Easy as Pie…A Piece of Cake…

The Phrase Finder‘s Gary Martin dates (as) easy as pie to the 1800’s, American in origin [www.phrases.org.uk). The easy part isn’t in the making of the pie, but in the ease with which it is enjoyed. He notes that cake is also related to pleasant, easy things – perhaps a commentary on how much dessert is enjoyed?

Being a baker myself, I am usually aware of the effort it took to produce what I eat – I’ve made countless cakes and I’ve witnessed my husband make dozens of pies over the past few years. Restaurant work paid my bills, so I don’t usually take entrees for granted much, either. But these sayings aren’t meant to be taken literally – they wouldn’t be common expressions if they were limited to that. So, I can’t help thinking that most things that are a piece of cake or as easy as pie aren’t worth a whole lot unless someone else invested the time and effort that make them valuable. I may never know who made things go so smoothly for me as to be as easy as pie, but I’m sure I owe him or her a long overdue thank you.

Don’t Blink

Don’t Blink – you just might miss it.

I used to say this about New Durham, the town I called home for almost a decade. It’s that blinking yellow light on Route 11, a couple of miles before you get to the Alton traffic circle, just below the southern edge of Winnepesaukee. Lots of trees, a lake, scattered ponds, and a brown raised ranch five miles from town center that kept me and my family warm and dry. A beach on Chalk pond and a canoe to paddle every inch of it, snow and ice for sledding and skating, and stars scattered through the deep blue sky every season of the year were waiting outside the door. Inside, the people I loved and laughed with. Back then, I didn’t know how fast those days and years would pass into other days, years, and places.

I have loved every place I’ve lived, and I’ve loved every stage of life. Each brought gifts and heartache – the unique contour and blessing of my life’s particulars. I wouldn’t go back, trading what is and will be for what was, but time’s passing has changed the meaning of don’t blink since that yellow light marked my home town and my teen years. Now it means something like this:

My life is one among billions, a small flicker lasting for such a short time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a holy, crazy, blessed one-of-a-kind gift. It’s the same for every single life – yours, mine, and everyone else’s. If I’m too busy fussing about what isn’t perfect, I will miss it just as surely as a blink of an eye at the wrong time sends me right past that yellow light without a clue that it marks a place called home.

God, give me eyes to see this fragile, broken, beloved life that is your gift to me. May I see everyone and everything else as you do: beloved. Amen.

Speak of the Devil

Speak (talk) of the Devil and he will appear.  

According to The Phrase Finder, the saying’s been around for hundreds of years in its longer form. The last four words have been dropped sometime between then and now, turning what might have been a cautionary saying bordering on superstition to an innocuous way to note when someone who is being talked of walks in.

I think there are very few adults who believe that speaking someone’s name will cause them to appear, even if repeated three times in Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice fashion. Still, I think there are very few adults who haven’t had the person they were talking about show up as if summoned or the person they’ve been meaning to call suddenly calling them. It’s serendipity if it’s a welcome appearance, like a bad penny if it isn’t.

There’s an undeniable power to words. Saying something aloud – a name, a fear, a joy – makes it real in a way that it wasn’t before it moved from thought to speech. It’s why saying the words I love yougood-byecome in!, and go away seems almost impossible at times. The words can’t be taken back, and the vulnerability they express cannot be denied or overlooked. Spoken words reveal us when they are true.

In its shorter/lighter or longer/darker form, it’s good to remember that the one we speak of will not magically or miraculously be summoned by our words; at the same time, speaking of and to another makes who we are and who they are more tangible, more real. It may not be magical, but I doubt it’s any less miraculous.

[The Phrase Finder is a wonderful resource created by Gary Martin. Visit it at www.phrases.org.uk.]

Rest in Peace/ It is what it is

It seems an odd placement, a post about death followed by a post about the mutability of reality. Death is immutable – there’s no getting around it, no sliding on past it, no wishing it to be undone. This is true of so many things in our lives because we cannot control the universe, the orbit of our tiny planet, the family we are born into, or the time and place of our births. These things are what they are. But how we respond to them is well within our control. We can choose whether these unchanging realities prompt us to expand our minds, hearts, and spirits – or whether they prompt us to contract them. Our choice in this changes our lives in profound ways.

Contraction: The thought of dying causes us to shrink back from life, hoard our minutes, days, and hours like misers do their coins. We try not to get too close to anyone, knowing that some day death will part them from us. We put every effort into avoiding our own aging. Our lives, and the life of the world are the lesser for such a choice.

Blizzard Beauty, 2017

Expansion: The thought of dying causes us to embrace life, spending our minutes, days, and hours on this precious earth with appreciation, generosity, and joy. We risk getting close to others because some day death will part them from us. We accept aging with all its gifts and challenges because it has things to offer us that a life of perpetual adolescence cannot. Our lives, and the life of the world, are the richer for such a choice.

Whatever choice we make, however many times we choose one or the other, we are always loved by God. It’s more a matter of whether our living days reflect that love – a warm heart, a curious mind, a trusting spirit.

Perhaps this time and place is what it is in many ways because we made such a choice.

Lord, help me choose the life you have given me this day. Guide my steps, lend compassion to my thoughts and actions, hold my hand when I’m afraid. Amen.

It Is What It Is

It is what it is.

I’ve heard it used in two almost opposing ways.

As a starting point: Begin with how things are and grow from this reality a new and better one.

As the last word: Don’t bother to put in any effort because what is cannot be changed (and I’m not responsible for trying).

The first doesn’t deny reality; it confirms the way things are and affirms that it can be changed for the better. It’s a great truth.

The second doesn’t deny reality, either: it denies that it can be otherwise. In denying the mutable nature of all things, it’s one of the biggest falsehoods ever spoken.

Requiescat in pace/Rest in Peace/R.I.P

I’ve seen these words- Latin, English, abbreviated – on grave markers, obituaries, cards handed out at funerals, and on T-shirts. Rest in Peace. What does it mean to ask that a loved one rest in peace?

Perhaps it’s similar to my memory of running into the open arms of my mother when I was a three year old. Maybe it’s the feeling of total acceptance and joy when my father tossed me into the air and spun me around. Either way, the return was a delight to parent and child alike. If such things happen here, what awaits at the return to God?

Falling into the embrace of God is my best shot at describing death; everyone who has ever felt lost, grief-stricken, bereft, or broken returns to the arms of the one who loves completely. When I say rest in peace, I’m not praying for an eternal night’s sleep: I’m giving back to God loved ones and strangers alike, letting go of the limited love and incomplete understanding I had for them as they let go of this mortal life.

Rest from your troubles. Let go of your limits. These prayers I offer when I say rest in peace.

Priscilla, Rest in Peace.

Through Thick and Thin

I what it means: continuing on regardless of difficulty or condition. But I didn’t know where the phrase came from until I looked it up on The Phrase Finder (www.phrases.org.uk). Originally, the saying was through thicket and thin wood – a description of the English countryside and a reference to the difficulties of traversing it. It shows up in the 1600’s and got shortened sometime between then and now, obscuring its literal meaning.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer – things I promised to weather with my husband over twenty-four years ago. If we decide to renew our vows (as we did on our 10th anniversary), I think I’ll swap these words for through thicket and thin wood. Perhaps because they aren’t so familiar as the words in the wedding ceremony, they offer something new and precious. Walking through thicket and thin wood together may bring with it unexpected difficulties and arguments, but it brings with it an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us every step of the way. Perhaps I’ll face the obstacles gladly for the glimpse of the living world that surrounds us and the deepening of the love that binds us together that only comes from the walk.

[The Phrase Finder was founded by Gary Martin in 1997, an outcome of post-graduate studies at Sheffield Hallam University. It’s a marvelous site, including original sources and helpful references for further study. www.phrases.org.uk]


Fixin’ to get ready…

“Fixin’ to Get Ready” Tomorrow

A previous rector at our parish had a picture of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) of “Gone with the Wind” fame with the caption of the last line in the 1936 Margaret Mitchell novel: After all, tomorrow is another day. He was a procrastinator.
There are lots of quotes about tomorrow – the most famous, I suppose, is Shakespeare’s from MacBeth (spoken by MacBeth):
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time…
And then there’s that wonderful song from the musical, “Annie,” with the refrain: Tomorrow! tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow! You’re always a day away!
It seems many have come to the obvious conclusion that tomorrow never comes. It may be another day, but it never arrives. Can you imagine saying Hooray, tomorrow is here? Or more like whoops, tomorrow is here? Of course, Notomorrow is always today when it arrives.
Growing up in Tennessee we had an expression that called out the acts of procrastinating, wishful thinking,  suffering from paralysis of analysis. We said that during those times we were fixin to get ready not actually getting things done but thinking about doing so. Making plans is a good thingmaking plans to make plans, maybe notthat’s like fixin’ to get ready tomorrow.
Present-centeredness, living in the moment, the now, being mindful—whatever we call it, doesn’t come easy. Sitting with my retired friends in Florida during lunch, what is often the topic of conversation? Yes, you know, what are we going to have for dinner?
There is an old story about the clock who was depressed thinking about all the ticks it would have to tick during its life and the clock psychologist who told it  just tick one tick at a time. 
Most clocks I know dont even tick anymoreall that time spent on something that is no longer even exists. As Mark Twain said: I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
Sometimes (often), I need to insert another expression into my thinking; carpe diem! Today I posted a quote from a prayer by St. Francis de Sales when I sent out the daily prayer list: Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.
In this new year may we seize the day.
Offered by Bill Albritton, child of God, maker of plans, rarely procrastinates.

Many Happy Returns (of the day)

I ran across this saying for the first time in high school, in a book written by an English author. It’s not something I say out loud very often, but I write it in birthday cards all the time.

Many happy returns – the interest gained by a life well lived. I don’t think it’s meant to be an economic saying (may you earn a lot of interest from your stock portfolio) as much as a hope that you will be aware of the wonderful things your life offers you. May you notice the love of your friends and family; may you appreciate the sight of woodpeckers on the suet feeder and cardinals perched upon snowy  branches. May you take the time to honor what this universe offers you – the deepening of your spirit through the easy and difficult circumstances that greet you each day.

May you know that you are a delight to God – and that the entire universe was changed because you came into being.

Many Happy Returns – for the day of your birth and every other day!

Happy Birthday, Larry Ganem, wherever you are…

Taking a turn

To turn, turn, will be our delight,

’til by turning, turning we come ’round right.

[These are the last lines of Elder Joseph Brackett’s Simple Gifts, a Shaker song. The last lines were a reference to turning one’s life toward God, and also an instruction for the dancers to turn back to their original starting places.]

Turning means a change of direction – up to down, left to right, front to back, over to under and any of these in reverse. Turn is found in all kinds of contexts, and all of them hold the possibility for change. We can turn over a new leaf, give someone a turn, turn something over in our minds, have a turn, take turns, and lose a turn. Turning cartwheels on the grass or spinning around and around seems to turn the world over and over, making us dizzy. It isn’t really the world that’s turned, but it sure feels that way. What a wonderful feeling such turning can give us.

When the world isn’t the way I wish it would be, sometimes I’d like to turn the whole damn thing over and give it a shake. But the world isn’t my personal snow globe, and it’s much too big for me to spin in my hand. Perhaps there’s another way, though: turning myself, giving my perspective a shake, is well within my abilities – an existential spin or cartwheel that can help me see the world from a different angle. Sure, it might make me dizzy, but isn’t that part of the fun? And such a turn might be the best way for me to come ’round right…

[Liz Story, artist. Click Simple (gifts) Thanksgiving above for details.]