work at church, too! And maybe I’ll manage this week to work at home on Saturday, too.

I am blessed, wherever I am (but home is special).

May the Great Name of God Be Exalted

We all know God is not a Christian, right? Or least most of us know that.

I was given fresh proof on Tuesday at the funeral for Leatrice Round, beloved mother of my friend Ivan. At the funeral home, I met Nick Bliley, one of the Bliley Brothers who have operated funeral homes in Richmond for a long time. As we chatted, he told me about his life as a faithful Catholic. He has been a longtime member and leader at St. Edward Catholic Church in suburban Richmond.

Then he said to me, “You’ll really like Rabbi Creditor. He is so real. I always try to be here when he officiates at funerals. In fact, I’d be honored if Rabbi Creditor would preside at my service. I can think of no one better.”

I was touched at that, but was unprepared for what happened at the cemetery. As is customary, the assembled mourners said Kaddish together at the end of the interment service. Nick eagerly handed out cards for all of us to read from–Hebrew on one side, phonetic letters on the other (see picture showing the Hebrew).

I joined the others, stumbling some because I only say this prayer when I join my Jonathan at services at Congregation Or Ami (Kaddish is said at services for those to be remembered because it is an anniversary of their death).  I was glad, indeed honored, to do it, especially to join Ivan and his father and family as they tearfully spoke these immortal words.

On my way out, one of Nick’s staff stopped me to say thank you coming to the funeral and the interment. He asked me how I knew the family. I told him about Ivan, born and raised Jewish, who decided some years ago to join Metrop0litan Community Church, because he felt he needed to be part of a congregation with many LGBT folks.

He again thanked me for coming, and then he told me something really wonderful. He said, “You know Nick recites Kaddish in Hebrew by heart–he doesn’t need the card at all. He has made it a point to be able to do so, because he knows God is God of all, and he truly admires Rabbi Creditor and other rabbis here too, and he really cherishes his many Jewish friends.”

Thank you, Nick Bliley, and Ivan Round, too, for reminding me about what is truly important in life, who God is and how God works.

And just in case you don’t know Kaddish, here is a translation. Note how it said for the dead, but it does not mention death. It is all about God.

May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May his Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen.
May his great name be blessed, forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored elevated and lauded be the Name of the holy one, Blessed is he- above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen. May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen. He who makes peace in his high holy places, may he bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel; and say Amen.

Amen, indeed. Amen.

She Lives! She Lives!

A friend invited me to an AA meeting on Easter Sunday–not because she thought I needed help to overcome alcohol problem, but because she wanted me to hear her story.

I was honored to be asked, and I am so glad I went.

I have known this woman for some years, as a faithful member of the church and someone whose company I enjoy. Like all of us, she has some ways that are particular to her, and that sometimes rub others a little roughly–but over the years I had begun to appreciate her as someone who tells the truth as she sees it, with a healthy dose of self-awareness.  So I was eager to hear about the time before and during her 30+ years in AA .

Wow! She has a story to tell, and she told it–with grit, grace, and humor. No holding back–and at the same time she drew us all in. She has a gift for story-telling.

As I sat in the meeting, I thought of how much I wish I knew the stories of all our church members in as much detail as she shared. I could be their pastor, and their friend, so much better.

And as she continued to share, I began to pray that everyone in the church–indeed everyone in the world–can get to the place she is. What I mean is that she did not waste time blaming other people for her mess. In fact, she celebrated those who helped her see how she was messing up in life and what she could do about it.

I am very positive about 12-step programs. She is one among hundreds of people I know whose lives have been turned around “in the rooms.” Sometimes, I think everyone should go.

But then I know it is like church–you have to want to go, or feel the need to go–and you have to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is, or could be, more to life than whatever your situation is in the moment. Not everyone is ready for that, but when they are . . . well, the change can be extraordinary, and lives are saved.

It seems right that my friend spoke on the Sunday of the Resurrection–she did not use religious language but I realized she was telling us how she escaped the tomb, and as we had done that morning in worship, I rejoiced all over again. This time I said, “She lives! She lives!” I know God, and Jesus, were, and are, rejoicing with me.

Nine Short, Nineteen to Go

Some readers may remember my post last fall when I revealed my goal of losing 38 pounds–going from 238 to 200–by Easter 2012.

Well, I weighed myself on the morning of April 8, and the scale said 209. I lost 29 pounds–pretty good in 7 months–but not my goal weight.

But I am not discouraged. I have come to appreciate how I feel, and look, and the fact that my clothes are getting loose enough so that soon I will require some tailoring or just new items.

Most of all, I appreciate feeling better, and feeling that food is not running my life. I am not exactly on a diet, but I have changed eating patterns. That is the most important aspect of this. I limit portions, I don’t eat some trigger foods, and I see dessert as a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions. No longer is dessert my reward for simply making it through another meal!

This entire project is very spiritual for me. I am connecting more with God because I no longer use food to shut down or numb my feelings. And I am taking better care of this amazing body that God gave me.

In fact, even though I fell short of my goal, I am feeling so good about this, that I have decided to keep going–with a new goal.

On Thanksgiving Day 2012 (in the morning before meals!), my goal is to weigh 190 pounds.

That weight would put me in the upper range of the BMI (Body Mass Index) for normal weight in my age group. Right now, I am considered overweight. That may not sound good, but I am glad I am no longer in the BMI obese category.

So, nine pounds short, nineteen to go.

I can hear y’all cheering me on. Thanks!