Empire Swimming (and Easter)

IMG_6101

Empire Swimming at LaGuardia

E is for Empire Swimming and Easter.

As a swim coach, I thought it funny that I ended up on my first flight to Laity Lodge with a swim team. I didn’t mind.  Swimmers are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Especially when I get to overhear conversations like this —

Swimmer A: This is my first time flying. I hope I get a window seat.

Swimmer B:  You know you can’t open the window, right?

I laughed, wondering if Swimmer A thought he could open the window and stick his hand out to zoom through the oncoming air.

When the plane took off, I thought of him again, especially when I got that giddy feeling that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time as the wheels leave the ground.

Flying is such a miracle.

Over a hundred people crammed into a metal tube, with their suitcases and laptops and books — but somehow that heavy thing climbs into the sky.

I really do grin like a 10-year-old and get the watery eyes of a senior citizen at the moment of transformation from earthbound to air-born.

It happened to me again yesterday.  Not the flying part, but the laughing/crying part.

Easter Sunday is, in my opinion, the most important Christian holiday. The crux of our faith lies in the truth that Jesus bore the penalty for our sins on the cross and then conquered death in His resurrection.

Churches around the world have traditions associated with Easter.  Over the years we’ve attended churches with sunrise services, cardboard testimonies, hymn sings, dramas, and traditional liturgies. Each new way of celebrating offers a fresh look at an old but oh-so-beautiful story.

The church we currently attend closes with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and a joyful procession of the children.

Curmudgeonly me, I said to Bud yesterday morning before church, “I’m ready to move on to something besides caterpillars and butterflies.”

I’ll blame it on the persistent headache I’ve had for the past week, but, more likely, I’m just a grump.

Caterpillar down the center aisle

Caterpillar down the center aisle

When the procession started, though, and the caterpillar came waddling up the center aisle, I felt that wheels-leaving-the-runway giddiness.

And when the children threw off the caterpillar shroud to reveal the butterflies, I confess, my eyes got a little watery.

As the procession continued with waving flags and ever larger butterflies, I was thankful for the joy that filled our sanctuary.

Because, if there was one thing I needed to be reminded of yesterday, it was joy.

Confetti-filled, silly-stringed, laugh-out-loud joy.

The kind where it doesn’t matter whether or not the window opens, because you can still feel the wheels leave the tarmac, and know that it’s a miracle, and that you’re being carried somewhere beyond, somewhere amazing.

Easter is that kind of amazing, pressed down, shaken over, overflowing.

The biggest miracle of them all.

For me.

Dawn

D is for Dawn.

This post is about four Dawns — no, make that five. But where to begin?

Dawn #1 — For years, I have prayed for a friend named Dawn.  I’ll call her Dawn-with-the-many-boys because this Dawn has four sons.  Raising sons is the most fun job in the whole world. Boys possess a certain crazy energy that plays out in ways that most mothers never dream of — swords fights and jousting, damming creeks, and putting batteries down the drain. I speak from experience. Mothers of boys need prayer. So I pray for Dawn. Every day.

Dawn #2 — Several months ago, when I was praying for Dawn-with-the-many-boys, I felt this nudge to pray for another Dawn. I’ll call her Dawn-of-the-mutual-friends.

I felt a nudge – Pray for Dawn-of-the-mutual-friends.

“But I don’t even know her,” I countered.

Pray for her.

So I did.

Then she climbed into my car at the San Antonio airport. Unplanned. Yet, I wonder if it was. As her story unfolded to me, I realized how much she did need prayer. I felt both privileged and thankful that I could pray for her, and now in a more meaningful way.

Dawn #3 — For Lenten reading, I had chosen Elie Wiesel’s trilogy, Night, Dawn, and Day. High-schoolers across the country read Night, the story of Wiesel’s time in German concentration camps. Buchenwald, and Wiesel, are liberated at the end of Night.

But the story wasn’t over.

Dawn tells the story of a concentration camp survivor recruited by a Zionist group to fight in Palestine. Elisha, the main character, is called on to kill a man — an act that will forever change him.

“Elisha–” said the hostage.

I fired. When he pronounced my name he was already dead; the bullet had gone through his heart. A dead man, whose lips were still warm, had pronounced my name: Elisha.

I kept putting that scene next to this, from Night:

…The officer wielded his club and dealt him a violent blow to the head.

I didn’t move. I was afraid, my body was afraid of another blow, this time to my head.

My father groaned once more, I heard:

“Eliezer…”

… His last word had been my name.  He had called out to me and I had not answered.

And next to this, where a life is laid down, not taken:

“Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

I read Dawn a second time during my flights. I’m still wrestling with it.

Dawn #4 — I watched the sun rise every morning from a lonely place near Laity Lodge. In the daytime, I had bemoaned the telephone poles and wires stretching across this view. When I came home and looked at my photographs, though, I saw a cross, an empty cross, on a hill.

Laity Lodge dawn

Laity Lodge dawn

Dawn #5

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb… (Luke 24:1)

An empty tomb, an empty cross, a hard story that isn’t over yet, women who are dear to me.

Dawn, Dawn, and Dawn at dawn.