Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sometimes I get Tired - a moment to whine.

     Okay, I admit it.  Sometimes I get tired of being "the one" in charge.  I get tired of never really having a day off because if I'm not working at work, I'm "working" being solo Mommy, which is often harder.  This week is vacation week for me, and so I took my youngest 2 children to Great Wolf Lodge for the last couple days while eldest child is having special time with her grandparents for a few days.  It was great fun, but still, I was the only adult.  And today, even though I'm still "on vacation" I wrote a sermon (because we have a service tonight that I'm still leading), started dealing with trying to get our church web-site back up, answered several hundred email (okay, I admit it wasn't that many, but it sure felt like it was!!) and attended to some house projects that were a lot of work but desperately needed my attention.  I paid bills.  I ordered books.  I tried to get help dealing with the horrible smell that is now emanating from my fire-place and which undoubtedly belongs to a demised animal that will cost me a great deal of money to have removed.  I wrote in my journal, worked on my book a bit, and generally have felt this great pressure today to get so much more done than I have.  I've been on my own now for a year and 2 1/2 months (not that I'm counting), the lone adult holding it all together - work, kids (including one with special needs), household.  I take care of a lot of people - my kids, mostly, but also people in need of pastoral care, extended family members, etc, and sometimes I get tired.  Sometimes I get lonely.  Sometimes I feel the pressure of the thousand and one things that have to happen every day in order for my small world to function.  I have a team of support folk who are wonderful.  But when things are too crazy and busy, I don't reach out to them because it feels like there isn't time - isn't time to take care of me - which leads to further exhaustion.
      It's more than that, though.  It's more than just the "what needs to be done".  It is also my own inner voices, which are highly demanding, which lead to a tiring day.  Those are the voices that say that raising three kids (again, including an extremely challenging special needs boy), trying to support with time and money an incarcerated ex-spouse, working a full time job as pastor plus another job as church musician, doing laundry, keeping the house clean, working on my book, reaching out to friends, praying and praying and praying - that somehow all of this is not enough.  And that I'm not doing all of it well enough.  But it is also the "image" of pastor that I often feel I have to present.  I feel that I have to be the one holding it all together.  I feel that I have to be strong and faithful and confident.  I have to be quick to forgive, quicker to apologize, and never make a mistake that actually makes a real difference to anyone.  I need to have vision and to be the one to show those around me where God is present in each and every moment.  I have to put aside my own ego and my own pains and griefs and be present with others in their situations.  I have to be perfect - according to the Book of Barbara.  And I can't do it.  So I get tired.  Tired of the voices inside that tell me I'm not enough.  Tired of the attempts to write meaningful words that tell stories without hurting anyone or revealing anything about others in the process.  Tired of the same old memories and thoughts and self-corrections running through my head.  Tired of ....well, just tired.
     So, for today, I decide to own that.  To name it for myself and for other people.  Sometimes I get tired.  We all get tired.  Some days we get lonely.  We all get lonely.  And it is human and it is okay and it is acceptable to not be perfect and to not be always upbeat and to have days where we are just...tired.
    God is still there with us, even in the tired.  What does God have to say to me today in my place of tired?  God says, "you are enough."  "Being imperfect is still enough because I love you no matter what."  "You are loved." "What is most important is this moment, living now, even if that means you don't get everything 'done'." "What is most important is the people around you, not the projects."  "You don't have time to NOT reach out to those who love you."  "You don't have time or energy to NOT take care of yourself."  "It's okay."  "You are okay."  "Tired is okay."  "And I am still here with you, even in that, even in that."
     So my word to all of you today is the same.  It's okay to have down days.  And God is with you in those as well.  Thanks be to God. (and thanks for listening to my 'whine').

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Faith or what it ISN'T to believe

     I heard a speaker Monday evening talking about faith.  He was a very good story teller, but I found that I took serious issue with one of his main points.  He was telling a story in which the person said a prayer asking for something specific and then gave thanks for that thing before it came.  She declared that that was faith.  That God our loving Father would want us to have everything good and so we can have faith and confidence that when we ask for something it will come.  I mean don't all loving parents give everything their children want to their children?  Always?  Without exception?  Just because they love them?  Right?
     To be clear, that isn't my experience of God, and it isn't my experience as a parent either.  For example, there have been some studies that have shown that when children are never allowed the opportunity to fail, when they finally come against failure, often as a young adult, they can't handle it. If they haven't had the practice of facing disappointment, they don't know how to move beyond a personal failure, and sometimes the results are catastrophic  (see The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine).  I think that we usually intuitively know this.  As a result, we do let our children reap the natural consequences, sometimes, of their actions.  We allow them to experience disappointment and failure, even when we might have the chance to have them avoid it, because there are important, life-serving lessons to be learned.  I will not write my child's report for them when they tell me at 9:00 at night that they have a report due the next day which they haven't started.  It may be a very painful lesson to learn that they have to take responsibility for things like this, but it is a lesson that will serve them throughout life.  We may live in an instant gratification society, but I don't believe that's what God would have us learn, either - that everything we want is just there for us to have at the exact moment that we want it.  Instead, I think God values things like patience, perseverance, fortitude.  I think God wants us to learn to accept that there are certain things we will just have to accept and won't be able to change.  We can't change other people, for example.  We can't make them be or do what we want them to be or do.  That is a hard lesson to learn, but another lesson that is necessary to learn.  If God were just a glorified Santa Claus who simply gave us what we wanted every time we asked for it and believed that we would get it, we would never have the gift, the opportunity, the pleasure and treasure and learning that come from experiencing disappointment, of needing to learn resignation, of experiencing grief, of learning to walk with others through their losses and disappointments, of seeing that resurrection follows death and loss, of learning that one dream ending often means another can begin, and one hope dying gives way to new paths that we could never have imagined.
     It's not that I don't think gratitude is important.  I've written and preached many times about gratitude and I will say now what I always say that it is always good and appropriate to offer God thanks for whatever is coming as well as whatever has been, and especially for whatever IS.  But I think it is arrogant to assume we can know what it is that God will give and when.  God answers all prayers.  But sometimes the answer is no.  And again, while sometimes that "no" is painful, if we approach life with openness, trust, faith (and by this I don't mean faith that God will just give us everything we want, but faith that God will give us the best we need to learn, to grow, to live - even when life or other people throw lemons and tornadoes and curves our way, God can bring good out of our tragedies if we look to God to do so), then we can keep our eyes open to see the good, even in the "no", even in the pain, even in the struggles.
     I also find that saying "thank you" for something you haven't received yet feels somehow manipulative to me.  It feels like trying to "control" what God wants to give you simply by saying "thanks" for it.  I don't think that's how God works.
     I say all of this recognizing the many stories out there of people giving thanks only to receive what it is they have given thanks for.  But personally, I think that says a lot more about God's grace in the face of our arrogance and attempted manipulation.  God gives us grace by none-the-less giving us what we've asked for and not being affected by our flaws, but by the desire to connect with God and the need to have what we are seeking.
    Still, "we thank you God, for what we are about to receive" is always appropriate, even when we have no idea what it is we will receive.  "We will see" is one of the things I learned this week that I say a lot.  And I guess I do.  Because I mean that.  We will see what God will give, when God will give it.  We can await with anticipation expecting it to be wonderful and glorious and grace-filled, and we are free to ask very specifically for the things we want, the things we need - God wants to hear from us in this way, God wants that relationship with us.  But I will still maintain that we cannot dictate to God what it will be that we will need, or what is best ultimately for us or anyone else.  Thanks be to God that sometimes the answer is "no", even to things we think we want.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is it to really love?

What is it to love? 
The dictionary defines it in the following ways:
a  (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child>  (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers  (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> 
b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
3a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love> 
b  (1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment  (2) British —used as an informal term of address
4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as  (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind  (2) : brotherly concern for others 
b : a person's adoration of God

Why is it that we don’t get to “unselfish concern for another” until the fourth definition?  And are we really capable of that unselfish concern for another?  For anyone?  The closest we come is perhaps our love of our children.  But I think that most of us expect something in return for the love we give.  Why else would we become heartbroken when someone we love (in whatever way – and that includes any of our children) doesn’t return that love?
Is it just that we miss them?  No, because in some cases we still see and interact with the other even if they don’t love us: we are around them, even if they don’t love us.  Also, with people we love with whom we do feel secure, we don’t necessarily spend the time away from them hurting or missing them.  We may think about them, but it doesn’t usually hurt to do so.
Is it about our egos?  Yes.  When someone loves us we feel good about ourselves and who we are.  This is especially true if it is someone we admire, respect, love.  Their love affirms us as worthy, as valued.  When they don’t love us, it hurts because it feels like they are making us somehow less.  I am a big Columbo fan and in one of the murder mysteries that I watched last week, a jilted lover killed her former partner.  I get it.  But I don’t think that’s really love. 
I mean, what kind of love is it that is about getting something in return?  It is a natural human love, but it isn’t the kind of love that God calls us to.  People of faith are called to love unselfishly and unconditionally.  We are called to love in a way that is truly about seeing the other, affirming the other and giving care.  Love in this way is not even about liking the other person – it is about wanting the highest good for the other.  That is what love, at its best, is really about.  That is the kind of love that God calls us to have for everyone we encounter – friend and foe alike.  And I actually think that this kind of love is somehow easier to give to people we don’t LIKE as much.  We can care about them without expecting something in return because we don’t have our egos invested in the same way.  We can provide care for them without putting our self-esteems on the line if they reject our efforts.  We can truly love them in an unselfish way because we don’t care as much how they respond, react, or return that love to us.
All of these thoughts have led me into a practice of praying differently for people than I did before.  I think in the past many times my prayers for others have had too much of my ego in them.  I have prayed with all of my feelings very present about each individual – whether those feelings be positive or negative, they have been there.  And I find myself now doing the practice that 12-step groups encourage of really praying for what is best for each person, regardless of how that will affect me.  It feels very different because it requires putting myself into their shoes – really putting myself into their situations and thinking about what is best for them from that place (not what is best for me with them, or what is best for the two of us together, or what is generically best).  Knowing that we are called even to pray for our enemies, I used to pray pretty generally for those with whom I was upset or hurt – things like “I pray for the best wholeness and goodness for __________.  I pray for reconciliation between us.  I pray for healing.”  That’s fine.  But I’m trying to go deeper and more real in my love for these individuals, in my genuine love for them, despite my feelings of like or hurt - putting aside my own ego.  So instead I find myself really putting myself into their place and thinking about what I would need and want in those places.  Now the prayers are more “I pray for ____________ that they feel the love and care that they need each and every day.  I pray that _______________ can make their primary relationship into one that is affirming, life-giving, uplifting.  I pray that _______________ may be healed from a sense of pain and disappointment.  I pray that depression is lifted.  I pray that __________ may no longer feel alone or lonely, but feel surrounded by your love and care.  I pray that _____________’s children may also be whole and healthy and strong.”  I put myself in their shoes and think about what they are going through.  I think about what they are experiencing.  And from that place I pray for them. 
          As I have mentioned before, I have a prayer bowl in which I have the names of people for whom I am praying.  And when I was praying the way I was before, afterwards, I often felt God calling me to take out of the prayer bowl any with whom I was personally upset or hurt because I needed to really turn them over to God.  But when I pray in this way, I find instead that I am called to keep praying for them daily: to keep sending that positive energy and hope for their wholeness, happiness, well-being, and connection with God.  Because before, focusing on people whom I had hurt or who had hurt me was putting me into my own hurts and ego challenges, keeping me stuck and focused on problems and pain.  But now, it isn’t about me.  It is truly about the other person – seeing them, loving them with all the care I can, and praying for the best for each of them.  As a result, I found myself putting back into my prayer bowl a couple people whom I hadn’t prayed for in awhile, but who really need prayers (as we all do).
          I am reminded of the following scene from Bruce Almighty (get through the first 15 seconds or so to the real prayer part).

Bruce finally is able to leave his ego behind for awhile, to see the other person and to pray the best for her, regardless of the hurt he was feeling.  That is love.  That is real love.  It is not about what I want, but what is best for the other.
    I'll admit, sometimes this is hard to do.  Sometimes the pain and hurt come up for me.  And I don't think God wants us to just shove those feelings away, either.  So I separate them out.  When I pray for the other, it is about them. I put myself in their shoes and pray genuinely for happiness, wholeness and well-being.  Then the prayer is about their faith, their connection with God, their peace and growth.  But then I also pray for me - and that allows me to also express my feelings and hurts and to turn them over to God for healing as well.
    This is learning to love in the way God calls us to love - without ego, without selfish regard, without it being about ME.  That is a journey worth taking.  And I thank God for putting all of us on the path.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Love and self-esteem

     Have you ever noticed that when someone loves us, it is easy to see that this is about them?  They love us because of certain abilities they have to see the good in us, or certain things in their personality that are drawn to aspects of our own personality.  Or maybe it is just a God- Spirit connection or maybe it really is "pheromones" that connect us as friends as well as any other kind of relationship.  At any rate, it is easy for us to see that it isn't about us, really.  That their caring is a gift of grace, for which we can be grateful, but one which we haven't somehow "earned".
     I've been thinking about this lately as I've reflected on the different places I've lived and worked and moved and breathed and had my being.  I am incredibly, deeply blessed beyond my expectations or hopes with amazing and wonderful friends, many of whom have become true family - some who have been friends for 30 years, some for just a few.  I am so very grateful for the constancy of these friendships, for the support of these truly amazing people in whose faces I see God's reflection and in whose words I hear God's voice.  Some of the friendships that have survived and grown (despite distances, dramas and other issues) have surprised me, some of the people who have chosen to hang in there through the trials and struggles and who have stood by have deepened my vision and belief in the love possible for many humans.  For every one of them I am grateful.  I recognize that this shows depth in each of these people, that it shows constancy and commitment and strength and the capacity to love in each of these individuals.  Someone asked me recently if the things I have faced had caused me to be bitter and cynical about humanity.  But the truth is far from this.  Yes, some people have disappointed me, surprised me, upset me, hurt me.  But the great majority of the people I've encountered, talked to, shared with, walked with through this time have been absolutely amazing in their ability to simply be present, to offer care, to see deeper than judgments, to move beyond the fear that leads to prejudices and blindness, to offer wisdom and to support my faith with their own.  And it is so easy for me to see that this is about each one of them...That their caring and amazing capacity to love is pure grace - gifts from God that I did not earn and could not deserve.  And even those who have hurt me through all of this - I see in them, too, their humanity and struggle to do what is right, what is best.  I see that they are limited people as I am, struggling to find their way.  No, I have not become jaded about people.  I am simply more aware of the grace that each friendship represents, and the amazing gift that each smile, hug, or conversation really is.
     But I've also been listening to a couple of my friends who are going through personal hurts right now.  And as easy as it is to see that when we are loved it is pure grace, for some reason it is hard to see or experience the reverse of this.  When someone doesn't love us, or what is even harder - if someone stops loving us, we often see this as being caused by something "wrong" with us, or something we have done wrong.  It is not as easy to see the truth that this is the same - a person's love for us or lack of love for us says volumes about who they are, their abilities to love or extend themselves to others, their abilities to commit to relationships, to forgive mistakes, to work through challenges, to accept differences in temperaments, thinking and behaviors, their perceptions of who we are, and their choices and desires for what they want in friendships or relationships.
     When we don't love someone or when we stop loving someone else, we know this is about us.  The common phrase used in so many break ups of "this isn't about you, this is about me" is true.  We recognize that our love or lack of love for another person does not change their innate worth at all. That it isn't really about them, but about what we want in our friendships or relationships.  It's about us.  But again, from the perspective of the other side, it sure doesn't feel that way.
      One of my close pastor friends put it this way, "When I was in my last call (which happened to be in the area where I grew up), I was not part of the "in-crowd".  I was not included by the "cool people" or invited to be part of things regularly.  I was a bit of an outsider, I was not highly valued and respected by my family or community.  My experience here in my current call has been very, very different.  I have been valued, I have been loved, I have been "sought out" for my thoughts, for my friendship, for my pastoral skills, for my wisdom.  Does this mean I've become a better person?  A person more worth knowing?  A person with more innate value?  No.  But again, it sure feels that way.  And as I contemplate moving once again to a new call back near my home town, the challenges of going back to a place where I am less valued tug at my heart.  Because no matter how much I can see that I am the same person in each of these places, in each of these environments, not a lesser person somehow when I am nearer to my home, I still feel like I am less when I am in an environment where others are treating me as less."
      Yes.  That is my experience as well.  I can take in negative comments, opinions, reactions much more easily than I can take in the constant and amazing affirmations and grace that surround me daily.
     But the truth is that neither the love and approval of others, nor the rejection or dismissal by others should determine who we are.  Neither should.  We are of value because we are God's children.  We are of value because we are created and loved by an awesome God.  We are of value because God loved us into being and that is enough.  So once again, it is grace that saves us.  If we have faith in God's love and grace and can therefore turn to God and accept that love and grace, we can be freed from needing that human affirmation or rejection to tell us if and how much we are worth.  But of course, this is much easier said than done.  Even when we are faithful, it is hard to not somehow hear others' comments as being truthful accounts of our self-worth.  Still, when we can accept that it is God who declares us worthy and loved, then others' comments or reactions can become, instead of statements about our innate worth, opportunities for us to grow, to learn, to become more whole and more connected to the holy, to God and to each other.  I pray for that faith, that grace, that vision for all of us as we walk this journey and strive to be the people God created us to be.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tomorrow's Sermon: An Old Story, a New Message

Luke 10:25-37
Col. 1:1-14

            We have all heard this story many, many times.  We’ve heard it so many times that I fear we don’t even hear it anymore.  Or we don’t hear it for anything new.  We think we understand it.  But as a wise man once said to me, “if we think we understand the parables, we’ve missed their meaning entirely” for there are always new layers to uncover, new meanings to explore, new messages for each of us each day.  The whole point in saying things with a story is exactly that – that stories have much greater depth, they share at deeper and deeper levels if we let them into our hearts.  They stick with us, and this story sticks particularly well, and gives our hearts something to chew on, to meditate on, to engage with in our prayers and our time with God.  However, while we know that stories do this, sometimes even they can become so familiar that we no longer really hear them, or we no longer can accept new information from them.
            Today we used a “reader’s theater” version of the story in an attempt to hear it a little differently.  Did that help?  What did you hear differently?  Did anything strike you that hadn’t struck you before?
     Are there certain kinds of people who when they approach you it bothers you?  Are there strangers who, when they approach you, you find yourself thinking “oh, no: not today.”  Or “please don’t talk to me!”  Or “You can’t see me, you can’t see me!”  Who are they?  The beggars near the grocery stores?  How about political solicitors - those are the ones who really bother me - they stand outside the grocery stores trying to get you to donate money for whatever cause they have and to sign their petitions.  I find that really annoying - I just want to go to the store in peace, but there they are trying to get my attention, my time, and sometimes my money as I try to go about my business, and there are times when it is just too much to even try to be polite, when even a simple, “no thank you!” feels like too much work.  Who else? 

      A half dozen years ago I had a doctor’s appointment that I was a little nervous about and as I was waiting in the waiting room a woman came in who plopped herself down next to another patient and began to talk, asking very personal questions about his medical problems and his wife (whom all of us in the waiting room soon discovered had recently died - apparently, this did nothing though to stop this woman from further inquiries into the nature and specifics of her death!).  At first, I found it a little amusing listening to her harass this poor guy and also share some very personal stuff (like about her sex life) that the rest of us really didn’t particularly want to hear.  But as I sat there, one by one the other patients in the waiting room were called, I began to get nervous.  When her conversational victim of choice was called to his appointment, this woman got up and sat next to someone else and began all over again.  I found myself quickly reaching for a book and pretending to be completely engrossed in it.  When everyone else was finally called in and I was left, just her and I in the waiting room, I found myself bending over and praying HARD that I would be invisible to her or called in as quickly as possible.  This kind of thing is hard for me to take.  Are there people like that for you?
     Some of these people don’t need too much help.  And others need a great deal of help (this poor woman at the hospital for example, probably really needed someone to talk to).  In the face of the reality that at times we don’t want to be bothered with the hurts and needs of the strangers around us, the story of the Good Samaritan is usually a story of conviction; we are convicted of being, on too many occasions, the priest or the Levite, who in our hurry or in our own crisis do not have time to deal with the crisis of someone else right in front of us.  We’ve been told, probably almost every time we’ve heard this story, that the priest and Levite also have “good” reasons for not helping out the man: religious reasons even.  For the priest, touching this bloodied man would have rendered the priest unclean which then would have prevented him from being able to do his job as a priest - caring for others, serving others.  He did not help this beaten up man, perhaps SO THAT he might be able to help many other people.  With the Levite there are similar issues.  And most of the time that we hear this story preached, then, we are reminded that though we, too, may have really good reasons - we too are in a hurry because we have to care for our children, or go to work, or do whatever else needs to be done in our lives that involves caring for people we know and have commitments to, that according to Jesus these reasons just plain aren’t enough.  Not then.  Not now.  Not ever.
      But this is hard to do, at times it feels impossible.  A few years ago one of our seminaries decided to really test its ministerial candidates.  All of the candidates had to walk through a specific tunnel on their way to one of the class rooms.  On the day of the final exam for the class, the dean “put” an “injured” person in the tunnel whom all of the students would need to pass by on their way to their final.  The result?  What we would probably consider a shocking number of students - 65% of these ministerial students did not stop to help the man because they were worried about being late for their final.  These are people like the priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan story - these are people like us.
      We currently have laws called “Good Samaritan law” which in most cases in the United States are laws that say if you try to help someone medically who really needs the help, even if you fail or end up injuring them further in the attempt, you can not be sued.  But there are also more and more places, beginning with Vermont, that now have a law that says if you are in a position to help someone without risk to yourself, who is experiencing a crime or medical problem and you fail to do so, you can be fined or even imprisoned.  This law has been enacted in places to prevent what happened in one Seinfeld episode from happening on a regular basis: in this episode everyone stood around and watched while a woman was robbed and no one did anything to help.  The law in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 268, Section 40, requires that anyone who "knows that another person is a victim of aggravated rape, murder, manslaughter or armed robbery and is at the scene of said crime shall, to the extent that said person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report said crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable."   
      We hear terrible stories in the papers all the time in which a crime is happening to someone in a public place and everyone just stands around and watches, but no one steps in and offers the simple assistance that would actually stop the problem, no one calls for help, no one does anything but stop and stare.  It is in response to these that such laws are made.  But really, isn’t it unfortunate that the idea of helping someone in dire crisis has to be made into a law in order to make it happen in many cases?  But I find the fact that these laws are being made in some places pushes me to think even farther.  Maybe these laws should be expanded.  For example, maybe we should be fined, or arrested for standing idle and not sending money to help starving children in Africa when we can afford it.  Maybe we should be fined for not adopting a desperate child who’s being abused.  How about for failing to call the cops when we hear a neighbor hurting or being hurt by another family member?  What about shopping at a store (like Walmart) that we know uses child labor?    
      There are so many ways of turning away, of failing to be the neighbors we are called to be.  There is a song by Pink Floyd that I want to share with you because I think the words are really appropriate for today’s scripture lesson:

      The Good Samaritan story in the Bible is really about something very simple.  We are called to help those around us, no matter who they are.  As an Arab proverb tells us - “To have a good neighbor you must be one.”
     So, as I said at the beginning, we’ve all heard this story and mostly this story convicts us.  Where is the good news in this?  Well, someone does come along to help the poor man on the side of the road - someone considered imperfect by the standards of the day - a Samaritan, an outcast, a person who didn’t have it right.  Sinner saving sinner.  The lost helping the lost.  Grace, mercy, coming out when we least expect it.  And the Good Samaritan is sometimes us.  Sometimes it is you and sometimes it is me. Other times we are the one hurt on the side of the road.  But again, someone does come and help.  Together we work together, helping each other, uplifting each other, wrapped in the action of love - God’s love and God’s grace.  This is what the kingdom of heaven looks like.  Here on earth, all around.  As the words to one of my favorite hymns, “Gather us in” say, “Not in the dark of buildings confining; and not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place a new light is shining.  Now is the kingdom.  Now is the day.”  Let there be no more turning away.  Amen.