Shraddham, remembering the dead with traditional prayers and food.

Our “Amma” and “Appa” in a rare moment when they smiled for the camera on a visit to Chicago!

How do you honor your loved ones?

Do you take time to remember the people you loved who have died? American Christians often get lost in our own grief–or worse do not know how to grieve well. The economic demands of capitalism and customs of limited time off for bereavement get in the way of remembering. Our faith suggests that a Christian burial is all that is required. We do not have rituals around remembering the dead other than the few days leading up to and including the funeral–and these days, many are choosing not to have a funeral at all. Occasionally, people will choose to honor their loved one year after they have died by spreading their ashes or gathering for a meal.

Flowers from my garden for this years’s shraddham pooja–yellow and red roses, daisies, lavender, and jasmine.

In Hindu Iyengar traditions, the rituals around remembering those who have died, especially our parents are quite specific.

Continue reading “Shraddham, remembering the dead with traditional prayers and food.”

Leaders Need Sabbatical Rest in these Traumatic Times

During a 2022 sabbatical visit to Washington D.C. MLK Memorial.

People’s nerves have worn thin. Parents are weary with worry. Job openings remain unfilled. Employees are working overtime to take care of increased needs and demands. They are burned out and are walking out on good jobs. We are all suffering from compassion fatigue.

I recently witnessed this as I undertook a long trip made longer by frayed ends and frazzled emotions. Carefully, I watched travelers and airline staff alike, all doing their best and losing their cool.  We are under stress—high levels of expectations with new protocols and a river of fear running through it all. Leaders of all kinds have seen the worst end of ugly and received the angry brunt of a public who has lost all hope that their life can be restored to a time before the pandemic began.

Continue reading “Leaders Need Sabbatical Rest in these Traumatic Times”

Mother’s Day, It’s Complicated.

Masks and sanitizer, greetings through windows six feet apart.
We have all become untouchable.
Moms that are still with us, aren’t.
Moms that are not with us
are worlds away untouched by time in our memory.
And then there are those moms who cannot escape, 
cannot get away because love chases them into the bathroom 
and down the halls into the make-shift-office-room zoom calls.

Pandemic Mother’s Day is complicated for moms who wanted to be
and could not no matter how hard they tried and tried and cried  
whose bodies couldnot wouldnot become what we wanted them to be. 
And the dads who are better moms than our moms could ever be,
mothering isn’t just for moms.  Some moms just can’t. 

For the lucky ones whose love dripped down the sides of our faces 
like ice cream, their joy overflows like spilt milk 
on the countertop next to the oreo cookies.
We can still feel their touch and the kisses 
in clockwise directions on our faces 
filled with laughter or tears, over the years, 
those kisses fade into the photos on the wall.
They are now missing from our minds.  Gone on this day.

But for the grannies and mimis and granddaddies and pattis and tathas and pappas and mammas that make life just a little sweeter 
with drive-by birthdays and package deliveries,
the complications of Mother’s Day are no match 
for unbridled love.
Boundless expressions of joy cannot be hid by the hand sewn masks
and poster board signs hurriedly colored while tears fell 
making rain marks on homemade cards.
You can see a smile with your heart, if you try.

And so we do.  We try.  We forgive. We remember. We regret.
Our mothers. 
And those who wish our mothers were 
something more than they could be,
we sigh and breathe in one more day.
Mother’s Day has always been complicated,
but this year more of us understand why.

Remembering Well, Grieving Well

DSC00403
A Tea Party Shows off my mom’s playful personality.

My mother died 1 year ago this month, on our daughter’s 16th birthday. As a pastor I have often counseled people through the stages of grief and know that grief can take many twists and turns along the pathways of our life. Grief may walk beside us when we loose a parent, a spouse, or a child—these are journeys people notice. Continue reading “Remembering Well, Grieving Well”

Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us

Andrew "Cymbal Kid" Pawelvzck with our Son Nishanth
Andrew “Cymbal Kid” Pawelczyk with our Son Nishanth

A Friend of the Family, Andrew the Cymbal Kid

One week ago my son’s best friend Andrew Pawelczyk (Pa-Vel-check) was thrust onto an international stage–he is the YouTube sensation “Cymbal Kid”.  A month ago during the last middle school band performance, Andrew, an accomplished drummer who usually plays the “quad” 4 drums, was asked to play the cymbals.  I was sitting dead center with my husband and daughter while our son sat in the trumpet section at first chair.   Continue reading “Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us”

In the Presence of Giants– Neuqua Valley High School Baccalaureate Speech

This Redwood reminds us that we must learn from the Giants who have come before us.
This Redwood reminds us that we must learn from the Giants who have come before us.

Giants of Our Time

We are a people gathered together today, in this place, in this time, to reflect, to imagine, and to step forth into a new future where we are called to a greater purpose by a God under whose Divine eyes watch over us on this day.

This same Higher Power that has watched over, guided, inspired and led the Spiritual Giants of our faith Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Rama, Buddha, and the great Gurus, on whose shoulders we stand today—this same Higher Power watches over us.  That same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation lives and dwells in you, our graduates. Continue reading “In the Presence of Giants– Neuqua Valley High School Baccalaureate Speech”

My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God

Lean in to smell the perfumed fragrance of this red rose.

The Garden is Ablaze with Color

These days my garden is blooming with color-reds, pinks, yellows, and especially purples.  These warm days of June bring such bountiful beauty I can sit in my rose garden for hours contemplating the mystery of God’s creation around me.  The tomatoes have not yet formed.  The eggplants and peppers are hopeful flowers blossoming on young plants in delightfully cool mornings awaiting the buzz of bees to bear their fruit in fall.  The basil is reaching upwards toward the sun, not yet ready for my Friday pizzas.  It is here with the sun on my face, sitting at my garden table, with the breeze dancing among leaves of the cottonwood trees that I feel at peace, a sense of ONENESS with God and the world.  This is sacred Sabbath time. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God”

My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space

After three years my blackberry bush is producing fruit.

The Garden Teaches us Life Lessons

The garden teaches us many things about life.  It teaches us about patience.  It takes time for a blackberry bush to grow, to flower and to produce fruit.  My blackberry bush is three years old and I think this year I may harvest 20-30 blackberries.  Last year we picked 4.  Another lesson the garden teaches us is discernment.  We must learn to distinguish between plants that will produce food, and plants that will not–of course I am referring to weeds!  If we allow the weeds to grow, they will choke out the young tomato and pepper plants.  These two lessons are fairly obvious.  The third lesson the garden teaches us is a much harder lesson. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space”

The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000

In honor of Earth Day and her 12th birthday, this week’s blog is written by our daughter Nandini.  Last April at 11 years old she began fundraising to build clean water wells for kids in remote villages.  This is her second year and today she shares her story of the Well India Project.

Nandini is on her way to raising $10,000 to build wells for kids who need it most.

Join me in giving the gift of clean water to people who need it most!

Hi!  My name is Nandini and I am celebrating my 12th birthday this month and you can help me give the gift of water.

Last spring, I had an epiphany.  Everyone wants to do something to help people, and I had just figured out what I wanted to do.  It felt like God was sending me a message, and it came in a funny way.  I got my message in a catalog. Continue reading “The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000”

When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure

What do we do when we hear the news "you have a tumor?"

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.

These are powerful words.  How do I let my heart take courage?  So often there are times when the news is so overwhelming that we are filled with fear and trembling especially when we hear the words, “You have a tumor.”  How can we take courage in those times?

Learning to Cultivate Hope

It has taken me some time to find my voice again.  Recently I became discouraged after I received some disappointing news and I stopped writing in my blog.  I am reminded of a time 6 years ago when we heard those words, “You have a tumor.”  As pastors we are to be cultivators of hope and promise–faith and joy.  But what happens when life seems to be filled with more downs than ups?  How can we learn to cultivate hope in the midst of adversity?   Continue reading “When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure”