“Sprinter”

We had a lovely spring day…..and then winter returned with a vengeance.  Snow fell all night and most of the day. Easter plans began to fall apart.  A dinner engagement I had really looked forward to got postponed.  How, when things can look so promising, can they dissolve in a matter of hours?

I wonder if things falling apart, disappointments, even catastrophes, serve to remind us there is much we do not control.  And I ponder whether that illusion of control contributes to a lack of empathy in our society.   If I am master of my fate, captain of my ship, why are you floundering?  Just take the wheel! Make something of yourself! 

There is an ad for an insurance company that puts my teeth on edge every time I see it.  The woman, her long blond tresses in bouncy curls, her makeup perfectly applied, her build slender and her clothes stylish, who is advertising her father’s company for whom she works, says: “You can be anything you want to be.”   She probably really believes that because she has had advantages that she almost certainly assumes are available to everyone. 

I have a heart murmur that wasn’t discovered until I was in junior high.  Because other kids could run and play seemingly endlessly, I spent years thinking I was “defective.”  I would tire long before they did.  My confidence was impacted in myriad ways because I considered myself “less than” others.   And that obstacle pales in comparison to children growing up in poverty, dysfunctional homes, abuse; others who have crippling physical or mental limitations.  There are children who grow up to overcome their circumstances, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Their chances of living up to their potential, of “being anything they want to be,” are slim at best.

If you have had a “sprinter” experience lately—you were going along just fine and encountered obstacles you didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for—be reminded that the one reliable control we have is of our attitude.   “I find that it is not our circumstances but the spirit in which we meet them that constitutes our comfort,” is a quote I have often relied on.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  OR alternatively:  God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; courage to change the people I can; and the wisdom to know that person is ME!

Rain and Fire

When I was much younger rain was an inconvenience.  The day of ninth grade graduation, all dressed up and wearing high heels, my girlfriends and I got soaked as we ran to the local burger place after we got out from school.  I resented being drenched!  My hair was a mess.  My new dress soggy. 

In high school, our youth group planned a trip to an amusement park, which was cancelled two weekends in a row.  The third weekend we finally just went despite the rain.  I’d like to say I took these weather events in stride.  But in my youth, rain seemed like the enemy.

Years later, my friend Mary would say: “It’s only weather.”  I remember being startled.  Indeed, it was merely nature taking its course.  Over time, I grew fond of rain.  I grew even more so after my father came to live with us.  He loved rain.  He often asked me at night as he was settled into bed, “Is it rain I hear?”  I finally put a sound machine in his room and put it on the rain mode for him.

I recognize since we moved to Montana, that I miss rain.  Average rainfall in Tennessee is 51.6 inches; in Montana it is 15.2.   Last week there was a dark sky and a clap of thunder and I felt a sense of anticipation, but it was mostly for naught.  I think in part I am concerned about wildfires this summer. 

In 2007, I received a call from Terry while I was in Maryland at a summer “residency” for a distance learning program I was in.  Tennessee was in a drought at that time and there was a wildfire on the other side of the mountain from where we lived.  It was headed over the mountain and he had been told by officials to be prepared to evacuate.  Terry wanted to know what I thought I was important to take if it came to that.  Thankfully, it didn’t. The memory also has stayed with me from last summer, seeing fires blazing below, as we flew in for my candidate weekend with the church.

“It’s only weather,” is a good admonition when we are simply complaining because it doesn’t suit us at the moment.  When Mother Nature turns violent, destructive and deadly, we best remember to pay heed. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Sadly, there are many fewer things I can recycle here in Montana.  But one thing I am doing to reduce my use of plastic is to use “Earth Breeze” laundry sheets.  What is one thing you might do to “pay heed” to climate change and its effects?

War

During this season of Lent, the Lutheran pastor and I have alternated offering services on Wednesday nights.  One week we have soup supper at our church and she leads.  The following week we have supper at her church and I lead.  Each week has had a different theme paired with a scripture.  This week my passage was from Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

But the topic this scripture was linked to was justice and peace in the midst of violence.  I pondered how in the world I would relate those two things, especially after weeks now of watching as Ukraine suffers unimaginable destruction, unfathomable loss.  But then I began to think of the videos I had seen of various Ukrainian musicians playing their instruments in the midst of bombed out buildings, their surroundings littered with the carnage of war.  I recalled an image of a group gathered in a shelter in prayer.  There was one video of refugees dancing when they reached a country that welcomed them with food and toys for the children.  The most touching one was of a Ukrainian child, who had reached another country, drawing flowers on the sidewalk with chalk.  She said “This is how I calm myself.” She was eight. 

I spoke that night of how “thinking on these things,” the lovely things, the admirable acts, enables us to respond to the ugliness, the greed, the hate and all that grows out of it in this world, with a spirit that seeks to uplift.  Mr. Rogers said to “look for the helpers.”  When we do, we are often inspired to “join the helpers…..be the helpers.”  May it be so.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Olha Rukavishnikova. Violinist. Fighter.

1 day ago

Friends! Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support! From the first day of the vile attack of Russian Nazis on my country, I have been in the ranks of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Ordinary Ukrainians are fighting in our unit, not professional ones – managers, drivers, musicians, teachers. Although it’s not easy for us, since there is a lot missing in the squad, we believe that good will always triumph over evil, and we put all our strength into it! Glory to Ukraine!

The Lemonade Stand

Early this week I had a massage.  The masseuse gave me an exercise to do, which requires a small ball.  On my way to Family Dollar a few days later to search for such a ball, I came across two little girls, maybe 10 or 11, running a lemonade stand.  I went on to the dollar store but determined I would stop on my way back.  When I did, the exchange was most interesting to me.  I asked how much the lemonade was and the two looked at each other blankly as though they hadn’t considered that.  So I asked if they were just taking donations for it and the one handling the “purchase” said yes.  Then she asked if it was okay that it was pink lemonade. I said that was fine. 

She and her “partner” in the “business” worked together, one holding the glass, the other pouring.  I gave them 4 quarters, thanked them and drove on.  Who knows what the going rate is for lemonade these days?  I mean, I got a dime from the tooth fairy for each of my teeth and I know kids now getting Microsoft stock. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I have heard some tooth fairy quotes way beyond the inflation rate!)

 When I got back to the church, where other duties awaited me, I pulled in to my parking spot, turned off the engine but sat there a moment.  I recalled a little girl from many years ago, selling lemonade (me), which I sold for 2 cents a glass.  I sold it in front of my house, which was on a dead-end street (not a great business plan).  But it was such a thrill when some neighbor stopped to buy my lemonade.  I considered whether these little girls would get much business either.  They were on a corner, a plus, but not a heavily traveled street.  I started the car, pulled out, and drove back down the street.  I told them that was such good lemonade I needed another glass (which was true!)  This time I gave them a five dollar bill and drove away feeling a warm glow.  They would each have at least three dollars apiece and maybe more.  Beyond that, they would have had the joy of sharing their business operation and perhaps a feeling of accomplishment. 

Here’s to pink lemonade and random acts of kindness!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

  • Hope’s Café Bonus: Homemade lemonade:
  • 10 large lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • Ice
  • Lemon slices, for serving
  • Cut the lemons in half. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a bowl, and pour through a strainer to remove the seeds. Add the sugar and water to the lemon juice and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Put the lemonade in the fridge to chill. Serve with ice and lemon slices!

The Poverty of Loneliness

This past week, our church returned to offering services at the local nursing home and the assisted living facility, which had been suspended since Covid 19 descended upon us. 

The last time I routinely participated in services for care homes was in college.  In the midst of Lent, I confess, it seemed like one more thing on my plate.  As we arrived, the people were gathering, some clearly delighted we were there, others seemingly unaware of what was going on. 

After greeting folks, we began to sing. I offered communion and then we started to sing some more.  One woman appeared to be totally unresponsive to anything going on.  But then she slowly began to pat her leg in time to the music.  Soon after, she began to clap. Then her eyes, closed up to that point, opened, revealing their lovely blue color.

Our efforts there were rewarded as well by the many expressions of gratitude, Music, of course, naturally engages and uplifts people.  But it seemed just seeing fresh faces and knowing people were willing to make time for them, were equally meaningful to them.

I think of how lonely their days must be even with the best of care situations.  I have never forgotten the fellow I met as a young woman, when a church group I was part of, visited a nursing home.  He was speaking of how much he missed his wife.  When I asked how long they had been married, he replied “54 years.”  As a 21 year-old, that sounded like a near-eternity to me. “What a long time!” I exclaimed.  A big tear rolled down his cheek and he said, “Not nearly long enough.”

We were to provide a service. We were instead blessed with the gift of entering into their loneliness and grief and offering a bit of relief for a few moments. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Mother Teresa, who certainly knew something about working in the midst of poverty, is quoted as saying: “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

To Post or Not to Post

For several years I talked about blogging.  When the pandemic hit and I was home more, it seemed like an excellent time to begin.  I discovered, in the midst of a less structured schedule, that I liked the routine it provided.  Writing regularly was a pleasure too.

It seemed questionable whether I would be able to keep the blog going when we ended up in Maryland taking care of our preschool age grandsons for nearly four months in late 2020.  But I managed to do it and it didn’t seem all that difficult despite all my other responsibilities during those months. 

So when I accepted a position as pastor in Montana, I thought surely, if I could do it caring for two small children, I could continue as I pastored. Many pastors I’m sure would wholeheartedly agree that this role is even more time-consuming than caretaking small children!   But because there were many opportunities I passed up when I was younger due to lack of confidence, I tend to challenge myself with things that seem like a stretch. Witness pulling up stakes at this point in our lives to move to small town Montana to take a pastorate!

The path to ministry itself was a challenge.  I nearly gave up.  A minister who had once served on the ministry committee “overseeing” my progress, encouraged me to persist and even asked me to fly down to Florida to present at a women’s conference.  The fact that she had enough confidence in me to ask me to lead a day long conference for 100 women probably meant more to me than her message not to lose heart. I had never done anything like that and it is still one of my favorite memories.  I had returned from an overseas trip, landed in Atlanta, spent the night at a nearby hotel and caught a flight to Tampa the next morning.  Though in need of hip surgery at the time and in terrible pain, I hardly noticed it throughout the presentation because I was having such a wonderful experience with the group. 

So I started out to write this to suggest as I approach the 100th blog post, that I may be nearing the end of this run.  But the message to myself that seems evident is to persist!  I write for the discipline of it and for my own pleasure.  But I do hope there is some benefit to others. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  When I began this blog, I thought I would use the bonus for recipes to tie into the title “Hope’s Café.”  Over time, I have evolved into other uses for this space.  Today, reflecting on persistence, I just suggest your deepest prayers or strongest support for the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by this war.  And for a remarkable piece of history about the Ukrainians that is very pertinent search for Holodomor, a famine induced by Stalin that killed millions in 1932-33.

Surprising Journeys

In my first job out of grad school, I had a colleague Mark.  Mark was married to June and I became friends with them both.  At a point where I had a roommate moving out, they suggested that their friend Phyllis needed a roommate while she finished her final semester of law school.  Phyllis and I met and agreed to share my apartment for the duration of her schooling. 

I really liked Phyllis and for a time, even after she graduated, moved back to her Colorado roots and married her longtime boyfriend Tom, we kept touch.   Mark and June had moved away and it seems like the last contact I’d had with Phyllis, she told me Mark and June had divorced.  Over time I lost contact with these friends I had so enjoyed.

In this day and age of social media and multiple ways to track down lost connections, I had an impulse last week to do a search for Phyllis on FB.  What popped up was her familiar face and a promotion for her book, Quantum Lite Simplified: How to Calm the Chaos .  If anything, I might have expected she was serving as a judge somewhere.  The book and its intriguing title were a surprise

Of course, I had to get the book, a very credible and readable effort, which flows so naturally it seems effortless.  Phyllis begins “with a brief history and explanation of how I got into quantum.  Parts 1-3 give you an understanding of energy, systems and chaos theory from a quantum perspective.”  The last half, parts 3-5, “offers a way to ‘be’ in chaos without ‘being in chaos’.”

Her book reveals much of her own evolution from lawyer to author.  I thought of other friends whose lives developed in such different directions from their starting point.  My friend Mary, for example, was a psychologist, later a Physicians Assistant, and now a creator of beautiful quilts and a teacher of quilt-making.  My life is testament as well, as I now pastor after years as a therapist.  And I really don’t think I’m finished.  I have wondered if there is another book lurking somewhere in my brain and heart.  It is now five years since Dream In Progress was published.  It was so much work but so much pleasure. 

My father was a newspaper printer from the time he apprenticed at 17 to the time he retired at 70.  He told me that, coming up in the depression, he was encouraged that whenever he got a job, he should always hang onto it.  And he did.  He shared with me once when I was a teen,  that he had in mind a story that he really thought about writing.  Years later I reminded him of that and told him if he would tell it to me, I would write it.  He said, with some resignation, that he didn’t remember it. 

Thankfully, there is more freedom now to pursue multiple avenues over the course of a lifetime.  May we have the courage of those like Phyllis, and avoid the regrets like those of my dear father, who surely had a worthy tale to tell.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savoring the journey.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Geology is Boss

One of our guides on our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park told us that the geothermal features can shift and move over time.  She said that when they became problematic to a road,  the original response was to pave over them.  Eventually, they began to re-route the road or change planned construction, instead of attempting to “tame” the hot spring or geyser.  As she put it, “Geology is boss.”

I wonder how long it took them to come to that conclusion.  How often do we attempt to “solve” problems by administering the same “solutions” without the desired outcome?  As Albert Schweitzer is often quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Mindless repetition whether paving over Mother Nature’s marvelous works to “maintain” the road or repeating the same behavior in our own lives that has proven itself unworkable, is like the hamster running on a wheel, expending lots of energy but getting nowhere. 

This topic is especially relevant to me and to all those in churches and other organizations that thrived in the 50s and 60s.  One problem lies in that these attempted solutions were formerly standard operating procedure which worked well in previous years.  So we turn to what we know, what has felt comfortable and are puzzled when it doesn’t work.   

 How does one stay vital in a culture that over time has shifted so dramatically?   “Work smarter, not harder” comes to mind.  Pay attention to what excites you, gets your blood pumping, a vision of your desired goal.  Then figure out the steps to reach it and evaluate as you go.

I was once part of a visioning process in a church that was seeking to revitalize itself, to develop new ways to relate in a meaningful way to the community.  We did a visualization exercise with the goal to imagine our church in the future.  One person said he saw the church dark and shuttered.  I was aghast.  I had seen in my image a group of children playing in the yard adjacent to fellowship hall being called in to supper where they joined their families, which seemed a bit farfetched in a church with no children.  Six or eight months later, however, we began to work with what was then called Interfaith Hospitality Network, where churches rotate opening their spaces to homeless families a week at a time.   The first night we served the network I was awestruck as I watched the children come in from playing outside to join their parents for the evening meal, just as I had envisioned it.

 There may always be naysayers to a vision and perhaps they have valid points to consider.  But it serves any organization to have enthusiastic people and leaders who can help focus that energy to pursue and carry out a vision. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Do One Thing Different by Bill O’Hanlon, describes a process of change making one small alteration at a time, another suggestion.  One change builds on another.

Wonderland

While we were recently immersed in the wonders of Yellowstone National Park, which I learned was originally known as Wonderland, I came across this poem by Dawna Markova.  It so resonated with me in the midst of such beautiful and vast space that came into being due to the foresight of those who would promote its preservation for the public. 

“I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

to allow my living to open me,

to loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,

to live so that which came to me as seed

goes to the next as blossom,

and that which came to me as blossom,

goes on as fruit.”  — by Dawna Markova

I recognize that I perhaps give too much credit to those who made a case for the park, as they were also looking for aggrandizement for themselves.  Nathaniel Pitt Langford was described by Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey as always seeming “to be standing close to the till.”  The author of Myths and Legends of Yellowstone reported “Langford was an ambitious man whose vision of exploiting he area for his own financial gain was shared by many, especially the men who ran the Northern Pacific Railroad.”

Nevertheless, their efforts have resulted in a park that continues to draw visitors who avail themselves of the opportunity to witness the magnificent mountains, the fascinating geysers, the abundant wildlife.  We were also astounded by the young guides who so clearly loved the park and felt so privileged to live and work there. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their color, lights and shade.  These I saw.  Look ye also while life lasts.” — From an old gravestone in Cumberland, England

The Pandemic and Us

Backing my car out of the garage one day this week, I thought of how automatically I perform the actions it takes to drive, all the necessary steps embedded in my brain.

          However, I recall after my mother died, I went through a period where I could not recall how to operate the clothes dryer.  The appliance was suddenly mysterious, inscrutable, the result of the trauma of that loss. 

          Last week, I watched a program on Trauma on Our Bodies and Brains presented by clinical psychologist Dr. Betsey Stone.  She talked about the impact of months and months of the stress of various aspects of covid—uncertainty, restrictions, isolation, illness, death—on the brain.  In a time of fear, she said, our “lizard” brain (the amygdala) “hijacks” the blood supply from our “rational” brain (the prefrontal cortex).  We are actually receiving a reduced blood supply to the part of our brain that thinks rationally.  Because of this, we are less able to think clearly, to make sensible decisions, to evaluate danger, to regulate our emotions.  Dr. Stone attributes increased violence and lack of impulse control, such as that frequently demonstrated on airplane travel in recent months, to be due in part to this decreased blood supply. 

          The ongoing stress of living in this time of pandemic highlights a need for greater attention to caring for our bodies and our brains.  As Sid Garza-Hillman has said, “Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body.  In fact, one can not be healthy without the other.”   (from Approaching the Natural:  a Health Manifesto)

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  How to deal with stress and build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Increase your sense of control by keeping a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
⁃ Try to get adequate sleep.
⁃ Make time to eat healthy meals.
⁃ Take breaks during your shift to rest, stretch, or check in with supportive colleagues, coworkers, friends and family. (from CDC website). 

I would add to drink plenty of water.  I have read that under stress the body produces a thick, paste-like blood, making adequate circulation more difficult.