A Message From My Mother

One of the joys of sorting my mother’s papers after her death last year was reading through the prayers, articles, and sermons she had saved. They were a window into Mother’s faith and a gift that my sister and I carry forward. I rediscovered one of those papers last week and reread it each day in these anxious, depressing times. Here it is, with my hope that you find it helpful, too.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. For the restful moments of the night now ended, I am grateful. For the sleepless moments when I tossed and turned, I am grateful, too: It’s good to have issues that need to be addressed, challenges that demand attention, and a desire to deal with them.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Yesterday wasn’t exactly what I expected, but today might be different. Who knows what tasks might be accomplished, what new directions might be traveled, what hurts might be healed, what kindness might be offered, what love might be shared.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Each day is an adventure, a new beginning. Sure, there will probably be some detours I didn’t expect, some turns I didn’t anticipate, some potholes I wont appreciate; but that’s part of living. Not doubt, there will be moments of smooth sailing, too; that which turns out much better than expected, a few pleasant surprises, times of laughter and joy.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. This is the day you have made. The Psalmist declared that long ago, and it’s still the truth. Let me rejoice and be glad in it. Your love is a source of strength and a fountain of hope. You provide what I need. What more could I ask?

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Help me make the most of it, whatever it may bring my way.

By The Reverend Eric P. Wogen

Lord, hear my prayer.

A New Birth of Freedom

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” .

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings)

Reading biographies and histories during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been struck again by how ordinary people’s actions affect the arc of history. Whether they went to the front lines of battle or protest, prepared meals or tended the sick, wrote letters or lobbied, planted Victory Gardens or registered voters, made bandages or masks, or organized neighborhoods–or on the other hand, closed their eyes to everything beyond their needs and wants–our forebears’ actions affected the world for good or ill.

Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Now it is our turn to decide what to do with the time we have been given, to use it for good or ill. Will we speak and act for good? Will we do that which is uncomfortable or costly or boring or dangerous to help ensure that goodness, freedom, justice, and democracy win? Will we take time away from what we would ordinarily do and add our weight to the scales of justice and goodness? Or will we think our participation is so minor that it won’t make a difference if we let the moment pass?

I know. All of us wish we could live now as it were 2019: seeing friends and family, tending our gardens, volunteering as usual, and watching The Great British Baking Show. But it isn’t, and we can’t.

This Is Our Time

It is 2020, and millions of lives, the climate, a racial reckoning, and the future of American democracy are at stake. It is not overly dramatic to say that the November election is crucial to America’s survival as a free, democratic country. It is also crucial for controlling the coronavirus, saving lives, education, the economy, and dreams. It is crucial to saving the climate and healing the planet. Need I say it again? The American journey towards a more perfect union is on this year’s ballot.

With this in mind, President Abraham Lincoln’s words carry a new meaning for me this year. The fight of which I hear him speak is no longer on an American battlefield but at the ballot box and in the court.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1883

It is our turn to ensure that the American Experiment survives the forces that would destroy it from within and without. It is for us, the living, to protect and preserve in our time the freedoms for which our forebears “gave the full measure of devotion . . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Please join me in this effort by doing one or more of the following.

Decide What To Do With The Time That Is Given

  • Vote
  • Pledge to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day. Tell five friends to do likewise.
  • Volunteer with Reclaim Our Vote (here) to ensure people of color in voter-suppression states are registered and know where to vote.
  • Be a poll worker if your Covid-19 risks are low. Poll workers are in short supply this year.
  • Host or join virtual house meetings for a candidate you support.
  • Make financial contributions to candidates, the NAACP, or the ACLU.
  • Contact your Board of Elections to clarify where you can vote this year and the dates of early voting.
  • Request an absentee ballot immediately (if requests are necessary for your state) if you plan to vote by mail. Tell five friends to do likewise.
  • Talk to friends, family, and acquaintances about what is at stake and enroll them in the effort.
  • Share this post with others.
  • Pray. And when you pray, move your feet.

The Resilience of Hope

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, I put a table with colored chalk and hand sanitizer near my front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please draw a picture or message of hope. Please use sanitizer before and after. Stay safe. Stay well.”

Almost instantly, people began drawing and writing. When rain washed away the chalk, they drew new pictures. Week by week the pattern continues: hope drawn, hope gone, hope drawn. The resilience of hope visible on my sidewalk.

When I first set out the chalk, I had no idea what would happen. Would we become the crazy people with chalk in front of their house? Would anyone draw? Would it matter? Like priming the pump at a fundraiser, I drew a smiley face to get things started, then took my dogs for a walk.

By the time I returned, there were pictures on the sidewalk. Within days, there were rainbows, flowers, stars, a car and a unicorn. There have been trucks, cats, dogs, houses, families, and smiley faces–even one wearing a mask. Today there are fireworks, pets, mountains, and flowers on my sidewalk.

I was moved by what people drew that first week. I was awed. I still am.

Some people draw, others write messages: Believe hope will come. We will get through this. Love, Peace, Hope. Be Kind. Wash your hands. Thanks for letting us draw. Together.

My sidewalk makes people smile in an otherwise grim time.

People have been leaving messages and drawing pictures ever since. Some people pause to look at the drawings and smile as they continue walking. Parents have said my sidewalk is their child’s favorite part of their daily walk. Teens have shown me which pictures they drew and messages they wrote. Adults have thanked me for giving them a place to share. The sidewalk project has helped build a sense of community that counters our isolation. When I need a lift, I walk out to my sidewalk and feel hopeful that we will make it through.

As the weeks pass and the world around us changes, so, too, have the messages changed. They began with “Stay safe; Wash your hands; Love, Joy, Hope; Hope will come.” After the killing of George Floyd, they’ve included “Black Lives Matter,” and “This Sidewalk Is a Blessing.” June arrived and “Happy Pride Month” appeared. This weekend, someone wrote “Just Mask Up or Stay Home” in beautiful colors. Always, there are messages of “Be kind; It will be OK; We’ll get through this.”

Today the sidewalk art includes green mountains beneath a blue sky and yellow sun, “Black Lives Matter, Just Mask Up or Stay Home,” a house, fireworks, a dog saying “Woof,” and flowers. When my own green shoots of hope wilt in the face of the day’s news, I stand at my sidewalk and feel hopeful.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” says Mother Teresa. I can’t do great things to change the world, but I can do small things with love. One of those small things is to set out chalk and sanitizer and create a canvas for people to share dreams, resilience, and hope with others.

Even when it’s washed away, hope is resilient. Breathe it in: We will make it through.