Monday, May 26, 2008

Laura Ashley

The movers had left and Janice stood in the hallway of the "cute cape cod on a quiet cul-de-sac", holding her breath. "It happened, it really happened," she thought. "I have my first home." The enormity of this life change hit her when she realized that today her two children, Andy and Sarah, would be coming home, not to their two bedroom apartment on Dover Street, but to their new home on Grove Court.

"Well, I had better get started.", she sighed realizing that the boxes of their life would not empty themselves. Janice walked into the kitchen and immediately her nose was assailed by a soured odor. "What is that smell?" she said aloud. In the kitchen sink, she found the culprits, several tea towels had been left behind by the previous owner; still damp and growing a goodly crop of black mold. "The previous owners must have used these for their final clean-up." Digging through the boxes marked, Kitchen, she located a plastic garbage bag and stashed the offending towels, tying the bag with a satisfying twist.

The doorbell rang. Her first guest; her best friend, Stacy. " I just had to pop over to see your new home.", said Stacy breezing past Janice without greeting. "Oh, I love the kitchen, it is so quaint." It was indeed quaint as Janice's new home was built sometime in the late 1930's with tiled counter tops and mahogany cabinets. The sink was low and the faucets were dated. The only apparent upgrades had been the appliances. "Oh, Janice look! The wallpaper, it is Laura Ashely!"

"Really?" replied Janice examining the wallpaper for the first time. "I guess I never noticed. I was going to remove the wallpaper and paint the walls.

"I wouldn't.", said Stacy flatly. "I think it suits the house well."

After Stacy left, Janice set herself on getting the kitchen into order. The children would be home soon wanting a snack and later, dinner. She started emptying boxes and finding new homes for her old things.

As she opened one box, she found her grandmother's towel holder, and she smiled. The towel holder had a wooden plaque with a hole at the top for attaching to the kitchen wall. The wood was dark with age. The hardware at the bottom of the plaque held three wooden rods attached to spring allowing the rods to be positioned horizontally when in use and vertically when not in use.

Holding the towel holder, Janice remembered Sunday dinners at her grandmother's farm. She remembered the clinking of the dinnerware when they cleared the dinner table, the smell of Ivory dish washing soap in her grandmother's sink and her grandmother's muslin tea towels. Janice dried the dishes while listening to the wonderful stories her grandmother would tell, and when they were done, the wet towels were placed on each of the three rods to dry.

Holding a hammer and a nail Janice moved to the wall closest to the sink to hang her grandmother's towel dryer. As she positioned the plaque, Janice again noticed the Laura Ashley wallpaper. It look familiar somehow, with its buttery background and tiny red roses. "I have seen this before." she mused to herself. Suddenly, she remembered the offensive towels left in the sink. Retrieving the plastic garbage bag and bracing herself for the stench, Janice opened the bag and pulled out the towels. Examination revealed that the towels' pattern matched the wall paper perfectly.

Later that night, Janice checked Andy and Sarah as they slept in their new rooms. It had been an exhausting day, and she look forward to her own bed housed in her new room. But, there was one more thing she wanted to do before she went to bed.

Janice descended the basement stairs to retrieve what was in the dryer. With anticipation she opened the dryer and grasped the three tea towels left by the previous owners. They had come clean! The black mold and the odious smell were gone leaving the beautiful buttery background and tiny red roses intact. Folding them carefully, Janice returned to the kitchen and hung the towels on her grandmother's towel dryer. With satisfaction, she read the words engraved on the wooden plaque. - "Jesus Washes White As Snow."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grave Stones

"Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag'dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb." John 20:1

People have long performed ceremonies for the passage of loved ones. The death of our family and friends is not only painful, but it is the most humbling experience of our lives. For, it is their passing that helps us to realize, though we may differ in life, we are all equal in death. Everyone will die-yes even you-will die.

So, we honor a person when they die not only to mourn their passing, but as some resolution to our own impending death. Early man buried their dead along with the implements of their life. The pharaohs did the same, though more elaborately than their predecessors. Monuments of stone have been constructed for those who were deemed greater in life than the rest of us, but death is the great equalizer for our bodies perish and our energy (spirit) leaves. In the end, we are no longer present on this earth.

The Hebrews buried their dead as well, though without the aplumb of their Egyptian neighbors. After burial, they would pile stones atop the grave as a monument to the departed. Visiting the gravesite was encouraged and with each visit more stones would be added to the heap as a tribute of rememberance. Evidence of this tribute is still present around the globe as we find small stones or pebbles placed atop the grave marker on Jewish graves. This tradition, passed from generation to generation, is still an act of tribute and rememberance.

Knowing this gives great significance to what Mary found at Jesus' tomb that early morning. The stone was missing from the grave. Surely, the Son of God could have left the tomb without moving the stone, thus the removal of the stone must have been a sign that the occupant was no longer dead. As a Jewess, Mary would have recognized this sign - of course the empty tomb was her next clue, and she ran back to the apostles with a message that crowned her as the first evangelist. "He has risen!"

That stone (death) has separated us from God since the Garden, but death no longer requires homage with our monuments of stone. The open tomb of resurrection is ours for the asking -

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

Sunday, May 04, 2008

We Are All Created Equal

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Our country was founded on this simple premise - that we were all created equal. Wars have been fought, speeches delivered, marches walked, prisons filled and laws passed to ensure that this gilded idea would survive through the centuries. Though the words have faded from the original page shown here, the words have not blanched from our social or political landscape.
There have been conflicting theories put forth by other men since the signing of the Equality Declaration, and people have vainly tried to compromise their theories with the 'self-evident truth' stated in the above document. For instance, Darwin's theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest opposes the theory that we are all equal; for, equality cannot exist if only the strong survive.
If we embrace the concept of equality here on earth, then what about eternity? Are we all equal after life as we are in life? Religions are based on good works, or being good. Paganism required altars and bloody sacrifices to 'appease the gods' and guarantee the fertility of the earth. Even after adopting the single god theory, animal sacrifices were required for the remission of sins. Good works were counted as naught and lapses of acceptable behaviors required restitution. Moving forward, religion required penance (monetary and/or punishment), steps of enlightenment, years of study, attendance at ceremonies, and even an afterlife holding tank to ensure our place of pleasure in the hereafter.
Those man-made religions required a man-made resolution to our eternal problem-sin- and in creating a man-made resolution resulted in another sin - arrogance and bigotry. For, if we can 'work our way to heaven' then we are not all equal. If only the eternally strong survive, then the weak in spirit can never attain heaven. "For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.'" ICorinthians 1:26-31
So if we do not attain eternal bliss by our own worth, how do we ensure our equality in the afterlife? "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 RSV Our afterlife is not based on our wisdom, our sacrifices, our wealth or our good deeds. Our afterlife is based only on our CHOICE. If we choose to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, we will have eternal life. We all have a choice - yes or no - and that ability to choose makes us all equal.