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The sign is old, weather-worn, its letters somewhat faded, but again the invitation is extended:

 

 

No matter the overcast skies, the chill in the air—barricades close off the street to vehicular traffic, cloth-covered tables and folding chairs fill the cul-de-sac, and neighbors carrying hot and cold platters and bowls filled with choice recipes spill onto the sidewalk. Their steps suggest enthusiasm, camaraderie, and anticipation that new residents will join in on the fun around the brazier fire.

What’s unusual about this block party is its longevity. Established in 1973 by a handful of residents, intent upon creating a haven for their growing children, the annual gathering did just that. Within this ambiance they thrived, as well as countless others, in succeeding decades. Currently, ten children below the age of seven are blossoming; another attends high school and two in universities.

Such neighborliness has fused a tangible energy that still pulsates among the twenty-two brick bungalows that line Douglas Court. Like kaleidoscopes with ever-changing jeweled vistas, stories abound: babies, grandbabies, graduations, birthday and anniversary parties, holiday gatherings, diminishments, even deaths, each illumined by the waxing and waning of sun-years.

Such a privilege to have lived on Douglas Court for over twelve years! I’m so grateful—and there have been many signs.

 

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“The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.” So prayed the Psalmist over three thousand years ago, his response to the ills of his day.

His angst resonates with our own: darkness and confusion that numb sensibilities, sicken resolve, foment divisions, and bifurcate values. The computerized stranglehold upon time seems to have become the new god, the Sacred appearing to have abandoned his creation. Beneath the glitz of social media, the entertainment world, and the towering megapolis of progress evidenced in skylines the world over, putrefies a spiritual and moral stench that suffocates the soul.

But no matter, greedy pundits say, just ramp up the freebies and just watch how the sheeple will respond. Give them more cake.

In the Psalmist’s time, however, a remnant held fast to the Sword of Truth within the depths of their being. The same holds true today. As dismaying as the media’s escalating reports of rancor, carnage, and death appear, we cling to a different reality, one modeled by Jesus of Nazareth who endured the same dregs of evil, yet triumphed over them.

So with today’s Psalmist, the author of the Serenity Prayer, we pray “…taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if we surrender to Your will, so that we may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

All is indeed well.

 

Tiger lilies are beginning to bloom. Talk of the Town, a popular species in our neighborhood, flourishes along fences and side gardens. Morning breezes excite their six-sculpted petals trembling with stamens and pistils; their orangeness ushers in summer’s brash colors. But in time, these rowdy adventurers will collapse their petals and wither and drop to the ground. Would that we could hold onto their beauty.

Looking deeper, we find this ordinary perennial rooted within the cycle of life and death. We, too, have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced the pastel feathering of fruit trees, only to move into summer’s light-plays, followed by autumn’s chill and winter’s bluster? And quickened, yet again, with the return of kaleidoscopic color enlivening somber spirits?

So how can we relish such seasonal changes? Allow them to teach us? It seems to be about sacrifice: cutting away the unworkable for the fresh and untried.

Jesus talks about this when speaking of “the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28 +). He challenges his anxious listeners, ourselves included, to own their small-mindedness and to set their hearts on God’s Kingdom. Therein is experienced ultimate significance dressed in unchangeable colors, fresher than the first morning of creation.

 

 

 

 

 

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