Saturday, December 20, 2014

Clymer Family News 2014

A dance between the alps and the clouds.
This year held several interesting events for Esther and me. We are grateful that we are both gainfully employed and enjoy relatively good health. I say relatively, because on May 5, I had both of my knees replaced. After trying every alternative, I decided to do the surgery (see picture below). I am nearly back to normal with very little pain.

Esther on the other hand, fell and cracked her wrist and has been wearing a brace for nearly a month. Not as major as the knee surgery, but with its own level of pain and disruption of normal routine. She didn’t have to take off work, but it did present her with a few extra challenges. She generally loves her work, but has been working nearly 60 hours a week these past number of months.

Esther also had a monumental birthday in July. She was determined to celebrate it with her family in Switzerland, so in spite of uncertainty of how I would travel so soon after surgery, we went. We are glad we did. We were regaled by gifts of travel into the Alps and invitations by many family and friends for meals. We were also delighted to make a number of new friends. 

New friends Anne-Marie Senn
 and the Martinez family

On the children front, Marisa and Adam bought a house very close to us in Harrisonburg and moved into it a few weeks after my surgery. Marisa continues to work on her Masters of Library Science while working part time at an elementary school being a tutor for English language learners. Adam works as a liaison between Latino families and the public school system. The job has expanded to the point that instead of working at two schools, he now is located at a single school.

Esther surprised by her siblings 
with a party and many unexpected gifts.
Mattias and Erica continue to work for a social service agency. Mattias works as a “qualified mental health provider” at Harrisonburg High School. You’ll have to ask him what that means. Erica works for the same agency as the “Program coordinator/clinical supervisor.” She is sorta Mattias’ boss. They both are in the midst of bigger plans. Mattias earned his real estate license and is building up clientele to do this full time. Erica became a licensed professional counselor and is building up her clientele as well.

Don and Esther on an alpine hike.
September saw the release of a new book that I co-authored with my sister Sharon Clymer Landis. That has caused a spate of activities including book signings, sermons, Sunday school and Bible study appearances.  
My sister Sharon and I at a book signing for
our new book The Spacious Heart.
We wish for all of you a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Don for the rest

Don out of bed the day after surgery
with his new bionic knees.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Make straight the way of the Lord

John the Baptist quotes from Isaiah 40 in his declaration in John 1:21, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” There is much in our world that is crooked. It is full of injustice, violence and fear. There is much that needs straightening. Our world is a wasteland; a desert, a wilderness. We can become overwhelmed by despair when we think of the condition of our world. We need a straight path to find our way through the wilderness.

We often feel as hopeless as the Children of Israel in Babylonian captivity. How we need to hear the words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Yet, if we are to believe the Good News of the New Testament, our “hard service has [already] been completed, [our] sin has been paid for.”

Mary proclaims in Luke 1:52, “ He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” This echoes Isaiah 4: 4, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” In Jesus’ kingdom, things have been turned around. What our culture counts as high is really low. What our culture sees as rugged is now plain.

Mary continues, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Isaiah says in verse 11, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.” In Jesus’ kingdom, the poor and the disenfranchised are close to his heart. It is the powerful and the rich, through their oppressive systems of inequality, who cause most of the fear in our world. When we enter God’s fold, we are held close to Jesus’ heart.

“My soul glorifies the Lord,” declares Mary, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” while Isaiah states, “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” That the world has been turned upside down is cause for rejoicing and worship. The glory of the Lord has been revealed through his kingdom. The world is about to turn!*

My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant's plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest, Could the world be about to turn?

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.

From the halls of pow'r to the fortress tow'r, not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears ev'ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, every mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age, we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound,
Till the spear and rod can be crushed by God, who is turning the world around.

Hope is already here! The Kingdom of God has arrived! A straight path as been carved through the despair of the wilderness! Rejoice where we see God’s “will done on earth as it is in heaven!”

*Words and arrangement of traditional Irish tune by Rory Cooney.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lucky To Be Alive?

I was watching my cousins dipping their feet into the water from a set of steps leading into the park’s lake. I wanted to join them. I was seven years old at a family reunion. When I stepped down from the pier I slipped. Then everything went black. The next thing I remembered was my Dad carrying me back to the car slapping my back as I spit out water from my lungs.

Apparently my older sister saw me go under and screamed until a cousin, swimming nearby, saw a tuft of hair sticking out of the water and pulled me to safety. I was told that the older cousin who saved my life had pulled me out by my that little tuft of hair. I am lucky to be alive.

Many years later, a younger sibling about the same age as I was, slipped into the water of a lake at a church reunion. She had been on a hand-pushed merry-go-round with some other children and got very dizzy. She wondered off to a pier on the lake where a combination of her wooziness and the swirling water of a drain in the man-made lake made her slip into the water.

The same older sister, now a teenager, screamed as our Dad, in a row boat, rowed as fast as he could while encouraging her to pull her sister out. Like me, my younger sister went black. The next thing she remembered was our Dad pounding her on her back while spitting out water from her lungs. The sister who rescued her said she pulled her out by her hair. She is lucky to be alive.

Sharon and I at a recent book signing event.
The stories are eerily similar. That younger sibling, Sharon Clymer Landis, is the co-author of our book The Spacious Heart. The screaming sister, Jeanette Clymer Bueno, recently brought this parallel life event to our attention when she posted on Facebook:

“I have no idea why this came to me in my time of meditation and prayer the other day. Just like that it floated up in my spirit—the realization that I had a major hand in saving these exact two siblings—in separate instances—from an accidental drowning death in different but deep man-made lakes. And now these two lives have converged in a shared story that is reaching the world over. I’m still pondering and reflecting on the possible significance of this. If you feel like your faith is ‘drowning’ in a high tide of cultural shift, their book, The Spacious Heart, is for you.”

I deliberately used the word “lucky” to describe our being alive today. But was luck involved, or was it the hand of God? Did God save us for a purpose? And was that purpose to have us write a book together? Did the brush with death develop a longing in our souls to search more deeply, to ponder the mysteries of life more deliberately, to experience God in more profound ways?

Indeed, except for the near drowning incident, our lives couldn’t have been more different. She is female, I am male. She is an introvert, I am an extrovert. She is reserved and quiet, I am loud and boisterous. She spent her adult life on the same farm, I have lived in four states and four different countries. She shuns public or private attention. I love the limelight.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, says there is no such thing as a coincidence. When events seem coincidental, like our near drowning, Jung would see it as part of a universal collective unconscious connection. I call it a God moment.

From what is seemingly divergent experiences and personalities, Sharon’s and my lives have converged in a search for an experience of God beyond the typical religious forms and practices. This convergence produced a book. Is that a coincidence or a God moment?

Are we lucky to be alive? Yes. But we are also using that “coincidence” to proclaim the wonder and mysteries of God. Although I was completely unconscious of the synchronicity (Jung’s word for coincidence) until my sister Jeanette pointed it out, I believe that the near drowning played a direct role in bringing Sharon’s and my divergent lives together to produce a book.