The Gift of Emptiness – February 21, 2021

For the majority of my young life, the only thing that I felt gave me a sense of worth was my academic success.  Being recognized with awards, with scholarships, receiving the praise of my parents reinforced this.  It was not my looks, not my athletic skills, not my popularity.  And it was the need to continue to reinforce this sense of worth, along with some strong urging from my parents, which drove me to attend law school.  Finding my worth in my academic success transformed in adulthood to finding my worth in my career.  It was this desire to feed a sense of worth within which led me to a job at a law firm in Chicago.

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Entering the Dark Wood – February 14, 2021

It was customary in law school to take a big trip after graduation and after completing the bar exam.  It was our last chance to take an extended time off before starting our jobs.  Once we began working, we knew it would be months, if not years, before we got any vacation time.  My friend, we will call her Karen, graduated from her master’s program at the same time as me.  We had been friends since our freshman year of college, and both of us had always wanted to go to Europe.  So we decided we would take a two week trip, spending a week in London and a week in Paris.

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The One – February 7, 2021

For a period of time I served as the supervisor of the elder abuse program for McLean and Livingston counties.  And during that time, I encountered people in circumstances which I never knew existed where we live.  People who were enduring unimaginable hardships, living in isolation and heartbreaking conditions.  During one of my most memorable cases, I was contacted by a home health worker who was concerned about one of her patients.  We will call her Mae.  The worker had advised Mae’s family to complete an application for Medicaid so she could receive some needed services.   But Mae’s daughter had never followed through.  The worker didn’t think there was anything serious going on, but asked me to check in on her and possibly help her complete the application.  It sounded like an easy situation to handle, one that wouldn’t take up too much of my time as supervisor, so I decided to take the case myself.

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January 31, 2021 – Unexpected

Since I was a child, I always wanted to own a horse.  So when Kathy fell in love with the house we currently live in and I saw it had a horse barn, I was willing to go through the pain of moving.  Over the past several years, I had gained some confidence as a horseman.  Our family had traveled to a ranch out west before the pandemic.  On that trip, I went on an 8 hour loping ride through the badlands.  After that, I thought I could handle pretty much anything.  But I decided I should take some lessons before buying a horse so I could learn how to care for it.  Not necessarily to become a better rider.  I felt I had that under control. [Read more…]

Weight – January 24, 2021

Looking out my windows earlier this month, I was captivated by the ice which covered the trees after the ice storm.  We have many trees on our lot, and I have been surprised to see that not one of them has fallen.  Their branches have sagged greatly under the weight they have been holding.  Branches have broken or fallen to the ground.  But the trees have remained standing.  Seeing their sagging branches, knowing the strain they are under, I longed for warmer temperatures, hoping their burdens can be lifted.  Covered with ice, the trees looked beautiful.  But under that beauty there was strain holding up that weight and the constant threat of breaking completely. [Read more…]

Preparing to Sing – 1/17/21

One of my favorite movies is called “The Dancer Upstairs.”  There is a scene in the beginning of the movie where the driver and passenger in a car are listening to a song performed by Nina Simone called “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.”  The song begins the clip you just heard, with Nina Simone speaking rather than singing.  Confused as to why they are listening to this, why the singer is spending so much time speaking rather than singing, the passenger says to the driver of the car, “Why Does She Talk?”  The driver responds definitively, as if no other explanation is required, by saying, “She Is Preparing to Sing.” [Read more…]

January 10, 2021 – Stepping Stones

Growing up, I loved being outside.  Our house was across the street from the local park.  In that park, there was one place which was my favorite to go – a group of about 15 pine trees which grew together and formed a sanctuary in which I could hide.  I would spend hours climbing the evergreens and creating forts in the heights of their branches.

There was also a creek which ran behind our house.  During certain times of the year, this creek would flood.  And water would run through the park to the creek behind our house.  This was no small trickle.  It was like a raging river which divided my house from my beloved pine grove. [Read more…]

January 3, 2021 – A Marvelous Journey

I have never been one who has enjoyed traveling.  When I was young, my favorite part of taking a journey was coming home.  My travels as a child mainly centered around taking my sister, who is 14 years older than me, to or from college.  I dreaded those long hours trapped in the car, the seeming eternity separated from my Atari video game system.  So much so that there was there was even a little song that I sang in the car as these long journeys neared their end.  Since this is the first time we are together, I don’t want to sabotage our budding relationships by subjecting you to my voice and singing that for you.

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December 27, 2020

“It’s Your Story Now,” Susan and Bob Ryder

Praying, Mary Oliver
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November 22, 2020

“Prelude to Goodbye,” Bob Ryder

READING

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant as well as to harvest;
a time to kill as well as to heal;
a time to take things apart as well as a time to put them back together;
there’s a time to cry just as there’s a time to laugh;
there’s a time to grieve just as there’s a time to rejoice;
there’s a time to scatter bricks, just as there’s a time to lay them in place;
there’s a time to embrace, as well as a time to refrain from embracing;
there’s a time to call off the search, as well as a time to begin looking;
there’s a time to give belongings away, just as there’s a time to collect what we need;
there’s a time to tear things apart, just as there’s a time to sew them together;
there’s a time to keep silence as well as a time to speak;
there’s a time to hate as well as a time to love;
there’s a time for war, and there’s a time for peace. [Read more…]