Friday, March 28, 2008

The Million Dollar Question

Today the RevGals have put out the million dollar question--a simple, "What would you do with it?" question, with five responses requested, as is always the case for the Friday Five! I've griped on my more family-centered blog about money--my sense that winning a bundle would ruin us, and my growing wish that we had more of it. The two sentiments are hardly in synch with one another, and more often than not I'm glad I'm not a lottery-playing kind of person (though we do typically buy one ticket if we're on vacation--the prospect of not returning to work on Monday is too sweet to avoid!). But if it were magically to appear in my bank account....Hmmm....

1. I want to be the sort of person who would say, "I'd tithe." That SO should be my reality. So in the spirit of "act as if," I'm going to put philanthropy front and center. The recipients of my gracious funds? Our church, certainly--and the church we attended for eight years before our move here. The fund I direct at a local university would be a beneficiary, taking the overly-ambitious fundraising goals I have before me out of the way! I've given money to Habitat for Humanity for many, many years now, and I see no reason to stop now. And the sentimental favorite? The camp where Matt and I met and married.... I don't know exactly what we would support there, but something unique and needed.

2. I must move on to the house. We are in a state of, ahem, deferred maintenance. And we are deferring further by the day! I'd put on the new roof and install new windows, but then there's a truckload of cosmetic changes I'd like to make--bathrooms and kitchens top of the list. Given that means are not the issue at the moment, construction would be exclusively green, of course!

3. I'd like to help our families with some small needs. Sadly, a million dollars seems not to go far these days, but I do see all of our relatives struggling in ways that we might be able to alleviate slightly.

4. TRAVEL! As an intentionally-one-income family, trips and vacations aren't part of our lives at the moment. I'd pick one place we'd all really like to go--perhaps a return visit to Sedona, sight of a favorite extended-family vacation many years ago--and I'd begin organizing our trip!

5. I'd set aside regular funds for nights out for Matt and me. While the long-term plans have been set aside to support a less-taxing lifestyle, it is probably most difficult to have given up the short-term plans we used to enjoy with regularity. I'd hire a good babysitter, I'd plan a regular night out, and I'd enjoy every minute of it!

Oh gosh--the ideas are rolling in....restoring my gorgeous Steinway baby grand piano, buying a headboard for our bed, on and on and on the list could go.

I'm off for a good old dose of gratitude, though, as I feel my life is already overflowing with riches. I'm so blessed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Music and Mercy

Tissues are a must for me on Easter morning. The combination of an early rising, the glorious music, and the resurrection message--better felt than explained--leaves me in tears every time. Palm Sunday can be hit or miss, though, and I don't have many memories of being moved to tears once we get past the palm-waving processional. Today was a clear exception, and I was sniffing throughout--no tissues!

Sure enough, the weepy eyes began as our dear children walked down the aisle, most (including my own two) in absolute bewilderment, and others like dear L. from our Sunday School class. She skipped and waved her palm high above her head, shouting "HOSANNA! HOSANNA!" as the first bars of "All Glory, Laud and Honor" piped loudly from the organ. Children will bring me to tears every time. It is difficult for me to depict the power of the remainder of the service--how the choir's rendition of "Ride on, King Jesus" left such a ring in the air, the entire congregation seemed to pause, breathless; how a parishioner played a Bruebeck jazz piece that left me utterly convinced that jazz is the only form of music that can capture the dissonance of Holy Week--the praise, the despair, the longing, the possibility of resurrection. And then there was the message--part spoken sermon, with our minister extolling us to embrace the passion of the Sunday even as we take part in the celebration; part video set to strikingly perfect music. As he introduced the video, created by our ministerial team and some younger members of our congregation, Tom remarked that the ambivalence of this day--the paradox of Palm Sunday--cannot be fully captured in prose....and when words fail us, we must turn to artists. Image after image cascaded across the screen--of the cosmos, the beauty of nature, the absolute destruction of war and poverty, the hope of human connection to each other and all of creation, our continual crucifixion of our natural environment and our neighbors, and symbols of God's mercy. The music was ideal, if a bit unusual--Metallica's "Unforgiven" played in a moving strings version by Apocalyptica. The sounds washed over me as the sorrow of our brokenness--my brokenness--was relieved only by an equal measure of joy in Jesus' unmatched act of mercy. The service was crafted by human hands, but woven together by the Spirit of God....merciful, loving God.

Though I grew up with an eye toward justice, as I age, I long only for music and mercy....