Saturday, April 13, 2013

#426: Reflections on Auld Lang Syne

I usually write a New Year's post. Scanning them over the years, I have to say I really like the way my life has changed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What's in a Name? - The Holy Name of Jesus

On January 1, the eighth day after Christmas, we remember the day Joseph & Mary's child was circumcised and named.
The name that we translate into Jesus was Yeshua in Hebrew. It is actually a familiar version of the name Yehoshua. It means "Lord (or Jehovah) who is salvation)." 

In English, we might call a child Faith or Godfrey or Regis if we wanted to give them a name that sounded particularly pious or royal. So it is with the name of Jesus. It was not a rare name in Hebrew culture, but it was a special one.

In time, he came to be known as Jesus Christ, but Christ is not a name, rather it is a title, from the Greek christos which is the translation of the Hebrew messias meaning "anointed one." In the gospels, the evangelists refer to Jesus the Christ. After the resurrection, the early Christians transformed Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus into a single proper name, not unlike Julius Caesar.

So what's in Jesus' name? Not a magic spell that grants us wishes when we pray "in Jesus' name." Instead, his name honors both his heavenly father, and the world whose salvation he came to effect. Just as Jesus was both God and human, so also his name spans two dimensions - Jesus the man and Jesus the name are both links between the creator and creation. The name Jesus testifies to the radical love God has for the world.


Friday, January 1, 2010

#162 Not Another "I Hated '09" Post

So '09 sucked for you. Grow up. The year was hard in Pennsyltucky too. Some life lessons come hard.

Don't sell your love to the highest bidder.
Just because someone cares about the things you can do for them, that doesn't mean they care about you.

The other shoe always drops.
When you see the headlight at the other end of the tunnel, for God's sake, get off the tracks.

Genuine loyalty can come from surprising people.
There are people out there who will stick with you through thick and thin - but they may not be the ones you expected.

Blood really is thicker than water.
When times are the hardest - when worse actally does come to worst - you find out that your family cares the most.

A drowning sage does not second guess the lifeboat.
It ain't the boat that got you here, and it ain't the boat you would choose, but sometimes you just have to climb in and start rowing.

Never argue with someone who buys their own bullshit.
 Let life teach them what they need to know.

You have no idea how much people care for you.
There are people who think better of you than you think of yourself. Love these people with all your heart. They are your friends.


Friday, December 31, 2010

#293: My Friend, the Beautiful Lunatic

My friend Alan ended his fight with cancer today. As much as I want to be sad, I can't help smiling every time I think of him.

He was the doctor on duty when our first cat, "Uh-Huh" collapsed on the examination table. He held her in his hands and gave her CPR for several minutes until it became clear that he would not be able to revive her. He was there again when little "Mo," the eternal kitten, arrived at the back door of the hospital, gasping for breath and turning blue. This time, Alan was able to bring our cat back from death. 

Alan would come and go in our home like one of the family. He would show up with a six-pack of beer and a goofy grin We laughed ourselves silly as Alan lifted Mo up in his bony hands and gently tap tap tapped his little kitty head to the ceiling of our living room, over and over again. Mo has forgiven, but never forgotten this . He still refers to our friend as "Bloody Alan." 

Then there was the night in our living room when he taught Mrs P's boss' nine year old son to roll up his pants, raise his knees, tuck his hands under them, and make farting noises by kicking his feet up and down. 

One night, on the feast of St Francis, Alan came to St. Martha's to participate in the blessing of the animals. Though he was not a member of our parish, or even an Episcopalian that I can remember, he moved reverently among dogs, birds, cats, and one very puzzled pony. He laid his hands on each head, just as the priest did, and blessed them as brothers and sisters. After the service and the obligatory pot luck supper, (always an adventure when the parish hall is full of animals,) Alan spoke about what it meant to minister to the suffering of animals and the people who loved them. 

I hate that he died fighting cancer. God forgive me, but there are a lot of other people I would rather see dead. Cancer doesn't choose us any more than we choose cancer. We just sort of bump into one another and our crazy story plays itself out. I don't try to make sense of his death. I grieve for the laughter I will never be able to share with him again.

But then I look into Mo's kittenish eyes, now 15 years old and usually tired, but still afire with the life he once came so close to losing.  I glance at the spot on the ceiling where a pair of pointy ears once tap tap tapped until we were all weeping with laughter, (all of us except the cat, of course.) I know I should be sad. But whenever I think of my friend, the beautiful lunatic, I can't help smiling.

God bless you, Alan. You loved all creatures, great and small. I can only imagine the scene when you arrive at heaven's gate and all those cats start rubbing your legs at the same time. I can't wait to see you again myself. I'll bring the Rolling Rock in green long-necks. We can lean against the wall and flick caps at the back of St Peter's head while you teach me that leg-farting thing.

Till then, my brother...


Saturday, December 31, 2011

#381: Peeking Around the Bend

What's around the bend in Pennsyltucky?
In a way, it's a pity that we celebrate New Year's Eve by getting drunk. This is such a great day to be awake.

In some ways, 2011 was a hard year, but even through the pain, we were blessed. We lost a lot of people we love, particularly our beloved brother Doug who fought cancer with such courage and faithfulness. Near the end of his battle, he spoke the words that just may go on my tombstone. He was lying in the hospital when he was told of a friend who had given his heart to Jesus in church that morning, Doug wept and whispered, "It's all going to be worth it." And so it is.

We lost our house, after a long game of chicken with Wells Fargo. The experience was sometimes painful, more often, it was just a pain, but we were blessed to have the support of our friend Donna, a realtor and a saint, (yes, it is possible.) There was Judge Scorsone who stood between us and the bank's lawyers long enough for us to complete the short sale of the property. And most important of all, our brothers and sisters, Bob, Bobbie, and Paul, who helped us to find a new "place for our stuff." We lost a house, but thanks to them, we were able to keep our home intact.

Me and my little licensed head-shrinker.
After delaying her studies for almost a year, while she was busy keeping me alive, Mrs. P finally got the chance to prepare for her LCSW, She is at last a licensed clinical social worker. She lost weekends and nights of sleep with her head in the books. We even took DVDs with us on road trips so she could study in the car. All that study had to be crammed into the few cracks remaining in her regular schedule. And when the moment of truth came, she aced her exam.

We traveled to Pennsylvania twice. It was my first time home since I got sick, and I didn't realize how much I missed the forests and hills of Western PA. My 30th college reunion was full of joy and tears with old friends Jeff, Joellen, Marcia, and Erin. So was my first, live Steeler game for which I am ever grateful to my old high school classmate, Skip. He gave me a day I will never forget, and can never repay. I got to taste Mum's cooking again, to sleep in Gramma's house, to hold my sisters in my arms, and to run the dirt roads we used to walk when I was a child.

2011 was the year the doc told me I didn't have cancer any more. I resolved to live the life we had all fought so hard to save. 

I returned to my beloved Actors' Guild in Glengarry Glen Ross, and End Days. And I got to play in the park again, with a turn as William, Lord Hastings in Richard III.

Jake and the Fat Man.
The Fat Man is running the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6. The reality of it hasn't quite set in, yet. I'm not sure it will until somewhere around mile 18 of the race. This time last year, I walked a mile and felt like I had won a gold medal. I ran a 3K in March, a couple of 5Ks in the Spring, then my first 10K on July 4. I got it into my head that I could finish a half-marathon, and in October, Mrs P cheered as I crossed the finish line. While I trained for that race, people contributed over $3500 to One for the Five, a project to honor fallen cancer fighters, and to raise money for the Markey Cancer Foundation. Soon, I'll be launching two more projects, one to help Actors' Guild, and one to help fund LIVESTRONG at the YMCA.

When I heard about a program at the YMCA to help cancer survivors improve their fitness, I jumped at it. I was expecting a free gym membership for three months. I got much more. The Y gave me what it has given so many people over the years: a place to exercise; a chance to meet friends; a way to discover a sense of purpose and value. I fell in love with my coaches, Melissa and Carrie and Chelsea; and the Eight: mighty women who taught me how much fun kicking cancer's ass can be. Loved them so much that when my program was over, I went to the boss and asked for a job. This year, I'm going to start studying to become a trainer at the Y.

With some of the LS@theY team for the Reindeer Ramble.
So, in all sobriety I can say I'm the happiest Pennsy I've ever been. I love my wife more than ever. I have work that excites me. I have passion that makes me look forward to ten miles of asphalt on a chilly Bluegrass morning. I can't stop thanking God for giving me this second (or third? or fourth? or umpteenth?) chance to live.

2011? It was a very good year. 2012? Gonna be even better. Let's love it together, huh?


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