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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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.
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Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

 

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.

 

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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A Place to Belong

For GG 113

Maybe community as a group doesn’t exist. Is there

a place to belong, to breathe deep without fear of regulation and restraint—

to be who I am and am becoming in safety—

knowing and being known,

accepted?

Maybe community as a group doesn’t exist.

Maybe community comes in ones and twos, bits and snatches

of love and connection.

Maybe it comes in those broken times when my fear and doubt, that in some eyes would threaten the stability of all Christendom, is rather met

with understanding and the ah-ha’s that underscore I am not alone in my loss and alienation.

Maybe community is found in the stumbling along, the leaning on, the my picking you up and the your picking me up stuff of life,

not in the largeness, and the rightness of group but

in the ones and twos,

fellowship of the weak.

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“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (New Living, II Cor. 4:7)

For Solomon Days: I Am Broken

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I am broken, but don’t try to fix me.

I am crying, but don’t say, “There, there; it will be all right”;

just sit down and weep with me.

The piles have piled and piled some more,

and the only way they order themselves again is with these floods.

I am angry, and I don’t really need one reason. I just am.

Sometimes, my nonconfrontation bumps headlong into my frustration,

and the only way my confused self orders itself is to send this magma out the top.

I am floundering, but I still believe. So don’t hit me kamikaze style

with all the perfect Scripture and counsel that I know better than you.

I am broken, but don’t try to fix me; I just need you to walk alongside.

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Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

A Feeble Fable (Or a Fable for the Feeble)

I laid out my blocks so carefully, meticulously fitted for function and form. And I sat back, pleased with my plan and product. But then,

the wind blew, and the lightest fixtures fell and broke in the falling. And big, hurried feet stomped by, almost unaware that I had even been building. And the sight left

was a crumpled mess, and

I wept

that all the work was in vain. It seemed so useless. Why did I even spend my time thinking and building when nothing lasted of my effort and imagination?

In my pain, I fingered my trampled treasures. Did I have the will to try again? I wasn’t sure.

But one by one, I pulled blocks and pieces from the mess and tried to make order from the brokenness. This time, I thought, I will not take so much time.

I’ll not think so much—maybe just bump color to color, form to form, as I feel it at the moment.

And it didn’t turn out too badly, actually. It was not as ordered as the first, but it had a certain “something,” and I was happy with the result. But

then the earth shook, and the blocks tumbled, and a red ball from an innocent child’s game came careening through my works, and

pieces lay scattered and crushed before my feet and my open hands, and

I wept

that all the work was in vain. It seemed so useless. And I really had no will to try again.

It was not surrender as much as a giving up.

Broken, despairing, I sat in the rubble, not knowing what to do next with my time and these pitiful talents. And then,

the voice came.

I’m not sure if it was outside or inside, but it felt like cool, blue liquid, running in and around on a melody.

“Where did you get your blocks? Was it not from me?”

My yes was swallowed up before it hit the air. “But was I not to build something useful with all these wonderful things?

“The blocks were indeed for building, but not your own work. I gave them to you to give away, and in that giving, build something greater, wider, and indestructible. By keeping them to yourself, you made a fragile work that could not stand up to the testing times. It may seem like a contradiction, but when you give your blocks away, what you build becomes intermingled with the many. The blocks and the people intertwined become the building, and you will find that it is a much more efficient way to build—strong enough to resist the shaking. And strong enough to last.”

I fingered a block in my hand as the melody faded: “Perhaps, it is time to begin again.”

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Ecclesiastes 4:12 (Living)

“And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Matthew 25:44-45 (ESV)

“Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”