With all the chaos . . .

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. . . with all the bickering and jabbing back and forth–the polarization due to politics, persuasions, and firmly held positions–let me be one to choose joy, to choose peace and love. Let it begin right here with me.

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The Limping Church Triumphant

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L-ife is to be lived with love as our mandate; but too often,
I-maginations are soiled with the cares and constraints of bolstering up this
M-ansion here, rather than the one
P-prepared for us. Wishing to stay and wishing to go
I-s for those closest to heaven’s door and
N-ot for those distracted with position and purpose,
G-rounded, it seems, in earthly things. And we wound each other with

C-areless words; and we
H-arm the weak and disarm the strong, without
U-nderstanding we are servants one of another, chosen not by destiny but
R-edeemed and uniquely
C-hosen by Christ. He is the One we serve—not ourselves—with grace and
H-umility, forgiving one another, seeking each one’s best.

T-herefore, as God’s people, let us clothe ourselves with compassion; let peace
R-ule our hearts, forgiving all grievances, responding
I-n love as Christ has loved us,
U-nfettered by ambition and pride and blind passion.
M-aster of all, Lord of Your church, it would seem our faith
P-aralysis is not a reflection of You but our
H-alf-hearted devotion, our crippling sins.
A-rise in our hearts; revive your chosen ones that we might
N-ot be so earthbound, but set our hearts on
T-hings above. This is my broken prayer.

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Colossians 3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I Miss My Mother

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I miss my mother.

Not the pained days and her lonely, disorienting moments,
not the frontal lobe disintegration that turned a stable woman of integrity into a silly, flirting schoolgirl,
not the numbness and loss of dexterity that stole the pleasure of creativity from her busy fingers.

I miss the laughter, the sneaky tricks, the Scrabble games at midnight. I miss the hint of mischief behind those blue eyes. She saw it so clearly in us because it was self-diagnosis.

I miss her dedication to home and family that gifted us with pies and cookies, doilies and quilts, music and ministry, prayers by the bed, and testimony in every routine act of living.

Discipline was not always pleasant, but forgiveness was metered out with hugs and affirmations. When I finally got caught stealing Daddy’s pocket change and hoarding it under my mattress in an old condom box, I got the just talking to, but my repayment plan was probably a third of what I stole and so much less than what I deserved. Perhaps part of my debt was paid in the moments of laughter behind her hand.

I miss her full mind, her surety, her security in faith tested. If she ever doubted, her passion and love for the lost washed over any questions she may have had.

I miss her determination to press on through bad memories and disappointments, betrayals and sorrows.

Her commitment to work in the church and community, to pour her energies out to bring along the weaker and the worn, kept her going past her physical strength and only faded with her fading mind.

On that day, your spirit soared as I flew homeward, and I like to think I met you in the air as you left this hard place, though whether heaven is up, down, or sideways, I don’t know; but I know
you are surely there, as surely as life has gone on.

There are some days in this topsy-turvy world,
I really miss my mother.

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I Miss My Father

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I miss my father.

Not the last, lingering days when the ravages of Parkinson’s stripped his body of strength and dignity,

not the growing quiet and dimming light, the betrayal of senses with the ambush of age and degeneration,

not the loss of skill and purpose with increasing dependence.

I miss the stories, the laughter, the dropping of the false teeth to scare innocent children.

I miss the sawing afternoon naps in the recliner, the dirt between the fingernails, and the smelly old farm boots.

I miss him, dusty and weary, still willing to amaze his children at day’s end by playing a bit of softball in the failing light—and hitting that ball to kingdom come.

I miss stealing sips of his instant coffee and codependent sampling of forbidden pies.

It’s the wisdom, I miss most. The forgiveness and acceptance, the knowing that in my stupidest moments, he was still my rock, my shelter, my willing warrior.

I looked at his picture on my dresser today, and a tear caught in my throat because as long as it’s been and
as surely as life has gone on,
there are some days in this topsy-turvy world,
I really miss my father.

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Upside-down World

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When what was and now is not happens in a wisp of a moment,
when friends become foes, exchanging their trust for biting and isolating words,

then it is plain to see that we are living in an upside-down world.

When conversations meant to break down barriers instead erect the worst kind of walls,
when what I see and what you see suddenly are
oddly at odds
to the vision once shared,

then it is pain to see that we are as much a part of this upside-down world as everyone we have observed from afar. Tut, tut, what a shame it was. And is.
We are in it, of it, and yearning for all to be made right.

What makes it worse is that the reflection is somewhat like what we hope for; but
in its rippling distortion and ever-changing color, what’s hoped for seems like some cruel illusion.

Far off, unattainable, yet present enough to hunger the soul.
======================
Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

 

Sunday Stranger

A p r o n h e a d -- Lilly

The man at the entrance handed me a bulletin from the top of a large stack.  He gave a vacant smile—a smile saved up all week long for Sunday strangers.  His eyes focused somewhere just above and to the right of my forehead.  It made me wonder if there was a fly caught in my hair.

The music grew louder as I crossed the foyer and entered through one of the sets of heavy double doors to the sanctuary.  Slipping into a back pew, I glanced around.  The church was old with dark mahogany and stained glass, the pulpit a million miles away.

The congregation was in the middle of a song, led by a golden-robed choir with bright faces and sure voices.  At the close of the song, a smile in a suit encouraged the people to spend a few moments greeting those around them.  The lady in front…

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Whispers

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Whispers thread through the flaming rage,

almost lost, almost imperceptible, drowned out by opinion, history, frenzied fury, and flailing fists.

The whispers tip toe in my tossing mind, seeking a place to land and be heard.

They are the filaments of hope, the clinging truths that cannot be destroyed by rhetoric or abuse or repeated dogma.

They are woof and warp, the solid underpinning of this spinning, unsettled mess.

Are you listening? Am I listening?

We are all the same—blood and bone.

We are all broken—body and soul.

We are all human—color and kind.

God loves. And

He whispers in the tumult

to see as He does and love as He loves.

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Romans 13:10 (NLT)

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Proverbs 10:12 (NLT)

Hatred stirs up quarrels,
but love makes up for all offenses.

 

Asking you, asking me . . .

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Does your faith-life even require Jesus?

Got the maxims memorized.

Got the rules down.

Is religion more your bulwark than relationship—

behavior and image more important than face-falling service,

open-hearted devotion to His worthiness?

Has purpose surpassed person?

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate this substance-hoped-for idea.

Are we a scattered and lost flock, devoted to a text but without a message?

I think I would rather falter on a rough road than walk resolutely down a worn and wrong path,

stuck in a form of obedience . . . but without a desperate, clinging trust.

My will is contrary to my dedication;

my rituals supplant my connection, offering a form without reality.

Am I so right-on religious that as a Christian I can do this thing without Jesus?

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

~Romans 7:19

 

Dead Trees, Thorns, Elections, and Me

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There is an abbey up in the hills where I like to go to think, to photograph, and to seek moments of peace. A few weeks ago, I happened to go on a Sunday morning, and since there were masses scheduled, parking was limited; and I had to park quite a distance away from the reflecting pond. I did notice, however, as I was leaving there was an old, funky, dead tree across the field near where I had parked the car, and I determined the next time I came I would get closer and photograph it.

That next time was this week. After communing with the ducks and turtles and photographing the fall leaves and reflections in the water, I drove down to the edge of the field, grabbed my camera and headed across. The field was mostly sandy with tufts of weeds, but what kept me wary were the many holes I saw. I assumed they were gopher holes, but one can never tell. Up in the hills, we have Mojave green rattlesnakes, so I scanned the ground carefully as I walked so as not to be surprised by a very deadly snake.

I was barefoot in my Crocs, which was probably not the best choice for protective footwear, but I live in them because it is the next best thing to going totally barefoot! I started feeling little pinches and assumed some stickers were coming in through the holes as I walked, though I really didn’t see any thistles or thorns on the ground. I stopped by a small, flat rock and took one foot out and set it down there to rid my Croc of whatever had invaded. When I lifted my shoe up, I was horrified to see the whole bottom surface carpeted in goathead thorns. These are nasty, piercing, painful things! At my age, balance is not as sure a thing as when I was young; and realizing that I could not risk stepping down on the ground barefoot, I carefully emptied the shoe of the 2 bits of thorn and cautiously put my foot back inside.

My dilemma then was not whether or not to keep going, but whether to forget the picture and head back to the car. Of course, I took the picture. I would have liked to go closer and get shots from different angles, but I am not entirely crazy!

As I turned to make the careful trek back, I was aware—painfully aware—that the hundred or so steps back were to be done with utmost care. Part of me wanted to panic and run, but the sensible part gingerly took one step at a time. I pressed my feet hard against the plastic, scrunching my toes tight together, trying to ignore the bits of thorns that progressively invaded as I tried not to scuff.

When I finally made it to the car, I sat in the driver’s seat with my feet out and removed the shoes. Both soles were completely covered with thorns. There was no way I was going to be able to dislodge them, so I carefully put my Crocs on the floor mat of the passenger side and drove home barefoot.

My husband tried to clean them up for me, but very quickly came to the realization that he was not going to be able to get every part of the thorns out; so, they are destined for the trash bin!

I kept thinking that there had to be some kind of allegory or moral in all of this. So here it is.

Even though we head toward what we think is a worthy goal, and even though we think we know what dangers exist and are on the lookout, there are myriad little things we don’t see that become just as great a threat to our health and safety. In this election cycle, people have had different goals, different candidates, different passions and causes, different behaviors or evidence they were willing to overlook for a greater cause, and they have pushed full steam ahead in their desired directions. I had hoped that once the election was settled and a winner declared, tempers would cool and folks would go back to their respective corners to continue on with a semblance of orderly life. However, the thorns that were picked up on the way were not the big and obvious obstacles that all factions were maneuvering through. What has attached itself to our underbellies are all the cruel words, the bitternesess, the ideological divides that make it impossible to agree to disagree.

What has attached itself to our souls is the tension of otherness—an otherness that is supported by the studies and anecdotes and inflammatory rhetoric that each group trusts. People are virtuous in their own narratives, supported by their selective documentation and cited diatribes. Folks are indeed going to their respective corners, but not to cool off and gain perspective of the greater goals—the greater good. Folks are in their corners throwing rocks and gearing up for full scale attack.

People have stopped listening to each other.

People have stopped caring about what is best for their neighbor, more intent on winning a political and/or an ideological battle. If it means undermining the Constitution or throwing communities into disarray or pitting person against person, it becomes more about winning than about what is good for the country. These are the nasty, piercing, painful things, and I wonder if the nation will survive them.

As for me, I am not a citizen and cannot vote; but character counts for me, so I would not have voted for either candidate. My ultimate kingdom is a spiritual one, so whether America goes Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian in the long run does not matter to me. Well, maybe a little.

And yet, I live here, and the stress and at times near panic has been unsettling.

But the thorns in my life that keep my eyes off forever things,

the thorns in my life that pinch and keep me from loving as Christ loves,

are the ones that can do damage to my soul, and those I am endeavoring to throw in the trash.

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