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It was late August, time for Mother’s jelly making for our winters during the war years. From a farmer’s stall in the country, Dad had already lugged baskets of purple grapes into the hot kitchen and placed them in the sink for the first washing. All was ready.

Perspiration glistening on her cheeks, her brow taut, Mother set to work. With gloved-hands she pulled grapes from their woody stems, rinsed them under the faucet, then plunked them into steel pots filled with water upon the counter. Next came hours of simmering the bubbling grapes over low burners. At intervals, she stirred them with a long-handled spoon between sips of ice water. Next came cups of sugar and more stirring. From the living room came strains of symphonies from the Capehart. Toward mid-afternoon, Mother poured the sticky mass through cheesecloth, hooked to the top of a tripod, and watched the gummy sweetness drip into the pot below.

That evening saw jars of grape jelly, sealed with paraffin wax, lining the pantry shelf. Her work finished, her splotched apron resembled the regal pastiche of a preschooler, her housedress soaked with perspiration.

The pungent aroma seeped into the breakfast room where I was sitting with the funnies from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Already, I was enjoying the sweetness of Mother’s grape jelly on warm buttered toast before walking to school.

With this blog, I honor our Mother’s courage in maintaining the semblance of normalcy in our home, all the while dreading Dad’s eligibility for the draft and becoming cannon fodder. That did not happen.

 

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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.

 

Seems that my long life is like a treasure hunt.

Once I stepped back from significant teachers and took stock of what I found, I began discerning clues about the Sacred in places I ordinarily would not have frequented, specifically my unconscious; its darkness, impenetrable. My loneliness deepened, my discomfort mounted, and questions spliced my resolve. Even more disconcerting were my dreams, like cattle prods urging me forward. With trepidation, one foot scaled that ravine; another trudged through brambles that bloodied my calves. Many dead-ends undermined my resolve to forge ahead, and yet there was no other option. There was always the next clue to discover.

Years passed. This was no child’s game. Annual retreats afforded me respite to consolidate my gains and give thanks to God. But then the struggle began afresh—Still another clue to discover. So what is this treasure that has attracted my being, from earliest memory? Once glimpsed, its allure only compelled more engagement.

Again, I look to the Gospels. Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a hidden treasure buried in a field (Mt. 13). Someone finds it, reburies it, then thrilled by his discovery, sells all he has and buys this field. He must have it. His life depends upon it.

Like the seeker, I cherish this treasure, tucked away in my depths. Lest I become puffed up by this discovery, the apostle Paul likens my humanness to an earthenware vessel (II Cor. 4:7), ordinary, and in time, cracks apart when no longer needed.

So the treasure hunt continues—My self-emptying also continues.

 

 

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