Palm Sunday

I was raised American Baptist and went for it completely until I was thrown out of my church youth group for playing a record (Hair) they didn’t like. I was the president of the youth group, well-liked in my church AND I came from a home with problems (dad with MS) so the event caused a furor in my church. It led to me being lectured by several deacons and the pastor telling everyone to calm down, that young people are young people. I just quit going. The following summer I was invited by a woman who represented the “Pro Martha Faction” to work as a counselor at the church summer camp. It was the best job I’ve ever had until now (working as a famous artist) and I did it for the whole next summer.

Events my second summer led me to step quickly and firmly away from organized religion, especially anything smacking of fundamentalism.

So here I am in the Christian holy week in a very church centered town. I know the Bible very very well since all four of my novels deal with religion one way or another. I also like the Bible — its contradictions and weirdness don’t bother me. In fact, I consider it a very accurate reflection of humanity’s relationship to all things unknowable and knowable. I like it very much. It’s simply the bit of accepting Jesus as my personal lord and savior and believe no one else goes to Heaven (which I’m not sure about, either, since I think THIS is pretty good). That said, I’m completely great with that other people believe different things. As I’ve written before, I am a panentheist, that is a person who thinks everything, the universe, all of it, in toto = God. In short, if you’re looking for God, you can’t miss.

I never rejected Christianity, but, quoting Goethe, “I’m not Christian. I’m not UN-Christian, I’m not ANTI-Christian, I’m simply NOT Christian.” I’ve even been to Latin mass at the Basilica San Ambrogio in Milan. It was wonderful and important to me because, after all, San Ambrogio baptized St. Augustine of whom I happen to think very highly.

But as I walked out the door this afternoon after strapping Teddy into his halter, a Palm Sunday hymn wafted through my mind, a hymn I don’t even like, and I remembered this day for the moment it represented throughout my childhood and youth.

Most of the cranes have left, but there are still some remaining. I had slim hopes of seeing any at the Refuge. I don’t think they liked all the car traffic this year any more than I did. My hope is that next year the festival will be back on and the majority of crane tourists will be conveyed in busses. I parked near a little trail both my dogs like and took Teddy around it. He’s learned to lift his leg and enjoyed mightily every demonstration of prowess. Then two more cars came and parked beside mine. “Rats,” I thought. Teddy and I continued, disturbing (gently) two Canada geese and we continued on our way. At the far reach of our walk, I heard cranes above me and was able to enjoy about fifty of them flying above me and calling out. Soon after, we turned around.

When we had returned to our car, I saw an old couple sitting at the single picnic table the Refuge affords. it’s at the trail head to my dogs’ favorite little loop. I put Teddy in the car and said to the couple — about my age — “He’s not that dog friendly.” They had an older shepherd mix girl with them.

“Ours isn’t either,” they said. I went over to say hello.

“Where are you from?” they asked. This time of year a lot of out-of-towners are around.

“Monte Vista,” I laughed.

“Us too!” We all laughed.

We talked about how much we love the Refuge and expressed that we all come out there often. “I don’t know why,” said the woman. “We live in the country.”

“There’s something about it,” said the man. “It’s like you can imagine how it was before…”

We all said the same thing. That we felt free out there in some mysterious way. I, personally, consider it my “church”.

“He fixed this picnic table,” said the woman and for the first time I saw it wasn’t the broken down, splintery mess it had always been. I don’t use it so I don’t see it.

“Yep,” he said. “I had some boards at home and I went to the co-op and got the rest of what I needed.” I looked at it. It looked new.

We talked about all the traffic that’s been out there and I said, “Yeah, no festival so no busses.”

“Well, last week.”

“Yeah, the craft fair but no bus tours.”

“Did you go to the craft fair?” asked the woman.

“No. Did you?”

The man said “Oh yes, I sold things. I make birds out of wood.” Then he told me the whole history of the Crane Festival. Teddy was in the car with the windows up and the car pointed south so I figured I should go and said good-bye.

Only later did I realize I had been chatting with a carpenter and his wife in a holy place. Happy Palm Sunday.

17 thoughts on “Palm Sunday

  1. Martha: Very much enjoyed this post. Palm Sunday thoughts so on target. I do not believe there is only one path way to God- Also, the cranes. Last week my husband and I drove to Kearney Nebraska for the cranes. Fifth year I have driven 500 miles one way to see them and just reflect. 

    • Seeing what, half a million of them? That must be something.

      I love those cranes so much. Most of the people who come to see them in March can’t wait to share their wonderment with another human being, so there I am with one or the other friendly dog. Last year there were fewer people and I felt like my big white dog and I were the Crane Welcoming Committee. Those cranes give people so much joy.

      My favorite crane time here is Sept – November. They are here in smaller numbers and there are a lot of days when it’s just me, a dog and the cranes. When the cranes’ visit overlaps with the song birds, that’s very cool, too.

  2. This is beautiful, Martha. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. After my first divorce I was told, basically, “You’re going to hell in a handbasket!”. The pews held sit and spew members (not ALL OF COURSE!). God was not leading. This is not how Jesus would treat people. The “sit and get” mentality of just listening to the consequences of the “law” and not ever talking about “love” was not my way of gaining wisdom. God is all around me. I believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings. And it saddens me that some of my former churches closed the door to grace and mercy. I’m not bitter nor am I one that takes one or two experiences and “blankets my beliefs” over them. I hear his whispers in the wind and see him in my sky. He’s in my sunrise and in my neighbor, Vern. I don’t know why we complicate life with doctrines. It should be so simple. I love when I have those holy happenings; it makes my heart smile and gives me hope.

  3. My church didn’t kick me out, but my dad almost did, for playing “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He heard “Herod’s Song” and wanted to know where I had gotten such blasphemy. I tried to explain what the song was in context. He wouldn’t hear it and again demanded to know where I had gotten this trashy record. I said, “You and mom gave it to me for Christmas.”

  4. I was just commenting on another blog – “Growing up with Jewish relatives in a Protestant family I was very concerned with the possibility that my grandmother might not go to heaven. I was taught that G-d would gather all the righteous people to heaven. Not that one must believe a certain doctrine but that the doctrine you choose must be lived to the best of your ability… That has colored my perspective concerning religion and salvation.” So there you have it. The refuge where the cranes congregate and the wind pushes the clouds across a brilliant blue sky is every bit as valid a religion as one that holds services in an imposing building with a very tall steeple! The first time I saw JCS it was performed by a college group in a Catholic church. It was very well done and my sister went out and bought the soundtrack. My mother really enjoyed the songs! And the TX legislature prayer was beautiful… too bad some people are incapable of seeing truth.

    • Our world would be so different if people were not afraid of things they are unfamiliar with and approached with openness and curiosity instead of judgment. ❤

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