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The conversation had turned, and God was to show me that the world was small and about to get smaller.

A vendor and I were at a breakfast meeting to review outstanding items for a recent project. We knew only a little bit of personal information about each other, keeping to business tasks during the two year high-pressure project. This meeting day was different: it was at a diner and it involved food. Conversation was a luxury not to be missed. Before we got to business, she shared a little about her weekend, which included visiting a restaurant near the neighborhood I had grown up in. Coincidentally, so had she.

Stepping outside my comfort zone, I told her that when I was very young I attended a church up the street from where she lived. To my astonishment, she share that her grandfather had been the Priest at that church. When she told me his name, I said I knew that Priest from the parish where I attended in my elementary through college years. “Yes, that’s him” was her reply; he moved from one parish to serve at the other.

I shared that her grandfather was one of the reasons I was a Postulant for the Ordained Ministry. I told her stories about his pastoral ministry and how he helped many people. She was grateful to hear them: it was Valentine’s Day; he had died years ago and she missed him.

We were remarking at how small the world was. Then she shared that she, too, had attended that parish. Somehow her age popped into the conversation, and I did  the math. To my astonishment, I realized that when I was in high school, she had been one of my Third Grade Sunday School students.  We were both taken aback at how, after over 30 years, our paths had reconnected.

A wonderful God in the Ordinary Moment:  God took two people who knew each other only in a professional sense, to show the both of us how small the world was, and how much we have in common. We only had to step outside our comfort zones and share.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

Labels

“You’re kidding me!” I said to the Postal Clerk when he told me how much the Halloween Care Package was going to cost to send to my daughter the grad student in New Mexico. The price was $8 more than last year’s package to upstate New York where she had done her undergrad work.

“The price is based on weight and distance” the guy patiently explained. “If you use a Medium Flat Rate box, you’ll save $5”. He pointed to the display of boxes in the back of the Post Office.

“Can’t you just give me that rate with the box I already packed?” I asked. He said no, that the box had to have the proper label on it to get the lower price. Mulling my options, I took back my package, went to the display and pulled out a Flat Rate box.

Standing at the counter in the back, I put together the Medium Flat Rate box, then went to open up the one I came in with to move the contents over. That one was simply labeled  ‘Mailing Box’ and was also medium-sized.  Just before I opened it, I gave the sizes of the two boxes a closer look. “It can’t be this easy” I thought to myself as I gently pushed the expensive-to-send carton inside the Flat Rate Box. With a little coaxing, the care package, still inside the original carton, fit inside the Flat Rate box. I sealed the edges and returned to the line.

I brought the now heavier double carton to the counter,  where the guy rang up the fee, $5 less than before. All because of a label.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Reflecting on the label scenario later on, I realized I’m guilty of relying on labels at times when I meet or interact with someone. I’ll judge that person, consciously or unconsciously, based on a label I or society gave them. Yet Jesus didn’t care about labels. He saw the face of God in each and every person he came across, befriending all, instructing everyone to do the same. Not easy at times for me to do, but something I’m working on with His help.

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

I smile as I think about my daughter opening the Care Package only to find another box inside… a bonus Halloween Trick and sure to generate conversation!

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

Blue eyes sparkling, he moved his right arm into an upright “L”, bent his wrist, and then touched his four fingers to his thumb.  He turned his hand toward his face, opened and closed the fingers, and without speaking pretended to have a conversation with this creative goose he had made.  The shy child smiled.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Nursing Home Courtyard was filled with families enjoying the sun, visiting loved ones who were residents or Rehab patients. The entertainer continued his show for a few more minutes, until the child’s attention was drawn elsewhere.  Watching the child return to her mother, the entertainer’s eyes continued to sparkle and he smiled as he rolled his wheelchair across the courtyard toward another resident, sitting alone. His antics continued with her, until she dozed off.

He turned his chair around, and then wheeled over to a woman sitting next to her sleeping mother. The daughter was holding tight onto a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes every now and then. The entertainer’s eyes softened, and he gently took a pen from his pocket. Without speaking, he caught the daughter’s attention. Using a wide-eyed expression and his mouth in an “O”, he held the pen upright between two fingers, and moved it to make it look like it was rubber. The daughter smiled, and thanked him. He smiled back, turned his chair around, and headed toward another corner of the yard.

A gentle face of God in the Ordinary: an elderly resident with no visitors of his own, unable to speak, had communicated volumes about the love of God to the lonely and afraid.

Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

The activity level was high in the middle pew on the left side of the church. Two toddlers were in church worshipping with their mom on a warm summer Sunday.

Kiara had just turned one. Not quite walking yet, she stood on the floor, holding onto the pew seat, cruising up and down the pew, singing in her own language. Her brother, Kaeden, a month shy of three, fluctuated between crawling along the pew on the seat following his sister, asking questions of his mom, reading a board book, looking around the congregation, requesting something to drink, and poking his sister. Occasional crashes were heard from the pew when the board book would drop on the wood floor. A squeal from Kiara jolted those around her when Kaeden tried to thoughtfully clean her nose. Patiently the mom would separate the kids when necessary, redirect Kiara back into the pew, or pick up the board book for Kaeden.

The activity level in the pew grew as the service progressed. Then suddenly, the fidgeting stopped as the first words of the Lord’s Prayer began: “Our Father…” The toddlers moved next to their mom, clasped their hands, and joined with the congregation in praying the Lord’s Prayer. Kaeden’s soft voice prayed each word clearly, Kiara’s louder voice with her own interpretation. The congregation, accustomed to setting the pace of the prayers with those around them, slowed down slightly. It was a God in the Ordinary moment, the voices of the children praying with the community of worshippers.

Amen”, said the congregation. A moment later was heard the “Amen” from Kiara.

Amen indeed.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

He pushed his metal cart slowly down the suburban street. Stopping at the end of a driveway, he opened the lid of the recycling pail, dug through, pulled out a plastic soda bottle and placed it in his cart.  Closing up the pail, he moved his cart toward the next driveway.

He’s a regular every Wednesday, Recycling Day,  in the neighborhood where I work. An elderly man, he uses the cart to help him down the street, holding onto it with one hand while he digs through a recycling pail with the other. His weekly travels include a stop at the empty lot in the middle of the block, picking up beer bottles, soda bottles or plastic water bottles, all of which can be turned in at the store for a deposit refund. At the end of the long road, his cart is full. He turns his cart in the opposite direction, heading toward the local store’s  bottle return machine.

On this particular Wednesday, while The Bottle Man was at the empty lot picking up items to return for deposit, the neighbor who lived across the street came out of his house with a bulging shopping bag . Crossing the road, he handed the bag of empty soda bottles to The Bottle Man, who took it with a wide smile. Placing the bag into his now full cart, The Bottle Man turned his cart around, and slowly headed to the store to return the bottles for the deposit money.

A God in the Ordinary moment: this elderly man, cleaning up the neighborhood where he lives. And a neighbor showing his appreciation with a small kindness.

 © Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

 My five-year old nephew Charlie and I were spending the day together. We were exploring the local village, visiting cool places like the motorcycle shop, had played on the space shuttle and slides in the playground, ate ice cream, and were now heading toward the “kite store”. My sister had given me the heads up about Charlie’s favorite places, and this one topped the list.

It wasn’t so much the store itself Charlie enjoyed, but the displays on the outside: colorful garden spinners lined the banister along the boardwalk leading to the store. Dozens more were stuck into the ground in a large area just off the sidewalk forming a garden of spinners. Many varieties of colorful circles, spinners in the shapes of cars, planes, a dog riding a bicycle, and a train cheerfully whirled in the summer wind.

Letting go of my hand, Charlie gave a squeal of delight and quickly scampered up the hill into the garden display. His excitement was infectious as he pointed to each in turn, laughing and running with them and the breeze. In a short while another little boy came up the hill, joining Charlie, and the two played through the garden, laughing with the spinners.

The boy’s mom and I chatted while the boys played. We were concerned about what the shopkeeper would say about the boys playing in the display, but the shopkeeper was too busy to notice. The boys were such a great advertisement for the garden spinners, the store now had many customers looking to purchase a spinner for their own gardens.

A God in the Ordinary moment: two little boys, strangers, enjoying a simple pleasure together in the summer breeze.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

Her name is Mary. She sat in the hospital chair, next to her bed, shivering.

“I’m so cold. They’ve turned off the air conditioner, but I’m still cold.” Two blankets were covering her thin hospital gown.

She then listed a few of her current medical problems, any of which would have produced a different statement than what she said next:

“But God is good. Any day I wake up and have another day is a good day. God is good.”

Her smile was infectious, and we laughed together. The two of us  tried to wrap the blankets so they covered her better in the chair, but she still couldn’t get warm. We visited a little longer, and as I left the room to look for another blanket, “Yes, child, God is good” were her departing words.

A little while later I returned to the room to find her shoulders wrapped in a beautifully crocheted Prayer Shawl: large rectangles of greens, surrounded by beige edging, with a stripe of burgundy running through it.

Responding to my “That’s beautiful!” Mary cheerfully told me one of the nurses had just brought it.

“There’s a tag somewhere on here that says where it’s from.” I helped her find the tag, and then read off the name of the women’s guild from one of the local churches.

“God is good. I’m so warm now.” She said with a contented sigh as she pulled the Prayer Shawl back around her.

A God in the Ordinary moment: In the faith of this hospital patient. In the kindness of a stranger who spent countless hours crocheting the Prayer Shawl. I wish the creator of this special gift could have seen the contentment in Mary’s face, her soft smile at finally being warm, and hear her words:

“God is good!”

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

Why couldn’t she see things from my perspective? I asked myself as I wheeled my bicycle out of the garage this early summer morning. My daughter Kathy and I were taking different views on a particular issue, and neither one of us was budging.

I snapped on my helmet, got on my bike, and headed down the driveway. The early morning sun was streaming through the trees, just rising just over the rooftops of the houses in this suburban neighborhood. The weather wasn’t too warm yet, and the humidity was low.

My usual morning exercise bike ride route was a couple of 2 mile laps in a clockwise direction around my neighborhood. Bored with that routine, and somewhat frustrated by the disagreement, I took a deep breath of the clean morning air, and turned my bike in the opposite direction.

The usual chorus of songbirds accompanied me. The rabbits were out feeding on front lawns, the squirrels chasing each other around.

Going in this counter-clockwise direction, my eyes were drawn to a different side of the street, and I saw gardens, trees, bushes and other sites I didn’t see in my usual direction. I got fresh ideas for my own front yard, and saw some beautifully decorated porches.

During the second lap, I reflected how simply changing my direction gave me a new perspective of my neighborhood.

What if you tried to see things from Kathy’s perspective, instead of insisting she see things from yours? asked the Quiet Voice.

The question made me a little uncomfortable, because He was right. Instead of insisting on my own way, I’d try to see it from hers. A different perspective can open my eyes and mind to new ideas.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

The old yellow Cadillac pulled up to the front door of the Physical Therapy Office and parked under the No Parking sign. An elderly wife got out of the driver’s seat, walked to the back of the car, and popped open the trunk. Stretching, she reached in and pulled out a folded up wheelchair. Putting the chair down on the ground, she unfolded it, and then wheeled it to the front passenger door.

It took a little while and a bit of help from the wife, but the husband was finally out of the car and seated securely in the wheelchair. The wife pushed her husband in the chair up the sidewalk ramp, and then put it in park next to the front door railing. Assuring him she’d be right back, she went into the car, started it up, and drove to a legal parking space.

The husband patiently waited in his chair for her to return. When she had walked from the parking lot back to him, they smiled at each other. She then stood next to her husband. Curious, and wondering why they weren’t moving, I looked closer and saw that the husband was slowly, carefully, moving his arm up and out so his hand could push the handicapped door opener. When he had successfully opened the door for his wife, she thanked him and then pushed his chair into the Physical Therapy Office.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

It was hard to say goodbye, even though the person had suffered from cancer and death assured the physical pain was over. I had questions about the suffering, wondering why it had to be this way and if there had been anything else that could have been done, the feeling of having no control very frustrating.

With a mind full of doubts and second guessing at the end of the day, I went out to the back deck. I sat on the deck swing, facing west, watching the sunset on this late Spring evening. The humidity was low, the temperature comfortable, and the neighborhood was quiet. I took several deep breaths, trying to clear my mind.

As I became still, I could hear the soft peeps from the new batch of baby sparrows in the birdhouse on the south side of the porch. The parents’ were faithfully bringing food fifteen hours after they had started at the sunrise. A starling family was out on the back lawn, the mother teaching the youngster how to forage his own bugs and worms. She kept bending and picking up bugs; he’d try but didn’t seem to get the coordination yet. The younger bird would get impatient, and then squawk for food from his mother. She would oblige, placing a bug in his opened beak. I laughed at the amusing sight: the baby was the same size as his mother!

They were joined by a mother cottontail rabbit and her baby, who took up residence off to the side, nibbling on the clover in the lawn. The baby rabbit was adorable – its ears were the size of the tip of my pinky finger, its head barely seen over the grass.

The sun continued to get lower, until it disappeared and sent soft pink arms of color stretching over the sky.

As the sun melted into the horizon, doubts did also. A sense of peace came over me; in the quiet scenes before me I saw a gentle reminder that God is here, in the ordinary, and He has it all under control.

            O Gracious Light   Phos hilaron 

            O gracious Light,

            pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,

            O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

 

            Now as we come to the setting of the sun,

            and our eyes behold the vesper light,

            we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

            You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,

            O Son of God, O Giver of life,

            and to be glorified through all the worlds

                  – From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011