Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Robins Gorsline

Today is a special day for Robin Gorsline. Actually two Robin Gorslines.

Robin Irene Gorsline celebrates her 28th birthday today, and Robin Hawley Gorsline celebrates with her–a proud, loving father grateful that his youngest is doing so very well.

I remember well the day in 1982–in Boston–when Judy Gorsline gave birth to this new treasure. Although Judy and I had already agreed to divorce, we both loved this new one and were grateful to bring her home safely to her growing sisters.

It was not an easy time for us, but Judy and I loved our daughters, and were determined to help them grow into strong, vibrant young women. Our dreams have been amply rewarded.

I am thrilled to be with Robin on her birthday–something that has not happened for some years–and to share this with her sisters and so much family.

Of course, I wish Judy could be joining us. Actually, knowing her, she will be. And I know she shares my pride and joy.

I am getting ready to leave in the morning for a quick visit with my family in northern Michigan.

Robin & Nancy

I am so excited to be seeing our three daughters, and son-in-law, as well as my beloved sister, Nancy, and her family. I am sad that Jonathan is unable to join us, but know it will be a good visit.

I was supposed to fly out Sunday afternoon, but the snowfall prevented that. The earliest flight I could get was Tuesday morning, effectively losing a whole day of an already short visit (I return Thursday night).

Still, I am glad to be doing this, certainly because I miss my family–and because I have been having feelings of homesickness for Michigan.

Richmond and Virginia are truly home to me now (and for the rest of my life, I think). I know Jonathan feels the same way–but I do have Michigan in my blood. Even though I grew up in southeastern Michigan–40 miles northwest of Detroit–I have fond memories spent in northern Michigan during my youth.

How blessed I am.

Such a rich life–filled with love and adventure and good work, and most of all, God.

Last night, I spent some time preparing two of my required holiday foods.

I know I am not alone in feeling that an important part of Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is having certain foods. For example, I can’t imagine either holiday dinner without butternut squash. When I was growing up in Michigan, my father raised them so we had them often, but they tasted best on those two feast days.

But traditions evolve. One I have created involves collard greens.

I never had them until I lived in New York. I didn’t even know how to spell the word correctly. For a long time, I thought it was spelled “colored,” because as a child I was told that Black people ate them (of course, the word used was not “black”). A couple of years before we moved to Richmond, Jonathan and I ate in a Jamaican restaurant in Brooklyn famous for their collards. I was hooked at the first bite. I have been fixing them ever since, and especially when feeding a large group (like the MCC Richmond Christmas Day potluck).

So I cannot imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without collards. I think mine are pretty good–especially because as a vegetarian I don’t use fatback or other meat products for seasoning. Instead, liquid smoke does the trick, along with a healthy dose of red pepper (and a couple of other things I keep to myself).

I know how blessed I am to be able to go to the store and buy these two favorites, and then to have a stove and all the necessary ingredients to prepare them. So, in addition to eating them with delight and gusto, I pray for the day to come soon when everyone in the world can eat their favorite holiday foods–and eat well every day.

Merry Christmas! And Bon Appetit!

Today is the winter solstice, the day of shortest daylight. It also marks the beginning of movement toward the day, six months hence, of the longest daylight.

It is typical to see dark as the opposite of light, night as the opposite of day. But that presumes that each is a fixed reality, a concrete thing.

It is not so. Each is meaningless without the other. Indeed, it may be more accurate to see them as a process, always in movement, to and fro, even swirling around each other.

It is like gender in that respect. Our society is set up on the conceit of two fixed, “opposite” genders. You are either one or the other.

It is not so. No one person is entirely all male or all female. And as we age, some men tend to develop more female characteristics, and women to develop more male ones.

Why do we have this need to get things fixed, battened down, especially creating opposition when none exists (or at least it is more complicated than a binary)?

I am sure the psychologists and psychoanalysts have theories that explain all this. Speaking from a faith perspective, I can only say that such need for certainty, for fixedness, comes from not trusting God.

God is so much bigger and more complex than any lockbox into which we try to put  . . . . God. And God’s world is the same way.

So, let’s ease up, and enjoy life the way God intends it to be.

Growing up, I was never a big fan of Peanuts, the cartoon strip by Charles Schulz. But one thing I always liked was the focus on Beethoven around the time of his birthday.

So, when I looked at calendar this morning, I thought, “Today is Beethoven’s Birthday!” Indeed, he would be 24o today, December 16.

Of course, Beethoven is far more than a foil for some cartoon characters. According to Wikipedia, he is considered “the most crucial figure in the transitional period between the classical and Romantic eras in western classical music, and remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.”

There are many famous Beethoven themes and pieces, but undoubtedly the most well known are the five opening measures of his Fifth Symphony.

Every time I hear them, I am touched. I feel a certain excitement coursing through my veins. I remember something Stephen Covey wrote, “To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.”

Beethoven’s music touched, and touches, many souls.

I certainly do not possess Beethoven’s magic, but today I shall try to touch some souls in my own way. It seems the least I can do.

Happy Birthday, Ludwig!!!!

A wise and old friend said to me long ago, “You are an either/or kind of person or a both/and kind of person–one or the other, one person can’t be both.” Of course, she smiled as she said it.

She was trying to help me overcome a bad habit of seeing the world in black or white terms–something was either “X” or “the opposite of X.”  I don’t do that much anymore.

As I have grown older, I have more and more come to see how complicated life is, and how there are more than two sides to most questions.

Still, some things either are–wrong, tall, peaceful, etc.–or they are not. The old saying–“You cannot have your cake, and eat it, too”–is true. But there are other things more important than that.

Emmet Fox says, “You cannot have power in prayer, and the luxury of resentment and condemnation, too.” Or “build a new consciousness and a new body, and live mentally in the dead past, too.”

Sometimes, either/or is just the way it is. The good news is that God always is available to guide us.

Yesterday, I spent the day on a journey with a person I do not know well. That journey took us to some hard places. And at the end of the day, I left her in a less-than-desirable apartment to return to my comfortable home.  

However, these new accommodations are incredibly better than the ones she left in the morning.

I kept thinking of worship from Sunday, how we focused, on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, on joy. The color of that Sunday is pink–its hard to not laugh, or at least smile, when you see pink.

One of the things we did yesterday was to go to a thrift store where she could pick up some clothes. I watched as she went delightedly around, finding a pink and purple coat, and some stylish, as well as functional, items.

As I watched her flipping through racks of clothes, I thought of other folks for whom the hard-to-ignore celebration of Christmas brings more pain than happiness–people in grief over the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, or grieving the suspicion of an unemployed person that there will not be another job. Some people call this “Blue Christmas.”

Pink, or blue, Christmas is meant to be a celebration of Christ, of God breaking into our world with hope, peace, joy, and love. I pray it is so for my friend, and for everyone else, too.